Long before Thomas Hauser turned his literary eye to boxing, he was a writer with serious political credentials. One of his books ('Missing') served as the basis for the Academy-Award-winning Costa- Gavres film starring Jack Lemmon and Sissy Spacek. Another Hauser work ('Final Warning') made its way to the screen as 'Chernobyl: The Final Warning' starring Jon Voight and Jason Robards. Each year, Hauser reaches out to boxing fans who read Secondsout.com with an article of political note. This year's work 'More Important Than Boxing: 2007' deserves the widest distribution possible. The Daily Banter is pleased to share it with our readers. More Important Than Boxing: 2007
By Thomas Hauser
We don't stop being citizens when we enter the world of sports. With that in mind, once a year I use this space to address issues that are more important than boxing.
Democracy should be practiced, not just celebrated. One of the most troubling aspects of George Bush’s tenure in office has been his assault on the judicial underpinnings of American democracy. Despite his rhetoric, Mr. Bush has dishonored the fundamental traditions of American justice. Anyone who isn't outraged at what he has done isn't paying attention.
U.S. Attorneys who refuse to conduct criminal investigations in accord with political commands from the White House have been removed from office.
Lewis “Scooter” Libby (Dick Cheney’s former chief of staff) was convicted of perjury and obstruction of justice after lying to federal agents and to a grand jury which was investigating the leak of the name of a CIA operative. He was sentenced to thirty months in prison; but before he could be incarcerated, Mr. Bush commuted his sentence. The commutation had all the earmarks of buying Libby’s silence. Thanks to the president, Mr. Libby (who commited a crime that bears directly on national security) served less time in jail than Paris Hilton.But the most grotesque aspect of the Bush Administration’s distortion of justice has been its repeated violation of constitutional rights and reliance upon torture as a tool in the “war on terror.”
There was a time when the United States stood as a beacon of hope for the proposition that human rights are deserving of respect. Article 3 of the Geneva Conventions of 1949 (to which the U.S. is a signatory) prohibits, “mutilation, cruel treatment, and torture” in addition to the “humiliating and degrading treatment” of detainees. In autumn 2007, the United States Supreme Court ruled that military detainees in the “war on terror” must be treated in accord with the Geneva Conventions. In response, Mr. Bush issued an executive order of dubious legality that simply reclassified the detainees.
The Bush Administration now takes the position that detainees can be held indefinitely and do not have a right to contest their detention in federal court or before another neutral decision-maker. Suspects are imprisoned in undisclosed locations without counsel or notification to their families. Many of them are interrogated in secret prisons in Afghanistan, Thailand, and Eastern Europe, where their captors rely on interrogation techniques developed by the governments of Egypt, Saudi Arabia, and the former Soviet Union. These techniques include waterboarding, sleep deprivation, prolonged exposure to extreme temperatures, and beatings.
The Bush Administration’s guidelines for officially-sanctioned torture allow for everything but “extreme acts causing severe pain of the sort that accompanies serious physical injury leading to death or organ failure.” In other words, it’s permissible to break someone’s leg with a crowbar. That might be an “extreme act causing severe pain of the sort that accompanies serious physical injury” but it wouldn’t necessarily “lead to death or organ failure.”
One can make a rational argument in support of the use of torture in certain limited, clearly-defined, closely-regulated instances. Suppose, for example, the authorities know that a nuclear weapon is about to be detonated on American soil and believe that a detainee has information which, if revealed, could preclude the carnage? The dialogue regarding a hypothetical of this nature would be similar in many respects to the debate over capital punishment.
The argument against capital punishment is twofold: (1) there are those who think that it debases any society that employs it; and (2) an innocent person might be executed. I personally believe that there are instances when capital punishment is warranted. Many people take a contrary view. But under American law (at least, in theory), there is a clearly-defined process that must be followed before a death penalty is administered.
By contrast, under present circumstances, the utilization of torture by our government appears to be arbitrary. Not only does it debase our society; there is also a legitimate fear that innocent people are being tortured and killed.
It would be comforting to think that the men and women responsible for interrogating detainees in the “war on terror” are capable operatives with sound judgment. But what we know about the Bush Administration offers scant hope in that regard.
The centerpiece of the “war on terror” has been the invasion of Iraq. The rationale for the invasion keeps changing. First, we invaded Iraq because Saddam Hussein was purportedly building weapons of mass destruction. When that charge proved false, the war became about “bringing freedom to the Iraqi people.” By that logic, we should also invade China to bring freedom to the Chinese people. Now, we’re implored to “stay the course” in Iraq because it’s important to stay the course.
