Tag Archives: George W Bush

Spain Must Hold Them to Account!

You may have read how Spain’s Attorney-General tried to get judge Baltasar Garzón to drop his criminal proceedings against former Bush Administration officials (Alberto Gonzales, a former White House counsel and attorney general; David Addington, former vice-president Dick Cheney’s chief of staff; Douglas Feith, who was under-secretary of defence; William Haynes, formerly the Pentagon’s general counsel; and John Yoo and Jay Bybee, who were both senior justice department legal advisers) for torture at Guantanamo Bay.

Well he’s circumventing the order, or at least trying to:

In a ruling on Friday, Garzon ignored this advice but also avoided a direct confrontation with the attorney general’s office by submitting the case to a lottery system which will now assign it at random to one of the six high court judges.

“Let it be assigned to the corresponding court,” Garzon said in the ruling.

The judge who gets the case will now have to decide whether to go ahead of it. Under the system, Garzon will have a one in six chance of getting the case back.

We can only hope that he succeeds. Having said that, their internal wrangling is causing the chain of responsibility for the Bush Administration’s policy of torture to continue to emerge, and is adding a whole new dimension to the argument. So Candido Conde-Pumpido would much rather someone go after the people who authorised the ‘Bush Six’ to give their rulings eh? Fine, but remember this:

The first memo [allowing torture], from 2002, approves waterboarding – which makes the suspect feel like they are drowning – and other harsh techniques on suspected high-level al-Qaeda figure Abu Zubaydah.

It was written by former Assistant Attorney General Jay Bybee for the CIA’s top lawyer, John Rizzo. The CIA has confirmed that two other high-level al-Qaeda suspects were waterboarded.

The memo says: “We find that the use of the waterboard constitutes a threat of imminent death” – one of the criteria for torture.

Obama wants the flunkies to stay immune, but didn’t comment on the ‘Bush Six’. Attorney-General Holder has tried to ignore them by saying the DOJ and ONC have ‘moved on’, but there are gaps they’ve both left open, should they need to go after the Six and their political masters in the future. As I said in my previous post I hope they are compelled to at some point in the future – if America is to be a nation of laws, Obama mustn’t be allowed to fall back on the Nürmberg defence for any reason. Should what I hope to be his gamble either not be real or not pay off, let Spain remain true to its own human rights legislation and at least go for those who rewrote the rulebook in order to legitimise torture by the American government.

Hold them to Account!

Spain, the country which made a concerted effort to extradite former Chilean dictator General Augusto Pinochet for human rights violations, has now set its sights on the Bush administration:

Criminal proceedings have begun in Spain against six senior officials in the Bush administration for the use of torture against detainees in Guantánamo Bay. Baltasar Garzón, the counter-terrorism judge whose prosecution of General Augusto Pinochet led to his arrest in Britain in 1998, has referred the case to the chief prosecutor before deciding whether to proceed.

The case is bound to threaten Spain’s relations with the new administration in Washington, but Gonzalo Boyé, one of the four lawyers who wrote the lawsuit, said the prosecutor would have little choice under Spanish law but to approve the prosecution.

“The only route of escape the prosecutor might have is to ask whether there is ongoing process in the US against these people,” Boyé told the Observer. “This case will go ahead. It will be against the law not to go ahead.”

The officials named in the case include the most senior legal minds in the Bush administration. They are: Alberto Gonzales, a former White House counsel and attorney general; David Addington, former vice-president Dick Cheney’s chief of staff; Douglas Feith, who was under-secretary of defence; William Haynes, formerly the Pentagon’s general counsel; and John Yoo and Jay Bybee, who were both senior justice department legal advisers.

Finally someone decides to hold these people to account. But it puts Barack Obama in a very interesting and quite perilous situation (one entirely of his own making). Until now, despite considerable pressure to do otherwise, he’s chosen a path of realigning the United States back towards human rights norms as a means of dealing with the crimes of the Bush administration. That it both authorised torture and was responsible for it, not to mention for extraordinary rendition and the outrage of Guantánamo Bay, is beyond much doubt. but he’s now in the position of having either to repudiate Spain itself – a NATO ally – for doing what he would do in their position, or launching some form of investigation or action against Bush administration officials responsible for this mess after all. Either way lies danger for him – Spain on the other hand deserves kudos aplenty. They haven’t a hope of actually getting to try these people, but they’re doing everything in their (considerable) power anyway.

Bush Chief-of-Staff Calls Obama ‘Disrespectful’

He’s been gone not even a fortnight, but Bushie’s cronies are on the warpath against Obama. Former Chief-of-Staff Andrew Card (you remember, the one who told W that the Twin Towers had been hit) said:

“…I found that Ronald Reagan and both President Bushes treated the Oval Office with tremendous respect. They treated the Office of the Presidency with tremendous respect. And some of that respect was reflected in how they expected people to behave, how they expected them to dress when they walked into the symbol of freedom for the world, the Oval Office. And yes, I’m disappointed to see the casual, laissez faire, short sleeves, no shirt and tie, no jacket, kind of locker room experience that seems to be taking place in this White House and the Oval Office.”

