Thursday, May 21, 2009

Why Holding the Bushwhackers Accountable for their crimes is essential for the Obama Administration--Part II


Obama has incredibly and inexplicably allowed himself to be publicly conned, bullied, and manipulated by Dick Cheney who isn't even in power anymore and at the same time Obama refuses to take 100% responsibility for calling the entire Bush Administration out for their various War Crimes by holding back information about what they did and how (i.e. the photos and a complete dossier of the torture memos by top Bush officials--including Cheney's). Meanwhile the braindead, opportunist, and cowardly DEMOCRATIC PARTY joins with the Republican right in refusing to formally close GITMO for the absolutely ludicrous and indefensible "reason" that the 'terrorists' held in the prison--most of whom by the way have not even been charged with a crime yet (!) after over six years of illegal detention and thus have no legal access to due process or habeas corpus--would somehow "threaten" the U.S. if they were now transferred to American prison facilities.

This is sheer political insanity and President Obama is not looking very competent on these issues let alone 'statesman-like' in his presently inept, ineffectual, indecisive, and somewhat timid and self serving response to the real crisis at hand. The transparent attempts to give the (false) impression that he is somehow 'balancing' legitimate concerns for national security with equally legitimate demands for complete transparency and disclosure of governmental policy and actions is highly dubious to say the least. Unless and until there is full, complete, open disclosure with the American people about what both the Bushwhackers and his own administration have done and are doing at GITMO and other military prisons and facilities around the world (especially in Iraq and Afghanistan) then any clearly exaggerated claims that Obama makes about having adequately dealt with these problems will ring hollow and are frankly not to be fully trusted...


Obama defends plan to close Gitmo


NEW: Obama says he must strike balance between transparency, national security
NEW: He says Guantanamo has weakened American national security
Obama, Cheney both give national security speeches Thursday morning
Obama discussing plan for closing Gitmo, photos of alleged prisoner abuse

(CNN) -- President Obama on Thursday defended his decision to shutter the military detention center at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, saying the prison has made the United States less safe and set back the country's "moral authority."

President Obama wants to close the Guantanamo Bay detention facility, but Congress wants a detailed plan.

"The record is clear: Rather than keep us safer, the prison at Guantanamo has weakened American national security," Obama said during an address on national security at the National Archives in Washington.

"It is a rallying cry for our enemies. It sets back the willingness of our allies to work with us in fighting an enemy that operates in scores of countries. By any measure, the costs of keeping it open far exceed the complications involved in closing it."

He said that the facility resulted in the creation of more terrorists than it detained, and he said that over the last seven years, the system of military commissions at Guantanamo succeeded in convicting "a grand total of three suspected terrorists." Watch Obama weigh in on Guantanamo Bay »

Obama's plans to close Guantanamo have been met with opposition from both sides of the aisle in Congress. Following in the steps of House Democrats, Senate Democrats on Tuesday rejected the administration's request for $80 million to close the facility.

They instead asked that Obama first submit a plan spelling out what the administration will do with the prisoners when it closes the prison. And on Thursday, Obama pledged not to release any Guantanamo Bay detainees who threaten the United States.

"We are not going to release anyone if it would endanger our national security, nor will we release detainees within the United States who endanger the American people," Obama said.

"Where demanded by justice and national security, we will seek to transfer some detainees to the same type of facilities in which we hold all manner of dangerous and violent criminals within our borders -- namely, highly secure prisons that ensure the public safety."

Obama outlined five categories Thursday in which to separate the remaining detainees. Read the full text of Obama's speech

When feasible, he said, those who have violated American criminal laws should be tried in federal courts. Those who violate the laws of war, Obama said, "and are best tried through military commissions."

The third category of detainees is made up of those who we have been ordered released by the courts.

"Let me repeat what I said earlier: This has absolutely nothing to do with my decision to close Guantanamo. It has to do with the rule of law," Obama said.

The fourth category of cases "involves detainees who we have determined can be transferred safely to another country."

Obama said that so far, his review team has approved 50 detainees for transfer. Finally, he said, "there remains the question of detainees at Guantanamo who cannot be prosecuted, yet who pose a clear danger to the American people."

Obama said that "this is the toughest issue we will face. We are going to exhaust every avenue that we have to prosecute those at Guantanamo who pose a danger to our country."

The Senate passed a measure Wednesday that would prevent the detainees from being transferred to the United States. The measure passed with overwhelming bipartisan support in a 90-6 vote. A similar amendment has passed the House.

The moves by the Democratic-controlled Congress are considered a sharp rebuke to Obama.

Immediately after the president's address, former Vice President Dick Cheney critiqued Obama's national security decisions and philosophy, and defended the moves of the Bush administration in an address before the conservative American Enterprise Institute. Sound off on Obama, Cheney speeches

"Good morning -- I mean, good afternoon," he told the audience. Cheney's speech was scheduled for 10:45 a.m. but didn't start until 11:15 because Obama's speech started about 20 minutes late.

Cheney said that the Bush administration "didn't invent" the authority it exercised in the war against al Qaeda and others. He said it was clearly granted by the Constitution and by legislation passed by Congress after the September 11 attacks.

He also said the use of controversial "enhanced interrogation techniques" was a success that saved thousands of lives.