There will be no "victory" for the United States in Iraq. Iraq barely functions as a country anymore. It's a bloody conglomeration of local militias, warlords, terrorists, the U.S. military, the Iraqi military, and other disparate forces. The only remaining questions are how many more lives will be lost, how much more money will it cost, and how bad the damage to our longterm interests and standing in the international community will be before we withdraw.
That was made clear by General Ricardo Sanchez (former commander of American forces in Iraq), who told a gathering of military reporters last month that the Bush Administration’s handling of the war was based on “a catastophically flawed, unrealistically optimistic war plan that has led to a nightmare with no end in sight. There has been,” General Sanchez said, “a glaring and unfortunate display of incompetent strategic leadership” by leaders who have been “derelict in their duties” and guilty of a “lust for power.”
The following is a sampling of mishaps (characterized by total incompetence) that have come to light since I wrote about the invasion of Iraq in this forum one year ago:
* The Bush Administration flew nearly $12 billion in shrink-wrapped $100 bills into Iraq and distributed the cash with inadequate controls over who was receiving it and how it was spent. The cash weighed 363 tons and was sent to Baghdad for disbursement to Iraqi ministries and U.S. contractors. A good portion of it was retained for private personal use or fell into the hands of terrorists. As Henry Waxman (chairman of the House of Representatives Committee on Oversight and Government Reform) queried, " Who in their right mind would send 363 tons of cash into a war zone?"
* The Special Inspector General for Iraq Reconstruction reported to Congress that only 12,000 of the 500,000 weapons given to the Iraqi Ministries of Defense and Interior by our government since the invasion were being properly tracked. In other words, hundreds of thousands of weapons (including grenade launchers, machine guns, and assault rifles) could be anywhere and in anyone's hands. Thereafter, in one of its last acts, the Republican-controlled 109th Congress passed (and George Bush signed) a military authorization bill that terminated the Office of the Special Inspector General for Iraq Reconstruction.
* The Bush Administration launched a website called "Operation Iraqi Freedom Document Portal" to propagate the argument that Saddam Hussein had, in fact, been planning to build weapons of mass destruction. The launch came over the objection of Director of National Intelligence John Negroponte. The site was closed in November 2006 after International Atomic Energy Agency officials complained that the documents on it went beyond anything else that was publicly available in constituting a basic guide to building an atomic bomb.
In sum, the Bush Administration has an extensive record of mismanaging the “war on terror.” Thus the question: “How many innocent people have been tortured and killed by our government?”
We’ll never know, because the hidden nature of the interrogations and torture keep “bad decisions” from coming to light.
George Bush should not have been put in the position of responsibility and power that he has abused for almost seven years. But rather than dwell on the past, let’s give practical application to the issues raised by this article. Why not subject the Bush administration to the same standard of “justice” that it has applied to others?
On July 9, 2007, George Bush invoked a claim of “executive privilege” in response to requests for information by two Congressional committees that were investigating the firing of nine U.S. Attorneys. More specifically, the White House refused to comply with subpoenas for relevant documents and blocked two presidential aides with knowledge related to the firings from testifying before Congress.
Why bother with subpoenas and lengthy court proceedings? Bring former Attorney General Alberto Gonzalez before Congress and beat the information out of him.
Come to think of it; Congress could impeach and convict the president and vice president using the same process. Arrest Mr. Bush and Mr. Cheney. Hold them incommunicato in a secret prison without access to a lawyer. The pre-trial discovery would be enlightening. One can only begin to imagine the wrongdoing that would be revealed after waterboarding, sleep deprivation, and brutal beatings. The Bush Administration says that these interrogation techniques are reserved for “high value” detainees. But who’s more “high value” that George Bush and Dick Cheney? We might even get some photographs of the president and vice president nude on their hands and knees, each one with a dog collar around his neck and a woman soldier holding the leash.
The impeachment trial would be conducted in secret. As for the sentence; given Dick Cheney’s much-publicized heart condition, he probably wouldn’t make it that far. But Mr. Bush seems to be in pretty good shape. Life imprisonment or the death penalty? What do you think?
Some bleeding-heart liberals and card-carrying members of the American Civil Liberties Union might find fault with interrogation and a trial of this nature. But I’m sure that patriotic Americans wouldn’t object.
