America today resembles the land of the Munchkins as it celebrates the death of the Wicked Witch of the East. The joy is understandable, but to many outsiders, unattractive. It endorses what looks increasingly like a cold-blooded assassination as the White House is now forced to admit that Osama bin Laden was unarmed when he was shot twice in the head.
The order was given by a president who, as a former law professor, knows the absurdity of his statement that “justice was done.” Amoral diplomats and triumphant politicians join in applauding bin Laden’s summary execution because they claim that real justice—arrest, trial, and sentence—would have been too difficult in the case of public enemy No. 1. But in the long-term interests of a better world, should it not at least have been attempted?
That future depends on a respect for international law, with which the U.S. has always had an uneasy relationship.
The circumstances of bin Laden’s killing are just being clarified, and the initial objection (by former Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf and others) that the operation was an illegitimate invasion of state sovereignty must be rejected. Necessity required the capture of this indicted and active international criminal, and Pakistan’s abject failure (whether through incompetence or connivance) justified Obama’s order for an operation to apprehend him.
In the dock he would have been reduced in stature—never more to be remembered as the tall, soulful figure on the mountain, but as a hateful and hate-filled old man.
However, the terms of that order, as yet undisclosed, are all important. Bill Clinton admitted recently to having secretly approved the assassination of bin Laden by the CIA after the U.S. Embassy bombings in the 1990s, while President Bush publicly stated after 9/11 that he wanted bin Laden’s “head on a plate.” Did President Obama order his capture, or his execution?
The White House has been guilty of disinformation in first pretending that bin Laden was killed in a “firefight.” It now admits that he was unarmed when he died, which suggests that he could easily have been overpowered. They still maintain that he was asked to surrender, although in what language (he does not understand English) is not clear.
The law permits criminals to be shot in self-defense if they (or their accomplices) resist arrest in ways that endanger those striving to apprehend them. They should, if possible, be given the opportunity to surrender, but even if they do not come out with their hands up, they must be taken alive if that can be achieved without risk. Exactly how bin Laden came to be “shot in the head” (especially if it was the back of his head, execution-style) therefore requires explanation. Why a hasty “burial at sea” without a post mortem, as the law requires?
All that seems to have been done is to clean his body and take a photograph of it, which the White House says it is reluctant to release—no doubt for fear that it will become iconic like that of Che Guevara on the slab. But if the government kills people in this way, it must live with the consequences. 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 U.S. is therefore under a duty to hold an inquiry that will satisfy the world as to the true circumstances of this killing.
But the U.S. is celebrating summary execution, rationalized on the basis that this is one terrorist for whom trial would be unnecessary, difficult, and dangerous. It overlooks the downsides: that killing bin Laden has made him a martyr, more dangerous in that posthumous role than in hiding, and that both his legend and the conspiracy theories about 9/11 will live on undisputed by the evidence that would have been called to convict him at his trial.
Moreover, killing bin Laden gave him the consummation he most devoutly wished, namely a fast-track to paradise. His belief system required him to die mid-jihad, from an infidel bullet—not of old age on a prison farm in upstate New York. For this reason he would have refused any offer to surrender, and no doubt died with a smile on his lips.
I do not minimize the security problems that would have arisen at his trial or overlook the danger of it ending up as a squalid circus like that of Saddam Hussein. But the notion that any form of legal process would have been too hard must be rejected. Khalid Sheikh Mohammed—also (and confusingly) alleged to be the architect of 9/11—will shortly go on trial, and had bin Laden been captured he should have been put in the dock alongside him so that their shared responsibility could have been properly examined.
Bin Laden could not have been tried for 9/11 at the International Criminal Court—its jurisdiction only came into existence on 7/12, nine months later. But the Security Council could have set up an ad hoc tribunal in The Hague, with international judges (including Muslim jurists) to provide a fair trial and a reasoned verdict that would have convinced the Arab street of his guilt and his unworthiness. This would have been the best way of demystifying this man, debunking his cause and de-brainwashing his followers. In the dock he would have been reduced in stature—never more to be remembered as the tall, soulful figure on the mountain, but as a hateful and hate-filled old man, screaming from the dock or lying from the witness box. Since his videos exult in the killing of innocent civilians, any cross-examination would have emphasised his inhumanity. These benefits that flow from real justice have forever been foregone.