Cheney belittled Obama's decision to close the Guantanamo Bay prison "with little deliberation and no plan." He also said the Bush administration's national security policies successfully delivered numerous "blows" to extremists targeting the United States. Watch Cheney talk, criticize Obama's moves »

Cheney and Obama sharply disagreed. In his speech Thursday, the president slammed the Bush administration for taking America "off course," and defended his decision to ban torture.

Obama said he could not "disagree more" with proponents of so-called enhanced interrogation techniques such as waterboarding.

After September 11, "faced with an uncertain threat, our government made a series of hasty decisions," he said. Watch Obama slam the previous administration »

"I believe that many of these decisions were motivated by a sincere desire to protect the American people. But I also believe that all too often, our government made decisions based on fear rather than foresight; that all too often trimmed facts and evidence to fit ideological predispositions."

Obama said that instead "of strategically applying our power and our principles, too often we set those principles aside as luxuries that we could no longer afford. And during this season of fear, too many of us -- Democrats and Republicans; politicians, journalists and citizens -- fell silent."

"In other words," he said, "we went off course."

On security and transparency, Obama defended his decisions to release Bush-era interrogation memos, but block the release of detainee photos.

Obama said he released the memos because the information had already been made public.

He opposed the release of the photos, which allegedly showed abuse of prisoners, because "nothing would be gained by the release of these photos that matters more than the lives of our young men and women serving in harm's way."

"In each of these cases, I had to strike the right balance between transparency and national security," Obama said.

The Dire Necessity for Cultural Independence & Self Determination Among African American Artists and Intellectuals


Once again black artists and intellectuals as well as the general African American community nationally lose out on producing something of lasting aesthetic and social value about one of our greatest historical figures. No doubt Dr. King's estate (which is run by his three remaining children-- MLK. Jr., Dexter, and Berniece) received a TON of $$$ from Spielberg for the legal rights to Dr. King's story and even if independent black producers and artists put in their own bids--as I suspect some individuals did--they were of course no match for the hundreds of millions of dollars that Spielberg either has and/or is capable of raising. Besides it's no secret that especially Dexter King-- now 47 who lives high off the hog in Malibu (!) and who controls the lion's share of the intellectual property in his late father's estate-- is a very greedy and materialistic person who has always been and is currently still locked in an endless ongoing series of bitter lawsuits and counter lawsuits with his siblings MLK, Jr. who is 51 and his younger sister Berniece, 45 over the estate. The loss of the King family's eldest child Yolanda who suddenly & tragically died at 51 in 2007 was especially devastating in this regard as she was the one member of the family who would consistently stand up to her younger financially ambitious and manipulative brother Dexter in the general administration of the estate. If there was one thing the late African American cultural theorist and scholar Harold Cruse (1916-2005) was absolutely right about in his classic tome "The Crisis of the Negro Intellectual" (1967) it is that unless and until a large and broad coalition of black people with real capital and a sincere, visionary appreciation of our history and culture decide to come together and fund projects of this scope we will continue to be left in the dust when it comes to creatively interpreting and communicating the complex meaning(s) and value of our own collective historical experience. It's called Self Determination if I'm not mistaken...


Steven Spielberg has acquired rights to produce Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. biopic.

Steven Spielberg has finally acquired the rights from the estate of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. to produce the first ever fully authorized biopic on the great civil rights leader. Dreamworks will be able to make full use of Dr. King's books, copyrighted speeches and famous works to create the definitive film on the Nobel Prize winner. Spielberg will produce, along with Suzanne De Passe of Motown fame, and Madison Jones.

Why Holding the Bushwhackers Accountable for their crimes is essential for the Obama Administration

"Haldeman, Ehrlichmann, Mitchell, and Dean/It follows a pattern/if you know what I mean"

--Gil Scott-Heron, 1975 ("The H2O Gate Blues" from the classic recording "Winter in America")


As the old expression goes-- when you want to discover the inevitable logic of a series of seemingly obscure or hidden events and circumstances always "follow the bouncing ball" (which is directly akin to "follow the money", "follow the paper trail" etc.). The feces has hit the electric fan and the political contradictions are all coming to a razor sharp point. NO ONE from either the Democratic or Republican Party nor the White House itself be able to merely slide by "playing to the (mythical/non-existent) 'middle.' It's pee or get off the pot time right now and we'll all see very soon just what actual politics and ideological stances are demonstrably true, necessary, and trustworthy and which are false/fake/delusional/suicidal. I'm just perverse enough to openly cheer this evolving development because it will force everyone to actually reveal precisely who they are and what they are prepared to fight for and against in all the many battles raging in the U.S. today. Despite the harrowing context of it all the good news is that the Obama Administration will not be able to simply dance around these realities by hollow appeals to "bipartisanship" which obviously doesn't exist and will thus have to honestly confront and actively defeat the rightwing in these pitched battles over every aspect of domestic and foreign policy or risk losing everything of real progressive value to them (and us) by simply capitulating and/or caving in to the reactionary demands of the imperialist, racist, sexist, and homophobic right and their heinous demagogic 'leaders' like Cheney, Limbaugh, Gingrich, Palin, et al. STAY TUNED...


