Saturday, October 20, 2007

Judge Mukasey Viewing a Prisoner Who's Been Tortured: "He Looks Fine To Me." Dems on Mukasey: Ditto.

To talk more about the Mukasey nomination, Attorney Michael Ratner joins us. He’s president of the Center for Constitutional Rights here in New York City. Welcome to Democracy Now!, Michael.

MICHAEL RATNER: Nice to see you, Amy.

AMY GOODMAN: Your response?

MICHAEL RATNER: Well, my response is, I mean, I think we all know who Mukasey is. Mukasey is someone who basically isn’t willing to take on the torture program, Guantanamo, electronic surveillance, enemy combatants, all these issues that have been the core of the US going off the page of fundamental rights. He is sadly off the page with the administration.

And the real question, to me, of this whole charade, which is what I have to call that hearing, is the fact that the Democrats are willing to confirm him and basically lay down and let issues like enemy combatants, torture, electronic surveillance, simply be continued by the next attorney-general. So it’s really -- when I watched the hearings yesterday, to me it was one of the saddest days I’ve seen in that Congress. And the only thing I could think of was the sign that Dante wanted in front of the gates of Hell, which is “Abandon all hope, ye who enter here.”

We can go through each of these issues, but, for example, on torture, they’re lauding Mukasey, these Democrats, because he says he won’t torture people, he doesn’t believe in torture. Well, you have to ask yourself: what’s the difference between what he’s saying and President Bush is saying? Every government that engages in torture says, “We don’t torture.” The question is, how do you define “torture”? And on those issues, on those issues, they did not take him on. They didn’t ask him, “Is waterboarding torture? Is it used in combination with temperature control, with stripping, with hooding? Is that torture?” No one asked him that.

AMY GOODMAN: Well, let's go back to a clip of the confirmation hearing on the issue of torture. This is Senate Judiciary Committee Chair Patrick Leahy of Vermont.

SEN. PATRICK LEAHY: I think one of the greatest stains on the history of this country is the memo dated August 1, 2002, signed by then-Assistant Attorney General Jay Bybee. It concluded that the President has authority as commander-in-chief to override domestic and international laws prohibiting torture, to immunize anybody who commits torture, immunize them from prosecution. And many of us voted against Alberto Gonzales's nomination for Attorney General because he refused to disavow legal conclusions in a memo that did not rule out the use of cruel, inhuman, degrading treatment of detainees during interrogations.

It turns out that our concerns are well founded. The New York Times recently reported that soon after Attorney General Gonzales took over, the Department of Justice secretly endorsed combinations of the harshest interrogation tactics as legal, even though they had been publicly withdrawn under the so-called Bybee memo.

Now, do you believe -- so we know where you might stand on this -- do you believe that the President has the authority, under any circumstances, to exercise a so-called commander-in-chief override and immunize acts of torture, as the Bybee memo argued?

MICHAEL MUKASEY: We are parties to a treaty that outlaws torture. Torture is unlawful under the laws of this country. The President has said that in an executive order. But beyond all of those legal restrictions, we don’t torture, not simply because it’s against this or that law or against this or that treaty. It is not what this country is about. It is not what this country stands for. It’s antithetical to everything this country stands for. Soldiers of this country liberated concentration camps toward the end of World War II and at the end of World War II and photographed what they saw there as a record of what the barbarism that we oppose. We didn’t do that so that we could then duplicate it ourselves.

The Bybee memo, to paraphrase a French diplomat, was worse than a sin. It was a mistake. It was unnecessary. It, as I’ve read -- and I’ve read the memo, and I’ve read what’s been -- some of what’s been written about it -- it purported to justify measures based on broad grants of authority that were unnecessary. The analysis in that memo was found to be defective, and the memo was withdrawn, in favor of a later memo that narrowed substantially the basis for authorizing measures beyond, perhaps different from, those that may be contained in the Army Field Manual.

SEN. PATRICK LEAHY: Would you -- would it be a safe characterization of what you’ve just said that you repudiate this memo as not only being contrary to law, but also contrary to the values America stands for?


SEN. PATRICK LEAHY: And does -- is there such a thing as a commander-in-chief override that would allow the immunization of acts of torture that violate the law?

MICHAEL MUKASEY: Not that I’m aware of.

AMY GOODMAN: That was Michael Mukasey responding to Senate Judiciary Chair Patrick Leahy of Vermont. Michael Ratner?

MICHAEL RATNER: Well, I think it’s important for people to understand what Mukasey is saying here. He’s saying basically that I don’t agree with the memo to the extent it says the President, as commander-in-chief, can do whatever he wants to human beings. He is not saying that the part of the memo that defines torture as organ failure in the definitions of torture also is illegal or unconstitutional. So he’s giving them something with one hand, but on the other hand he’s not saying that the actual techniques used, which are waterboarding and the like, or this issue that needs to be -- to be torture needs to be organ failure -- he’s not saying those are illegal. So the next question that Leahy should have said: well, what do think of waterboarding? What do you think of chaining to the floor? What do you think of stripping?

AMY GOODMAN: And what would the role of the Attorney General be on these issues, if Mukasey does become the Attorney General?

MICHAEL RATNER: You know, every single legal memo, basically, that justified torture, Guantanamo, renditions, every single legal memo comes out of the Attorney General's office. His role would be to take and basically destroy those memos, issue new memos putting us back on the page of law. But no one -- no one in that hearing -- is insisting on that.

In fact, when he was actually pushed on a little bit about torture by one of the senators, he said, “What you characterize as torture, I do not know of such a policy.” Think about that. Every American who’s thinking, who reads the newspapers, knows that this is a country of torture right now. And these memos came out in 2005, after Congress supposedly banned cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment. They write memos saying you can still waterboard and use these various techniques in combination. The question is, is he an ostrich? Where is this guy living? And so, what we're getting here is we’re getting someone who’s on the same page as this administration on most of the issues we should be concerned about.

AMY GOODMAN: Let's go back to the hearing. The Vermont -- the Chair of the Senate Judiciary Committee, Patrick Leahy, asking Mukasey about the Bush administration’s warrantless domestic surveillance program.

SEN. PATRICK LEAHY: Attorney General Gonzales apparently believed the President has a commander-in-chief override for many of the laws of this country, which contributed to the violations of Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, so-called FISA -- the signing statement reservation and others, that for five years the administration conducted a program of warrantless surveillance that violated the provisions of FISA.

