Monday, February 23, 2015

Iraq snapshot

Monday, February 23, 2015.  Chaos and violence continue, the AUMF gets examined, Ed Snowden gets trashed at the Academy Awards by a host who doesn't know protocol, does NPR's David Folkenflik suffer from penis envy when it comes to Tom Brokaw, and much more.

Today, Law and Disorder Radio, aired this week's hourly installment on   WBAI -- and airs around the country throughout the week.  The program is hosted by attorneys Heidi Boghosian, Michael S. Smith and Michael Ratner (Center for Constitutional Rights) and at the opening of the program, the hosts discussed US President Barack Obama's recent AUMF request.

Heidi Boghosian:  Michael, President Obama has gone before Congress to get authorization to use military force against ISIS  but I understood that he was already fighting ISIS.  What is this about?

Michael Ratner:  It does seem bizarre, Heidi.  I mean, in one way it's probably going to expand his authority -- and we'll get into some of the details.  In another, I guess he feels better having Congress on his side against ISIS.  It may also be now that he has Republicans on both sides, that he has an easier time getting authority to go to war.  I think that's actually the biggest factor, the Democrats might give him a little harder time, not much harder, but a little harder.  Let me give a little of the technical details. It's called the Authorization to Use Military Force.  And, of course, under our Constitution, the Congress is supposed to approve the use of military force.  In fact, of course, this president, like every other one, seems to ignore that.  He has -- as people recall, he went to war against Libya without such a use of authority from Congress.  And he's been fighting against ISIS for five, six months already.  Although he's claimed that he's fighting against ISIS because it fits an old authorization to use military force -- the one from 2001 which was originally authorized to go after the people who were involved in the attacks of 9/11.  That's been infinitely expanded so far that not only is the President bombing ISIS but he's using drones in Yemen, he's using them in Somalia, he's all over the world with the 2001.  So you can see it hasn't a bit -- these broad uses of force that the president is authorized to use by Congress.  It reminds us, Heidi, of course, as we've talked about, of the Gulf of Tonkin resolution which was passed to give the president [Lyndon B. Johnson] authority to go into Vietnam and fight against the Vietnamese.  But it was so broadly stated that it went on forever and it expanded the war to half-a-million troops.  And in addition in this case, in the case of Gulf of Tonkin, it was based on a false set of facts having to do with an attack by the North Vietnamese, a supposed attack in the waters.  But in any case, these are bad examples because what happens is you give the presidents these kinds of authority and they basically expand them into world war.  And what's amazing to me hear is that you have the 2001 Authorization to Use Military Force which has already been expanded.  And they're not planning to end that one.  They're planning to leave that on the books even if they get this new Authorization to Use Military Force in 2015.  So he's going to have both.  And then he says he doesn't even need it. Even if Congress turns him down, he says, 'I still have the old one.'  So the whole thing is just a charade for wide war. 

And that is correct that the White House is asking for an AUMF that they insist they really don't need.  This was established last December when US Secretary of State John Kerry appeared before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.

Secretary John Kerry:  Let me try to help you a little bit on this.

Ranking Member Bob Corker:  Well help me this way:  Are you going to ever explicitly seek an authorization from Congress?

Secretary John Kerry:  We're seeking authorization now.  With respect to  --

Ranking Member Bob Corker:  So you are.  And if you didn't receive the authoirzation, will you continue the operation?  That's a --

Secretary John Kerry:  The authorization for what we're doing nowin both Iraq and Syria?

Ranking Member Bob Corker:  That's correct.

Secretary John Kerry:  Absolutely we will continue it because we believe we have full authority under the 2001 AUMF and parts of the 2002 AUMF but here's where I want to help you.

That December 9th hearing was covered in the December 9th snapshot, the December 10th snapshot,  Ava covered it at Trina's site with "Ground Hog Day (Ava)," Wally at Rebecca's site with "Barack wants war all over the world (Wally)" and Kat with "John Kerry, damn liar."

Back to the discussion on Law & Disorder.

Heidi Boghosian:  And-and I imagine Michael that it's in response to heightened media coverage of beheadings and high profile actions which, as we've seen over the years, in this country and abroad, often result in hastily passed legislation to placate public fears.