Jon Soltz
Co-Founder of, served as a Captain in Operation Iraqi Freedom
Posted: May 18, 2009
Huffington Post

It's Official: Bush Administration Saw Iraq As Religious War

When I signed up to serve in the United States Army, I did so because I wanted to serve my country. I wanted to - if called - put my life on the line to defend her, and all she stands for. We who served take an oath to defend this nation and its Constitution against all enemies, foreign and domestic. As a Jew, one of the most important principles to me in our Constitution is religious freedom. Steeped in the history of colonization of America by those who were persecuted for their worship, tolerance of all religions and not putting one ahead of another, is a core principle I would die for.

Little did I know that while I was preparing to go to Iraq, the Bush administration was using Bible passages (both Old and New Testaments) on cover sheets of security reports, emblazoned on top of pictures of our armed forces. The implication was clear - this was a religious war, and our troops were fighting for the God of the Bible.

GQ has a bunch of these cover sheets, hand delivered by Donald Rumsfeld to the White House.

Again and again, security updates were adorned with bible passages. "Open the gates that the righteous nation may enter, the nation that keeps faith (Isaiah 26:2)." "Behold, the eye of the LORD is on those who fear Him, On those who hope for His loving kindness, To Deliver their soul from death. (Psalm 33:16-19)."

"Therefore put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand. (Ephesians 6:13)."

Again and again, no one at the White House seemed to object and demand the practice end, as the reports with biblical quotes kept coming and coming.

We know that the Bush administration launched the war based on flimsy and false intelligence, and used torture to try to falsely link Iraq to 9/11. But, what we now know is that in the opening days of the war in Iraq, even the flimsy intelligence took a backseat to the idea that this was a Biblical fight between the forces of good (those who worship the God of the Old and New Testaments) against those who worship the God that is chronicled in the Koran.

It doesn't just offend me as a Jew that I was apparently fighting for the New Testament in the eyes of the Bush Administration. And it doesn't just offend me as an American that they thought it proper to engage our troops in what they obviously saw as a religious crusade.

As someone who still has friends over in Iraq and Afghanistan, it boils my blood to think that insurgents and terrorists now have something else to show around as "proof" that America is "fighting a war on Islam." Rumsfeld and those at the Pentagon (as well as the White House) had to know that there was a possibility that these would come out, and only exacerbate the religious and cultural misunderstandings about the United States in the region. And yet, they didn't care.

This kind of message from the top trickled down, allowing some troops to feel comfortable in presenting themselves as Holy Warriors, and expressing that in areas where that kind of message hurts more than helps. Earlier this month, it was revealed that some troops were handing out Bibles in Afghanistan, written in Pashto and Dari. A chaplain told some troops that their job was to "hunt people for Jesus."

When Colin Powell endorsed Barack Obama for the Presidency, he made a point of raising the photo of the grieving mother of Kareem Rashad Sultan Khan at his grave at Arlington Cemetery. Khan - a Muslim - died for this country, in Iraq. He didn't die for the Bible. He wasn't even fighting for the Bible. He wasn't "hunting people for Jesus." If anything, brave men and women like Khan should serve as examples to the Muslim world that we don't fight religious wars.

Yet, now the long arm of the Bush administration has reached from the past into the present, again. We need to investigate how widespread this notion that we were in a religious war spread, and how far it trickled down. And, most of all, the President and Secretary of Defense must make clear to our forces that it is a false notion, and any actions based on it must stop now.

Crossposted at

Demanding the Truth About American War Crimes--Frank Rich Weighs In


My man Frank Rich who IMO remains by far the best, most thorough, and intellectually reliable political journalist in this country today delivers the goods again. Check out this Op-Ed folks...Rich embodies the truism that a truly great writer illuminates and educates where lesser scribes merely posture and pout...


May 17, 2009


Obama Can’t Turn the Page on Bush
New York Times

TO paraphrase Al Pacino in “Godfather III,” just when we thought we were out, the Bush mob keeps pulling us back in. And will keep doing so. No matter how hard President Obama tries to turn the page on the previous administration, he can’t. Until there is true transparency and true accountability, revelations of that unresolved eight-year nightmare will keep raining down drip by drip, disrupting the new administration’s high ambitions.

That’s why the president’s flip-flop on the release of detainee abuse photos — whatever his motivation — is a fool’s errand. The pictures will eventually emerge anyway, either because of leaks (if they haven’t started already) or because the federal appeals court decision upholding their release remains in force. And here’s a bet: These images will not prove the most shocking evidence of Bush administration sins still to come.

There are many dots yet to be connected, and not just on torture. This Sunday, GQ magazine is posting on its Web site an article adding new details to the ample dossier on how Donald Rumsfeld’s corrupt and incompetent Defense Department cost American lives and compromised national security. The piece is not the work of a partisan but the Texan journalist Robert Draper, author of “Dead Certain,” the 2007 Bush biography that had the blessing (and cooperation) of the former president and his top brass. It draws on interviews with more than a dozen high-level Bush loyalists.

