Sunday, May 16, 2010

"War On Terror" [tm], justice, & a Justice

If a tree falls in the forest, with no one around to hear it, does it make a sound? Similarly, if a news story breaks and goes almost entirely unreported, is it a news story? There was news in the case of Maher Arar on Wednesday. That nearly everyone reading these words will respond with a puzzled look--"Who?"--is yet another testament to the effectiveness of the corporate press in the U.S.. Arar's is a great story, mind you, but what should have been his 15 minutes of fame was a consequence of his being one of the victims of the Bush administration's "War On Terror"[tm], and stories like that don't make the news in the U.S.. As it so happens, there's a synchronicitous confluence between it and the thing that is presently making the news in the U.S., the Obama pimping his despicable Supreme Court nominee around the Senate.

But I'll get to that in a moment.

First, some background:

Arar was a Canadian engineer and small businessman who, in 2002, was flying home to Montreal from a family vacation in Tunisia and made the big mistake of having a name like "Maher Arar" while switching flights in New York during the Bush administration. He was promptly kidnapped by the administration, thrown in a hole for two weeks and without any access to a lawyer or any other basic element of due process, interrogated about his being a member of al Qaida. He wasn't a member of al Qaida but because--follow this--he once worked with the brother of a man who was suspected of having ties to people in al Qaida, his protestations on this point weren't accepted by his persecutors and he was packed up and spirited away to Syria.

The Bush administration falsely claimed this wasn't an example of its "extraordinary rendition" game, whereby suspected terrorists are shipped off to foreign soil to be tortured, and that it was instead a "deportation." Arar wasn't a Syrian though. While he'd been born there, he'd fled from there as a teenager and never returned--he'd been a Canadian resident for 15 years, and a Canadian citizen for 11 yet his entreaties that he be sent to Canada--the destination of any legitimate deportation--were ignored. He was, instead, delivered, by the administration, to Syrian authorities in Jordan, who blindfolded and shackled him and hauled him across the border to a 3-feet-wide rat-infested cell without light which became his "home" for nearly a year, during which time he was repeatedly tortured. His torturers demanded answers to the same questions he'd been asked after being kidnapped by the Bush administration. He broke quickly and "confessed" to whatever they wanted in order to make the torture stop but apparently nothing he said panned out--after 10 months, the Syrians released him with the declaration that they could find no links to terrorism.

Arar returned to Canada and after some recuperation, began looking into legal action against the Bush regime and the government of Canada (which had collaborated with it). In Canada--quite a contrast to the non-story it has been in the U.S.--the matter became a national scandal and eventually the subject of an official commission of inquiry. The commission unequivocally concluded that there was no evidence linking Arar to terrorism and the Prime Minister issued a formal apology to Arar on behalf of the Canadian government, accompanied by a $10.5 million settlement. Mountie Commissioner Giuliani Zaccardelli was forced to resign his post over the matter.

In the U.S., Arar's suit against the Bush gang--virtually unreported at any stage of the affair--was initially thrown out after the administration invoked the damnable "states secrets privilege" (which the court should gut instead of using it as a premise for throwing out such suits). Arar appealed and the case was thrown out again. With the government he's suing now being administered by the Obama administration, Arar has taken the matter to the U.S. Supreme Court. Instead of prosecuting the crimes of the Bush administration (or merely settling the case), the Obama has done what he's virtually always done when one of these matters has been raised; he's adopted the sins of that administration as his own.[1] His administration has kept Arar and his family on the U.S. terrorism "watchlist" and on Wednesday, the administration filed, with the Supreme Court, papers asking them to reject Arar's appeal.

That's the same Supreme Court on which the Obama wants to place the horrid Elena Kagan. Should Kagan be confirmed and the court decide to allow the case to proceed, Kagan, who has endorsed the premise of Bush's "War On Terror"[tm] and has publicly supported the administration's kidnapping policies, will ultimately be one of the justices sitting beside John Roberts, Antonin Scalia, Clarence "Uncle" Thomas, and Samuel Alito hearing it.

Seems a bit more substantial a matter than the Kagan sit-down photo-ops with Senators presently consuming the news, doesn't it?



[1] As my persistent readers will recognize, this is one of the things ye humble editor most feared; that the abuses of the Bush administration would be defended, instead of rebuked, thus passing into precedent as acceptable.

