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by Fran on Fri May 22nd, 2009 at 01:48:36 PM EST
Senate Passes $91.3 Billion War Funding Bill

WASHINGTON -- The Senate on Thursday passed a $91.3 billion military spending bill, shorn of money President Barack Obama wants to close the Guantanamo Bay prison but allowing him to significantly ramp up the U.S. war in Afghanistan.

The Senate voted 86-3 to pass the bill, which provides money for military and diplomatic operations in Iraq and Afghanistan, setting up House-Senate talks on a compromise measure to present to Obama next month.

The spending measure closely tracks Obama's request for war funds, although the $80 million he was seeking to close the U.S. naval prison at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, was dropped Wednesday.

A three-day Senate debate on the bill featured little of the angst over the situation in Afghanistan that permeated debate in the House last week on companion legislation.

by Fran on Fri May 22nd, 2009 at 01:58:40 PM EST
[ Parent ]
ROLL CALL, H.R.2346, "Supplemental Appropriations Act," (FY 2008-2009 budget) as amended.

Not voting: Begich,Byrd, Carper, Hagan, Hatch, Kennedy, Murray, Rockefeller, Shaheen, Udall

Highlights! Chapter 4-9, CHAPTER 4--GENERAL GOVERNMENT EXECUTIVE OFFICE OF THE PRESIDENT AND FUNDS APPROPRIATED TO THE PRESIDENT

  • NATO: Security Investment Program,  $100M; Department of Defense Base Closure Account 2005, $263,3M

  • DHHS public health and social services emergency fund, $1.85BILLION, to prepare for and respond to an influenza pandemic, including the development and purchase of vaccine, antivirals, necessary medical supplies, diagnostics, and other surveillance tools and to assist international efforts and respond to international needs relating to the 2009-H1N1 influenza outbreak,

  • Military Construction, Navy and Marine Corps, $235.8M to carry out planning and design and military construction projects not otherwise authorized by law; Air Force $279M to carry out planning and design and military construction projects not otherwise authorized by law; Defense-Wide $1,086BILLION to carry out planning and design and military construction projects not otherwise authorized by law

  • Dept of State diplomatic and consular programs, $1,016BILLION for worldwide security protection, to support operations in and assistance for Afghanistan and to carry out the provisions of the Foreign Assistance Act of 1961, and for public diplomacy activities to the Pakistan-Afghanistan Border Region; PLUS embassy security, construction, and maintenance, $989,628M

  • BILATERAL ECONOMIC ASSISTANCE, economic support fund, $2,907BILLION for assistance for Pakistan, the National Solidarity Program in Afghanistan, the United States Agency for International Development, programs in the West Bank and Gaza ("Provided further, That none of the funds made available under this heading for cash transfer assistance to the Palestinian Authority"), disaster assistance in Burm, and "developing countries impacted by the global financial crisis, including Haiti, Liberia, and Indonesia'


Diversity is the key to economic and political evolution.
by Cat on Fri May 22nd, 2009 at 04:40:49 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Obama's Guantanamo policy reignites US national security debate | World | Deutsche Welle | 22.05.2009
The US president says he will not release Guantanamo detainees who still pose a threat to national security. But - with Europeans hesitant to step in - the White House is under increasing pressure to find a solution.  

The US president's order to close the Guantanamo Bay prison by January 2010 was hailed by Democrats, Republicans, civil-rights groups and the European Union, but has since encountered stiff opposition from all sides on the question of what to do with the remaining 240 detainees.

In a speech at the National Archives in Washington, Obama accused Congress of using fear as a political tactic in voting to block the transfer of any of the detainees to prisons on US soil.

"I've heard words that are calculated to scare people rather than educate them - words that have more to do with politics than protecting our country," Obama said on Thursday, May 21.

by Fran on Fri May 22nd, 2009 at 01:59:27 PM EST
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Obama Unveils His Inner Cheney - Moon of Alabama

In this passage of Obama's speech yesterday he lays out a system of indefinite detention of innocents that is illegal, against basic human rights and against all morals. It is Cheney at his worst simply clad in new cloth.