They didn’t come to us and ask us for changes, even though this Congress has almost unanimously updated and changed FISA, more than thirty times since it was first enacted, to take into consideration changes in technology and needs. Only after somebody in the administration leaked to the press that this was going on and the resultant public criticism and telecommunication companies that had cooperated were sued did they come back and say maybe we ought to look at a new law.

Do you believe that the President has authority to override something that is in law, legal requirements, and immunize illegal surveillance on Americans?

MICHAEL MUKASEY: President can’t immunize illegality. That’s a contradiction in terms. But, that said, I think there’s a long complex history to the FISA statute, beginning with its passage in 1978, when the then-attorney general, Jimmy Carter’s attorney general, Griffin Bell, took the view and expressed the view that the limits of FISA did not reach to the limits of presidential authority, which is to say that there was some gap between where FISA left off and where the Constitution permitted the President to act.

AMY GOODMAN: Michael Mukasey, responding to questions from the Senate Judiciary Chair Patrick Leahy. Your thoughts on this issue?

MICHAEL RATNER: Just look at what this guy is saying. They're asking him about the warrantless wiretapping program that clearly violated constitutional law, and he actually says, well, there may be a gap between the law and presidential authority that allows the President to do this warrantless surveillance. So he’s essentially saying this is OK.

At another point in the hearing, he said -- when they talked about the electronic warrantless surveillance program, he says, quote, "I’m not familiar with that program." How could someone living in today's America be not familiar with the warrantless wiretapping program? So what you're talking about here is somebody who is basically going to go along with this administration, give it a little better face than Gonzales, but is essentially -- is essentially one of them.

AMY GOODMAN: Now, the top news, Democratic and Republican leaders reaching an agreement over a deal with the Bush administration over electronic surveillance that would grant retroactive immunity to the telecommunications companies that gave information over to allow the surveillance of US citizens.

MICHAEL RATNER: Yeah, I mean, look where we are, Amy. The Military Commission Act in October 2006 granted retroactive immunity on the issues of torture, and so now they're making a deal to grant retroactive immunity to the telecommunications companies, because they cooperated illegally -- almost for sure illegally -- with the government in electronically surveilling us without warrants.

AMY GOODMAN: So, where are the Democrats?

MICHAEL RATNER: Where are the Democrats? Right now, they’re in a very, very bad place, in my view. They're not a group that we can depend on to protect fundamental rights, whether they’re to do with torture, electronic surveillance, enemy combatants, and certainly not to close Guantanamo at this point. I mean, his answer on Guantanamo -- this is six years of Guantanamo, never had anybody with a charge, and he says this is a difficult issue, what are we going to do with the people. Well, the answer is, if you have charges against people, you can try them in a regular criminal court. If you don’t, they have to be released. And whose responsibility is that? That’s our responsibility in the United States, and we ought to take those people into the United States.

Now, Mukasey -- what’s amazing is you have three bodies of knowledge to look at. He’s written op-eds in the Wall Street Journal. Those say, first of all, that he wants terrorist courts, special courts to try terrorists. This is the guy the Democrats are going to confirm. He attacked the National Library Association for going after the PATRIOT Act. This is the guy they want to confirm. Then he’s a trial judge right here in the Southern District of New York. And what does he do? He upholds Jose Padilla's enemy combatant status, upholds material warrants. And in one of the most chilling -- really, one of the most chilling things that reminds me of every dictatorship in the world, the lawyer representing Padilla -- or, no, not Padilla -- brings this Palestinian, Awadalla, in from the court -- it’s on a material witness warrant, it’s a secret hearing -- and the lawyer says, “My client has been beaten.” The client is in a jumpsuit, orange jumpsuit. What does Mukasey say from the bench? "He looks fine to me." This is after an allegation of beating. This is the man that these Democrats want to put in as Attorney General. No excuse for it.

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Monday, October 15, 2007

Bush Started the Warrantless Wiretapping of Americans SEVEN MONTHS BEFORE 9/11

NSA Spying: What Did Pelosi Know?

By Ray McGovern

October 15, 2007

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi has admitted knowing for several years about the Bush administration’s eavesdropping on Americans without a court warrant. She said she was briefed on it when she was ranking Democrat on the House Intelligence Committee. But was she told that the illegal surveillance began well before 9/11?

Referring to her briefing in an apologia-sans-apology Washington Post op-ed on Jan. 15, 2006, she wrote: “This is how I came to be informed of President Bush’s authorization for the NSA to conduct certain types of surveillance.”

Demonstrating her unconstitutionally subservient attitude toward the Executive Branch, Pelosi wrote:

“But when the administration notifies Congress in this manner, it is not seeking approval. There is a clear expectation that the information will be shared by no one, including other members of the intelligence committees. As a result, only a few members of Congress were aware of the president’s surveillance program, and they were constrained from discussing it more widely.”

How did the American people react upon learning in December 2005 of this glaring infringement on their Constitutional rights. Most reacted as they have been conditioned to act—out of the old fear-factor shibboleth: “After 9/11/2001, everything changed.”

Yes, just as after 2/27/1933, the night of the burning of the German Parliament (Reichstag) in Berlin, everything changed.

As a German attorney there at the time put it:

“What one can blame them [German politicians and populace] for, and what shows their terrible collective weakness of character, is that this settled the matter. With sheepish submissiveness the German people accepted that, as a result of the fire, each one of them lost what little personal freedom and dignity was guaranteed by the Constitution; as though it followed as a necessary consequence. If the Communists burned down the Reichstag, it was perfectly in order that the government took ‘decisive measures.’” [Defying Hitler, A Memoir, by Sebastian Haffner, p. 121]

And if the terrorists attacked on 9/11, it was perfectly in order that the Bush administration took “decisive measures”—Patriot Act and illegal measures. In reaction to the PR offensive to manipulate and exploit the trauma we all felt from 9/11, far too many of our politicians and fellow citizens exhibited sheepish submissiveness.

Pre-9/11 Spying

Now we learn that it is even worse. The eavesdropping abuses began as soon as the Bush administration came into office — WELL BEFORE 9/11.

In recent days, thanks to an enterprising reporter for the Rocky Mountain News, we learned that the president, vice president, and CIA director—not to mention the credulous crowd around Nancy Pelosi—have all been regurgitating a king-sized whopper aimed at providing “justification” for the National Security Agency program.

