Majid Khan, a Pakistani citizen and a former legal resident of the United States, is accused of conspiring with Khalid Sheik Mohammed, the self-proclaimed mastermind of the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks, to conduct a series of follow-up operations in the United States. These included targeting underground gasoline storage tanks, according to the military.
As ZD30 racks up awards its not a bad thing to remind your people that it is nothing more than fiction! If you’re up for it – print out info like this and go to the theater to hand out to ticket buying dupes.
Via Global Research
On January 11, eleven years to the day after George W. Bush sent the first detainees to Guantanamo, the Oscar-nominated film Zero Dark Thirty is making its national debut. Zero Dark Thirty is disturbing for two reasons. First and foremost, it leaves the viewer with the erroneous impression that torture helped the CIA find bin Laden’s hiding place in Pakistan. Secondarily, it ignores both the illegality and immorality of using torture as an interrogation tool.
The thriller opens with the words “based on first-hand accounts of actual events.” After showing footage of the horrific 9/11 attacks, it moves into a graphic and lengthy depiction of torture. The detainee “Ammar” is subjected to waterboarding, stress positions, sleep deprivation, and confined in a small box. Responding to the torture, he divulges the name of the courier who ultimately leads the CIA to bin Laden’s location and assassination. It may be good theater, but it is inaccurate and misleading.
The statement “based on first-hand accounts of actual events” is deceptive because it causes the viewer think the story is accurate. All it really means, however, is that the CIA provided Hollywood with information about events depicted in the movie. Acting CIA Director Michael Morrell wrote a letter to the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence in which he admitted the CIA engaged extensively with the filmmakers. After receiving his letter, Senators John McCain, Dianne Feinstein and Carl Levin requested information and documents related to the CIA’s cooperation.
The senators sent a letter to Morrell saying they were “concerned by the film’s clear implication that information obtained during or after the use of the CIA’s coercive interrogation techniques played a critical role in locating Usama Bin Laden (UBL).” They noted, “the film depicts CIA officers repeatedly torturing detainees. The film then credits CIA detainees subjected to coercive interrogation techniques as providing critical lead information on the courier that led to the UBL compound.” They state categorically: “this information is incorrect.”
The letter explains that after a review of more than six million pages of CIA records, Feinstein and Levin made the following determination:
The CIA did not first learn about the existence of the UBL courier from CIA detainees subjected to coercive interrogation techniques. Nor did the CIA discover the courier’s identity from CIA detainees subjected to coercive techniques. No CIA detainee reported on the courier’s full name or specific whereabouts, and no detainee identified the compound in which UBL was hidden. Instead, the CIA learned of the existence of the courier, his true name, and location through means unrelated to the CIA detention and interrogation program.
In a speech on the Senate floor, McCain declared, “It was not torture, or cruel, inhuman, and degrading treatment of detainees that got us the major leads that ultimately enabled our intelligence community to find Osama bin Laden.” McCain added: “In fact, not only did the use of ‘enhanced interrogation techniques’ on Khalid Sheik Mohammed not provide us with the key leads on bin Laden’s courier, Abu Ahmed; it actually produced false and misleading information.”
Many high-level interrogators, including Glenn L. Carle, Ali Soufan and Matthew Alexander, report that torture is actually ineffective and often interferes with the securing of actual intelligence. A 2006 study by the National Defense Intelligence College concluded that traditional, rapport-building interrogation techniques are very effective even with the most recalcitrant detainees, but coercive tactics create resistance.
Moreover, torture is counter-productive. An interrogator serving in Afghanistan told Forbes, “I cannot even count the amount of times that I personally have come face to face with detainees, who told me they were primarily motivated to do what they did, because of hearing that we committed torture . . . Torture committed by Americans in the past continues to kill Americans today.”
Torture is also illegal and immoral – important points that are ignored in Zero Dark Thirty. After witnessing the savage beating of a detainee at the beginning of the film, the beautiful heroine “Maya” says “I’m fine.” As he’s leaving Pakistan, Maya’s colleague Dan tells her, “You gotta be real careful with the detainees now. Politics are changing and you don’t want to be the last one holding the dog collar when the oversight committee comes.”
