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Health Care & Environment
11.16 How pesticide bans can prevent tens of thousands of suicides a year [how many thousands more die early from eating pesticide-laced food?]
11.15 The long read: The plastic backlash: what's behind our sudden rage – and will it make a difference? [the world wants to throw-up...]
11.15 Claws out: crab fishermen sue 30 oil firms over climate change [workers are waking-up...]
11.12 This Land is Your Land: The Zinke effect: how the US interior department became a tool of industry [behaving ignorantly again...]
11.11 Trump responds to worst fires in California’s history by threatening to withhold federal aid [behaving ignorantly again...]
11.11 Interior department sued for ‘secretive process’ in at-risk species assessment [behaving ignorantly again...]
11.11 Keystone XL pipeline: judge rules government 'jumped the gun' and orders halt [behaving ignorantly again...]
News Media Matters
US Politics, Policy & 'Culture'
11.17 As Energy for Medicare for All Explodes, Steny Hoyer's Plan Includes Waiting for Trump to Help Make Obamacare Better [Another who is unfit to be Democrat leader]
11.17 'A Staggeringly Bad Idea': Outrage as Pelosi Pushes Tax Rule That Would 'Kneecap the Progressive Agenda' [Unfit to be Democrat leader]
11.16 As 'Green New Deal' Demand Grows, Democrats Have Choice: Confront and Defeat Fossil Fuel Industry or Take Credit for 'Doomed' Planet [Two choices: Save life-on-Earth or help Republicans let it die?]
11.15 Democrats Won Big. Can They Go Bold, Too? [it's about suppressing the influence and leadership by Republican-like Democrats who counsel 'íncremental' (no) change, such as Nancy Pelosi, Steny Hoyer, Hillary Clinton, Chuck Shumer and Joe Biden]
11.15 Pentagon Officials Forced to Make Fewer Public Appearances to Avoid Provoking Trump [...by revealing Trump's huuuge ignorance]
11.15 REPUBLICANS USED A BILL ABOUT WOLVES TO AVOID A VOTE ON YEMEN WAR [if there are 'defense industry' profits to be made—including congress-critter insider-trading—and political 'donations' to be had, we mustn't stop killing innocent civilians!]
11.14 The Guardian view on Yemen’s misery: the west is complicit [WAR CRIMES]
Economics, Crony Capitalism
11.16 Amazon’s HQ2 Will Get a Tax Break Designed to Help the Poor [a Republican program that directly helps participating wealthy companies—but only helps workers if and when 'trickle-down' occurs.]
11.16 Trump doesn’t want to punish Saudi Arabia over Khashoggi. His new sanctions prove it. [George W. Bush made a similar immoral decision for the same oily reasons after 9-11, protecting Saudi defense contracts while facilitating the slaughter of poorer Arab "terrorists" in the region.]
11.15 The Earth is in a death spiral. It will take radical action to save us [fossil fuel burning, un-recyclable plastic production/use and methane gas release must cease ASAP.]
International & Futurism
11.17 Thousands gather to block London bridges in climate rebellion [We're losing WWIII because the enemy is invisible while we're like frogs slowly cooking. We aren't informed enough to be alarmed, but must get organized and motivated to fight back. We need a War Plan to ruthlessly pursue the fight of our lives!]
11.17 Policies of China, Russia and Canada threaten 5C climate change, study finds [Climate catastrophe is increasingly likely without worldwide organization, funding and commitment to winning THE WAR AGAINST GLOBAL WARMING.]
11.15 Cuba to pull doctors out of Brazil after President-elect Bolsonaro comments [terms must be negotiated for fairness to Cuba's health professionals without disruption of healthcare for Brazil's poor]
11.14 'Appalling' Khashoggi audio shocked Saudi intelligence – Erdogan [Exposing a psychopath?]
ON ENFORCING THE CONSTITUTION AND OBEYING THE LAW:
First, Jail All Bush's Lawyers4 February 2009
If new Attorney General Eric Holder really means what he said in his oath – that he will “support and defend the Constitution of the United States” – then he must give serious consideration to prosecuting crimes committed by the Bush administration, including its torturing of detainees.
