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Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Noam Chomsky: Republican Candidates Are Insane • Coral Reefs Will Die in Our Lifetime • Pro-Death Republicans • Ron Paul Tells the Sick to "Die" • Famine • and more!

- Republican Blood Lust Again
    So I was watching the Republican tea party debate on CNN, led by Wolf Blitzer, whom I usually don’t care for at all. 
    But I perked up when Blitzer asked a tough question of Ron Paul. Blitzer presented him with the following hypothetical:

    “A healthy young, 30-year-old man has a good job, makes a good living but decides, ‘You know what? I’m not going to spend $200 or $300 a month on health insurance because I’m healthy, I don’t need it.’ But something terrible happens, all of a sudden he needs it. What’s going to happen if he goes into a coma? Who pays for that?”
    Ron Paul, who is showing himself in these debates to be a heartless old fool, amazingly responded by saying, “That’s what freedom is all about. Taking your own risks.” And he belittled what he called “this whole idea that you have to prepare to take care of everybody.”

    Blitzer, to his credit, followed up:

    “Are you saying society should just let him die?”

    Before Paul had a chance to answer (and he eventually said churches and neighbors would take care of the patient), members of the audience responded with shouts of “Yes!” and “Yeah!”

    What a scary bunch of people!

    Just as the Republican audience last time showed their bloodlust when they cheered Rick Perry’s 234 executions, here in this debate they were even more callous and creepy.
- Alan Grayson condemns Tea Party for ‘sadistic’ response to uninsured Americans video
    Angered by the “Let Him Die” chant at the Tea Party debate Monday evening, Keith and former congressman Alan Grayson discuss the appropriate response to this outrage. Grayson questions the Tea Party’s Christian ideology, saying, “They glorify and sanctify other people’s pain.”
- Nicole Lamoureux on Tea Party’s ‘Let Him Die’ controversy video
    Keith and Nicole Lamoureux, the executive director of the National Association of Free Clinics, condemn the reaction from the audience at the GOP Tea Party debate to an exchange between moderator Wolf Blitzer and the radical libertarian candidate for the GOP nomination Texas Rep. Dr. Ron Paul. Blitzer asked Paul what should happen to a healthy 30-year-old without medical insurance who becomes seriously ill. Paul responded by saying, “That’s what freedom is all about — taking your own risks.” Blitzer replied, “But congressman, are you saying that society should just let him die?” The Tea Party crowd chanted, “Yeah!” Lamoureux says, “It broke my heart for the uninsured, and someone needs to be the voice for those uninsured.”
- A Killer Issue
    Republicans like Rick Perry are skeptical of everything the government does—except when it executes people. 
    Either you believe in government or you don't.

    The current field of Republican contenders for president are hard at work to prove they don't. The best government, they insist, will leave you alone to repair your own ruptured kidney while your neighbors bring you casseroles and cigarettes. In recent weeks, leading Republicans have made plain they don't believe in government-run health care (lo, even unto death). They don't believe in inoculating children again HPV (lo, even unto death). They don't believe in government-run disaster relief (ditto, re death), the minimum wage, Social Security, or the Federal Reserve. There is nothing, it seems—from protecting civil rights to safeguarding the environment—that big government bureaucracies can't foul up.

    But there is one exception: killing people. These same Republicans who are dubious of government's ability to do anything right have an apparently bottomless faith in the capital-justice system. Everything is broken in America, they claim—except the machinery of death.

    At last week's Republican debate, when asked whether he had ever lost sleep about the record number of executions that have occurred on his watch, Texas Gov. Rick Perry answered no. (The crowd whooped and cheered. Better in error than in doubt and all that.)

    Perry's confidence in the infallibility of Texas' capital punishment system would be inspiring were it not for the empirical evidence. Of the 234 people executed in his 11-year tenure, Texas' "thoughtful, clear process" resulted in what was almost certainly the execution of at least one innocent man—Cameron Todd Willingham—based on "expert" arson evidence that was complete junk, an informant who recanted his testimony, and a forensic psychiatrist who diagnosed Willingham based chiefly on his possession of an Iron Maiden poster.
- The Most Anti-Environment Congress Ever?
    House Republicans have undertaken a war on environmental regulations since assuming the majority earlier this year, taking a total of 125 votes on measures that would take undermine environmental laws or take away the government's authority to set regulations. Together, the measures make this "the most anti-environment Congress in history," says Rep. Henry Waxman, the ranking member on the House Energy and Commerce Committee.
- Climate report links extreme weather events to global warming
    Heat waves, droughts, blizzards and the the rest of the year's U.S. record-breaking extreme weather, likely enjoyed a boost from global warming, suggests a climate report.
- The costs of climate change
    From California beachside communities to remote villages in subarctic Alaska, the impacts of climate change are becoming ever more tangible, as shown by two government studies released this week.
- Lizz Winstead on Michele Bachmann’s fear of HPV vaccinations
    “Countdown” guest host David Shuster and comedian Lizz Winstead, co-creator of “The Daily Show,” examine Michele Bachmann’s dubious claim that HPV vaccinations for young girls can cause mental retardation. At this week’s CNN/Tea Party Debate, Bachmann attacked Rick Perry for supporting HPV vaccinations, which prevent forms of cervical cancer.
- Famine Ravages Somalia in a World Less Likely to Intervene
    Is the world about to watch 750,000 Somalis starve to death? The United Nations’ warnings could not be clearer. A drought-induced famine is steadily creeping across Somalia and tens of thousands of people have already died.
- Final Deepwater disaster report paints bleak picture
    The full catalogue of failures that led to the destruction of the Deepwater Horizon drilling rig and the subsequent oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico have been laid out by a final US government report. 
    The report was released today by the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management, Regulation and Enforcement (BOEMRE) — set up to replace the discredited Minerals Management Agency wound up in the wake of the disaster (see Nature's special page for all news on Deepwater).

    Investigators from BOEMRE and the US Coast Guard lay the blame for the accident on owners of the rig Transocean, contracting company Halliburton and ‘ultimate operator’ BP.

    The panel concludes that BP, Transocean and Halliburton all violated a number of federal regulations.
- Summer of Extreme Weather Ends with a Bang
    Regardless of Hurricane Irene, severe rain and flooding, this August was the second warmest on record for the continental United States. Last month also spread the love around the globe, making it the third warmest August in 34 years.
- CLIMATE 101 by The Climate Reality Project
    Video explaining Climate Change- share it!
- Experts say Fukushima 'worse' than Chernobyl
    Experts say that the total radiation leaked will eventually exceed the amounts released from the Chernobyl disaster that the Ukraine in April 1986. This amount would make Fukushima the worst nuclear disaster in history.
- Coral reefs 'will be gone by end of the century'
    Coral reefs are on course to become the first ecosystem that human activity will eliminate entirely from the Earth, a leading United Nations scientist claims. He says this event will occur before the end of the present century, which means that there are children already born who will live to see a world without coral.
- Why There Are Protests On Wall Street: Their Actions Impoverished More Than 60 Million People
    Today, over a thousand demonstrators began protests as a part of a campaign they are calling “Occupy Wall Street.” The protesters intend to engage in long-term civil disobedience to draw attention to Wall Street’s misdeeds and call for structural economic reforms. 
    As demonstrators converged on Wall Street — with police blocking them from reaching the New York Stock Exchange — much of the news media paid little attention to the protests. Meanwhile, much of the conservative punditry has taken to mocking the demonstrations, with conservative Twitter users lambasting the “hippies” in New York City.

    While many of the conservative defenders of Wall Street may be quick to portray protests against the American financial establishment as driven by envy of its wealth or far-left ideologies, the truth is that people have a very simple reason to be angry — because Wall Street’s actions made tens of millions of people dramatically poorer through no fault of their own.
- If Everybody’s Working for the Weekend, How Come It Took This Country So Goddamn Long to Get One?
    Ta-Nehisi Coates went after liberals the other day for being too whiny. Those who complain about the compromises and capitulations of Obama—”Team Commie,” as he calls them—have only themselves to blame. They haven’t done the hard work of organizing citizens to put pressure on the pols in Washington, particularly conservative Democrats resisting Obama’s jobs program. 
    I was a little puzzled by this post. Its hectoring tone (“being taken seriously involves actual work”) sounds a lot like the one Obama uses when he attacks “griping and groaning” liberals—a tone ably skewered by none other than Ta-Nehisi Coates in a New York Times op-ed, which I wrote about in an earlier post.

