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Forum Post: America's Most Beloved War Criminals

Posted 10 years ago on Oct. 27, 2013, 3:32 p.m. EST by LeoYo (5909)
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America's Most Beloved War Criminals

Sunday, 27 October 2013 10:19 By Justin Doolittle, Truthout | Opinion


Former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice is set to be named officially next month as a member of the College Football Playoff selection committee, charged with selecting the four teams that will compete in the first playoffs following the 2014 season. Rice's appointment, which, according to ESPN, brings some "star power" to the committee, was made possible by the generally favorable impression of her among the public and in the media. Rice has never been a particularly polarizing figure, unlike Dick Cheney and Don Rumsfeld, two other high-profile players in the Bush administration, who, even if they were equally serious and informed about college football, would never be considered for an appointment. Despite being at the center of some of the most intensely political dramas of the Bush presidency, Rice has managed to escape from the wreckage of those years virtually unscathed. Her reputation is soundly intact and she has not been scorned like many of her colleagues, even those who had far less influence over Bush administration policy, such as John Bolton. Rice is able to go on "The Daily Show with Jon Stewart" and have a pleasant conversation with the host. She penned a lovely memoir and has a very warm smile. Many sympathetic stories have been written about her difficult upbringing and touching personal story.

Following Rice's appointment to the committee, some criticism did bubble up to the surface, but it was not centered on Rice's active participation in war crimes. A cartoonish jerk by the name of Pat Dye, who used to coach football at Auburn, attacked the choice on the grounds that Rice was a woman and, therefore, "all she knows about football is what somebody told her or what she read in a book or what she saw on television." For media outlets like ESPN, this established the proper parameters for the "debate" over Rice's appointment. Unenlightened sexists such as Dye were reflexively opposed, while all right-thinking people obviously considered the presence of a woman - and this particular woman - on the committee to be a welcome development. Andrea Adelson, in a piece for ESPN, praised the appointment as "real progress." North Carolina State Athletic Director Debbie Yow called Rice a "a skilled and analytical thinker."

It's simply extraordinary that the kind of chauvinistic idiocy exemplified by Dye, which is obviously beneath commentary, has become the most visible criticism of Rice's appointment. This is someone who was the highest-ranked security official in the United States at the time of the 9/11 attacks. She later became a vociferous defender of the Bush administration's aggressive war against Iraq. She was responsible one of the most radically dishonest statements ever made to the American people, when she warned that, unless Iraq were attacked, Saddam Hussein might very well launch a nuclear war against the United States, leaving a "mushroom cloud" in some unspecified American city. This was preposterous; Rice could not possibly have believed that this was a realistic possibility. If Dick Cheney, or one of the other less genial goons from the Bush administration, had made exactly the same comment - "We don't want the smoking gun to be a mushroom cloud" - it would have stuck forever and cemented his reputation as a fanatical warmonger. Rice, though, somehow has preserved her essential statesmanship and above-the-fray elegance.

This is a recurring pattern in American political life. Those who serve as secretary of state, the supreme Cabinet position in American government, are almost wholly exonerated for their roles in the foreign policy disasters of the administrations in which they served, despite having almost unrivaled influence over decision making. Examples are abundant. Consider the case of Madeleine Albright, secretary of state under President Bill Clinton and the first woman to serve in that capacity. Albright, as does Rice, commands intense transpartisan respect and admiration in the political and media classes, as well as among the general public. She is seen as a foreign policy sage and a beacon of wisdom. President Obama awarded Albright the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 2012. This same Madeleine Albright, in what is surely one of the most flagrant illustrations of unhinged genocidal fervor in the past half-century, was once asked by Lesley Stahl of "60 Minutes" if U.S.-led sanctions against Iraq, which reportedly caused the deaths of around 500,000 children, were nonetheless "worth it" (the question itself is terrifying). Albright answered in the affirmative. "Yes, we think the price is worth it," said this beloved staple of the Beltway cocktail party circuit. Naturally, Albright, later went on to co-chair a "Genocide Prevention Task Force." No one in Washington, or anywhere else for that matter, seemed to find anything problematic about any of this. Andrea Mitchell won't be asking Albright about those 500,000 dead Iraqi children in their next amicable chat. It would be so awkward and unpleasant.

It is not by virtue of their gender that Rice and Albright have acquired this inexplicable immunization from criticism - at least in the realm of the mainstream - over their manifestly insane public pronouncements and active participation in war crimes. This is a phenomenon that applies to virtually anyone who leads the State Department and possesses enough charm and charisma to seduce the vapid, substance-free people who control media and shape public perception. And no one has mastered the art of cultivating an honorable and high-minded public reputation despite having an appalling record quite like Henry Kissinger.