America’s obsessive belief in capital punishment—alone among advanced nations—is reflected in its rejoicing at the manner of bin Laden’s demise. It is ironic to reflect that Bill Clinton secured his election by approving the execution of Ricky Ray Rector (a convict so brain-damaged that he ordered pumpkin pie for his last meal and said that he would “leave the rest until later.”) And now Barack Obama has most likely secured his re-election by approving the execution of Bin Laden. This may be welcome, given the alternatives of Sarah Palin and Mike Huckabee (who have both urged that Julian Assange be hunted down in similar fashion) or Donald Trump. But it is a sad reflection on the continuing attraction of summary execution.
It was not always thus. When the time came to consider the fate of men much more steeped in wickedness than Osama bin Laden—namely 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.” He insisted upon judgment at Nuremberg, which has confounded Holocaust-deniers ever since its delivery. Killing instead of capturing Osama bin Laden was a missed opportunity to prove to the world that this charismatic leader was in fact a vicious criminal, who deserved to die of old age in prison, and not as a martyr to his inhuman cause.
Cornel West is a philosopher, author and the University Professor at Princeton University. A widely cited figure in a variety of fields, he is the author of the new memoir, “Brother West: Living & Loving Out Loud,” as well as “Race Matters,” “The Future of Race,” “Democracy Matters: The Battle Against Imperialism,” among many others. Born in Tulsa, Oklahoma and raised in Sacramento, California, West graduated Magna Cum Laude Harvard University and went on to complete his Ph.D at Princeton. The winner of numerous awards, including the American Book Award, he has also received more than twenty honorary degrees.
Here is a video of Dr. West speaking on how the poor have suffered from the idea that an “unfettered market” was good for America. Click here to watch Video.
This and other completely smart, mindblowing, and relevant interviews are on BigThink.com. I have attached a transcript of the video for those without speakers.
READ, WATCH, GET SMARTER
Transcript of interview:
Question: Why are we no longer concerned with the working class?
Cornel West: I think one was, there was an idolizing of unfettered markets. And much if not most of the intelligentsia were duped. I recall traveling with my dear brother Michael Harrington and talking with brother Stanley Aronowitz years ago. And you know, here we’re engaged in critiques of unfettered markets, and it looked as if we were medieval thinkers. Everybody was saying, we’re followers of Milton Friedman. Everybody was saying Frederick Hayak got it right. Everybody was saying marketize, commercialize, commodify, and we were still reading Lukasch. And Lukasch was saying commodification is not simply an asymmetric relation of power, of bosses vis-à-vis workers, so workers are being more and more marginalized. Profits are being produced, wealth is being produced, hemorrhaged at the top, no fair distribution of that wealth or profit for workers. Poor are being demonized because they are viewed as those persons who are irresponsible, who will not work, who are always looking for welfare; i.e., failures in the society of success. And we reached a brink, and the chickens came home to roost. And a few years ago the unfettered markets led us off and over the brink.
And all of a sudden, very few intellectuals want to be honest and acknowledge the greed with which they were duped. Don’t want to talk about the inequality that went along with it. Don’t want to talk about the demonization of the poor that went along with it. Don’t want to talk about the politics of fear that produced a Republican Party that was more and more lily-white, using not just race but also demonizing gay brothers and lesbian sisters, you see. Don’t want to talk about the indifference toward the poor, and greed being good and desirable and so forth. Now is a very different moment, and it’s not, you know, just about pointing fingers, but saying somebody’s got to take responsibility. This was a nearly 40-year run. Who paid the cost? As is usually the case, you know, poor working people paid the cost, disproportionately black and brown and red, you see.
Question: Is this changing in the age of Obama?
