Friday, June 1, 2012

Robert Scheer: Hope Burning, "Neither" (Powelson) The real choice in Berman-Sherman race,

Hope Burning

AP/Rafiq Maqbool

An aerial view of Kabul, Afghanistan is seen through the window of a Soviet-era helicopter. Much more sophisticated weapons are at the president’s disposal when he orders an assassination.

By Robert Scheer

Truthdig: May 31, 2012

So now we have Rambo Obama, a steely warrior who, according to a lengthy leaked insider account in The New York Times, hurls death-dealing drones at anyone who threatens the good old USA. Including children. Those children are presumed guilty by virtue of proximity, and the Times plays along, not even modifying a targeted terrorist with the word “alleged,” as once had been the paper’s convention: “When a rare opportunity for a drone strike at a top terrorist arises—but his family is with him—it is the president who has reserved to himself the final moral calculation.”

Obama as the cool triggerman is an image useful to White House operatives as they buff the president’s persona for the coming election. But what it reveals is the mindset of a political cynic whose seductive words cloak the moral indifference of a methodical executioner. Forget Harry Truman, who obliterated the civilian populations of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, or Lyndon Johnson, who carpet-bombed millions in Vietnam. The Democrats have got themselves another killer, one whose techniques are as devastatingly effective, but brilliantly refined.

The story obviously was planted in The New York Times to benefit the Obama political campaign. Otherwise, why would the president’s former chief of staff, William Daley, and three dozen current and past intelligence insiders provide the newspaper with the most sensitive details of national security decision-making?

Pfc. Bradley Manning was held for many months in solitary confinement for allegedly disclosing information of far lower security classification. The difference is that the top secrets in the news article are ones the president wants leaked in the expectation they will burnish his “tough on terrorism” credentials. This is clearly not the Obama whom many voted for in the hope that he would stick by his word, including the pledge he made on his second day in office to ban brutal interrogation and close the prison at Guantanamo Bay in Cuba. “What the new president did not say was that the orders contained a few subtle loopholes,” the Times now reports concerning the early promises by Obama. “They reflected a still unfamiliar Barack Obama, a realist who, unlike some of his fervent supporters, was never carried away by his own rhetoric.”

Parse that sentence carefully to learn much of what is morally decrepit in our journalism as well as politics. The word “realist” is now identical to “hypocrite,” and the condemnation of immoral behavior addresses nothing more than “rhetoric” that only the “fervent” would take seriously. The Times writers all but thrill to the lying, as in recounting the new president’s response to advisers who warned him against sticking to his campaign promises on Guantanamo prisoners: “The deft insertion of some wiggle words in the president’s order showed that the advice was followed.”

How telling that reporters who might as well be PR flacks are so admiring of the power of “wiggle words” to free a politician from accountability to the voters who put him in office: “A few sharp-eyed observers inside and outside the government understood what the public did not. Without showing his hand, Mr. Obama had preserved three major policies—rendition, military commissions and indefinite detention—that have been targets of human rights groups since the 2001 terrorist attacks.”

The Obama answer to those human rights groups is the same as that offered by George W. Bush: Get the Justice Department to say that anything goes. When Obama wanted to kill “an American citizen, in a country with which the United States was not at war, in secret and without the benefit of a trial,” the Times tells us, “[t]he Justice Department’s Office of Legal Counsel prepared a lengthy memo justifying that extraordinary step, asserting that while the Fifth Amendment’s guarantee of due process applied, it could be satisfied by internal deliberations in the executive branch.” Obama approved, and two American citizens were assassinated, including Samir Khan, who was not on any official list of targeted terrorists. “This is an easy one,” Obama told his chief of staff.

What makes such decisions particularly easy is that Obama does not have to release any details of drone attacks or the legal rulings of the Office of Legal Counsel (OLC) that justify the assassinations—exactly the practice that Bush followed in regard to the OLC briefs that he cited for the legality of his torture policy. Michael Hayden, a director of the CIA under Bush and now an adviser to presumptive GOP nominee Mitt Romney, accurately described the danger that this poses to a democratic society: “This program rests on the personal legitimacy of the president, and that’s not sustainable. I have lived the life of someone taking action on the basis of secret O.L.C. memos, and it ain’t a good life. Democracies do not make war on the basis of legal memos locked in a [Department of Justice] safe.”

But imperial plutocracies do.

Click here to check out Robert Scheer’s new book,
“The Great American Stickup: How Reagan Republicans and Clinton Democrats Enriched Wall Street While Mugging Main Street.”

Keep up with Robert Scheer’s latest columns, interviews, tour dates and more at

 From: michael seeley []
Sent: Thursday, May 31, 2012 5:03 PM 
Hi Ed -- hope u can forward this, at least to Valley folks and other prospective donors.
thanks John Seeley, 310-435-7696 

Dear Friend

We want to you to know that a peace candidate, history professor Michael Powelson, is running for Congress here in the Valley's 30th District.

Dr. Powelson's campaign is centered on issues that are important to you both as an educator and a citizen.

The mayhem inflicted on our educational system (and so many other social services) has its deeper origins in Washington, where Congress has too long been subservient to the powers of high finance (which set off this recession) and the military-industrial complex (whose consumption of trillions cripples a workable response to the economic crisis).

Rather than going to needed social services, the majority of our tax dollars are being used for insane military adventures.

Both Democrats in the race, Berman and Sherman, have backed bank bailouts and have been faithful and ardent supporters of all war spending -- breaking ranks with most California Democrats in Congress, not to mention their constituents .

This needs to be stopped. The survival of our essential educational and social institutions is under mortal threat.

For this reason we support Dr. Michael Powelson in his bid to provide an alternative to the 2 incumbent war-enablers in the Valley Congressional district.

In his speeches and grass roots networking, Powelson's underfunded campaign has found a receptive audience. His message --when it gets heard -- resonates with public misgivings.

There's still time to get the word out and build a substantial peace and social justice vote that will register with legislators and push them in our direction.
With Election Day around the corner Mike needs funds for a final mailer  -- it's in the  attachment if you'd like to look -- to reach younger voters and disaffected Democrats who share our views and values.

We hope you will join us in contributing whatever you can, either by check to Powelson for Congress, 5852 Woodman Av., Van Nuys 91401, or (faster & more effectively) by credit card/PayPal on the Web at

Thanking you for being part of the real "hope and change."


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