And Holder might be advised to begin the process at his own agency, the Department of Justice. To paraphrase Shakespeare, Holder might start by first jailing all of George W. Bush’s lawyers.
The logic of targeting former Justice Department lawyers – the likes of John Yoo and Jay Bybee – is that they were the linchpin for justifying acts that were clearly illegal; they provided the paper cover for both the interrogators in the field and the senior officials back in Washington.
Bush and Vice President Dick Cheney have repeatedly cited this legal guidance when insisting that the harsh interrogation of "war on terror" detainees – as well as other prisoners from the Iraq and Afghan wars – did not cross the line into torture.
In essence, the Bush-Cheney defense is that independent lawyers at the Justice Department’s Office of Legal Counsel and elsewhere gave honest opinions – and that everyone from the President and Vice President, who approved specific interrogation techniques, to the interrogators, who carried out these acts, operated in good faith.
If, however, that narrative is false – if the lawyers colluded with policymakers in creating legal excuses for criminal acts – then the Bush-Cheney defense collapses. Rather than diligent lawyers providing professional advice, the picture is of consiglieres counseling crime bosses how to skirt the law.
The evidence supports the conspiratorial interpretation. For instance, in his 2006 book War by Other Means, Yoo describes his involvement in frequent White House meetings regarding what “other means” should receive a legal stamp of approval.
Yoo, who was a deputy assistant attorney general assigned to the powerful Office of Legal Counsel, wrote:
Yoo identified other key players as Timothy Flanigan, Gonzales’s deputy; William Howard Taft IV from State; John Bellinger from the NSC; William “Jim” Haynes from the Pentagon; and David Addington, counsel to Cheney.
In his book, Yoo describes a give-and-take among participants at the meeting with the State Department’s Taft challenging Yoo’s OLC view that Bush could waive the Geneva Conventions regarding the invasion of Afghanistan (by labeling it a “failed state”). Taft noted that the Taliban was the recognized government of the country.
Regarding objections from the Pentagon’s judge advocate generals – who feared that waiving the Geneva Conventions would endanger American soldiers – Yoo again stressed policy concerns, not legal logic.
What Yoo’s book and other evidence make clear is that the lawyers from the Justice Department’s OLC weren’t just legal scholars handing down opinions from an ivory tower; they were participants in how to make Bush’s desired actions “legal.”
They were the lawyerly equivalents of those U.S. intelligence analysts, who – in the words of the British “Downing Street Memo” – “fixed” the facts around Bush’s desire to justify invading Iraq.
Yoo and other OLC lawyers looked to be Bush’s consiglieres on both brutal interrogation and aggressive war. They floated novel legal theories, looked for loopholes or – in Yoo’s phrase – they were “adapting to new circumstances.”
The importance of this question – whether the OLC lawyers were honest brokers or criminal conspirators – has not been missed by some of the congressional leaders pressing for a serious investigation of Bush’s use of torture and other war crimes.
A year ago, Sens. Dick Durbin, D-Illinois, and Sheldon Whitehouse, D-Rhode Island, wrote a letter to the Justice Department’s watchdog agencies requesting an investigation into the role that “Justice Department officials [played] in authorizing and/or overseeing the use of waterboarding by the Central Intelligence Agency... and whether those who authorized it violated the law.”
In the Feb. 12, 2008, letter, the senators questioned whether the OLC lawyers were “insulated from outside pressure to reach a particular conclusion” and whether Bush’s White House and the CIA played any role in influencing “deliberations about the lawfulness of waterboarding,” a technique that creates the sensation of drowning and has been deemed torture since the Inquisition.
Whitehouse, a former federal prosecutor, said those questions were designed to get to the point that having in-house lawyers dream up a legal argument doesn’t make an action legal, especially if the lawyers were somehow induced to produce the opinion.
In the case of waterboarding and other abusive interrogation tactics, Yoo and his OLC boss Jay Bybee generated a memo, dated Aug. 1, 2002, that came up with a novel and narrow definition of torture, essentially lifting the language from an unrelated law regarding health benefits.
The Yoo-Bybee legal opinion stated that unless the amount of pain administered to a detainee led to injuries that might result in "death, organ failure, or serious impairment of body functions" then the interrogation technique could not be defined as torture.