Now, finally, there remains the question of detainees at Guantanamo who cannot be prosecuted yet who pose a clear danger to the American people. And I have to be honest here--this is the toughest single issue that we will face. We're going to exhaust every avenue that we have to prosecute those at Guantanamo who pose a danger to our country. But even when this process is complete, there may be a number of people who cannot be prosecuted for past crimes, in some cases because evidence may be tainted, but who nonetheless pose a threat to the security of the United States. Examples of that threat include people who've received extensive explosives training at al Qaeda training camps, or commanded Taliban troops in battle, or expressed their allegiance to Osama bin Laden, or otherwise made it clear that they want to kill Americans. These are people who, in effect, remain at war with the United States.

Let me repeat: I am not going to release individuals who endanger the American people. Al Qaeda terrorists and their affiliates are at war with the United States, and those that we capture--like other prisoners of war--must be prevented from attacking us again. Having said that, we must recognize that these detention policies cannot be unbounded. They can't be based simply on what I or the executive branch decide alone. That's why my administration has begun to reshape the standards that apply to ensure that they are in line with the rule of law. We must have clear, defensible, and lawful standards for those who fall into this category. We must have fair procedures so that we don't make mistakes. We must have a thorough process of periodic review, so that any prolonged detention is carefully evaluated and justified.

by Fran on Fri May 22nd, 2009 at 02:27:41 PM EST
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He's merely saying they will hold them for longer, until they find an adequate solution.  He has to do this, he has no choice.  

The problem is that even though many were not anti-american before, they surely are now, after being held in this facility.  Also, if even one of them does anything ever against he US it will be a political football that enables more repression than you are seeing now.  This is the sad reality of the US political world.

He didn't put them there and he's not going after new guys to put in these facilities.  He's trying to deal with the lose/lose reality of what he has inherited.

It is tempting to say "just let them out and see where the chips fall."  Unfortunately the consequences, politically, of one of those chips falling, would derail a lot of good that is being done.  

There is also the issue where some of these prisoners, if sent 'home,' would be targets.

by paving on Fri May 22nd, 2009 at 03:49:20 PM EST
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You should really set aside some time to read Amdt. 1136 which will become public law with Obama's signature. It is not long. Click on Page S5681 to read Title III, Sec. 315, erroneously titled "to limit the release of detainees at Guantanamo Bay."

The problem is not rhetorical. It is not determining the most persuasive argument to induce "pro-American" sentiment in a prison inmate who has suffered the most appalling and constant indifference of Americans and American allies.

Wednesday, the senate furnished explicit instructions to Mr Obama on "What to do" with Guantanamo inmates --going so far as to demand the president certify the probability of any one inmate's recidivism after "rehabilitation" and release at some distant point in the future. He parroted these provisions in his speech last night with an accent on the excrutiating examination of Gitmo jackets and complex legal contradictions actual implementation demands of an empty executive order.

Where to dispose some dozen diabolical "non-enemy combatants," the educated and expert terrorists, is the logistic problem, the one MSM ignores, because this "solution" is dependent entirely on cooperation of foreign states to assume US custody of them.

The US Congress, just as Mr Obama, has washed its hands of Gitmo. They have "turned the page."

Diversity is the key to economic and political evolution.

by Cat on Fri May 22nd, 2009 at 05:26:47 PM EST
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Your post does not seem consistent with what actually is being stated.

Hands have not been washed, the President just gave a lengthy speech on the issue yesterday.

The Senate has been trying to buck the "close Gitmo" line and Obama is having to push back.  

Everything else is a matter of logistics and politics.  

What alternative do you advocate?

by paving on Fri May 22nd, 2009 at 05:39:30 PM EST
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The idea that most of these people are in any way dangerous is dangerously delusional. So is the suggestion that even if they were, they'd be more of a threat than some of the home-grown hero wannabes in the US who are walking around preaching how they can't live without their weapons cache.