Draper reports that Rumsfeld’s monomaniacal determination to protect his Pentagon turf led him to hobble and antagonize America’s most willing allies in Iraq, Britain and Australia, and even to undermine his own soldiers. But Draper’s biggest find is a collection of daily cover sheets that Rumsfeld approved for the Secretary of Defense Worldwide Intelligence Update, a highly classified digest prepared for a tiny audience, including the president, and often delivered by hand to the White House by the defense secretary himself. These cover sheets greeted Bush each day with triumphal color photos of the war headlined by biblical quotations. GQ is posting 11 of them, and they are seriously creepy.

Take the one dated April 3, 2003, two weeks into the invasion, just as Shock and Awe hit its first potholes. Two days earlier, on April 1, a panicky Pentagon had begun spreading its hyped, fictional account of the rescue of Pvt. Jessica Lynch to distract from troubling news of setbacks. On April 2, Gen. Joseph Hoar, the commander in chief of the United States Central Command from 1991-94, had declared on the Times Op-Ed page that Rumsfeld had sent too few troops to Iraq. And so the Worldwide Intelligence Update for April 3 bullied Bush with Joshua 1:9: “Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be terrified; do not be discouraged, for the LORD your God will be with you wherever you go.” (Including, as it happened, into a quagmire.)

What’s up with that? As Draper writes, Rumsfeld is not known for ostentatious displays of piety. He was cynically playing the religious angle to seduce and manipulate a president who frequently quoted the Bible. But the secretary’s actions were not just oily; he was also taking a risk with national security. If these official daily collages of Crusade-like messaging and war imagery had been leaked, they would have reinforced the Muslim world’s apocalyptic fear that America was waging a religious war. As one alarmed Pentagon hand told Draper, the fallout “would be as bad as Abu Ghraib.”

The GQ article isn’t the only revelation of previously unknown Bush Defense Department misbehavior to emerge this month. Just two weeks ago, the Obama Pentagon revealed that a major cover-up of corruption had taken place at the Bush Pentagon on Jan. 14 of this year — just six days before Bush left office. This strange incident — reported in The Times but largely ignored by Washington correspondents preparing for their annual dinner — deserves far more attention and follow-up.

What happened on Jan. 14 was the release of a report from the Pentagon’s internal watchdog, the inspector general. It had been ordered up in response to a scandal uncovered last year by David Barstow, an investigative reporter for The Times. Barstow had found that the Bush Pentagon fielded a clandestine network of retired military officers and defense officials to spread administration talking points on television, radio and in print while posing as objective “military analysts.” Many of these propagandists worked for military contractors with billions of dollars of business at stake in Pentagon procurement. Many were recipients of junkets and high-level special briefings unavailable to the legitimate press. Yet the public was never told of these conflicts of interest when these “analysts” appeared on the evening news to provide rosy assessments of what they tended to call “the real situation on the ground in Iraq.”

When Barstow’s story broke, more than 45 members of Congress demanded an inquiry. The Pentagon’s inspector general went to work, and its Jan. 14 report was the result. It found no wrongdoing by the Pentagon. Indeed, when Barstow won the Pulitzer Prize last month, Rumsfeld’s current spokesman cited the inspector general’s “exoneration” to attack the Times articles as fiction.

But the Pentagon took another look at this exoneration, and announced on May 5 that the inspector general’s report, not The Times’s reporting, was fiction. The report, it turns out, was riddled with factual errors and included little actual investigation of Barstow’s charges. The inspector general’s office had barely glanced at the 8,000 pages of e-mail that Barstow had used as evidence, and interviewed only seven of the 70 disputed analysts. In other words, the report was a whitewash. The Obama Pentagon officially rescinded it — an almost unprecedented step — and even removed it from its Web site.

Network news operations ignored the unmasking of this last-minute Bush Pentagon cover-up, as they had the original Barstow articles — surely not because they had been patsies for the Bush P.R. machine. But the story is actually far larger than this one particular incident. If the Pentagon inspector general’s office could whitewash this scandal, what else did it whitewash?

In 2005, to take just one example, the same office released a report on how Boeing colluded with low-level Pentagon bad apples on an inflated (and ultimately canceled) $30 billion air-tanker deal. At the time, even John Warner, then the go-to Republican senator on military affairs, didn’t buy the heavily redacted report’s claim that Rumsfeld and his deputy, Paul Wolfowitz, were ignorant of what Warner called “the most significant defense procurement mismanagement in contemporary history.” The Pentagon inspector general who presided over that exoneration soon fled to become an executive at the parent company of another Pentagon contractor, Blackwater.

But the new administration doesn’t want to revisit this history any more than it wants to dwell on torture. Once the inspector general’s report on the military analysts was rescinded, the Obama Pentagon declared the matter closed. The White House seems to be taking its cues from the Reagan-Bush 41 speechwriter Peggy Noonan. “Sometimes I think just keep walking,” she said on ABC’s “This Week” as the torture memos surfaced. “Some of life has to be mysterious.” Imagine if she’d been at Nuremberg!

The administration can’t “just keep walking” because it is losing control of the story. The Beltway punditocracy keeps repeating the cliché that only the A.C.L.U. and the president’s “left-wing base” want accountability, but that’s not the case. Americans know that the Iraq war is not over. A key revelation in last month’s Senate Armed Services Committee report on detainees — that torture was used to try to coerce prisoners into “confirming” a bogus Al Qaeda-Saddam Hussein link to sell that war — is finally attracting attention. The more we learn piecemeal of this history, the more bipartisan and voluble the call for full transparency has become.