Since waterboarding is not intended to cause death or organ failure – only the panicked gag reflex associated with drowning – it was deemed not to be torture.
The “torture memo” and related legal opinions were considered so sloppy and unprofessional that Bybee’s replacement to head the OLC, Jack Goldsmith, himself a conservative Republican, took the extraordinary step of withdrawing them after he was appointed in October 2003.
Whitehouse said the Bybee-Yoo memo was “beyond malpractice” and “raises the specter that these things were overlooked” just to advance policy. [For more on Whitehouse’s recent comments, see Consortiumnews.com’s “More Pressure for Bush Torture Probe.”]
In response to the Durbin-Whitehouse letter, H. Marshall Jarrett, head of the Justice Department’s Office of Professional Responsibility, disclosed that OPR was examining the genesis of the Aug. 1, 2002, legal opinion, an inquiry that might be completed within the next month or two.
OPR’s findings could give Attorney General Holder an opening to question Bybee, Yoo and other lawyers in the torture debate about whether they were pressured to come up with a legal opinion that would justify the abusive tactics that Bush and Cheney already wanted to use against detainees.
Did Bush and Cheney, in effect, lawyer-shop for the answers they wanted?
By concentrating on the lawyers first, Holder could likely build a stronger case than he could against CIA and other interrogators who executed the orders from above to abuse and torture detainees.
While the interrogators might reasonably be able to claim uncertainty about the legality (because they had orders from the Attorney General or the White House), Yoo, Bybee and other lawyers who crafted the legal arguments could make no such claim.
Bybee is now a federal appeals court judge in San Francisco. Yoo is a law professor at the University of California at Berkeley
Yoo also has shown no remorse over his role in putting the United States on the path to torture. Yoo even took to the opinion pages of the Wall Street Journal on Jan. 29 to chastise President Barack Obama for ordering the phased close-down of the Guantanamo Bay prison and for ending the CIA’s authority to harshly interrogate detainees.
While Yoo’s rhetoric is typical of what came out of the Bush administration for eight years, it glosses over the basic fact that this approach leaves to one person – the U.S. President – the power to determine who is an “enemy combatant” and to subject that human being to barbaric practices.
It assumes that the President and his intelligence agencies are infallible in making those judgments even for a person apprehended far from any battlefield and with no apparent capacity to wage war, even U.S. citizens or legal residents pulled from their homes or off the street by government agents. [For details, see our book, Neck Deep.]
For many Americans, the question during Bush’s presidency was whether his imperial theories and their defenders represented a greater threat to the American constitutional Republic than did a scattered band of terrorists halfway around the world.
Yoo’s Wall Street Journal column also is further evidence of his criminal intent. He is stating clearly that he is all about achieving an outcome (i.e. extracting information from suspected terrorists by any means that the President orders), rather than about protecting the sanctity of the law.
It is the ends, not the means, that matter to John Yoo.
If Holder takes seriously his sworn commitment to protect the U.S. Constitution against all enemies foreign and domestic, he has little choice but to examine how political and ideological operatives, like Yoo, twisted the law to fit a President’s criminal proclivities.
If the rule of law means anything, it can’t be that simply making a legal argument – no matter how baseless and absurd – permits the nation’s top executive to break any law and commit any crime.
Possibly after some time behind bars or at least before a grand jury, lawyers, who put their ambitions and policy interests first, might have some heartfelt second thoughts – and might be willing to point the finger at which of their higher-ups got them to write these disreputable legal opinions.
Robert Parry broke many of the Iran-Contra stories in the 1980s for the Associated Press and Newsweek. His latest book, Neck Deep: The Disastrous Presidency of George W. Bush, was written with two of his sons, Sam and Nat, and can be ordered at neckdeepbook.com. His two previous books, Secrecy & Privilege: The Rise of the Bush Dynasty from Watergate to Iraq and Lost History: Contras, Cocaine, the Press & 'Project Truth' are also available there. Or go to Amazon.com.
This article is republished in the Baltimore Chronicle with permission of the author.
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This story was published on February 4, 2009.