Torture is illegal in all circumstances. The Convention Against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment, a treaty the United States ratified which makes it part of U.S. law, states unequivocally: “No exceptional circumstances whatsoever, whether a state of war or a threat of war, internal political instability or any other public emergency, may be invoked as a justification of torture.” The prohibition of torture is absolute and unequivocal. Torture is never lawful.
Yet despite copious evidence of widespread torture and abuse during the Bush administration, and the Constitution’s mandate that the President enforce the laws, Obama refuses to hold the Bush officials and lawyers accountable for their law breaking.
Granting impunity to the torturers combined with propaganda films like Zero Dark Thirty, which may well win multiple Oscars, dilutes any meaningful public opposition to our government’s cruel interrogation techniques. Armed with full and accurate information, we must engage in an honest discourse about torture and abuse, and hold those who commit those illegal acts fully accountable.
Marjorie Cohn is a professor at Thomas Jefferson School of Law. Her most recent book is The United States and Torture: Interrogation, Incarceration, and Abuse.
Critics of President George W. Bush’s anti-terrorism efforts, mainly Democrats and some Republicans, rejoiced when Barack Obama was elected. They were convinced that what they considered the post-Sept. 11 trampling of constitutional rights and civil liberties would end.
As a candidate, Obama, a former constitutional law professor, promised to close the prison at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, as well as to end indefinite detention and the rendition of terrorism suspects to other countries, where they often were tortured. He also vowed greater accountability and transparency in the conduct of war.
Things look different today. In his new book, “Power and Constraint: The Accountable Presidency After 9/11,” Jack Goldsmith, a Harvard Law School professor who served in the Office of Legal Counsel under Bush and objected to some of that administration’s tactics, writes: “The Obama administration would continue almost all of its predecessor’s policies, transforming what had seemed extraordinary under the Bush regime into the ‘new normal’ of American counter-terrorism policy.” That seems only a slight exaggeration.
Goldsmith argues this largely reflects a self-correction on Obama’s part. The Bush administration’s anti-terrorism policies were excessive, reined in by the courts and Congress. His successor then overpromised in the other direction and was reined in by politics.
The Obama administration “strongly” disagrees with Goldsmith, says Tommy Vietor, a spokesman for the White House National Security Council. He points to achievements such as ending the war in Iraq, beginning to wind down the Afghanistan conflict, the “devastated” leadership of al-Qaeda, ending torture and modifying other post-Sept. 11 security policies.
Others contend the administration capitulated after it received political flak for wanting to close Guantanamo and try accused terrorists in civilian courts. There was a celebrated confrontation between the then-White House Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel, who argued these controversial promises were impeding Obama’s economic agenda, and the then-White House Counsel Gregory Craig, who made the civil-liberties and campaign- commitment case for change; Emanuel won, Craig later resigned.
More recently, some of the toughest criticism has come from the Constitution Project, a bipartisan group of experts.
“Obama has fulfilled some promises, not fulfilled many others, either because Congress made it impossible or they decided on their own not to change,” says Morton Halperin, a longtime liberal national security expert who is a senior adviser to the Open Society Foundations.
“Fundamentally, the policies are the same and in some ways Obama has extended the reach of government,” says David Keene, a veteran conservative activist. He was critical of Bush’s anti- terrorism policies, as were some Democrats, he notes, but they’re silent now.
In his first week in office, Obama pledged to close Guantanamo, issued an executive order banning torture and suspended military commissions. There was tremendous political blowback to his decision to close Guantanamo and move the accused terrorists to the U.S. or try suspects such as Khalid Sheikh Mohammed in U.S. courts. Congress ultimately cut off funding for any such actions.
Obama achieved some victories. He ended the torture practices of the Bush administration. The targeted killing of suspected terrorists, including Americans, with drone attacks isn’t a policy reversal: Obama had vowed to adopt that approach in 2008; he didn’t make clear that the attacks might be directed out of the White House.
He backed off on ending rendition — the policy of sending alleged terrorists to other countries for interrogation — insisting that the U.S. would ensure that torture is no longer practiced in the places they are sent and that their treatment is in accord with international laws. The administration also says it has curbed the excesses of indefinite detention without trial, which now requires judicial review.