Michael Ratner: You know I that's -- that's a good point.  It may not just be the Republicans on both sides but, in fact, as the ISIS propaganda and videos come out, people are saying, 'Well what's the president doing?'  And so now he's saying, 'Look it, I'm going to Congress, I'm going to get this Authorization to Use Military Force.'  But, of course, he's going to get a very broad authorization to use military force.  Now there's three or four points in it that I want to mention because they're so shocking and surprising.  Let's just look at the scenario here.  The Democrats want to put some limits on it -- not very many, but some -- on this use of force.  The Republicans want an ever expansive use of force.  Not much real difference between them but in some of the details.  The first one comes up in what's known as the 'sunset clause.'  We've talked about sunset clauses here with respect to the PATRIOT Act, etc.  When liberals want to vote for something bad but they want to feel better about it, they say, 'Oh, we're going to put a sunset clause in!'  That means that in two, three, four years, whatever the sunset provision is, the law will end by itself and it won't be renewed automatically.  Well we know what happened with the PATRIOT Act -- which we predicted at the time -- was a lot of liberals voted for the PATRIOT Act because it had a sunset clause, that was their excuse.  'Oh, tell our liberal constituents it's going to set in four years.'  And, of course, it did set.  But, of course, before it did set, Congress went ahead and renewed it for another four, ten, whatever number of years.  So this one has a three year sunset clause.  Let's think about that.  One, they can renew it always.  But secondly, even if it sets in three years, the president -- and it won't be Obama anymore -- just goes back to the 2001 Authorization to Use Military Force --

Heidi Boghosian: Right. 

Michael Ratner: -- which has no sunset.  So essentially the sunset clause is meaningless for lots of reasons except it gives liberals cover.  And for that reason, I oppose the sunset clause because I don't want liberals having cover.  They ought to vote for what they understand they're voting for which is  indefinite war against the world.  So that's one very bad provision. 

And on the issue of Congress and voting, Ivan Eland ( points out the following in his latest column:

The founders of the nation, were they here to see such arrogant usurpation by imperial presidents of Congress’s constitutional war power, and Congress’s willing abdication of it, would simply pass out. A few gray areas of the U.S. Constitution exist, but the war power isn’t one of them. The document placed most of the war powers – including declaring war, even the approval of lesser military action, the raising of armies, the maintenance of a navy, and the funding and regulation of the armed forces and militia – with the people’s branches of governments. The American founders intentionally created this unusual arrangement, because they did not like the militarism of the European monarchs of the day, who took their countries to war on a whim and let the costs in blood and added taxes fall to common citizens. In the founders’ original conception of their system of government, the executive was only the commander-in-chief of the armed forces after war had been decided by the people’s branches and under whatever restrictions they imposed. As the debate in the Constitutional Convention indicated, only in the extreme case of the country being under imminent attack and the Congress not being in session, could the president take military action without congressional approval; even then he should seek a prompt authorization when possible.

As they pointed out at Third in "Editorial: The AUMF silence" Sunday ("they" because I didn't work on the editorial, I was at the Academy Awards when it was written), Law and Disorder Radio broke the silence at Pacifica on the AUMF.  Back to the discussion.

Michael Ratner:  A second one -- and a big struggle is going on --  or, I don't know if it's big, a struggle of some sort -- at least in the press around these guys -- is the use of ground forces.  How are we going to limit the use of ground forces?  Initially, I think we were told there won't be any ground forces used against ISIS or they believe they have to use ground forces. So what does this Authorization to Use Military Force say -- the new proposed one?  This does not authorize the use of the United States armed forces in -- and here's the key word -- "enduring" offensive ground combat operations.  The word is "enduring offensive ground combat operations."

Heidi Boghosian: Right.  And what does that mean? That means a long term -- 

Michael Ratner: How long is enduring?

Heidi Boghosian:  -- something short of -- Exactly.

Michael Ratner: One year? Two year?  Five years?  Ten years?

Heidi Boghosian:  Right. 

Michael Ratner:  What's "enduring"? Forever?

Heidi Boghosian:  It's over broad and vaguely drafted. 

Michael Ratner: It's meaningless.

