Monday, November 15, 2010

Obama Administration Stunned Human Rights Groups

"Obama’s memorandum may look jarring on paper, but it’s grimly consistent with Washington’s agenda of waging war indefinitely, without boundaries, against an enemy we can no longer really define. The U.S. supports warfare that uses children as weapons, warfare that kills civilian children indiscriminately, warfare that ultimately sends our own children to perish on foreign soil. And so America marches on in a world of conflict where the first casualty is innocence itself."

White House Says Child Soldiers Are Ok, if They Fight Terrorists

by Michelle Chen

“You cannot be completely happy with all these wounds—both in your body and in your mind.” —15 year-old child soldier

The phenomenon of child soldiers, like genocide, slavery and torture, seems like one of those crimes that no nation could legitimately defend. Yet the Obama administration just decided to leave countless kids stranded on some of the world’s bloodiest battlegrounds.

The administration stunned human rights groups last month by sidestepping a commitment to help countries curb the military exploitation of children. Josh Rogin at Foreign Policy reported that President Obama issued a presidential memorandum granting waivers from the Child Soldiers Prevention Act to four countries: Chad, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Sudan and Yemen. The memo instructed Secretary of State Hilary Clinton that it is in our “national interest” to continue extending military aid to those countries, despite their failure to comply with the rules Congress passed and George W. Bush signed in 2008.

A thumbs-up for child soldiers from the pen of President Obama? Whitehouse spokesperson P.J. Crowley explained it was a strategic decision to ease the 2008 law. The rationale is that on balance, it’s more effective for the U.S. to keep providing military assistance that will help countries gradually evolve out of the practice of marshaling kids to the battlefield, rather than isolating them.

According to the Christian Science Monitor, Crowley argued, “These countries have put the right policies in place… but are struggling to correctly implement them.” The New York Times reported that administration spokespeople also cited the countries’ crucial role in global counter-terrorism efforts.

Strategically granting certain countries a pass on child rights reflects Washington’s warped attitude toward the global human rights regime. The U.S. has failed to ratify, or simply ignored, numerous human rights protocols, and our ratification of the Convention on the Rights of the Child has languished. Human Rights Watch points out, “Only the United States and Somalia, which has no functioning national government, have failed to ratify the treaty.” (Although we did ratify two optional protocols in 2002, relating to child soldiers and other forms of exploitation.)

Somalia, by the way, is one of just two countries that the White House allowed to be sanctioned under the 2008 law; the second was Burma. Presumably this is because Somalia is not receiving direct military funding, reports the Monitor. Yet the U.S. continues to support Somali government forces as they fight Islamic insurgents—with the help of a large force of child soldiers. (To their credit, Somalia has at least promised the U.N. they”ll stop arming kids eventually, according to the Washington Post).

Maybe you could argue that the U.S. is so “advanced” it needn’t bother with rules about children’s rights to education and whatnot. Obama’s waivers might be seen as realpolitik in areas like Yemen, whose military we support as part of our sprawling counter-terrorism operations. But the bottom line is that the administration has carved out an exception to a law intended to ethically guide the flow of U.S. aid money around the world.

According to the Coalition to Stop the Use of Child Soldiers, which holds America to the same scrutiny that countries like Uganda and DRC routinely face in the media, we benefit indirectly and directly from the exploitation of child fighters:

In 2006 the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) registered 59 children in detention during 16 visits to five places of detention or internment controlled by the USA or the UK in Iraq. US soldiers stationed at the detention centres and former detainees described abuses against child detainees, including the rape of a 15-year-old boy at Abu Ghraib, Iraq, forced nudity, stress positions, beating and the use of dogs. Following US troop increases in Iraq in early 2007, US military arrests of children there rose from an average of 25 per month in 2006 to an average of 100 per month. Military officials reported that 828 were children held at Camp Cropper by mid-September, including children as young as 11. A 17-year-old was reportedly strangled by a fellow detainee in early 2007. In August 2007 the USA opened Dar al-Hikmah, a non-residential facility intended to provide education services to 600 detainees aged 11-17 pending release or transfer to Iraqi custody. US military officials excluded an estimated 100 children from participation in the program, apparently on the grounds that they were “extremists” and “beyond redemption”.

