Archive for category Abu Ghraib

The Problems in Iraq are Just More of Bush’s Toxic Legacy

Ed Kilgore has a good rant on Bush’s Toxic Legacy:

The mess in Iraq right now, along with the remarkably limited options for any constructive U.S. action to avoid humanitarian and political disaster, and the hostility of American public opinion to doing anything at all, provide fresh reminders that Barack Obama will leave office as he entered it: dealing with the unfinished business and toxic legacy of the George W. Bush administration. From Iraq, to Gitmo, to the NSA, to the housing sector, to the banking sector, to a completely fouled up non-system of campaign finance, to an out-of-control fossil fuel industry, to a long-range structural budget deficit, to a politicized judiciary, and to a radicalized Republican Party: the trouble never ends, and all created by a swaggering crew that inherited peace and prosperity and a budget surplus after the most dubious ascension to power in American history.

It’s worth pondering isn’t it?


the UN, NATO, and the trip-wire

I’m so sorry to write this missive as a lead article (for 15 minutes) but I don’t remember how to find the comments and respond to them. The lonely little side-bar response to my article I’ve not seen, except for half a sentence. It seemed to be saying that the old days are gone now, and so we need NATO and the JN. I agree. With NATO, it is the trip-wire provision that we go to war, automatically if any NATO nation is attacked, regardless of who the attacker is. This takes not only the United States Congress, but the president, as Commander in Chief, from the decision to go to war. I support both the UN and, if handled correctly, NATO. But President J. Reuben Clark and I oppose the automatic going to war. Just like the fools, the ancient general staffs of all sides in WW I. No one wanted that war. There was no Adolph Hitler in that war that destroyed the entire 20th century. Better to have shot the general staffs, who came to deserve exactly that. What President Clark called for, and I, are what the United States has always done, before NATO. That is, to have treaties of peace and friendship with our allies and then, should hostilities commence, such treaties would call for all parties to go to war, or not, as their constitutions provide. In this way, we don’t declare war against a nation, and surely all the people, have not yet been born. How, pray tell, do we justify going to war against, and for, people not, or no longer, live on earth. With a few caveats, ditto for the UN. No provision of law allows the UN to overreach Congress in the decision for war or peace. For anyone interested, read my book with the late Francis Wormuth, To Cain the Dog of War. It is by odds the best book ever written on the way we go to war. Every single war we’ve ever fought, including our wars against the Indian tribes, is there analyzed. Francis did not live to see this book in print. I worked two years after his death to finish it. And I updated it 4 or 5 times, alone. I still put my dear friend’s name first, because I am honored to be linked, now, forever. Something like Mormon marriage through time and eternity. ed firmage xoxo


The War Power, The Sergeant, the Senator: Treason or Heroism

The Sergeant who some years ago left his post in that unnecessary and unwinnable war in
Afghanistan is either a hero, a traitor, or just a terribly young man in the wrong war at the wrong time. He spent terrible years of torture and probably said things he didn’t really mean.

Some years ago in Vietnam, Senator McCain was shot down over Vietnam, another unconstitutional war, and equally unwinnable war, confessed repeatedly to things he later recanted, once safely in the United States, and is, quite rightly regarded, despite his confessions to American war crimes, a hero. The two cases are not quite completely on all fours, as we say in the law. But the similarity is sufficient to compare with each other and with the undergirding of law.

Presidents, from George Washington to Barack Obama, who are visited by war, either their own or, like Obama, inherited from another (in Obama’s case two other) fools who preceded them, have always had this power. While not yet president, and without this act may well not have become president, Ronald Reagan communicated with Iran, telling them, in effect, just to refuse to deal with Carter on releasing our citizens from the U. S. Embassy in Iran, and await his presidency. Their deal (which killed Jimmie Carter’s hope for a second term and by the way was treason, meriting a firing squad.)

The 30, 60, 90 day notification of Congress is also unconstitutional, but not for the reasons the Republicans and Democrats alike, trumpet. Saint Paul, as I recall, said “this trumpet has an uncertain sound.” And I know he said that some leaders have “zeal without knowledge.” This is Republican and Democratic leaders on steroids, just like my former wife.