The White House PR folks made this easy by retroactively applying a clever label to the program: the “Terrorist Surveillance Program.” Nothing to fear, folks, unless you’re telephoning or e-mailing Osama bin-Laden.

Whopper? Well yes. It turns out that seven months before the threat of terrorism got President George W. Bush's attention (despite the best efforts of then-counterterrorism chief Richard Clarke to install it on everyone’s screen-saver, so to speak), the administration instructed NSA to suborn American telecommunications companies to spy illegally on Americans.

The general counsel of Qwest Communications advised management that what NSA was suggesting was illegal. And to his credit, the head of the company at that time stuck to a firm “No,” unless some way were found to perform legally what NSA wanted done.

Qwest’s rivals, though, took their cue from the White House, and adopted a flexible attitude toward the law—and got the business. They are now being sued. Lawsuit filings claim that, seven months before 9/11, AT&T “began development of a center for monitoring long-distance calls and Internet transmissions and other digital information for the exclusive use of the NSA.”

Adding insult to injury, draft legislation now being pushed by the White House would hold AT&T and other collaborators harmless for playing fast and loose with our right to privacy in order to enhance their bottom line.

For its principled but, in government eyes, recalcitrant attitude, Qwest indicates that it lost out on lucrative government contracts.

Yes, BEFORE 9/11.

These illegal operations were enabled by Michael Hayden, then head of NSA and now head of CIA. Despite this history, Hayden has been out front “justifying” the illegal eavesdropping by citing what happened on 9/11.

Did he know the warrantless domestic spying was illegal? That one is a no-brainer. While at NSA, Hayden emphasized what was known as NSA’s First Commandment: “Thou Shalt Not Eavesdrop on Americans.”

When an unauthorized disclosure revealed the program to the press in late 2005, Hayden agreed to play point man with smoke and mirrors to conceal the full story. Small wonder that the White House later deemed him the perfect man to head the CIA.


In testimony at his CIA confirmation hearings in May 2006, Hayden said that in the wake of 9/11 he “could not not do” what the president dubbed the “Terrorist Surveillance Program.”

A whiff of conscience showed through his nomination hearing, though, when he flubbed the answer to a soft-pitch from administration loyalist, Sen. Kit Bond, R-Missouri:

“Did you believe that your primary responsibility as director of NSA was to execute a program that your NSA lawyers, the Justice Department lawyers, and White House officials all told you was legal and that you were ordered to carry it out by the president of the United States?”

Instead of the simple “Yes” that was in the script, Hayden paused and spoke rather poignantly—and revealingly: “I had to make this personal decision in early October 2001, and it was a personal decision...I could not not do this.”

Why should it be such an enormous personal decision whether or not to obey a White House order? No one asked Hayden, but it requires no particular acuity to figure it out.

This is a military officer who, like the rest of us, had sworn to defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic; a military man well aware one must never obey an unlawful order.

President Bush assured us on Jan. 23, 2006, “I had all kinds of lawyers review the process.” Seems so. The same ones who were at the same time devising ways to “legalize” torture and indefinite detention without due process.

No American, save perhaps Admiral Bobby Ray Inman, who was present at the creation of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (and who has said the eavesdropping program is illegal), knew FISA better than Hayden.

Nonetheless, Hayden conceded that he did not even require a written legal opinion to satisfy himself that the surveillance program, to be implemented without warrant and without adequate consultation in Congress, could pass the smell test.

Small wonder that one of Hayden’s predecessors as NSA director, upon learning what Hayden had agreed to do, said angrily, “He ought to be court-martialed.”

And who was the NSA general counsel at the time? It appears to have been one Robert L. Deitz, who is now a “trusted aide” to CIA Director Hayden. Deitz has just been launched on an investigation of the CIA Inspector General, who apparently made the mistake of being too honest in investigating abuses like torture. Remarkable. [NYT, Oct. 11, 2007]

Where Was Congress?

What was House Speaker Nancy Pelosi doing all this time?

When the illegal eavesdropping was exposed, many asked why the administration did not simply go to Congress to secure changes in the already flexible FISA law, if such were needed. In an unguarded moment at a press conference on Dec. 19, 2005, Attorney General Alberto Gonzales let slip that the administration did take soundings in Congress:

"This is not a backdoor approach. We believe Congress has authorized this kind of surveillance. We have had discussions with Congress in the past - certain members of Congress - as to whether or not FISA could be amended to allow us to adequately deal with this kind of threat, and we were advised that that would be difficult, if not impossible."

Were you one of those with whom Gonzales had discussions, Nancy?

Either way you were woefully derelict in your duty. Either they told you or they didn’t. Either way you come off as no leader.

Time to fish or cut bait. Assuming the Bush regime did not inform you regarding eavesdropping on Americans before 9/11, do not any longer cover up for the White House. Rather, these crimes demand impeachment.

If they did keep you fully informed and, out of obeisance to the executive branch you acquiesced and said nothing, you should lay down your duties as House leader, examine your conscience, and consider resigning.

Ray McGovern works with Tell the Word, the publishing arm of the ecumenical Church of the Saviour in Washington, D.C. He was an Army infantry/intelligence officer from 1962-64, and then a CIA analyst for 27 years. He is co-founder of Veteran Intelligence Professionals for Sanity (VIPS).

Friday, October 12, 2007

Thursday, October 11, 2007

Pictures of the Growing Movement

Mission Impossible - Your Mission, Should You Decide to Accept It...

Is to Drive Out the Bush Regime. Declare It Now: Wear Orange. My Message to the Grassroots here.

Tuesday, October 9, 2007

The One Percent Solution

[Note: this is the text of the talk I gave at the October 5, 2007 WCW National Meeting in NYC. Based on the ensuing discussions at the meeting I want to underscore and elaborate upon two points upfront that I discuss in the talk:

Clearly, we are facing an extraordinary situation today as the Bush Regime and its enablers are decisively refashioning the social compact in the US and accelerating their efforts to silence dissent and clamp down on the society. Their aggression abroad is being matched by their need to carry out repression at home. The gap between their drastic and appalling steps and the level of the overt public response against this to date is agonizing to contemplate. There are some very important stirrings evident such as Jena and the righteous actions in NY, but the acceleration of our adversaries means that we need to ratchet up the resistance in a very big way.

