Archive for the ‘War on terror’ category

“It’s an idiot’s guide to terrorism”

May 25, 2007

I’m sure there’s plenty of smart assed comments to be made about that statement from Alabama’s Homeland Security director, Jim Walker.

To be fair, though he was not discussing Dubya’s latest stay the course in Iraq speech, just Alabama’s homeland security website, which until recently warned us good subservient citizens that:

domestic terrorists are found in many single-issue movements. Among them are anti-government groups that believe the “current government is violating the basic principles laid out by the U.S. Constitution.”

“In general, these terrorists claim that the U.S. government is infringing on their individual rights, and/or that the government’s policies are criminal and immoral,” the Web site stated. “Such groups may hold that the current government is violating the basic principles laid out by the U.S. Constitution and that a new world order is attempting to enslave humanity.”

Right. So who isn’t a terrorist then?

“By the Web site standards mentioned, opposition to gun control laws and excessive taxation makes one a terrorist. Insisting that we adhere to the Constitution makes one a terrorist,” said Stephen P. Gordon, political director of the Libertarian National Committee.

“Lawfully demanding that the federal government protect, as opposed to usurp, the individual rights outlined in the Bill of Rights makes one a terrorist. The two groups of people who most typify the description I just provided are our Founding Fathers and Libertarians. It seems that Alabama Homeland Security would incarcerate Madison, Washington and Jefferson at Guantanamo Bay, if they had that option,” he said.

No doubt they would. And then they would label as America Hating Terrorist Sympathizers anyone who insisted that the government prove in a court of law that the Founders actually are terrorists. On second thought, I guess arguing that the government has to obey the law makes you a terrorist, so if you demanded a fair trial for the Founders, you’d be joining them in Guantanamo.

But hey, at least we’re safe.   

Giuliani v. Paul II

May 18, 2007

Andrew Sullivan asks a good question:

Has anyone else noticed the bizarre spectacle of many Bush-backing blogs demonizing Ron Paul for not saying that we deserved 9/11, at the same time eulogizing a man who absolutely and explicitly said that we did deserve 9/11: Jerry Falwell.

Of course, without any cites to the offending blogs, that’s all it is: A good question. What it led me to do, though, was to google Falwell and Giuliani. What do you suppose I found, hmm?

This  in the same debate in which Giuiliani attacked Paul because Paul suggested our pre-9/11 middle east foreign policy contributed to 9/11:

The candidates were asked by moderator Brit Hume, of Fox News, not to spend time commenting on the death of Falwell, news of which arrived here via news alerts on cellphones and BlackBerrys and jolted the news media and politicians as they prepared for the debate. The 90-minute event was co-sponsored by Fox News and the South Carolina Republican Party.

“It was just terrible,” Brownback said of Falwell’s death during a tour of the debate hall on of the University of South Carolina campus. Moments later, Giuliani praised Falwell as a man who was “not afraid to speak his mind”and expressed sympathy for Falwell’s family. Huckabee called Falwell “a great man and a great influence for America and for Christ.”

In case anyone forgot, here’s what Falwell had to say about 9/11:

JERRY FALWELL: The ACLU’s got to take a lot of blame for this.

PAT ROBERTSON: Well, yes.

JERRY FALWELL: And, I know that I’ll hear from them for this. But, throwing God out successfully with the help of the federal court system, throwing God out of the public square, out of the schools. The abortionists have got to bear some burden for this because God will not be mocked. And when we destroy 40 million little innocent babies, we make God mad. I really believe that the pagans, and the abortionists, and the feminists, and the gays and the lesbians who are actively trying to make that an alternative lifestyle, the ACLU, People For the American Way, all of them who have tried to secularize America. I point the finger in their face and say ‘you helped this happen’.

PAT ROBERTSON: Well, I totally concur, and the problem is we have adopted that agenda at the highest levels of our government. And so we’re responsible as a free society for what the top people do. And, the top people, of course, is the court system.

JERRY FALWELL: Amen.

That was not a slip of the tongue; Falwell maintained that position until the day he died. He was, as Giuliani said, “speaking his mind.” And in his mind, the cause of 9/11 is you, me, and every other freedom loving American. 

Yet Rudy – who just resorted to mischaracterizations and emotional pandering to shout down Paul’s critique of our middle east policies – can do nothing but praise Falwell.