Other observers see little change. Federal Judge Reggie Walton said Obama’s adjustments to military detention without trial represent “a minimal if not ephemeral” difference from the Bush position.
As a candidate, Obama promised transparency and openness. Yet this administration has brought more charges — six — for leaking information than all previous presidents combined.
“Openness and transparency doesn’t mean we’re OK with people breaking the law by leaking classified information that would harm our national security,” Vietor says.
The government is trying to force the New York Times reporter James Risen to testify as to whether a former CIA official, now on trial, was a source and leaked information about the Iranian nuclear program. In court filings it has been revealed that federal prosecutors obtained Risen’s telephone, bank and credit-card data and travel records.
A district court judge ruled against the government’s effort to force the reporter to reveal his confidential sources; the Obama administration is appealing that decision.
“In the campaign, Obama said Bush overreached in using state secrets,” Halperin says. This administration has “been worse.”
Vietor says the administration wouldn’t comment on a pending case.
On accountability, Obama assailed the Bush administration’s failure to heed the War Powers Act, requiring congressional authorization when the U.S. is engaged in foreign hostilities for more than several months. Candidate Obama, in a questionnaire for the Boston Globe in late 2007, vowed it would be different in his administration: “History has shown us time and time again,” he responded, “that military action is most successful when it is authorized by the legislative branch.”
The U.S.-led bombing attack on the regime of Libya’s Muammar Qaddafi began Feb. 17, 2011, and ended more than eight months later. The White House insisted Congress had no say, arguing that it was a NATO-led war and that U.S. ground forces weren’t involved. Senator James Webb, a Virginia Democrat, said this set “a very disturbing precedent” for the use of force in the age of drones and sophisticated air attacks.
In this political campaign, Obama probably won’t pay any price for these flip-flops. Bagging Osama bin Laden immunizes him from attacks on his conduct of the war on terror. The presumptive Republican presidential nominee, Mitt Romney, is in no position to criticize; he has suggested that as president he would reinstate the use of torture.
At issue is prosecuting five 9/11 suspects: Khalid Sheikh Mohammed (KSM: the alleged mastermind), Ramzi bin al-Shibh, Walid bin Attash, Ali Abdul Aziz Ali, and Mustafa al Hawsawi.
Defense lawyer James Connell announced a tentative May 2013 trial date. A scheduled one hasn’t been named. Army Brig. General Mark Martins expects months of defense motions delaying it.
“I am getting ready for hundreds of motions because we want them to shoot everything they can shoot at us,” he said.
On May 5, their Guantanamo arraignment was held. It took 13 hours. They remained mute. They refused to respond to alleged charges for good reason. Serious questions remain regarding their guilt, including KSM. More on why below.
On April 4, 2011, Attorney General Eric Holder said:
“In November 2009, I announced that (KSM) and four other individuals would stand trial in federal court for their roles in the” 9/11 attacks.”
“After consulting with prosecutors from the Department of Justice and Department of Defense and after thoroughly studying the case, it became clear to me that the best venue (was) federal court. I stand by that decision.”
Months of inaction let Congress “intervene and impose restrictions blocking the administration from bringing any Guantanamo detainees to trial in the United States, regardless of the venue.”
“(T)hose restrictions are unlikely to be repealed in the immediate future. And we simply cannot allow a trial to be delayed any longer….We must bring the conspirators to justice.”
On April 4, a Department of Justice press release headlined, “Justice Department Refers Five Accused 9/11 Plotters to Military Commissions,” saying:
“As the indictment unsealed today reveals, we were prepared to bring a powerful case against the 9/11 defendants in federal court, and had this case proceeded as planned, I’m confident our justice system would have” prevailed.
A 10 count, 80 page indictment accused them of:
- “conspiracy to commit acts of terrorism transcending national boundaries;
- acts of terrorism transcending national boundaries;
- conspiracy to commit violent acts and destroy aircraft;
- violence on and destruction of aircraft;
- conspiracy to commit aircraft piracy;
- aircraft piracy;
- murder of US officers and employees;
- destruction of property by means of fire and explosives; and
- conspiracy to kill Americans.”
