Thursday, February 18, 2010

Intelligence on Trial

by Gordon Cooper

From Broader View Weekly, February 18, 2010

As if we needed another illustration of how inept and not-ready-for-prime-time this administration and Justice Department is, the recent reversal of Attorney General Eric Holder’s decision is a glaring example.

The decision to try in our civilian courts, five surviving conspirators behind the terrorist attack upon our citizens and our Pentagon, on September 11, 2001, has apparently become another victim of the Tea Party movement that carried Scott Brown to the U.S. Senate and Obama to the door of the Republican Party. Eric Holder, as Attorney General of the People of The United States of America, sought to demonstrate his superior intelligence over the combined intelligences of our Constitutional architects, our Supreme Court and most definitely over the previous administration, by stating that these men deserve the same privileges and rights reserved for American citizens.

It seems that the decision was safe and secure until the Massachusetts “miracle” shook the political world. Mayor Bloomberg sniffed the breeze and detected the scent of torch fuel and heard the clattering of pitchfork handles in the neighboring state. He relayed the alarm to Senator Schumer and the administration blinked – or at least it seemed to blink – until the perky CBS anchorette, Katie Couric, asked Obama about the reversal on Super Bowl Sunday.

Obama replied that NYC may still be subjected to the fiasco and the financial burden of a needless civilian trial, which will lead to a security nightmare complete with traffic tie-ups, protesters from both sides needing protection from each other, terrorists spewing venom across our media outlets and perhaps worst of all, the invasion of NYC boroughs by thousands of international news media personalities.

The trial itself is needless for the simple reason that the conspirators have all signed confessions to the act and have requested execution, according to a letter written to and read by military judge Colonel Stephen Henley during a hearing in Guantanamo Bay on December 8, 2008.

In that letter, Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, (KSM), admitted that he was responsible for the planning that, when carried out, resulted in the destruction of over 3,000 civilian souls and the devastation of our economy and our sense of security. He further sought to remove the legal counsel appointed to him because he said he made no differentiation between the soldiers fighting in Iraq and the judge who sat on the bench.

“I was responsible for the 9/11 operation, from A to Z… I decapitated with my blessed right hand the head of the American Jew, Daniel Pearl…there are pictures of me on the Internet holding his head…I was responsible for the assassination attempt against President Clinton in the Philippines in 1994 or 1995…I was responsible for the bombing of a nightclub in Bali, Indonesia…” KSM said in his rambling testimony during a hearing in Guantanamo in 2007. He affirmed that his confession was made without pressure, threat, intimidation or promise.

So, why does Holder think the civilian trial should go on? He has already claimed that there is no doubt that the men will be convicted and brought to justice, a statement which will, no doubt, be used by even the most junior of attorneys appointed for their defense to call for a mistrial, therefore he does not believe the evidence disclosed in a civilian trial will be greater than that discovered in a military tribunal.

There can be only one reason to bring these vermin to an American city and to give them the type of exposure they could only dream of in their fondest and wildest dreams. The reason is not to determine their guilt or innocence; that has already been determined. The reason is not to demonstrate the fact that the U.S. is a civil nation which bestows mercy upon our enemies; that has been established by countless examples of our eagerness to send aid to those who seek our destruction.

The only reason for this trial would be to keep the Bush administration, the CIA and the whole military intelligence structure on trial. It would serve no other purpose. It would result in a weakening of our CIA’s effectiveness as they see their operations and operators under scrutiny. It would demoralize our military as they watch the rights they have fought to protect for their fellow citizens granted to the enemy they are fighting.

I believe this whole debacle illustrates another failed trial – the corporate intelligence of this administration and its cabinet members has been tried and they have been found wanting.

Giving Up on Justice

by Keith Cooper

From Broader View Weekly, February 18, 2010

One of the most tragic victims of the attacks of 9/11 appears to be the sense of justice that has long been a core American value. Through the rage inspired by fear mongering politicians and pundits, U.S. citizens were manipulated into trading ethics in the interest of security.