Heidi Boghosian: Right.

February 12th, the House Foreign Affairs Committee held a hearing on the AUMF.   The witnesses appearing before the committee included former US Ambassador James Jeffrey, the Center for a New American Security's Dafna H. Rand and RAND Corporation's Rick Brennan.  US House Rep Ed Royce is the Chair of the Committee and US House Rep Eliot Engel is the Ranking Member.  From that hearing.

US House Rep Alan Grayson:  Section 2C of the President's draft Authorization of the Use of Military Force reads as follows The authority granted in sub-section A does not authorize the use of US armed forces in enduring offensive ground US operations.  Ambassador Jeffrey, what does enduring me?

James Jeffrey:  Uh.  My answer would be a somewhat sarcastic one.  Whatever the executive at the time defines enduring as.  And I have a real problem with that.

US House Rep Alan Grayson: Dr. Brennan?

Rick Brennan Jr.:  I have real problems with that also.  Not only because it's -- I don't know what it means and I could just see the lawyers fighting over the meaning of this.  Uh, but-but more importantly, if you're looking at-at, uh, committing forces for something that you say is either vital or an important issue to the United States and you get in the middle of a battle and all the sudden are you on offense or are you on defense? What happens if neighbors cause problems?  Uh, wars never end the way that they were envisioned.  And so that's, I think, a-a-a-a terrible mistake to put in the AUMF.

US House Rep Alan Grayson: Dr. Rand?

Dafna Rand:  Enduring, in my mind, specifies an open-endedness.  It specifies lack of clarity on the particular objective at hand.

US House Rep Alan Grayson: Dr. Rand, is two weeks enduring?

Dafna Rand: I would leave that to the lawyer to determine exactly.

US House Rep Alan Grayson: So your answer is you don't know, right?  How 'bout two months?

Dafna Rand:  I don't know.  It would depend -- Again, I think it would depend on the particular objective.  "Enduring," in my mind, does not have a particular objective in mind.

US House Rep Alan Grayson: So you don't really know what it means?  Is that a fair statement?

Dafna Rand: Uhm, "enduring," in my mind, means "open ended."

That hearing was covered in the February 12th snapshot, the February 14th snapshot and the February 16th snapshot.

Let's get back to Michael Ratner and Heidi Boghosian's analysis of the AUMF.

Michael Ratner: Basically the president is authorized to use ground forces forever.

Heidi Boghosian:  Right. 

Michael Ratner:  So, again, the Democrats are going to be able to say to their constituents -- or maybe a few Republicans who are a little isolationists here, will say, 'It doesn't say we gave them authority.'  So --

Heidi Boghosian: [Laughing] It's not in perpetuity!

Michael Ratner: It's b.s.  That's number two.  A third part of the law says it allows war to be made on associated persons or forces.  That means individuals and organizations associated in some way with ISIL or ISIS -- the Islamic State.  And the problem is, that's like saying war can be made anybody.  And we know that from experience because in the 2001 AUMF, it also uses the term -- or has been interpreted to mean -- you can make war on associated forces of al Qaeda or the Taliban.  Well now under the US definition -- the government definition -- that's everybody.  That's the people in Somalia, that's the people in Yemen, that's the people in Mali, that's everywhere.  So it's a meaningless restriction, 'associated forces.'  That's number three.  And number four -- and this is really striking -- really, if you're thinking about the US and perpetual war, the act, the new proposed authorization to use military force of 2015 has no geographical limitations. That means if they think there's an ISIS guy living next door  --

Heidi Boghosian: In the US of A.

Michael Ratner:  In the US, anywhere in the world. They can get that guy -- whether through Joint Special Operations, drone him, whatever they want to do.  So war on the world is not a fantasy from this act, it's not a fantasy of mine.  

No, it's not a fantasy of Michael Ratner's -- it's what the act is insisting upon.

In the February 12th House Foreign Affairs Committee hearing, the following was stated.

