Sunday, January 18, 2009

Keith Olbermann - 8 years in 8 minutes

Justice must prevail: Push to indict Bush,Cheney, et al for war crimes, crimes against humanity





President of the United States of America


The Prosecution has presented a formidable Indictment against the Defendant, George Walker Bush, President of the United States and Commander -in-Chief of US military forces for serious crimes ; waging a war of aggression on Afghanistan, war crimes and crimes against humanity against the Afghan people, against prisoners of war ; and the use of radioactive depleted uranium weapons of mass destruction , against the people of Afghanistan ; with serious fall out effects on the military personnel of the United States ,UK and other forces deployed ; and on countries, in and around the region .

Relevant for the trial, is the profile of the Defendant , elected as the 43rd President of the United States, and sworn in as President in January 2001 ; the year of the military attack on Afghanistan ; after an election which received international focus , in view of the issues involved , resolved by the Supreme Court. The Defendant's past history, of close association, with the Corporate sector in the United States of America, has been highlighted in the indictment by the prosecution ,in particular with the Oil and Energy sector ; the Defendant formed an oil company, the Arbusto Energy Inc in 1978, which was unsuccessful ; after which Spectrum 7 Energy of Ohio was formed in 1984 with the Defendant as CEO ; thereafter the Defendant was a Consultant to Harken Energy from 1986 , prior to being elected as Governor of Texas in 1994 and re-elected in 1998.

2.Accomplices and Accessories to the Crimes of waging a war of aggression, war crimes and crimes against humanity .

In view of the undisputed facts, that apart from the military forces of the United States ,ordered to be deployed by the Defendant as Commander-in-Chief for the war on Afghanistan , military forces of other governments were deployed and leading members of the defendant's administration , participated in the decision making ; the prosecution has clarified in the indictment , that other members of the Defendant's administration who were a party to the conspiracy to wage a war on Afghanistan ,and those heads of government who have deployed military forces of their countries to assist in the military occupation ; are equally accomplices and accessories to the crimes committed by the Defendant ; though in this trial it is the Defendant who has been proceeded against .

3. Universal Jurisdiction

The Tribunal being conscious of the basic principle of jurisprudence that ' no one must be condemned unheard ' , that ' justice must not only be done but appear to be done '; appointed amicus curiae , a Senior counsel from Japan ,to assist with the defense of the Defendant; amicus curiae entered a plea of "not guilty", on behalf of the Defendant and questioned the jurisdiction of the Tribunal as and by way of preliminary objection ; the Defendant, though duly served by the Secretariat of the ICTA through the embassy of the United States in Tokyo and directly , failed to appear before the Tribunal and enter a plea.

Professor Willaird B. Cowles in an article titled 'Universality of Jurisdiction over War Crimes ( California Law Review , Vol. 33 ( 1945) p.177 ) emphasized that :

…….." all civilized states have a very real interest in the punishment of war crimes "…and that " an offense against the laws of war , as a violation of the laws of nations , is a matter of general interest and concern"…

This was in an academic paper written more than half a century ago, when the principle of 'Universality of Jurisdiction', and the personal accountability of individuals for War Crimes, was gaining adherents among jurists , after the Second World War.

The objection raised to the exercise of jurisdiction by this Tribunal on behalf of the Defendant, by amicus curaie ; and the United States government claiming "impunity" in various forums , against indictment for war crimes ; is best answered by the undertaking given to the International Military Tribunal at Nuremberg , by the Chief Counsel for the government of the United States of America , Mr. Justice Robert H. Jackson , who stepped down temporarily ,as Judge of the United States of America , to represent the United States before the Nuremberg Tribunal , established pursuant to the Moscow Declaration and the London Agreement of 1945 , to which the government of the United States was a signatory . Justice Jackson categorically declared that:

" If certain acts of violation of treaties are crimes , they are crimes whether the United States does them or whether Germany does them and we are not prepared to lay down a rule of criminal conduct against others , which we would not be willing to have invoked against us …"

In view of this position taken before the Nuremberg Tribunal , the Defendant is liable not only before this Tribunal ,but the entire claim of 'impunity' of the government of the United States, is legally untenable ; no government can surrender the right vested in its citizens to invoke International Criminal Law, not by a Resolution of the Security Council nor by bilateral treaty.

