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Bacevich: A Hug for the Muddlers

By: Tom Engelhardt Thursday January 29, 2015 9:47 am

This article originally appeared at TomDispatch.com. To receive TomDispatch in your inbox three times a week, click here.

After a State of the Union Address, we’re used to a rebuttal from the other party.  This year, two of them turned out to be on the schedule.  There was the one you probably missed — “You see, growing up, I had only one good pair of shoes. So on rainy school days, my mom would slip plastic bread bags over them to keep them dry…” — because who doesn’t switch to a little actual entertainment after an hour listening to any president?  That Republican “response” was delivered by new Iowa Senator Joni Ernst (she of the pig castration ads). The second one, not to be given until March 3rd, will be by the latest Republican senator and congressman, a fellow named Bibi Netanyahu. He will appear before a joint session of Congress, highlights from which will be all over the news undoubtedly showing both chambers rising repeatedly for standing ovations — some 29 times on the last such occasion — while the Israeli prime minister eviscerates President Obama’s negotiations with Iran over its nuclear program.  Previews indicate that Netanyahu will also encourage Congress to pass further sanctions against Iran to ensure that those talks will be deep-sixed and the way paved for just what we all need: one more war in the Middle East.  A second audience will also be listening: Israeli voters, just two weeks before they go to the polls to decide whether Bibi is to remain in office.

All in all, call it an illuminating State of the Union moment, starting with the president’s fantasy address.  It was, after all, filled with proposals that might have been meaningful in year two of his first term but that now have as much chance of being enacted into law as the National Zoo in Washington does of housing a unicorn.  There was, however, one arena in which Obama might have assumed that something he said wouldn’t just be his own version of a Netanyahu-style election speech, laying the groundwork for the next Democratic candidate in 2016.  That, of course, was foreign policy.

Perhaps even the 36.4% of American voters — the lowest turnout since the Neolithic age — who ushered in the present war-hawk Republican Congress imagined they were sending their representatives to Washington to deal with the usual set of issues (and non-issues).  So call House Speaker John Boehner an original.  Without bothering to notify the White House and evidently encouraged by Israeli ambassador Ron Dermer, he promptly invited Netanyahu to respond to the president on a major foreign policy issue, while himself preparing to pass those new sanctions the Israeli prime minister is so eager for.  (On that score, the move has already backfired, rallying Democrats to the president and so making a successful veto a certainty for the coming months.)

As an anonymous “senior American official” told the Israeli newspaper Haaretz, Netanyahu’s act was the equivalent of spitting in the president’s face.  By the way, whatever that is on John Kerry’s face after years working to develop a special relationship with Netanyahu — who didn’t even bother to tell him he was coming — I leave you to figure out.  All in all, think of it as the perfect cherry on the misbaked cake of an Obama foreign policy that, as TomDispatch regular Andrew Bacevich points out, has been outstanding mainly for its remarkable mediocrity.

As the president shuttles from India to Saudi Arabia on an increasingly incoherent planet, that classic philosophical thought experiment comes to mind: What is the sound of a politician falling in the forest if no one hears him go down? Tom

Save Us From Washington’s Visionaries
In (Modest) Praise of a Comforting Mediocrity
By Andrew J. Bacevich

En route back to Washington at the tail end of his most recent overseas trip, John Kerry, America’s peripatetic secretary of state, stopped off in France “to share a hug with all of Paris.” Whether Paris reciprocated the secretary’s embrace went unrecorded.

Despite the requisite reference to General Pershing (“Lafayette, we are here!”) and flying James Taylor in from the 1960s to assure Parisians that “You’ve Got a Friend,” in the annals of American diplomacy Kerry’s hug will likely rank with President Eisenhower’s award of the Legion of Merit to Nicaraguan dictator Anastasio Somoza for “exceptionally meritorious conduct” and Jimmy Carter’s acknowledgment of the “admiration and love” said to define the relationship between the Iranian people and their Shah.  In short, it was a moment best forgotten.

Alas, this vapid, profoundly silly event is all too emblematic of statecraft in the Obama era.  Seldom have well-credentialed and well-meaning people worked so hard to produce so little of substance.

Not one of the signature foreign policy initiatives conceived in Obama’s first term has borne fruit. When it came to making a fresh start with the Islamic world, responsibly ending the “dumb” war in Iraq (while winning the “necessary” one in Afghanistan), “resetting” U.S.-Russian relations, and “pivoting” toward Asia, mark your scorecard 0 for 4.

There’s no doubt that when Kerry arrived at the State Department he brought with him some much-needed energy.  That he is giving it his all — the department’s website reports that the secretary has already clocked over 682,000 miles of travel — is doubtless true as well.  The problem is the absence of results.  Remember when his signature initiative was going to be an Israeli-Palestinian peace deal?  Sadly, that quixotic plan, too, has come to naught.

Yes, Team Obama “got” bin Laden.  And, yes, it deserves credit for abandoning a self-evidently counterproductive 50-plus-year-old policy toward Cuba and for signing a promising agreement with China on climate change.  That said, the administration’s overall record of accomplishment is beyond thin, starting with that first-day-in-the-Oval-Office symbol that things were truly going to be different: Obama’s order to close Guantanamo.  That, of course, remains a work in progress (despite regular reassurances of light glimmering at the end of what has become a very long tunnel).

In fact, taking the president’s record as a whole, noting that on his watch occasional U.S. drone strikes have become routine, the Nobel Committee might want to consider revoking its Peace Prize.

Nor should we expect much in the time that Obama has remaining. Perhaps there is a deal with Iran waiting in the wings (along with the depth charge of ever-fiercer congressionally mandated sanctions), but signs of intellectual exhaustion are distinctly in evidence.

“Where there is no vision,” the Hebrew Bible tells us, “the people perish.”  There’s no use pretending: if there’s one thing the Obama administration most definitely has not got and has never had, it’s a foreign policy vision.

In Search of Truly Wise (White) Men — Only Those 84 or Older Need Apply

All of this evokes a sense of unease, even consternation bordering on panic, in circles where members of the foreign policy elite congregate.  Absent visionary leadership in Washington, they have persuaded themselves, we’re all going down.  So the world’s sole superpower and self-anointed global leader needs to get game — and fast.

Leslie Gelb, former president of the Council on Foreign Relations, recently weighed in with a proposal for fixing the problem: clean house.  Obama has surrounded himself with fumbling incompetents, Gelb charges.  Get rid of them and bring in the visionaries.

Writing at the Daily Beast, Gelb urges the president to fire his entire national security team and replace them with “strong and strategic people of proven foreign policy experience.”  Translation: the sort of people who sip sherry and nibble on brie in the august precincts of the Council of Foreign Relations.  In addition to offering his own slate of nominees, including several veterans of the storied George W. Bush administration, Gelb suggests that Obama consult regularly with Henry Kissinger, Brent Scowcroft, Zbigniew Brzezinski, and James Baker.  These distinguished war-horses range in age from 84 to 91.  By implication, only white males born prior to World War II are eligible for induction into the ranks of the Truly Wise Men.

Anyway, Gelb emphasizes, Obama needs to get on with it.  With the planet awash in challenges that “imperil our very survival,” there is simply no time to waste.