    It’s also not clear who exactly Coates is talking about here. Most of the liberals and leftists I know who criticize Obama spend their lives working to elect more progressive politicians, not only in Congress but throughout the country. They know full well that if things are going to change, it’s not going to come from Obama or the Democratic Party but from social movements and grassroots activism.
- The Theology of Armageddon
    The woo-woo nuttiness of it all defies the imagination, beginning with the idea of a course in “Nuclear Ethics and Nuclear Warfare” at Vandenberg Air Force Base. Nuclear ethics?

    Does that mean no nuclear weapons should ever be used to promote sexual harassment?

    Well actually, turns out the point of the mandatory course recently canceled by the Air Force after officers of numerous faiths complained to the Military Religious Freedom Foundation about it and TruthOut published an exposé in July — was to give officers in the first week of missile-launch training a Bible-verse-studded indoctrination in faux-Just War Theory, cynically known in the ranks as the “Jesus Loves Nukes” training.
- The Election of 2012: Why the Most Important Issues May Be Off the Table (But Should Be On It)
    We’re on the cusp of the 2012 election. What will it be about? It seems reasonably certain President Obama will be confronted by a putative Republican candidate who...

- Noam Chomsky: 2012 GOP Candidates Views are "Off the International Spectrum of Sane Behavior" video
    MIT Professor Emeritus Noam Chomsky discusses the position of the Republican presidential candidates on issues such as climate change and calls them "utterly outlandish." "I’m not a great enthusiast for Obama, as you know, from way back, but at least he’s somewhere in the real world," Chomsky says. "Perry, who’s very likely … to win the primary and win the nomination, and maybe to win the election, he’s often in outer space." 
    "I mean, as you mentioned before, I just came back from Europe, where people just can’t believe what they’re seeing here, what people are saying. I mean, take one of the really crucial issues for the human species: doing something about environmental catastrophe. Well, you know, every single one of the Republican candidates—maybe not Huntsman, but every major one—is a climate change denier. It’s kind of ironic in the case of Perry. He says there’s no global warming, while Texas is burning up with the highest temperatures on record, fire all over the place, and so on. But it doesn’t matter, it’s just not happening. In fact, the one who has conceded that maybe global warming has taken place is Michele Bachmann. I heard a statement of hers in which she said, "Well, yes, maybe it’s happening. It’s God’s punishment for allowing gay marriage," or some comment like that. I mean, this—what’s going on there is just off the international spectrum of sane behavior."

Monday, September 12, 2011

Attica Is All of Us: Cornel West on 40th Anniversary of Attica Prison Rebellion


Sean

Bush Officials Downplayed Ground Zero Health Risks - US Backed Forces Commit Human Rights Abuses - Women Elected Officials More Pro-Environment - Arctic Sea Ice Melting FAST - Climate Change - Cheney the Criminal - Obama the Conservative

- US-backed Afghan militias accused of human rights abuses
    US-backed Afghan militias are committing murder, rape, torture and extortion, risking increasing support for the insurgent groups they were designed to fight against, a prominent human rights group has said.
- Climate and weather: Extreme measures
    Two studies published last February in Nature  showed links between extreme weather and climate change — one looking at the catastrophic flooding in the UK in 2000, the other at the late-twentieth-century increase in intense rainfall across the Northern Hemisphere.
- U.S. sweltered through the hottest summer in 75 years
    The USA just endured its hottest summer in 75 years and the second-hottest summer on record, according to data released Thursday afternoon by the National Climatic Data Center in Asheville, N.C.
- Arctic sea ice drops to record low
    Arctic sea ice extent last week dropped to a new record minimum. At 4.24 million square kilometers, sea ice cover on 8 September was 27,000 sq km below the previous record low, observed in 2007.
- Researchers Find Arctic Sea Ice at Lowest Levels on Record, and more bad news
    Meanwhile, a leading United Nations scientist says coral reefs are on course to become the first ecosystem that human activity will eliminate entirely from the earth.
- Are women in elected office more pro-environment than men?   Yes.
    Rachel's Network, our partner in efforts to elect more women in 2012, reviewed Congressional voting patterns over the last ten years and found that women, regardless of party, voted consistently more in favor of pro-environmental policies than men. 
- Ten Reasons to Move Cheney’s Book to the Crime Section
    Former Vice President Dick Cheney was given a multi-million contract to write a book about his political career. According to Cheney’s media hype, the book, called In My Time, will have “heads exploding all over Washington.” The Darth Vader of the Bush administration offers no apologies and feels no remorse. But peace activists around the country are stealthily gearing up to visit bookstores, grab a stack of books, and deposit them where they belong—the Crime Section.
- Obama's job speech may save just one: his own
    The president's new jobs initiative is too little, too late - and has little chance of congressional approval.
    No doubt this not-so-new Obama is aware that his declining polls and the growing disenchantment of weary supporters requires a new, more militant public tone.
    But The Hill newspaper that covers Congress reported that many Democrats "say that President Obama is great at delivering speeches, but they claim that if he is going to govern effectively, he must walk the walk and not just talk the talk".
- NRA (National Rifle Association) Fundraises Off 9-11
    Yesterday, on the tenth anniversary of the September 11 terror attacks, the National Rifle Association (NRA) sent out an e-mail titled "Remember September 11."  The e-mail sent from NRA executive vice president Wayne LaPierre began by recounting the bravery of fireman on 9-11 and American troops in Afghanistan, some of whom "share their memories" in the next issue of one of the NRA's many magazines. Then it asked people to text donations to the NRA Foundation...
- Invasive Insects Take Big Cash Bite
    Insects that hitch rides in shipping containers cost local governments and homeowners $2.5 billion each year.
- Rebuilt Ground Zero Billed as National Symbol, But Costly Construction Projects Outsourced Overseas Democracy New video
    This weekend, thousands of people will gather at the site of the former World Trade Center to mark the 10th anniversary of the 9/11 terrorist attacks. On Sunday, a dedication ceremony will be held for the 9/11 Memorial, which will open to the public on Monday. However, construction continues on 1 World Trade Center, which is far from complete. While the 10th anniversary has made international headlines, little attention has been paid to some controversial aspects of the rebuilding at Ground Zero. At a time when President Obama is launching a massive jobs initiative, key parts of the construction project were outsourced overseas.
- The unsung heroes of 9/11 with video
    Thousands of low-wage workers who mopped up toxic dust of World Trade Centre face illnesses with little government help.
    The tenth anniversary of the attacks of September 11, 2001, has inspired a reflective mood in New York and much of the nation. While everyone looks back and recalls where they were when the towers fell, those who are sick as a result of the devastation are looking forward – and they do not like what they see.


New documents detail how officials downplayed Ground Zero health risks
Documents examined by ProPublica, including White House emails, show how potentially disturbing information was kept from the public

Published in The Guardian, Friday 9 September 2011

World Trade Centre
PHOTO:Excavators converge on an area of smouldering debris at the site of the World Trade Centre in New York in 2001. Photograph: Louis Lanzano/AP

In the dark and uncertain days after 11 September 2001, the sight of thousands of shaken New Yorkers returning to their apartments, offices and schools in Lower Manhattan seemed to signal a larger return to normality.

Now new documents have emerged showing that federal officials in Washington and New York went further than was previously known to downplay concerns about health risks, misrepresenting or concealing information that ultimately might have protected thousands of people from the contaminated air at Ground Zero.

In one instance, a warning that people should not report to work on a busy thoroughfare in the financial district – Water Street – was rewritten and workers instead were urged to return to their offices as soon as the financial district opened on 17 September.

In another, federal officials declared that testing showed the area was safe when sampling of the air and dust – which ultimately found very high levels of toxic chemicals – had barely begun.

The documents do not reveal how – or whether – federal officials explicitly weighed the competing goals of ensuring New Yorkers' safety and projecting an image of a city and nation unbowed. But taken as a whole, the records – which include email messages from the White House's Council on Environmental Quality to the Environmental Protection Agency and the Occupational Safety and Health Administration, as well as inter-agency correspondence – give the most detailed account yet of how officials kept potentially disturbing data about health risks from the public.

Last year, Congress approved $4.3bn to treat and compensate people with health issues related to exposure to Ground Zero dust.

"The misleading communications by civic leaders and their failure to insist on respiratory protection in the days, weeks and months after the initial rescue operation ended undoubtedly contributed and will continue to contribute to sickness in the rescue and recovery workers and in the citizens of Lower Manhattan," said Dr Philip J Landrigan, chairman of the Department of Community and Preventative Medicine at the Mount Sinai School of Medicine. Mount Sinai has screened more than 25,000 Ground Zero responders for illnesses suspected of being related to the dust and treated many of them.

In response to questions about the way the disaster was handled, the EPA issued this statement: "The federal response to 9/11 has been thoroughly examined, including by EPA's own inspector general. What is clear is that dedicated EPA staff worked tirelessly under nearly impossible conditions to respond to an unprecedented disaster."