On the issue raised by amicus curiae , of how authoritative is the verdict of such a Tribunal ; it is necessary to restate , that sovereignty is a constitutional and political concept , which resides in the final analysis with the people ; who have a right to judge through legal forums created by them ; at a critical period of history for serious crimes committed against humanity ; in particular , when several governments across continents have abandoned the democratic principle of governance; many being elected in seriously flawed electoral process ; on the basis of Corporate support and campaign contributions

4. The World Disorder.

The critical question , among others, posed before this Tribunal by the Prosecution is, how do we challenge this 'world disorder ' ; this is a juridical question ; yet the law is always a reflection of existing economic and political systems ; though all legal systems maintain that the purpose and objective of law , is the preservation of the 'Rule of Law' within and between nations; this presupposes that there are no privileged individuals , classes, or groups, within and across nations .

5. The Charge of Waging a War of Aggression .

The International Military Tribunal at Nuremberg referring to the charge of waging a war of aggression , highlighted the gravity of this offense in the following words:

" To initiate a war of aggression ….is not only an international crime ; it is the supreme international crime differing only from other war crimes, in that it contains within itself the accumulated evil of the whole".

The legal defense of the Defendant to this charge , is to be found in public statements made by the Defendant ,after the terrorist attacks of 11th September 2001 , on the World Trade Centre and the Pentagon, by hijacking of aircraft in the United States ; which admittedly , destroyed the lives of approximately three thousand innocent citizens of the United States; and of other nationalities and religious beliefs .

The defense advanced by amicus curiae is, that the military attack of 7th October 2001 ordered by the Defendant, as President of the United States and its Commander in Chief , was a 'just war' or a 'bellum justum'; a war of self defense, a preventive war ; in response to the terrorist attacks of al Qaeda , masterminded by Osama bin Laden, harboured by the Taliban government in Afghanistan , which had permitted terrorist camps on its territory ; who were committing hostile acts against the United States of America .

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From Justice, the American way by Khaled Diab

But wouldn't it be great if, rather than spending his post-presidential silver years cashing in on his stint in the White House, he would be made to pay for the crimes

against humanity he instigated?

Before we consider the possible avenues to justice, let's briefly recount the various charges against him. Most fundamentally, the Bush administration's decision to invade two sovereign nations unprovoked should be enough to indict him under international law, although the situation is a little more blurred in the case of Afghanistan under the Taliban. And protestations of "pre-emptive" defence hold no legal water.

Benjamin Ferencz, a Nuremburg chief prosecutor, expressed his opinion that Bush's 2003 war of aggression against Iraq constituted "the supreme international crime". This is what has been known since the Nuremberg trials as a crime against peace.

Then there's the charge of crimes against humanity, another pillar of international law. In this instance, legal experts argue that the war's opening "shock and awe" campaign alone – with its thousands of civilian casualties, wholesale destruction of civilian installation, and severe traumatising and terrorising of an entire population – counted as a serious crime against humanity.

Principle VI of the Nuremberg conventions outlaws the "wanton destruction of cities, towns, or villages", while Article 48 of the Geneva conventions demands that parties to a war "shall at all times distinguish between the civilian population and combatants and between civilian objects and military objectives", which clearly did not happen during shock and awe. Torture – including waterboarding, sensory deprivation and complete isolation – which has been controversially endorsed by the Bush administration at Guantanamo Bay, also counts as a serious war crime.

Now that we have established a powerful case against Bush and the other architects of the Iraq war, what are the possible avenues for prosecution?

With no prosecution on the horizon in the United States, jurisdiction should automatically shift to the International Criminal Court. However, the US is one of only seven countries that has refused to sign up to the ICC, despite its support of the court's indictment of the Sudanese president, Omar al-Bashir.

With this international avenue blocked off, another possible avenue would be to take advantage of the Geneva conventions's "universal jurisdiction" to bring a case against Bush in another country.

Belgium, before it watered down and then effectively abolished its own courageous and controversial war crimes law, could have been a good place to take legal action. In fact, there had been attempts in Belgium to prosecute George Bush, as well as other leaders, including Israel's Ariel Sharon, Palestine's Yasser Arafat and Cuba's Fidel Castro.

Spain and Canada also have universal jurisdiction laws on their books, but I doubt that courts there will hear a case against the Bush administration after the diplomatic fury Washington unleashed against Belgium.

From Let Judgment Be Bush's History by David Swanson

For many months, citizens have been funding an effort to send copies of Vincent Bugliosi's "The Prosecution of George W. Bush for Murder" to state attorneys general and district prosecutors. That should continue, and we should get organized about electing prosecutors to office who commit to enforcing our laws.