Fascinating that Card should link respect for the presidency merely to dress. So because Bush was always immaculately presented he was respectful of his office, and Obama is not merely because he dresses in private more informally? Steve Benen slams the comparison:

Or, put another way, where exactly does a loyal Bushie get off talking about “respecting” the presidency? Did George W. Bush always wear a coat and tie? Sure. Good for him. But while he was wearing nice clothes and demanding that his staff do the same, he also oversaw a scandal-plagued White House that trashed constitutional norms and routinely ignored the laws that the president twice swore to faithfully execute.

One respects the office by honoring its place in a constitutional system, not by wearing a suit.

I couldn’t agree more. There hasn’t been a president less respectful of his office than the thoroughly discredited George W Bush. Whatever his ultimate achievements, strengths and weaknesses, at least Obama knows where the real priorities lie.

The Dustbin of History

Hours to go until the inauguration of President Obama, but this caught my eye and I thought I’d share it with you. It’s time to say bye-bye to the most disastrous presidency of modern times. Whether he was really just a puppet of the now wholly discredited PNAC or not, Bush presided over an illegal war which united the world against the United States. He presided over a prison camp in Cuba which united the world against the United States. He (admittedly halfheartedly) fought to enshrine homophobia in the US Constitution, and at the very least rubber stamped a culture of disregard for all other aspects and protections of the Constitution. Illegal wire tapping? Check. Torture? Check. Surveillance society? Check. Whether the Kyoto Treaty ever had any likelihood of being effective or not, he moved the United States away from greater environmental protection under Clinton to even dismissing modern scientific realities, not just on global warming, but on stem cell research, and other scientific realms not approved of by evangelical Christians. And don’t get me started on religion…his & Rove’s pandering to the religious right accelerated the red/blue state split which had been growing since Nixon. That Obama was able to navigate through that mess was nothing short of miraculous.

He promised compassionate conservatism but led the country and the world into successive nightmares. Neither he nor his Master, Dick Cheney, will be missed by anyone with an intellect or any shred of human decency.

Time For Some Campaignin’

The election may be over, but I just couldn’t resist reposting this animation on this blog.

The President-Elect’s Encouraging Start

He’s not starting out using ‘war on terror’ rhetoric:

‘Here in America we compete vigorously in elections and challenge each other’s ideas, yet come together in service of a common purpose once the voting is done.’

He cast America’s economic woes in a grim light. ‘Tens of millions of families are struggling to figure out how to pay the bills and stay in their homes,’ he said. Simple figures bear that out, especially after new figures on Friday showed that the economy had lost 240,000 jobs in October. That was the 10 successive month of losses and America has now shed 1.2 million jobs so far this year.

The tone of Obama’s words provided a contrast with Bush. Though he repeated a vow to help Obama in establishing a smooth transition, he also addressed the issue of foreign policy, using a familiar line about the threat from Islamic extremists. ‘This will also be America’s first wartime presidential transition in four decades. We’re in a struggle against violent extremists determined to attack us – and they would like nothing more than to exploit this period of change to harm the American people,’ Bush said.

Despite pressure from the Polish president, he’s not committing to proceeding with America’s missile defence shield, which has so angered Russia:

US President-elect Barack Obama has not given a commitment to go ahead with plans to build part of a US missile defence system in Poland, an aide says.

He was speaking after Polish President Lech Kaczynski’s office said a pledge had been made during a phone conversation between the two men.

But Mr Obama’s foreign policy adviser, Denis McDonough, denied this.

Two small, yet highly significant and welcome starts. I know very well that both positions might change, but the signal which is being sent at this stage I think is important. I can’t help but wonder if there was a misunderstanding with the Polish president, or if he was trying to blackmail Obama into a position he didn’t want, particularly following Russian President Medvedev’s confirmation in his aggressive State of the Union that he would deploy missiles on the border with NATO to counter the missile shield. Given how stupid the missile defence shield is, I hope that circumstances will allow for the project’s dismantling – I’d hate to see it become a self-fulfilling prophecy.

Bush and Palin Fun

Tina Fey, in what must be one of her final regular appearances as Sarah Palin – the VP pick now destined to destroy the McCain candidacy, which so many months ago looked viable (if unwelcome). It’s not a Bush endorsement which has sunk them – it’s McCain’s recklessness and Palin’s ignorant megalomania which have together helped position Obama to take the presidency in just over a week’s time.

Sarah you’ve been entertaining in the most absurd way, but you’re just not electable (even though the current Mayor of Wasilla thinks she is too…):

Country John McCain First!