And I do mean bipartisan. Both Dick Cheney, hoping to prove that torture “worked,” and Nancy Pelosi, fending off accusations of hypocrisy on torture, have now asked for classified C.I.A. documents to be made public. When a duo this unlikely, however inadvertently, is on the same side of an issue, the wave is rising too fast for any White House to control. Court cases, including appeals by the “bad apples” made scapegoats for Abu Ghraib, will yank more secrets into the daylight and enlist more anxious past and present officials into the Cheney-Pelosi demands for disclosure.

It will soon be every man for himself. “Did President Bush know everything you knew?” Bob Schieffer asked Cheney on “Face the Nation” last Sunday. The former vice president’s uncharacteristically stumbling and qualified answer — “I certainly, yeah, have every reason to believe he knew...” — suggests that the Bush White House’s once-united front is starting to crack under pressure.

I’m not a fan of Washington’s blue-ribbon commissions, where political compromises can trump the truth. But the 9/11 investigation did illuminate how, a month after Bush received an intelligence brief titled “Bin Laden Determined to Strike in U.S.,” 3,000 Americans were slaughtered on his and Cheney’s watch. If the Obama administration really wants to move on from the dark Bush era, it will need a new commission, backed up by serious law enforcement, to shed light on where every body is buried.

Copyright 2009 The New York Times Company

We Must Demand that President Obama Release ALL Information regarding U.S. Torture and War Crimes!


This is a horrible decision and there is no justification for it whatsoever except rank political cowardice on Obama's part. To now simply renege on his earlier commitment to release the photos not only makes him look both weak and afraid of the GOP led rightwing's reaction to investigations of military torture but it feebly attempts to give the absolutely false impression that not releasing these photos would somehow be in the best interests of the country and American troops in Iraq and Afghanistan as though NOT holding the government and the military completely accountable for widespread and highly illegal and immoral actions against military prisoners would somehow tamp down "anti-American opinion." This self serving and opportunist "argument" makes no sense whatever.

The ACLU is 100% correct in their critique of the President's decision (see their statement in the article below). My hope is that some independent investigative journalist(s) will soon get access to these photographs and release them without the interference, sanction, or censorious control of either the White House or the U.S. military.


May 13, 2009

Obama Tries to Block Release of Detainee Photos
New York Times

President Obama said on Wednesday that he is seeking to block the release of photographs that depict American military personnel abusing captives in Iraq and Afghanistan, worrying that the images could “further inflame anti-American opinion.”

As he left the White House to fly to Arizona for an evening commencement address, Mr. Obama briefly explained his abrupt reversal on releasing the photographs. He said the pictures, which he has reviewed, “are not particularly sensational, but the conduct did not conform with the Army manual.”

He did not take questions from reporters, but said disclosing the photos would have “a chilling effect” on future attempts to investigate detainee abuse.

The president’s decision marks a sharp reversal from a decision made last month by the Pentagon, which agreed in a case with the American Civil Liberties Union to release photographs showing incidents at Abu Ghraib and a half-dozen other prisons. At the time, the president signed off on the decision, saying he agreed with releasing the photos.

Robert Gibbs, the White House press secretary, said that the president met last week “with his legal team and told them that he did not feel comfortable with the release of the D.O.D. photos because he believes their release would endanger our troops.”

Mr. Obama has examined a sampling of the photographs within the last two weeks, Mr. Gibbs said, as he “spent some time reflecting on” the case to make the decision that was announced Wednesday.

Mr. Obama advised his top military commanders about his decision in a meeting on Tuesday at the White House. Several military officials had argued against the immediate release of the photographs, saying such action could harm American troops in the field.

“The president strongly believes that the release of these photos, particularly at this time, would only serve the purpose of inflaming the theaters of war, jeopardizing U.S. forces,” the official said, “and making our job more difficult in places like Iraq and Afghanistan.”

Officials said that one argument made to delay releasing the pictures was that the missions in both Iraq and Afghanistan were entering risky, new phases. In Iraq, American combat forces are withdrawing from urban areas and are reducing their numbers nationwide. In Afghanistan, more than 20,000 new troops are flowing in to combat an insurgency that has grown in potency.

At a Defense budget hearing on Capitol Hill later on Wednesday afternoon, Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates indicated that the White House might appeal the decision to the Supreme Court. “I believe that’s under consideration,” Mr. Gates told the House Armed Services Committee.

Mr. Gates also said that he had changed his opinion about releasing the photographs because of the strong views of his commanders. “Both General McKiernan and General Odierno have expressed very serious reservations about this and their very great worry that release of these photographs will cost American lives,” Mr. Gates said.

Geoff Morrell, the Pentagon press secretary, said earlier that Generals Odierno, McKiernan and also David Petraeus “have all voiced real concern about this. Particularly in Afghanistan, this is the last thing they need.”

Mr. Gates shared the concerns of his commanders about the impact of the photo release on the troops and the battlefield, and had had a “multitude of conversations” with Mr. Obama on the issue.