But Vince only hits on one of the thousands of possible criminal charges. Another book that lists and describes dozens of the most egregious criminal violations by the Bush gang is The 35 Articles of Impeachment and the Case for Prosecuting George W. Bush. This book includes the full text of Dennis Kucinich's articles of impeachment, plus documentation of the charges. It also includes a chart created by author and former federal prosecutor Elizabeth de la Vega that pulls out the criminal violations found in each article of impeachment. And the book begins with an introduction that I wrote, discussing some of the areas of criminality not included in the 35 articles and explaining how we can bring about indictments. This book should be purchased, read, and mailed to Eric Holder.

Five other books should be sent Holder's way. One is de la Vega's U.S. v. Bush, which lays out a presentation to a grand jury of a case that Bush, Cheney, and others defrauded the nation into an unnecessary war. Another is Marjorie Cohn's Cowboy Republic, which covers six general areas of criminal activity. Michael Ratner's The Trial of Donald Rumsfeld is an indictment of the whole lot of them, not just Rumsfeld.

The other two books are ones that I've just now read and highly recommend both for reading and for sending to Eric Holder. One is George W. Bush: War Criminal? The Bush Administration's Liability for 269 War Crimes by Michael Haas. This is a phenomenal work that categorizes 269 of the crimes committed by Bush and his subordinates. Haas covers crimes in four areas: "the legality of war, the conduct of war, treatment of prisoners, and the conduct of the postwar occupation." And he does indeed list and explain 269 violations of law, without touching on the bulk of the criminal offenses committed by Bush and Cheney, which occurred right here at home, albeit often with the justification of "war time." Talking heads in the media generally ask me why Bush should be prosecuted when past presidents have committed crimes and not been prosecuted, and I try to point out that not only does justice have to begin somewhere, not only have we raised our standards over the decades and criminalized more actions, but the abuses of the Bush administration have surpassed in both arrogance and sheer volume the rest of the American presidents' crimes combined. Book's like Haas' help to make this point hit home.

The last book I want to recommend is one of pre-Bush history that ought to inspire our determination to make judgment Bush's history rather than letting history be his judge. I didn't know about this book until John Nichols in the Nation magazine named it a Most Valuable Progressive for 2008. The book is called The Magna Carta Manifesto: Liberties and Commons for All by Peter Linebaugh. This is a stunning work of scholarship documenting the meaning of the Magna Carta down through the centuries, prominent in that meaning being the tradition established by the Magna Carta that no man would be above the law, that no man would sit in judgment of himself, that no one would be tried or imprisoned without due process including judgment by a jury of peers.

From If U.S. doesn't prosecute Bush & Cheney, other nations may by Karen Harper

If the U.S. chooses not to prosecute Bush, Cheney and others for their failure to uphold the U.S. Constitution and abide by the rules of the Geneva convention, there is some evidence to support the idea that another country will.

In 2007, Vice-President Cheney fled from France fearing he would be arrested for authorizing torture at Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq and Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. Cheney was taken by U.S. embassy officials over the border into Germany to avoid being arrested.

It was reported that "Under international law, authorities in France are obliged to open an investigation when a complaint is made while the alleged torturer is on French soil."

Author of the book, "Torture Team", Philippe Sands believes that should the United States choose not to prosecute Bush, Cheney and others, foreign prosecutors might. Sands, a British law professor told the New York Times back in May,

If the U.S. doesn't address this, other countries will.

Some of us have been asking the question, "Who will prosecute Bush, Cheney and Rumsfeld?" It seems we have an answer. Other nations will.

From A chronicle of US war crimes by Shannon Jones

The use of torture violated longstanding US traditions dating back to the Revolutionary War, when General George Washington ordered the humane treatment of British prisoners. This policy stood in stark contrast to the brutal treatment meted out to continental soldiers by the Red Coats, who considered the Americans treasonous "illegal combatants."

America had long been in the forefront of nations demanding an international code of conduct for warfare. Following World War II the United States had pushed for the strengthening of the Geneva Conventions to close loopholes that had been exploited by the Japanese and German governments to justify the abuse of captives. The new rules even stipulated barracks conditions, food rations and the provision of athletic equipment.

Mayer writes, "In addition to the Geneva Conventions, the United States took the lead in drafting and ratifying the 1984 Convention Against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment, which provided international law's first explicit definition of torture." It bans torture absolutely, stating: "No circumstances whatsoever ... could be "invoked as a justification of torture" (emphasis added). The Convention described torture as inflicting "severe pain or suffering, whether physical or mental" (p. 150).