At the time, ACLU Director Anthony Romero called Holder’s “flip-flop devastating for the rule of law.” Military commissions have no legitimacy. They’re kangaroo courts, not real ones.
The 2006 Military Commissions Act (MCA) authorized them. Congress enacted sweeping unconstitutional powers to detain, interrogate, and prosecute alleged suspects and collaborators (including US citizens).
They can be tortured and held without evidence (charged or uncharged) indefinitely in military prisons. Habeas and other constitutional protections are denied.
Those charged are guilty by accusation. Presidents have diktat power to try suspects in military commissions or detain them indefinitely uncharged. On March 1, 2003, KSM was arrested in Rawalpindi, Pakistan. Some believe it was a year earlier in Karachi.
Over 10 years later, his trial is tentatively scheduled to begin next year. It may be delayed further. Torture extracted evidence against him and co-defendants will be used. Throughout their detention, they were isolated with no counsel. KSM was horrifically treated.
He was isolated at black sites for over two years. He spent time at Afghanistan’s “Dark Prison” near Kabul International Airport. It’s infamous for its pitch darkness and brutalizing torture.
He was also held in a facility north of Kabul called the “Salt Pit.” One detainee was stripped naked and left chained to the floor in freezing temperatures to die.
In Afghanistan, KSM was hog-tied, stripped naked, hooded, and tortured. He was kept in a prolonged state of sensory deprivation for months. He was waterboarded over 180 times.
He was chained naked to a metal ring in his cell in a painful crouch in intense heat and extreme cold. He was also bombarded with deafening sounds round the clock for weeks.
He was thrown against walls forcefully. The procedure is called walling. At other times, he was suspended from the ceiling by his arms so his toes barely touched the ground.
He was beaten with electric cables and given electric shocks.
He was forced to endure a variety of stress positions for extended periods. Excruciating pain was inflicted.
In 2006, he was sent to Guantanamo where torture continued. His co-defendants received similar treatment. The ICRC said high-level detainees were repeatedly tortured. To extract a confession, KSM was told:
“We’re not going to kill you. But we’re going to take you to the brink of your death and back.”
After years of horrific torture, mistreatment, and deprivation, it’s astonishing he’s still alive to be tried. Doing so in military courts is scandalous. At issue is their illegitimacy. It’s also about using torture extracted evidence.
Torture is prohibited at all times, under all circumstances, with no allowed exceptions. Evidence so obtained is unreliable and inadmissible. Civil courts won’t allow it or shouldn’t.
According to MCA provisions, it’s permitted. Appeals are prohibited. Convictions are certain. Executions will follow. Justice will be denied. The real 9/11 co-conspirators remain free. They’re in charge of condemning innocent suspects to death.
Two earlier Supreme Court decisions ruled torture extracted evidence constitutionally inadmissible. In Brown v. Mississippi (February 1936), the court held:
“The rack and torture chamber may not be substituted for the witness stand.”
The ruling cited an earlier Fisher v. State (November 1926) High Court decision, stating:
“Coercing the supposed state’s criminals into confessions and using such confessions so coerced from them in trials has been the curse of all countries.”
“It was the chief iniquity, the crowing infamy of the Star Chamber (the notorious 15 – 17th century English court), and the Inquisition, and other similar institutions.”
“The Constitution recognized the evils that lay behind these practices and prohibited them in this country wherever the court is clearly satisfied such violations exist, (and) it will refuse to sanction such violations and will apply the corrective.”
In other words, confessions and alleged evidence obtained under torture are unreliable, suspect, and inadmissible. That was then. This is now. KSM and co-defendants face certain unjust convictions.
On May 5, they stayed silent for good reason. Some call their proceedings the “trial of the century.” Independent jurists call it a sham.
Defense lawyers raised issues of torture and mistreatment. Military judge Colonel James Pohl dismissed them. Also requests to wear civilian clothes was denied.
Attorney David Nevin said KSM won’t address the court. “I believe he’s deeply concerned about the fairness of the proceedings.”
