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September 30, 2016

President Obama: ‘Patron’ of the Israeli Occupation

President Barack Obama has agreed to give Israel a record $38 billion in military aid over the next 10 years, cementing his legacy as the strongest financial supporter of Israel ever to occupy the White House. Obama, whom Israeli journalist Gideon Levy calls “the patron of the occupation,” increased the amount of money the U.S. provides Israel each year from $3.1 to $3.8 billion.

Although the corporate media portray the relationship between Obama and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu as chilly, Obama put his money where his heart apparently is with the unprecedented allocation of military assistance to Israel.Read more

September 19, 2016

Fifteen Years After 9/11, Perpetual “War on Terror” Continues Unabated

Fifteen years ago, 19 men committed suicide and took more than 3,000 people with them. The 9/11 attacks constituted crimes against humanity and should have been treated as such, with investigations and prosecutions of those who helped plan and finance the horrific crimes.

If they had been armed attacks by another country, George W. Bush could have lawfully used military force in self-defense under the United Nations Charter. But they were not. Neither Afghanistan nor Iraq had attacked the United States or any other UN member country. In fact, Iraq had not invaded any country for 11 years, since it went into Kuwait. Neither Afghanistan nor Iraq posed an imminent threat to any nation.

None of the hijackers hailed from Afghanistan or Iraq. In fact, 15 came from Saudi Arabia. Nevertheless, the Bush administration invaded both Afghanistan and Iraq and changed their regimes, killing and injuring untold numbers of people. The resulting vacuum in Iraq has been filled by Islamic State, which formed and became powerful after the US invaded that country.Read more

September 5, 2016

Iraqi Woman Uses Chilcot Report in War Crimes Lawsuit Against George W. Bush

Sundus Saleh, an Iraqi woman, first filed her lawsuit against George W. Bush, Dick Cheney, Donald Rumsfeld, Condoleezza Rice and Paul Wolfowitz in September 2013. Alleging that the Iraq War constituted an illegal crime of aggression, Saleh filed the suit on behalf of herself and other Iraqis in the US District Court for the Northern District of California.

The district court dismissed Saleh’s lawsuit in December 2014, saying the defendants acted within the scope of their employment when they planned and carried out the Iraq War. Saleh then appealed to the US Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit.

In her appeal, Saleh is arguing that the Bush officials were acting from personally held convictions that the US should invade Iraq, regardless of any legitimate policy reasons, and that they knowingly lied to the public when they fraudulently tied Saddam Hussein to al-Qaeda and the threat of weapons of mass destruction.Read more

August 28, 2016

Abu Zubaydah: Torture’s ‘Poster Child’

Last week, Abu Zubaydah, who has been imprisoned at Guantanamo for 14 years without being charged with a crime, appeared for the first time before the U.S. military Periodic Review Board, which determines whether Guantanamo detainees will continue to be held as “enemy combatants.”

Zubaydah argued he should be released because he has “no desire or intent to harm the United States or any other country.” During his hearing, Zubaydah also said he had been tortured by the CIA, an allegation confirmed by the Senate Intelligence Committee’s torture report. The U.S. government maintains he is an enemy combatant.

When Zubaydah was apprehended in Pakistan in 2002, the Bush administration characterized him as “chief of operations” for Al Qaeda and Osama bin Laden’s “number three” man. This was untrue, according to John Kiriakou, who led the joint CIA-FBI team that caught Zubaydah. Kiriakou confirmed that Zubaydah did not help plan the September 11, 2001 attacks.Read more

August 26, 2016

Death to the Death Penalty in California

On Election Day, California voters will make a monumental moral and financial decision. Proposition 62—the Justice That Works Act—is on the Nov. 8 ballot, and if the initiative passes, it will replace the death penalty with life in prison without parole. It will also require convicted murderers to work and pay restitution to their victims’ families. And it will save taxpayers $150 million a year, according to the Legislative Analyst’s Office.

Among the states still part of the U.S. death penalty system, California has the most people on death row—746. Florida is next, with 388 according to the Yes on 62 campaign. Overall, 2,943 people are on death row in the United States (as of Jan. 1)—meaning almost one in four people waiting to be executed are in the California penal system. The elderly make up 11 percent, and the oldest condemned inmate is 86. The average stay on death row is 18 years.