Omar Khadr, the young Canadian detainee at Guantanamo Bay, remains trapped in a Kafkaesque quasi-judicial system without regard to the fact that he was a child when captured. Rights advocates like Monia Mazigh in Ottowa have called for Khadr to be recognized as a child soldier, but the administration seems to think securing a conviction in Kangaroo Court takes precedence over international law. And because Khadr, like the other Gitmo prisoners, is identified with that faceless dark horde the U.S. has branded “terrorists,” Americans aren’t even inclined to see him as a human being, let alone as a juvenile soldier deserving of sympathy.

So America’s hypocrisy on children in war has many layers. Obama condemns the practice in theory, then undermines federal law by issuing waivers for our partners in Africa and the Middle East. And of course, Washington sees no problem with punishing child soldiers as adults when they’re aligned with the terrorists who are bent on destroying America.

UN Treaties alone obviously won’t demobilize all the world’s child soldiers, but their main role is to put down a legal placeholder. And it’s that moral guidepost that the U.S. undermines every time it waives parallel U.S. laws based on the “national interest.”

Obama’s memorandum may look jarring on paper, but it’s grimly consistent with Washington’s agenda of waging war indefinitely, without boundaries, against an enemy we can no longer really define. The U.S. supports warfare that uses children as weapons, warfare that kills civilian children indiscriminately, warfare that ultimately sends our own children to perish on foreign soil. And so America marches on in a world of conflict where the first casualty is innocence itself.

Sunday, November 14, 2010


Photo by Damon Winter
Yesterday, Frank Rich, a columnist for the New York Times, wrote an opinion piece dealing with one of the biggest problems that we are currently faced with in this country and one that is grabbing a lot of headline attention - the Bush Tax Cuts and the corporate gurus who are really running this country.

As it appears that President Obama is waffling yet again in an effort to appease the right-wing elements of Congress, and signaling some sort of "compromise" on extending these tax cuts, many of us are becoming more and more incensed by his wishy-washy, mamby-pamby performance.

Frank Rich, questions who, then, will stand up against those who represent the upper echelon of the out-of-control economic ladder:

The wealthy Americans we should worry about instead are the ones who implicitly won the election — those who take far more from America than they give back. They were not on the ballot, and most of them are not household names. Unlike Whitman and the other defeated self-financing candidates, they are all but certain to cash in on the Nov. 2 results. There’s no one in Washington in either party with the fortitude to try to stop them from grabbing anything that’s not nailed down.

The Americans I’m talking about are not just those shadowy anonymous corporate campaign contributors who flooded this campaign. No less triumphant were those individuals at the apex of the economic pyramid — the superrich who have gotten spectacularly richer over the last four decades while their fellow citizens either treaded water or lost ground. The top 1 percent of American earners took in 23.5 percent of the nation’s pretax income in 2007 — up from less than 9 percent in 1976. During the boom years of 2002 to 2007, that top 1 percent’s pretax income increased an extraordinary 10 percent every year. But the boom proved an exclusive affair: in that same period, the median income for non-elderly American households went down and the poverty rate rose.

More here...



Saturday, November 13, 2010

HE'S....BACK...hopefully not for long

(Image: Lance Page / t r u t h o u t; Adapted: Eric Draper, John Ott,
Dirk Wüstenhagen)
A Small Fraction of a Man

Saturday 13 November 2010
by: William Rivers Pitt

George W. Bush was all over my television this past week, all over the newspapers, and the feelings inspired by his sudden reappearance are almost beyond my capacity to describe. There was the story about his hearty approval of waterboarding. There was the story that had him contemplating dropping Dick Cheney from the administration. There was the story that had him describing himself as a "dissenter" on the Iraq invasion. He did interviews, and excerpts of his new book dribbled out, and it was all too much to endure.

This is the guy, I thought to myself when I saw his face or heard his voice. This is the guy.

This is the guy who took a massive Clinton administration budget surplus and gave it away to his friends at the top of the tax bracket, a move that laid the groundwork for our current economic calamity.

This is the guy who breezed past a pointed warning about Osama bin Laden, terrorism and airplanes on August 8, 2001, because he was on vacation and couldn't be bothered.

This is the guy who parlayed that massive failure into a constant goad of fear to be wielded with impunity against the people he purported to lead. Plastic sheeting and duct tape, anthrax under your pillow, and of course, weapons of mass destruction in Iraq.

This is the guy who, not even a month after the Towers came down, looked into a television camera and said, "We need to counter the shockwave of the evildoer by having individual rate cuts accelerated and by thinking about tax rebates."