The Pentagon’s decision to release the pictures came after the A.C.L.U. prevailed at the Federal District Court level and before a panel of the Second Circuit. The photographs were set to be released on May 28. But as that date approached, a growing sense of unease among military officials was expressed to Mr. Gates, who relayed the concerns to the president.

Many also recalled the Abu Ghraib photographs, showing prisoners naked or in degrading positions, sometimes with Americans posing smugly nearby, caused an uproar in the Arab world and concerns within the military that the actions of a relatively few service members had tainted the entire forces.

In this more recent case, the A.C.L.U. argued that disclosing the pictures was “critical for helping the public understand the scope and scale of prisoner abuse as well as for holding senior officials accountable for authorizing or permitting such abuse,” said Amrit Singh, who argued the case on behalf of the group before the Second Circuit Court of Appeals in Manhattan.

The A.C.L.U. sharply criticized the president’s decision. In a statement, its executive director, Anthony D. Romero said:

“The Obama administration’s adoption of the stonewalling tactics and opaque policies of the Bush administration flies in the face of the president’s stated desire to restore the rule of law, to revive our moral standing in the world and to lead a transparent government. This decision is particularly disturbing given the Justice Department’s failure to initiate a criminal investigation of torture crimes under the Bush administration.

“It is true that these photos would be disturbing; the day we are no longer disturbed by such repugnant acts would be a sad one. In America, every fact and document gets known – whether now or years from now. And when these photos do see the light of day, the outrage will focus not only on the commission of torture by the Bush administration but on the Obama administration’s complicity in covering them up. Any outrage related to these photos should be due not to their release but to the very crimes depicted in them. Only by looking squarely in the mirror, acknowledging the crimes of the past and achieving accountability can we move forward and ensure that these atrocities are not repeated.”

A senior administration official said that the president met last week with his legal team and reached the conclusion that the interests of the military and the U.S. government would not be served by releasing the photos.

“The president would be the last to excuse the actions depicted in these photos,” the administration official said. “That is why the Department of Defense investigated these cases, and why individuals have been punished through prison sentences, discharges, and a range of other punitive measures.”

The next step was not immediately clear. White House officials said a court filing was due on Wednesday, which would outline the administration’s legal approach.

During the court case, defense officials had fought the release of the photographs, connected with investigations between 2003 and 2006, on the grounds that the release could endanger American military personnel overseas and that the privacy of detainees would be violated. But the Second Circuit, in upholding a lower court ruling, said the public interest involved in release of the pictures outweighed a vague, speculative fear of danger to the American military or violation of the detainees’ privacy.

One Pentagon official involved in the discussion said the photos show detainees in humiliating positions, but stressed that they were not as provocative as pictures of detainee abuse at Abu Ghraib.

The official said the photos show detainee nudity, and that some include images of detainees shackled for transfer. Other photographs show American military personnel with weapons drawn and pointed at detainees in what another official said had the appearance of “a war trophy.”

One argument made by Pentagon and military officials who oppose the release is that they do not contribute to public knowledge of American policy, as might the release of other memos by the Office of the Legal Counsel. One example cited in internal discussions was the series of riots that followed publication of cartoons by Danish newspapers that were viewed as hostile and insulting to Islam.

The release of these detainee photographs, Pentagon and military officials said, would only serve to provoke outrage and, in particular, might be used by violent extremists to stoke attacks and recruit suicide bombers. Military personnel in Iraq and Afghanistan were said to be particular targets of such attacks, but officials said that civilian targets might be chosen by extremists, as well.

In a letter dated April 23, Lev L. Dassin, the acting United States Attorney in this case, wrote to Judge Alvin K. Hellerstein of the Southern District, to say that the Pentagon had agreed to release 44 photographs involved in the case, plus ”a substantial number of other images” gathered by Army investigators.

Elisabeth Bumiller and Thom Shanker contributed to this post.


Cusack is not only one of my favorite actors but more importantly his eloquent and powerful statement below is 100% correct and I emphatically agree with every single syllable of it...Thanks John...


John Cusack
Posted: May 15, 2009
Huffington Post

A Hollow and Horrible Equivocation

If I had the President's Blackberry, I would send this.

President Obama,

On Wednesday you reversed your administration's promise to finally release pictures of detainee abuse.

The release of the photos was won by ACLU lawyers who have fought to bring to light the full extent of the brutality and torture that U.S. Army and intelligence services have perpetrated against human beings in Iraq, Afghanistan, Guantanamo Bay and at CIA "black sites" around the world. Torture that was sanctioned and effectively legalized under the former administration, and that, if we are to be honest, most Americans knew -- or should have known -- was being carried out in our names.

Only now is the knowledge starting to give rise to the widespread outrage and calls for accountability that such crimes against humanity deserve. Growing numbers of citizens are demanding the independent investigation and prosecution of the members of the Bush administration responsible for the vitiation of fundamental legal principles like habeas corpus and the flagrant violation of both international and domestic laws against torture. The pundits, hacks and shills who dismiss these calls for investigation and prosecution -- integral to any serious definition of accountability -- disgrace themselves and their country.