US House Rep Brad Sherman:  As to the AUMF, we've got the text the President sent over, leaves in place the 2001 AUMF.  In effect, republishes it, reaffirms it.  Well what is that that we would be reaffirming 15 years later?  Unlimited in time. Unlimited in what weapons or tactics or ground forces.  It authorized over 100,000 forces in Afghanistan last decade.  It would authorize over 100,000 US soldiers to be deployed on the ground next decade.  And, of course, unlimited in geography.  So if we republish, rather than repeal, that it's hard to say that the President doesn't have enough authority to do all the things that many of us hope he does not do. 

And we'll wrap up with this from the analysis.

Michael Ratner:  And just remember this as we go on, there was a Times article a few days ago that talks about the so-called spread of ISIS almost playing into this new Authorization to Use Military Force saying there's ISIS groups in Saudi Arabia and Yemen and Algeria and now the US,  under this act, can make war everywhere.  So what we have now is an authorization if it passes that allows the president to make more war around the world and kill thousands and thousands of Muslims.  Instead of this, of course, we should have less war, no war.  We should probably have the Congress impeaching the president for already going way beyond the war authorization he's had. Sadly, for me, the US as an imperial power has been almost impossible to restrain.  You and I know this, Heidi, since our days as Vietnam activists and beyond.  The US has been at constant war.  So we're watching a charade going on in Congress and in the media, the thousands of words, what's going to happen with the AUMF, it doesn't  make any difference in a sense.  We're watching a bloody charade that will continue for -- for a very long time. 

Heidi went on to bring up how the AUMF trickles down to local US communities.  That's an important issue but it's beyond our focus and we need to move to other topics.

Sunday night was the annual Academy Awards presentation.   Among the winners?  Laura Poitras for the documentary Citzenfour.  Rainey Reitman (EFF) has transcribed Poitras' acceptance speech:

. .
Thank you so much to the Academy. I'd like to first thank the documentary community. It's an incredible joy to work among people who support each other so deeply, risk so much, and do such incredible work. We don't stand here alone. The work we do to (unveil?) what needs to be seen by the public is possible through the brave organizations that support us. We'd like to thank Radius, Participant, HBO, BritDoc, and the many, many, many organizations who had our back making this film. 
The disclosures that Edward Snowden reveals don't only expose a threat to our privacy but to our democracy itself. When the most important decisions being made affecting all of us are made in secret, we lose our ability to check the powers that control. Thank you to Edward Snowden for his courage, and for the many other whistleblowers. And I share this with Glenn Greenwald and other journalists who are exposing truth.

 Ed Snowden, whose actions are the focus of the documentary,  is an American citizen and whistle-blower who had been employed by the CIA and by the NSA before leaving government employment for the more lucrative world of contracting.  At the time he blew the whistle, he was working for Booz Allen Hamilton doing NSA work.  Glenn Greenwald (Guardian) had the first scoop (and many that followed) on Snowden's revelations that the US government was spying on American citizens, keeping the data on every phone call made in the United States (and in Europe as well) while also spying on internet use via PRISM and Tempora.  US Senator Bernie Sanders decried the fact that a "secret court order" had been used to collect information on American citizens "whether they are suspected of any wrongdoing."  Sanders went on to say, "That is not what democracy is about.  That is not what freedom is about. [. . .] While we must aggressively pursue international terrorists and all of those who would do us harm, we must do it in a way that protects the Constitution and civil liberties which make us proud to be Americans."  The immediate response of the White House, as Dan Roberts and Spencer Ackerman (Guardian) reported,  was to insist that there was nothing unusual and to get creaky and compromised Senator Dianne Feinstein to insist, in her best Third Reich voice, "People want to keep the homeland safe."  The spin included statements from Barack himself.   Anita Kumar (McClatchy Newspapers) reports, "Obama described the uproar this week over the programs as “hype” and sought to ensure Americans that Big Brother is not watching their every move."  Josh Richman (San Jose Mercury News) quoted Barack insisting that "we have established a process and a procedure that the American people should feel comfortable about."  Apparently not feeling the gratitude, the New York Times editorial board weighed in on the White House efforts at spin, noting that "the Obama administration issued the same platitude it has offered every time President Obama has been caught overreaching in the use of his powers: Terrorists are a real menace and you should just trust us to deal with them because we have internal mechanisms (that we are not going to tell you about) to make sure we do not violate your rights."  Former US President Jimmy Carter told CNN, "I think that the secrecy that has been surrounding this invasion of privacy has been excessive, so I think that the bringing of it to the public notice has probably been, in the long term, beneficial."  August 1, 2013, he was granted temporary asylum in Russia.  He remains there.