PS: Words like “torture” and “beating” have become so common in usage that we tend to read through them. They sanitize the violence. So let’s think in terms of you, the reader. An interrogator punches you flush on the tip of your nose, flattening it against your face. You still haven’t told him what he wants to know. You might not even know it; but he thinks you do. Or maybe he’s just a sadistic bastard. So he shoves slivers of metal beneath your fingertips.
Hey; as Donald Rumsfeld blithely said about the mounting death toll in iraq: “Stuff happens.”
Thomas Hauser can be reached by email at firstname.lastname@example.org
(This article was originally published on secondsout.com, and kindly donated by Thomas Hauser to The Daily Banter.com) Read more!
Pat Buchanan is a strange political phenomenon. The aging former presidential candidate is a true conservative with values he actually believes and sticks to. In the age of sound byte politics, Buchanan has resolutely refused to be drawn into one line debates and the politics of assassination. Although many of his view are distasteful to liberals (abortion, the size of government etc), his analysis of American politics is very astute and he has to be respected for his consistency. Buchanan is no neo-con, and understands the terrible consequences for the American imperial project at home and abroad. Here he is on the collapsing value of the dollar, and the future of the American economy. It's certainly worth a read whether your agree or disagree with his politics.
As the bellicose language increases from the Bush Administration, the actual threat from Iran seems to be decreasing. With Bush telling the American public that a nuclear Iran would instigate 'World War 3', a variety of experts have certified that there is no evidence that they are trying to attain nuclear weapons.
Late last month, Bush told a room packed with journalists that:
"I've told people that if you're interested in avoiding World War III, it seems like you ought to be interested in preventing them (Iran) from having the knowledge necessary to make a nuclear weapon,"
This is flatly contradicted by prominent experts directly related to the issue of nuclear proliferation.
"I have not received any information that there is a concrete active nuclear-weapons program going on right now," said IAEA Director General Mohamed ElBaradei.
With insiders in the Bush Administration also admitting that Iran is not working on the bomb, the evidence would ultimately point to the White House beating the drums for another war.
I had an opportunity to screen this film in August at the University of Oregon. The documentary began at 7:00 on a warm Saturday evening, and the place was packed with people. Peace activists of all ages filled the hall to maximum capacity, and the audience was active with emotions ranging from to shocked, to dismayed, to outraged.
People applauded and cheered like they were in church, and I left feeling refreshed. I finally realized that there were hundreds of people in my community who were just as outraged but this war as I am.
This film not only exposes the role of the Corporate Media in promoting military conflicts, it puts a human face on war that is generally whitewashed in America. A particularly sobering segment tallied the number of civilian deaths in every major military conflict of the 20th century. When the number of civilian deaths in Iraq was dispalyed, I could hear people openly weeping.
This is a must see film for anyone concerned with the way in which information is presented to them. Here's the IMDB synopsis:
"War Made Easy reaches into the Orwellian memory hole to expose a 50-year pattern of government deception and media spin that has dragged the United States into one war after another from Vietnam to Iraq. Narrated by actor and activist Sean Penn, the film exhumes remarkable archival footage of official distortion and exaggeration from LBJ to George W. Bush, revealing in stunning detail how the American news media have uncritically disseminated the pro-war messages of successive presidential administrations."
Watch this remarkable film at: http://www.moviesfoundonline.com/war_made_easy.phpRead more!
It seems to be impossible for Americans to face the reality of whom the have elected into power. As the astounding corruption and criminal behaviour of the Bush Administration becomes clearer and clearer, there seems to be less and less desire to do anything about it. There is a current firestorm about Donald Rumsfeld's internal memos to his staff that should result in a criminal prosecution. There won't be one, and there will no doubt be more to come as inquiries reveal more heinous activity at the highest levels of government. Here is the Washington Post on the latest exposure of Rumsfeld's disastrous tenure as Defense Secretary:
"In a series of internal musings and memos to his staff, then-Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld argued that Muslims avoid "physical labor" and wrote of the need to "keep elevating the threat," "link Iraq to Iran" and develop "bumper sticker statements" to rally public support for an increasingly unpopular war.
The memos, often referred to as "snowflakes," shed light on Rumsfeld's brusque management style and on his efforts to address key challenges during his tenure as Pentagon chief. Spanning from 2002 to shortly after his resignation following the 2006 congressional elections, a sampling of his trademark missives obtained yesterday reveals a defense secretary disdainful of media criticism and driven to reshape public opinion of the Iraq war."