At best, Gelb’s got it half right.  When it comes to foreign policy, this president has indeed demonstrated a knack for surrounding himself with lackluster lieutenants.  That statement applies equally to national security adviser Susan Rice (and her predecessor), to Secretary of State Kerry (and his predecessor), and to outgoing Pentagon chief Chuck Hagel.  Ashton Carter, the technocrat slated to replace Hagel as defense secretary, comes from the same mold.

They are all “seasoned”  – in Washington, a euphemism for bland, conventional, and utterly unimaginative — charter members of the Rogers-Christopher school of American statecraft.  (That may require some unpacking, so pretend you’re on Jeopardy.  Alex Trebek:  “Two eminently forgettable and completely forgotten twentieth-century secretaries of state.”  You, hitting the buzzer:  “Who were William Rogers and Warren Christopher?”  “Correct!”)

Members of Obama’s national security team worked long and hard to get where they are.  Yet along the way — perhaps from absorbing too many position papers, PowerPoint briefings, and platitudes about “American global leadership” — they lost whatever creative spark once endowed them with the appearance of talent and promise.  Ambition, unquestioned patriotism, and a capacity for putting in endless hours (and enduring endless travel) — all these remain.  But a serious conception of where the world is heading and what that implies for basic U.S. policy?  Individually and collectively, they are without a clue.

I submit that maybe that’s okay, that plodding mediocrity can be a boon if, as at present, the alternatives on offer look even worse.

A Hug for Obama

You want vision?  Obama’s predecessor surrounded himself with visionaries.  Dick Cheney, Condoleezza Rice, Donald Rumsfeld, and Paul Wolfowitz, products of the Cold War one and all, certainly fancied themselves large-bore strategic thinkers.  Busily positioning the United States to run (just another “i” and you have “ruin”) the world, they were blindsided by 9/11.  Unembarrassed and unchastened by this disaster, they initiated a series of morally dubious, strategically boneheaded moves that were either (take your pick) going to spread freedom and democracy or position the United States to exercise permanent dominion.  The ensuing Global War on Terror did neither, of course, while adding trillions to the national debt and helping fracture great expanses of the planet.  Obama is still, however ineffectually, trying to clean up the mess they created.

If that’s what handing the keys to big thinkers gets you, give me Susan Rice any day.  Although Obama’s “don’t do stupid shit” may never rank with Washington’s Farewell Address or the Monroe Doctrine in the history books, George W. Bush might have profited from having some comparable axiom taped to his laptop.

Big ideas have their place — indeed, are essential — when the issues at hand are clearly defined.  The Fall of France in 1940 was one such moment, which President Franklin D. Roosevelt recognized.  So too, arguably, was the period immediately after World War II.  The defeat of Nazi Germany and Imperial Japan had left a dangerous power vacuum in both Europe and the Pacific to which George Marshall, Dean Acheson, and their compatriots forged a necessary response.  Perhaps the period 1968-1969 falls into that same category, the debacle of Vietnam requiring a major adjustment in U.S. Cold War strategy.  This Richard Nixon and Henry Kissinger undertook with their opening to China.

Yet despite the overwrought claims of Gelb (and others) that America’s very survival is today at risk, the present historical moment lacks comparable clarity.  Ours is not a time when we face a single overarching threat.  Instead, on several different fronts, worrisome developments are brewing.  Environmental degradation, the rise of China and other emerging powers, the spread of radical Islam, the precarious state of the global economy, vulnerabilities that are an inevitable byproduct of our pursuit of a cyber-utopia: all of these bear very careful watching.  Each one today should entail a defensive response, the United States protecting itself (and its allies) against worst-case outcomes.  But none of these at the present moment justifies embarking upon a let-out-all-the-stops offensive.  Chasing after one problem would necessarily divert attention from the rest.

The immediate future remains too opaque to say with certainty which threat will turn out to pose the greatest danger, whether in the next year or the next decade — and which might even end up not being a threat at all but an unexpected opportunity.  Conditions are not ripe for boldness.  The abiding imperative of the moment is to discern, which requires careful observation and patience.  In short, forget about strategy.

And there’s a further matter.  Correct discernment assumes a proper vantage point.  What you see depends on where you sit and which way you’re facing.  Those who inhabit the upper ranks of the Obama administration (and those whom Leslie Gelb offers as replacements) sit somewhere back in the twentieth century, their worldview shaped by memories of Munich and Yalta, Korea and Vietnam, the Cuban Missile Crisis and the Berlin Wall, none of which retain more than tangential relevance to the present day.

You want vision?  That will require a new crop of visionaries.  Instead of sitting down with ancients like Kissinger, Scowcroft, Brzezinski, or Baker, this president (or his successor) would be better served to pick the brain of the army captain back from multiple combat tours in Iraq and Afghanistan, the moral theologian specializing in inter-religious dialog, the Peace Corps volunteer who spent the last two years in West Africa, and the Silicon Valley entrepreneur best able to spell out the political implications of the next big thing.

In short, a post-twentieth century vision requires a post-twentieth century generation, able to free itself from old shibboleths to which Leslie Gelb and most of official Washington today remain stubbornly dedicated.  That generation waits in the wings and after another presidential election or two may indeed wield some influence.  We should hope so.  In the meantime, we should bide our time, amending the words of the prophet to something like: “Where there is no vision, the people muddle along and await salvation.”

So as Obama and his team muddle toward their finish line, their achievements negligible, we might even express a modicum of gratitude.  When they depart the scene, we will forget the lot of them.  Yet at least they managed to steer clear of truly epic disasters.  When muddling was the best Washington had on offer, they delivered.  They may even deserve a hug.

Andrew J. Bacevich, a TomDispatch regular, is writing a military history of America’s War for the Greater Middle East. His most recent book is Breach of Trust: How Americans Failed Their Soldiers and Their Country.

Follow TomDispatch on Twitter and join us on Facebook. Check out the newest Dispatch Book, Rebecca Solnit’s Men Explain Things to Me, and Tom Engelhardt’s latest book, Shadow Government: Surveillance, Secret Wars, and a Global Security State in a Single-Superpower World.

Copyright 2015 Andrew Bacevich

 

Super Bowl: Seattle by 3

By: jaango Thursday January 29, 2015 7:33 am

As an aficionado for a ‘smart’ defense, Seattle should easily win.  Of course, I am a tad biased in my support for a Left Coast team.  Just don’t sue me?

Jaango

When Shock and Awe Turns 12

By: David Swanson Wednesday January 28, 2015 10:31 pm

Shock and Awe is having a troubled adolescence. The U.S. government is killing children with flying robot death planes, keeping troops in 175 countries, actively using “special” forces in 150 countries, asking us to ignore what it’s done to Libya so that we’ll support more wars, going silent on Yemen as the supposed model of a country that U.S. warmaking improved rather than ruined, turning down an offer from North Korea to halt nuclear tests, continuing the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan with no end in sight and no longer any pretense of Congressional or United Nations approval, oscillating on the question of starting a war on Iran (and inviting a foreign leader to give Congress its marching orders), actively antagonizing Russia and sending troops to Ukraine, building new nukes, proposing to enlarge the world’s largest military budget next year, and avoiding all accountability for such horrors as human experimentation at Guantanamo.