This brings up the first point I want to highlight. The Steering Committee has been trying to figure out why DIN [Declare It Now: Wear Orange] and especially 333 haven’t been embraced more thoroughly and uniformly within our ranks and thereby moved forward more powerfully. I think the problem may be that the challenge we face as activists is analogous to the challenge that faces the people who are not yet politically involved. As hard as it is for the people to see that they must act and as hard as it is for them to recognize at this point how important their actions would be, it is just as hard for us as conscious political forces to see how decisive our actions are in determining whether or not the people are really unleashed. There seems to be a certain expectation within our ranks that the people will step forward more spontaneously into political action than is warranted.

Some activists, especially very new forces, but not only new ones, thought that taking out DIN would be simpler and easier – that the people would see the orange and take it up. Our job according to this view was very straightforward: show them the colors and they’ll wear them too. In fact, as some of the more advanced experiences sum up, the people need to be politically struggled with and their spontaneous understanding isn’t sufficient to get them involved. The moral and political leadership vacuum that I speak of in this speech does not automatically lead to the people being able to fill that vacuum and find their own way to expressing themselves in potent political ways. The vacuum needs to be filled concretely by an alternative leadership: by us and by others on a similar path with us. The transition from a felt vacuum of leadership to adopting a new leadership isn’t an easy or straightforward, much less, spontaneously taken, path. We’re going up against force of habit, tradition, repression, fear (the goddamn phony “war on terror”) and the ruling circles’ long-standing influence. How many years have the GOP and the Democratic Party been around after all? How much money and influence do they have?

The people need to be uncorked by political leaders/organizers. The broad masses of people tend to think that all they have to do is come out and demonstrate a few times and things should change. We make the same mistake if we think that going out and brandishing orange will do the trick.

Just pointing the way forward to people isn’t enough. We have to “get into it” with them. Just as the people need to raise their political activity, we need to raise our political activity as leaders. This doesn’t mean that we need to just get busier. It means that we need to recognize the importance of politically struggling with people on the cardinal questions and if we do this, we will find that many, many more people will step it up and get politically engaged. Our actions can charge the atmosphere and will change the conditions, but just going out there and expecting people to step up just because we’re out there among them with some bright colors isn’t going to cut it.

Asking people if they want to wear orange isn’t what’s needed. We have to challenge them sharply: “if you don’t choose, you’ve chosen.” “I’m against torture, are you? If you are, you have to show it. If you don’t then you don’t really mean it.” “Do you think that Iraqi lives are any less important than Americans’?” Etc. We have to engage people in a fierce, unapologetic, uncompromising way to win them to becoming active participants in political affairs and to becoming political representatives of a new order themselves. We have to make it larger than life for people what’s going on and we have to make it vivid to them what the choices are: if you’re against this and you don’t show it, then it doesn’t count. People will not fall into our laps. Political power must be won. Political change is a big fight. Otherwise, we make the error of thinking that getting a lot of people demonstrating a bunch of times is going to do what needs to be done. Our task and the task of the people are much bigger and more protracted than that.

The Seattle chapter’s summation about an early effort to take out DIN speaks very well to what difference it makes to get right what we’re doing. Initially they were taking out the orange to a concert crowd and they were getting hardly any takers. It was going nowhere. They then summed up that they needed to talk to people and find out what they thought about the Bush Regime. In the course of those discussions they started to connect with people and raise their understanding by challenging spontaneous assumptions (like “they’ll be gone in 15 months anyway”). This allowed them to bring alive why DIN and wearing orange made sense and needed to happen. They then found such a remarkable change that it was almost as if they were working with an entirely different crowd. The crowd, of course, didn’t change in composition. What changed was what the activists were doing and how they were interacting with the people. Then everything changed.

This brings up the second point that I want to underscore. It’s not surprising that we all have a preference for taking out DIN to people in the midst of high tides of struggle such as Jena. We find ourselves mobbed and without time even to talk to people because the demand for the orange et al is so strong. Given a choice nearly one and all of us would prefer to be at a demonstration chanting and expressing our fury at the powers. It’s exciting and gratifying and important. We feel the power of the people when we do this and it’s great and gives us greater inspiration. But as organizers we have a higher responsibility than this to politically solve the barriers standing in the way of people who should step forward and those who have stepped forward and need political nourishment to stay with it and grow as organizers. This is where we earn our keep. This is where our work makes the biggest difference. Orange isn’t going to become the color of resistance just because it gets associated with political protest. This is true of course in one respect. People who are carrying out marches and so on should be wearing orange and it does become linked that way. But orange doesn’t require that this happen first for it to be the sign of resistance and TO BE resistance. Wearing orange everyday, decorating with orange, are themselves, in and of themselves, acts of resistance.

The extended comments I make in the following speech about electrifying the day to day world of people’s individual’s lives aren’t just rhetoric. I mean them to be taken literally. I wasn’t speaking just to try to get us inspired and set goals that we can’t really achieve. Taking the view that orange will spread because it will be associated with protest actions in the traditional mode is missing the essence of the innovative character of DIN and will stand in the way of our carrying out 333. We need to see what political resistance is with new eyes. It’s much bigger, broader and more diverse than we are used to seeing it as. We would not be doing our duty and we would not be meeting the challenge we face if all we were doing was succeeding in getting tons of people to come out and demonstrate. The point is that even coming out to demos isn’t enough. People need to take personal responsibility for being tribunes of the people in their daily lives.

DIN and 333 are a paradigm shift. They’re a very different way of doing political work and they’re based on a fundamentally different vision of what we’re doing and what we need to do, especially in these specific circumstances. The particular configuration of political protagonists at this point in US history requires us to make this conceptual breakthrough. If we don’t we will not be able to draw upon the kind of forces among the people that we need to do this exceptionally difficult and unprecedented thing – driving out a fascist regime from power in the homeland of the greatest imperialist power in history that is not facing any other national power at this point. If we’re going to do something unprecedented, don’t the methods we use and the analysis we bring to what we’re doing have to also be unprecedented? Do we really think that we can do this huge thing by just using the conceptual tools and methods of the past? We’re not going to gather enough forces merely building from demo to demo.