I suppose due process and a fair trial is too much to ask? Or is it pushing the limits of justice to expect that these people should have been accused of something specific, backed up by solid evidence, before being imprisoned in the first place?

by ThatBritGuy (thatbritguy (at) googlemail.com) on Fri May 22nd, 2009 at 06:10:18 PM EST
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In a normal situation and especially going forward I absolutely feel they should be put on trial, charged with whatever evidence and otherwise treated like any other person in custody in the United States.

That said their cases were absolutely screwed up already by the Bush/Cheney administration.  There's no way most of them could be convicted of anything because apparently no real effort was made to handle them in that way.

In a less murky political environment it would be correct to admit our mistake, release those who cannot be convicted and accept the consequences.  In this environment such a decision would be impossible to defend against.  The instant one of these detainees was blamed (even if it was bullshit) for a terrorist attack or a dead american troop the shitstorm for Obama would be off the charts. It would cripple all policy efforts from then on and send us careening back toward the hawkish right-wing crap we've only just begun to escape.

I still think we must admit our mistake and I think Obama is moving in that rhetorical direction.  I don't pretend to have a better answer but I can't see the path of purity as being especially smart in this case either.  

The dark humorist in me suggest we release them all into Dallas, Texas and not let them leave the state.

by paving on Fri May 22nd, 2009 at 08:05:44 PM EST
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Which environment? Why do you think you're in an environment?

You're repeating noisy right wing talking points and being scared of the right, as if they're still the de facto government and need to be placated and supplicated to, just in case.

But these people are:

  1. Insane
  2. Incapable of being anything other insane
  3. Pathologically noisy and unable to shut up
  4. Irrelevant to mainstream public opinion

People voted for Obama precisely because they'd had enough of being in a Bush environment, with all of the Kafka-esque arbitrariness that that implies.

The right has decided that Obama is basically Hitler. They're not scared of another terrorist attack - they're far more scared that he'll take their guns away and start rounding them up in concentration camps.

So on the one hand you have progressives scared what the right will say if something bad happens, and on the other the right is having its own very public schizophrenic breakdown.

Meanwhile most of the public wants simple justice restored.

Aside from all of that - can anyone explain to me who actually benefits from torture and 'preventive detention', and how they benefit from it?

by ThatBritGuy (thatbritguy (at) googlemail.com) on Sat May 23rd, 2009 at 06:26:24 AM EST
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Aside from all of that - can anyone explain to me who actually benefits from torture and 'preventive detention', and how they benefit from it?

Yes. That would be the - uh - "contractors" (what do you call a værnemager in English?) who get the no-bid contracts to build, supply and maintain the concentration camps.

- Jake

Friends come and go. Enemies accumulate.

by JakeS (JangoSierra 'at' gmail 'dot' com) on Sat May 23rd, 2009 at 09:44:05 AM EST
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To directly address your point yes, clearly the majority are not dangerous in any way.  Obama is laying the groundwork to release all of these people.  The sticking point are the handful who certainly ARE dangerous but we can't stick charges to due to lack of evidence.
by paving on Fri May 22nd, 2009 at 08:07:11 PM EST
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Read the legislation --Amdt. 1133 (money), Amdt. 1136 (procedure), Amdt.1140 (states' rights) -- all passed 20 May. Then read Mr Obama's speech. I read it and linked ET to it. He and the senate patently agree on how to "shut down" Guantanamo -- in fact the "educator-in-chief" dedicated most of his address to explaining verrrrry sloooowly how "he" intends to sort the inmates categorically in order to empty the prison. That's not "push back". That was Amdt. 1136. There is no conflict. Because he damn well knows EO 13491, EO 13492, and EO 13495 were little more than proclamations --which, incidentally, don't call for dismantling US real estate in Cuba or abandoning the naval base-- of the 2009 legislative calendar.

Why waste your time trying to interpret the adolescent gibberish of 495 PR media buyers? Mr Obama is no opposition candidate. For godssakes.