Lawyers were told earlier they’re prohibited from raising torture accusations. They’re central to the case but can’t be introduced.
Nonetheless, Nevin asked Pohl whether KSM’s “treatment during incarceration, which consisted of torture, is appropriate mitigation” for lesser punishment. Pohl declined to answer.
Nevin also asked if he had “any experience with the issue of torture of prisoners?” Pohl refused to use the word torture. He said only that he’s been involved in detainee abuse cases after the Abu Ghraib scandal. Several low-level soldiers were prosecuted. Higher-ups ordering their behavior remain uncharged.
Bin Attash’s attorney, Cheryl Bormann, said her client was forcibly dragged from his cell to the hearing. Scars on his arms bear testimony. Bin Attash tried removing his shirt to show them. He was ordered to keep it on.
Al-Shibh was the only one to speak. He interrupted an exchange between his lawyer and Pohl with comments on Muammar Gaddafi. When Pohl told him to be quiet, he continued in broken English, saying:
“Maybe they will kill me and say I committed suicide. Maybe you are not going to see me any more. This is the way that we are treated in this camp.”
A handful of family members who lost loved ones on 9/11 were chosen by lottery to attend the proceedings. Those of defendants are considered non-persons. KSM and others are guilty before verdicts are rendered.
Long ago justice was compromised in US civil courts. Today, ordinary people haven’t a chance. Imagine what’s ahead for KSM and co-defendants. Executions will follow convictions.
Given what they’ve been through with no possibility of freedom, they may yearn for ending their long ordeal.
Between now and then, Washington will make it tough as possible on them. That’s how police states operate. On a global scale, America’s by far the worst.
Stephen Lendman lives in Chicago and can be reached at email@example.com.
His new book is titled “How Wall Street Fleeces America: Privatized Banking, Government Collusion and Class War”
Visit his blog site at sjlendman.blogspot.com and listen to cutting-edge discussions with distinguished guests on the Progressive Radio News Hour on the Progressive Radio Network Thursdays at 10AM US Central time and Saturdays and Sundays at noon. All programs are archived for easy listening.
Three years ago, I wrote an article in which I made some very specific predictions about the incoming Obama administration. I wrote the piece in the form of a letter to my pro-Obama friends and said that by the end of his term, Obama’s administration would not look very different from that of George W. Bush. I told them that if I was wrong about my predictions, I would re-think all of my beliefs about our political system and about politics generally, and if I turned out to be right, I asked them to do the same.
I don’t know if any of my friends took me up on my challenge – I’m guessing they didn’t, since I never heard from any of them about it. But I do know that many of them are disappointed in what Obama has done so far, and that many are feeling hopeless about the upcoming election, resigned to their belief that there is “no better alternative.” Incredibly, some of them plan to vote for Obama again.
It is for this reason that I would like to revisit those predictions I made three years ago. I still have nearly a year to go, but I think it is clear to anyone paying attention that Obama is not the pro-peace, pro-civil liberties candidate many of his supporters believed him to be. Nor is he going to “fix” the economy anytime soon. What may not be so clear though is that there is a better alternative. It also may not be clear that there is a way to support that alternative without sacrificing the option to vote for Obama in the general election.
So let’s look at those predictions. If we’re already on the same page about Obama’s presidency, then just skip this part and go to the last section of this article to read about the better alternative.
I confined my predictions to the areas where I believed my pro-Obama friends and I shared common ground: A desire to end our country’s wars of aggression around the world; A desire to see our basic civil liberties protected; and a desire to have a healthy economy. Here is what I wrote, and here’s what has happened:
At the end of Obama’s first four-year term:
- The US will still have an active military presence in Iraq.
Obama ended the war in Iraq, right? Not exactly. While the administration may have officially declared the war to be over (an interesting feat in itself as it was never declared to have begun in the first place), the US does indeed maintain an active military presence there. Several hundred military personnel will remain under the Office of Security Cooperation, the US has built an embassy the size of the Vatican, with 17,000 employees, and there are an estimated 3,500-5,000 private contractors who will be working with Iraqi security forces.
- The US will have attacked at least one more country that poses no direct threat to us. (I’m not even going to count his early air strikes on Pakistan.)
