Friday, May 30, 2014

Crime, punishment, and impeachment

The following stories form a single narrative -- a narrative of crime and punishment. The crime is hubris. The punishment will be loss of status.

The Eurasian century. For a while now, I've been saying (not happily) that the future lies with the BRICS nations. Here's Pepe Escobar, sounding much the same theme:
In more ways than one, last week heralded the birth of a Eurasian century. Of course, the US$400 billion Russia-China gas deal was clinched only at the last minute in Shanghai, on Wednesday (a complement to the June 2013, 25-year, $270 billion oil deal between Rosneft and China's CNPC.)
The facts on the ground speak for themselves. China is buying at least half of Iraq's oil production - and is investing heavily in its energy infrastructure. China has invested heavily in Afghanistan's mining industry - especially lithium and cobalt. And obviously both China and Russia keep doing business in Iran. [4]

So this is what Washington gets for over a decade of wars, incessant bullying, nasty sanctions and trillions of misspent dollars.
The Iraq war is still costing us.

So is America's misguided Ukrainian coup. Robert Parry sums up the lessons of that disaster...
The State Department’s endless stoking of tensions between President Barack Obama and Russian President Vladimir Putin has caused other complications for U.S. foreign policy, including what is emerging as a historic rapprochement between China and Russia, a coming together highlighted by the signing of a major new gas deal on Wednesday.

The $400 billion pact means that Putin, in effect, has countered U.S. efforts to use limited U.S./EU sanctions to isolate Russia by deftly playing the China card and aligning the two emerging countries as an economic and political counterforce to American dominance.
The two longtime adversaries, who faced off as communist rivals during the Cold War, have joined together recently as a bloc on the United Nations Security Council to block Western initiatives on Syria, for instance. That means that instead of isolating Russia at the UN, the State Department’s hawkish approach to Ukraine has had the opposite effect. Russia now has a new and powerful ally.
Perhaps that story is related to this story...

Syrian turnaround. Looks like Obama has finally come to realize that he bit off an unchewable morsel when (at neocon behest) he tried to overthrow Assad of Syria. In The Daily Beast, Leslie Gelb offers a remarkable assessment...
The same goes for venturing anew into the Syrian swamp. Obama is now moving to provide moderate rebels in Syria with overt training from U.S. special operation forces in addition to the covert aid presently fed by the CIA. That move will make sense only if the White House formulates a viable strategy for Syria. Right now, its strategy of upending President Bashar Assad makes no sense. If he’s not winning, he’s certainly not losing. And no amount of projected aid to the moderate rebels will change that unfortunate but unarguable fact.

Thus, Obama either will have to change his means and provide massive aid to these rebels, which he will not do, or he will have to change his goal of eliminating Assad. This may well surprise experts, but senior administration officials tell me that Obama has been modifying his objective and is now prepared to work with Assad, to some degree, along with the moderate rebels, against what the White House finally has come to see as the real and major threat—the jihadists. These senior officials further say that they expect support in this new policy from previous opponents, i.e. from Saudi Arabia and other Gulf states.
"Moderate rebels"? Not sure that such a creature exists in Syria's civil war -- or in any other civil war. War, by its nature, is an immoderate business.

For the most part, this nonsense about "moderate rebels" has been a fiction designed to placate the American audience, most of whom are little better than children. Grown-ups understand that we've been sending arms (including weapons heisted from Libya) to Al Qaeda-linked jihadis in Syria. Sure, those guys may be crazy, but they have muscle -- and in war, muscle is what counts.

Is Obama finally, finally giving some thought to what would happen if the crazies managed to overthrow Assad? Has the President had a "My god, what have we done?" moment?

If so, this is indeed a turnaround. I hope that Gelb's informants are right.

Snowdeniana. The latest Snowden story concerns a legalistic email he sent to the NSA's lawyers, early in 2013, inquiring about the status of Executive Orders. The best analysis comes from -- who else? Marcy Wheeler.
Nevertheless, the email is really suggestive, particularly as it took place when Snowden had already started downloading a slew of information.

That’s because Snowden’s documents (and documents released in response to his leaks) reveal NSA has repeatedly used EO 12333 to push the limits of laws passed by Congress, if not to evade the law altogether.
Marcy offers two examples. First, the NSA has avoided minimization when collecting phone data. ("Minimization" is a term of art which means stripping away identification from a communication to protect privacy.) Second: The NSA has been  spying on US persons by way of material stored and collected overseas.

