Monday, March 26, 2012

NDAA: Stop it now!

Every time I try to reconcile myself to another four years of Obama -- anything but Romney or Santorum, right? -- he pulls some crap that reminds me of why I never liked him. After reading this story by Chris Hedges, you may start thinking that they secretly put Dick Cheney's old heart into Barack Obama's chest cavity.

Hedges is bringing suit against the the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2012. Is this a first? I can't think of any previous occasion in which a private citizen sought to subject the Defense budget to a lawsuit.

Here's why Hedges doesn't like the 2012 Act:
The NDAA implodes our most cherished constitutional protections. It permits the military to function on U.S. soil as a civilian law enforcement agency. It authorizes the executive branch to order the military to selectively suspend due process and habeas corpus for citizens. The law can be used to detain people deemed threats to national security, including dissidents whose rights were once protected under the First Amendment, and hold them until what is termed "the end of the hostilities." Even the name itself—the Homeland Battlefield Bill—suggests the totalitarian concept that endless war has to be waged within "the homeland" against internal enemies as well as foreign enemies.
Perhaps this is one area in which the right-wing libertarians and New-New Dealers like me can unite.

Here is the Stop NDAA website. I take the liberty of reprinting their description of the offensive aspects of the bill:
The 2012 NDAA greatly expands the power of the federal government to fight the so-called War on Terror. Many -- including some of the law's sponsors -- assert that the NDAA seeks to authorize the US military, for the first time in more than 200 years, to carry out domestic policing.

The language of this law is dangerously vague, but many -- including several of its sponsors -- believe that it grants what are essentially dictatorial powers to the federal government to arrest any American citizen (or anyone, anywhere) without warrant and to indefinitely detain them without any charge. Suspects can be shipped by the military to our offshore prisons and kept there until "the end of hostilities." It is a catastrophic blow to civil liberties.
But that's not the worst of it.

One provision of the act is directed against the Bank of Iran: Basically, any corporation or central bank of a friendly country that does business with Iran will not be allowed to do business with the United States. Put bluntly, this provision (which will come into full effect around June) is meant to force other nations not to purchase oil from Iran. Iran, naturally, has threatened to retaliate by closing the Straits of Hormuz.

Obviously, this is a recipe for disaster. If you think you're paying a lot of money at the pump right now, just wait until the Straits of Hormuz shut down. (Fortunately, Hillary Clinton recently announced that 11 big countries doing business with Iran -- including Germany, the U.K. and Japan -- are exempt from the sanctions.)

Iran has done nothing -- absolutely nothing -- to the United States. Iran has not gone to war with its neighbors. Our "cold war" with Iran is entirely for the benefit of Israeli hawks.

I doubt that these sanctions will even have the desired effect of toppling the Iranian government. In the first place, there have already been too many exemptions put in place for the plan to succeed. In the second place, countries like China will find some way to grab the oil that Iran would have otherwise sent elsewhere. The U.S. is hardly in a position to tell China what to do.

Here is one curmudgeon's take on the sitch, from last January (paragraph breaks added for increased readability):
So far as oil markets are concerned, it is possible that all this–the sanctions and Iran’s blustery response to them–might blow up in everyone’s face. Iran is important to American national interests because it has oil and is strategically located in the major oil-producing region in the world. The sanctions affect Iran’s ability to sell oil, but are intended to dissuade it from developing a nuclear weapon, presumably because of the threat a nuclear-armed Iran would pose to Israel and its neighbors. Never mind that Israel itself has nuclear weapons, and the US nuclear umbrella successfully protected a whole continent from nuclear annihilation for half a century without incident during the Cold War.

By pushing Iran into an oil corner over its supposed nuclear ambitions, the US just might be cutting off its nose to spite its face. It is a vital US interest that the Middle Eastern oil spigots keep filling tankers for market delivery. It is not a vital US interest that Israel continue to exist. The US risks damaging its own national interests in order to protect Israel. This is dangerous and foolish.

The US may get lucky. Its strategy may prove capable of protecting Israel without unduly damaging its interest in the free flow of oil. But it might also destroy the very thing–the unfettered flow of oil–the US has an interest in protecting, in the process yielding a Middle Eastern bloodbath. Were gas to hits $10 or more a gallon in the US, except for a small contingent of loyal Israel apologists, nobody will care that Israel was saved from facing a nuclear Iran. And $10 a gallon gas would assuredly cause a halt and reversal to the nascent economic recovery.
Sky-high gas prices will only benefit Iran in the long run. So let's put it all together:

1. By imposing anti-Iran sanctions -- which could backfire and make Iran far wealthier -- the U.S. could cause energy prices to skyrocket.

2. Skyrocketing energy prices would bring about an even worse recession, which would incite public outrage and rebellion.

3. When and if rebellion ocurs, the NDAA allows the President to implement something perilously close to martial law in order to deal ruthlessly with any government critics -- who will be branded as "terrorists."

That's the plan. You cool with that?
Do you ever wonder what the secret long term national security assessments say about the US? Putting these quiet attempts to reduce legal protections and create capacity to deal with a huge increase in the number of detained people, makes me think that perhaps the authorities are preparing for a much much worse future. What do they know that I dont? Or rather, are they taking things seriously that I only worry about? Oil shortages? Food shortages? Outbreaks of disease and mass quarantines?

Mind you, I am paranoid.

Where are the Kossholes in all of this?

Still shaking their Opom-poms?
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