Sunday, November 13, 2005

Our Mothers (and Thomas Paine) Warned Us about People like the Disciples of Strauss

By Jason Miller

How much more will the American people endure?

"Find out just what people will quietly submit to, and you have found out the exact measure of injustice and wrong which will be imposed on them, and these will continue till they are resisted with either words or blows. The limits of tyrants are prescribed by the endurance of those whom they oppress."

--Frederick Douglass, African-American slave, and abolitionist

229 Years Later Have Passed and True Freedom Still Eludes Most of Us

In support of the brave and intelligent citizens of Vermont who recently passed a resolution to secede from the union, I decided to update and modify our Declaration of Independence to fit the circumstances we are facing in 2005. Despite the numerous distinctions between then and now, in some significant ways, little has changed. Like our Founding Fathers, I enumerated grievances of the Oppressed in my version of the Declaration, and many are similar to those spelled out in the original version drafted in 1776. Even the name of the lead Oppressor remains the same.

I realize this updated Declaration has no authority, and that such a movement towards independence from our corrupt plutocracy would require significant grassroots support and organization to be successful. However, I believe it is crucial to fan the dying embers of the American spirit of independence in a time of unprecedented apathy, conformity, and complicity in the crimes of our abomination of a federal government. George Bush is not fit to lick the boots of a man like Thomas Paine, yet he is one of the most powerful men on the planet. With the might of the US government at their disposal, he and his loyal minions have committed duplicitous, larcenous, and homicidal acts virtually on a continual basis throughout their reign. In a symbolic act of defiance against King George, and an act of support for social justice and human rights, I have signed my revision of the Declaration.

Thomas Paine was one of the few Founding Fathers who championed the rights of the "common people". Paine recognized the universality of human rights, which is why he has not been enshrined in the "American pantheon" with the likes of Washington and Hamilton. Were he alive today, he would once again be vehemently agitating for change as he caught scent of the overwhelming stench emanating from the seemingly grand epicenter of inhumanity rising from the banks of the Potomac River. In deference to Paine's spirit, I wrote this revised version of the Declaration of Independence.

The Declaration of Independence of the Fifty Colonies and their Poor and Middle Class Inhabitants from the Imperialist Federal Government of the United States of America

The unanimous Declaration of the Fifty Colonies of America,

When in the Course of human events, it becomes necessary for one people to dissolve the political chains which have enslaved them to another, and to assume among the powers of the Earth, the separate and equal station to which the Laws of Nature and of Nature's God of each person's understanding and choosing entitle them, a decent respect to the opinions to mankind demands that they need declare the causes impelling them to separate.

We hold these truths to be self-evident and irrefutable, that all Humans are created equal, that they are endowed with certain unalienable Human Rights (as delineated in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights at ---That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among the People, deriving their just powers from the consent of the Governed, --That whenever any Form of Government usurps powers without the Governed's consent and becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundations on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness. Prudence, indeed, will dictate that Governments long established should not be changed for light and transient causes; and accordingly all experience hath shewn, that Humans are more disposed to suffer, while evils are sufferable, than to right themselves by abolishing the forms to which they are accustomed. But when a long train of obscene abuses and heinous crimes, pursuing invariably the same Object, evinces a design to reduce them under absolute Despotism, it is their right and responsibility to depose such Government, and to provide new Guards for their future security. --Such has been the patient sufferance of these Fifty Colonies, their Poor and Middle Classes, and most of the rest of the world; and such is now the necessity which constrains them to alter their former Systems of Government. The history of the present King of the United States [George II], and that of his predecessors [of the Royal Houses of Elephant and Donkey alike] dating back to the reign of King Richard of the Royal Family of Nixon, is a history of repeated injuries and usurpations [by kings and their trusted advisors], all having in direct object the establishment of an absolute Tyranny over these Colonies and their Poor and Middle Class inhabitants. To prove this, let Facts be submitted to a candid world.

They [King George II and his royal advisors: Lords Cheney, Rumsfeld, Feith, Wolfowitz, Gonzalez, and Lady Rice] have refused their Assent to Laws and Policies, most wholesome and necessary for the public good.

They have engaged in acts of ethnic cleansing and genocide in the city of New Orleans through acts of criminal neglect and gross mismanagement of the aftermath of a natural disaster, the willful creation of a diaspora of the poor Black inhabitants of New Orleans, the suspension of labor laws which would have ensured fair wages to those rebuilding the city, and the dispensation of generous federal contracts to crony corporations to rebuild a city favorable to the interests of the wealthy.