The United States did violate the Geneva rules in practice during the course of its colonial wars. The US carried out terrible atrocities in the Korean and Vietnam wars, crimes for which no high-ranking officials were ever held to account. Still, in its official stance, the US government declared its opposition to abusive treatment of prisoners and its adherence to the Geneva Conventions.

Mayer points out that during the Vietnam War the US military made some effort to distinguish between civilians captured by the military and actual combatants. The military held so-called Article 5 hearings to avoid "mistakenly imprisoning innocent bystanders." Such hearings became binding military law.

However, in Afghanistan Addington proposed scrapping these rules. On January 19, 2002 Rumsfeld rescinded an order by General Tommy Franks, which had set up Article 5 hearings to screen prisoners captured in Afghanistan individually. "The president had determined unilaterally that all prisoners captured in the war on terror were unlawful combatants," writes Mayer.

After September 11 Cheney became fascinated with the "success" of the Phoenix program in Vietnam, Mayer writes. Operation Phoenix had involved the assassination of tens of thousands of suspected National Liberation Front sympathizers. Most of those killed were civilians who had little or no connection to the armed struggle against the US-backed South Vietnamese puppet government.

According to Mayer, high-level White House discussions on the use of torture against detainees took place in April 2002 and there was "no indication that any Bush cabinet members opposed it."

Mayer describes in detail the fate of alleged Al Qaeda logistics chief Abu Zubaydah, who was captured by the CIA in Pakistan in March 2002. He had the distinction of being the first person waterboarded at the directive of the president of the United States.

The interrogation of Zubaydah involved multiple instances of waterboarding, 10 times in a single week, and other forms of severe abuse, including "thrusting his head against a bare concrete wall" and forcing him to lie in a "coffin sized box." Other prisoners were subject to illegal treatment, tantamount to torture, such as sleep deprivation. Some were forced to stay awake for as long as 96 hours.

FBI agents at the scene were shocked by the CIA interrogation of Zubaydah and "wanted CIA head James Mitchell arrested," Mayer reports. After this the CIA barred the FBI from coercive interrogations. The CIA videotaped hundreds of hours of Zubaydah's torture, tapes which the White House later ordered destroyed.

Under pressure from the Bush administration to get "results," the CIA produced glowing reports about the supposedly valuable information it obtained via the torture of Zubaydah, who "confessed" to plots to bomb US banks, shopping malls, even the Brooklyn Bridge. While these alleged terrorist conspiracies had little or no foundation in reality, leaked reports of spectacular "confessions" were useful to the administration, which wanted justifications for its crimes.

Mayer writes that "a closely held investigative report written by the International Committee for the Red Cross for the detaining authority, the CIA, which it shared with the President and the Secretary of State, in 2007 described the treatment that he (Zubaydah) underwent, categorically, as 'torture' and warned that the abuse constituted war crimes, placing the highest officials in the US government in jeopardy of being prosecuted, sources familiar with the report said."

From "War Crimes Times" Debuts At Newseum, Urges Bush Prosecution by David Swanson of warcrimestimes

At 11:30 AM, Saturday, January 17th, at the Newseum, 555 Pennsylvania Ave. NW, Washington, D.C., activists will surprise and delight tourists as they distribute the Inaugural Issue of a 12-page tabloid called "War Crimes Times," and display a huge banner saying, "ARREST BUSH AND CHENEY / CORPORATE MEDIA: PARTNERS IN CRIME? / READ WARCRIMESTIMES.ORG"

Two dozen members of Veterans For Peace and supporters will conduct the action as part of an ongoing campaign to have outgoing president Bush and members of his administration prosecuted for war crimes.

"Our goal is to have George Bush and his administration prosecuted for war crimes, no matter how long that takes. There is no statute of limitations on war crimes," said Tarak Kauff, VFP member and coordinator of the event at the Newseum.

Kauff, a former Army paratrooper, added, "We have come to the Newseum, the showpiece home of the corporate media, to distribute the War Crimes Times, a newspaper created to fill the void left by the corporate media's failure to report the Bush administration's numerous and severe war crimes. We are also here to demand the Obama administration vigorously and unconditionally prosecute Bush and all members of his administration responsible for these crimes."

The War Crimes Times features articles by Michael Ratner, President of the Center for Constitutional Rights; Colleen Rowley, former FBI agent and one of Time Magazine's Persons of the Year for exposing FBI mishandling of September 11 information; Ann Wright, retired U.S. Army Col. and career foreign service officer; Lawrence Velvel, Dean of the Massachusetts School of Law; Jesselyn Radack, former U.S. Department of Justice Ethics Adviser; and Elaine Brower, mother of a young Marine deployed in Iraq.