Nasty vicious celebrations of murder and torture are dominating U.S. entertainment. The militarized thinking and weaponry are reaching local police departments. A jury just convicted a whistleblower on zero evidence for allegedly revealing that the CIA had given nuclear weapons plans (with flaws added) to Iran. The earth’s climate is going crazy, and the single biggest thing we do to worsen that crisis (war) is also the single greatest diversion of resources away from addressing it.

Admit it, if your 11-year-old boy or girl caused a fraction of this sort of trouble, you’d be worried. But you’d also see through to the better tendencies. The U.S. public said no to a war on Syria in 2013. And while it said OK to a war in 2014 it imagined a short, cheap, harmless, beneficial war. It doesn’t want a war on Iran or Russia. It doesn’t want this level of military spending. It favors non-military solutions whenever they are possible, as of course they always are, regardless of what Barbara Boxer might say.

Shock and Awe needs an initiation into a healthier adulthood. Luckily there is a peace movement planning an intervention for Shock and Awe’s 12th birthday, coming up March 18-21 in Washington, D.C.

Spring Rising: An Antiwar Intervention in DC

Coming out of a meeting held in Washington, DC, on January 10, plans are coming together for an antiwar intervention in the U.S. capital. A series of events will be held just as the ongoing U.S. war in Iraq — recently restarted in a new form — passes the 12-year mark since the March 2003 invasion.

Here’s the schedule so far:

Wednesday, March 18: Peace gathering and fellowship.

Thursday, March 19th: Lobbying on Capitol Hill, followed by a tour of the war machine: homes and offices of war criminals.

Friday, March 20th: Afternoon and evening teach-in: Ending Current Wars, Ending the Institution of War. (This event will examine ISIS and U.S. warmaking in Western Asia and elsewhere; the damage militarism does to the natural environment, economies, and civil rights; and how the war system can be replaced with a peace system.)

Saturday, March 21st: Protest at the White House, followed by march.

This nonviolent intervention was originally proposed by Cindy Sheehan’s Soapbox and the Soapbox People’s Network. It has been endorsed and will be supported by (thus far, the list is rapidly growing): Amnesty International Charlottesville, the ANSWER Coalition, the Bill of Rights Defense Committee, the Baltimore Pledge of Resistance, CND CYMRU, CODEPINK, the Granny Peace Brigade of New York City, KnowDrones.com, Maryland United for Peace and Justice, Military Families Speak Out, the National Campaign for Nonviolent Resistance, the Network to Stop Drone Surveillance and Warfare, The No Fear Coalition, United National Antiwar Coalition, Veterans For Peace, Voices for Creative Non-Violence, WarIsACrime.org, Washington Peace Center, Witness Against Torture, World Beyond War, and World Can’t Wait.

This series of events is just coming together with many decisions yet to be made, and I wouldn’t dream of speaking for everyone involved, but I can say why I’ll be going and why I think you should too.

It’s Urgently Needed
We’ve reached a level of war normalization in which we accept and even celebrate limited war as the best possible policy, while the corporate media often proposes to us that only (1) war and (2) nothing exist as possible courses of action. We need a major public initiative that creates other alternatives, that answers the relentless question “Well if you wouldn’t bomb them, what would you do?”

It’s New and Creative
This is not just a protest. It’s an intervention and a reenactment (of past peace movements). It’s teach-ins that are being developed to address the many ways in which war destroys: war makes us less safe, damages the environment, erodes civil rights, drains economies, etc. It’s lobbying and truth telling, nonviolent resistance and rallying, solidarity and outreach. It’s opposing particular wars, but also the much larger and more expensive preparation for wars that has come to seem ordinary.

It’s a United Movement
Second only to “End the wars” among peace activists has always been the demand “Unite the organizations.” Check out that list of organizations a few paragraphs above. It may be twice as long very soon. Your organization can get involved too. This just might be that long-sought holy grail of unity. Let’s not miss it! In fact, let’s expand on it by inviting and including environmental organizations, economic justice organizations, student groups, civil liberties and human rights groups, and opponents of racism and every other injustice that serves the cause of war.

It’s Pro-Peace and Antiwar
I’ve already had peace activists tell me they refuse to go to these events on principle because the word “antiwar” has been used. Had the word “pro-peace” been used, others would have said the same. But here’s the deal, we’re pro-peace AND antiwar. The elimination of war is a beautiful, ennobling, gloriously positive event. The establishment of peace requires the elimination of war. We can’t fail to point out that we’re antiwar because even the Pentagon claims to be pro-peace. We must distinguish ourselves as in favor of peace through means other than war. We also can’t fail to state that we are pro-peace, because war will not be eliminated unless all the systems that support it are replaced by the construction of peaceful ones. We need legal, governmental, economic, and cultural structures that facilitate peace. But we won’t build them if the wars rage on unopposed, and peace in our hearts won’t prevent a single death unless it achieves some external expression.

It Meets the Standard of the Simplistiphiles
As we’ve all been told — very slowly — Thomas Jefferson had way too many complaints in the Declaration of Independence for it to have any sort of impact. We British subjects must have one simple demand if we are to be heard at all.

O.K. You want one simple demand? I’ve got your one simple demand :-)

/ / / / / \ \ \ \ \

END ALL THE WARS

\ \ \ \ \  / / / / /

It’s Weekday and Weekend in Every Sense

This series of events has got lobbying Congress and protesting Congress. It’s got weekday disruption and weekend crowd maximization. And if there’s something it’s lacking, you can add it.

Obama’s Has Just About Settled In — Finally

When President Obama was first elected there was still a sort of structure — albeit defunded — of a significant peace movement that turned out to have actually been a movement against Republican wars. This structure was simply crawling with people who had arrived at the considered opinion that it was too early to protest Obama. We needed to let him settle in first. After a while it was still too early. A bit later it was still too early. By the time the White House was trumpeting to the New York Times that Obama picked men, women, and children to murder each Tuesday, the movement was pretty well gone.

Well, here’s a good moment in which to bring it back. I dare say Obama has pretty well settled in. The Occupy movement that took off after the last midterm elections is primed for a new start. And the next 18-month election “season” hasn’t really kicked in yet. Once it does, all useful action will have two arms and a leg tied behind its back.

The moment is now.

There is, as a great one said, such a thing as being too late.

I’ll see you in Washington.

Boehner’s Treason

By: williamboardman Wednesday January 28, 2015 3:55 pm

Is the Speaker of the House loyal to the United States? 

 

By William Boardman  – Reader Supported News [1.25.15]

 

Treason against the United States, shall consist only in levying War against them, or in adhering to their Enemies, giving them Aid and Comfort. No Person shall be convicted of Treason unless on the Testimony of two Witnesses to the same overt Act, or on Confession in open Court….  – United States Constitution, Article III, section 3

 

Inviting a hostile head of state to challenge the U.S. President from the shelter of the U.S. Congress may not rise to the level of “levying war” in the literal sense. But it is surely an act of virtual war that recklessly raises the stakes of drawing the U.S. into more actual wars from Gaza to Iran.

 

Lacking any lawful authority to conduct foreign policy, Rep. John Boehner has invited Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to speak to Congress in direct opposition to the American president. This kind of vigilante foreign policy is tantamount to a declaration of war on the constitutional authority of the executive branch. It is also a deliberate effort to destroy the possibility of peaceful relations with Iran, in the midst of serious negotiation headed toward normalization. Defending the U.S. against the threat of peace is a traditionally mindless Republican stance.  It becomes an obscenity when it is rooted in nothing more substantial than Israeli intransigence.