The essence of DIN and 333 need to be studied carefully and grappled with by our forces. It’s not a gimmick, it’s not just “the thing we’re doing now,” and we won’t move forward if we are now looking around for the next thing to try without first really coming to grips with what DIN and 333 are. If we grapple with and get what DIN and 333 are about and how they are different from what is ordinarily done, we will make breakthroughs that we never thought were possible. We’ve already had some glimpses of this. But we need more than glimpses of the light. We want the whole goddamn view: on the oceanfront with a panoramic view. I want to hear the surf roar in my sleep and I want to wake up to the orange sunrise!]

* * *

The political establishment and the corporate media’s complicity with the Bush agenda have deprived the American people of the traditional sources of leadership that they look to protect them from dictatorial and fascist threats like the Bush agenda. This is leaving millions of Americans alternating between shock and despair. Even though most people don’t know how monstrous this regime is because the mainstream media (MSM) and Democrats aren’t telling them, the Bush Regime (BR)’s actions and policies are so drastic, so extreme, and so awful, not just in terms of US history, but also in world history, people can’t help but recognize that we are in the midst of a dramatic and ominous shift.

Why is this going on? The US imperialists are in the process of carrying out a radical rupture – not just a departure, not just a more extreme version of the past, but a rupture with past practices. US presidents have never been above torture. The practice of rendition actually began under Clinton, albeit on a much smaller scale. What sets Bush and Cheney apart here is both the magnitude of what they are doing and the fact that they and Congress are making all of this monstrous and dictatorial behavior the law.

The reason why this is happening I go into in my book, and have discussed in essays posted at WCW and my blog and some other places, but to put it briefly, they – and by “they” I mean the Democrats and the Republicans – are out to create an entirely new normalcy in which civil liberties and civil rights, due process and the right to privacy, innocence until proven guilty, the Geneva Convention, even the Constitution itself are largely or completely eliminated. If there are some within elite ranks who oppose this agenda, they are with very few exceptions too cowardly or too onboard to resist this. The NY Times is a perfect illustration of this. They editorialized against the Military Commissions Act and they editorialized once very belatedly in February 2007 against the Warner Act that was passed in September 2006, and signed by Bush in October 2006 in a private ceremony, but they helped to build the case for the war on Iraq and they are doing the same with respect to Iran. Moreover, they surrendered in disgusting fashion the other week to the radical right and GOP when they backed down in the furor around the MoveOn ad about Gen. Petraeus.

My assessment that the main problem we face today, the reason why there hasn’t yet been a high tide of mass struggle against Bush and Cheney, is primarily because of the political leadership’s unanimity in its support and collusion in the BR agenda, differs from the more common one within movement ranks. The common view is that the problem is the American people. According to this view, Americans are too apathetic, too philistine, too ethnocentric, too ignorant, distracted, and national chauvinist to react appropriately to this urgent situation. All of these descriptors are to some extent true. The American people are second to none internationally for political naivete and for being more readily fooled by manipulative elites. There certainly is a base for fascism in this country and there are Americans who are terrible national chauvinists. As an expatriate American in Michael Moore’s film “Sicko” points out, in Europe the governments fear the people and in America the people fear the government.

We do have a proud tradition of social movements in the 1930s’ labor struggle and the anti-war, feminist and civil rights/black power movements of the 60s, but it is also true that the American people are not as ready to take to the streets. So to some extent the problem is the people. But the people are not the main part of the problem. This point is central to understanding what DIN is designed to do. We can make DIN and 333 work and it will make a dramatic, historic difference, but we have to break with the conventional view of blaming the people for this situation.

The traditional leadership’s abdication and collusion has put the people into a situation where despite their shock and despite their rage, they haven’t had a real means to effectively express this. It’s true that Americans could take to the streets in massive demonstrations, but one, Americans are not accustomed to doing this on the scale that is necessary, and two, they actually have acted politically in the ways that they have been accustomed to thinking would do the trick. They did come out in 2000, 2004 and especially 2006 to repudiate Bush and Cheney in the elections. They voted them out. In 2004 Bush and Cheney lost by a margin of 5 million (had the votes been counted properly) and in 2006 a landslide beat the GOP: a mass repudiation of the GOP and the White House. But the rules have changed. Elections are fixed. The Supreme Court is fixed. Speak up against it, dare to challenge it, and the "new rules," as Bill Maher says on his show, are that they will grab you and taser you as Andrew Meyer learned at the University of Florida recently.

So what can we do?

Besides the fact that we have truth and facts on our side, we have at least two other key things going for us.

1) Bush and Cheney are extremely unpopular – Bush’s approval rating recently went as low as 18%, which I believe may be a record. We’re talking here of at least 210 million people who want to see Bush and Cheney gone already. Among those who are more politically conscious, who number in the tens of millions, Bush and Cheney are reviled. This is a huge untapped strategic factor in our favor. Not just in terms of the fact that a large majority dislike Bush and Cheney and can’t understand why they aren’t gone already, but in the fact that there are these tens of millions who hate, despise and hope that Bush and Cheney are tried for war crimes and crimes against humanity and are put to death for their crimes. The fact of Bush and Cheney’s huge unpopularity is not obvious to the naked eye so there’s some disbelief that it’s true, including within our own activist ranks.

2) The BR is made up of moral monsters, and their enablers, the DLC and MSM, are tainted by their craven complicity. This White House and this Congress have NO moral authority to stand on. By abdicating responsibility to hold them accountable for their crimes, the rest of the political leadership has created a vacuum of leadership. A big vacuum. This is a factor that we must not underestimate. They have created the opening that we can use; they’ve created the highway that we can peel out onto, if we ignore the puny wooden barriers that block this path off. You know the ones, they say on these A-frame wooden signs: “No Exit.” They say “Off the Table.” They say, “Stay on the Main Road, Stay in the Mainstream.” They say, “Wait until 2008 and 2009.”

So they’re already dramatically unpopular AND they have no moral authority and on top of this are everyday doing more terrible and immoral things. Their war in Iraq that they actually thought was going to be a cakewalk is blowing up in their faces.

“So what?” you might think. So they’ve lost moral authority. What difference does it make? They’re still in power. They’ve still got Fox News. It makes a huge difference if we act on this and it’s up to us and others out there who are starting to speak out on this to take advantage of their moral bankruptcy and their tremendous unpopularity.