From MoveOn's shocking retreat from the battlefield by P.M. Carpenter

MoveOn's executive director, Eli Pariser, framed the democratic outcome in this way: He "says that this happy alignment with Barack Obama's agenda -- and fortuitous absence of conflict with same -- comes in part because 'the people he's listening to and the people we're listening to are the same people.'"

The Politico framed it in another way: The Final Four of priorities "may be a sign that MoveOn's members want to move ahead -- and that they're willing to make some ideological sacrifices in exchange for real progress."

OK, somebody is fudging here, big time.

Group think -- the institutional disease which for years MoveOn spent considerable resources properly assailing -- is now a democratic virtue, according to, yep, MoveOn; and according to the Politico, sweeping aside, or under the rug, years of immensely impeachable, extraordinarily indictable high crimes and misdemeanors is little more than an "ideological sacrifice."

Just who's kidding who here? These are crimes we're talking about -- war crimes, Constitutional crimes, crimes against "the people," crimes against the world, crimes, simply put, against humanity. And it's a trifle more than an "ideological sacrifice" or democratic virtue to now neglect the prosecution of those crimes; indeed that would be an unpardonable crime itself.

I'm not suggesting we pursue some animalistic joy of revenge. In fact, revenge has nothing to do with it. This is national self-preservation I'm talking about. For if we permit the Bush administration's darkest luminaries to walk away legally unscathed, we are inviting more of the same. And that "more" will return to haunt us in exponential spades.

Roughly a year and a half ago Bill Moyers invited the Nation's liberal John Nichols and conservative attorney Bruce Fein onto his show. The result (transcript here) was perhaps the most riveting and critically important broadcast in the history of public television.

From Those Who Enable the Triumph of Evil, and the Choice Before Us by

Only a few people will be honest enough to name the truth: that this system of evil continues in all its horror, and that better "marketing" (loathsome word) does not alter the nature of the torture and the murder that will go on. For the truth of where the Obama administration will begin -- and a preview of where it is all too likely that the logic of this system will carry it -- is this (from "Killing Truth and Hope -- The Fatal Illusion of Opposition"):
You desperately need to understand this: the next President of the United States, no matter who it is, will enter office knowing that he or she can systematically and regularly authorize torture, order mass murder, direct the United States military to engage in one campaign of criminal conquest and genocide after another, oversee uncountable acts of inhumanity and barbarity -- and he or she will never be challenged or called to account in any manner whatsoever. It may have taken the Bush administration two terms to bring us to the point where such evils are committed and even boasted about in broad daylight, while almost no one even notices -- but this will be where the next President starts.

And for this monstrous, unforgivable fact, you can thank the Democrats and those who whore themselves for the Democrats' success in our disgustingly meaningless elections.
I understand and appreciate very well indeed (better than most of you will ever know) that this view does not win me many friends, or lead to much popularity or a wide readership. But I am convinced this is the truth of our situation, and of the United States. For me, that is enough. I don't offer this fact as an offensively boastful claim to some kind of bravery or courage; in fact, I reject such characterizations as irrelevant and unhelpful, and I occasionally (and momentarily) wish I could soften the edges of my arguments and make them "easier" for many readers. But that course is not "easier" for me, and I am incapable of following it. In significant part, that is because I hear the voices of the victims too clearly. I wish, deeply and terribly, that more people did. (While I am not hopeful about our political situation, I am profoundly hopeful about our future in more general human terms, if you will. I've written about the nature of that hope in essays such as "Flecks of Light, Points of Understanding, and the Gift of Sight," and "Passing on the Sense of Wonder." I will discuss these issues in more detail in future articles.)

I mention these points because yet another piece of powerful evidence for my general argument has come to my attention. The admirable David Swanson has written an article about John Conyers' "new report that updates his previous report originally released in 2005 documenting Bush and Cheney's crimes and impeachable offenses." I commend Swanson's indispensable piece to your careful consideration.

Swanson documents Conyers' history on the issue of impeachment in devastating detail. It is genuine Show of Horrors, and it provides plentiful examples of the rationalizations, equivocations, misrepresentations and outright lies that are required when an individual declines to fight against what he himself regards as monstrous and immensely destructive. Swanson goes through all the major arguments that have been used in the last few years to discourage impeachment -- all the arguments that many of you have undoubtedly seen offered by most of the leading liberal and progressive writers -- and he demolishes every single one of them. I refer you to his article for the details.