 

Here’s the way Boehner failed to explain his interference in the president’s constitutional authority to conduct foreign affairs:

 

“I did not consult with the White House. The Congress can make this decision on its own. I don’t believe I’m poking anyone in the eye. There is a serious threat that exists in the world, and the president, last night [in the State of the Union], kind of papered over it. And the fact is, is that there needs to be a more serious conversation in America about how serious the threat is from radical Islamic jihadists and the threat posed by Iran.”

 

First he admits he’s a partisan lone wolf. Then he lies about Congress making a decision, when he made the decision on his own without bringing it close to a vote; he also falsifies Congressional authority in foreign policy. He then either lies about poking anyone in the eye, or admits he’s in denial. Then he jumps to fear-mongering, ignoring the reality that Iran has been engaged in multi-state negotiations for months now. Then he pretends to want a more serious conversation, when he and his colleagues have been crying wolf about the “Iranian bomb” for more than two decades. Then he compounds his lies and fear-mongering by conflating Iran with “radical Islamic jihadists” of the sort Saudi Arabia has been cultivating for more than 40 years. Nice piece of work for a presumed “patriot.”

 

Is Boehner “adhering to the enemies” of the United States?

 

Since the Speaker of the House is unlikely to confess to any sort of treason in open court, as he should, the charge of treason against this Ohio Republican and his co-conspirators will be constitutionally tricky to make. But it needs to be made, no matter how belatedly.

 

Sacrificing our constitution in an effort to turn American troops into Israel’s proxy army looks very much like the moral equivalent of treason.

 

The case of Republican treason needs to be made now and should have been made long since against the party that has waged metaphorical war against the United States at least since 2009. Granted, the Republican war has not resorted to the kind of military violence meant by “war” in orthodox constitutional construction. But GOP behavior has been war all the same, unrelenting and destructive, against both the president and the very purpose of the constitution as expressed in its preamble. The only “general welfare” consistently supported by Republicans is military. The rest of their agenda is determined by sectarian spite and corruption.

 

While not literally “levying war,” Boehner and his party come much closer to actually adhering to the enemies of the United States. But wait, does that mean Israel is an “enemy” of the United States? Good question. We hear over and over about the United States being a friend to Israel, but how is that friendship reciprocated? Enemies of the United States have again and again enticed the United States to embrace the tar baby of endless war in the Middle East, with decades of success to show for it. Israel now entices the U.S. again toward war with Iran. When Israel wants what our enemies want, what does that make Israel? Not much of a friend.

 

Let’s put it another way: what other head of state from anywhere in the world would be invited to come before Congress to promote intransigence and bellicosity, in direct opposition to White House’s policy?  Boehner may not be adhering to our enemies, but he’s certainly adhering to an extreme and dangerous foreign policy that many of our enemies would enjoy watching us suffer.

 

Is Boehner “giving aid and comfort” to our enemies?  

 

Boehner-Netanyahu hardline policies may give pause to an Iranian government, but not in a way useful to the rest of the world. Boehner-Netanyahu policies are designed to kill negotiation, kill accommodation, and if need be kill peace. There is no greater good at the end of the Boehner-Netanyahu just-say-no road. What Boehner-Netanyahu-ism wants, at a minimum, is permanent, unremediated hostility punctuated by bursts of bloodshed.

 

Other nations who wish the United States no good can watch the “indispensible nation” dispense itself in further futility while they enjoy their schadenfreude from a safe, noncombatant distance. Watching the United States bleed in another misbegotten crusade will almost surely give our enemies, if not aid, then considerable comfort at least.

 

Boehner’s traitorous embrace of Netanyahu’s assault on American governance is a betrayal of trust, whether they realize it or not, against all Americans. Boehner has launched another Republican attack on a fundamental constitutional principle – but we can count on Democrats to be brightly up in arms about it, right? No, the silence is deafening, the defense of the constitution nil.

 

Referring to Netanyahu’s appearance before Congress, the most that Rep. Nancy Pelosi had to say was: “I just don’t think it’s appropriate and helpful.” Others in her party are saying less or nothing.

 

Why is the U.S. Congress failing to defend a basic principle of the U.S. Constitution? The key, perhaps, lies in what Pelosi said in 2010, when she was still speaker of the house:

 

“We in Congress stand by Israel, something we have a joint bipartisan commitment. No separation between us on this subject. In Congress we speak with one voice on the subject of Israel. Together we remain committed to advancing the peace process, preserving Israel’s security, responsible sanctions against Iran, working to finalize Iran sanctions bill right now.”

 

So the constitution is wrong about our bi-cameral system. We don’t have a Congress comprising the Senate and the House, we have some other country’s Knesset.

 

It’s not enough to suggest that the Boehner-Netanyahu challenge to U.S. sovereignty is inappropriate or unhelpful. Someone should be saying it’s provocative, outrageous, dishonest, and warmongering. Anyone?

 

 

Reader Supported News is the Publication of Origin for this work. Permission to republish is freely granted with credit and a link back to Reader Supported News.

 

Update: Ending Corporatocracy in the Real World

By: Daniel Marks Wednesday January 28, 2015 3:17 pm

The US House Judiciary Committee office confirmed they are gathering the original applications from State Legislatures for an Article V Convention to propose amendments to the US Constitution that were submitted to Congress over the last 200 plus years for the first time in history. Ohio Republican Steve Stivers proposed and passed a rule change ( Resolution.pdf ) demanded by myself and others to create a public record and official tabulation of these applications that are scattered throughout the Congressional Record and never before tracked until now.

Article V of the Constitution states:
The Congress, … , on the application of the legislatures of two thirds of the several states, shall call a convention for proposing amendments, which, in either case, shall be valid to all intents and purposes, as part of this Constitution, when ratified by the legislatures of three fourths of the several states, or by conventions in three fourths thereof

If you have been a follower of this blog, you were able to see how this request to the Clerk of US House and Senate Parliamentarian have worked their way through the offices including the Speaker Boehner’s, to force a rule change Congress never wanted to make. Republican Steve Stivers mentioned the necessity for a balanced budget amendment but the State applications are being reviewed impartially and they will be listed on a webpage hosted by the Clerk of House and listed by “State of origin and year of receipt”. There is no partisan filtering of the applications so that only the petitions for the balanced budget amendment are seen. All of the applications are going to get counted impartially or the States that have applications submitted to Congress that are not counted on the official list will create an even larger problem than they have now. 

The dereliction of Congressional duty to track these applications is certainly not by accident. 

Between 1973 and 1992, 22 bills were introduced in the House and 19 in the Senate that sought to establish a procedural framework that would apply to an Article V Convention. Proponents argued that constitutional convention procedures legislation would eliminate many of the uncertainties inherent in first-time consideration of such an event and would also facilitate contingency planning, thus enabling Congress to respond in an orderly fashion to a call for an Article V Convention. The Senate, in fact, passed constitutional convention procedures bills, the “Federal Constitutional Convention Procedures Act,” on two separate occasions: as S. 215 in 1971 in the 92nd Congress, and as S. 1272 in 1983, in the 98th Congress. Neither bill was considered in the House, although the Subcommittee on Civil and Constitutional Rights of the House Judiciary Committee held hearings on the general issue in 1985. As the prospect of an Article V Convention receded in the 1990s, congressional interest waned. Between 1991 and the time of this writing, no relevant legislation has been introduced. Although the content of these bills evolved over time, most of them were broadly similar, sharing various common elements, among which were the following.