I wrote an essay called “Why We Take the Moral High Ground.” In it I spoke to the fact that the moral high ground is our one absolutely irrefutable argument. It is the one thing that nobody has a good retort to. It’s not the only weapon in our arsenal, but it’s our best weapon. It is, however, a weapon that won’t work unless we wield it. The moral monstrousness of the BR isn’t going to occur to people spontaneously in the numbers we require. It’s apparent to some people, and these people are acting, but how many people tell us “it’s almost done, they’re only in office for another fifteen months?” When we say in response to this: but everyday they’re in office more people are being tortured and more people are murdered, and global warming is being ignored, how many of them then say, “Oh, I didn’t think about that.” “I never thought of it that way.”

It’s not their fault that they haven’t thought of it that way before we pointed it out to them. They’re reflecting what the MSM and Democratic Party have been saying. They’re reacting in the customary, conventional way. We do also live in an imperialist country after all! But if we lead them and show them a different way, many, many, many of them will recognize the truth in what we say and see that they can and must act. But we have to show this to them and we have to struggle with them.

If you don’t choose, you have chosen. As Sunsara said earlier, if you’re against it but don’t show it, then it doesn’t count. If you don’t act when it counts, your actions won’t count.

We need to take the fury, frustration, disorientation, shock, and political paralysis that’s out there as a result of the Democrats’ and MSM’s complicity and find the way to get millions of people to enter into direct and public political opposition to the BR. We are aiming to mobilize 1% of the population or three million people. If we get three million people wearing orange and taking a public stand we will have created the critical mass that we need to alter the political atmosphere. To do this we need to do two things. We need to do them together.

First, we need to politicize the nature of everyday life. The media won’t show people the everyday horrors of this regime’s policies. They won’t show the daily torture and murder. If they did, of course, the situation on the everyday level would be dramatically different.

Consider what happened in the 60s when TV brought the scenes from the Vietnam War into people’s living rooms. People need to be talking amongst themselves about how horrid the BR is and what a betrayal the Democratic Party is. We have to find a substitute for the media and Democratic Party’s blocking this scene from happening all over the place.

We need to find a way for the three million or so people who make up the 1% to create a different political atmosphere in their everyday lives. You know when scientists are trying to solve a very big computer computational problem and they enlist the help of hundreds of people’s PCs to work on it instead of one gigantic computer? We need people in their day-to-day lives to act as the ambassadors of another way. We need a grassroots media on the level of the individual in their daily lives. We need people in their own communities to be everyday political representatives, political organizers, and moral authorities against the BR and the existing political and opinion-making leaders. We need to electrify the atmosphere of everyday life.

We can do this. We have a majority of people on our side right now. Is there any question that there isn’t tens of millions of people right now who want to do something, who want to stand up and declare to the world that they are horrified and opposed in every fiber of their beings to everything that this regime has done and stands for? DIN gives them a vehicle to express this. But just wearing orange ourselves isn’t going to accomplish this. We have to struggle with people politically to take this up in a big way, to take it out to others, their friends, family, co-workers, teammates, etc. and get them to do likewise. The vivid color orange by itself isn’t going to magically spread just because it’s a bright color!

The problem we face isn’t that we are going up against majority sentiment. The problem isn’t that there are too many people who are still in thrall to the BR or to the Democratic Party. The problem isn’t that the BR is so full of charismatic, popular leaders and their policies are so damn popular. The BR is widely hated and despised. They are like the Wizard of Oz who is all smoke and mirrors. They are not mighty. The majority despises them and we need to make that visible the way infrared makes visible the normally invisible. The problem is that we haven’t yet taken advantage of the opportunities that are in front of us. We’ve made breakthroughs and gotten a glimpse of the basis for and possibilities for DIN when our forces or others have taken DIN out big. And we’ll be hearing about this from some chapters later on today. We also hope to really get in and dig into what the issues, questions and doubts are about DIN and 333 also.

While we want and need to take advantage of high tides of political action like Jena to spread orange swarms – and these upsurges are extremely important - we also need to see with new eyes that political resistance and political activity can take a number of different forms. It’s not only demonstrations in the traditional mold that constitute political resistance. We can and must rely on millions of people in their everyday lives to be political representatives of another way and another world. We can and must rely on millions to be moral authorities, people who have seized the moral high ground from the profoundly immoral leaders we have now. We can and must rely on millions to be out there in the everyday world politically organizing others and getting them to choose sides and to step forward.

One thing that I’ve noticed is that some people who have no problem demonstrating and even organizing demonstrations and risking police arrest and so on, have a harder time putting on a political shirt or an orange ribbon everyday where they’ll be seen by their co-workers and friends. For those of us who have thought that wearing orange is some kind of softer resistance or quieter resistance, think again. What we’re doing in DIN and 333 is we are bringing into being in microcosm, in embryonic form, the kind of society we want to see where people are broadly politically engaged and not disengaged and disinterested. We are calling upon people to take a public stand and to directly engage in the fight to change the world. This is no small thing, but it is exactly what is called for.

The traditional way of trying to mobilize people is through putting up posters, handing out flyers and maybe taking out ads and calling people up. All these things are good. But what DIN is is something else. I know that people here are feeling the enormity of the responsibility we face and that this is part of the problem, that we have to steel ourselves in the face of and recognize where a real chance of winning lies.

We need to make the political moves of the BR and the Democratic Party something that is being responded to on a daily, everywhere basis. It needs to be in people’s faces all the time and for that to happen we have literally millions who could and would play this role. It’s up to us here to take that to them and tell them – there IS a way, there is something you can and must do. You can and must declare it now! We have the moral authority to do just that! We have to exercise that moral authority. I can’t emphasize this enough. The moral high ground is an extremely powerful position to be in. It’s a way for small forces that do not hold power to overcome their disadvantaged position and to draw people to them and challenge the forces that do hold power.

DIN is a radically different way of organizing people. Because it’s so different, it has encountered some doubts and some confusion about what it’s about and whether it will work. I think that most of the doubts or disagreements have to do with a different understanding of what our role and responsibilities are as political leaders and organizers. The problem isn’t that we as political organizers have been too intrusive on the people. When we’re reluctant to ask what we think is too much of people – whether that’s money or their taking up DIN and 333 - we are inadvertently reinforcing the mistaken idea that the situation isn’t all that critical and that they don’t need to step forward in every way that they can. People out there broadly aren’t feeling too much follow-up with them. They are feeling too little! Here again leadership is key. We have allies among the people, there are millions and millions who would step forward, but they need us to give them the way to do so and they need us to struggle with them about the urgency to do so.