[ ... ]

Thus, the lesson: when you choose to be a critical part of a system that has become this corrupt -- and the endless corruptions of our corporatist-authoritarian-militarist system have been documented at great length here and in other places -- you will not ameliorate or "save" it. The system will necessarily and inevitably corrupt you.

Finally, that is the choice that confronts Conyers, and all of us: you can remain or become part of a system dedicated to destroying liberty and peace -- or you can choose to withdraw your support, to whatever extent is possible given the particulars of your life. I have never suggested, and I am not suggesting now, that the choice is always obvious, and it is certainly not easy -- but that is the choice. It is long past time to pretend otherwise.

Choose with care, and wisely, if you dare. As I have said before:
[T]hese horrors are now what the United States stands for. Thus, for every adult American, the question is not, "Why do you obey?" but:

Why do you support?

Or will you refuse to give your support? Will you say, "No"? These are the paramount questions at this moment in history, and in the life of the United States. We all must answer them. Our honor, our humanity, and our souls lie in the balance.

From Universal Jurisdiction in the 21st Century by Sarah Kuck

After decades of debate, the United Nations General Assembly put forth a treaty, which created the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court in 2002. Approximately 108 states are members of the court, and about 40 states have signed but not ratified the treaty.

India, China, Russia and the United States are among those who have not signed. Although Clinton signed the treaty on his way out of office, President George W. Bush withdrew the signature.

In an opinion piece for the International Herald Tribune, Roger Cohen commented on how this impacted U.S. international relations, and what a new administration, such as Obama's, could mean for the ICC:

This remarkable, and gleeful, "un-signing" was followed by an aggressive campaign to oblige countries to make a formal commitment, under threat of U.S. reprisals, never to surrender U.S. citizens to the court.
Former Republican Congressman Tom DeLay caught the snarling Bush-Cheney view of the institution when he referred to a "kangaroo court" that was a "clear and present danger" to Americans fighting the war on terror.
As a result, I can think of no better place for President-elect Barack Obama to start signaling a changed American approach to the world, and particularly its European allies, than the ICC. Even short of American membership, which would involve a tough battle in Congress, there is much he can do. But "re-signing" followed by ratification should be Obama's aim.
The effect of U.S. rejection of the court, combined with the trashing of habeas corpus at Guantánamo Bay, has been devastating. Allies from Canada to Germany that are court members have been dismayed by the U.S. dismissal of an institution they see doing evident good.
Obama should now confront U.S. responsibility, and signal a new commitment to multilateralism, in his attitude toward the court. After the terrible decade of the 1990s, with its genocides in Bosnia and Rwanda and the loss there of a million lives while the United States and its allies dithered, it is unconscionable that America not stand with the institution that constitutes the most effective legal deterrent to such crimes.
Universal Jurisdiction is vital for the creation of a just global society. Simply signing and ratifying a treaty will of course not instantly bring peace and justice to all, but the action would carry heavy significance none the less. I think Alex Steffen said it well when he wrote that "Universal Jurisdiction may not save us from the crazies, but it will weaken their rule and make them think twice - for them, somewhere, always, the gavel will be hanging in mid-air."

Carl Bernstein author of "A Woman in Charge" on The Alcove

Watergate journalist and bestselling Hillary Clinton biographer Carl Bernstein sits down for a candid and fascinating conversation on The Alcove. He discusses Hillary and Bill Clinton, Barack Obama and the recent electoral season as well as reflecting on his and Bob Woodwards groundbreaking covering of the Watergate crisis during the early 1970s for The Washington Post.

Lloyds pays $350m to end US case

US prosecutors said that the bank's misconduct took place between 1995 and 2007.

"For more than 12 years, Lloyds facilitated the anonymous movement of hundreds of millions of dollars from US-sanctioned nations through our financial system," Assistant Attorney General Matthew Friedrich said.

According to court documents, Lloyds removed information such as customer names, bank names and addresses so that wire transfers would pass undetected through filters at US banks.

This process - known as stripping - meant that more than $350m (£230m at current exchange rates) that might otherwise have been blocked was processed by US institutions.

Lloyds TSB had agreed to forfeit half the money to the US and half to New York County.

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The tower of Babel of the European Left

In a recent article, Le Monde called the year 2008 the Austerlitz of Social-Democratic thought. The Austerlitz reference is to the great battle in Moravia where on December 5, 1805 Napoleon destroyed the armies of Russia and Austria. Last year French Socialists lost miserably in national elections that swept conservative Nicolas Sarkozy into power. Also in 2008 the French Socialist Party succumbed totally to the market system: for the first time since its foundation in 1905 it abandoned all references to slogans of Revolution. Already in 2005 the French Socialist Party had adopted a Social Democratic program: adherence to the idea of European unity and acceptance of the reformist idea that the market economy system can be saved.