The Article V Convention to Propose Constitutional Amendments:
Contemporary Issues for Congress
Thomas H. Neale
Specialist in American National Government
https://www.hsdl.org/?view&did=752285

Many Constitutional scholars and lawyers have argued that Congress was not acting on these applications because the subject matter was “not identical enough” for them to act.  However we see through their own actions now and in the past that the question of subject matter was never a consideration. It was much simpler and subtle that the contrived explanations we normally hear. Congress never counted any of the applications from States. If they never count, they are never required to call the convention that is required once two-thirds or 34 states today have asked for it. Congress has no option to refuse this request. They did have the option to leave the duty to count and track these applications unassigned throughout our history.

The fact is all of the states have made clear applications for an Article V Convention over the course of our history except one, Hawaii. However just this week as new resolution was introduced, and if it passes, it will make the application for convention a unanimous request by all states. There is no state left to make application at that point so there should be no doubt that Congress’ inaction would be unconstitutional.

It does not look like it will get that far. The Judiciary Committee office said that it might not be overly optimistic to expect that this effort to gather the original applications from State legislatures by hand from the dusty boxes they have been collected and held in DC offices could be completed in four weeks. The new rule is not clear as to how the list online for review will be enumerated. We would have to assume everything on the list “counts”, so every time a state first appears on the list, will it be noted as such or will Congress let the world debate that point?

As James Madison expressed in Congress, these applications are not subject to the discretion of members on Congress, committee, debate, or a vote. It is a simple numeric count of states that have applied. Since there is not a right or wrong way to apply for a convention expressed in law or the Constitution, it seems that the new rule acknowledges that the intent of the state to apply is really the criteria for the application to get on the list. The rule states, “With respect to any memorial presented under clause 3 of rule XII purporting to be an application of the legislature of a State calling for a convention for proposing amendments to the Constitution of the United States pursuant to Article V”. The intention means more than the text.  

Is there uncertainty in this process? Of course, that is the point, we need to create the world we want. We can control our own destinies and we will at long last. If you are so afraid of uncertainty that you cannot participate in a constructive discussion, how can you get out of bed in the morning? Doing nothing will certainly lead to a world were our opinions mean nothing more than those of cattle.

At this moment the United Kingdom is preparing to write their first Constitution by crowdsourcing. All these centuries of the British Empire have continued without any written document, just layers of case law. The judges have created a system of government that the people are not terribly fond of. The Scots recently held an election regarding Scottish independence from the UK because they have an imbalanced system where they feel they lack representation.  That is not so different than the problem our founders faces with taxation without representation. It is also similar to the problem we have today in America where money from outside a state, community, or even from other nations floods the campaigns of candidates that support polices local communities are fighting against.

Our voices as constituents are downed out of our current democratic republic, therefore it is out duty to make this a government of the people, by the people, and for the people once again. If our voices are diminished by those of our potential enemies, corporations, or the Gordon Gekkos of the world; our system requires reform. We can only accomplish this by amending our Constitution. We will not go through this alone, and hopefully the UK will give us some ideas along the way. In the end we will want our nation to be the modern standard of democracy, the UK can be second best. Our children deserve the best world we can give them. Now we will have that chance. If you could give anything to your grandchildren in this process, what would you give them? 

Analysis: Who Are The “Moderates” Washington’s Supporting In Syria?

By: CTuttle Wednesday January 28, 2015 3:00 pm

Free Syrian Army soldiers gather outside a house destroyed in fighting against President Assad's forces in Sarmin, north of Syria, Tuesday, Feb. 28, 2012.

The U.S. is sending hundreds of million of dollars to them, and U.S. allies are rallying in support of them, but who, exactly, are Syria’s so-called “moderates” and how much longer can they avoid being sucked into the radical extremism taking hold of the Middle East?

By Catherine Shakdam

President George W. Bush declared his “war on terror” in shortly after 9/11, using an address to a joint session of Congress and the American people to call on the world to either side with America or face the repercussions. Yet, almost 14 years later, the Middle East and the world remain a far more dangerous and unstable place than ever before.

“Our war on terror begins with al Qaeda, but it does not end there,” Bush said. “It will not end until every terrorist group of global reach has been found, stopped and defeated.”

While the U.S. largely sees its fight as moral and just, there are many who argue that terror and Islamic radicalism have been utilized as pawns in a game that powers continue to play.

Marwa Osman, a political analyst and lecturer at Lebanese International University in Beirut, told MintPress News, “The Middle East has devolved into a series of violent conflicts. Such violence can be directly traced back to the U.S. and its irresponsible foreign policies.”

“The simple fact that groups such as ISIS [the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria] in Syria have sprung on stronger than ever speaks volumes of America’s war on terror. Many would say that terror has become a convenient cover for imperialism.”

Indeed, America’s war on terror has expanded far beyond what anyone could have predicted. From the shores of Libya to Pakistan, and throughout Syria, Iraq and Yemen, the U.S. military has actively engaged all those it’s labelled as its enemies. Syria, in particular, has been center-stage to a bitter and complicated battle of wills, in which experts argue that asymmetric warfare has been used and abused to serve U.S. geopolitical interests, feeding extremism rather than destroying it.

Wherever the U.S. has intervened, either directly or indirectly, via military aid or military deployment — in Pakistan, Libya and especially Syria — terror has arisen.

Speaking to Russia Today (RT) in October, William Engdhal, an award-winning geopolitical analyst and strategic risk consultant, branded America’s strategy in Syria and the broader region a political sham. He asserted that Washington has simply been wielding terror as a new weapon of war.

“They [the U.S. government] toppled Saddam Hussein, Hosni Mubarak in Egypt, they set off the wave of Arab Spring color revolutions throughout the Arab world to reorganize the entire structure of the region to the advantage of the US military position vis-à-vis China and Russia, fundamentally,” Engdhal told RT.

Though warnings have been many, funding to Syria has nevertheless increased steadily. In June 2012, the U.S. State Department reportedly allocated $15 million in “non-lethal aid” for civilian opposition groups in Syria, alongside distribution of military equipment, including assault rifles, anti-tank rocket launchers and other ammunition.

In April 2013, the United States confirmed it had set up a $70 million program in Jordan “that is training the kingdom’s special forces to identify and secure chemical-weapons sites across Syria should the regime fall and the wrong rebels look like getting their hands on them,” as reported in The Economist. That same month, the Obama administration also promised to double non-lethal aid to the Syrian opposition, bringing the total to $250 million.

The Syrian National Coalition confirmed this month that it received a direct payment of $6 million from the U.S. for its war efforts against Syrian President Bashar Assad.

As the Middle East has become a broken puzzle of conflicting agendas and political mindgames, Syria has been left to burn under the fires of radicalism, plagued by ISIS militias, while U.S.-backed opposition — Washington’s self-proclaimed “moderates” — seek to overturn Assad’s rule.

Four years into the Arab Spring movement, the identities, motivations and intentions of those Washington has fought alongside to bring down Assad remain clouded in smoke. One question continues to haunt experts and politicians: Who are Syria’s so-called “moderates,” like the Free Syrian Army, which Washington has channelled millions of dollars to?