The situation in which we now find ourselves is so bizarre, it's hard to fathom. New revelations continue to surface -- we learn that Vice President Cheney's office ordered and specified how a man was to be tortured, and mounting evidence suggests the United States tortured to extract false confessions that would justify preemptive war on Iraq. Yet a Democratic president leads a Democratic congress to whitewash institutionalized torture and in effect trash any conceivable notion of the rule of law, all in the name of "looking forward."

And now we hear that the administration will block the release of new evidence in this hideous criminal conspiracy. Now you, the president who came to power with promises of transparency and change, say you don't want to release the photos because they "will further inflame anti-American sentiment" and endanger U.S. troops fighting in Iraq and Afghanistan.

The ACLU lucidly replies:

"It is true that these photos would be disturbing; the day we are no longer disturbed by such repugnant acts would be a sad one. In America, every fact and document gets known -- whether now or years from now. And when these photos do see the light of day, the outrage will focus not only on the commission of torture by the Bush administration but on the Obama administration's complicity in covering them up. Any outrage related to these photos should be due not to their release but to the very crimes depicted in them."

Maybe, Mr. President, you've succumbed to all the fear-mongering that the Bush administration and Republican Party sold for so long. Most Democrats have been silent enablers so consistently -- maybe we've all bought into it. We know the truth but we still can't admit it; just as for years signs and traces of torture performed in our name were there, we saw without seeing, and knew without knowing. When those first photos from Abu Ghraib were broadcast around the world five years ago, we told ourselves the sadism was the work of just a few maniacs. When we heard the privatization frenzy that spread like a cancer through the Bush years extended even to interrogation -- effectively making torture its own nightmarish "cottage industry" -- we looked away. And now our first official response is to let it all slide... and just move on.

If we do, we are truly lost. This kind of willful collective blindness must not endure, and it must never happen again. It's not enough to be against torture, in this new political moment when speaking out against it is suddenly in vogue. All the information now so readily available contradicts all the official narratives: that we didn't know, a few bad apples, that those responsible have already been investigated and punished. And then there's the outrageous substitute for a narrative, the debate about whether or not torture works. It's a question so insane, it probably makes bin Laden grin like a Cheshire cat.

So, if torture works, we should... perfect it and use it? Complete insanity.

We must finally be able to look at the photos and see and understand that the broken and humiliated bodies of men half-way around the world depicted therein represent not only the systematically applied U.S. policies, but also the horrible and likely inevitable ramifications of military occupations of other countries.

We hope, Mr. President, you will lead, but the Constitution doesn't allow you to obstruct justice... The Department of Justice must act with conviction and follow the law.

We understand the enormous pressures and complexities you confront everyday. But the old defenses for these crimes sound hollow and horrible coming from your lips. You are defending the indefensible.

Releasing all the photos depicting detainee abuse and initiating an independent inquiry and prosecution of those responsible at the highest level is the only way forward.

This is not an issue of partisan politics. It's a police matter... the investigation of a crime scene in which many more of us are complicit than is comfortable to recognize.


Your name here.

Renewing the Fight for Civil Rights: New U.S. Attorney General Takes A Stand


This statement by Eric Holder-- President Obama's new Attorney General (and the first African American to hold this position in American history) is long overdue especially given the horrific and unrelenting violations of the human and civil rights of African Americans, other minorities, women, and others over the past eight years of the Bushwhacker administration. Let's hope that Mr. Holder seriously means what he says and is fully committed to acting on his stated public position. We all really need it.


Obama's Justice Department Renews the Fight for Civil Rights

The administration is expected to prosecute discrimination cases more vigorously than its predecessor

By Alex Kingsbury
Posted April 30, 2009
U.S. News and World Report

It is a telling reflection of the priorities of the last president that one of the few civil rights cases before the nation's high court this year is a reverse discrimination case. It concerns a group of white firefighters in New Haven, Conn., who say they were unfairly denied promotion as a result of affirmative action gone awry. The Obama Justice Department came out in favor of New Haven in the case, a sharp departure from the past eight years, which saw the government pursue a growing number of these reverse discrimination cases, even as traditional civil rights cases declined.

Eric Holder, the country's first black attorney general, made his priorities clear from Day 1, telling department employees that the United States is a nation of "cowards" when it comes to issues of race. The Obama administration is widely expected to prosecute discrimination and civil rights cases more vigorously than its predecessor. Civil rights cases, which tend to be controversial and divisive, have traditionally focused on voting rights, housing, and employment matters but can cover all kinds of discrimination, from race to religion to disabilities.

The renewed focus on civil rights comes at a particularly pivotal moment because of the upcoming 2010 census. The updated population figures are used to conduct a comprehensive redrawing of political districts that will most likely be hotly contested, and the data also are used to monitor and enforce civil rights laws in areas like housing, lending, education, and voting.

Beyond the census, issues like racial profiling and police abuse are expected to receive new attention under Obama. Indeed, one of the first civil rights cases filed by the new attorney general came against a former Texas police officer accused of racially profiling Hispanic motorists. In addition, the Justice Department is likely to back new laws to make voter registration more uniform, congressional staffers say.

Holder has a lot of work ahead of him. Under George W. Bush, the Justice Department was better known as a battleground between political appointees and career civil servants than for its frontline work in civil rights litigation. It took six years, the controversial firing of nine U.S. attorneys, and Democratic control of Congress for a series of investigations to reveal numerous instances of inappropriate politicization.