Rudy Guiliani is about as close to a fascist as possible in the mainstream political spectrum. The former Mayor of New York has tied himself to George Bushes' policy on torture, foreign policy, and economics in a desperate attempt to woo the ultra right. He is positioning himself as more militant than the insane neo cons in office, and sacrificing any credibility he may have had before the election. It will be a sad day if Giuliani wins the presidential election, and the end of American democracy as we know it. Check out the brilliant Keith Olbermann dissecting Giuliani's ridiculous positions on 'Count Down', the only news show in America worth watching.
Presidential debates are usually tedious affairs with more blather than discussion, and more spin than substance. Although the confines of debate in American politics is extremely narrow (are you really pro America, or just pro America?), tonights confrontation between Hillary Clinton and the rest of the Democratic contenders was a little different, and quite interesting to watch. I am reticent to say who 'won' the debate, as by most analysts standards, the candidate with the best sound bytes and poise are declared victorious. But it would be fair to say that Clinton took quite a beating.
Clinton has been well schooled by her handlers. She never directly responds to a challenge, and shows about as much emotion as Schwarzenegger did in 'Terminator'. The aim of course, is to appear regal, and above the fray. But the other Democratic candidates fired some pointed criticisms of the New York Senator, and highlighted some of her many inconsistencies.
Obama scolded Clinton for changing her positions on the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), torture policies and the Iraq war. Leadership, he said, does not mean "changing positions whenever it's politically convenient."
"Now, that may be politically savvy, but I don’t think that it offers the clear contrast that we need,” he continued. "I think what we need right now is honestly with the American people about where we would take the country."
In reference to Clinton's vote in the Senate to label the Iranian Revolutionary Guard a terrorist organisation, Edwards was equally as scathing. When Clinton claimed she has directly confronted the Bush Administration, Edwards fired back:
"So the way to do that is to vote yes on a resolution that looks like it was written literally by the neocons?"
“Senator Clinton says that she believes she can be the candidate for change, but she defends a broken system that’s corrupt in Washington, D.C.,” Edwards continued. “She says she will end the war, but she continues to say she’ll keep combat troops in Iraq and continue combat missions in Iraq. To me, that’s not ending the war; that’s the continuation of the war.”
The best line of the night came from Obama, who responded to Clinton's assertion that Republicans were obsessed with because 'they obviously think that I am communicating effectively about what I will do as president'.
“Part of the reason that Republicans, I think, are obsessed with you, Hillary, is because that’s a fight they’re very comfortable having,” Obama countered. “It is the fight that we’ve been through since the ’90s. And part of the job of the next president is to break the gridlock and to get Democrats and independents and Republicans to start working together to solve these big problems.”
Clinton barely responded to the attacks, saving her criticisms for the Bush Administration.
"We've got to turn the page on George Bush and Dick Cheney", she said. "In fact, we have to throw the whole book away. This has been a disastrous period in American history, and we hope it will be aberration."
Although this misdirection tactic is no doubt what her strategists have told her to do, her robotic answers and scripted mini speeches expose what is really going on behind the scenes.
Clinton is basically a shiny face of the corporate wing of the Democratic Party. Beneath the populist rhetoric is a person committed to maintaining the status quo, and catering to all the lobbyists that are funding her campaign. Despite the revisionist history, her husbands record is appalling; Social injustice and poverty, all increased under Bill Clinton, while corporate influence and crony capitalism increased. There is absolutely no evidence that Hillary will be any different. She runs with the same crowd, employs the same people, and defends the same policies.
Virtually the other candidates have ties to corporate lobbyists and pressure groups, but none are quite as established as Clinton. Obama and Edwards at least present a breath of fresh air into the broken politics of Washington. If Clinton wins, it means Americans will have been subjected to over 25 years of rule by two families. It will be conclusive proof that the United States is not a democracy, but a bought system of powerful interest groups.
Clinton may be the most polished of the Democrats, but she represents all that is wrong with them. The Republicans will have a field day with her should she be elected, and the country will be plunged into more years of inane bickering. The funny thing is, she will most likely do their bidding in office, but without any benefit to her party. It's a lose lose situation, and she needs to be stopped as quickly as possible.Read more!
In the final part of our exclusive interview with David Barsamian, we discuss the possible role of Israel in an attack on Iran, the Jewish population in Iran, the history of U.S/Iranian relations and much, much more. Click here to see part 1 and part 2