The statement goes on to note that the events of 9/11 tested the agency in many ways "and it is clear that some things could have been done better. Our focus every day since 9/11 has been on working to improve and expand our capacity to respond to emergencies."

As the 10-year anniversary of 9/11 approaches, questions continue to arise over the way government agencies assessed risks at Ground Zero and communicated what they knew to the public.

In some respects, the documents examined by ProPublica, which were obtained through freedom of information requests filed by the New York Committee for Occupational Safety and Health (NYCOSH), a health union, expand upon what has come out before about the White House's role in shaping the information about Ground Zero contamination.

In 2003, the EPA inspector general issued a scathing report outlining how the agency recast some of its public communications at the behest of the White House Council on Environmental Quality, a branch of the Executive Office of the President. The report concluded that the White House had at least indirectly influenced the wording of some statements by removing cautionary language about air safety downtown. It also found that the EPA had gone beyond what it knew in making general statements about the air in the first weeks after the attacks. In particular, the report harshly criticised Christine Todd Whitman, the EPA administrator in 2001, for telling people in New York that the "air is safe to breathe" before she had the facts to back it up.

Whitman declined to comment on the newly released documents. But in 2007, she strongly defended her agency before a congressional committee investigating the 9/11 response.
"It's utterly false then for EPA critics to assert that I or others at the agency set about to mislead New Yorkers and rescue workers," Whitman told the House judiciary subcommittee on the constitution, civil rights and civil liberties, whose chairman, the Democrat representative for New York Jerrold Nadler, represents the area around Ground Zero. "Every statement I made was based on what experts, who had a great deal of experience in these things, conveyed to me,"

At the same hearing, Samuel Thernstrom, the associate director of communications for the environmental council, defended his role in coordinating the flow of information about Ground Zero, saying his goal had been simply "to help ensure that EPA's statements were as clear and accurate as possible."

But the new records, some of which were made available to the New York labour group as recently as this summer, depict an administration more set on projecting confidence and protecting itself against political attacks.

In an email dated 20 September, for example, John Henshaw, OSHA's chief administrator, said he had received a phone call from Thernstrom warning that several senators were asking questions about how OSHA was cooperating with the EPA at Ground Zero. In response, Henshaw directed his staff to gather details deflecting such concerns.

"I would like to have the information at hand before any inquiries come in, to nip any criticism in the bud," Henshaw wrote. "They have a history of taking pot shots at us and if we can respond quickly, in a positive, strong, well thought out way, we may take some wind out of there (cq) sails."

In several instances, the documents show, officials offered assurances about air quality before they even had test results or downplayed the degree of the contamination found.
Early on 13 September, a day and a half after the World Trade Centre towers collapsed, Thernstrom called OSHA's New York office to say Whitman was on her way to the city to talk to reporters about the agency's air testing "since all monitoring reports have been so positive thus far," according to an OSHA email.

But according to its own records, the EPA had only tested a handful of asbestos samples before 14 September and didn't get the results of tests for other contaminants until 23 September.

A joint press release put out by the EPA and OSHA said dust samples taken from cars and buildings on 13 September had asbestos levels "slightly above" the 1% level at which federal regulations apply. The new documents, however, specify that the samples contained 2.1 to 3.3% asbestos – or 200% to 300% higher than the trigger standard.

"These documents confirm that what happened at the World Trade Centre is that we proceeded with a minimalist approach in terms of caution and never really scaled it up as it became necessary, rather than assuming the worst case scenario and scaling it back as appropriate," said David M Newman, a workplace safety expert with NYCOSH.

Newman started filing public information requests several years ago to better understand how federal, state and city agencies made decisions affecting worker safety at Ground Zero. NYCOSH advocates for worker safety, in partnership with environmental and health groups, workers' rights organizations and unions whose members worked on the cleanup.

One batch of documents obtained by NYCOSH significantly amplifies a White House intervention described more generally in the 2003 Inspector General report. Within days of the twin towers' collapse, when the air was heaviest with asbestos and dioxin, a warning that office workers in New York's financial district might be at risk if they returned to their workplaces was removed from public statements at the request of the Council on Environmental Quality.

The original draft of the release that was going to be issued by the EPA and OSHA said "higher levels of asbestos" had been found in seven samples taken by OSHA on Water Street in the financial district. The Inspector General's office examined inter-agency emails and found that after the White House reviewed the draft and suggested revisions, the information about Water Street was removed, as was this warning to office workers: "The concern raised by these samples would be for workers at the cleanup site and for those workers who might be returning to their offices on or near Water Street."

The newly released documents show that, in place of the caution about Water Street, office workers were urged to return to work on Monday 17 September. "Our tests show it is safe for New Yorkers to go back to work in New York's financial district," OSHA's administrator says in the final version of the release.

Officials seemed to be sending two distinct messages: telling office workers and residents the air was safe, while repeatedly warning first responders and crews working right on the debris pile to wear protective gear. Those conflicting assurances and warnings given by federal officials left workers and residents unsure what steps to take to protect themselves.
Critics have accused officials of not levelling with the public about what they knew and didn't know in the aftermath of the attacks.

In July 2002, for instance, it was revealed that, despite assurances by EPA and OSHA officials, harmful dust remained on Wall Street well after it reopened because vacuum trucks had initially used the wrong filters.

The new documents show that in 2003 an investigator with the Inspector General's office asked Tina Kreisher, the EPA's chief spokeswoman on 9/11, whether she or anyone else at the agency considered acknowledging the misstep. Kreisher said she could not remember whether such a discussion had taken place.

Kreisher could not be reached for comment. In her interview with the Inspector General's office, she acknowledged that the EPA's choices reflected a conscious effort to reassure the public. "The emphasis came from the administration and the White House," she said.
Federal officials also opted not to sound alarms even after tests registered unprecedented levels of dioxin at and around ground zero, the NYCOSH documents show.

Dioxin, a pollutant that can cause cancer, damage the immune system and lead to developmental problems, is most harmful when absorbed through food. But it can also cause harm when inhaled. OSHA discussed the alarming test results internally: "Just received a sample taken at the WTC (in or near the plume I believe)," an OSHA employee wrote in an October 2001 email to John Henshaw, the agency's administrator. "The result was very high … EPA is saying it is one of the highest levels they have ever seen." The level was about 1,000 times higher than normal for dioxin.

Henshaw forwarded the message to Patricia Clark, regional administrator of OSHA's New York office, and asked what she knew about the dioxin sampling. By early that same afternoon, Clark wrote back calmly reminding her boss that OSHA does not have a standard for exposure to dioxin, and that the extremely high level "would drop off dramatically away from the plume."

A year later, the EPA acknowledged in a report that dioxin levels had reached "the highest ambient concentrations that have ever been reported," but discounted their significance because the dioxin had not been ingested.

Newman said he was shocked to find that OSHA had knowledge of this early on in the cleanup and did not issue a warning. "There is no evidence or indication that this information had any significant impact on their operation or the way they communicated risk to the workers," he said.
OSHA did not respond to requests for comment on the documents or its handling of this matter.
The NYCOSH documents make clear that, contrary to the claims of some critics, local officials recognised the extraordinary hazards of working on the pile and tried to address them, sometimes with little support from their federal counterparts.

City health officials consistently urged responders working amid the rubble to wear proper respiratory equipment, including specially fitted respirator masks, throughout the cleanup. Kelly McKinney, the associate commissioner of the New York City Department of Health in 2001, repeatedly asked OSHA to enforce orders for workers to wear respirators. OSHA officials responded that they were acting in an advisory role and would not issue fines because that would slow down operations. Instead, OSHA said it would encourage voluntary compliance with the regulations.

The voluntary approach had limitations. According to one email, when an OSHA representative tried to set up a mobile distribution point for respirator masks, he was reportedly told to leave by a city fire department battalion chief. "The Fire Department takes care of its own," the chief said. "We don't need any help from civilians."

As part of its response to the 2003 Inspector General report, the EPA promised to improve how it communicated risk in rapidly changing emergencies, such as the 9/11 attack.

An agency spokesman said that since then, the EPA had helped develop a government-wide plan for crisis response. The agency also has opened an emergency operations centre that provides the agency's data and expertise to other government agencies during emergencies.
Nevertheless, some 9/11 veterans, including Nadler, the Ground Zero congressman, say they would still question government assurances that air was safe in the aftermath of a similar disaster.

"I'd be very leery about believing it unless I saw real evidence," said Nadler. "There's always a pressure on government to say that things are better, there's always pressure to cover up the extent of a disaster, and depending on the character of the officials in charge they may or may not yield to that pressure."