As was kind-of, sort-of noted.

Remember this guy?

It's Neil Patrick Harris, host of ceremony yesterday, shown above in the only moment that appeared to really go over -- him in his tighty-whities.

He soiled up the stage at various other moments.

Including after Laura accepted her award when Neil Patrick Harris offered, "The subject of Citizenfour, Edward Snowden, could not be here tonight for some treason."

As with so many of his remarks, it fell flat.

It was also offensive.

There's the obvious issue that treason is a serious charge and it's not a joke.  Many people consider Ed Snowden to be a hero (I do).

But that's for others to point out.

I want to note the disrespect.

That was disrespectful to the Academy and it was disrespectful to Laura and her award winning documentary.

Whatever his thoughts -- and Neil's not known for having many big thoughts -- they should have been kept to himself.

You don't editorialize at the Academy Awards as a host or presenter.  The winner can -- the winner can do anything, that's what winning is about.

But Frank Sinatra got himself in hot water for exactly that sort of bulls**t at the Academy Awards before -- Shirley MacLaine was enraged by his remarks and her words represented the consensus of the Academy.  The winners can say whatever.  That's their moment.  It is not your moment to interject your politics and discredit a winner.

Neil was probably trying to be a smart ass -- that's way beyond his reach as well.

But his remark was offensive.

In a Reddit discussion today featuring Laura, Glenn Greenwald and Ed, Snowden made clear he didn't take offense at the joke or 'joke.'

And that's fine and good for Ed..

But there are certain customs -- that have nothing to do with Ed -- and Neil violated them and disrespected what is supposed to represent a celebration of excellence.

If that had been a pro-Iraq War movie that had won the Academy Award for Best Documentary and the winner had delivered a speech celebrating the illegal war, the next comments after could have noted hair, gushing anything but it would have been wrong for a host to make a political statement in response -- especially if it disrespected the winner (and the Academy's vote).  Again, this was settled years ago, during Vietnam.

Let's stay with the topic of fairness and bring in NPR which is a sewer of bias.

Earlier today, Isaiah's The World Today Just Nuts "Trashing Gary Webb Was So Much Easier For David Corn."

David Corn is no one to lecture anyone on media ethics.  He flat out lied in 2008 about Bill Clinton and when his lie was pointed out -- a lie he repeated three times at Mother Jones -- he and the trashy outlet resisted correcting it.  When they finally did correct it, they did so with a 'clarification' refusing to admit their mistake and only tacked it on to one of the three pieces containing the lie.  Lie.

David Corn is trash.

Yes, years ago he apparently loved something Ava and I wrote. Who cares?

I didn't read the e-mail (I don't read fan mail) in real time, I haven't read his e-mails since whining about being treated unfairly.  (Ty and Jim read the bulk of the e-mails at Third.)

Let's clarify that Brian Williams is not a leftist.  Brian Williams was part of the media team of liars in the US who lied to start the Iraq War.  Brian was also very close to Bully Boy Bush and remains close to him today.

Brian Williams was a news anchor.

David Corn is among the hysterics who were offended that NBC is investigating Williams' claims and has placed him on a six month suspension.

So   David, he went after Bill O'Reilly.

He failed because he tried to equate dissimilar remarks as being the same.

They weren't.

He failed mainly, though, because he doesn't grasp that Bill O'Reilly is a talk show host.

Yes, Bill considers himself a 'newsman.'

He can consider himself Queen of the Mayfair Parade if it makes him happy.

But the rest of the world doesn't have to agree.

Bill O'Reilly is a talk show host.  (And a blowhard.) He does not anchor news, he does not do investigative reporting.  He's a host sitting behind a desk, a monkey filling time trying to amuse viewers.

That's true of Rachel Maddow, that's true of all of these talk show host who try to portray themselves as journalists or reporters.

They are not.

A talk show host sells themselves as entertaining.  That's why people watch.

If Bill O'Reilly does anything to make himself less likable or unlikable to his audience, he will be fired by Fox.