My brother Gordon’s column illustrates this transition perfectly. While his rambling rant is nearly as incoherent as the coerced confession of Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, which he cites, the message is clear: when it comes to national security anything goes.

I find it interesting that Gordon implies that Attorney General Eric Holder has overstepped the bounds of constitutional law. The Bush administration had been so frustrated by the constraints of the constitution that they effectively skirted the law by declaring a war on terror. This declaration against an imaginary foe created the perfect storm of policy. It allowed terror suspects to be categorized not as the criminals they are, but as enemy warriors. It also changed the way suspects could be detained, interrogated and treated. The Bush administration legitimized techniques and strategies that were heretofore unthinkable.

For these offenses, the principles of the Bush administration should be investigated fully. Any constitutional transgressions should be prosecuted and officials should be held accountable. However, neither President Barack Obama, nor the Department of Justice is seeking to formally investigate Bush era policies.

What the Attorney General and the Obama administration do seek is to hold accountable the crafters and perpetrators of terror against the United States. Their intent to show strength and resolve by holding the trials within shouting distance of Ground Zero was meant to display undeniable symbolism. Unfortunately, political fallout and exaggerated security issues combined to make the location impossible to stage.

A couple of weeks ago the administration conceded this fact and officially announced that the trials would go on, but at some as yet unknown alternate site. New York City politicians and business organizations began putting pressure on state and federal administrations to reverse the decision and were able to sway Obama and Holder. Of course, in Glenn Beck’s delusional alternative universe none of this tug-of-war mattered. Nope. It was the miraculous election of a messiah in the form of Scott Brown and his rise to power on the crest of the tidal wave that is the Tea Party movement. Apparently, my brother has been drinking Beck’s Kool-Aid since he seems to believe that every shift and decision is a reaction to the seismic power of the Tea Partiers. It is impossible to deny the national impact of this movement, but it is naïve to insist that the political landscape is completely shaped by Sarah Palin’s adopted minions.

What is clear is that opposition to these trials has been inspired by groups like Keep America Safe – an activist organization run by former Vice President Dick Cheney’s daughter Elizabeth Cheney and conservative operative Bill Kristol. Keep America Safe was formed to justify Bush administration policy and to attack Obama’s policy with regard to national security. These groups have been effective in controlling the message and characterizing ethical conduct as weakness and “giving aid and comfort to the enemy” (in the words of former VP Cheney). The result is the undermining of the judicial system that has been an effective pillar of our civilization for centuries.

My brother isn’t alone in his belief that justice should be suspended in the cases of suspected terrorists. Even politicians like Long Island Representative Pete King believe the federal trials should be abandoned altogether. But the thought that Gordon’s assertion that the judicial process is unnecessary is echoed elsewhere in our society is troubling.

Commitment to the constitution, respect for the rule of law and trust in the system of justice are traditional American values. We should not be manipulated into abandoning those values out of fear.

Overcoming the Deficit of Trust

by Keith Cooper

From Broader View Weekly, February 4, 2010

On Wednesday, January 27, President Barack Obama delivered his first State of the Union address to a joint session of Congress and to the American public. It was historic in that it was his first such speech, however, it was neither his most impressive, nor one that will change the course of history.

As expected, there was no shortage of commentary on his performance or the content he presented.

In preparing for my column on the subject, I could have easily drawn from the compliments of the president’s supporters or merely reacted to the criticisms of those who oppose him. I could have filled more than my allotted column inches agreeing with those on the left who felt he said what he needed to say. Or I could have flooded the space with rants about the official Republican response delivered by Virginia Governor Bob McDonnell. I could have gone on and on about the trashing Obama predictably received from Sean Hannity, Rush Limbaugh, and Glenn Beck. I have strong emotions about those commentaries, and having been down that road, the piece would have practically written itself.