Oh yes, this is the guy who stood before the American people in January of 2003 and proclaimed that Iraq was in possession of 26,000 liters of anthrax, 38,000 liters of botulinum toxin, 500 tons of sarin, mustard and VX gas, mobile biological weapons labs, uranium from Niger for use in a "robust" nuclear weapons programs, and that Iraq enjoyed connections to al Qaeda that led directly to the attacks of September 11.

This was the guy who presided over the outing of a deep-cover CIA agent after her husband had the temerity to call him a liar in the public prints. That agent was running a network for the purpose of thwarting any person or group that might try to deliver weapons of mass destruction to terrorists.

This is the guy who strutted like a bantam rooster under a banner reading "Mission Accomplished," bragging about the end of a war that was to grind on for seven more years, and grinds on even to this day, and tomorrow, and tomorrow, and tomorrow.

This is the guy who said "Bring it on" and put a target on the backs of tens of thousands of US troops. This is the guy who is personally responsible for the death and injury of hundreds of thousands of innocent human beings. The body count from his administration is breathtaking in size and scope.

This is the guy who allowed the intelligence services of this nation to violate the Constitutional rights of its citizens in a way never seen before.

This is the guy who turned the entire world against America after that same world embraced us so completely after September 11. World leaders could not stand to be in the same room with him, and openly mocked him, thus humiliating us all.

This is the guy who literally fiddled while Hurricane Katrina devoured the city of New Orleans.

This guy actually said he considered dropping Cheney from the administration? It would be comic if it were not so pointedly fraudulent. Cheney ran the government, ran roughshod over every right he found meddlesome, and Bush sat by and let him do it with that same simpering smirk on his face.

This is the guy who set stem cell research back more than a decade because of his overarching fealty to "snowflake babies" over living, breathing, suffering people.

This is the guy who unleashed all the horrors of the torture chamber because the lawyers said it was OK. If the president does it, it's not illegal, right? Nixon came up with that line, but this is the guy who took it farther than it has ever been taken before.

This is the guy, and now he's back on my television again, and it makes me want to eat my own teeth. I endured him for eight long, brutal years, and have often thought since that no matter how bad things get - and they have, indeed, gotten pretty damned bad - I don't have to endure his face or his voice or his abject serial failures anymore.

But now he's back, and it is like returning to a nightmare.

I don't know what this George W. Bush Reputation Rehabilitation Tour will actually accomplish in the end. The same 20% of the country that kept his approval ratings from slipping into single digits - said group now being known as the "Tea Party" - will go out and buy his book. They will lap up his mealy-mouthed pabulum like cats into the cream, and some of our "mainstream" commentators will try to shoehorn the idea that he is missed into the national conversation.

He is not. George W. Bush was, and likely will forever be, the single worst American president in the nation's history. To outstrip his remarkable record of failure, criminality and disgrace, a future president will have to personally cause the Earth to crash into the sun.

All I can do for now is avoid the TV, stay away from the newspapers, and pray to God on High that this small fraction of a man will soon retreat back into the ignominy from which he has emerged. There is no salvaging him, and thanks to him, there may be no salvaging America in his aftermath.

We are all children of this bastard fool now. The least he can do is stay in the shadows where he belongs, while we toil and sweat to repair what he wrought

Monday, November 08, 2010

Nooses Are A No-No - Goodbye Daniel

Department of Justice

Office of Public Affairs


Monday, November 8, 2010

Oregon Man Sentenced for Threatening Lima, Ohio, Civil Rights Leader by Mailing Noose

Daniel Lee Jones
 WASHINGTON - Daniel Lee Jones, a Portland, Ore., white supremacist, was sentenced today to 18 months in prison and three years supervised release for threatening the president of the Lima, Ohio, chapter of the NAACP by mailing him a noose. Jones entered a guilty plea on May 17, 2010, to using the U.S. Postal Service to send a threatening communication.

In the plea agreement, Jones admitted to mailing F.M. Jason Upthegrove a hangman’s noose, which arrived at Mr. Upthegrove’s home on or about Feb. 14, 2008. Jones stated in the plea agreement that he mailed the hangman’s noose in order to convey a threat to Mr. Upthegrove because he was an African-American who publicly advocated for better police services for African-Americans in Lima, Ohio. The indictment indicated that Mr. Upthegrove also spoke out in the media against Jones’s white supremacist group’s mailing of hate flyers related to the shooting of an African American woman by a member of the Lima Police Department.