This issue of doubt and confusion connects up to the second thing that has to happen: we need a competing, alternative leadership to emerge that takes the moral high ground, draws people to it and radically alters the political atmosphere in this country. It’s a competing leadership in every sense of the word. We need a leadership that calls out the existing establishment and says, follow us. It’s like that line from “The Terminator:” If you want to live, come with me. Abandon those others. Repudiate those others. We need to go in an entirely different direction.

Bringing forward the millions who we need and who are aching to act in some way that will make a difference depends upon leadership and a critical part of that leadership is right here in this room. We are the ones who can and are positioned to play that role in changing the political situation, of recognizing the crossroads that we are in and taking hold of the moral high ground and not letting go!

Creating a competing leadership AND bringing forward millions are inter-connected and indispensable to each other: we need a leadership and a broad support base for that leadership. We need 1% to step forward to constitute our active base.

This 1% will do several things:

1) It will create the favorable ground, the breathing room, the loyal, determined, solid base for the new competing leadership;

2) It will create the backbone of a network of activists who can be mobilized quickly and all over the nation;

3) It will make visible the determined resistance of tens of millions and it will concentrate and help to focus the inchoate sentiment of the majority against Bush and Cheney;

4) It will impact the wider population, allow us to by-pass the MSM and make real to the wider population another path as a real possibility.

We are pulling this competing, legitimate authority together from disparate elements, including from some people who are from elite ranks but who have broken with the BR and Bush agenda. We are asking for models to step forward from both prominent people such as Michelle Phillips and Ed Asner and from the grassroots such as youth who other youth respect and emulate. We need to struggle with these people and get them to take up 333 and if we win them to it then this campaign will develop legs.

Let me say something here about 333. Simply put this is: you get three people to take up orange and they in turn get three people each. You check back with them in three days. In two months, one person can start a chain that brings into action more than 19,600 people. The beauty of 333 is that not only does geometric growth in our ranks become something that we can through our own efforts and those who we recruit can do, not only do millions become a real, concrete outcome if we really do this, but it is beautiful (and hard!) because it puts the responsibility for its fruition into the hands of the people immediately.

We are doing something with DIN that in some ways has never been done. It’s a very different approach. It’s designed based on the specific conditions and on the motion or direction of events, where this government is taking us and what kind of fractures and fissures and strains this is creating. It’s based on looking at what our adversary’s weaknesses are and what our strengths are. Given this, it’s not surprising that some people would have some reservations about it, some confusion and some resistance to taking it out fully.

We need to politicize the atmosphere. The level of political awareness and political activity needs to be ratcheted up on the everyday level of everyday life. How do we do this? The MSM and DLC aren’t obviously going to do this. The actions of the BR, while they create the raw material for a politicized reaction, their actions, filtered through the right-wing media and through the MSM, will not do this by themselves.

Wearing orange everyday and having millions doing it is a way to politicize the atmosphere in a visible, palpable way. This can happen and should happen in conjunction with high tides of political struggles such as Jena and the protest against Bush at the UN and Horror-witz’s “Islamo-Fascist” offensive. These upsurges are an excellent opportunity to spread orange as the color of resistance, but we have to realize that the basis exists in spades in the everyday lives of people everywhere to take this up now regardless of whether there is a more traditional protest action going on or not precisely because of the past and present actions of the BR.

This country’s current leadership is bankrupt and to move forward we have to constitute a competing, legitimate leadership. We cannot depend upon and will not receive from these current leaders and from this current system the dramatic changes necessary to reverse the direction the Bush regime has been spearheading. It is up to us. We, together with the people we bring forward through struggle, can do this.

Thursday, October 4, 2007

"Enough is Enough:" Free the Jena 6!

John Mellancamp has written a wonderful song: "Jena! Take Your Nooses Down." You can watch and listen to it here.

This is THE CALL from the World Can't Wait. I've boldfaced the line most approps to Jena and everything that Jena concentrates:

YOUR GOVERNMENT, on the basis of outrageous lies, is waging a murderous and utterly illegitimate war in Iraq, with other countries in their sights.

YOUR GOVERNMENT is openly torturing people, and justifying it.

YOUR GOVERNMENT puts people in jail on the merest suspicion, refusing them lawyers, and either holding them indefinitely or deporting them in the dead of night.

YOUR GOVERNMENT is moving each day closer to a theocracy, where a narrow and hateful brand of Christian fundamentalism will rule.

YOUR GOVERNMENT suppresses the science that doesn't fit its religious, political and economic agenda, forcing present and future generations to pay a terrible price.

YOUR GOVERNMENT is moving to deny women here, and all over the world, the right to birth control and abortion.

YOUR GOVERNMENT enforces a culture of greed, bigotry, intolerance and ignorance.

People look at all this and think of Hitler - and they are right to do so. The Bush regime is setting out to radically remake society very quickly, in a fascist way, and for generations to come. We must act now; the future is in the balance.

Millions and millions are deeply disturbed and outraged by this. They recognize the need for a vehicle to express this outrage, yet they cannot find it; politics as usual cannot meet the enormity of the challenge, and people sense this.

There is not going to be some magical "pendulum swing." People who steal elections and believe they're on a "mission from God" will not go without a fight.

There is not going to be some savior from the Democratic Party. This whole idea of putting our hopes and energies into "leaders" who tell us to seek common ground with fascists and religious fanatics is proving every day to be a disaster, and actually serves to demobilize people.

But silence and paralysis are NOT acceptable. That which you will not resist and mobilize to stop, you will learn - or be forced - to accept. There is no escaping it: the whole disastrous course of this Bush regime must be STOPPED. And we must take the responsibility to do it.

And there is a way. We are talking about something on a scale that can really make a huge change in this country and in the world. We need more than fighting Bush's outrages one at a time, constantly losing ground to the whole onslaught. We must, and can, aim to create a political situation where the Bush regime's program is repudiated, where Bush himself is driven from office, and where the whole direction he has been taking society is reversed. We, in our millions, must and can take responsibility to change the course of history.

Acting in this way, we join with and give support and heart to people all over the globe who so urgently need and want this regime to be stopped.