They manipulated facts and presented lies to the American People and to Congress to gain necessary approval of a "preventive", illegal war against the sovereign nation of Iraq on the shifting premises that this nation posed an immediate threat to our national security, that the Iraqi people needed a champion to topple a ruthless dictator, and that their purpose was to spread "freedom and liberty". It has now come to light that Iraq possessed no weapons of mass destruction, had no connections with Osama bin Laden, and was little or no threat to the United States. They knew this prior to the invasion. They subverted a government led by a former US ally whom the US supported when it knew he was committing genocide. They installed a puppet Iraqi regime fortified by 140,000 US military personnel and call it "Democracy". They are responsible for the deaths of over 100,000 Iraqi civilians. Their hands drip with the blood of innocents slaughtered using monies from our Treasury and the blood, sweat and tears of our children.

They recruited and trained US military personnel under the pretext that they would be engaged in defending their nation. After enticing young men and women to serve based on blatant lies, They thrust them into imperial conquests like the one in Iraq. They are responsible for the sacrifice of over 2,000 American lives which They sacrificed at their sacred alter of the almighty Dollar.

They have continued to perpetuate, protect, and expand the powers of corrupt, avaricious corporations These cornucopias of avidity for wealth and power pay sub-standard wages, offer minimal benefits to their employees, increasingly utilize inexpensive "offshore" labor, manufacture products in "sweat shops" which egregiously violate the human rights of their employees, profiteer during wars and natural disasters, rape the environment and plunder our precious natural resources, utilize "creative accounting methods" to increase their stock value, capitalize on laws enabling them to create hostile environments for unions, demand virtually endless increases in corporate welfare, and strangle competition through mergers and acquisitions accomplished with their over-inflated stocks.

They have perpetuated and expanded an executive branch of government which is in many ways indistinguishable from the leviathan corporations and wealthy elite which it serves and represents.

They have forsaken their primary responsibility, which is to preserve the universal human rights of their citizenry, and to secure its general welfare. They have rapidly eroded federal domestic programs promoting health care, education, basic infrastructure, and housing, while directing unconscionable sums of public monies to the military industrial complex comprised of current and former government officials and the wealthy elite. They seize the lion's share of taxes from their citizens and spend obscene amounts to finance a grotesquely powerful military [and their imperial adventures], while a significant number of their citizens want for proper education, housing, transportation, and even nourishment.

They have created a rogue military state which engages in terrorism of such magnitude that terrorist acts committed by the Iraqi Resistance, while equally as morally objectionable, are modest in comparison.

They have, through their willful neglect of the general welfare, allowed 46 million Americans to languish with no health insurance, 13% of their citizenry to experience poverty, 3% to experience homelessness, 24% of their Black populace to live in poverty, and 6% of their citizens to experience unemployment. These glaring blights on humanity are inexcusable in the wealthiest nation in history.

They have continued to loosen federal regulations on the "free market" economy, thus further enriching their plutocratic allies while impoverishing more and more Americans. They have worked tenaciously to perpetuate the exportation of Neoliberal economic policies to Latin America, crushing economies throughout that region, and creating chasms between their rich and poor.

They have employed chemical weapons in Iraq, violating numerous treaties, conventions, and International Laws.

They have exposed their own soldiers and the civilian inhabitants of occupied Iraq to the dangers of depleted uranium.

They have employed a variety of illegal and unethical means to manipulate and taint the results of two presidential elections to ensure their ascendancy to the seat of power.

They have enacted laws and policies hostile to science and intellectual viewpoints, thus leading our nation down a path of ignorance and superstition.

They have grossly usurped their powers by intimidating Congress into enacting the Patriot Act, decimating Habeas Corpus and due process by illegally detaining Jose Padilla [an American citizen] for three years, and violating virtually everything for which the Bill of Rights stands by illegally detaining, torturing and murdering accused terrorists at Abu Gharib, Guantanamo Bay, and other undisclosed locations around the world.

They violated Posse Comitatus in New Orleans and have since stated their intention to crush it by deploying US military personnel on a wide scale in future domestic disasters.

They have consistently rewarded or promoted those members of their Royal Court who have committed criminal or grossly incompetent acts.

They have pillaged the public Treasury, dispersing tax monies to their cronies and collaborators in their corrupt schemes. They have created an astronomical national debt which will hang from the necks of future generations as a millstone of astounding proportions.