Sean

Sunday, September 11, 2011

Let's Forget 9/11

- 9/11 did not start or end at midnight
    Shifting ever so slightly the perspective of the observer radically alters our sense of the event's significance. Just as 9/12 places emphasis on the American response - the launching of "the global war on terror", 9/10 calls our attention to the mood of imperial complacency that preceded the attacks.
    This national mood was (and remains) completely oblivious to the legitimate grievances that pervaded the Arab world.

    These grievances were associated with Western appropriations of the region's resources, Western support lent to cruel and oppressive tyrants throughout the Middle East, lethal and indiscriminate sanctions imposed for an entire decade on the people of Iraq after the first Gulf War, deployment of massive numbers of American troops close to Muslim sacred sites in Saudi Arabia, and America's role in Israel's oppressive dispossession of Palestinians and subsequent occupation.

    From these perspectives, the crimes of 9/11 were an outgrowth of the wrongs of 9/10 and unreflectively led to the crimes and strategic mistakes made since 9/12.
- 9/11's self-inflicted wounds are the worst
    Treating the perpetrators of 9/11 as criminals, not warriors, could have radically altered the the last decade.
- The Dead, the Dollars, the Drones: 9/11 Era by the Numbers
    Ever since the Twin Towers fell, the United States has been at war. The costs of that decade of conflict have been unimaginably high: trillions of dollars spent, hundreds of thousands of lives lost. The numbers are almost too big to grasp, let alone quantify. The graphics below are our incomplete attempt to do so.


Let's Forget 9/11
If we have any respect for history or humanity, we should remove 9/11 from our collective consciousness.
By Tom Engelhardt

Published 11 Sep 2011 on al Jazeera.net
 
Let's bag it.

I'm talking about the tenth anniversary ceremonies for 9/11, and everything that goes with them: the solemn reading of the names of the dead, the tolling of bells, the honouring of first responders, the gathering of presidents, the dedication of the new memorial, the moments of silence. The works.
Let's just can it all. Shut down Ground Zero. Lock out the tourists. Close "Reflecting Absence", the memorial built in the "footprints" of the former towers with its grove of trees, giant pools, and multiple waterfalls before it can be unveiled this Sunday. Discontinue work on the underground National September 11 Museum due to open in 2012. Tear down the Freedom Tower (redubbed 1 World Trade Center after our "freedom" wars went awry), 102 stories of "the most expensive skyscraper ever constructed in the United States". (Estimated price tag: $3.3bn.)  Eliminate that still-being-constructed, hubris-filled 1,776 feet of building, planned in the heyday of George W Bush and soaring into the Manhattan sky like a nyaah-nyaah invitation to future terrorists. Dismantle the other three office towers being built there as part of an $11bn government-sponsored construction programme. Let's get rid of it all.  If we had wanted a memorial to 9/11, it would have been more appropriate to leave one of the giant shards of broken tower there untouched.

Ask yourself this: ten years into the post-9/11 era, haven't we had enough of ourselves?  If we have any respect for history or humanity or decency left, isn't it time to rip the Band-Aid off the wound, to remove 9/11 from our collective consciousness?  No more invocations of those attacks to explain otherwise inexplicable wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and our oh-so-global war on terror. No more invocations of 9/11 to keep the Pentagon and the national security state flooded with money. No more invocations of 9/11 to justify every encroachment on liberty, every new step in the surveillance of Americans, every advance in pat-downs and wand-downs and strip downs that keeps fear high and the homeland security state afloat.

The attacks of September 11, 2001 were in every sense abusive, horrific acts. And the saddest thing is that the victims of those suicidal monstrosities have been misused here ever since under the guise of pious remembrance. This country has become dependent on the dead of 9/11 - who have no way of defending themselves against how they have been used - as an all-purpose explanation for our own goodness and the horrors we've visited on others, for the many towers-worth of dead in Iraq, Afghanistan, and elsewhere whose blood is on our hands.

Isn't it finally time to go cold turkey? To let go of the dead? Why keep repeating our 9/11 mantra as if it were some kind of old-time religion, when we've proven that we, as a nation, can't handle it - and worse yet, that we don't deserve it?

We would have been better off consigning our memories of 9/11 to oblivion, forgetting it all if only we could. We can't, of course. But we could stop the anniversary remembrances. We could stop invoking 9/11 in every imaginable way so many years later. We could stop using it to make ourselves feel like a far better country than we are. We could, in short, leave the dead in peace and take a good, hard look at ourselves, the living, in the nearest mirror.

Ceremonies of hubris
Within 24 hours of the attacks of September 11, 2001, the first newspaper had already labelled the site in New York as "Ground Zero". If anyone needed a sign that we were about to run off the rails, as a misassessment of what had actually occurred that should have been enough. Previously, the phrase "ground zero" had only one meaning: It was the spot where a nuclear explosion had occurred.

The facts of 9/11 are, in this sense, simple enough. It was not a nuclear attack. It was not apocalyptic. The cloud of smoke where the towers stood was no mushroom cloud. It was not potentially civilisation-ending. It did not endanger the existence of our country - or even of New York City. Spectacular as it looked and staggering as the casualty figures were, the operation was hardly more technologically advanced than the failed attack on a single tower of the World Trade Center in 1993 by Islamists using a rented Ryder truck packed with explosives.

A second irreality went with the first. Almost immediately, key Republicans like Senator John McCain, followed by George W Bush, top figures in his administration, and soon after, in a drumbeat of agreement, the mainstream media declared that we were "at war". This was, Bush would say only three days after the attacks, "the first war of the twenty-first century".

Only problem: It wasn't. Despite the screaming headlines, Ground Zero wasn't Pearl Harbor. Al-Qaeda wasn't Japan, nor was it Nazi Germany. It wasn't the Soviet Union. It had no army, nor finances to speak of, and possessed no state (though it had the minimalist protection of a hapless government in Afghanistan, one of the most backward, poverty-stricken lands on the planet).

And yet - another sign of where we were heading - anyone who suggested that this wasn't war, that it was a criminal act and some sort of international police action was in order, was simply laughed (or derided or insulted) out of the American room. And so the empire prepared to strike back (just as Osama bin Laden hoped it would) in an apocalyptic, planet-wide "war" for domination that masqueraded as a war for survival.

In the meantime, the populace was mustered through repetitive, nationwide 9/11 rites emphasising that we Americans were the greatest victims, greatest survivors, and greatest dominators on planet Earth. It was in this cause that the dead of 9/11 were turned into potent recruiting agents for a revitalised American way of war.

Click for more Al Jazeera 9/11 coverage
From all this, in the brief mission-accomplished months after Kabul and then Baghdad fell, American hubris seemed to know no bounds - and it was this moment, not 9/11 itself, from which the true inspiration for the gargantuan "Freedom Tower" and the then-billion-dollar project for a memorial on the site of the New York attacks would materialise. It was this sense of hubris that those gargantuan projects were intended to memorialise.


On the tenth anniversary of 9/11, for an imperial power that is distinctly tattered, visibly in decline, teetering at the edge of financial disaster, and battered by never-ending wars, political paralysis, terrible economic times, disintegrating infrastructure, and weird weather, all of this should be simple and obvious. That it's not tells us much about the kind of shock therapy we still need.

Burying the worst urges in American life
It's commonplace, even today, to speak of Ground Zero as "hallowed ground". How untrue. Ten years later, it is defiled ground and it is we who have defiled it. It could have been different. The 9/11 attacks could have been like the Blitz in London in World War II. Something to remember forever with grim pride, stiff upper lip and all.

And if it were only the reactions of those in New York City that we had to remember, both the dead and the living, the first responders and the last responders, the people who created impromptu memorials to the dead and message centres for the missing in Manhattan, we might recall 9/11 with similar pride. 
Generally speaking, New Yorkers were respectful, heartfelt, thoughtful, and not vengeful. They didn't have prior plans that, on September 12, 2001, they were ready to rally those nearly 3,000 dead to support. They weren't prepared at the moment of the catastrophe to - as Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld so classically said - "Go massive. Sweep it all up. Things related and not."
 
Unfortunately, they were not the measure of the moment. As a result, the uses of 9/11 in the decade since have added up to a profile in cowardice, not courage, and if we let it be used that way in the next decade, we will go down in history as a nation of cowards. 
There is little on this planet of the living more important, or more human, than the burial and remembrance of the dead. Even Neanderthals buried their dead, possibly with flowers, and tens of thousands of years ago, the earliest humans, the Cro-Magnon, were already burying their dead elaborately, in one case in clothing onto which more than 3,000 ivory beads had been sewn, perhaps as objects of reverence and even remembrance. Much of what we know of human prehistory and the earliest eras of our history comes from graves and tombs where the dead were provided for.