The Syrian jigsaw

Keen to reiterate his utmost dedication to seeing through the fall of Assad in Syria, President Obama expounded upon America’s “war policy” — or, one could say, tactic — in Syria during his closing speech at the NATO Summit in September and last week’s State of the Union Address.

“In Iraq and Syria, American leadership – including our military power – is stopping ISIL’s advance. Instead of getting dragged into another ground war in the Middle East, we are leading a broad coalition, including Arab nations, to degrade and ultimately destroy this terrorist group,” Obama said in his Jan. 20 State of the Union Address.

“We’re also supporting a moderate opposition in Syria that can help us in this effort, and assisting people everywhere who stand up to the bankrupt ideology of violent extremism … And, I call on this Congress to show the world that we are united in this mission by passing a resolution to authorize the use of force against ISIL.”

His phrasing indicating Washington’s support for “a moderate opposition in Syria” has stirred controversy and given way to a great divide.

Four years have passed since Syrians took to the streets to demand an end to Assad’s rule, and the country’s political waters have become murkier and much harder to maneuver. Those pro-democracy activists and members of the once dissolved, but now reformed, Syrian National Council (SNC), a group that called on the U.S. and other Western allies to support their revolutionary efforts, have long since faded into the chaos of conflicting agendas, their voices drowned by the drums of war and fast-changing political realities.

While the SNC ambitioned to transition Syria from an autocratic presidency to a modern civil state as smoothly as possible, those ideals were challenged by the militias on the ground, organized under the banner of the Free Syrian Army, which fought face to face with the Syrian armed forces.

If Syria’s cry for freedom in 2011 rang out untethered to anything but the fulfilment of this simple, yet powerful ambition, violence, state repression and armed opposition steered Syria’s revolution onto a dangerous path, in which sectarianism and radicalism have added layers of opacity.

“After two years of brutal and barbaric sectarian warfare, the Syrian rebellion has seen an even greater hardening of sectarian attitudes among Syrian opponents of Assad and his regime, which is dominated by members of the minority Alawite sect,” Jamie Dettmer wrote for the Daily Beast in September.

“They [pro-democracy activists] were appalled at the rise of the jihadists and their cruelty, worried by the strength of Islamist factions among the rural fighters who are the backbone of the militias. The center did not hold.”

Who are these moderates?

“I think there was a pretty good idea at one time who the moderates were. There are certainly moderate groups advocating a negotiated democratic solution to Syria’s problems outside Syria. Do they have sway inside the country now?” said Gary Grappo, former U.S. ambassador to the Sultanate of Oman and an expert with the Washington Institute, a Middle East policy group based in Washington, to MintPress.

According to data collected by Combating Terrorism Center, as of 2013, there were an estimated 1,200 armed opposition groups in Syria, commanding between 80,000 to 320,000 fighters. “The SMC [Supreme Military Council of the Free Syrian Army] has provided wildly varying estimates of the total number of fighters in its member groups. In June 2013, Idris [Gen. Idris] claimed to control 80,000 fighters, but days later an SMC representative insisted that the true figure is 320,000,” the report read.

Many of the groups are small and operate on a local level, but a number have emerged as powerful forces with affiliates across the country and have formed alliances with other groups that share a similar agenda. Among the most prominent is the Supreme Military Council of the Free Syrian Army, a faction affiliated with and acting as an umbrella to sub-groups with strong “Islamist” undertones, such as the Martyrs of Syria Brigades, the Northern Storm Brigade and the Ahrar Souriya Brigade.

In her March 2013 report, “The Free Syrian Army,” for the Institute for the Study of War, Elizabeth O’Bagy describes how the SMC, also referred to as the FSA, has 30 members, six representing each of five “fronts” in Syria: Northern (Aleppo and Idlib); Eastern (Raqqa, Deir al-Zour and Hassaka); Western (Hama, Latakia and Tartus); Central (Homs and Rastan); and Southern (Damascus, Daraa and Suwayda).

While the FSA has been keen to assert its leadership over what O’Bagy describes as a loose coalition, it seems clear that SMC/FSA-aligned brigades maintain their own identities, agendas and commands. Some have worked with known Islamic groups such Ahrar al-Sham and al-Qaida-linked jihadists.

With more questions than answers surrounding the term “moderates,” Obama nevertheless intends to pump a half-billion dollars into arming and training those elusive moderate rebel fighters as they work to depose Assad, who Washington has long identified as an illegitimate leader.

“The problem,” said Osman, a professor of Politics and International Relations, “is that turning the faltering Free Syrian Army, a collection of disbanded and often antagonistic factions, into a force capable of beating not only Assad’s army, but ISIS, would require a considerable war effort — much more than a few million dollars and military training,” said Osman, who lectures on Politics and International Relations and has a particular focus on radical movements in the Middle East.

“The FSA lacks political cohesion and leadership,” she continued. “More dangerous yet, they care nothing for democracy. Their ambitions are more aligned with ISIS than Western powers care to admit, or are willing to admit, for that matter.”

Damascus-based blogger Abdo Roumani argues that Syria’s descent into radicalism was brought about by Syrians themselves, as factions sought to promote their own rise to power instead of working toward Syrians’ dream of freedom.

Speaking with MintPress, Roumani explained how his country unravelled alongside sectarian and ethnic lines, betrayed by the unscrupulous leadership of the SNC, ultimately leading former “moderates” into the arms of radicals.

“We, at the time, defined moderates by their ability to introduce a better vision of the post-al-Baath Syria. Syria has changed so much since 2011, and so has our definition of moderates. In comparison with jihadist groups or separatist Kurds, many will look at the Western-backed Syrian National Coalition and Free Syrian Army and just take it for granted that these people are moderate, but they’re not,” Roumani said.

“The Western-backed opposition is largely responsible for perverting the course of the early protest movement and consequently failing it,” Roumani continued, adding that protesters’ initial calls for freedom and democracy were quickly swallowed up, which destroyed any hope of meaningful reform.

“That movement hit a wall long before the authorities oppressed it. It was over when most protesters turned to political violence and forgot why they were protesting in the first place.”

Four years into Syria’s revolution most experts agree that Syria’s “moderates” are anything but moderate. Yet Western democracies under American leadership continue to rally to support their fight against Assad. Since Assad has been identified as the primary target, millions of dollars will continue to fuel Syria’s rebel militias.

As Dettmer wrote, “Most of the militias that are effective fighting formations and have scored off-and-on successes on the battlefield against ISIS are not moderate by Western standards. Most are Islamist to varying degrees.”

Past mistakes and covert agendas?

Watching Syria grapple with Islamic radicalism, it has become virtually impossible not to draw parallels with Afghanistan — especially since both share the common denominators of the U.S. and terror. Both nations have seen their compatriots fall victim to radicalism, sold on an ideology of terror which has ravaged formerly tight communities and destroyed whatever semblance of national unity they once enjoyed. And just as warlords fell under the sway of the Taliban in Afghanistan, Syrian moderates have swapped allegiances in favor of factions whose ideologies are aligned with that of al-Qaida.

“With no clear chain of command or defined ideology to bind scattered Free Syrian Army brigades, militants have continued to suffer a steady stream of defections to better-funded rivals — among which are the infamous Jabhat al-Nusra [the Nusra Front] and its rival, ISIS,” emphasized Roumani, the blogger.