But Brian Willaims was an anchor.  Was.

And he was supposed to be trust worthy.  We are supposed to believe that news anchors are honest because if we can't believe that we can't believe the news they report (or read off monitors).

I wasn't going to include this section.

Then NPR again violated basic fairness guidelines.

They need to fire David Folkenflik who is nothing but a mouthpiece for FAIR.  FAIR has done strong work in the past (pre-Barack) and will hopefully do strong work in the future (after Barack leaves the White House).  But no NPR 'reporter' should be a mouthpiece for any left media outlet or any right media outlet.

Time and again, Folkenflick's 'scoops' are directly from FAIR's e-mail blasts.

Such as this long, long piece filed tonight on Bill O'Reilly (yes, FAIR issued their e-mail blast right before -- I believe it hit my inbox one hour and twenty minutes before Folkenflik published).

Now if you're not getting how bulls**t and trashy Folkenflick is, let me repeat from above:

David Corn is among the hysterics who were offended that NBC is investigating Williams' claims and has placed him on a six month suspension.  

Folkenflick has filed 3 on air 'reports' for NPR on Williams but never noted that Williams was being investigated or that it was an ongoing investigation.

He has lied in report after report that the only issue is one statement Williams made on air.

That is a lie.

Folkenflick is not to be trusted.  NPR should have fired him long ago.

Repeating, in three on air reports on Brian Williams, Folkenflick has never once noted the NBC investigation -- which is ongoing -- into Brian's many false claims.  Nor has he noted these claims, instead reducing it to one comment:

Folkenflick: On the "NBC Nightly News" on January 30, Williams falsely claimed a rocket-propelled grenade struck his helicopter in Iraq and forced it to land. 

Or take this crap:

In the media world, two big stars are leaving their high-profile posts - one by choice, one by necessity. Jon Stewart announced last night that he would be stepping down from "The Daily Show." He did not say what might be next. Stewart essentially invented a new form of satire in political criticism. And there is news that NBC has suspended its lead anchor for six months without pay. The punishment follows the admission by Brian Williams that he exaggerated the danger he faced as a reporter during the invasion of Iraq. NPR media correspondent David Folkenflik has been following both these stories and joins us on the line from our studios in New York. David, good morning to you.
DAVID FOLKENFLIK, BYLINE: Good morning, David.
GREENE: So let's start with Brian Williams first. Why have network executives suspended him, even really before any firm conclusions have been drawn about the scope of his transgressions (unintelligible)?

FOLKENFLIK: Well, look, I mean, first off, his credibility has been damaged both inside and outside of NBC news by puffing up, it would seem, the peril he faced in Iraq in 2003 while in a helicopter at the outset of the U.S.-led invasion there. At the same time, NBC has a corporate, public image issue to deal with. It's trying to figure out whether or not somebody can present the news whose credibility has been damaged on a personal tale. This feels like an interim step. This feels like something that allows them - buys them time to figure something out. It's almost as though it's an HR move or a personnel move rather than a journalistic move because as you say, we don't know what the findings will be, the conclusions will be, of that internal review. And to date, NBC hasn't promised to share it with us.

Promised to share what with us?  Internal review?  It's no internal review.  It's an investigation and called such by NBC News.  It is not just about one lie.  It's about repeated lies.  And, strangely, Folkenflick never found time to explore those lies.

He did find time to slime Tom Brokaw.

I know Tom, I've known him for decades.

I also know James L. Brooks.

And Tom Brokaw was not the inspiration for William Hurt's character in Broadcast News.  I know who the inspiration was, but it wasn't Tom.  The inspiration pre-dates Tom.  Most of the true life moments in the film are from before Tom was a news anchor.

I have no idea why Folkenflik gets away with lying like that.

And one more thing, William Hurt is too 'tiny' to play Tom.

Tom's nickname at NBC News was "Duncan The Wonder Horse."

He got that name due to the size of his penis.

And maybe that's why Folkenflik is so jealous of Tom Brokaw?

 Lastly, Margaret Griffis ( counts 68 dead across Iraq today.

law and disorder radio
michael s. smith
heidi boghosian
michael ratner