I supported the use of military commissions to try detainees, provided there were several reforms, and in fact there were some bipartisan efforts to achieve those reforms. Those are the reforms that we are now making. Instead of using the flawed commissions of the last seven years, my administration is bringing our commissions in line with the rule of law. We will no longer permit the use of evidence -- as evidence statements that have been obtained using cruel, inhuman, or degrading interrogation methods. We will no longer place the burden to prove that hearsay is unreliable on the opponent of the hearsay. And we will give detainees greater latitude in selecting their own counsel, and more protections if they refuse to testify. These reforms, among others, will make our military commissions a more credible and effective means of administering justice, and I will work with Congress and members of both parties, as well as legal authorities across the political spectrum, on legislation to ensure that these commissions are fair, legitimate, and effective.

I don't know what "close Gitmo" means to you, but I look to process that restores habeus corpus and numerous other articles of the US Bill of Rights: there is no reasonable alternative to the procedure described by the senate which differentiates inmates and in its neurotic fashion simulates a due process prescribed by Supreme Court rulings yet also consistent with MCA which none of these assholes will touch. The part of their "solution" to the problem of uncontested presidential power suspending habeus indefinitely is desirable to the extent the congress and executive demonstrably conform to constitutional writ.

The other part of the problem is not partisan politics. It is consensus --majority votes-- in both chambers of Congress and in the White House that inmates need not be tried, and they need not be maintained if convicted in the USA.

There is a host of abominable Bush law demanding repeal. I'd settle for an EO prohibiting MCA prosecution of foreign nationals for the simple reason none, NONE, are enemy combatants. I'd like to see Mr Obama drop the façade of "national security" interests in order to justify these prisoners.

But that's not how low-info liberals will "shut down" Guantanamo prison. Because truthfully Mr Obama doesn't want that to happen (he's planning to draft law to adapt to the new reality of "war with al-Qaida and its affiliates"!).

Diversity is the key to economic and political evolution.

by Cat on Fri May 22nd, 2009 at 08:59:25 PM EST
[ Parent ]
I actually take "shut down Gitmo" to mean exactly that, close the Guantanamo Bay prison.  Believing it means anything else is fanciful and wishful thinking.

As for denial of HC, etc, the question isn't what to do going forward so much as what to do with people who've already been denied these rights.  It's a matter of sorting out an existing problem in a way that minimizes the total damage.

I'm quite familiar with the legal underpinnings of all of this.  I'm also familiar with the reality that is warfare, POW's and human history.  Such abuses have occurred time and again throughout our history and it's terribly naive to pretend this is the first or last time it has happened.  

Also consider that Obama has stated himself that just because something is legal does not mean we should do it.  This is the foundation of his policy going forward.  What the law allows, for the time being, need not reflect our behavior.  Your tone will be more appropriate should new "detainees" be imprisoned without these rights.  Should Obama add to the problem it becomes his.  My view is that he's searching for a way to restore the rule of law whilst trying to adapt the law for the moment to accept what has occurred.  As we've see in other areas I think he expects these efforts to fail under judicial scrutiny, in fact I think that is EXACTLY what he's trying to do.  Buy some time and set the legal foundation needed to prevent this in the future.

I'll ask again - what do you suppose we do that is better?  I agree that the vast majority of the Gitmo detainees are at least relatively harmless.  It's foolish to suggest ALL of them are.  These arguments primarily concern those who are actually dangerous.  The rest will be released, through some means or other.  Ultimately even these dangerous detainees will be dealt with - the question that is still being answered is how that will occur.  Let's give it a moment and see what our govt. can come up with.

Finally, of course Obama is not an "opposition candidate," he's the President of the United States. This is not a campaign, this is governing.

by paving on Fri May 22nd, 2009 at 09:12:43 PM EST
[ Parent ]
I'll ask again - what do you suppose we do that is better?

I have answered, there is nothing "better" --absent repeal of various "abominable" laws which furnish Guantanamo prison with lawful deadbeats-- than the procedure prescribed by the senate to simulate a due process. Also that Mr Obama agrees. Such adjudication has been previously denied remaining Guantananmo inmates. The exceptions among them being MCA convictions of two or is it fourteen? 20th 9/11 hijackers.