Leith Fadel, a journalist for Al-Masdar News, reported on Jan. 9 that 3,000 Free Syrian fighters had defected to ISIS. Fadel also provided a breakdown of the various Free Syrian Army sub-factions which chose to part ways with the opposition group.

In a report for New Eastern Outlook this month, Tony Cartalucci, a geopolitical analyst, wrote:

“It was reported recently that some 3,000 so-called ‘moderate rebels’ of the ‘Free Syrian Army’ had defected to the ‘Islamic State’ (ISIS). While not the first time so-called ‘moderates’ have crossed over openly to Al Qaeda or ISIS, it is one of the largest crossovers that has occurred.

With them, these 3,000 fighters will bring weapons, cash, equipment, and training provided to them by Saudi Arabia, Qatar, the United States, the UK, and perhaps most ironic of all in the wake of the recent terror attack in Paris, France. Indeed, ISIS and Al Qaeda’s ranks continue to swell amid this insidious network of ‘terror laundering’ that is only set to grow.”

Commonalities between Syria and Afghanistan, particularly the seemingly exponential rise of Islamic radicalism, have led many experts, including William Engdhal, to question Washington’s intentions in the region. Engdhal hypothesized that America’s war on terror may, in fact, be a manifestation of America’s imperialistic ambitions in the Middle East.

“Details leaking out suggest that ISIS and the major military ‘surge’ in Iraq – and less so in neighboring Syria – is being shaped and controlled out of Langley, Virginia, and other CIA and Pentagon outposts as the next stage in spreading chaos in the world’s second-largest oil state, Iraq, as well as weakening the recent Syrian stabilization efforts,” Engdhal wrote in a June op-ed for RT.

However, Grappo, the former U.S. ambassador to Oman, disagrees. He maintains that these allegations of covert dealings and black ops have no credible substance, and he is adamant that the U.S. is not knowingly funding radicals to manifest its political will in Damascus.

“There is very little credible evidence to support the claim [that Washington is playing terror as an asymmetric weapon of war]. The proliferation of congressional oversight committees, especially in the wake of the torture report, as well as the diffident support given even to moderates up to this point make it very difficult to believe such claims,” he told MintPress.

Yet Grappo did concede that tactical mistakes and oversights have occurred. “That weapons and/or other equipment given to moderates ended up in the wrong hands through either botched execution, former moderates who later defected to extremist groups, or simply inexpert management of resources by the moderates is not only possible but likely, however,” he noted.

“The term ‘political advancement’ is weak and very worn. The only viable – however risky – course of action for the U.S. is support for moderates, which it really hasn’t done effectively at all to date. There is no other rational course of action given U.S. policy.”

As experts and officials continue to spout off allegations and counter-allegations, Syria’s downward spiral and unraveling continues to gain traction. Yet it remains open to debate who this devolution benefits most.

© 2015 MINT Press

About Catherine Shakdam: Catherine is a political analyst ​and reporter ​for MintPress focusing on​ the Middle East and the rise of ​radical movements. The Associate Director of the Beirut Center for Middle Eastern Studies, she has contributed her analyses to the Middle East Monitor, Foreign Policy Association, Your Middle East, IslamistGate, Majalla, ABNA, Open Democracy, International Policy Digest, Eurasia Review and many more.

Enbridge Gets Another Federal Tar Sands Crude Pipeline Permit As Senate Debates Keystone XL

By: Steve Horn Wednesday January 28, 2015 1:22 pm

Cross-Posted from DeSmogBlog

On January 16, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers gave Enbridge a controversial Nationwide Permit 12 green-light for its proposed Line 78 pipeline, set to bring heavy tar sands diluted bitumen (“dilbit”) from Pontiac, Illinois to its Griffith, Indiana holding terminal.

The permit for the pipeline with the capacity to carry 800,000 barrels-per-day of tar sands dilbit came ten days after the introduction of S.1 — the Keystone XL Pipeline Act — currently up for debate on the U.S. Senate floor, which calls for the permitting of the northern leg of TransCanada’s Keystone XL.

Griffith is located just south of Whiting, Indiana, home of a massive refinery owned by BP. In November 2013, BP opened its Whiting Modernization Project, which retooled to refine up to 85-percent of its capacity as heavy dilbit from the tar sands, up from its initial 20-percent capacity.

Legal Challenge

In July 2014, environmental groups including the Sierra Club, National Wildlife Federation, Center for Biological Diversity and Environmental Law and Policy Center submitted a letter to the Army Corps, requesting a full National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) review for Enbridge’s proposal.

As with TransCanada’s Keystone XL southern legEnbridge’s Flanagan South andEnbridge’s Alberta Clipper expansion, Enbridge dodged a more democratic and transparent NEPA review from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and other executive agencies.

“Once again, the Corps has improperly segmented its approval of an Enbridge tar sands pipeline so as to avoid evaluating the project’s true environmental impacts or the impacts of the ongoing expansion of the Enbridge system,” Doug Hayes, staff attorney for the Sierra Club, told DeSmogBlog.

TransCanada Energy East Clone

Just as DeSmogBlog has called Enbridge’s north-to-south dilbit pipeline network a “Keystone XL Clone,” Enbridge has quietly proposed and is currently permitting into existence a clone of TransCanada‘s controversial Energy East dilbit pipeline.

According to the map of Line 78 on Enbridge’s website, the pipeline will connect with Line 6B in Griffith. Line 6B is infamous for the biggest dilbit pipeline spill inU.S. history. Taking place in Kalamazoo, Michigan, environmental activists and advocates now refer to the 1 million+ barrel spill as the “dilbit disaster.”

Line 6B will then connect with Enbridge’s proposed Line 9 Reversal project (also known as the Eastern Canadian Refinery Access Initiative), which will bring tar sands dilbit to Canada’s east coast — like Energy East — for potential export.

Declaration of Money

Sierra Club, National Wildlife Federation and the Center for Biological Diversity, 350 Minnesota, Honor the Earth, Indigenous Environmental Network and others also sued the U.S. State Department on November 12 in an ongoing lawsuit for what they say was a violation of NEPA with regards to the State Department’s covert approval of the Alberta Clipper expansion project.

Enbridge requested to enter the case as an intervenor and the magistrate judge for the case recently accepted the request. Enbridge and the State Department have until January 30 to respond to the initial legal complaint.

As perhaps a foreshadowing of things to come, Robert Kratsch — a manager of design and construction for Enbridge and the lead point of contact for the Alberta Clipper expansion proposal — submitted a crucial legal memo in support of Enbridge’s intervention on December 5.

In so doing, Kratsch echoed the judge’s ruling in the NEPA lawsuit filed by environmental groups against the Army Corps of Engineers as it pertains to Keystone XL South.

After spending nine paragraphs explaining what the pipeline is and does, Kratsch delivered his knock-out blow, stating that nullifying the Alberta Clipper expansion project would put a damper on the company’s potential corporate profits.

Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson, an Obama appointee, agreed with this line of argument by TransCanada for Keystone XL South. Will Judge Michael J. Davis, a Bill Clinton appointee and designated judge for the Alberta Clipper expansion legal dispute, do the same?

