Backtalk January 30, 2006

Unfathomed Dangers in PATRIOT Act Reauthorization

If people only knew that it’s a question of jurisdiction: a FEDERAL police force can only have jurisdiction over FEDERAL areas and territories. They do not (cannot) have jurisdiction in the states unless the states give over their jurisdiction. And I know that they (the feds) do not have jurisdiction over my private property – the Constitution says so.

What we need are classes in constitutional reality for the common sheeple, oops, people. Educate the masses and maybe, just maybe the federal grubberment will start behaving themselves. Then again, the Super Bowl is coming up, where’s my beer?

~ M.R. Ameye

Paul Craig Roberts replies:

M.R. is correct. However, the reauthorization language of the PATRIOT Act gives the uniformed secret service jurisdiction wherever a SENS or “special event of national significance” is declared. This can be anywhere. So the new federal police have jurisdiction wherever the president or secretary of Homeland Security wants them to have it. A number of readers have completely missed this point, stupidly telling me that there is already a uniformed Secret Service. Of course there is. What fool thinks a former assistant secretary of the Treasury doesn’t know that? The difference is that the jurisdiction of the existing uniformed secret service is very narrow.

On Monday night, I watched a program on PBS about John Adams and his relationship with Thomas Jefferson, and then I decided to go back and reread the Declaration of Independence. On Tuesday night, I read Paul Craig Roberts’ article about the secret police force authorized by the PATRIOT Act. The parallels were striking. Listen to these direct quotes from the Declaration of Independence, all accusations made against King George:

“He has made Judges dependent on his Will alone,
“He has erected a Multitude of new Offices, and sent hither Swarms of Officers to harass our People,
“He has affected to render the Military independent of and superior to the Civil Power.”

Jefferson then lists these additional grievances:

“For depriving us, in many Cases, of the Benefits of Trial by Jury,
“For transporting us beyond Seas to be tried for pretended offences,
“For quartering large Bodies of Armed Troops among us,
“For protecting them, by a mock Trial, from Punishment for any murders which they should commit on the Inhabitants of these states,
“For taking away our Charters, abolishing our most valuable laws, and altering fundamentally the Forms of our Government.”

Jefferson notes that King George “is, at this Time, transporting large Armies of foreign mercenaries to complete the Works of Death, Desolation and Tyranny, already begun with circumstances of Cruelty and Perfidy, scarcely paralleled in the most barbarous Ages, and totally unworthy of the head of a civilized nation.”

Jefferson concludes: “A Prince, whose Character is thus marked by every act which may define a Tyrant, is unfit to be the Ruler of a free People.” …

~ Bruce Hayman

Who Lied Us Into War? Ask George Tenet

Chris Moore’s analysis ignores the record that unequivocally tells us George W. Bush was planning to go to war in Iraq from the moment he was sworn into office. Secretary of Treasury Paul O’Neill’s book The Price of Loyalty makes that clear. Richard Clarke’s Against All Enemies corroborates O’Neill’s view. There was ample reason to doubt the Bush administration’s arguments for war made in 2002 and 2003. In the United States, large public demonstrations were made in protest against the coming war. A majority of Democrats in the House of Representatives voted against the joint resolution authorizing the use of force in Iraq. At the time, citizens and politicians who spoke the truth were vilified, and still are by conservative operatives and politicians. George Tenet may have lied to the president, but a lot of people lied to themselves. Articles such as “Who Lied Us Into War?” help perpetuate the lies.

Were the war in Iraq not such a terrible tragedy, I would be amused by the almost incandescent hypocrisy of conservatives who persist on seeking alternatives to the truth. A slim majority of voters made a choice in November 2004. A coalition of conservatives chose to keep George W. Bush in power. They cannot now complain about neoconservatives, or the policies of previous administrations, or the president’s “lack of intellectual curiosity and his lax habits of mind.” The conservative policy of preemptive war is responsible for the invasion of Iraq and conservative support of the Bush administration is what keeps the violence going in Iraq. When conservative voters start telling the truth to themselves and hold conservative politicians to account, the war in Iraq will end.

~ Tom McGrath, Lynchburg, Virginia

Chris Moore replies:

My article was by no means an attempt to exculpate Bush. However, if there was an organized conspiracy by his underlings to feed the president false information, Americans needs to know. An investigation of where the fixed intelligence originated will help us determine who is culpable for what. I believe questioning George Tenet is a good place to start.

While Mr. McGrath correctly notes that a “majority of Democrats in the House of Representatives voted against the joint resolution authorizing the use of force in Iraq,” he fails to record that a majority of Democrats in the U.S. Senate voted for the authorization, including standard-bearers Hillary Clinton, John Kerry, and Joseph Lieberman – none of whom have said they would change their vote had they known then what they know today. And while it’s true that 126 Democrats in the House voted against the resolution, 81 Democrats voted for it.