Although California has spent about $5 billion administering the death penalty, it has executed just 13 people since 1978. This means taxpayers have spent about $384 million per execution.Read more

August 18, 2016

US Targeted Killing Rules Conflate Legality and Politics

In January 2013, President Barack Obama promised to make the rules for the United States’ targeted killing program “more transparent to the American people and the world” because “in our democracy, no one should just take my word for it that we’re doing things the right way.”

Three and a half years later, a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request by the ACLU and resulting court order finally forced the administration to make public the Presidential Policy Guidance regarding the program. But much of it is redacted, or blacked out. That is the opposite of transparent.Read more

July 28, 2016

The Content of Donald Trump’s Character

In his acceptance speech for the Republican presidential nomination, Donald Trump declared, “My Dad, Fred Trump, was the smartest and hardest working man I ever knew. . . . It’s because of him that I learned, from my youngest age, to respect the dignity of work and the dignity of working people.”

Donald apparently forgot what his father taught him. The GOP nominee refuses to pay the people who work for him. “Among them: a dishwasher in Florida. A glass company in New Jersey. A carpet company. A plumber. Painters. Forty-eight waiters. Dozens of bartenders and other hourly workers at his resorts and clubs, coast to coast. Real estate brokers who sold his properties. And, ironically, several law firms that once represented him in these suits and others,” wrote Steve Reilly in USA Today.

Moreover, Fred Trump, “the smartest” man his son ever knew, did not respect the dignity of black people. The legendary folk singer Woody Guthrie rented an apartment in the elder Trump’s Brooklyn complex in 1950. It turned out blacks were not welcome there.Read more

July 24, 2016

Killing with Robots Increases Militarization of Police

As in many cities around the country, Black Lives Matter held a demonstration in Dallas to protest the police shootings of two more black men, Alton Sterling of Louisiana and Philando Castile of Minnesota. During the demonstration, Micah Xavier Johnson, an Army veteran who served in Afghanistan, mounted his own personal, deadly protest by shooting police officers guarding the nonviolent rally. Five officers were killed and seven wounded.

After negotiating for some time with Johnson, who was holed up in a community college parking garage, police sent in a robot armed with explosives and killed him. Dallas police chief David Brown said, “We saw no other option but to use our bomb robot and place a device on its extension for it to detonate where the subject was,” adding, “Other options would have exposed our officers to grave danger.”

The legal question is whether the officers reasonably believed Johnson posed an imminent threat of death or great bodily injury to them at the time they deployed the robot to kill him.
Johnson was apparently isolated in the garage, posing no immediate threat. If the officers could attach explosives to the robot, they could have affixed a tear gas canister to the robot instead, to force Johnson out of the garage. Indeed, police in Albuquerque used a robot in 2014 to “deploy chemical munitions,” which compelled the surrender of an armed suspect barricaded in a motel room.

Read more

July 6, 2016

How Justice Scalia’s Absence Has Affected the Supreme Court’s Decisions

If Justice Antonin Scalia had survived to participate in the remainder of the 2015-2016 Supreme Court term, his vote would have made a significant difference in the resolution of several cases. Moreover, if the Senate had confirmed Merrick Garland to fill Scalia’s seat, some of those cases might well have turned out differently. From unions’ rights to tribal jurisdiction, immigration and birth control, Scalia’s absence has already impacted a number of important decisions, foreshadowing how the country might be shaped by substantial changes to the court’s makeup over the next president’s term.Read more

Numbers in Obama’s Drone Deaths Report Just Don’t Add Up

More than three years after President Barack Obama pledged to be transparent about the United States’ lethal drone program, his administration has finally come forward with an accounting of the numbers of civilian deaths that resulted from drone strikes between Jan. 20, 2009, and Dec. 31, 2015. But they only cover airstrikes “outside areas of active hostilities,” which encompasses Pakistan, Yemen, Somalia and Libya. Civilian deaths in Afghanistan, Iraq and Syria are not included in the report.

As expected, the administration’s numbers are significantly lower than tallies documented by leading nongovernmental organizations (NGOs), including the London-based Bureau of Investigative Journalism, New America and The Long War Journal. Obama’s Office of the Director of National Intelligence(DNI) sets the figure of “noncombatant deaths” at between 64 and 116. The NGOs , however, estimate between 200 and 1,000 civilian deaths occurred as a result of U.S. drone strikes in the areas, and during the time periods, covered by the DNI report.Read more