Another column preparation approach I could have taken would have been a review of the policy points in Obama’s address. I could have focused solely on the plans he set forward to strengthen the economy. There was certainly enough meat to discuss in his jobs initiative. His approach to the financial sector and Wall Street going forward offers much to debate. I could have picked a topic among Obama’s plans to reenergize small business, or make education less expensive, or invest in clean energy innovation. However, I have already been scooped on the subject; if you want to read a review of the policies outlined in last Wednesday’s speech, or want to hear the president lauded or lambasted, there are plenty of sources out there. Pick up any other paper or news magazine, scan the dials of your TV or radio, or log on to the Internet and you’ll find a plethora of choices.

For me there was a moment during the hour-plus oration that struck a chord. It should have become the thrust of the debate afterward, in my opinion. To be fair, it did get some mention amid the talk about Obama’s open statement on the recent Supreme Court decision, and about the moments he acknowledged the mess he inherited from the previous administration. But the president’s charge to Washington to address the “deficit of trust” among the American people got short shrift in the politics and punditry.

The president is right. No meaningful change will come in a system “where every day is election day” and where the cut-throat perpetual campaign interferes with Washington’s obligation to represent U.S. citizens. The current political climate is destructive not only to those who play the game on the Hill or who occupy offices on Pennsylvania Avenue, but also to those on Main Street who are struggling to simply survive day to day. Those who suffer illness and injury helplessly because they can’t afford proper health care, and those who daily seek employment with few positive results, can expect little relief from such a system.

Watching politics go on as usual in the days since the State of the Union address can make one despondent. Many I have talked to expressed their disappointment and disillusion at the futility of the political process. Once these feelings of distrust and dismay begin to take hold, it’s easy to say “why bother?” and resign oneself to the belief that nothing you can do really makes a difference.

There is a popular theory that the best way to make your voice heard is to exercise your fundamental democratic privilege to vote. In fact, I used to believe this theory and even offered it as advice to those who sought change. At one time it may have been true, but not now. In the current political climate, I think that theory is really part of the problem. I think it leads to the overemphasis of the election cycle and to the perpetual campaign that stands in the way of progress in Washington (and to some extent on the local level).

The recent special election in Massachusetts to fill the late Ted Kennedy’s Senate seat is an example of this misplaced emphasis. The fact that a Republican claimed victory in this blue state was touted as a referendum on Democrats and on President Obama as his party’s leader. What I saw, as Scott Brown referred to himself as number 41, (a reference to the current 60-40 filibuster-proof majority of the Democrats) was a campaign based on obstructionism. As Brown repeatedly promised to work to kill health care reform I saw a clear picture of how Washington works.

I do think voting is important and is our obligation as citizens, but the best way to make your voice heard is to lift that voice. One can hardly deny the impact of the Tea Party movement on the political landscape. In fact, one of the criticisms of Obama is that he appears (to the right) to be ignoring the voice of the people as expressed within that movement. Unfortunately, the voice of the Tea Partiers is not the voice of America, it’s just the loudest shout in the din. The Tea Party movement doesn’t represent my views; it doesn’t represent the underinsured or underemployed; it doesn’t represent the majority of Massachusetts’ voters, regardless of the lines one wishes to draw.

The problem is that most other views remain unexpressed. Other voices remain silent. We may bend the ear of our neighbor or coworker, but most of us are unlikely to call our representatives or put a pen to paper and mail it to their offices (physical mail that is proven to be more effective than electronic communication). We are more likely to tune out than to write a letter to the editor or submit an article to the Broader View Weekly.

We need to rise above complacency and apathy if we are to hope for change. Change has come too slowly for many of us and we cannot continue to wait for the next election or withdraw from the process altogether. We cannot afford to wait for our elected officials to put away politics and work for the people. We must find our voice and participate in our democracy.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Fasten Your Seatbelts!

by Gordon Cooper

From Broader View Weekly, February 4, 2010

If the first month of 2010 is any indication of what we can expect from the next 11, I’d suggest that we all grab hold of something solid, because I think we are in for a very bumpy ride. We saw the power of nature unleashed in the devastating earthquake in Haiti on that first Tuesday, and then, one week later, we saw the power of an informed citizenry unleashed in Massachusetts. Both of these events have initiated dramatic and long lasting changes. The physical topography of Haiti will never be the same as it was before that quake and the political topography of Washington will never be the same as it was before that special election.