Cornel West: So in the age of Obama, we say, okay, can we have a different kind of discussion? And that’s what we’re trying to do, but of course you’ve got two wars going on; you’ve got still Wall Street in the driver’s seat in the Obama administration when it comes to the economic team, you see. And you’ve got very — you know, I think in some ways unimaginative thinking when it comes to foreign policy, be it the Middle East or be it European Union or be it Latin America, you know, calling Chavez a dictator; the man’s been elected! If he’s calling into question rights and liberties, criticize him as a democratic president. We did the same thing for Bush. Bush was calling into question rights and liberties; we didn’t call him a dictator. We said he’s a democratically elected president who’s doing the wrong thing. Chavez ought to be criticized. He’s not a dictator; the man’s been elected.
But it’s that kind of demonizing that obscures and obfuscates the kind of issues that are necessary, because Chavez is also talking about poor people. So of course I want libertarian and democratic sides. I want right and liberties and empowerment of poor people. But talking about poor people is not a joke; it’s crucial, it’s part and parcel of the future of any serious democratic project. The fundamental question of any democracy is, what is the relation between public interest and the most vulnerable? That’s the question, you see. That is the question. The test of your rule of law is going to be, how are the most vulnerable being treated? It’s not whether the torturers are getting off; we know the torturers don’t have the rule of law applied to them. The wiretappers, they’re getting off scot-free. What about Jamal with the crack bag? Take him to jail for seven years. Oh — so you’ve got a different rule of law when it comes to Jamal on the corner versus your torturers and your wiretappers? Torture is a crime against humanity; it’s not just illegal. Wiretapping is illegal, you see. Now, it’s not a crime against humanity, because I mean, I’m sure I’ve had my phone tapped for years. I don’t think they committed a crime against humanity; they just ought to quit doing it God dangit.
Question: How can we strengthen the demos?
Cornel West: Well, you — I think you keep in mind — I mean, the demos is always a heterogeneous, diverse — got a lot of xenophobic elements among the demos — a lot of ignorance, a lot of parochialism. You also have a lot of cosmopolitanism, a lot of globalism, a lot of courage, moral courage. So the demos is not one thing. But when it comes to the ability of the demos to organize, mobilize and bring power and pressure to bear, we certainly are in a crisis; our system is broken. We’ve got seventy one percent of the people who want universal health care, and you can barely get through a reform bill with a weak public option. It’s clear lobbyists from the top, pharmaceutical companies, drug companies have tremendous influence, much more than the demos from below, you see. So that those preferences don’t get translated easily because our politicians are beholden to that big money and that big influence. But I mean the demos is still around, thank God. You’ve got your own institution. Dialog — dialog is the lifeblood of a democracy. You’ve got to allow ideas to flow. You have to expose people to different visions, alternative arguments and so on, to try to keep the torch of the progressive demos alive. But it’s very difficult to organize it. Complacency is deep; apathy is deep; people are wondering how can you confront, you know, big finance, big government tied to big finance, when all you’ve got is these little people, who are willing to talk and so forth, but have tremendous power bringing serious pressure to bear. We can march; you know, we marched against the war by the millions. We were ignored by the Bush administration. Some of us went to jail. We were ignored; we couldn’t translate into foreign policy. That happens sometimes. It was **** Vietnam.
Recorded on: November 3, 2009
100% of this post was taken from http://bigthink.com. Just thought you needed to see it.
I am pleasantly surprised when I locate something that is so good and comes from an unexpected place. So, in that spirit, I give you…
(Yes, it is written by the movie review guy and NO, It is not a movie review.)
Put up or Shut up
by: Roger Ebert
We already know the numbers. Pew finds that 18% of Americans believe President Obama is a Muslim. A new Newsweek poll, taken after the controversy over the New York mosque, places that figure at 24%. Even if he’s not a Muslim, Newsweek finds, 31 percent think it’s “definitely or probably” true that Obama “sympathizes with the goals of Islamic fundamentalists who want to impose Islamic law around the world.”
When the focus is narrowed to Republicans, a Harris poll finds 57 percent of party members believe he is a Muslim, 22% believe he “wants the terrorists to win,” and 24% believe he is the Antichrist.
These figures sadden me with the depth of thoughtlessness and credulity they imply. A democracy depends on an informed electorate to survive. An alarming number of Americans and a majority of Republicans are misinformed. The man who was swept into office by a decisive majority is now considered by many citizens to be the enemy. Some fundamentalists believe he is the Antichrist named by Jesus in the Bible.