That surrender of principles initiated the decline of the Socialist Party in this country. The party is split between pro- and anti-“Europeans” on one hand and between partisans of the market economy and defenders of a regulated economy on the other. This division reflects the fundamental division of modern French Socialism since its foundation in 1905: between orthodox Marxists hostile to reformist ideas and the impulse of the main body to participation in government. The dilemma has long plagued European Socialism: revolution or reformism and the urge to govern within the capitalist system.

The abandonment of original 19th century Socialist principles is often referred to as “going to Bad Godesberg.” The reference is to the congress of German Social Democrats in 1959 in the small town near Bonn when the big German party officially abandoned the class struggle. That congress changed the face of German Socialism from that which had emerged from the party congress of 1925 in Heidelberg (after the disasters of European Socialism as a consequence of its support of war during WWI) where Socialists again invoked the class struggle as they had earlier, the nationalization of the means of production and the role of the State in the economy.

At Bad Godesberg, however, German Socialists decided that holding to the political program of Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels would be no less than their “reduction to a sect” on the German political scene. Revolution or evolution was the question. German Social Democrats chose the latter.

For decades Bad Godesberg split European Socialism. Italian Socialists (and Communists) still today refer to the Bad Godesberg landmark. Especially since also the bulk of Italian Communists have now made the ideological journey to that German town. Likewise British Socialists of the Labour Party under Tony Blair paid homage to Bad Godesberg in 1995, one year after Blair's rise to power, 26 years after Bad Godesberg and 77 years after the birth of the Labour Party. To liberate itself from the image of the eternal loser, Blair completely reshaped and restructured the party after 15 years of the Thatcherite revolution. Blair's Labour thus abandoned its Marxist credos dating from the October Revolution in Russia and in one swipe erased the party's ideological past. Scandinavian Social Democrats have long been reformists, the chief proponents of mixed economies.

While the European Right in power gloats, today's Left reality is indeed sad. Disarray reigns in most every party of the Left, in European and also especially the American Left—Socialist, Social Democrat or Communist movements. Disarray also in just what the Left idea is. Too many ambitious leaders some places, too few in others, while Anarchists deny the necessity of leadership at all. Insane concept for the Left! For people do not act alone. Or, left to their own doing, they go off in many directions. One needs a direction. One needs leadership. In Europe the situation is clear: the result of the lack of unity and leadership is before our eyes: decomposition of the Left into more and more splinter parties and groups.

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Musical Innerlube: Rammstein - 'Amerika'

U.S. military report warns 'sudden collapse' of Mexico is possible

Mexico is one of two countries that "bear consideration for a rapid and sudden collapse," according to a report by the U.S. Joint Forces Command on worldwide security threats.

The command's "Joint Operating Environment (JOE 2008)" report, which contains projections of global threats and potential next wars, puts Pakistan on the same level as Mexico. "In terms of worse-case scenarios for the Joint Force and indeed the world, two large and important states bear consideration for a rapid and sudden collapse:

Pakistan and Mexico.

"The Mexican possibility may seem less likely, but the government, its politicians, police and judicial infrastructure are all under sustained assault and press by criminal gangs and drug cartels. How that internal conflict turns out over the next several years will have a major impact on the stability of the Mexican state. Any descent by Mexico into chaos would demand an American response based on the serious implications for homeland security alone."

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LSE occupation in solidarity with Gaza

Thursday, 15 January 2009

Press release


Over forty pro Palestine students have occupied a lecture theatre at the London School of Economics to demand that the university releases a statement condemning the attack on Gaza and divests from arms companies that supply the Israeli military.

Students entered the Old Theatre and sat down on the stage after the Students' Union passed a motion in support of their demands. A lecture continued as scheduled with the students on the stage.

SOAS ended their three day occupation last night after all but one of their demands were met. Students at other campuses are planning similar actions

The group want LSE Director to issue a statement condemning the Israeli violence on Gaza.

"LSE is an institution founded on the Fabian values that were the precursor of the human rights agenda of modern politics. LSE must restate those values and condemn state criminality. It is not a matter of politics, it is a matter of humanity," a spokesperson said.

The group are also demanding that LSE divests from arms firm BAE Systems, an arms company who supply the Israeli military.