By the end of two terms, the Bush administration had altered the mission of the Justice Department's legendary Civil Rights Division. Between 2001 and 2005, the division brought only a single case of employment discrimination (a reverse discrimination case, like that of the Connecticut firefighters) and no cases of voter discrimination on behalf of African-Americans. Instead, resources were directed toward immigration enforcement, human trafficking, and issues of religious free speech, all of which had traditionally been handled by other divisions.

"Racial balancing." In his budget, Obama included an 18 percent boost in funding for the Civil Rights Division. But the office could face an uphill battle because of the large number of conservative federal judges appointed over the past eight years. Supreme Court Chief Justice John G. Roberts, for instance, is an outspoken opponent of "racial balancing." In March, the high court ruled that certain oversight provisions in the 1965 Voting Rights Act don't automatically apply in voting districts where minorities make up less than one half of the population.

In addition to the pending Connecticut case, the Supreme Court heard oral arguments yesterday in a Texas case that challenges whether election procedures in 16 states should still be subject to federal supervision under the Voting Rights Act. Georgia Gov. Sonny Perdue, whose state's elections are currently supervised by the Justice Department, says Obama's election shows why the protections afforded to minority voters are no longer needed. For his part, Obama has pledged to "reinvigorate federal civil rights enforcement," in particular, prosecuting more cases of voting discrimination against blacks.

Why Eric Holder Says Civil Rights is His Top Priority After the Bush Years

By Alex Kingsbury
Posted March 12, 2009
U.S. News & World Report

If the nation's new attorney general wanted to get people's attention on the subject of race, lambasting Americans as "cowards" was a headline-grabbing first step. In the wake of the election of the nation's first black president, its first black attorney general delivered a powerful indictment on race relations. "Though this nation has proudly thought of itself as an ethnic melting pot, in things racial we have always been and continue to be, in too many ways, essentially a nation of cowards," Attorney General Eric Holder told Justice Department employees in a speech in February marking Black History Month.

As the country's top lawman, Holder is now in a position to tackle racial inequity. But first, he'll have to rebuild the stable of government attorneys who specialize in prosecuting complex discrimination cases. Under the Bush administration, political appointees effectively chased away the bulk of the experienced attorneys in the Justice Department's Civil Rights Division, which handles cases of discrimination in housing, employment, and voting rights. During the past eight years, more than half of the division's career staff left or was reassigned, and its focus shifted away from traditional civil rights cases. Remaking the division is "Priority 1 right now," Holder told the National Association of Attorneys General last week. "Some of the stuff that I learned in the transition reports were frankly pretty shocking," he said. "We're going to need help as we try to reinvigorate, rebuild what has always been a great division but that has suffered a lot in the last eight years."

More broadly, the Justice Department was ground zero for a series of the most contentious fights between Bush administration political appointees and career civil servants. Yet it took six years and the firing of nine U.S. attorneys for Congress to launch investigations into activities at the department. Even now, lawmakers are still trying to get answers from former White House staffers, including Harriet Miers and Karl Rove, about the role of politics in those dismissals.

The machinations at the Civil Rights Division never received the same level of public attention as the fired attorneys. But the woes of the legendary division, which enforced school-desegregation busing and affirmative action, do illustrate the corrosive impact that political appointees can have on the business of an agency, according to investigators. "The division was the flagship of enforcement of civil rights, and now it's not even a shell of its former self in reputation or in practice," says Barbara Arnwine, executive director of the Lawyers' Committee for Civil Rights Under Law.

Investigations by the Justice Department's inspector general and its Office of Professional Responsibility concluded that political appointees improperly hired lawyers based on their political views and pushed out or reassigned senior staff attorneys. In addition, the division's new hires had far less experience with civil rights cases than those hired under previous administrations, according to statistics released by the Justice Department. The inspector general's report even concluded that a former chief of the Civil Rights Division made false statements to Congress about the hiring practices and said that the combination of his actions rendered him "unsuitable for federal service." The investigations led to a new policy compelling political appointees to receive briefings on prohibited personnel practices.

The Bush administration fundamentally altered the division's mission. Between 2001 and 2005, the division brought only a single case of employment discrimination, and no cases of voter discrimination, on behalf of African-Americans. Instead, division resources were directed toward immigration, human trafficking, and issues of religious free speech, all of which had traditionally been handled by other divisions. As Holder put it during his Senate confirmation hearings, "In the last eight years, vital federal laws designed to protect rights in the workplace, the housing market, and the voting booth have languished."

For Holder, civil rights have long been a personal issue. In 1963, his sister-in-law, Vivian Malone Jones, had to be escorted to her college classes at the University of Alabama by U.S. marshals. Braving protests by angry crowds and the state's governor, George Wallace, she was one of the first two black students to attend the school.

The Civil Rights Division, which Holder has called the "conscience of the Justice Department," has around 350 lawyers who manage litigation relating to everything from housing to voting rights. Created in 1957, it was charged with enforcing an ever changing landscape of civil rights legislation. Since then, its mandate has expanded beyond racial issues to include discrimination based on gender, sex, handicap, religion, and national origin.