This many Americans did not arrive at such conclusions on their own. They were persuaded by a relentless process of insinuation, strategic silence and cynical misinformation. Most of the leaders in this process have been cautious to avoid actually saying Obama is a Muslim. They speak in coded words and allow the implications to sink in. I recently watched Glenn Beck speaking at great length about Obama’s Muslim father, but you would not have learned from Beck that the father, who Obama met only once, was not a practicing Muslim in any sense.
Rush Limbaugh has told his listeners he can find “no evidence” that Obama is a Christian. In Paul Krugman’s op-ed column in the New York Times on 8/29, Limbaugh is quoted: “Imam Hussein Obama, is probably the best anti-American president we’ve ever had.” Limbaugh obviously doesn’t believe Obama is an imam. How many of his listeners realize that? Is he concerned that his words will be taken seriously?
These opinions have an agenda. They seek to demonize the Obama Presidency and mainstream liberal politics in general. The conservatism they prefer is not the traditional conservatism of such figures as Taft, Nixon, Reagan, Buckley or Goldwater. It is a frightening new radical fringe movement, financed by such as the newly notorious billionaire Koch brothers, whose hatred of government extends even to opposition to tax funding for public schools.
The money behind the movement has been shaken in its boots by the recent exposure of criminal activities in the money markets. Our economy has collapsed and it seemed clear to many Americans that the unregulated greed of Wall Street trading, especially in derivatives, was responsible. These were not investments in industry, the economy or the future. They were investments in a bold Ponzi scheme which defrauded home owners into fronting for a pyramid of worthless loans. Citizens lost their homes, investment houses went bankrupt, but the criminals responsible continued to pay themselves multi-million-dollar bonuses.
From the same column by Krugman: “Wall Street has turned on Mr. Obama with a vengeance: last month Steve Schwarzman, the billionaire chairman of the Blackstone Group, the private equity giant, compared proposals to end tax loopholes for hedge fund managers with the Nazi invasion of Poland.”
Say what? Proposals to end loopholes? Read that again. Our recession and the collapse of the housing and jobs markets squeezed through those loopholes. And if you agree with the Democratic attempts to close them, you are compared to Hitler? Republicans in Washington vote nearly as a block against financial reform. Shouldn’t the implications be clear to an informed electorate?
This process may soon be arriving at a moment of truth. The new issue of Vanity Fair mentions in its profile of Sarah Palin, as a casual aside, that Glenn Beck has booked the Dena’ina Center, the largest venue in Anchorage, for the date of September 11, 2010. What do you think that means? It could mean Beck simply wants to hold a rally in the home state of the woman who shared his podium on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial on the anniversary of Martin Luther King’s famous speech.
Beck says he chose that date without realizing its significance. But it cannot be a coincidence that he has chosen 9/11. Nor does it take special insight to connect that date with Palin’s many statements about the “Ground Zero Mosque” and the even more pointed “9/11 Mosque.” The association is obvious: “9/11” feeds into “mosque” feeds into “Muslims” feeds into the misperception that Obama is a Muslim. Beck and Palin speak about “taking back America.” The buried message is that they will take it back from Muslims. This is a heartless misuse of the tragedy of 9/11 and its victims.
If Beck had planned to come to Anchorage on another date, it wouldn’t have excited much notice. But any meeting in Alaska on 9/11 without Palin also present will be anticlimactic. It’s too far to go not to feature her. The symbolic date of 9/11 invests this event with the inescapable possibility that he and Palin plan to announce their Presidential candidacy for 2012.
This is their privilege, and is not exactly unexpected. What is inescapable, given the timing, is that their candidacy would benefit from the paranoia already infecting so many Americans about Obama’s fictitious Islamic religion. Palin and Beck have so far both been content to let this process work without specific comment on their part. Their silence is a symptom of a cancer infecting American democracy. Our political immune system has only one antibody, and that is the truth.
The time is here for responsible Americans to put up or shut up. I refer specifically to those who have credibility among the guileless and credulous citizens who have been infected with notions so carefully nurtured. We cannot afford to allow the next election to proceed under a cloud of falsehood and delusion.