Mr. McGrath says “when conservative voters start telling the truth to themselves and hold conservative politicians to account, the war in Iraq will end.” I say when all voters start telling themselves the truth about the culture of deception and mercenary politics in Washington, D.C., not only will the Iraq war end, but future wars of choice will be prevented as well.

It takes bipartisan moral corruption to deceive a country into war, and it will take a bipartisan congressional cleansing to see to it that the wrongdoers are either brought to justice or thrown out on their ears.

There is another possibility, that George Tenet gave the same information to Bush and to Dearlove. According to Woodward, Bush asked before the slam-dunk comment, “Is this all you got?” Bush chose to interpret it or accept it as a slam-dunk, which is the term Tenet used. You can call it Bush’s lax mental habits, but I would call it intellectual dishonesty. Not a far cry from lying.

Richard Dearlove received the same information, including the same enthusiastic characterization. Dearlove, not given to mental laziness, saw the intel for what it was: A paste-up job that was being fixed around the decision to invade Iraq. Not a tough feat of deduction for the head of British intelligence.

~ Mitch Schapira

Chris Moore replies:

Mr. Schapira’s enthusiasm for Dearlove’s IQ should be tempered by the fact that the head of British “intelligence” didn’t have the brains to insist to his prime minister that the British people not be taken to war on “a paste-up job” – AKA, a pack of lies.

Iraq: The End Is Not Near

Re your article “Iraq: The End Is Not Near”: You bet it ain’t. With global oil reserves running out completely in about 35 years, 50 at the most, and with Iraq sitting on the third biggest reserve in the world, the chances of the U.S. withdrawing from Iraq are just about zero.

Massive, futuristic, and totally self-sufficient bases (home away from home – cinemas, malls, etc.) are already at an advanced stage of construction. These bases are known as “enduring” bases, and all future military operations (and there will be many – mostly air attacks) will be conducted from these centers. Even if the insurgency is successful in sabotaging oil production (which it largely is), as long as the U.S. is in Iraq ensconced in their enduring bases, they will make sure that no one else gets it. As long as the oil is in the ground, it’s not going anywhere, and as long as it’s there, neither are the Americans.

Anyone who believes that America intends to leave Iraq at some point fails to understand why they invaded in the first place.

~ Bill Evans, UK

Leon Hadar replies:

Dear Mr. Evans:

At first I thought that one of my favorite jazz musicians is reading my articles. … I think you make good points. After all, we’re still in Korea, Japan, Germany, etc. But I’m still a believer in American democracy, and I do think that when costs rise there will be public pressure on Washington to disengage from Iraq and the Middle East. Remember that we aren’t in Vietnam.

A Challenge That Cannot Be Ignored

Dr. Roberts,

I share your indignation, and I do not believe there can be a benign cause for the silence of not only the mainstream media, but the “opposition” party as well.

It seems obvious that the NSA, and likely other intelligence resources, as well as the IRS and any other handy resource of the federal government, has been used to gather info about whomever is believed by the Bush administration to be an enemy of its policies – at home and abroad. It’s quite possible that the flip side of this scandal is that a portion of the intelligence gathered has been used to blackmail the media and Dems into silence.

How else to explain the virtual non-coverage of Vice President Gore’s recent speech castigating Bush and his administration – and the Dems rolling over in the face of the “Unitary Presidency” on Iraq, taxes, civil liberties, etc.? And both media and Dems ignoring that the majority of Americans are anti the administration’s position on all the big issues. The polls show – to quote Molly Ivins’ recent column:

“The majority of the American people (55 percent) think the war in Iraq is a mistake and that we should get out. The majority (65 percent) of the American people want single-payer health care and are willing to pay more taxes to get it. The majority (86 percent) of the American people favor raising the minimum wage. The majority of the American people (60 percent) favor repealing Bush’s tax cuts, or at least those that go only to the rich. The majority (66 percent) wants to reduce the deficit not by cutting domestic spending, but by reducing Pentagon spending or raising taxes.

“The majority (77 percent) thinks we should do ‘whatever it takes’ to protect the environment. The majority (87 percent) thinks big oil companies are gouging consumers and would support a windfall profits tax. That is the center….”

And as noted in the Vermont Guardian, a recent:

“[Z]ogby International poll found that 52 percent of respondents agreed with the statement: ‘If President Bush wiretapped American citizens without the approval of a judge, do you agree or disagree that Congress should consider holding him accountable through impeachment?’

“Of those contacted, 43 percent disagreed, and 6 percent said they didn’t know or declined to answer. The poll has a margin of error of 2.9 percent.”

What – other than blackmail, explains an “opposition party” and a “free press” acquiescing to the suppression of such potent facts? Facts that show the administration acting directly counter to the will of the people – to the extent that half the nation believes impeachment should be a topic of serious discussion.