“I have never seen people enjoying their husband’s death so much.”

May 18, 2007

Call me a jacka**, but I really think that Ann Coulter quote about the 9/11 widows is applicable to Rudy Guiliani’s response to Ron Paul the other night.

If you missed it, Paul was arguing for a non-interventionist foreign policy when the moderator asked if 9/11 had changed his thinking. Here’s what happened next (emphasis added):

Paul: “Non-intervention [ meant to say “intervention”? ] was a major contributing factor. Have you ever read about the reasons they attacked us. They attack us because we’ve been over there, we’ve been bombing Iraq for ten years. We’ve been in the middle east. I think Reagan was right. We don’t understand the irrationality of Middle Eastern politics. Right now We’re building an embassy in Iraq that’s bigger than the Vatican, we’re building 14 permanent bases. What would we say here if China was doing this in our country or in the Gulf of Mexico? We would be objecting. We need to look at what we do from the perspective of what would happen if somebody else did it to us.”

Moderator: “Are you suggesting we invited the 9/11 attacks sir?”

Paul: “I’m suggesting that we listen to the people who attacked us and the reason they did it. And they are delighted that we are over there cause Osama Bin Laden has said ‘I’m glad you’re over on our sand because we can target you so much easier’ They’ve already now since that time killed 3,400 of our men and I don’t think it was necessary”

(time bell)

Guiliani (interrupts): Can I make a comment on that? That’s really an extraordinary statement. As someone who lived through the attack of September 11th, that we invited the attack because we were attacking Iraq. I don’t think I’ve heard that before and I’ve heard some pretty absurd explanations for September 11th. [ applause ] I would ask the Congressman to withdraw that comment and tell us he didn’t really mean that. [applause]

Ann Coulter’s statement was incredibly nasty, but though she expressed it with bad motives and in her usual hateful manner, I think the principle upon which she relied is correct. That is, I fully agree with her that the mere fact that a person has lived through a horrific or tragic event does not make that person an expert on whatever that event was. I.e., that the 9/11 widows lost their husbands in a terrorist attack does not mean those widows know anything more, or less, than you, me, or anyone else about how best to prevent the next terrorist attack.

Ditto Giuliani. When he rebuked Paul, Rudy asserted as his authority the fact that he was “someone who lived through the attack of September 11th.” What I say to that is: “And?” Sure, Rudy’s experience as mayor taught him quite a bit about responding to an emergency situation, and even more about recovering from a disaster. But how does his experience make him an expert on foreign policy? It doesn’t.

This is nothing but emotional manipulation. “I lived though it, I suffered, I endured the pain, fear, and loss.” No doubt he did. So did the 9/11 widows. As for Iraq, so has Cindy Sheehan. No-one disputes the suffering. But policy decisions must be based on facts and clear thinking, not emotions.

And as more than one blogger has pointed out, Rudy’s emotionally pandering response to Paul only highlighted his ignorance:

Leave aside that Paul didn’t say we “invited” the attack. Giuliani’s never heard that the first Gulf War and its dozen-year aftermath had something to do with the rise of Al Qaeda. Really? Crack a book. Fire up your webrowser. Here’s the ’98 Fatwa for example:

First, for over seven years the United States has been occupying the lands of Islam in the holiest of places, the Arabian Peninsula, plundering its riches, dictating to its rulers, humiliating its people, terrorizing its neighbors, and turning its bases in the Peninsula into a spearhead through which to fight the neighboring Muslim peoples.If some people have in the past argued about the fact of the occupation, all the people of the Peninsula have now acknowledged it. The best proof of this is the Americans’ continuing aggression against the Iraqi people using the Peninsula as a staging post, even though all its rulers are against their territories being used to that end, but they are helpless.

Remember, the war on terror, Giuliani says, is something he understands “better than anyone else running for president.” The sad fact is, that might even be true, considering everyone else up on that stage except for Paul. But it’s sort of like winning “Best Complexion” at the Leper Colony.

Giuliani may indeed uderstand better than anyone else the pain, suffering and fear that terrorism causes. His response to Paul shows that he also knows very well how to use those emotions to his political benefit. At the same time, though, Rudy’s emotionally manipulative cheap shot gave me no reason to think he understands how to prevent more pain and suffering in the future.