"A noose, an unmistakable symbol of hatred in this nation, was used by this defendant as a threat of violence aimed at silencing a civil rights advocate," said Thomas E. Perez, Assistant Attorney General of the Civil Rights Division. "The Department of Justice will vigorously prosecute those who use threats of violence to attempt to silence proponents of racial equality."

"We will not tolerate those who use threats of violence, such as by mailing a noose, to intimidate individuals who are advocating for racial equality," said U.S. Attorney for the Northern District of Ohio Steven M. Dettelbach.

The case was investigated by Special Agent Brian Russ of the FBI, and the prosecution was handled by Assistant U.S. Attorney David Bauer from the U.S. Attorney’s Office, and Special Legal Counsel Barry Kowalski and Trial Attorney Shan Patel from the Civil Rights Division of the U.S. Department of Justice.

Wednesday, November 03, 2010

An Open Letter To The White Right On The Occasion of Your Recent Successful Temper Tantrum

An Open Letter to the White Right, On the Occasion of Your Recent, Successful Temper Tantrum
By Tim Wise

Posted on November 3, 2010

For all y’all rich folks, enjoy that champagne, or whatever fancy ass Scotch you drink.

And for y’all a bit lower on the economic scale, enjoy your Pabst Blue Ribbon, or whatever shitty ass beer you favor.

Whatever the case, and whatever your economic station, know this…

You need to drink up.

And quickly.

And heavily.

Because your time is limited.

Real damned limited.

So party while you can, but mind the increasingly loud clock ticking away in the corners of your consciousness.

The clock that reminds you how little time you and yours have left.

Not much more now.

Tick, tock.

Tick, tock.



I know, you think you’ve taken “your country back” with this election — and of course you have always thought it was yours for the taking, cuz that’s what we white folks are bred to believe, that it’s ours, and how dare anyone else say otherwise — but you are wrong.

You have won a small battle in a larger war the meaning of which you do not remotely understand.

‘Cuz there is nothing even slightly original about you.

There have always been those who wanted to take the country back.

There were those who, in past years, wanted to take the country back to a time of enslavement and indentured servitude.

But they lost.

There were those who wanted to take us back to a time when children could be made to work in mines and factories, when workers had no legal rights to speak of, when the skies in every major city were heavy with industrial soot that would gather on sidewalks and windowsills like volcanic ash.

But they lost.

There were those who wanted to take us back to a time when women could not vote, or attend any but a few colleges, or get loans in their own names, or start their own businesses.

But they lost.

There were those who wanted to take us back to a time when blacks “had no rights that the white man was bound to respect,” – this being the official opinion of the Supreme Court before those awful days of judicial activism, now decried by the likes of you – and when people of color could legally be kept from voting solely because of race, or holding certain jobs, or living in certain neighborhoods, or run out of other towns altogether when the sun would go down, or be strung up from trees.

But they lost.

And you will lose.

So make a note of it.

Tweet it to yourself.

Put it on your Facebook wall and leave it there so you’ll remember that I told you so.

It is coming, and soon.

This isn’t hubris. It isn’t ideology. It is not wishful thinking.

It is math.

Not even advanced math. Just simple, basic, like 3rd grade math.

The kind of math that proves how your kind — mostly older white folks beholden to an absurd, inaccurate, nostalgic fantasy of what America used to be like — are dying.

You’re like the bad guy in every horror movie ever made, who gets shot five times, or stabbed ten, or blown up twice, and who will eventually pass — even if it takes four sequels to make it happen — but who in the meantime keeps coming back around, grabbing at our ankles as we walk by, we having been mistakenly convinced that you were finally dead this time.

Fair enough, and have at it. But remember how this movie ends.

Our ankles survive.

You do not.

Michael Meyers, Freddie Kreuger, Jason, and that asshole husband in that movie with Julia Roberts who tracks her down after she runs away and changes her identity–they are all done. Even that crazy fucker in Saw is about to be finished off for good. Granted, he’s gonna be popping out in some 3-D shit to scare the kiddies, so he isn’t going quietly. But he’s going, as all bad guys eventually do.

And in the pantheon of American history, old white people have pretty much always been the bad guys, the keepers of the hegemonic and reactionary flame, the folks unwilling to share the category of American with others on equal terms.

Fine, keep it up. It doesn’t matter.

Because you’re on the endangered list.

And unlike, say, the bald eagle or some exotic species of muskrat, you are not worth saving.