We need only examine the recent State of the Union address by President Obama to realize just how drastically the political landscape has changed. Sources say that the first speech had been written as early as last November when Obama’s reputation was feeling the first tremors following the defeats experienced by his party in the Virginia and New Jersey gubernatorial races. But then the people of Massachusetts spoke and the earth beneath his feet shook.

The speech delivered last Wednesday exemplified the reason why there is such a “deficit of trust” in Washington, and why Obama is seen less as the Second Coming of the Messiah and more as the Second Coming of the other J.C. (Jimmy Carter). It was marked by several misstatements, broad generalizations, false accusations, faux confessions, comical ironies and, worst of all, pointless, clichéd rhetoric.

When Obama wasn’t using his famous oratorical skills to: one, offend the Supreme Court Justices on national television while blatantly misstating the details of their decision; two, castigate members of his own party for seeing the earthquake coming and heading for the hills; three, indict the previous president for the “inherited” deficit that he tripled in one-fourth the time; four, offer up a false confession of blame for not explaining the health bill clearly enough for an uneducated, bumbling populace like us to understand that what he was shoving down our throats was for own good, etc. etc. – he was making some very interesting and ironic statements.

He referred to Washington in the third person plural voice, as if he wasn’t a part of it, and then spoke of the “perpetual campaign”, as if he wasn’t involved in it. Oddly enough, this speech was given the day after he re-hired his campaign manager to act as an advisor, and then the day after the speech, he flew to Florida for a campaign-like town hall meeting touting a new, high-speed rail project that will most likely be as non-profitable as the current Amtrak system, which costs the American taxpayers $72/passenger and expects to be more each year.

He spoke of the need to tighten the Federal spending belt by freezing the rates of increase – but not until 2011, when, as we all know, the current election cycle will not be threatened. And even then, his proposed savings would only amount to less than 1 percent of the deficit.

There are other glaring disparities between Obama’s speech and the true state of the union. The space available to me here does not allow me to go into detail on each of them, but if you are interested, you can read some of them in the AP article written by Calvin Woodward dated January 28.

So, as we can see, Obama offers us no hope for a change in either the budgetary deficit or the deficit of trust.

In conclusion, I feel I must answer a charge made by Keith in his column. He stated that the Brown election was an example of what was wrong with the “way Washington works”. Keith goes on to say that voting is no longer an effective mechanism for change. Keith seems to say that we must just speak louder than those “who do not speak for us” – as if the loudest or, should he prefer, the most violent voice was the one that needed to be listened to.

The fact that Keith, and Obama, seem to be missing from the seismic jolt that hit the political world is that Brown’s campaign was not “politics as usual”. Politics as usual would have been the most liberal state in the union sending another liberal senator to replace the deceased liberal senator. Politics as usual would have had Scott Brown toeing the line of the Republican fat cats just to get their financial support. Politics as usual would not have seen a 30-point lead by the Democrat in December shrink within four short weeks to a six-point loss. It was not politics as usual; it was people – with an average donation of $77 – and a heart-felt disgust for political back-room dealing and closed-door obfuscation that surrounded the Health Care debacle. It was a realization that this current administration cares more about our global image than it does our national security.

Just as the rebuilding efforts taking place in Haiti should be done with a realization that earthquakes are possible and should be prepared for, the political rebuilding should carry that realization also. If Obama thinks he can use the same empty promises and soaring rhetoric to build his political legacy, I am afraid his world will shake again in November.

So, strap yourselves in and hold on, we are heading for some turbulence.