We know, because they’ve said so publicly, that George W. Bush, his father and Sen. John McCain do not believe Obama is a Muslim. This is the time — now, not later — for them to repeat that belief in a joint statement. Other prominent Republicans such as Mitt Romney, Newt Gingrich and Ron Paul also certainly do not believe it. They have a responsibility to make that clear by subscribing to the statement. Glenn Beck, Sarah Palin and Rush Limbaugh must join, or let their silence indict them. Limbaugh in particular must cease his innuendos and say, flat out, whether he believes the President is a Muslim or not. Yes or no. Does he have evidence, or does he have none? Yes or no.
To do anything less at this troubled time in our history would be a crime against America.
See, I’ve discovered, through the course of just asking around, that many folks don’t realize that they’re taxed at different levels. Many think that if they make over a certain amount of money, all of their money is taxed at that rate. That’s why you heard all that talk about taxes being a disincentive to making more money, which is obviously nuts and was meant to confuse the average taxpayer who doesn’t understand how our system works.
In any event, the graph via Wash Post…
And a little more about where this came from:
A Republican plan to extend tax cuts for the rich would add more than $36 billion to the federal deficit next year — and transfer the bulk of that cash into the pockets of the nation’s millionaires, according to a congressional analysis released Wednesday.New data from the nonpartisan Joint Committee on Taxation show that households earning more than $1 million a year would reap nearly $31 billion in tax breaks under the GOP plan in 2011, for an average tax cut per household of about $100,000.
Does everybody now understand how big of a giveaway this is to the wealthiest 2%?
Were the rich hurting in the 90s when the tax rate was 39.6%?
Can we all agree that people making between $200 and $500K can take a $400 hit?
And to those who make over $500K, well, you still don’t have to pay Social Security tax on hardly ANY of your income. And since many of the super rich derive their income from investments, which is taxed at 15% since it’s considered long term capital gains, you’re still gaming the system effectively.
Yes, rich people…you’re still rich and you still win.
Meanwhile, teachers, firefighters and cops don’t deserve to keep their jobs according to Republicans, but they want to give $10 billion more to people who are so wealthy that few of us will ever understand what it is to be in that company?
Below is an article written by Sam Stein, a political blogger. You can read the original posting here. I am not going to expound on what this article expresses until you read it for yourself. I will let you draw your own conclusions and my comments will follow. However, I will highlight my favorite parts of it, so you can easily predict what is currently pissing me off. (HINT: RED = BAD )
Harris Interactive, a market research firm, conducted a study about what people thought about Pres. Obama. These are the results that come from the Harris Poll that involved 2,320 adults who were surveyed online between March 1 and March 8.
Here’s the percentage breakdown of respondents’ views of President Obama:
- 40 percent think he is a Socialist
- 38 percent say he wants to take away Americans’ right to own guns.
- 32 percent say he is a Muslim.
- 29 percent think he wants to turn over the sovereignty of the United States to a one world government.
- 29 percent think he has done many things that are unconstitutional.
- 27 percent say he resents America’s heritage.
- 27 percent say he does what Wall Street and the bankers tell him to do.
- 25 percent say he was not born in the United States and so is not eligible to be president.
- 25 percent say he is a domestic enemy that the U.S. Constitutions speaks of.
- 23 percent say he is a racist.
- 23 percent say he is anti-American.
- 23 percent say he wants to use an economic collapse or terrorist attack as an excuse to take dictatorial powers.
- 20 percent say he is doing many of the things that Hitler did.
- 14 percent think Obama is the anti-Christ
The findings lend support to a theme touted in John Avlon’s new book “Wingnuts: How the Lunatic Fringe Is Hijacking America.”
“This poll should be a wake-up call to all Americans about the real costs of using fear and hate to pump up hyper-partisanship,” Avlon said after reviewing the findings. “We are playing with dynamite by demonizing our president and dividing our country in the process. Americans need to remember the perspective that Wingnuts always forget – patriotism is more important than partisanship.”
**Interesting side note: According to this poll 7 in 10 Americans in that study admitted they know very little about the Islamic religion.
This is another example that Americans have hard and fast beliefs about shit they know nothing about even when it undermines their own country. Unreal, completely unreal.
Are you still proud, Mr. Greenwood?