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Kagan For The Court? Obama Screws Us Again

"'Why do the conservatives always get the conservatives, but we don't get to get the liberals?' Senator Tom Harkin, Democrat of Iowa, asked the Website Politico recently, voicing the frustration of the left when Ms. Kagan was considered a front-runner but was not yet Mr. Obama's selection. 'What the hell is that all about?'"
--New York Times

"This is not 'change I can believe in.' This is more like 'shit I can't believe.'"
--Nice Guy Eddie, In My Humble Opinion, on the Kagan nomination

"Of the many responsibilities granted to a President by our Constitution, few are more serious or more consequential than selecting a Supreme Court justice."

This last--and quite true--comment was uttered almost exactly a year ago by Barack Obama, when he had his first opportunity to name a new Supreme Court justice.

He fucked the liberals who put him in office back then, and, instead of any sort of bold liberal choice for a court from which anything even vaguely progressive had been in danger of extinction for years, he chose another righty to replace the retiring one. The argument, then, was that Sonia Sotomayor was a uniter, not a divider, someone who could build coalitions by convincing waffling conservatives to moderate. She had voted with Republican appointees in nearly every case, and the White House actually pointed to that as if it was some sort of argument for putting her on the court.

Quite a contrast with Obama's Republican predecessor. Junior Bush didn't offer "moderates," or toy around with pointless idiocies like trying to find someone who could build coalitions--he picked reliably hardcore reactionary ideologues who joined with the other reactionaries on the court to form a lockstep voting block that has done incalculable damage to the United States, and, with rulings like Citizens United, threatens to undermine the very fabric of the republic. When Bush initially chose Harriet Miers, whose sole qualification for the position was that she'd been one of his longtime coterie of sycophantish underlings, those on the right rebelled against her lack of a paper trail to show that she'd be reliably reactionary, and the stink they raised led Bush to withdraw her in favor of a better-established extremist.

That history needs to repeat itself now, because, with a new justice to pick, the Obama has chosen to fuck us again. Even harder, this time. Out of a roster of floated names that included some very solid candidates, Obama has chosen the absolute worst of the batch--his own Solicitor General, Elena Kagan--to fill the vacancy left by departing Justice John Paul Stevens.

Stevens was one of only two liberals on the current court, and, though not a down-the-line liberal vote, was, by far, the most liberal. To replace him, Obama has chosen a woman who is strong on corporate "free speech," but doesn't seem to have much regard for human free speech, and who has enthusiastically endorsed the nonsensical legal framework of Bush's War On Terror [tm], including the assumption, by the president, of illegal, unconstitutional, and fascistic kidnapping "powers." Quite a contrast to Stevens, who has been, among other things, a free speech advocate, corporate "speech" opponent, and a solid rock in opposition to Bush's sweeping, extra-legal claims of executive power, most of which have continued over into the Obama administration.

Faced with a court that tacks so sharply to the hard right that it's actually becoming a threat to the nation, Obama is attempting, through this nomination, to move the court even more to the right.

Did the public elect a Democratic president and an overwhelmingly Democratic Senate for THIS? Obama could appoint anyone he wanted, the Democrats could confirm anyone he appointed, and this is what he chooses to do?

In pimping Kagan, Obama, his underlings, and mouthpieces are using the same damn argument they did for Sotomayor; that she will be a "persuader," someone who can build "coalitions," and who can drag Justice Kennedy away from the reactionary block. Elements of the Obama-ass-kissing segment of the blogosphere have picked up on it, as well. I, for one, and really sick of this Mayberry-Machiavellian bullshit "argument." You people wanted your damn "persuader" last time, and we got another goddamn conservative who hasn't "persuaded" anyone of anything (except persuading me that I was right about her all along). What is needed, now, is to take a page out of the conservatives' handbook and get a solid liberal vote for the court. The righties usually win because they don't sit around playing these stupid games about "who can best persuade Kennedy" (who may drop dead tomorrow, for all any of us know)? They pick hardcore reactionary ideologues. And now, Obama is poised to deliver to them their fifth (and sometimes sixth) vote on the most important issues the court will be facing for the foreseeable future.

It is, in my view, imperative that this creature NOT be placed on the U.S. Supreme Court. The conservatives aren't going to stop it--they're already ranting about Kagan the socialist, radical, blah, blah, blah; all the usual bullshit, whatever makes her nomination an organizational flashpoint and fundraising bonanza for their party. If it's to be stopped, it has to be us. The liberals. What needs to happen, now, is a full-scale uprising on the left, a repeat of the right's outrage over Harriet Miers, with a goal of the same ultimate result. In common parlance, the Obama needs a political smackdown laid on his sorry ass over this.

Not that he'll get one. But when even so normally sycophantish an Obamabot as Niceguy Eddie is with me on this, perhaps there's hope after all.

So go forth, my readers! All three of you! Raise hell for breakfast.

Or at least bitch about it a lot.