Hilarious, isn’t it? John McCain ‘suspended’ his own presidential campaign in order instead to come to Washington to save the US economy. And rather than support their own (still) President in his £700 billion bail out of the American financial system, it’s the Republicans who have so far scuppered the deal. McCain, has now ‘unsuspended’ his campaign after a bitch fight in the White House cabinet room where Treasury Secretary Hank Paulson went down on his knees in front of Nancy Pelosi, begging Congressional leaders to endorse the Bush administration’s plan. The self-confessed economic ignoramus allegedly didn’t make any contribution at all and did nothing to ‘rescue’ America, as his party sabotaged a deal. But why is that happening? Jon Stewart has answers:

And of course he’s right – and this is coming out elsewhere in the news: having learned not to trust Bush, all voters have watched him try to repeat the same ploy which authorised Iraq, justified the Patriot Act and all the shit of the last 7 years, all with no oversight, and won’t stand for it. W is now hoist to his own petard. It would be funny if the entire financial system weren’t crashing down around our ears. I wonder if McCain won’t launch ‘his’ own proposals during the presidential debate tonight to prove just what a ‘maverick’ he is. For someone who ‘suspended’ his campaign in order to help a bi-partisan solution to the economic crisis, and then did precisely nothing to bring the political factions together, that would be almost immoral.

The Daily Show…With Tony Blair

A very unusual interview. Stewart doesn’t appear to like Blair at all. Not only is he dumbfounded by his friendship with Bush, but he shows Blair up quite well in part 2 as quite uninformed about 20th century history.

“Don’t invade Iraq; it’s a nightmare…”

Energy Wars: Act II

And of course Act I was Iraq, wasn’t it? We said there would be permanent consequences, and Mad Vlad duly decided to invade Georgia because the precedent was set in 2003. George W Bush decimated the international order by invading a sovereign (albeit belligerent) nation, which posed no threat to the outside world, yet was admittedly butchering its own people. We didn’t like the idea of invading Iraq then because resolving totalitarian behaviour in such a simplistic fashion never works; particularly when done in a purely maverick fashion, it sets the wrong example for the wrong people to follow. Of course the principal reason for invading Iraq was never WMD, it was strategic. The neocons in charge in Washington wanted to send out a message a) that they could reshape a region historically belligerent to them into their own image and b) wanted to set up a permanent, regional base of operations for controlling the oil. Eerie isn’t it, how the Russian attack on Georgia has such deep parallels with that scenario?

Putin has, as expected, taken full advantage of the idiocy of the Bush administration. Where NATO said it would eventually admit Georgia, not a single ally has now come to its aid (regardless of whatever Saakashvilli initiated in South Ossetia pre-invasion), and the credibility of the alliance has been destroyed. But having put all his eggs in one basket economically whilst President of Russia, and now facing a drop in the oil price, he’s also engineered an event which is guaranteed to boost the price back up again. Using and abusing the language of human rights, Putin holds almost all the cards, whereas Bush’s dispatching of American forces to Georgia on a ‘humanitarian’ mission (right, so there won’t be any covert activity going on then) puts us all in ever more danger. The last time American and Russian forces were in such close proximity was in the former Yugoslavia, and World War III was only avoided by a whisker by all accounts. This time…?

Putin is being slated worldwide as a neo-Adolf Hitler, using ‘abuse against our citizens in a foreign land’ as a pretext for annexation. I’m not sure that’s the case – I think he’s playing a much cagier game than that. There’s also this rather fundamental issue, as identified by Mikhail Gorbachev:

What happened on the night of August 7 is beyond comprehension. The Georgian military attacked the South Ossetian capital of Tskhinvali with multiple rocket launchers designed to devastate large areas. Russia had to respond. To accuse it of aggression against “small, defenceless Georgia” is not just hypocritical but shows a lack of humanity.

The Georgian leadership could do this only with the perceived support and encouragement of a much more powerful force. Georgian armed forces were trained by hundreds of US instructors, and its sophisticated military equipment was bought in a number of countries. This, coupled with the promise of Nato membership, emboldened Georgian leaders.

You have to remember that Gorbachev is a man acutely aware of history, and throughout his tenure as the last Soviet President, was pragmatic to a fault. It’s a story I’ve heard too many times to ignore – Saakashvili attacked South Ossetia first, triggering the Russian response, however disproportionate and unacceptable. Whilst this action could quite easily be seen in part as revenge for sidelining Russia in attacking Iraq in 2003, it’s uncomfortable to realise just how much the world media is trying to erase out any mention of unacceptable behaviour by Georgia, and how that behaviour, as Gorbachev identifies, was a direct result of American interference around Russia’s borders. That should not excuse Russia’s behaviour, which some reports are likening to Serbia’s in Bosnia and Kosovo. Putin’s and Russia’s slide through authoritarianism towards extreme nationalism had been downplayed abroad until the murder of Alexander Litvinenko; by then it was so re-entrenched in the Kremlin that such an invasion was probably inevitable.