I agree that the vast majority of the Gitmo detainees are at least relatively harmless.

I have not stated anywhere "the vast majority of the Gitmo detainees are at least relatively harmless." So you must be agreeing with some other commenter. I do know, I cannot presume who is charged with what crime if at all, who is guilty, who is harmless, who harbors  intelligence of consumable vintage, who is maimed or even who is dead as a result of maltreatment or voluntary lassitude while imprisoned at Guantanamo. These facts are undiscoverable, being classified matters of "national security interest."

Finally, of course Obama is not an "opposition candidate," he's the President of the United States. This is not a campaign, this is governing.

Pardon me. I did not apprehend your earlier statement correctly.

The Senate has been trying to buck the "close Gitmo" line and Obama is having to push back.


Diversity is the key to economic and political evolution.
by Cat on Fri May 22nd, 2009 at 10:25:15 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Ultimately though, if there were some white-trash skinheads in a North Dakota jail who had been tortured in any way close to what these people have lived throgh in Gitmo, regardless of what they had done or admitted to, whatever large cache of weapons or designs to commit further atrocities, they would be out on the streets yesterday.

Justice is blind. Truth cannot be a little bit pregnant.

Never underestimate their intelligence, always underestimate their knowledge.

Frank Delaney ~ Ireland

by siegestate (siegestate or beyondwarispeace.com) on Sat May 23rd, 2009 at 03:55:48 AM EST
[ Parent ]
paving:
 Your tone will be more appropriate should new "detainees" be imprisoned without these rights.  Should Obama add to the problem it becomes his.

Well...

We wouldn't want to inflame anti-American sentiment - Glenn Greenwald - Salon.com

In a two-sentence filing late Friday, the Justice Department said that the new administration had reviewed its position in a case brought by prisoners at the United States Air Force base at Bagram, just north of the Afghan capital. The Obama team determined that the Bush policy was correct: such prisoners cannot sue for their release.
by generic on Sat May 23rd, 2009 at 08:01:15 AM EST
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US troop surge in Afghanistan 'could push Taliban into Pakistan' | World news | guardian.co.uk

The buildup of US troops in Afghanistan could force more Taliban fighters into neighbouring Pakistan, the chairman of the US joint chiefs of staff conceded last night.

Admiral Mike Mullen told the US Senate's foreign relations committee: "We can't deny that our success may only push them [the Taliban] deeper into Pakistan."

Mullen said military planning was under way to overcome that risk. He said the increase of 21,000 US forces in Afghanistan was "about right" for the new strategy of trying to quell the insurgency and speed up training of Afghan security forces.

"Can I [be] 100% certain that won't destabilise Pakistan? I don't know the answer to that," Mullen told the committee.

by Fran on Fri May 22nd, 2009 at 02:00:29 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Mexican guards stood by during prison breakout - Americas, World - The Independent

Video from a security camera shows that guards at a Mexican prison stood by nonchalantly as 53 inmates, many of them suspected members of drug gangs, walked out -- and that the guards did not rush into action with their guns drawn until well after the convoy of escape vehicles had disappeared, a Mexican newspaper reported yesterday.

The video, published on the Web site of the newspaper Reforma, provides a rare inside look at lax security inside Mexico's prisons, a problem that makes prosecuting drug smugglers vastly more difficult. Interpol described some of the inmates, who escaped without firing a shot, as "a risk to the safety and security of citizens around the world."

Interpol issued an international security alert for 11 of the prisoners involved in the prison break, which lasted less than three minutes on Saturday in Cieneguillas, in the northern state of Zacatecas. About a dozen of the prisoners were suspected of being members of drug gangs. The video shows bored-looking guards watching television before one of the prisoners opened an unlocked gate to his cellblock and then ordered a group of inmates to follow him into the guards' room. The guards stepped aside, making no effort to stop the escape, and then they were shoved into the cellblock by the inmates, some of whom were armed.

by Fran on Fri May 22nd, 2009 at 02:00:59 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Hezbollah says Biden visit interferes in election - BostonHerald.com

BEIRUT -- Vice President Joe Biden reaffirmed strong American support for Lebanon's government today as the deeply divided country prepares for crucial elections in two weeks that could see the pro-Western faction ousted by Iranian-backed Hezbollah and its allies.