They have virtually relieved themselves and their wealthy compatriots of their tax obligations. In so doing, They have placed the burden of filling the public coffers on the backs of those who benefit least from their governance [the Poor and Middle Classes].

They have financed and enabled the ruthless Israeli colonial occupation of Palestinian territory, and have allowed elements closely aligned with the radical Likud to shape their foreign policy decisions, particularly in the Middle East.

We [those amongst us who do not remain entranced by the powerful propaganda of the mainstream media] have Petitioned for Redress in humble, reasonable terms in a variety of ways. Our repeated Petitions have been answered by repeated injury. A Prince of the American Royal Family of Bush, whose character is thus marked by every act which may define a Tyrant, is unfit to be the ruler of a free people.

Nor have We been wanting in attentions to our brethren in the federal government, their corporate allies or the wealthy elite. We have warned them from time to time of their attempts to extend an unwarrantable jurisdiction over us. We have reminded them of our inalienable rights derived from Natural Law, the US Constitution, and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. We have appealed to their senses of justice and magnanimity, and we have beseeched them to disavow these usurpations based on our common kindred. They have been deaf to the voice of justice and of consanguinity. We must, therefore, acquiesce in the necessity, which denounces our Separation, and hold them, as we hold the rest of Humanity, Enemies in War, in Peace Friends.

We, therefore, the Representatives of the Fifty Colonies of America and their Poor and Middle Classes, appealing to the Supreme Judge of the world for the rectitude of our intentions, do, in the Name, and by the Authority of the good People of these Colonies, solemnly publish and declare, that these Fifty Colonies and United Peoples are, and of Right ought to be Free and Independent of the United Stated Federal Government; that We are Absolved from Allegiance to the Federal Crown, and that all political connections between them and us, is and ought to be totally dissolved; and that as Free and Independent People forming a true Constitutional Republic, we have full Power to provide for the General Welfare of the Populace, to levy War, conclude Peace, contract Alliances, establish Commerce, and to do all other Acts and Things which Independent States may of right do. And for the support of this Declaration, with a firm reliance on the protection of divine Providence (by the Higher Power of each person's understanding), we mutually pledge to each other our Lives, our Fortunes, and our sacred Honor.


By William Fisher

As George W. Bush’s poll numbers plummet, questions about how his administration ‘sold’ the invasion of Iraq to the American people and its treatment of prisoners continue to dog the beleaguered president, stalling his second-term agenda.

More than two years after the invasion of Iraq, the President still finds himself facing questions about whether the his Administration exaggerated or lied about intelligence relating to Saddam Hussein’s Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMD).

Last week, stung by the president’s declining credibility, the White House went on the offensive, declaring that U.S. intelligence had compiled a "very strong case" that Saddam Hussein had banned weapons and accusing congressional critics of hypocrisy because many of them voted for force three years ago.

In a Veteran’s Day speech in Pennsylvania, President Bush said, "It is deeply irresponsible to rewrite the history of how that war began…These baseless attacks send the wrong signal to our troops and to an enemy that is questioning America's will."

National Security Adviser Stephen J. Hadley also made a rare appearance in the White House pressroom to rebut administration critics. The administration's position, he said, "represented the collective view of the intelligence community" and was "shared by Republicans and Democrats alike."

He said that when Congress authorized the invasion, its members had access to the same intelligence the president had. But other observers point out that Bush and his aides had access to much more voluminous intelligence information than did lawmakers, who were dependent on the administration to provide the material.

In the Senate, Democrats mounted a spirited campaign to insist that its Intelligence Committee complete its investigation of whether the Administration manipulated intelligence prior to the invasion of Iraq. The Committee completed Part I of its probe last year, and unanimously found that there had been a massive failure of intelligence about WMD in Iraq. But Part II – how the Administration used – or abused -- intelligence – was never completed. Senate Democrats secured a pledge from the chairman of the committee that the report would now go forward.

The renewed calls for further investigations were strengthened by an investigative article published by the Washington Post, asserting that shortly after the Sep. 11, 2001 attacks, the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) set up clandestine jails for al Qaeda suspects in at least eight countries, including Thailand, Afghanistan and Guantánamo Bay, Cuba. The paper said some were also located in Eastern Europe, although it withheld the specific countries involved at the request of "senior U.S. officials". But Human Rights Watch, a non-governmental organization, said independent investigation suggests that the secret CIA installations in Eastern Europe are in Poland and Romania.