Kissinger, who served two presidents as secretary of state, possesses one of the most coldly chilling minds of anyone who has ever wielded political power in a developed country. In audiotapes released by the Nixon Library in 2010, here is Kissinger, speaking to his boss on the question of pressuring the Kremlin to allow Soviet Jews to safely emigrate from the country:

The emigration of Jews from the Soviet Union is not an objective of American foreign policy. And if they put Jews into gas chambers in the Soviet Union, it is not an American concern. Maybe a humanitarian concern.

After these revelations in 2010, Christopher Hitchens wondered if this concerete evidence of psychopathy would mean that the Nobel Peace Prize laureate would, finally, "have the door shut in his face by every decent person" and be "shamed, ostracized and excluded." More than three years later, far from having doors shut in his face, Kissinger can be found hamming it up in comedy bits with Stephen Colbert, or wining and dining with his many powerful friends at his lavish 90th birthday party. At the aforementioned party, in June 2013, the current secretary of state, feeling himself in the presence of true greatness, declared Kissinger the "indispensable statesman." While Kissinger is clearly second to none in his ability to get a credulous media and amoral political class to disregard his stunning lack of humanity, respect on this front also must be paid to Colin Powell. Powell is wily enough to have refrained from ever making the kind of outrageous and sadistic pronouncements that some of his peers have. But he did participate, to an even more pronounced degree than Rice, in the international campaign of deception and subsequent attack on Iraq in 2003.

Nevertheless, Powell's popularity has been "undimmed by time," and, these days, liberals can be counted on reliably to cheer every time Powell mildly criticizes the most rabidly racist elements in his party. Indeed, American liberals are hardly blameless in the seemingly indestructible popularity and mainstream acceptance of these allegedly charismatic secretaries of state. All Powell has to do is endorse a centrist Democratic candidate for president or go on television and gently go after the lowest-hanging fruit on the ultra-right-wing, and liberals will swoon, spread his eloquence all over social media, and happily forget his integral role in the supreme international crime of the 21st century.

Even worse, liberals often will describe Powell's role in the selling of the Iraq War as "tragic" or "unfortunate" - a Good Man who tarnished his legacy by getting caught up with the wrong crowd. As if this four-star general and then-secretary of state, someone who has spent his entire life in the military and in politics, were merely an innocent and naive background player, pushed around and "misled" by nefarious forces within the administration and forced to go to the U.N. to put on that shameful performance. Rice and Powell are almost never thrown in with Cheney and Rumsfeld, mostly because the former care about their public perception and know how to shape it effectively, while the latter simply don't give a damn.



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[-] 1 points by LeoYo (5909) 10 years ago

It is not particularly clear how, or why, secretaries of state acquired this enduring immunization from the kind of polarization and criticism to which defense secretaries and other Cabinet officials are subject. While there is undeniably something about the office that lends itself to unjustified acclaim - ask an enthusiastic Hillary Clinton supporter to name a few of her substantive accomplishments in her four years as America's chief diplomat - Rice, Powell, Albright and Kissinger are all exceptionally skilled at playing the media and the public at large. The blame ultimately rests with anyone who tacitly supports or contributes to this culture of valuing personality over substance. This includes the likes of Stephen Colbert, who apparently sees nothing wrong in having a good time with someone who literally expressed indifference over the prospect of millions of people being put in gas chambers. Consider how we would react to a foreign tyrant saying what Kissinger said about Russian Jews or what Albright said about a half a million dead children. For now, though, it seems that only those of us on the "fringe" of the left are unwilling to forget Condi Rice's fanatical fearmongering that helped sell a war that ended the lives of hundreds of thousands of people for no reason at all. Far be it for us to try to ruin the "real progress" of having her on the playoffs committee.

Copyright, Truthout.

[-] 1 points by LeoYo (5909) 10 years ago

On the Border and in Cities, Skin Color Still Matters

Sunday, 27 October 2013 14:02 By Brad Wong, Equal Voices | Report


The verbal commands from the U.S. Customs and Border Protection agent on that day last year just grew louder and louder in Brownsville, Texas.

Laura Mireles, a U.S. citizen, only wanted to watch the agent search her purse, which was sitting in her car. He stopped her to inquire why she had bypassed X-ray machines for vehicles when she drove across the international bridge from Mexico to the United States. That stop in a parking lot in the United States led to a search of her car and bag. As the search was underway, she stayed about 10 to 15 feet away from the agent, according to federal court papers. She only inched closer to observe the search in action.

The agent – identified in court documents only by his surname of Riano – ordered her to step back. But before she knew it, the law enforcement official, for unknown reasons, threw her to the ground, ripping her jeans at the knee.

Using his full weight and tall frame, he then leaned on her. She later felt metal handcuffs tighten around her wrists, according to court papers. She asked why this was happening, only to hear his command of silence several times and that he would hit her with an object. Her attorneys believe that object was a stun gun.