However as with the American atrocities in Fallujah, history is being airbrushed again by the media. The Russian invasion of Georgia is being shown simplistically as an aggressive act when it’s in large measure a response to the United States’ regional policy, which Putin sees encircling him, and has increasingly promised an unwelcome response to. Anti-missile ‘defence shield’ in Easter Europe? Who really believes that’s to be used against North Korea or Iran, and how transparent it was to finalise the missile ‘defence shield’ deal with Poland just days after the Georgian invasion:

after the deal was announced, both US and Polish officials attempted to play down any connection to the Georgian war.

“This is not linked to the situation in Georgia,” the chief US negotiator John Rood told The Associated Press. “We had made these arrangements for this round of negotiations before the conflict in Georgia, and so we just merely continued with the schedule we had.”

That’s probably true, except the Georgian war has without question been a direct result of this process. Seumas Milne expands on the extent to which Georgia’s regime really is a similar puppet of the Americans:

The CIA has in fact been closely involved in Georgia since the Soviet collapse. But under the Bush administration, Georgia has become a fully fledged US satellite. Georgia’s forces are armed and trained by the US and Israel. It has the third-largest military contingent in Iraq – hence the US need to airlift 800 of them back to fight the Russians at the weekend. Saakashvili’s links with the neoconservatives in Washington are particularly close: the lobbying firm headed by US Republican candidate John McCain’s top foreign policy adviser, Randy Scheunemann, has been paid nearly $900,000 by the Georgian government since 2004.

But underlying the conflict of the past week has also been the Bush administration’s wider, explicit determination to enforce US global hegemony and prevent any regional challenge, particularly from a resurgent Russia. That aim was first spelled out when Cheney was defence secretary under Bush’s father, but its full impact has only been felt as Russia has begun to recover from the disintegration of the 1990s.

Over the past decade, Nato’s relentless eastward expansion has brought the western military alliance hard up against Russia’s borders and deep into former Soviet territory. American military bases have spread across eastern Europe and central Asia, as the US has helped install one anti-Russian client government after another through a series of colour-coded revolutions. Now the Bush administration is preparing to site a missile defence system in eastern Europe transparently targeted at Russia.

By any sensible reckoning, this is not a story of Russian aggression, but of US imperial expansion and ever tighter encirclement of Russia by a potentially hostile power. That a stronger Russia has now used the South Ossetian imbroglio to put a check on that expansion should hardly come as a surprise. What is harder to work out is why Saakashvili launched last week’s attack and whether he was given any encouragement by his friends in Washington.

Saakashvili’s own account:

For years Georgia has been proposing 21st-century, European solutions for South Ossetia, including full autonomy guaranteed by the international community. Russia has responded with crude, 19th-century methods.

I have staked my country’s fate on the west’s rhetoric about democracy and liberty. As Georgians come under attack, we must ask: if the west is not with us, who is it with? If the line is not drawn now, when will it be drawn? We cannot allow Georgia to become the first victim of a new world order as imagined by Moscow.

And again his attack on South Ossetia is airbrushed away, as he continues to paint the same, flawed narrative which his colleagues in America, Britain and many quarters of the EU are pushing. Is Putin aiming for a world order dictated by him? Doubtful – he’s clearly also not interested in a renewed Cold War. But he is using the tools at his disposal to enforce a multi-polar order, which the Bush administration wants to prevent, as Milne details. We dismiss those tools at our cost. We haven’t a clue what we’re doing, and are largely operating with an unchanged, Cold War mentality of containment. NATO has lost its way, with its (former?) desire to invite Georgia into it, without a strategic reason to befit 21st century circumstances. The EU is gobbling up former Warsaw Pact countries, not even requiring them to abide by human rights norms, and then using them to place military armaments on Russia’s doorstep. As Adrian Hamilton says:

Russia does pose a problem to Europe and the West. Its fierce form of nationalism poses a host of questions about resources, defence and the future of a whole host of individual countries through the Caucasuses and central Asia. But until we make up our own minds of what it is that we represent and what our associations are for, we’ll never be able to meet that challenge.

He’s probably right, and the US and its sister, Western institutions need to gain some perspective and a viable 21st century strategy fast, because time’s limited:

Moscow appeared to raise the temperature further by saying Poland’s agreement to host a US missile defence system exposed it to attack. Colonel General Anatoly Nogovitsyn, deputy head of the Russian general staff, was quoted by the news agency Interfax as saying: “Poland, by deploying (the system), is exposing itself to a strike – 100%.”

Earlier, he had reiterated Russia’s warning that placing missile defence structures in Poland and the Czech Republic would bring an unspecified military response.