In forty years or so, maybe fewer, there won’t be any more white people around who actually remember that Leave it to Beaver, Father Knows Best, Opie-Taylor-Down-at-the-Fishing Hole cornpone bullshit that you hold so near and dear to your heart.

There won’t be any more white folks around who think the 1950s were the good old days, because there won’t be any more white folks around who actually remember them, and so therefore, we’ll be able to teach about them accurately and honestly, without hurting your precious feelings, or those of the so-called “greatest generation” — a bunch whose white members were by and large a gaggle of miscreants who helped save the world from fascism only to return home and oppose the ending of it here, by doing nothing to lift a finger on behalf of the civil rights struggle.

So to hell with you and all who revere you.

By then, half the country will be black or brown. And there is nothing you can do about it.

Nothing, Senõr Tancredo.

Nothing, Senõra Angle, or Senõra Brewer, or Senõr Beck.

Loy tiene muy mal, hijo de Puta.

And by then you will have gone all in as a white nationalist movement — hell you’ve all but done that now — thus guaranteeing that the folks of color, and even a decent size minority of us white folks will be able to crush you, election after election, from the Presidency on down to the 8th grade student council.

Like I said, this shit is math, baby. And numbers don’t lie.

Bottom line, this too shall pass.

So enjoy your tax cuts a while longer.

Go buy whatever you people buy when your taxes get cut: a new car or two, a bigger house, an island. Whatever.

Go back to trading your derivatives, engaging in rampant financial speculation that produces nothing of value, that turns the whole world into your personal casino. Whatever.

Play your hand, and for the love of God play it big. Real big. As in, shoot for the moon big. As in, try to privatize Social Security, and health care, and everything else. Whatever.

At least that way everyone will be able to see what you’re really about.

We’ve been trying to tell them, but nothing beats seeing it with your own eyes, so “Go big or go home,” Bubba.

“Git ‘er Done.”

“Cowboy up,” or whatever other stupid-ass catch phrase strikes your fancy.

Just promise you’ll do more than talk this time.

Please, or as one of your celluloid heroes might put it, “make my day.”

Do whatever you gotta do, but remember that those who are the victims of your greed and indifference take the long view.

They know, but you do not, that justice is not for the sprinters, but rather for the long distance runners who will be hitting their second wind, right about the time that you collapse from exhaustion.

They are like the tortoise to your hare.

They are like the San Francisco Giants, to your New York Yankees: a bunch that loses year after year after year, until they finally win.

You have had this confidence before, remember?

You thought you had secured your position permanently after the overthrow of reconstruction in the wake of the civil war, after the elimination of the New Deal, after the Reagan revolution, after the Republican electoral victory of 1994. And yet, they who refuse to die are still here.

Because those who have lived on the margins, who have been abused, maligned, targeted by austerity measures and budget cuts, subjected to racism, classism, sexism, straight supremacy and every other form of oppression always know more about their abusers than the abusers know about their victims.

They have to study you, to pay careful attention, to adjust their body armor accordingly, and to memorize your sleep patterns.

You, on the other hand, need know nothing whatsoever about them. And this, will surely prove fatal to you in the end. For it means you will not know their resolve. Will not fear it, as you should.

It means you will take their greatest strength — perseverance — and make of it a weakness, called losing.

But what you forget, or more to the point never knew, is that those who lose know how to lose, which is to say they know how to lose with dignity.

And those who suffer know how to suffer, which is to say they know how to survive: a skill that is in short supply amid the likes of you.

You, who could not survive the thought of minimal health care reform, or financial regulation, or a marginal tax rate equal to that which you paid just 10 years earlier, perhaps are under the illusion that everyone is as weak as you, as soft as you, as akin to petulant children as you are, as unable to cope with the smallest setback, the slightest challenge to the way you think your country should look and feel, and operate.

But, surprise…they are not.

And they know how to regroup, and plot, and plan, and they are planning even now — we are — your destruction.

And I do not mean by that your physical destruction. We don’t play those games. We’re not into the whole “Second Amendment remedies, militia, armed resistance” bullshit that your side fetishizes, cuz, see, we don’t have to be. We don’t need guns.

We just have to be patient.

And wait for your hearts to stop beating.

And stop they will.

And for some of you, real damned soon, truth be told.

Do you hear it?

The sound of your empire dying? Your nation, as you knew it, ending, permanently?

Because I do, and the sound of its demise is beautiful.

So know this.

If you thought this election was payback for 2008, remember…

Payback, thy name is…