The Gore speech non-story is just the latest evidence that something is wrong. How would you explain such widespread negligence?

~ Richard C. Skidmore

Paul Craig Roberts replies:

I agree with Mr. Skidmore that the most obvious explanation for the Bush administration’s decision to violate the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act and to spy without warrants is that the spying is not for legitimate reasons and would not be approved by the secret FISA court. There is no reason whatsoever for the Bush administration to disobey a law that in no way hinders legitimate spying that could be justified to a court. The FISA court has never refused warrants for legitimate spying. The only conclusion is that Bush has been illegally spying for blackmail reasons. Mr. Skidmore is right that blackmail would explain the complete disappearance of an opposition political party and a free press.

‘We Must All Be Prepared to Torture’

This is one of the best examples of what I would call “positive sarcasm” that I have seen in a long time. Thanks, Fred.

I will keep it available to send to one of Canada’s newly elected members of Parliament, Michael Ignatieff, who, as you are probably aware, has himself contributed a great deal of sensitive and thoughtful commentary on the exact right kind of torture to inflict on the Enemies of Democracy.

Recently, during the election here, Ignatieff was met as he went into an all-candidates debate in his district by some of my friends dressed in orange overalls, kneeling with hoods over their heads in the pouring rain while others distributed explanatory leaflets to those who attended. Ignatieff said nothing at the time, but blamed it all on the New Democratic Party folks. (He was, as so often, mistaken.)

Ignatieff is rumored to be interested in contesting the now-vacant leadership of the Liberal Party. If he does, I have a strong feeling that he will again encounter some orange-jumpsuited, hooded people who regard his “lesser evil” reflections on torture as despicable and dangerous.

Thanks, and next time don’t forget Ignatieff!

~ Lee Zaslofsky

Spy With a Heart of Gold?

Dear Mr. Raimondo:

You wrote a very good article that cuts through the War Party propaganda surrounding the AIPAC spy case and shows how the Israelis and their U.S.-based assets (which includes many neocons) have from at least the late 1990s have been trying to foment hostilities between the U.S. and Iran (and, in the process, helped squander the golden opportunity the previous reformist government in Iran presented to improve U.S.-Iranian relations). …

In regard to the Khobar Towers bombing, the Israeli interest in this matter raises the possibility that there was an organized effort, inside and outside the U.S. government during the late 1990s and early 2000, to frame the Iranians for the bombing. The resources, intelligence-gathering capabilities, and technical expertise evident in the bombing seem beyond the capacities of the small Shi’ite group Saudi Hezbollah. How, for instance, did Saudi Hezbollah, which was probably under the surveillance of and infiltrated by the Saudi government, manage to smuggle into Saudi Arabia 3,000-5,000 pounds of explosives to use against the U.S. without anyone noticing? However, even in the mid- to late 1990s, it is not hard imagine that the Sunni (Wahhabi) group al-Qaeda would have had the necessary resources, intelligence-gathering capabilities, and technical expertise to pull off this bombing in the Saudi kingdom if they had the will to do so, and the 9/11 commission in fact has endorsed the notion that the Sunni (Wahhabi) group al-Qaeda was involved in the bombing.

In the June 2001 indictment by the U.S. government against alleged members of Saudi Hezbollah, you notice a few things. First, the U.S. apparently is relying a lot on foreign intelligence to support its case against the alleged members of Saudi Hezbollah. You have to wonder about the quality of this intelligence and whether some of the countries involved, such as Saudi Arabia, weren’t trying to scapegoat the Shi’ite group for the attack. Also, the U.S. actually interrogated very few of the individuals alleged to have been behind the bombing. One of those whom it did interrogate (voluntarily, I might add), Hani al-Sayegh, denied knowledge of the Khobar Towers attack and claimed Saudi Hezbollah and the Iranians were estranged at the time.

Also, consider the problem of motive. I can see the Iranians wanting to use Saudi Hezbollah to monitor U.S. military activities in Saudi Arabia, but what would the Iranians or Saudi Hezbollah gain from bombing Khobar Towers? Did Saudi Hezbollah or the Iranians really have a problem with Americans basing troops on the border of Saddam Hussein’s Iraq? The evidence, in fact, suggests the Iranians at least wanted us there during that time period as a check against their enemy Saddam Hussein. Also, if the Iranian or Saudi Hezbollah involvement in the bombing became known, all they could expect to get out of it was a Saudi government crackdown and/or U.S. retaliation. Thus, the only one with the clear motive to attack U.S. bases in Saudi Arabia at that time was al-Qaeda. And consider the fact that if Saudi Hezbollah was behind the Khobar Towers bombing, that after that attack, Saudi Hezbollah hasn’t been tied to any terrorist attacks, while al-Qaeda has emerged as the foremost scourge of the U.S.

~ GM

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