And surely it's our duty in this world of loss to remember the dead, those close to us and those more removed who mattered in our national or even planetary lives. Many of those who loved and were close to the victims of 9/11 are undoubtedly attached to the yearly ceremonies that surround their deceased wives, husbands, lovers, children, mothers, fathers, brothers, sisters. For the nightmare of 9/11, they deserve a memorial. But we don't.

If September 11 was indeed a nightmare, 9/11 as a memorial and Ground Zero as a "consecrated" place has turned out to be a blank check for the American war state, funding an endless trip to hell. They have helped lead us into fields of carnage that put the dead of 9/11 to shame.


Every dead person will, of course, be forgotten sooner or later, no matter how tightly we clasp their memories or what memorials we build. In my mind, I have a private memorial to my own dead parents. Whenever I leaf through my mother's childhood photo album and recognise just about no one but her among all the faces, however, I'm also aware that there is no one left on this planet to ask about any of them. And when I die, my little memorial to them will go with me.

This will be the fate, sooner or later, of everyone who on September 11, 2001, was murdered in those buildings in New York, in that field in Pennsylvania, and in the Pentagon, as well as those who sacrificed their lives in rescue attempts, or may now be dying as a result. Under such circumstances, who would not want to remember them all in a special way?

It's a terrible thing to ask those still missing the dead of 9/11 to forgo the public spectacle that accompanies their memory, but worse is what we have: repeated solemn ceremonies to the ongoing health of the American war state and the wildest dreams of Osama bin Laden.

Memory is usually so important, but in this case we would have been better off with oblivion. It's time to truly inter not the dead, but the worst urges in American life since 9/11 and the ceremonies which, for a decade, have gone with them. Better to bury all of that at sea with bin Laden and then mourn the dead, each in our own way, in silence and, above all, in peace.

Tom Engelhardt, co-founder of the American Empire Project and the author of The American Way of War: How Bush's Wars Became Obama's as well as The End of Victory Culture, runs the Nation Institute's TomDispatch.com. His latest book, The United States of Fear (Haymarket Books), will be published in November.

Sean

Thursday, September 8, 2011

Fox News Viewers Racist - Republicans Cheer State Imposed Death - Texas Fires and Conservative Climate Change Denial - Michael Moore's New Book - Chomsky on 9/11

- Fox News' Paranoid Alternate Universe
    Two-thirds of viewers who say Fox News is the news source they trust most believe discrimination against whites is as big a problem as discrimination against minority groups, according to a study released Tuesday by the Brookings Institution and the Public Religion Research Institute. The number, 68 percent, is an exact reversal of the percentage of black people in the same poll who say that discrimination against whites is not as big a problem as discrimination against minorities.
    The financial crisis wiped out 20 years of minority wealth gains, and minority incarceration and unemployment rates are far higher than those of whites, but white Americans have nevertheless become more receptive to the idea that whites face as much discrimination as minorities.
- Cheering for state-imposed death by Glenn Greenwald
    This episode is creepy and disgusting, though as both Ta-Nehisi Coates and Dahlia Lithwick point out, it's hardly surprising for a country which long considered public hangings a form of entertainment and in which support for the death penalty is mandated orthodoxy for national politicians in both parties.  Still, even for those who believe in the death penalty, it should be a very somber and sober affair for the state, with regimented premeditation, to end the life of a human being no matter the crimes committed.  Wildly cheering the execution of human beings as though one's favorite football team just scored a touchdown is primitive, twisted and base. 
    All of that would be true even if the death penalty were perfectly applied and only clearly guilty people were killed.  But in the U.S., the exact opposite is true; see here to read about (and act to stop) a horrific though typical example of a very likely innocent person about to be executed by the State of Georgia.  That Perry in particular likely enabled the execution of an innocent man -- as well as numerous other highly disturbing killings, of the young and mentally infirm -- makes the cheering all the more repellent.  That the death penalty in America has long been plagued by a serious racial bias makes it worse still.  That this death-cheering comes from a party that relentlessly touts itself as "pro-life" and derides the other as The Party of Death -- and loves to condemn Islam (in contrast to its war-loving self) as a death-glorifying cult -- only adds a layer of dark irony.
- GOP debate audience cheers Perry’s execution record with video
    Republican voters at Wednesday night’s Republican presidential debate expressed their approval of the death penalty by giving Gov. Rick Perry’s record on executions some of the loudest applause of the night.
    “Your state has executed 234 death row inmates, more than any other governor in modern times,” NBC’s Brian Williams told Perry as the conservative audience broke into cheers and applause. “Have you struggled to sleep at night with the idea that any one of those might have been innocent?”

    “No, sir, I’ve never struggled with that at all,” Perry flatly stated.
- Life And Near-Death In Texas
    Willingham's case is an important one, but we should also be talking about the many wrongly convicted prisoners freed from death row in Texas in the last ten years. They, more than the unresolved Willingham case, demonstrate conclusively not just that the Texas criminal justice system is capable of making catastrophic errors when meting out capital punishment, but also that such errors happen with appalling frequency.
- Trial by Fire
    Did Texas execute an innocent man?
- Texas Faces Massive Wildfires, Record Drought as Gov. Rick Perry Denies Existence of Global Warming video
    Texas Gov. Rick Perry was back on the campaign trail at last night’s Republican presidential debate, where he questioned the science behind human-caused global warming. On Wednesday, Perry announced he was returning home to focus on a historic wildfire season in which some 3.6 million acres have burned—an area larger than the size of Connecticut. Perry has used the crisis to complain the federal government is not acting fast enough to assist firefighters, but critics have been quick to note the governor has slashed the budget for the Texas Forest Service, the first line of fire defense for most of the state. The wildfires come amidst a record drought. The state has seen its driest consecutive months since record keeping began in 1895, and the impact on the state’s agricultural industry has been devastating.
- Google discloses carbon footprint for the first time
    At around 1.5m tonnes of carbon, the energy usage of the online giant is on a par with the United Nations
- Michael Moore: I was the most hated man in America
    In his 2003 Oscar acceptance speech, Michael Moore denounced President Bush and the invasion of Iraq. Overnight he became the most hated man in America. In an exclusive extract from his new book, Here Comes Trouble, he tells of the bomb threats, bodyguards and how he fought back


Chomsky: 9/11 - was there an alternative?
Suppression of one's own crimes is virtually ubiquitous among powerful states, at least those that are not defeated.
By Noam Chomsky
Published  07 Sep 2011 on al Jazeera.net

We are approaching the 10th anniversary of the horrendous atrocities of September 11, 2001, which, it is commonly held, changed the world. On May 1, the presumed mastermind of the crime, Osama bin Laden, was assassinated in Pakistan by a team of elite US commandos, Navy SEALs, after he was captured, unarmed and undefended, in Operation Geronimo.

A number of analysts have observed that although bin Laden was finally killed, he won some major successes in his war against the US. "He repeatedly asserted that the only way to drive the US from the Muslim world and defeat its satraps was by drawing Americans into a series of small but expensive wars that would ultimately bankrupt them," Eric Margolis writes. "'Bleeding the US,' in his words. The United States, first under George W Bush and then Barack Obama, rushed right into bin Laden’s trap  ... Grotesquely overblown military outlays and debt addiction ... may be the most pernicious legacy of the man who thought he could defeat the United States” - particularly when the debt is being cynically exploited by the far right, with the collusion of the Democrat establishment, to undermine what remains of social programs, public education, unions, and, in general, remaining barriers to corporate tyranny.

That Washington was bent on fulfilling bin Laden’s fervent wishes was evident at once. As discussed in my book 9-11, written shortly after those attacks occurred, anyone with knowledge of the region could recognise “that a massive assault on a Muslim population would be the answer to the prayers of bin Laden and his associates, and would lead the US and its allies into a ‘diabolical trap’, as the French foreign minister put it”.

The senior CIA analyst responsible for tracking Osama bin Laden from 1996, Michael Scheuer, wrote shortly after that “bin Laden has been precise in telling America the reasons he is waging war on us. [He] is out to drastically alter US and Western policies toward the Islamic world”, and largely succeeded: “US forces and policies are completing the radicalisation of the Islamic world, something Osama bin Laden has been trying to do with substantial but incomplete success since the early 1990s. As a result, I think it is fair to conclude that the United States of America remains bin Laden’s only indispensable ally.” And arguably remains so, even after his death.

The first 9/11

Was there an alternative? There is every likelihood that the Jihadi movement, much of it highly critical of bin Laden, could have been split and undermined after 9/11. The “crime against humanity”, as it was rightly called, could have been approached as a crime, with an international operation to apprehend the likely suspects. That was recognised at the time, but no such idea was even considered.