UPDATE: The Onion has already said it much better than I ever could:

According to Washington–based political analyst Gregory Hammond, Giuliani’s candidacy “should not be underestimated.”

“Sure, he has no foreign or national policy experience, and both his personal life and political career are riddled with scandal,” said Hammond. “But in the key area of having been on TV on 9/11, the other candidates simply cannot match him. And as we saw in 2004, that’s what matters most to voters in this post-9/11 world.” . . .

“People talk about Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama, but did either of them happen to be mayor of New York in September 2001?” Bedford, NH resident Helen Rolfe said. “Guiliani was. To me, that speaks volumes about this man.”

Why’d We Have That Revolution Thing?

January 22, 2007

The Alabama Democrat highlights this recent exchange at a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing between  U.S. A.G. Alberto Gonzalez and Senator Arlen Specter:

“There is no expressed grant of habeas in the Constitution; there’s a prohibition against taking it away,” Gonzales said.

Gonzales’s remark left Specter, the committee’s ranking Republican, stammering.

“Wait a minute,” Specter interjected. “The Constitution says you can’t take it away except in case of rebellion or invasion. Doesn’t that mean you have the right of habeas corpus unless there’s a rebellion or invasion?”

Gonzales continued, “The Constitution doesn’t say every individual in the United States or citizen is hereby granted or assured the right of habeas corpus. It doesn’t say that. It simply says the right shall not be suspended” except in cases of rebellion or invasion.

“You may be treading on your interdiction of violating common sense,” Specter said.

AlDem seconds Specter, saying:

This is utter stupidity.

I agree that as a matter of interpretation, AlGonz’s statement is Troy King worthy. Saying the right can not be taken away obviously presupposes the right is there in the first place. AlGonz’s argument to the contrary would get laughed out of even a conservative court. 

But his statement is not just stupid, for two reasons it’s very scary

First, it reveals quite a bit about AlGonz’s views of the relationship between government and governed. If you think the governed live and move and have their being at the pleasure of the government, well, then AlGonz’s statement makes perfect sense. The people only have those rights and privileges that the government explicitly gives to them. Hence, if the government does not explicitly give them, for example, the right to habeas corpus, than they have no right to habeas corpus. Can you say totalitarian?

Second, given AlGonz’s view that government is omnipotent (unless, I’m sure, good conservative that he is, it tries to protect minorities or the environment) it is no surprise that he detests habeas corpus. People exist at the pleasure of the government anyway, so who are they to complain if the government takes away their existence?

Here’s why this stuff bugs me.

Anyone who puts a high value on freedom would think habeas corpus is a great idea. Sure, terrorists are bad, but so is taking away a person’s liberty. Requiring proof of bad activity is the way we balance liberty and security. We want the bad guys, and only the bad guys, in jail. So we require evidence, and confrontation, and neutral decision makers. That way we can be relatively sure that we do not unnecessarily take away a person’s freedom. Things like habeas corpus are how we separate the wheat from the chaff. AlGonz, though, would just burn it all up.

All habeas corpus does is provide a means whereby someone whom the government has arrested can force the government to justify the arrest. That is an inherent right; not, contrary to AlGonz’s belief, a privilege granted to us by some omnipotent beneficient state. To someone who thinks like AlGonz, the idea of a single person forcing the government to stand before a neutral judge and prove its case is repulsive. To me, it’s beautiful.

Different Types Of Lawyers

January 19, 2007

Cully Stimson, deputy assistant secretary of defense for detainee affairs:

In a repellent interview yesterday with Federal News Radio, Mr. Stimson brought up, unprompted, the number of major U.S. law firms that have helped represent detainees at Guantanamo Bay.

“Actually you know I think the news story that you’re really going to start seeing in the next couple of weeks is this: As a result of a FOIA [Freedom of Information Act] request through a major news organization, somebody asked, ‘Who are the lawyers around this country representing detainees down there,’ and you know what, it’s shocking,” he said.

Mr. Stimson proceeded to reel off the names of these firms, adding, “I think, quite honestly, when corporate CEOs see that those firms are representing the very terrorists who hit their bottom line back in 2001, those CEOs are going to make those law firms choose between representing terrorists or representing reputable firms, and I think that is going to have major play in the next few weeks. And we want to watch that play out.”