With the Alberta Clipper expansion pipeline legal dispute ongoing and a legal challenge to Line 78 highly possible, one thing remains certain: if the past serves as prologue, corporate profits earned and potential loses will serve as the centerpiece for Enbridge’s legal argument going forward.

And as a recent article written by Boston College Law School professor Kent Greenfield (author of the book ”The Failure of Corporate Law: Fundamental Flaws and Progressive Possibilities”) explains, these dynamics have played out for almost a century.

“The eventual decision was, and still stands for, an iconic statement that corporations have no obligations beyond the bottom line,” Greenfield wrote in pointing to the landmark 1919 Dodge v. Ford Motor Co. decision handed down by the Michigan Supreme Court. “Courts, then and now…did not, and still do not, typically overturn the considered decisions of corporate managers.”

The Attack On Human Rights Defenders In Haiti

By: Other Worlds Wednesday January 28, 2015 9:00 am

An Interview with Jackson Doliscar, Part II

Jackson Doliscar organizing earthquake-displaced people to claim their right to housing. His work almost cost him his life.

By Beverly Bell

January 28, 2015

Community organizer and rights defender Jackson Doliscar speaks to efforts of the Haitian government to silence advocates of human rights and land and housing rights, (See part I of Doliscar’s interview.) The attacks are part of the government’s strategy to leave opposition movements defenseless.

The cases that Doliscar discusses here are only a few of the many instances of violence and illegal imprisonment that the government of Michel Martelly has perpetrated since taking power in a fraudulent election three years ago. Other cases even include the public assassination of the coordinator of the Coalition of Haitian Human Rights Organizations (POHDH by its Creole acronym), Daniel Dorsainvil, and his wife, Girldy Larêche, on February 8, 2014.

The Martelly Administration is becoming increasingly autocratic, including disregarding elections and instead ruling by decree. Nevertheless, the US government continues to provide political and financial support, even including assistance to the lawless police.

 

Human rights are not respected at all in this country. The weakest members of society are arrested, they’re pushed off their lands and out of their homes. Police beat them, destroy their belongings, and put their lives and the lives of their families in danger.

Then their defenders and allies are bullied and intimidated by the government. We defenders become victims ourselves, suffering death or threats and significant oppression.

Let’s take the case of Jean Mathulnes Lamy, a police officer and son of peasants on Ile-­­­à-Vâche [a small island off Haiti’s northern coast]. When the government decided to take the island for a tourist development project, Lamy understood that it would lead to the eventual displacement of close to 20,000 people. [He became vice-president] of a community organization KOPI [Collective of Ile-à-Vâche Farmers]. He spoke out about what the government was doing and what the eventual effect would be on their lives.

Based on that, the government arrested him in February 2014. He spent ten months in the National Penitentiary without charge or trial.

As for the president of KOPI, Marc Donald Laines, the government made him numerous job offers if he would step down from that post. He refused, saying that he was with the people of Ile-à-Vâche. When they saw that he was intractable, he died under mysterious circumstances that we believe was an assassination [on October 25, 2014]. He was in Les Cayes on a motorcycle when someone deliberately crashed their motorcycle into him. Many witnesses saw the other motorcycle head straight toward his. After he fell, the man who hit him sped off. [Seven months prior to his death, Laines wrote on his Facebook page, “In this country, when you’re doing good work, either they kill you or they put you in prison.”]

I was accosted, too, for my work to help people who were displaced by the earthquake of January 12, 2010. What happened was this: I visit people living under tents to take stock of the situation and the living conditions so that I can do a better job defending their rights. There’s a camp called Kanaran that the government declared to be “at the service of the public.” So displaced people took their little sheets and went there to find a spot to sleep. Two men began visiting the place, telling residents to clear out because the land belonged to them. But by this point, many people were established on this land because they were under the impression that the land was free to settle on. Then armed thugs began arriving and destroying homes.

Last November 8, when the two men and their gangs destroyed a home, I went down to check out the situation. Once I’d taken down all the residents’ complaints to send off to Amnesty International, I was waiting by the side of the road for a car to take me home. I saw a motorcycle coming from the north. One of the two riders got off the bike, walked towards me, took a gun out and pointed it at me. The driver, who stayed on the bike, pulled out a gun, too. And the one with the gun pointed at me said, “I know you’re the guy who works with this community.” I said, “I’m here defending the human rights of these people, who are in a tough situation.” And then he said, “Human rights? Oh, you’ll learn about those.” The driver said, “All right, let him go.” They both put their guns back in their pants and returned the way they came.

It’s not the first time I’ve been accosted. But the threats are getting worse, and I feel compelled to talk about them.

And there are others such as Fenel Clauter, who’s worked a lot on behalf of people whose human rights have been violated. He was arrested June 30 of last year for defending people in the village of Lumane Casimir, where the government had built small housing projects, including for 50 handicapped people. The houses were originally going to be rented for 1,500 gourdes [US$32.27] per month. Then the government turned around and asked for 2,500 gourdes [US$53.77] – money the people don’t have. This would be especially hard for the handicapped people, who typically don’t work since the state doesn’t create jobs for them; they didn’t know how they would manage under such demands. The camp population revolted.

The police beat Fenel, along with the son of a woman with only one foot, Guerdine Joseph, in retaliation for her organizing people to resist the price increase. They arrested her son and kept him in jail from June to November.

In September 2014, they kicked Fenel’s wife out of the village, along with Guerdine Joseph and her whole family.

Fenel was brought to trial for threatening a policeman. Even the judge laughed at that, because the police are armed and Fenel wasn’t. The judge said he didn’t have any reason to hold him. But they won’t release him because his arrest was politically driven from on high, as far up as the prime minister’s office. The magistrate even showed the Amnesty International representative and me a letter sent to the court by the prime minister’s office, saying that Fenel was the troublemaker behind the mobilization in the village.

The government is issuing warrants to arrest human rights lawyers, too. Look at attorney André Michel, who brought a corruption case against Martelly and his family. The government tried to arrest him on October 22, 2014, but they had to release him the next day because the streets filled with demonstrators. [As Port-up-Prince was rocked with protests over Michel’s arrest, the White House released a statement praising Martelly’s “commitment to continue working to further strengthen Haiti’s democratic institutions.”]

Then there’s Patrice Florvilus. He’s a human rights lawyer who defends people who’ve been unjustly imprisoned and held without charges. Some thugs within the Haitian police have regularly threatened Florvilus. They’ve followed him while he walks, they’ve tailed his car in their police car, and they’ve put pressure on him to stop legally defending these people who are society’s weakest.

It’s important that the Haitian state provide protection to all people defending human rights. We aren’t the enemy of the government. We’re working to improve the situation of people in the country.

 

Translated by Nathan Wendte and Max Blanchet.

Beverly Bell has worked for more than three decades as an advocate, organizer, and writer in collaboration with social movements in Latin America, the Caribbean, Africa, and the U.S. Her focus areas are just economies, democratic participation, and gender justice. Beverly currently serves as associate fellow at the Institute for Policy Studies and coordinator of Other Worlds. She is author of Walking on Fire: Haitian Women Stories of Survival and Resistance,  Fault Lines: Views Across Haiti’s Divide, and Harvesting Justice: Transforming Food, Land, and Agricultural Systems in the Americas.

 

Copyleft Beverly Bell. You may reprint this article in whole or in part.  Please credit any text or original research you use to Beverly Bell, Other Worlds.