"The fact that LSE invests in BAE Systems means that it is directly profiting from the collective punishment of the Gazan people. Our University will remain tainted for as long as it is funded by unlawful military agression. The LSE must divest from BAE and other arms companeis immeditately.

The LSE also invests in arms comapnies Boeing, Rolls Royce and BHP Billiton, a firm the School says supplies nuclear material for warheads.

They have also issued several demands related to providing material support for Palestinian students including providing 5 fully paid scholarships for Palestinian students, books and computers for Palestinian universities and facilitation for fund raisingactivities.

Over 250 students and academics wrote to Director Howard Davies at the beginning of the year to demand a statement and other demands similar to those being demanded by the occupation. Davies agreed to waiver application fees for students affected by the crisis but refused to issue a condemnatory statement, pledge further material assistance or support divestment from arms firms.

Davies claimed that the School does not take positions on "political issues". This is in stark contrast to an overtly political statement issued by the Davies in May 2007 condemning a UCU (University and College Union) resolution concerning the Israeli Occupation, and previous condemnations by LSE of South African Apartheid and the Tiananmen Square massacre in the 1980's.


1) Statement
The LSE should release a statement condemning the Israeli attack on Gaza and demanding a ceasefire. LSE is an institution founded on the Fabian values that were the precursor of the human rights agenda of modern politics. LSE must restate those values and condemn state criminality. It is not a matter of politics, it is a matter of humanity. A statement condemning Israeli violence is fully in keeping with the founding principles of our university.

2) Divestment
The LSE currently holds investments in BAE Systems, a firm that the Campaign Against the Arms Trade ( states provides weapons and ammunition for the Israeli military. This means that our university is being directly funded by the Israeli war on Gaza. The LSE must divest from BAE immediately.

3) 5 fully paid scholarships for Palestinian students.
At a University as diverse and international as LSE, Palestinian students are grossly underrepresented in the student body when compared to other groups.

4) Fundraising day.
The LSE administration should facilitate a 'fundraising day' where buckets will be in every lecture and seminar to collect money for the charity Medical Aid for Palestinians

5) Books and Computers.
The LSE has a £26 million surplus and is lucky enough to be able to regularly invest in new equipment. Any computers or books due to be got rid of at the end of Lent and Summer terms should be donated to the University and to schools that have been bombed in Gaza.

6) Amnesty
LSE has a proud history of student activism. Students united to campaign against apartheid, wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and more recently around divestment from the arms trade. All students have a democratic right to peaceful protest and students should not be prevented from expressing their opinions by fear of reprisals.


1) The identity of other universities planning to hold occupations is being kept secret. For more information please contact michaeldeas[@]

2) For more information about the SOAS protest, please go to

Zimbabwe unveils $100 trillion banknote

The Reserve Bank announced in the government mouthpiece Herald newspaper a series of trillion-dollar denominations to keep pace with hyperinflation that has left the once-dynamic economy in tatters.

The new 100,000,000,000,000 Zim-dollar bill would have been worth about 300 US dollars (225 euros) at Thursday's exchange rate on the informal market, where most currency trading now takes place, but the value of the local currency erodes dramatically every day.

The move came just one week after the bank released a series of billion-dollar notes, which already are not worth enough for workers to withdraw their monthly salaries.

Inflation was last reported at 231 million percent in July, but the Washington think-tank Cato Institute has estimated it now at 89.7 sextillion percent -- a figure expressed with 21 zeroes.

When Mugabe took power at independence from Britain in 1980, the Zimbabwe dollar was equivalent to the British pound.

~ more... ~

Gaza: Embedded with the medics

Palestinian reporter tells of shocking scenes
January 16th 2009

From France 24:
"The conflict between Hamas, the Islamist Palestinian group that is in charge of the Gaza Strip, and Israel has provoked reaction worldwide.

But the world has by and large watched the events unfold from a distance. Israel has stopped foreign correspondents from entering the Gaza Strip, as the conflict by air and on the ground has intensified.

Our report brings you a view from the heart of the crisis, from the streets of Gaza, as our reporter witnesses the horrific effects of war on ordinary people.

This is not a geopolitical analysis of the Hamas-Israel War. It is a look from the inside at how, when movements, governments and ideologies do battle, it is mothers, fathers, brothers, sisters and children who are affected.

The eyewitness video made by a Palestinian journalist, Radjaa Abou Dagga, France 24's correspondent in Gaza, shows a slice of life in a war zone, how people desperately scramble to stay alive amid artillery shells, air raids and ground combat."


image from

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