The disclosure again focused media and public attention on where and how the U.S. treats prisoners captured in the ‘war on terror’.

The Senate voted 91-9 in favor of a measure championed by Senator John McCain, an Arizona Republic and a former prisoner of war tortured in Vietnam, that would ban all torture and ‘cruel, degrading or inhumane’ treatment of detainees.

But McCain is locked in a struggle with Vice President Dick Cheney, who has been lobbying the Senate intensely to exempt the CIA from the ban. The White House has hinted that President Bush would veto the measure if the exception were not granted. The legislation is attached to a larger defense bill to fund military operations in Iraq. If the President vetoes it, it would be the first time he has used his veto power.

The Senate also passed an amendment to the defense bill that mandates Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld to inform Congress on U.S.-run secret prison facilities in foreign countries,

At the same time, the Republican-led Senate rejected a Democratic effort to establish an independent commission to investigate the U.S. military for its interrogation practices. The 55 to 43 vote was split largely along party lines. The Democrats were trying to set up a panel along the lines of the 9/11 Commission to investigate how the U.S. has been treating detainees in Iraq, Afghanistan and Guantanamo.

The Bush Administration also won another victory in the Senate. The body endorsed a plan introduced by Senator Lindsay Graham, a Republic of South Carolina and a former military lawyer, to limit suspected foreign terrorists' access to U.S. courts. The measure is an effort to reverse a 2004 Supreme Court ruling that has allowed hundreds of detainees held by the military at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, to challenge their detentions.

But a number of Constitutional scholars see the Graham measure as a serious threat to the U.S. justice system. Prof. Ed Herman of the University of Pennsylvania told IPS the suspension of habeas corpus is "a real step on the road to a totalitarian state." He also called attention to "the brazen illegality of U.S. prisoner abuse, its gross violation of the rule of law that the Cabal pretends to be bringing everywhere."

The Graham proposal would give Congress some oversight of the military process set up to review whether Guantanamo Bay detainees are terrorists and should continue to be held. It would subject those tribunal decisions to limited review by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia.

The Bush administration has argued that suspected enemy combatants overseas cannot challenge their confinement in U.S. courts and that all matters related to the detention and interrogation of suspected terrorists should be left to President Bush.

The amendment to a defense authorization bill was endorsed three days
after the Supreme Court announced it would rule on the legality of military commissions to try Guantanamo Bay detainees. Constitutional authorities
say this could be one of the most important rulings on presidential war powers since World War II.

The White House indicated it would support the plan, but civil liberties
groups called it a step backward and complained it had not received meaningful debate.

The United States would "be free to hold people indefinitely without a hearing and beyond the reach of U.S. law and checks and balances," said a statement by the New York-based Center for Constitutional Rights, which has helped many detainees challenge their confinement and treatment in court.

About 260 of the more than 750 prisoners currently or previously held at
Guantanamo Bay have filed habeas corpus petitions in U.S. court, alleging various kinds of abuse, wrongful detention and inadequate medical care.

A large number of detainees at Guantanamo Bay have been on a hunger strike for several months, and many are being nourished through feeding tubes.

Adding fuel to the prisoner treatment issue are allegations that torture and inhuman treatment persist. Last week, five members of an elite U.S. Army Ranger unit in Iraq were charged with kicking and punching detainees while awaiting movement to a detention facility. And the Pentagon has still not released the ‘second round’ of photos showing detainee mistreatment at Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq, despite a court order to do so under a Freedom of Information Act suit brought by the American Civil Liberties Union.

At least 108 people have died in American custody in Iraq and Afghanistan, most of them violently, according to government data provided to The Associated Press. Roughly a quarter of those deaths have been investigated as possible abuse by U.S. personnel. There have been 21 homicides.

The war in Iraq and other issues have also cast public doubt on the ethical standards of the Bush Administration. Two weeks ago, Vice President Cheney's chief of staff, I. Lewis Libby, was indicted by a Federal grand jury. He is charged with perjury and obstruction of justice in connection with the "outing" of a covert Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) operative, whose husband accused the administration of taking the U.S. to war under false pretences.

The toll paid by the Administration for war-related and other issues has been high. According to a new poll, almost six in 10 -- 57 percent - say they do not think the Bush administration has high ethical standards and the same proportion says President Bush is not honest. The Associated Press / Ipsos survey found that just over four in 10 say the administration has high ethical standards and that Bush is honest.