In 9-11, I quoted Robert Fisk’s conclusion that the “horrendous crime” of 9/11 was committed with “wickedness and awesome cruelty”, an accurate judgment. It is useful to bear in mind that the crimes could have been even worse. Suppose, for example, that the attack had gone as far as bombing the White House, killing the president, imposing a brutal military dictatorship that killed thousands and tortured tens of thousands while establishing an international terror centre that helped impose similar torture-and-terror states elsewhere and carried out an international assassination campaign; and as an extra fillip, brought in a team of economists - call them “the Kandahar boys” - who quickly drove the economy into one of the worst depressions in its history. That, plainly, would have been a lot worse than 9/11.

Unfortunately, it is not a thought experiment. It happened. The only inaccuracy in this brief account is that the numbers should be multiplied by 25 to yield per capita equivalents, the appropriate measure. I am, of course, referring to what in Latin America is often called “the first 9/11”: September 11, 1973, when the US succeeded in its intensive efforts to overthrow the democratic government of Salvador Allende in Chile with a military coup that placed General Pinochet’s brutal regime in office. The goal, in the words of the Nixon administration, was to kill the “virus” that might encourage all those “foreigners [who] are out to screw us” to take over their own resources and in other ways to pursue an intolerable policy of independent development. In the background was the conclusion of the National Security Council that, if the US could not control Latin America, it could not expect “to achieve a successful order elsewhere in the world”.

The first 9/11, unlike the second, did not change the world. It was “nothing of very great consequence”, as Henry Kissinger assured his boss a few days later.

These events of little consequence were not limited to the military coup that destroyed Chilean democracy and set in motion the horror story that followed. The first 9/11 was just one act in a drama which began in 1962, when John F Kennedy shifted the mission of the Latin American military from “hemispheric defense” - an anachronistic holdover from World War II - to “internal security”, a concept with a chilling interpretation in US-dominated Latin American circles.

In the recently published Cambridge University History of the Cold War, Latin American scholar John Coatsworth writes that from that time to “the Soviet collapse in 1990, the numbers of political prisoners, torture victims, and executions of non-violent political dissenters in Latin America vastly exceeded those in the Soviet Union and its East European satellites”, including many religious martyrs and mass slaughter as well, always supported or initiated in Washington. The last major violent act was the brutal murder of six leading Latin American intellectuals, Jesuit priests, a few days after the Berlin Wall fell. The perpetrators were an elite Salvadorean battalion, which had already left a shocking trail of blood, fresh from renewed training at the JFK School of Special Warfare, acting on direct orders of the high command of the US client state.

The consequences of this hemispheric plague still, of course, reverberate.

From kidnapping and torture to assassination

All of this, and much more like it, is dismissed as of little consequence, and forgotten. Those whose mission is to rule the world enjoy a more comforting picture, articulated well enough in the current issue of the prestigious (and valuable) journal of the Royal Institute of International Affairs in London. The lead article discusses “the visionary international order” of the “second half of the twentieth century” marked by “the universalisation of an American vision of commercial prosperity”. There is something to that account, but it does not quite convey the perception of those at the wrong end of the guns.

The same is true of the assassination of Osama bin Laden, which brings to an end at least a phase in the “war on terror” re-declared by President George W Bush on the second 9/11. Let us turn to a few thoughts on that event and its significance.

On May 1, 2011, Osama bin Laden was killed in his virtually unprotected compound by a raiding mission of 79 Navy SEALs, who entered Pakistan by helicopter. After many lurid stories were provided by the government and withdrawn, official reports made it increasingly clear that the operation was a planned assassination, multiply violating elementary norms of international law, beginning with the invasion itself.

There appears to have been no attempt to apprehend the unarmed victim, as presumably could have been done by 79 commandos facing no opposition - except, they report, from his wife, also unarmed, whom they shot in self-defense when she “lunged” at them, according to the White House.

A plausible reconstruction of the events is provided by veteran Middle East correspondent Yochi Dreazen and colleagues in the Atlantic. Dreazen, formerly the military correspondent for the Wall Street Journal, is senior correspondent for the National Journal Group covering military affairs and national security. According to their investigation, White House planning appears not to have considered the option of capturing bin Laden alive: “The administration had made clear to the military's clandestine Joint Special Operations Command that it wanted bin Laden dead, according to a senior US official with knowledge of the discussions. A high-ranking military officer briefed on the assault said the SEALs knew their mission was not to take him alive.”

The authors add: “For many at the Pentagon and the Central Intelligence Agency who had spent nearly a decade hunting bin Laden, killing the militant was a necessary and justified act of vengeance.” Furthermore, “capturing bin Laden alive would have also presented the administration with an array of nettlesome legal and political challenges”. Better, then, to assassinate him, dumping his body into the sea without the autopsy considered essential after a killing - an act that predictably provoked both anger and skepticism in much of the Muslim world.

As the Atlantic inquiry observes, “The decision to kill bin Laden outright was the clearest illustration to date of a little-noticed aspect of the Obama administration's counterterror policy. The Bush administration captured thousands of suspected militants and sent them to detention camps in Afghanistan, Iraq, and Guantanamo Bay. The Obama administration, by contrast, has focused on eliminating individual terrorists rather than attempting to take them alive.” That is one significant difference between Bush and Obama. The authors quote former West German Chancellor Helmut Schmidt, who “told German TV that the US raid was ‘quite clearly a violation of international law’ and that bin Laden should have been detained and put on trial”, contrasting Schmidt with US Attorney General Eric Holder, who “defended the decision to kill bin Laden although he didn't pose an immediate threat to the Navy SEALs, telling a House panel ... that the assault had been ‘lawful, legitimate and appropriate in every way’".

The disposal of the body without autopsy was also criticised by allies. The highly regarded British barrister Geoffrey Robertson, who supported the intervention and opposed the execution largely on pragmatic grounds, nevertheless described Obama’s claim that “justice was done” as an “absurdity” that should have been obvious to a former professor of constitutional law. Pakistan law “requires a colonial inquest on violent death, and international human rights law insists that the ‘right to life’ mandates an inquiry whenever violent death occurs from government or police action. The US is therefore under a duty to hold an inquiry that will satisfy the world as to the true circumstances of this killing.”

Robertson usefully reminds us that:

“[I]t was not always thus. When the time came to consider the fate of men much more steeped in wickedness than Osama bin Laden - the Nazi leadership - the British government wanted them hanged within six hours of capture. President Truman demurred, citing the conclusion of Justice Robert Jackson that summary execution 'would not sit easily on the American conscience or be remembered by our children with pride ... the only course is to determine the innocence or guilt of the accused after a hearing as dispassionate as the times will permit and upon a record that will leave our reasons and motives clear.’”

Eric Margolis comments that “Washington has never made public the evidence of its claim that Osama bin Laden was behind the 9/11 attacks”, presumably one reason why “polls show that fully a third of American respondents believe that the US government and/or Israel were behind 9/11”, while in the Muslim world skepticism is much higher. “An open trial in the US or at the Hague would have exposed these claims to the light of day,” he continues, a practical reason why Washington should have followed the law.

In societies that profess some respect for law, suspects are apprehended and brought to fair trial. I stress “suspects”. In June 2002, FBI head Robert Mueller, in what the Washington Post described as “among his most detailed public comments on the origins of the attacks”, could say only that “investigators believe the idea of the Sept. 11 attacks on the World Trade Center and Pentagon came from al Qaeda leaders in Afghanistan, the actual plotting was done in Germany, and the financing came through the United Arab Emirates from sources in Afghanistan”.

What the FBI believed and thought in June 2002 they didn’t know eight months earlier, when Washington dismissed tentative offers by the Taliban (how serious, we do not know) to permit a trial of bin Laden if they were presented with evidence. Thus, it is not true, as President Obama claimed in his White House statement after bin Laden’s death, that “[w]e quickly learned that the 9/11 attacks were carried out by al-Qaeda”.

There has never been any reason to doubt what the FBI believed in mid-2002, but that leaves us far from the proof of guilt required in civilised societies - and whatever the evidence might be, it does not warrant murdering a suspect who could, it seems, have been easily apprehended and brought to trial. Much the same is true of evidence provided since. Thus, the 9/11 Commission provided extensive circumstantial evidence of bin Laden’s role in 9/11, based primarily on what it had been told about confessions by prisoners in Guantanamo. It is doubtful that much of that would hold up in an independent court, considering the ways confessions were elicited. But in any event, the conclusions of a congressionally authorised investigation, however convincing one finds them, plainly fall short of a sentence by a credible court, which is what shifts the category of the accused from suspect to convicted.

There is much talk of bin Laden's “confession”, but that was a boast, not a confession, with as much credibility as my “confession” that I won the Boston marathon. The boast tells us a lot about his character, but nothing about his responsibility for what he regarded as a great achievement, for which he wanted to take credit.

