Attorney general defends presidential assassinations of US citizens

Tom Eley & Barry Grey

Screen captures from “Collateral Murder: Top left, Reuters reporters and other Iraqi civilians, talking. Top right, the group comes under fire from Apache gunship. Bottom left, men fleeing. Bottom right, men all dead. From now on this could happen anywhere. To anyone. Legally.

In a speech delivered Monday at Northwestern University Law School in Chicago, US Attorney General Eric Holder asserted the “right” of the president to secretly order the assassination of US citizens. Laying out a brief for virtually unchecked executive power to carry out military aggression abroad and repression at home, the speech was a sweeping attack on fundamental democratic and constitutional principles.

Holder’s remarks were cast within the framework of the so-called “war on terror.” In words intended to instill fear and panic, he declared early in his remarks that America had reached an “hour of danger.” He continued: “We are a nation at war… there are people currently plotting to murder Americans, who reside in distant countries as well as within our own borders.”

The attorney general’s remarks come five months after President Obama ordered the killing of Anwar al-Awlaki, a US citizen, in a drone attack in Yemen. Another US citizen, Samir Khan, was killed in the same attack. Two weeks later, Awlaki’s 16-year-old son, Abdulrahman, was killed in subsequent US drone strike.

Protests continue as Wisconsin politicians debate attack on public employees

Tom Eley

Protestors march in front of Capitol building in Madison

"This is, above all, a political fight against the entire economic and political set up in the United States, which sacrifices the interests of masses of working people to the wealthy few."

The Wisconsin legislature began debate on Tuesday over a bill that would force major wage cuts on government workers and further restrict their legal right to strike and organize. Democratic legislators are maneuvering with the trade unions to wind down protests and reach a compromise with Republicans that will leave intact the drastic cuts to workers’ wages. At the same time the Democrats are seeking to remove elements of the bill aimed at destroying the public sector unions in Wisconsin, such as the legislation’s abolition of the automatic dues check-off and its requirement that unions be re-certified by election each year.

The bill, pushed by Republican Governor Scott Walker, has provoked massive resistance among Wisconsin workers and youth, who have launched a wave of school and college walkouts and an unprecedented series of demonstrations, including an ongoing occupation of the capitol building in Madison going back to Tuesday, February 15. Inspired by developments in Wisconsin, similar protests and sympathy actions are proliferating across the US.

The demonstrations are anticipated to continue. According to Chad, an unemployed worker in Madison who has attended the demonstrations, rallies at the capitol continue to draw many thousands and are expected to be larger over the weekend. Hundreds of workers and youth have been streaming into Wisconsin from across the US, hoping to take a stand against wage-cutting and attacks on workplace rights. Several hundred teachers from New York City went to Madison on Wednesday, as did 160 government workers from Los Angeles.

In an effort to stall for time while negotiating with Republicans to reach a compromise, assembly Democrats forced a debate on the bill through Tuesday night and Wednesday morning by introducing a series of amendments that were voted down along party lines. The debate continued all day Wednesday, with Democrats promising to introduce as many as 200 amendments. The bill was to have been first considered by the senate, but the flight of 14 Democratic senators to Illinois on Thursday, February 17, denied Republicans a quorum. They remain in Illinois.

Egyptian military tortured, “disappeared” thousands of demonstrators

Tom Eley

Since demonstrations and strikes erupted against the Mubarak regime on January 25, the Egyptian military has arrested, tortured and “disappeared” thousands, according to reports from the Guardian newspaper and human rights organizations.

The revelations explode the claim advanced by the Obama administration that Egypt’s army is a neutral arbiter in the crisis and can lead a “transition” to human rights and democracy. They also give the lie to the claim that the military can be relied upon to protect the population from the hated state security forces, an argument advanced by both Mohammed ElBaradei and the Muslim Brotherhood. The military has, in fact, assumed the brutal role of the police and security forces, which have, at least in part, dissolved in the face of the revolution.

According to Human Rights Watch, at least 302 Egyptians have been killed in the protests, the vast majority of these at the hands of the security forces, pro-government thugs and the military. Heba Morayef, a researcher for Human Rights Watch in Cairo who participated in the count, said that the ultimate number will likely be far higher.

The number of the disappeared—those arrested by the military with no record or official acknowledgement of their fate—runs into the hundreds, possibly thousands, Hossam Bahgat, director of the Egyptian Initiative for Personal Rights in Cairo, told the Guardian. Their “crimes” include carrying political leaflets, attending demonstrations, “or even the way they look,” the newspaper reports.

WikiLeaks exposes US complicity in murder, torture, by Egyptian government

Tom Eley

"The cables demonstrate the courage of the Egyptian demonstrators in the face of the brutality of the Mubarak regime."

On Friday, WikiLeaks released dozens of diplomatic cables that together reveal the US has long been aware of the criminality of the Mubarak regime in Egypt and its savage abuses, including torture, random arrest, and extra-judicial killings. The documents also reveal that plans for the military-supervised transfer of power from Hosni Mubarak to his son, Gamal, were presented to Washington.