Libya. Yemen. Somalia.
- Military spending will have increased.
At the end of Bush’s term – a year that featured the “surge”, which made military expenditures unusually high, the US defense budget was $667 billion. At the end of 2011, the (estimated) defense budget was $708 billion. Even adjusted for inflation, this is an easy one.
Even more significant though, is that under Obama, war funding has also increased. While this figure did peak at $189.94 billion in Bush’s last year, dropping to $159.21 billion for 2009, total war expenditures under Bush were $625.41 billion, while in his first three years Obama has already spent $497.6 billion. He would have to bring war expenditures down below $127.81 billion for 2012 (from $169.7 billion in 2011) in order to come in a penny under the George Bush years.
4. US citizens will be no safer from terrorist attacks. I say this because I believe the (sadly all-too-accurate) perception of the US as an imperialist warmongering nation will persist. I realize this one is open to interpretation. I would just ask you to honestly ask yourselves at the end of these four years whether this is the case.
I say I got this one right too. But as I said, it’s open to interpretation.
It is perhaps in this area that it is easiest to see how perfectly seamless Obama’s administration has been with that of his predecessor. There are differences to be sure, but differences that are of importance only to policy wonks, not to the people who are suffering from and paying for the US’s interventionist foreign policies.
As a dramatic illustration of this cohesion, listen to this video of US General Wesley Clark (ret). Clark tells of a memo from the Secretary of Defense’s office in October of 2001, outlining a plan to attack and remove the governments of seven different countries in five years. The countries listed were Iraq, Syria, Lebanon, Lybia, Somalia, Sudan and finally Iran. Listen to General Clark and then try to tell yourself that President Obama is not simply continuing where the Bush administration left off.
- More than 1% of US adults will still be in prison. This number will very likely be even higher than it is today, and the black and Hispanic portion of that population will not have decreased by any significant amount.
As of August, 2011, the US prison population was an astonishing 2.4 million, or roughly 1.16% of the adult population, and the number of black and Hispanic prisoners remains wildly disproportionate to population ratios.
- We will still suffer from the kind of police abuse that is becoming more and more common: military-style raids on unarmed civilians in their homes; the shooting and tasering of unarmed citizens; and police and judicial corruption leading to the jailing of many more innocent people than can be acceptable under any system…
I think it’s hard to argue that these trends have in any way abated. If anything, law-enforcement has become more militarized, more turned against the people it is supposed to protect. If this is news to you, you might want to spend some time here or here catching up.
- “No-Fly” lists will still be in place, and there may even be more restrictions on travel.
What do I even need to say here? Full-body scanners? Officially sanctioned sexual molestation forced upon those who do not wish to submit themselves to the potential health risks and privacy violations of said scanners? Forcing a terminally ill cancer patient to remove her adult diaper in order to board her plane? Spilling a bladder cancer survivor’s urine all over him? Forcing a disabled six-year-old to take off his braces in order to walk through the metal detector? I would ask “how much worse can it get?” but I’m afraid I might find out.
- There will be more restrictions on gun ownership and the right to self-defense.
This one hasn’t yet come to pass. Second-Amendment activists insist that it will, but we’ll have to see.
- The police tactics and suppression of dissent at the 2012 RNC and DNC conventions will be just as brutal as they were in 2008.
We’ll see. But given the treatment of “Occupy” protesters around the country, and that Congress has just passed a law that would outlaw any protests near certain government officials – whether or not the protesters are even aware that the officials are there – I’m fairly confident this prediction will turn out to be accurate.
- Government surveillance of US citizens will continue…
Not only is the Obama administration intent on spying on US citizens, it has asked for legislation requiring all communications devices to allow “back-door” government access to private communications. It has also “…asked Congress that new and expanded power be given the FBI in accessing Internet customers’ records without first obtaining a court order if the agency views the information involves terrorism or intelligence issues.”
Writes Glenn Greenwald:
“What makes this trend all the more pernicious is that at exactly the same time that the Government is demanding greater and greater access to what you do and say, it is hiding its own conduct behind an always-higher and more impenetrable wall of secrecy. Everything you do and say must be accessible to them; you can have no secrets from them. But everything they do – including even criminal acts such as torture, assassinations and warrantless surveillance – is completely off-limits to you, deemed “state secrets” that not even courts can review in order to determine their legality.”