Again, all of this is, transparently, quite independent of one’s judgments about his responsibility, which seemed clear immediately, even before the FBI inquiry, and still does.

Crimes of aggression

It is worth adding that bin Laden’s responsibility was recognised in much of the Muslim world, and condemned. One significant example is the distinguished Lebanese cleric Sheikh Fadlallah, greatly respected by Hizbollah and Shia groups generally, outside Lebanon as well. He had some experience with assassinations. He had been targeted for assassination: by a truck bomb outside a mosque, in a CIA-organised operation in 1985. He escaped, but 80 others were killed, mostly women and girls as they left the mosque - one of those innumerable crimes that do not enter the annals of terror because of the fallacy of “wrong agency”. Sheikh Fadlallah sharply condemned the 9/11 attacks.

One of the leading specialists on the Jihadi movement, Fawaz Gerges, suggests that the movement might have been split at that time had the US exploited the opportunity instead of mobilising the movement, particularly by the attack on Iraq, a great boon to bin Laden, which led to a sharp increase in terror, as intelligence agencies had anticipated. At the Chilcot hearings investigating the background to the invasion of Iraq, for example, the former head of Britain’s domestic intelligence agency MI5 testified that both British and US intelligence were aware that Saddam posed no serious threat, that the invasion was likely to increase terror, and that the invasions of Iraq and Afghanistan had radicalised parts of a generation of Muslims who saw the military actions as an “attack on Islam”. As is often the case, security was not a high priority for state action.

It might be instructive to ask ourselves how we would be reacting if Iraqi commandos had landed at George W Bush's compound, assassinated him, and dumped his body in the Atlantic (after proper burial rites, of course). Uncontroversially, he was not a “suspect” but the “decider” who gave the orders to invade Iraq - that is, to commit the “supreme international crime differing only from other war crimes in that it contains within itself the accumulated evil of the whole” for which Nazi criminals were hanged: the hundreds of thousands of deaths, millions of refugees, destruction of much of the country and its national heritage, and the murderous sectarian conflict that has now spread to the rest of the region. Equally uncontroversially, these crimes vastly exceed anything attributed to bin Laden.

To say that all of this is uncontroversial, as it is, is not to imply that it is not denied. The existence of flat earthers does not change the fact that, uncontroversially, the earth is not flat. Similarly, it is uncontroversial that Stalin and Hitler were responsible for horrendous crimes, though loyalists deny it. All of this should, again, be too obvious for comment, and would be, except in an atmosphere of hysteria so extreme that it blocks rational thought.

Similarly, it is uncontroversial that Bush and associates did commit the “supreme international crime” - the crime of aggression. That crime was defined clearly enough by Justice Robert Jackson, Chief of Counsel for the United States at Nuremberg.  An “aggressor,” Jackson proposed to the Tribunal in his opening statement, is a state that is the first to commit such actions as “[i]nvasion of its armed forces, with or without a declaration of war, of the territory of another State ...” No one, even the most extreme supporter of the aggression, denies that Bush and associates did just that.

We might also do well to recall Jackson’s eloquent words at Nuremberg on the principle of universality: “If certain acts in 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.”

It is also clear that announced intentions are irrelevant, even if they are truly believed. Internal records reveal that Japanese fascists apparently did believe that, by ravaging China, they were labouring to turn it into an “earthly paradise”. And although it may be difficult to imagine, it is conceivable that Bush and company believed they were protecting the world from destruction by Saddam’s nuclear weapons. All irrelevant, though ardent loyalists on all sides may try to convince themselves otherwise.

We are left with two choices: either Bush and associates are guilty of the “supreme international crime” including all the evils that follow, or else we declare that the Nuremberg proceedings were a farce and the allies were guilty of judicial murder.

The imperial mentality and 9/11

A few days before the bin Laden assassination, Orlando Bosch died peacefully in Florida, where he resided along with his accomplice Luis Posada Carriles and many other associates in international terrorism. After he was accused of dozens of terrorist crimes by the FBI, Bosch was granted a presidential pardon by Bush I over the objections of the Justice Department, which found the conclusion “inescapable that it would be prejudicial to the public interest for the United States to provide a safe haven for Bosch”. The coincidence of these deaths at once calls to mind the Bush II doctrine - “already … a de facto rule of international relations”, according to the noted Harvard international relations specialist Graham Allison - which revokes “the sovereignty of states that provide sanctuary to terrorists”.

Allison refers to the pronouncement of Bush II, directed at the Taliban, that “those who harbour terrorists are as guilty as the terrorists themselves”. Such states, therefore, have lost their sovereignty and are fit targets for bombing and terror - for example, the state that harbored Bosch and his associate. When Bush issued this new “de facto rule of international relations”, no one seemed to notice that he was calling for invasion and destruction of the US and the murder of its criminal presidents.

None of this is problematic, of course, if we reject Justice Jackson’s principle of universality, and adopt instead the principle that the US is self-immunised against international law and conventions - as, in fact, the government has frequently made very clear.

It is also worth thinking about the name given to the bin Laden operation: Operation Geronimo. The imperial mentality is so profound that few seem able to perceive that the White House is glorifying bin Laden by calling him “Geronimo” - the Apache Indian chief who led the courageous resistance to the invaders of Apache lands.

The casual choice of the name is reminiscent of the ease with which we name our murder weapons after victims of our crimes: Apache, Blackhawk … We might react differently if the Luftwaffe had called its fighter planes “Jew” and “Gypsy”.

The examples mentioned would fall under the category of “American exceptionalism”, were it not for the fact that easy suppression of one’s own crimes is virtually ubiquitous among powerful states, at least those that are not defeated and forced to acknowledge reality.

Perhaps the assassination was perceived by the administration as an “act of vengeance,” as Robertson concludes. And perhaps the rejection of the legal option of a trial reflects a difference between the moral culture of 1945 and today, as he suggests. Whatever the motive was, it could hardly have been security. As in the case of the “supreme international crime” in Iraq, the bin Laden assassination is another illustration of the important fact that security is often not a high priority for state action, contrary to received doctrine.

Sean

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Imperial Delusions of the United States - Obama Way Too Conservative - Fox News Lies Endlessly - The Lying Conservatives - Directly comparing Fukushima to Chernobyl - Endless War - more

- Endless War and the culture of unrestrained power
    We are now enduring a parade of wistful, contemplative, self-regarding pundit-meditations on The Meaning of 9/11 Ten Years Later or, far worse, self-righteous moralizing screeds about the nature of "evil" from war zealots with oceans of blood on their unrepentant hands (if I could impose one media rule, it would be that following every column or TV segment featuring American political commentators dramatically unloading their Where-I-Was-on-9/11-and-how-I-felt tales, there would be similar recollections offered from parents in the Muslim world talking about how their children died from the pre-9/11 acts of the U.S. and its client states or from post-9/11 American bombs, drones, checkpoint shootings and night raids:  just for the sake of "balance," which media outlets claim to crave).  Notwithstanding this somber, collective 9/11 anniversary ritual descending upon us, the reality is that the nation's political and media elite learned no lessons from that attack.
- The ACLU on Obama and core liberties
    The ACLU decided to use the 10th anniversary of the 9/11 attack to comprehensively survey the severe erosion of civil liberties justified in the name of that event, an erosion that -- as it documents -- continues unabated, indeed often in accelerated form, under the Obama administration.
- Smog v. Jobs: Is Obama Admin Endangering U.S. Environment, Public Health With Retreat on Smog Standards? video
    As the nation headed into Labor Day weekend, the Obama administration quietly asked the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to withdraw a plan to limit smog pollution that was projected to prevent 2,200 heart attacks and 23,000 asthma attacks annually.
- What Howard Zinn Actually Thought of Barack Obama
    By now I'm used to reading ridiculous things in defense of the Obama Presidency, but this morning I was particularly taken aback to see a rec-listed post that invoked Howard Zinn in the President's defense.
    Zinn cautiously endorsed Obama in 2008.

    But when The Nation hosted a forum on the first year of Barack Obama's presidency in January 2010, he made clear that, while basically unsurprised, he was not at all happy with the direction of the Obama presidency. His verdict: "Obama is going to be a mediocre president--which means, in our time, a dangerous president."
- Obama's betrayals offer lessons we can't deny
    Former Obama supporter has surrendered his disillusions.
- Many in U.S. slip from middle class, study finds
    Nearly one in three Americans who grew up middle-class has slipped down the income ladder as an adult, according to a new report by the Pew Charitable Trusts.
- Texas wildfires destroy 1,000 homes video
    At least four people killed and thousands evacuated as more than 180 wildfires rage across rain-starved US state.
- Directly comparing Fukushima to Chernobyl
    This Sunday (11 September) marks the six-month anniversary of the triple meltdown at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant in Japan. The accident has slipped from the headlines, but new data is coming out all the time. Some of the most recent findings are allowing the best comparison yet of Fukushima with Chernobyl. 
    A lot of media outlets (ourselves included) first made the Fukushima-Chernobyl comparison back in April, when the Japanese revised their estimate of the Fukushima accident—rating it a seven on the seven-point international INES scale. The conclusion most reached at the time was that, although the rating was the same, Fukushima was a much smaller accident.