The document release, which coincided with mass demonstrations and clashes with police in Cairo, Suez, and other cities, will only serve to further discredit Mubarak, and is a major embarrassment to the Obama administration, whose leading representatives, including President Obama, Vice President Joe Biden, and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, have continued to insist that the Mubarak regime is not a dictatorship, while hypocritically calling for “restraint.”

The documents, diplomatic cables from the US embassy in Cairo from 2009 and 2010, make clear that the Obama administration was well aware that the Mubarak regime held onto power by terrorizing the population. But Washington tacitly supported the dictatorship and its crimes because Egypt is considered the most important component to US strategy for a wide region encompassing the Middle East, the Maghreb, and the Horn of Africa.

Thanksgiving in America: US corporations shatter profit records

Tom Eley

US corporations took in $1.659 trillion in the third quarter, breaking records going back 60 years, according to a Commerce Department report released Tuesday. It was the seventh consecutive quarter of profit growth at “some of the fastest rates in history” according to the New York Times.

If any more proof were needed, the third quarter profit record exposes the lie promoted by Democrats and Republicans alike that only the “free market” and private businesses can reverse the nation’s 9.6 percent unemployment rate. The corporations and banks are sitting on a cash horde in the trillions of dollars. This money is not being used to hire workers, but to line the pockets of the executives and top shareholders.

The profit bonanza that lasted from July through September eclipsed the old record of $1.655 trillion established in the third quarter of 2006—just as the money-mad speculation of the financial elite was hurtling the US and world economy toward the precipice of its worst economic crisis since the Great Depression.

The resulting financial crisis, which erupted in the autumn of 2008, threatened a total collapse of the global financial system. In response, the governments of the world, led by the US, used the disaster to hand over tens of trillions in public wealth to the very finance houses that triggered the crisis. This process continues, as demonstrated by the International Monetary Fund/European Union-dictated rescue of the Irish banks this week.

Reports expose White House cover-up of BP spill

Tom Eley

The Obama administration intentionally suppressed information regarding the size of the BP oil spill for months, handicapping response efforts and confusing public perception of the catastrophe, according to new reports issued by investigators working for the National Commission on the BP Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill and Offshore Drilling.

The revelations demonstrate that the White House response to the worst environmental disaster in recent history was to participate in a criminal conspiracy designed to shield BP and the oil industry.

White House stonewalling began in the first days after the April 20 explosion on the Deepwater Horizon oil rig, which killed 11 workers, when it initially denied that there was an oil spill, and it continued through August, when administration officials manipulated evidence to falsely claim that 75 percent of the oil dumped into the Gulf of Mexico was “gone.” In between, the White House effectively ran interference for BP, at every turn seeking to minimize the size of the disaster, going so far as barring a federal agency from updating an incorrect early estimate of the spill volume.

The four “working reports” submitted to the commission for review are written as a warning that public confidence in the oil industry and the federal government has been seriously damaged by the failed effort to cover up the scope of the spill.

“By initially underestimating the amount of oil flow and then, at the end of the summer, appearing to underestimate the amount of oil remaining in the gulf, the federal government created the impression that it was either not fully competent to handle the spill or not fully candid with the American people about the scope of the problem,” [one of the reports concludes.]

US banks fake documents to rush foreclosures

Tom Eley

Major US banks systematically faked documents in order to speed up foreclosures for hundreds of thousands of homeowners, a mounting body of evidence shows. It appears likely that federal and state laws were broken in the process.

The scandal speaks both to the dimensions of the social crisis and the criminality of the big banks. The immediate cause of the mortgage lenders’ rampant cheating on foreclosure paperwork is the tidal wave of families ruined by the economic crisis—a crisis itself set into motion by the banks’ predatory lending practices. The goal was to get people out of their homes as efficiently and ruthlessly as possible, skating over legal requirements relating to documentation.

Politicians have responded with calls for investigations and temporary suspensions of foreclosures. Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi and 30 other California representatives this week demanded a federal investigation into the mortgage lending industry in a letter sent to the Justice Department. Democratic Senators Al Franken of Minnesota and Robert Menendez of New Jersey on Tuesday requested an investigation from the Government Accountability Office into the role of government regulatory agencies in allowing the abuses to take place. Attorneys general in a number of states have launched investigations, and foreclosures have been temporarily stopped in a few.

This pre-election concern for embattled homeowners is dishonest to the core. In fact, the entire process of dispossessing Americans from their homes has been facilitated by politicians of both parties, and in particular President Obama, whose bogus “housing rescue” of 2009 did nothing to address the root cause of the disaster: the fact that mortgages are vastly overvalued and not at all symmetrical to the incomes of US workers. This has left millions of homeowners “underwater”—owing more to banks on their homes than the market value.

Cancer rate in Fallujah worse than Hiroshima

Tom Eley

The Iraqi city of Fallujah continues to suffer the ghastly consequences of a US military onslaught in late 2004.