Mireles, 32, and the ACLU of Texas filed a lawsuit on Monday in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Texas, naming U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) and “Agent Riano” as defendants. Her attorneys argue that her Fourth Amendment rights, which protect her from unreasonable search and seizure, as well as excessive force, and rights under Texas state law, which safeguard her from assault and false arrest, were violated in a case that has already stoked public outrage.

The lawsuit comes at a heightened time for security along the U.S.-Mexico border. The comprehensive immigration bill, as passed in the Senate earlier this year, calls for tens of billions of dollars to support more border agents and beefed-up security.

“This type of physical abuse of a law-abiding person by a CBP agent is totally unwarranted and, unfortunately, all too common,” Adriana Pinon, her attorney who works for the ACLU of Texas, said in a statement.

“Cases like Laura’s deteriorate our border communities and erode public trust, making us all less safe.”

In an email, U.S. Customs and Border Protection spokesman Richard Pauza explained that he cannot comment because the case is under pending litigation. Angela Dodge, a spokeswoman for the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of Texas, said she was not aware of the case but that she would look into the matter. Mireles probably thought that day – Nov. 5, 2012 – was going to be uneventful. But she lost more than she could have imagined.

The Brownsville resident, who stands a little over 5 feet, was working that day at Brady’s Duty Free, which is located on the U.S. side of the Veterans International Bridge at Los Tomates in the city.

One task she had to do that evening was lock the duty free store’s door. But her coworker, who lived on the Mexico side of the border, had the keys.

Around 8 p.m., according to the lawsuit, she drove her car across the border to fetch them.

As she returned to the United States, she used a rapid inspection lane for pre-approved, low-risk travelers and received permission from a U.S. border agent to return to the United States.

She also received approval to use a special return lane which let her bypass X-ray machines in an inspection area on the bridge, according to the lawsuit.

She used these lanes because she was eager to return to the duty free store, where her coworker was there alone. About 15 minutes later, Mireles arrived at the store and locked the door.

In the store’s parking lot, while she was in her car, flashing emergency lights from a patrol car emerged. Riano, wearing a blue uniform, was behind the wheel of the government vehicle.

He approached her and asked about bypassing the X-ray machines on her return to the United States. After hearing her explanation, he used his radio to confirm the information with a federal agent at the bridge, court papers say.

Riano informed her that he and another U.S. agent were going to search her car – to which she agreed. Her attorneys maintain that she did not threaten anyone’s safety or break any law while the search was occurring.

As she stepped closer to observe Riano going through her purse and asked about what he was doing, he gave commands for her to step aside.

But he gave no warning that he was going to use physical force against her, according to the lawsuit.

She only realized that fact when she was face down on the ground. The force caused a wound to her knee.

Confusion set in. So did crying and questions about why this was happening. She asked to be set free.

The handcuffs that Riano had placed on her were so tight that the metal cut into her skin, according to the lawsuit. She did not resist, her attorneys say.

Later, at a U.S. government office at the immigration bridge, she stayed in the patrol car and told other federal agents that she needed medical attention.

An ambulance soon arrived but neither the federal agents nor paramedics succeeded in freeing her from the handcuffs, court papers say. Firefighters were summoned to do the job.

The metal handcuffs dug so deeply into her skin that her wrists became raw and wounded, her attorneys told the court.

The U.S. agents later released her and she was taken by ambulance to a local hospital. Federal agents never cited her for violating the law.

The next day, she experienced unexpected bleeding and visited a gynecologist.

Tests were run and the doctor informed Mireles of news that no soon-to-be mother wants to hear – that she was no longer pregnant.

“The miscarriage of her pregnancy was a result of the previous day’s incident,” according to court papers.

She and her attorneys estimate that Riano weighs about 200 pounds. In comparison, Mireles only weighs about 100 pounds. She also has a malformation of her hands and legs.

She is asking for a trial by jury.

This piece was reprinted by Truthout with permission or license.

[-] 1 points by LeoYo (5909) 10 years ago

The Lies That Will Kill America

Sunday, 27 October 2013 09:39 By Michael Winship and Bill Moyers, Moyers & Company | Op-Ed


Here in Manhattan the other day, you couldn’t miss it — the big bold headline across the front page of the tabloid New York Post, screaming one of those sick, slick lies that are a trademark of Rupert Murdoch’s right-wing media empire. There was Uncle Sam, brandishing a revolver and wearing a burglar’s mask. “UNCLE SCAM,” the headline shouted. “US robs bank of $13 billion.” Say what? Pure whitewash, and Murdoch’s minions know it. That $13 billion dollars is the settlement JPMorgan Chase, the country’s biggest bank, is negotiating with the government to settle its own rip-off of American homeowners and investors — those shady practices that five years ago helped trigger the financial meltdown, including manipulating mortgages and sending millions of Americans into bankruptcy or foreclosure. If anybody’s been robbed it’s not JPMorgan Chase, which can absorb the loss and probably take a tax write-off for at least part of it. No, it’s the American public. In addition to financial heartache we still have been denied the satisfaction of seeing jail time for any of the banksters who put our feet in cement and pushed us off the cliff.