    A couple of things have changed since those first reports. First, the Japanese doubled their estimate of the radiation released by Fukushima in June to 7.7x1017 Becquerels (Bq). Then, on 30 August, they released the first maps of radioactive caesium-137 (Cs-137) contamination from the plant. Cs-137 has a half-life of 30 years, and it's considered the major long-term contaminate for both accidents.

    With the new Cs-137 data, we can now directly compare the fallout from Chernobyl to Fukushima. Check out the Google Earth mashup above (zoom out to see Chernobyl on top of Fukushima, and rotate over to the Ukraine to see Chernobyl in context).
- "Fear, Inc." Exposes the So-Called Experts and Donors Behind Islamophobia in the United States video
    new report by the Center for American Progress called "Fear, Inc.: The Roots of the Islamophobia Network in America" shows how a small group of self-proclaimed experts backed by a host of donors are spreading fear and hostility toward Muslims in the United States. According to the report, these so-called experts peddle Islamophobia in the form of books, reports, websites, blogs and carefully crafted anti-Islam talking points. It also notes that right-wing Norwegian murderer Anders Breivik repeatedly cited these "experts" in his so-called "Manifesto." Among those the report highlights is Robert Spencer, author of a blog called "Jihad Watch" and leader of the group Stop Islamization of America, which coined the term "victory mosque at Ground Zero" to refer to a local effort to build a moderate Islamic center in New York City, turning it into an international spectacle.
- Fox Doctors Hoffa Speech To Fabricate Call For Violence
    Right-wing bloggers misled by dishonest Fox News video editing are attacking Teamsters President James Hoffa for supposedly urging violence against Tea Party activists during a Labor Day speech. Conservatives are also attacking President Obama, who appeared at the event, for "sanctioning violence against fellow Americans" by failing to denounce Hoffa. But fuller context included in other Fox segments makes clear that Hoffa wasn't calling for violence but was actually urging the crowd to vote out Republican members of Congress.
- Foxified Headline
    Friends don’t let friends believe Fox News’ lies.
- Republicans Desperate to De-legitimize Obama for all the wrong reasons: Standing = Communism, according to Right Wing media (click the link to the original page and read some of the moronic, absurd and racist comments from the right wingers)
    So the image of red, silhouetted people standing up has a "Soviet feel." What can you even say about something like this? You can mock it, but to what end?The mind that conceived, arranged, and published this isn't going to be swayed by mockery. It's so single-minded in purpose that it defies the most basic notions of logic, even sentience. It's almost robotic in its stupidity. "Democrats? Standing? COMMUNISTS!"

    It's aggressively -- indeed, proudly -- ignorant.

    As such, there's little hope in trying to make sense of it. The best we can do is realize that for the conservative blogosphere, stuff like this is increasingly a feature and not a bug.
- How private firms have cashed in on the climate of fear since 9/11
    What Smith had blundered into is one of the most disturbing developments of the post-9/11 world: the growth of a national security industrial complex that melds together government and big business and is fuelled by an unstoppable flow of money. It takes many forms. In the military, it has seen the explosive growth of the contracting industry with firms such as Xe, formerly known as Blackwater, or DynCorp increasingly doing the jobs of professional soldiers. In the world of intelligence, private contractors are hired to do the jobs of America's spies. A shadowy world of domestic security has grown up, milking billions from the government and establishing a presence in every state. From border fences that don't work to dubious airport scanners, spending has been lavished on security projects as lobbyists cash in on behalf of corporate clients.
- Keith Olbermann Show - Worst Persons in the World: Mike Shaw, Sarah Palin and Roger Ailes video
    Find out why acting chairman of the Republican Committee of Pima County, Ariz., Mike Shaw is WORSE; former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin is WORSER; and president of Fox News Roger Ailes is the WORST PERSON IN THE WORLD for September 6, 2011.




The Imperial Delusions of the United States
Almost ten years after the 9/11 attacks, US foreign policy remains aggressive and unrealistic.
Robert Jensen
Published 07 Sep 2011 at Al Jazeera.net

Ten years ago, critics of the United States' mad rush to war were right, but it didn't matter.
Within hours after the 9/11 terrorist attacks, it was clear that political leaders were going to use the attacks to justify war in Central Asia and the Middle East. And within hours, those of us critical of that policy began to offer principled and practical arguments against aggressive war as a response to the crimes.

It didn't matter because neither the public nor policymakers were interested in principled or practical arguments. People wanted revenge, and the policymakers seized the opportunity to use US military power. Critical thinking became a mark not of conscientious citizenship but of dangerous disloyalty.

We were right, but the wars came.

The destructive capacity of the US military meant quick "victories" that just as quickly proved illusory. As the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq dragged on, it became clearer that the position staked out by early opponents was correct - the wars not only were illegal (conforming to neither international nor constitutional law) and immoral (fought in ways that guaranteed large-scale civilian casualties and displacement), but a failure on any pragmatic criteria. The US military has killed some of the people who were targeting the United States and destroyed some of their infrastructure and organisation, but a decade later we are weaker and our sense of safety is more fragile. The ability to dominate militarily proved to be both inadequate and transitory, as predicted.

Ten years later, we are still right and it still doesn't matter.

There's a simple reason for this: Empires rarely learn in time, because power tends to dull people's capacity for critical self-reflection. While ascending to power, empires believe themselves to be invincible. While declining in power, they cling desperately to old myths of remembered glory.

Today, the United States is morally bankrupt and spiritually broken. The problem is not that we have strayed from our founding principles, but that we are still operating on those principles - delusional notions about manifest destiny, American exceptionalism, the right to take more than our share of the world's resources by whatever means necessary. As the United States grew in wealth and power, bounty for the chosen came at the cost of misery for the many.

After World War II, as the United States became the central character not just in the Americas but on the world stage, the principles didn't change. US foreign policy sought to deepen and extend US power around the world, especially in the energy-rich and strategically crucial Middle East; always with an eye on derailing any Third World societies' attempts to pursue a course of independent development outside the US sphere; and containing the possibility of challenges to US dominance from other powerful states.

Does that summary sound like radical hysteria? Recall this statement from President Jimmy Carter's 1980 State of the Union address: "An attempt by any outside force to gain control of the Persian Gulf region will be regarded as an assault on the vital interests of the United States of America, and such an assault will be repelled by any means necessary, including military force." Democrats and Republicans, before and after, followed the same policy.

The George W Bush administration offered a particularly intense ideological fanaticism, but the course charted by the Obama administration is much the same. Consider this 2006 statement by Robert Gates, who served as Secretary of Defense in both administrations:
"I think the message that we are sending to everyone, not just Iran, is that the United States is an enduring presence in this part of the world. We have been here for a long time. We will be here for a long time and everybody needs to remember that - both our friends and those who might consider themselves our adversaries."

If the new boss sounds a lot like the old boss, it's because the problem isn't just bad leaders but a bad system. That's why a critique of today's wars sounds a lot like critiques of wars past. Here's Martin Luther King, Jr's assessment of the imperial war of his time: "[N]o one who has any concern for the integrity and life of America today can ignore the present war. If America's soul becomes totally poisoned, part of the autopsy must read: Vietnam. It can never be saved so long as it destroys the deepest hopes of men the world over."

Will our autopsy report read "global war on terror"?

That sounds harsh, and it's tempting to argue that we should refrain from political debate on the 9/11 anniversary to honour those who died and to respect those who lost loved ones. I would be willing to do that if the cheerleaders for the US empire would refrain from using the day to justify the wars of aggression that followed 9/11. But given the events of the past decade, there is no way to take the politics out of the anniversary.

We should take time on 9/11 to remember the nearly 3,000 victims who died that day. But as responsible citizens, we also should face a harsh reality: While the terrorism of fanatical individuals and groups is a serious threat, much greater damage has been done by our nation-state caught up in its own fanatical notions of imperial greatness.

That's why I feel no satisfaction in being part of the anti-war/anti-empire movement. Being right means nothing if we failed to create a more just foreign policy conducted by a more humble nation.

Ten years later, I feel the same thing that I felt on 9/11 - an indescribable grief over the senseless death of that day and of days to come.

Sean