Asked who was paying the firms, Mr. Stimson hinted of dark doings. “It’s not clear, is it?” he said. “Some will maintain that they are doing it out of the goodness of their heart, that they’re doing it pro bono, and I suspect they are; others are receiving monies from who knows where, and I’d be curious to have them explain that.”

Rightly excoriated by just about everyone for these remarks, Stimson later apologized. But here’s Alberto Gonzalez on a similar subject:

The track record of the Guantanamo detention program “can be summed up quite simply: five years, zero convictions.” More than 770 captives have been held there and just 10 have been charged with crimes.

But in an interview today with the Associated Press, Attorney General Alberto Gonzales “blamed delays in trying terror detainees at Guantanamo Bay on legal challenges filed by their lawyers“:

“It’s not for lack of trying,” Gonzales said, when asked about the legal fate of detainees who have been held at the military facility, in some cases for five years. “We are challenged every step of the way.”

“We are trying as hard as we can to bring these individuals to justice,” he said.

So who are these terrorist loving, America hating, justice delaying, scumbag lawyers? Kathy highlights Angela Campbell:

I went to Afghanistan in February of 2006 with four other U.S. lawyers. I went for one reason — to find my clients’ families.

Reports and rumors had filtered in about the horrible abuses that detainees had suffered in Guantanamo. One of the tactics that interrogators at Guantanamo had used was to pretend to be defense attorneys. The interrogator would go in and interview a detainee and tell them he was there to defend him and to get him out of custody, in an attempt to gain the detainee’s confidence.

Of course, these betrayals added an additional burden when real defense lawyers went to meet their clients for the first time. Not only was there a language barrier, a cultural barrier, an “I’m from the country that tortures you and I’m here to help you” barrier. There was now a “No, really, I’m a defense lawyer, unlike the last guy” barrier. So I decided I needed to meet family members. I wanted to find out as much as I could about my clients to try to make a connection with them when I met them for the first time.

We went to Afghanistan without an escort. We went without a guard. We went to a war-torn country in the midst of active conflict, against the advice of the State Department, on our personal travel documents, not government-issued. We went to try to find the family and friends of “the most dangerous, best-trained vicious killers on the face of the earth” (as the government claimed). And we were graciously received.

Everyone goes to law school dreaming of becoming a lawyer like Angela Campbell. Unfortunately for the profession and the country, too many of us end up like Stimson and Gonzalez.

The Truth Will Set You Free

November 21, 2006

Last night, the talking head on the local channel told us that Michael Richards – famous for his role as Kramer on Seinfeld – had used “racially offensive language” during a stand up act. I guess the languagewas just too offensive for my delicate ears, because they did not tell me what it was, nor show me the video of the scene, instead expecting me to blindly trust the judgment of the all wise news people that the language was actually offensive. Hah.

Thankfully I was able to use the tubes of the internets to find the video and decide for myself. Yep, it’s offensive. Here it is, make up your own mind.  I will warn you, though, not to watch it if you either have sensitive ears or ever want to watch Seinfeld again.

And while we’re on the subject of offensive television, is anyone else as disappointed as I am that Fox cancelled O.J.’s tell-all-in-the-subjunctive-tense interview and book? Everyone knows he did it, and had this not been cancelled, we’d finally know how. And I bet it would have given the families a chance to sue him again. Surely there would be some tort applicable to the interview/book; outrage, invasion of privacy, something. And after what happened in the criminal trial, any civil court would bend over backwards to make it happen. Oh well, now we’ll never know.

We do know that Brandon Mitchell intentionally murdered three people at the Airport Inn in B’ham last Thanksgiving. A jury convicted him last Friday, so we can rest assured he’s guilty. What we don’t know is whether Alabama will get to kill him for the crime. The same jury that convicted him – a pronouncement no prosecutor would EVER second guess – also recommeded life without parole as punishment – a judgment you better believe the prosecution will second guess. In Alabama, the elected judge, not the independent jury, gets to make the final decision about death. The B’ham news offers sage advice:

Alabama is one of only a handful of states that allow judges to disregard a jury’s advice when it comes to death sentences. It’s a particularly troubling aspect of our state’s approach to capital punishment, especially considering that our judges are elected and under pressure to appear tough on crime.