This isn’t the only scandal JPMorgan Chase is juggling. A $6 billion settlement with institutional investors is in the works and criminal charges may still be filed in California. The bank is under investigation on so many fronts it’s hard to keep them sorted out – everything from deceptive sales in its credit card unit to Bernie Madoff’s Ponzi scheme to the criminal manipulation of energy markets and bribing Chinese officials by offering jobs to their kids. Nor is JPMorgan Chase the only culprit under scrutiny. Bank of America was found guilty just this week of civil fraud, and a gaggle of other banks is being investigated by the government for mortgage fraud. No wonder the camp followers at Fox News, The Wall Street Journal, CNBC and other cheerleaders have ganged up to whitewash the banks. If justice is somehow served, this could be the biggest egg yet across the smug face of unfettered, unchecked, unaccountable capitalism.

One face in particular: Jamie Dimon, the chairman and CEO of JPMorgan Chase. One of Murdoch’s Fox Business News hosts, Charlie Gasparino, claims the Feds are on a witch hunt against Dimon for criticizing President Obama, whose administration, we are told, “is brutally determined and efficient when it comes to squashing those who oppose their policies.” But hold on: Dimon is a Democrat, said to be Obama’s favorite banker, with so much entree he’s been doing his own negotiating with the attorney general of the United States.

But that’s crony capitalism for you, bipartisan to a fault. Rupert Murdoch has been defending Dimon in his media for a long time. Last spring, when it looked like there might be a stockholders revolt against Dimon, Murdoch was one of many bigwigs who rushed to his defense. He tweeted that JPMorgan would be “up a creek” without Dimon. “One of the smartest, toughest guys around,” Murdoch insisted. Whether Murdoch’s exaltation had an effect or not, Dimon was handily reelected.

Over the last few days, The Wall Street Journal, both Bible and supplicant of high finance as well as one of Murdoch’s more reputable publications — at least in its reporting — echoed the “UNCLE SCAM” indignation of the more lowbrow Post. The government just wants “to appease their left-wing populist allies,” its editorial writers raged, with a “political shakedown and wealth-redistribution scheme.” Perhaps, the paper suggested, the White House will distribute some of the JPMorgan Chase penalty to consumers and advocacy groups and “have the checks arrive in swing congressional districts right before the 2014 election.” We can hear the closet Bolsheviks panting for their handouts now and getting ready to use their phony ID’s to stuff the box on Election Day with multiple illegal ballots.

Such fantasies are all part of the Murdoch News Corp. pattern, an unending flow of falsehood and phony populism that in reality serves only the wealthy elite. Fox News is its ministry of misinformation, the fake jewel of the News Corp. crown, a 24/7 purveyor of flimflam and the occasional selective truth. Look at the pounding they’ve given Obama’s healthcare reform right from the very start, whether the non-existent death panels or claims that it would cause the highest tax increase in history.

While it’s true that the startup of Obamacare has been plagued by its website nightmare and other problems, Fox News consistently has failed to mention Republican roadblocks that prevented the program from getting proper funding or the fact that so many states ruled by Republican governors and legislatures — more than 30 — have deliberately failed to set up the insurance marketplaces critical to making the new system work. Just the other day, Eric Stern at Salon.com fact-checked a segment on Sean Hannity’s show. “Average Americans are feeling the pain of Obamacare and the healthcare overhaul train wreck,” Hannity declared, “and six of them are here tonight to tell us their stories.”

Eric Stern tracked down each of the Hannity Six and found that while their questions about health reform may have been valid, the answers they received from Hannity or had decided for themselves were not. “I don’t doubt that these six individuals believe that Obamacare is a disaster,” Stern reported. “But none of them had even visited the insurance exchange.”

And there you have the problem: ideology and self-interest trump the facts or even caring about the facts, whether it’s banking, Obamacare or global warming. Ninety-seven percent of climate scientists say that climate change is happening and that humans have made it so, but only four in ten Americans realize it’s true. According to a new study in the journal Public Understanding of Science, written by a team that includes Yale University’s Anthony Leiserowitz, the more that people listen to conservative media like Fox News or Limbaugh, the less sure they are that global warming is real. And even worse, the less they trust science.

Such ignorance will kill democracy as surely as the big money that funds and encourages the media outlets, parties and individuals who spew the lies and hate. The ground is all too fertile for those who will only believe whatever best fits their resentment or particular brand of paranoia. It is, as an old song lyric goes, “the self-deception that believes the lie.” The truth will set us free; the lie will make prisoners of us all.

This piece was reprinted by Truthout with permission or license.