Please understand: Congress never passed a law allowing any of this stuff. In fact, these activities go against both the spirit and the letter of the laws on the books.

So how does the NSA get away with it, from a legal standpoint? As Snowden discovered, all of this and much more is justified under Executive Order 12333.

Now let's pull back and take in a larger picture. Consider the following two facts, which may at first seem unrelated:

1. In some quarters, the Snowden debate has devolved into a series of nonsensical and petty accusations -- i.e., "You're a libertarian!" "No, you're a libertarian!"

2. A piece of internet fakelore has ascribed all sorts of bogus Executive Orders to Barack Obama.

Put fact 1 and fact 2 together, and what do we have? A classic tale of distraction.

The American people have been focusing on nonsense. Utter nonsense. We've been ignoring beef to feast on bullshit.

There's a real Executive Order -- EO 12333, mentioned above -- which deserves our keen attention. That EO was issued long ago by none other than Saint Ronald Reagan. If I may be allowed to quote a previous Cannonfire post on this topic...
In both Democratic and Republican administrations, the executive branch has often demonstrated a tendency to grab ever-greater powers. Unfortunately, most of us consider executive overreach a problem only when a president we don't like holds office. People refuse to think ahead. In 1981, the vast majority of Republicans would have given their enthusiastic approval to Executive Order 12333, had they been apprised of its existence. Republicans were so giddy to see one of their own in the oval office that they simply could not get their minds around the idea that these unnerving new powers would go not just to Reagan but to all of his successors, including the Democratic successors.

Dems are more likely than Republicans to criticize a president of their own party. Nevertheless, some Democrats still feel obligated to defend Obama at all times. They do so even when the topic turns to (say) the indiscriminate use of drones. But one day, the power to send drones against any and all perceived enemies will rest with a Republican -- and how will die-hard Obama apologists feel then?

All presidents require short leashes. In order to apply those leashes, we need a truly bipartisan, truly grassroots effort. How can we get our fellow Americans to understand that basic point?
Impeach Bush! This writer argues that a President may be impeached even after he leaves office. Technically, this is true. In 1876, the House impeached the Secretary of War (who had taken a bribe) even after he had resigned.

Why bother with a post-facto impeachment? Obviously, we need to send a message to future miscreants in high office.

Presidents do tend to spend a lot of time thinking about how they'll look in the history books. As things stand, we may safely predict that Dubya won't look good in those texts, if they are written honestly. But he would look a whole lot worse if he were impeached. More importantly, presidents-to-come will think upon his sorry example when asked to consider various outlandish schemes for conquest and glory.

Keep impeachment in mind as you watch this brief clip of Richard Clarke (the former counterterrorism head honcho under Dubya) talking about Bush's war crimes...

Comments:
Impeach Bush! This writer argues that a President may be impeached even after he leaves office. Technically, this is true. In 1876, the House impeached the Secretary of War (who had taken a bribe) even after he had resigned.

"Impeachment" of a President who is no longer eligible for reelection seems like a waste of effort to me. The sole effect of impeachment and subsequent conviction by the Senate is removal from office and disqualification from holding office. I suppose we could deny Bush his pension, but I really doubt he'd notice. Fortunately (Article I, section 3), there's no constitutional bar to further prosecution once a President is out of office (whether through impeachment, resignation, or simple completion of term in office) - hence Ford's blanket pardon of Nixon:

Judgment in Cases of impeachment shall not extend further than to removal from Office, and disqualification to hold and enjoy any Office of honor, Trust or Profit under the United States: but the Party convicted shall nevertheless be liable and subject to Indictment, Trial, Judgment and Punishment, according to Law.

I'd rather see Bush prosecuted and imprisoned - preferably in the Supermax in Florence, pour encourager les autres, as Lambert likes to say.

I'd like the same for Obama, once he's out of office. And I would be perfectly happy to see him impeached to hasten the process.
 
Joseph,

Please cover this:http://www.avoiceformen.com/wp-content/uploads/sites/2/2014/05/AVFM-Security-Letter-REDACTED.pdf
 
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