Perhaps for that reason, the power is almost always used to impose death when a jury recommends life, even though judges are able to spare defendants against a jury’s wishes, too. About 20 percent of Alabama’s Death Row is made up of people a jury didn’t believe should be executed.

That’s a travesty.

The Airport Inn murders were awful, no doubt about that. Three people who were loved immensely were shot to death. They include Kim Olney, who was working at the hotel; John Aylesworth, a Texas trucker who had just checked out; and Dorothy Smith, who was about to check in. Their families testified Friday about their grief.

But jurors also heard about Mitchell’s sad upbringing: taken into state custody as a baby, tossed to and fro as he grew up, tied to chairs and beaten by relatives.

Prosecutors argued that was beside the point.

“He chose death for those people,” prosecutor Danny Carr told the jury. “And now he wants you to do something he did not do – show mercy. Throw your sympathy away.”

For whatever reason, the jurors showed mercy. These are jurors who heard all the evidence in the case, who had to support the death penalty to get assigned to a capital case, who made the tough unanimous call to convict Mitchell for the crime. Yet they believed, by a 10-2 margin, that death was not a fitting punishment for Mitchell.

[Judge Bill] Cole should let their decision stand.

We can punish Brandon Mitchell because we know Brandon Mitchell committed a crime. He had a lawyer, he knew the charges, he was able to contest the charges, and a neutral decision maker evaluated the evidence. Plenty of others wish they were that fortunate. The Tuscaloosa News editorializes today:

Known as “The Great Writ” and Latin for “you [should] have the body,” habeas corpus requires the government to show proof why it should be allowed to incarcerate people.

Article 1 of the Constitution makes it clear that arbitrary detention is beyond the pale in a just society under all but the most extreme circumstances: “The Privilege of the Writ of Habeas Corpus shall not be suspended, unless in Cases of Rebellion or Invasion the public Safety may require it.”

It is a right that is also a cornerstone of international law, which not only governs the way we treat people we capture overseas, but guarantees rights to Americans who may be jailed in other lands.

But under the Military Commission Act, passed by a congress composed of rubber stamp Republicans and cowed Democrats, habeas corpus would not exist in the United States for those deemed enemy combatants by the President and perhaps some of his legal underlings.

Under the law, people could be arbitrarily defined as a “terrorist,” arrested and locked up with no chance to be confronted with the evidence against them or to defend themselves. In fact, that is already going on at places like Guantanamo Bay, where of the hundreds of prisoners detained there since the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks on America precisely 10 have been formally charged.

But the winds of change that blew so strongly on Nov. 7 may also swirl through the new Congress when it convenes in January. . . .

Last week Connecticut Sen. Chris Dodd introduced legislation that would amend the military commission act to provide mechanisms for those arrested by the government to seek legal redress.

“I take a backseat to no one when it comes to protecting this country from terrorists,” Dodd said in introducing his legislation. “But there is a right way to do this and a wrong way to do this.

“It’s clear the people who perpetrated these horrendous crimes against our country and our people have no moral compass and deserve to be prosecuted to the full extent of the law,” he added. “But in taking away their legal rights, the rights first codified in our country’s Constitution, we’re taking away our own moral compass, as well.”

There is, of course, no chance Dodd’s bill will be passed in the 109th Congress. But we have great hopes for his success, and other successes on a wide range of civil liberty issues, in the 110th that convenes in January.

NPR obtained tapes of the portions of the military tribunals on GTMO. Here’s what one of the imminent threats to our freedom has to say:

Hadj Boudella, one of the other detainees, tells the military panel at his tribunal that this is the first time he’s heard some of the accusations against him.

“I’ve been here for three years, and these accusations were just told to me,” Boudella says. “Nobody or any interrogator ever mentioned any of these accusations you are talking to me about now.”

What’s striking is that, despite not knowing fully why they’re being held, enduring open-ended detentions and sometimes harsh interrogations, the detainees on these audio tapes express faith that truth will prevail. Boudella tells the panel that his lawyers — at the Boston firm Wilmerhale — sent him a letter telling him not to participate in the tribunal for fear of incriminating himself.

“I want to show you that I am really innocent, and I want you to see I can defend myself,” Boudella says on the recording. “If you’re innocent, no matter how people try to cover your innocence, it will come out.”

Amen. Here’s hoping congress will now have the guts to let the truth be our leader in the fight against terrorists.