When I wrote my predictions for the Obama administration, I bent over backwards to give him every benefit of the doubt in the arena of civil liberties. I wrote:
“I have to admit that this is the one area where Obama’s presidency is already looking different from that of his predecessor. In his first few days in office, President Obama signed executive orders to 1) close Guantanamo within a year; 2) officially ban the use of torture in the military; 3) close the CIA-run secret prisons around the world; and 4) review detention policies and procedures and review individual detention cases. He has also suspended the military trials at Guantanamo for 120 days, and has acted to combat government secrecy. These are all good things and Obama is receiving well-deserved praise for them.”
I now feel like a fool for having written those words. Not only is Guantanamo still open, not only does torture and indefinite detention continue, not only is Government secrecy as bad or worse as under Bush but Obama has signed into law one of the most heinous pieces of legislation imaginable, the National Defense Authorization Act, granting the government the right to detain, indefinitely and without trial or charges, any American citizen. He has also claimed for himself the right to assassinate an American citizen, and has in fact carried out at least one such assassination – again without a trial or any charges being made.
I should really just stop here. The NDAA by itself makes the case that the Obama administration is at least as bad as the Bush administration. There’s nothing more I need to say. However since I did include a couple of predictions about the economy, let’s go there:
- The US will have massive inflation. The dollar will lose at least 50% of its value against most goods and services, and certainly against the goods and services most people use every day. This is a very conservative estimate. It will probably be much worse.
OK, this clearly hasn’t happened yet. And if it hasn’t happened before the end of Obama’s first term, I will admit I was wrong about this. However I still maintain that it will happen – and fairly soon.
This isn’t just some random prediction. Since the housing and stock market collapses of 2008, the government and the Federal Reserve have been pursuing even more inflationary policies than those that caused the problem in the first place. The graph below helps to illustrate the magnitude of just how much new money has been put into the economy through government stimulus and bailouts. This shows the level of excess reserves – reserves held above the required ratio to deposits. This excess is currently just sitting there – it has not yet been lent out. But when the banks start lending it out (and it looks like they are starting to), it will create massive inflation. (For a more scholarly understanding of how creating more money is inflationary, see this Scrooge McDuck cartoon.)
- Unemployment in the US will be worse than it is now. It will be at least in the double digits.
I should have been more specific with this one. The official unemployment rate in January of 2009 was 7.8%. It is now 8.3%. So I got the first part of this right. I’ll concede the second part, but not because unemployment isn’t in the double digits – it actually is. Official unemployment measurements do not include either short-term or long-term “discouraged workers”, nor do they include those who work part-time because they cannot find full-time work. Once you include these groups, the current rate of unemployment is around 22%, putting it in the double digits. But real unemployment was already in the double digits back when I made this prediction, at around 16.5%. So I say that I got the first part of this right but not the second.
As a relevant aside: In promoting its 2009 stimulus plan, the Obama administration made the claim that without the stimulus, unemployment would rise. It presented a graph to illustrate its projections for just how bad unemployment would get unless government spent hundreds of billions of dollars stimulating the economy. Well, government DID spend hundreds of billions of dollars stimulating the economy and guess what? The unemployment rate rose even higher than the government’s worst-case scenario projections (see graph).
So what? There’s no better alternative to Obama.
When Obama passed the NDAA bill, it gave me chills. Not because of the terrifying implications of the bill itself, but because I really believed he might veto it – not on the grounds he had stated when he threatened to, but in order to placate those of his supporters who are rightly concerned about the erosion of civil liberties. When he did not, I realized – more clearly than I ever had before – that he feels no need to placate anyone.
This fact was driven home to me when I spoke with some of my friends who had supported Obama in ’08 and were disappointed with what they’ve seen so far. One said to me that despite her disappointment, she was probably going to vote for him again because she feared it would be “worse” with whoever the Republican nominee was. I have come to realize that, for those who are immersed in the two-party system and who truly believe there is a difference between Republican and Democrat, there is literally nothing their candidate can do that will cause them to withdraw their support. Like a battered spouse who simply can’t imagine anything better than what they’ve got, they cling to their man because they believe that the other side can always produce something worse.