According to the authors of a new study, “Cancer, Infant Mortality and Birth Sex-Ratio in Fallujah, Iraq 2005–2009,” the people of Fallujah are experiencing higher rates of cancer, leukemia, infant mortality, and sexual mutations than those recorded among survivors in Hiroshima and Nagasaki in the years after those Japanese cities were incinerated by US atomic bomb strikes in 1945.

The epidemiological study, published in the International Journal of Environmental Studies and Public Health (IJERPH), also finds the prevalence of these conditions in Fallujah to be many times greater than in nearby nations.

The assault on Fallujah, a city located 43 miles west of Baghdad, was one of the most horrific war crimes of our time. After the population resisted the US-led occupation of Iraq—a war of neo-colonial plunder launched on the basis of lies—Washington determined to make an example of the largely Sunni city. This is called “exemplary” or “collective” punishment and is, according to the laws of war, illegal.

The new public health study of the city now all but proves what has long been suspected: that a high proportion of the weaponry used in the assault contained depleted uranium, a radioactive substance used in shells to increase their effectiveness.

In a study of 711 houses and 4,843 individuals carried out in January and February 2010, authors Chris Busby, Malak Hamdan, Entesar Ariabi and a team of researchers found that the cancer rate had increased fourfold since before the US attack five years ago, and that the forms of cancer in Fallujah are similar to those found among the Hiroshima and Nagasaki atomic bomb survivors, who were exposed to intense fallout radiation.

In Fallujah the rate of leukemia is 38 times higher, the childhood cancer rate is 12 times higher, and breast cancer is 10 times more common than in populations in Egypt, Jordan, and Kuwait. Heightened levels of adult lymphoma and brain tumors were also reported. At 80 deaths out of every 1,000 births, the infant mortality rate in Fallujah is more than five times higher than in Egypt and Jordan, and eight times higher than in Kuwait.

Strikingly, after 2005 the proportion of girls born in Fallujah has increased sharply. In normal populations, 1050 boys are born for every 1000 girls. But among those born in Fallujah in the four years after the US assault, the ratio was reduced to 860 boys for every 1000 female births. This alteration is similar to gender ratios found in Hiroshima after the US atomic attack of 1945.

New York Times minimizes Gulf oil spill

Tom Eley

The April 20 blowout on a BP oil rig 50 miles off Louisiana’s coast, which claimed the lives of 11 workers, continues to gush millions of gallons of heavy crude oil into the Gulf of Mexico with no clear end in sight. The disaster has already led to major economic and environmental devastation, with the Gulf Coast’s multi-billion-dollar fishing industry suspended in high season.

With the calamity resulting from the explosion of the Deepwater Horizon growing worse by the day, the New York Times, the leading publication of US liberalism and self-styled “newspaper of record,” declares in a Tuesday “new analysis” that the spill is really not so serious after all. The column, “Gulf Oil Spill Is Bad, but How Bad?” is a thoroughly dishonest piece whose clear aim is to chloroform mounting public anger against BP and the Obama administration.

The Times starts its column with a series of lies and half-truths. Dismissing “some experts” who “predict apocalypse,” authors John Broder and Tom Zeller declare that

the “Deepwater Horizon blowout is not unprecedented, nor is it yet among the worst oil accidents in history.” In the Times’ estimation, whether or not it achieves historic status “will depend on a long list of interlinked variables.”

With millions of gallons of oil spilled near a densley populated and economically crucial area, the Deepwater Horizon disaster is already among the worst oil spills in history, the Times’ “long list of interlinked variables” notwithstanding.

Obama orders assassination of US citizen

Tom Eley

"The public justification for killing Awlaki is based on bald assertions and hearsay from intelligence sources who refuse to even identify themselves. The executive branch arrogates to itself the powers of judge, jury, and executioner, and those targeted for liquidation have no right to question the supposed evidence against them."

For the first time in history, an American president has officially ordered the assassination of a US citizen.

President Barack Obama has approved the “targeted killing” of Anwar al-Awlaki, a US-born Muslim cleric who is reported to be in hiding in Yemen. No substantial evidence has been brought to bear against Awlaki, 38, who is accused of terrorism, and he will be afforded no legal recourse against the death sentence.

Word of Obama’s decision has been intentionally leaked by multiple intelligence officials to various media sources. Reuters and the Wall Street Journal published news articles on the story on Tuesday, and these were confirmed by stories in the Washington Post and New York Times on Wednesday.

The killing of citizens declared by the executive branch to be “terrorists” was first announced as state policy by Obama’s director of national intelligence, Dennis C. Blair, in February congressional hearings. “We take direct actions against terrorists in the intelligence community,” Blair said. “If we think that direct action will involve killing an American, we get specific permission to do that.”

Awlaki, who was born in New Mexico, has been linked by e-mail communication to Nidal Malik Hasan, the army psychologist who gunned down 13 soldiers in a November rampage at Ford Hood, Texas. No evidence has been presented, however, to suggest that Awlaki in any way planned or ordered the attack.

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