This will not be easy. If we speak the truth, they will try to silence us. If we act, they will try to stop us. But we speak for the majority, here and around the world, and as we get this going we are going to reach out to the people who have been so badly fooled by Bush and we are NOT going to stop.

The point is this: history is full of examples where people who had right on their side fought against tremendous odds and were victorious. And it is also full of examples of people passively hoping to wait it out, only to get swallowed up by a horror beyond what they ever imagined. The future is unwritten. WHICH ONE WE GET IS UP TO US.

Monday, October 1, 2007

John Dean, Iran, the Warner Act, and the Elections

I shared a book panel with John Dean yesterday at the West Hollywood Book Fair. Dean is a very gracious person and it was fun to be on the panel with him. His whistleblowing of the Nixon administration, as people know, was instrumental in Nixon's downfall, leading to impeachment articles that were on the verge of a Congressional vote. Nixon, to avoid the inevitable, resigned before the vote. Dean's a legend and deservedly so. His recent writings include some very important exposures of how things are actually working in D.C. today.

At the same time, while Dean's no longer a member of the "tribe" he used to be a part of - the GOP - and while he despises what Bush and Cheney have done, and has written a book entitled Worse Than Watergate, he still opposes the impeachment of Bush and Cheney. We had a friendly but sharp disagreement at the event over the prospects of an attack on Iran, over the Warner Act, and over the 2004 Presidential election. In brief, Dean said that he didn't think an attack was pending on Iran because it would be irrational for them to do it and that the White House was essentially engaging in sabre rattling, the Warner Act doesn't mean that the President can take control over the National Guard units nationally to enforce martial law, and the 2004 election being stolen is a "conspiracy theory."

Let me take the last point first. As I state in Chapter Two of my book, Impeach the President, just to cite one of the items in my initial list of nineteen "impossibles and improbables:"

"6. Bush far exceeded the 85 percent of registered Florida Republicans’ votes he got in 2000, receiving in 2004 more than 100 percent of the registered Republican votes in 24 out of the 67 Florida counties, more than 200 percent of registered Republicans in 10 counties, over 300 percent of registered Republicans in 4 counties, more than 400 percent in 2 counties, and over 700 percent in one county. Bush’s share of crossover votes by registered Democrats in Florida, however, did not actually increase over 2000 and he lost ground among registered Independents, dropping 15 points. Floridians were just so enthusiastic about Bush and Cheney that they somehow managed to overrule basic math."

On the Warner Act issue, Dean's right that by declaring martial law they would be acting unconstitutionally, but you can read what the Act says yourself. I would also point out that something being unconstitutional hasn't stopped them yet! See here on my website with links to other essays. If you do a search on my website for "Warner Act" you will find a number of essays in which I discuss the Warner Act, related E.O.s and the situation in which these are occurring.

On Iran, the fact that it would be crazy for them to attack Iran isn't an argument refuting the fact that they are planning to do it and that they are going to do it unless we stop them. Bush and Cheney aren't engaging in a bluff. These people don't see the world the way most of the rest of us do. They truly believe that they can make real whatever they want to be real. It's one of the benefits of belonging to the "faith-based community."

See the following:

US garners support for strike on Iran

Anne Davies Herald Correspondent in Washington
October 2, 2007

AUSTRALIA, Britain and Israel have reportedly "expressed interest" in a US campaign to launch surgical bombing raids on Iran targeting Revolutionary Guard Corps facilities.

A report in The New Yorker by the journalist Seymour Hersh said the Bush Administration had stopped trying to justify a campaign against Iran on the basis of curtailing Iran's nuclear ambitions. It is instead redefining the war in Iraq as a strategic battle between the US and Iran.

Hersh said the bombing plan has had its most positive reception from Britain's Prime Minister, Gordon Brown. While Hersh did not mention Australia in the article, he told CNN: "There have been expressions of interest from Australia, and other countries. The Israelis, of course, have gone bananas. They're very upset about the idea of not going … They want us to go. And they want us to hit hard."

The Minister for Defence, Brendan Nelson, was in the US a month ago for briefings with defence officials and a meeting with the US Defence Secretary, Robert Gates. Dr Nelson told reporters at the time that he had discussed Iran, but declined to elaborate.

A spokesman for Dr Nelson declined to comment yesterday.

A spokesman for the Foreign Affairs Minister, Alexander Downer, referred to his comments in New York last week after a meeting with the Iranian Foreign Minister, and said the position had not changed.

He said Iran needed to be put under pressure by the UN Security Council, but consideration should also be given to other measures such as financial sanctions.

Hersh said the revised bombing plan, with its tightened focus on counter-terrorism, was gathering support among the generals and admirals in the Pentagon who had been apprehensive about an earlier, broader plan to bomb Iran.

"The strategy calls for the use of sea-launched cruise missiles and more precisely targeted ground attacks and bombing strikes, including plans to destroy the most important Revolutionary Guard training camps supply depots and command-and-control facilities," Hersh wrote. He said there were also plans to hit Iran's anti-aircraft surface-to-air missile sites.

He said a Pentagon consultant on counter-terrorism had told him that if the bombing campaign took place, it would be accompanied by a series of what he called "short, sharp incursions" by American Special Forces into suspected Iranian training sites.

Sources have told the Herald the plan is likely to be put into action only if there were significant US casualties in Iraq that could be attributed to Iranian activity. Hersh also floats this scenario, suggesting a significant attack on American servicemen from across the border could trigger US action.

Hersh pointed to a speech made by the US President, George Bush, in August to the American Legion in which Mr Bush said: "The attacks on our bases and our troops by Iranian-supplied munitions have increased … The Iranian regime must halt these actions, and until it does I will take actions necessary to protect our troops.

"I have authorised our military commanders in Iraq to confront Tehran's murderous activities."

But since then Mr Bush has made a number of other comments suggesting that the Administration may still be hopeful of a diplomatic solution, and in recent weeks has prevailed upon France to assist in dealing with Tehran.

In response to the Hersh article, a White House spokeswoman, Dana Perino, said: "The President believes this issue can be solved diplomatically. And the Administration is working with the international community through the United Nations Security Council, plus Germany to bring diplomatic measures to bear on Iran to put an end to its enrichment and reprocessing activities."

But Hersh's article detailed conversations with numerous sources in the Department of Defence, the CIA and former Administration officials who have heard talk of the strike plans and who claim the option is gaining momentum.

This story was found at: