Saturday, October 21, 2006

Bush administration violates the separation of powers, issues fiat robbing court of judicial power

by Len Hart, The Existentialist Cowboy

Bush seems to be scrambling to consolidate dictatorial powers before his administration comes crashing down around him. According to the Washington Post, Bush has moved to implement the recent bill that abrogates habeas corpus, authorizing military trials of so-called "enemy combatants". The US District Court in Washington has been summarily notified that it no longer has jurisdiction in such cases and may no longer consider "... hundreds of habeas corpus petitions filed by inmates at the Guantanamo Bay prison in Cuba."
Habeas corpus, a Latin term meaning "you have the body," is one of the oldest principles of English and American law. It requires the government to show a legal basis for holding a prisoner. A series of unresolved federal court cases brought against the administration over the last several years by lawyers representing the detainees had left the question in limbo.

Court Told It Lacks Power in Detainee Cases, Washington Post

Bush's move may put the US in unchartered waters. Clearly —the bill demanded by Bush and duly passed by the obeisant Congress is unconstitutional on its face. Even the stodgy Wall Street Journal said that the law was "... a stinging rebuke to the Supreme Court", stripping the courts of all jurisdiction to hear habeas corpus claims filed by so-called "enemy combatants" anywhere in the world.

Why is this issue still on the table? Two years ago, Rasul v. Bush decided in favor of the Guantanamo detainees, giving them the right to challenge their detentions. More recently, Hamdan v Rumsfeld ruled decisively in favor of the detainees. The decision was blunt and precise, unequivocal. Clearly —Bush's position is un-American yet the issue persists with congress giving Bush an unconstitutional authority to try detainees before military commission while denying courts all judicial review of habeas corpus claims.



The question is raised amid rumors of intervention: will the Supreme Court strike down the law?

The terror legislation set to be signed into law Tuesday by President Bush sits atop an ideological fault line that sharply divides the US Supreme Court and highlights the emerging power of Justice Anthony Kennedy.

The new law rejects at least five key holdings by the liberal wing of the court and sets the stage for what many analysts believe will be yet another historic showdown between the courts, the president, and Congress.

Mr. Bush's authorization of the Military Commissions Act of 2006 will trigger a barrage of challenges asking judges to strike down the law as illegal, unconstitutional, or both. And it has sparked a heated debate among legal scholars and lawmakers.

Will the Supreme Court shackle new tribunal law?

It would appear that despite Bush's order, the case will go to the Supreme Court where a decision to strike down the bill may be a 5-4 decision with Justice Kennedy the swing vote against Bush's bill.

According to the Post, Vincent Warren of the Center for Constitutional Rights representing many of the detainees has promised to challenge the bill and filing a motion for dismissal of all of the cases that are at the heart of Bush's order to the court.

"We and other habeas counsel are going to vigorously oppose dismissal of these cases," Warren said. "We are going to challenge that law as violating the Constitution on several grounds." Whichever side loses in the upcoming court battles, he said, will then appeal to the Supreme Court.

Court Told It Lacks Power in Detainee Cases, Washington Post

Friday, October 20, 2006

Bush loses the "Battle of Baghdad, the Battle for Iraq"

The GOP opposition to Bush is growing on two fronts. First —the Iraq Study Group (ISG), co-chaired by former secretary of state, James Baker, billing itself a "bipartisan commission". The best headlines associated with the commission were Baker's comments that Iraq was a "helluva mess".

Secondly —some Republican senators have signalled that they might side with a new Democratic majority unless Bush changes course. The group wants a "decisive rethink" on Iraq. That Democrats may capture both houses is the impetus to this group which might find itself in a position to support cutting war funding if the administration continues to ignore the growing chorus of war critics.

So far, however, the Iraq Study Group fails to impress. Washington Post's Dana Millbank says the group has nothing to report:

If President Bush and the Iraqi government are hoping for some solutions from the congressionally commissioned Iraq Study Group, they might want to start thinking about a Plan B.

Former secretary of state James Baker and former congressman Lee Hamilton (D-Ind.), the study group's co-chairmen, called a briefing yesterday to give a "progress report" on their activities. A dozen television cameras and scores of reporters filled the hall -- only to discover that Baker and Hamilton had revived Jerry Seinfeld's "show about nothing" format.

—Dana Milbank, This Just In: The Iraq Study Group Has Nothing to Report

Millbank has a point. "Helluva mess" tells us as much about Iraq as "stay the course". "Helluva mess" is, of course, the result of having no course to stay.

Indeed it would appear that the Iraq Study Group has already made Bush's biggest mistake: it cannot define success. That may be because the purpose of the group was never designed to make of Iraq a success but, rather, to come up with a way to save George W. Bush's ass —if not his face. Bush cannot save face, however, when nothing will ever change the fact that his war was lost when he began it upon a pack of malicious lies.

Already the ISG has ruled out victory which Bush had clearly hoped to avoid having to define. Bush calls "victory" his objective; he talks about the "enemy". What he has utterly failed to understand is that the enemy in Iraq is the people themselves for whom the US presence is an abominable violation of their nation's sovereignty and the personhood of each citizen of Iraq. What, therefore, is victory when the people themselves oppose the occupation. Does victory consist of the brutal murder of every last Iraqi who dares to oppose the illegal aggression waged against him and his nation? Bush might have gotten away with an endless string of lies and platitudes had not the lack of victory been so spectacular that it will neutralize any "October Surprise" that Karl Rove might have wanted to stage.

The Study Group is, therefore, a cynical, disingenuous exercise that might as well have GOP stamped all over it.

Instead, the commission is headed toward presenting President Bush with two clear policy choices that contradict his rhetoric of establishing democracy in Iraq. The more palatable of the two choices for the White House, "Stability First," argues that the military should focus on stabilizing Baghdad while the American Embassy should work toward political accommodation with insurgents. The goal of nurturing a democracy in Iraq is dropped.

Baker's Panel Rules Out Iraq Victory

It must be pointed out, however, that achieving "stability" in Iraq can never be touted by Bush supporting GOPPERS as a "victory". Iraq, after all, was "stable" before Bush destabilized it. At best, "stabilization" achieves a tenuous status quo ante but with a tragic loss of innocent civilian lives. Among the various options, none are good. Bush lost the battle of Iraq.

Bush vows America won't back down in Iraq

WASHINGTON: US President George W Bush vowed on Saturday not to give in to Iraqi insurgents, but promised to adjust his administration's tactics in the country to changing circumstances.

In his weekly radio address, Bush acknowledged that Ramadan has been "rough" for both US troops and Iraqis.

But he attributed the growing violence to more active operations by US troops as well as "a sophisticated propaganda strategy" pursued by insurgents.

"There is one thing we will not do: We will not pull our troops off the battlefield before the mission is complete," Bush said.

But what IS the mission? Bush has no clue. Bush has proven himself incapable of articulating a mission; he issues only empty, meaningless, shallow platitudes, slogans like "stay the course" as opposed to "cut and run". This is kool-aid cooked up and/or concocted by GOP focus groups, chosen for its ability to stir up primal fears and instincts. Fact is: there is no mission, there is no glorious victory. Only utterly meaningless death, human tragedy and a sinister vision of apocalypse —the price humankind pays for vainglorious visions of imperial dictatorship and world domination.

Selected emails from out the nation:

I have been opposed to the war in Iraq from the beginning. Unfortunately, it has been a tragedy for all concerned. We must change course. Continuing to do the same thing while expecting a different result is simply not acceptable. It is time to admit our error and to begin to move forward in a new direction. [emphasis mine, lh]
Barbara Dunaway, Santa Barbara, California

I, like many Americans, gave the Bush administration the benefit of the doubt prior to the start of the war. Since then, with no weapons of mass destruction to be found, the tribal warfare which has historically existed in Iraq preventing progress in the move toward democracy, the thousands of military personnel who have died, and the billions of US dollars that are being spent on this effort instead of important domestic problems, I am appalled and disgusted that we are now stuck in what appears to be a no-win situation.
Diana Ananda, Bellevue, Kentucky

In February 2003, I thought a war with Iraq was unnecessary, unwise, and unlawful... Three years later, more than 2,700 U.S. troops killed, 20,000 plus injured, 650,000 or so Iraqis dead, and no end it sight. My opinion has not changed. Hey, what do I know? I learned all this from various news sources; too bad the Bush administration was not listening to their own experts.
John Marsh, East Lansing, Michigan

The Existentialist Cowboy

Thursday, October 19, 2006

Bush accuses "terrorists" of exploiting the truth

Bush himself is forced to make the analogy with the "tet offensive" in Viet Nam. The US has lost the "Battle of Baghdad. But, of course, it's not his fault says his press secretary. It's the fault of the "terrorists" for daring to show the truth in pictures:
"The president was making a point that he's made before, which is that terrorists try to exploit pictures and try to use the media as conduits for influencing public opinion in the United States," the White House press secretary, Tony Snow, told reporters yesterday.

—Guardian Unlimited, We've lost battle for Baghdad, US admits

Now that Bush as rescinded the right of habeas corpus, it a quantum leap to Bush merely ordering the arrest of anyone daring to exploit the truth, using pictures that don't lie, and in other ways "exploiting" the reality of an utter failed, stupid, cruel and abominable war crime.

More about how the web of lies, spin, and deception endanger all us from Keith Olbermann:

The Existentialist Cowboy

Monday, October 16, 2006

Remembering the past but making the same old blunders

As the GOP once again descends into scandal, depravity, and treason, it must be pointed out that the more things change the more they stay the same. I wrote the following article shortly after the election of Bill Clinton when it was hoped that a new broom would sweep clean. It is a look back at the Reagan/Bush years —an era that I had hoped was gone forever. While Bill Clinton did not promise to undo every horror perpetrated by the back-to-back debacles of Reagan/Bush, he was a breath of fresh air sweeping across a fetid bog, a GOP cesspool. Would that it had lasted but a bit longer!

The last presidential election turned out to be a referendum on "values" after all —though the outcome was not what Dan Quayle had in mind when he attacked Murphy Brown. The real values of the GOP were not family values at all. They were, rather, elitist values, a charade unveiled by a failing Reagan/Bush economy. With the ascension of Bill Clinton, it was apparent that it was "...the economy, stupid!", that the GOP White House had for twelve years gone through the motions in a bubble. It was a White House isolated from real problems, real issues, a real world. It was a White House [like that of Bush today] of delusions, spin, and demagogic sloganeering. It was Bush [Senior], himself, who said in his second debate: "I'm not sure I get it". That was one of only two things Bush Sr. was ever right about. The second was "voodoo economics".

But the Reagan/Bush dynasty did not fail. It succeeded in "getting government off the backs" of country club cronies, oil barons, the upper one percent of the nation. Reagan/Bush would be more fondly remembered had it failed. Sadly, twelve years of GOP success either created or rewarded a privileged aristocracy still clamoring for privilege and special treatment by the tax man. This is success that the country would do better without.

The rest of us pegged the family values talk for what it was: old fashion elitism, intolerance, bigotry. What historian Henry Steele Commager said of Warren Harding and the era of normalcy which followed his corrupt, scandal ridden administration can be said of the Reagan/Bush years:

Never before had the government of the United States been more unashamedly the instrument of privileged groups; never before had statesmanship given way so unreservedly to politics.

—Henry Steel Commager

The pundits blame the President's lack of "...the vision thing". However, vision belongs to those who see a need for change and make constructive proposal in good faith. George Bush [Sr] may have been sincere when he said things weren't so bad. They weren't! For him and his rich cronies. Hadn't Marie Antoinette said something similar? Let them eat cake! Had not Herbert Hoover, likewise, opined that the poor might do well to sell apples and oranges from a push cart?

Pat Buchanan's "hate speech" at the GOP National Convention proved to have been a throw back to bad ol' days, specifically, the administrations of Harding, Hoover, and Coolidge when American society was materialistic, intolerant, an era when membership in the Ku Klux Klan rose to millions.

Much of the problem is the character of the American rich —the GOP's core constituency. They are overly impressed with themselves. They imagine that they are the "upper class". They delude themselves by thinking themselves intelligent and citing their wealth in evidence. The nouveau riche are the most egregious offenders, more likely to think their wealth deserved.

The English aristocracy —by contrast —are educated at Cambridge and Oxford. An American Rhodes scholar was impressed with English university life and summed it up this way:

Three thousand young men, every one of whom would rather lose a game than play it unfairly.
Those are most certainly not the values that can be associated with the party that gave this nation a slogan: Greed is good. Those are not the values of a party knee deep in the Savings and Loan scandal. Those are not the values of the Boeskys, the Helmsleys, Iran/Contra, Watergate, and Iraq-gate.

As mentioned this essay was written in the twilight of Bush Sr's regime as Bill Clinton waited in the wings to take the oath of office. If Bush Junior had merely picked up where Iran/Contra and the Savings and Loan scandal left off, it would have been bad enough. Alas, Junior was not merely crooked, he has attacked the very foundations of our republic. He sold out to his "base" —a venal cabal of the super, super rich, the defense establishment, and the oil industry. He has placed two nations into the hand of this Axis of Privilege and ruthlessness —the United States and Iraq.