Hezbollah has accused Washington of trying to influence the June 7 vote in favor of the pro-Western faction that dominates the government. The militant group said the visits by Biden and U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton a month ago raised "strong suspicion and amounted to a clear and detailed interference in Lebanon's affairs."

by Fran on Fri May 22nd, 2009 at 02:02:01 PM EST
[ Parent ]
U.S. Jobless Rate May Soon Top Europe's
By Floyd Norris, NY Times

For many years, unemployment in the United States was lower than in Western Europe, a fact often cited by people who argued that the flexibility inherent in the American system -- it is easier to both hire and fire workers than in many European countries -- produced more jobs.

That is no longer the case. Unemployment in the United States has risen to European averages, and seems likely to pass them when international data for April is calculated.

Europe is still Doomed though.

by Magnifico on Fri May 22nd, 2009 at 02:30:06 PM EST
[ Parent ]
And the unemployment figures between economies still aren't comparable.
by Colman (colman at eurotrib.com) on Fri May 22nd, 2009 at 02:35:15 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Our underground economy is apparently much more virulent than yours.
by paving on Fri May 22nd, 2009 at 03:50:50 PM EST
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DailyKos | Col. Wilkerson: "Cheney Kept Some Things From the President"

We interviewed Col. Lawrence Wilkerson, the former Chief of Staff to Colin Powell, on The Young Turks and he had some very interesting things to say. Including:

"Cheney was co-president.  I'd go further than that and say that for national security issues and other critical issues Cheney was the President."

"I found the incredible arrogance and lack of humility of the Secretary of Defense, Donald Rumsfeld, to be stunning almost right off the bat."

Referring to the decision to abuse detainees:

"I don't think there's any question it goes to Cheney.  I'm increasingly of a mind that a lot of it goes to Cheney and stops there. Not just because of the president's disinclination to do detail, but I also think that Cheney kept some things from the president.

Interesting dynamic developing among the rats.  Note that Cheney seems to always make sure to implicate Bush in everything, even though he seems to word his statements in a way that suggests it was he who was really making the decisions, and that Bush may well have not known much of anything.

The Rumsfeld Bible thing makes me think of that.  My view has always been that Bush was more cynical than stupid.  Maybe he really was just a moron with Daddy issues.

Anyway, the Powell people like Wilkerson have clearly had enough of Cheney, and sadly they seem to be the only ones standing up to defend things like closing Gitmo and the like.

Be nice to America. Or we'll bring democracy to your country.

by Drew J Jones (pedobear@pennstatefootball.com) on Fri May 22nd, 2009 at 08:30:46 PM EST
[ Parent ]
LA Times: Army needs oversight, Human Rights Watch says
Report lists 17 allegations of serious human rights abuse by the Mexican army, including torture and murder. (April 30, 2009)
Gunmen ambush a military patrol pursuing drug traffickers. The soldiers retaliate, rounding up dozens of townspeople. Four girls held for 20 hours later tell prosecutors that soldiers repeatedly raped and abused them.

The case, from exactly two years ago in the state of Michoacan, is one of 17 allegations of serious human rights abuse by the Mexican army, including torture and murder, detailed in a major report released Wednesday by U.S.-based Human Rights Watch that accuses Mexico of failing to hold its soldiers accountable.

As the military is increasingly used in Mexico to fight drug traffickers, placing it in the nontraditional role of enforcing law and order, the number of allegations has soared. But in every case, the military is allowed to investigate its own alleged wrongdoing, and soldiers and officers are never brought to justice, Human Rights Watch said.

The problem is that the police is infiltrated by the narcos so the Government has resorted to the military.

The brainless should not be in banking. — Willem Buitler
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Sat May 23rd, 2009 at 04:05:21 AM EST
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