The truth is that we live in a one-party state. And until more people come to realize this and to reject the Party’s rule over their lives, its grip will just continue to tighten. So it probably seems odd that I’m going to recommend that you vote, and even odder that I ask you to vote for a Republican candidate. But I am.
Ron Paul has a thirty-plus year history of opposing aggressive wars, violations of personal freedom and the government spending and monetary policy that are now bankrupting our country. He also has a thirty-plus year record of keeping his word and voting his conscience, which is more than I can say for any other politician.
Maybe you don’t want to vote for Ron Paul because you object to some of his policy views. I think writer Anna O. Morgenstern addressed this concern quite well when she said:
“…if you’re going to slag off on Ron Paul for his (admittedly flawed) domestic policy views, then you’re sort of missing the point. His main appeal is that he’s the only anti-war candidate, and the war(s) are one of the few things that are directly under a president’s control. So if you vote for someone else, you’re basically saying “I’m willing to sacrifice innocent foreigners to have a better domestic policy”.
And keep in mind that under Obama, or for any of the establishment candidates, “a better domestic policy” includes a massive transfer of wealth from ordinary Americans to big financial corporations, arresting and jailing people indefinitely without charging them, and maintaining the highest prison population in the world.
The best part about what I’m suggesting though is that you don’t have to give up your option to vote for Obama in the presidential election in order to support Ron Paul. You can vote for Ron Paul in the Republican primaries (which are going on right now) help him to win the Republican nomination, and in no way be bound to vote for him in the general election. Should he not win the nomination, or should you just decide in November that you still prefer Obama, you can still vote for Obama. But think about it: A presidential race between Barack Obama and Ron Paul. Would you really choose Obama? If yes, I’d really like to know why.
Tomorrow is Super Tuesday. There are ten primaries and caucuses, eight of which are open or “semi-open”, meaning that you don’t have to register Republican in order to vote. (To find out whether your state has open or closed primaries, go here.) If you live in one of the Super Tuesday states, please think about going out and voting for Ron Paul. And please ask everyone you know to do the same.
When I made my predictions three years ago, I wrote:
“For years, I have said that real progress towards peace, freedom and respect for individual rights cannot come from working within the very system that sustains itself through war and the expansion of state power over people’s lives. If in fact the Obama administration does herald great and significant change in these areas that we agree upon, then I promise to rethink these beliefs… If I am wrong about this, then I promise to re-think everything. But if I am not, then I hope you will do the same. Let’s talk again in four years.”
If anything, my beliefs about political systems have only been reinforced by what I’ve seen these past three years: That political systems and politicians serve only their own interests, that they cause the problems they purport to cure, and that there is no significant difference between the Republican and Democratic Parties, both of which serve to expand the state at our expense.
We should of course be wary of placing our hopes for “change” in a politician who will rule over us. Any politician. Even Ron Paul. If we want to live in peace, then we must reject the coercive violence upon which a political system is built. We cannot continue to grant individuals the right to rule over others, the monopoly to both make and enforce laws, the monopoly on “justice” and on defense – and then act surprised when those individuals use their powers to their own benefit and to our detriment.
Ron Paul is the “anti-politician”. He is the anomaly, the exception that proves the rule that politicians cannot be trusted. I don’t support him because I believe he is the answer to all of our problems – we’re going to have to dig a lot deeper for that. I support him because I believe that if elected, he stands a good chance of putting a halt to the bloodshed that is US foreign policy and to putting a big dent into the massive injustice that is our justice system. I believe that he would do everything in his power to restore habeas corpus, and to put the brakes on the government spending, corporate bailouts and inflationary policies that are running the economy into the ground.
If any of these are things that you care about, then go and vote for Ron Paul in the Republican primaries. Register Republican if you have to, just do it! If you don’t, fine. That’s your choice and I guess you’ve got your reasons. But don’t come running to me when your man disappoints you once again.
March 5, 2012