The reason the War Powers Act is unconstitutional is not what is now said by either Republicans or Democrats, as I told Joe Biden when he was both Minority Senior member of the Foreign Relations Committee of the Senate and when he was chair. I testified before his committee a few times, and he called me at the law school sometimes to chat about this. The reason is simple. Due to both a few but very senior Democrats and almost all Republicans, Congress forced the Demo’s to give the president 30, 60, or 90 days to play with Congress’ army while he picked his nose. War has not been officially declared since FDR did it in WW2. George Bush (the first) and Colin Powell, in my opinion, got it right, constitutionally, by voting 50-50 in the Senate, and then the Dark Lord, Vice President Cheney, broke the tie and we went to war in Iraq the right way by law; and they had the smarts to stop when their limited mission was accomplished. And until this time, the President, as Commander in Chief, has no constitutional power to use the United States armed forces, save self-defense.

In the Framers’ mind that means only when the United States of America, not our allies, are attacked. For Utahns, the reason J. Reuben Clark, my hero and a great patriot, a rock-ribbed Republican who served under many Republican presidents, served variously as chief legal adviser to the Department of State (then, as an deputy Attorney General on loan from Justice to State,,,,,,now called Legal Adviser to the State Department; and Vice Secretary of State, and Ambassador to Mexico; and advised many presidents between world wars one and two, on all arms control treaties between those to dreadful wars) opposed NATO was because it delegated the war power to a generation not yet born and for the defense of people, and nations, not yet born. Neither the United Nations (Korean War) nor NATO (Ukraine?) can declare war for the United States of America. This is the statement of law, the War Clause, that makes this beyond debate. Remember, that it is also the sole right of Congress: not the President of the United States, nor NATO, nor the United Nations, that decides what constitutes International law, as well. So, both Constitutional Law and International Law, save an attack on the United States, inform us that Congress, not the president or these international bodies, who determines for war or peace.

So screw the people and the Congress and president now living. When the president, any president, has this army to use, that army will never return to Congress’ care. This is unconstitutional because it is an illegal attempt to delegate to the President a plenary power, given exclusively, textually, to the Congress. Like the power over interstate commerce (the road by which most civil rights legislation is constitutional), along with the equal protection and due process of law clauses of the 5th and 14th amendments. It’s as if Congress were to say to Obama, “Say, friend, we’re so damned tired of life in Washington, despite the cherry blossoms, we will do what the Supreme Court does, and reconvene when good weather returns. We’re going to go to Balboa Island, California, where it’s nice and sunny, in ocean or on the beach, and pick our nose and scratch our butts. And better yet, we have one in eight chances not to pick both with the same finger. Even though we’ve proven, time out of mind, that we in Congress cannot chew gum and pick our nose, simultaneously (a great blessing). So, pres., you now have the taxing and the spending power, and we’ll sweeten the loaf by throwing into the pot, since you do have to stick around in this shitty weather, and give you the power also to fund and provide for the Army, Air Force, Coast Guard, and Navy. And don’t sweat it about financing things by the provision in the Constitution that spending bills begin in the House. Since you already have the taxing and spending power, do all this in the White House. P.S. please instruct the Treasury Department to deliver our checks, our salaries, and all the REALLY big bucks from the armaments industry and all those other lobbyists. We really have earned this right by selling our souls to the devil. Have a good life.

I say that both Senator and Soldier are bona fide heroes. Ed Firmage xoxox


Ten Years Ago Today . . . And No It Was Not Worth It

I hate looking back.  Ten years ago today the US invastion of Iraq began. 

The push for war with Iraq felt like a time of public madness.  The American media has never been less absolutely incompetent than in those months.  Yeah, the media pretty much sucks now, but back then they were awful beyond the telling of it.  The largest peace rallies in history got no coverage.  American media has spent the last decade hoping no one reminds them how bad they were, how gullible, how insanely biased for the Bush administration they were and how they mindlessly lapped up any lie they were told. Read the rest of this entry »


Obama DOJ: No Accountability For Torture

Glenn Greenwald has a detailed account of how the Obama administration has moved incrementally to make sure that no one is prosecuted for violations of laws against torture and even torture-related homicide.

Thursday, Attorney General Eric Holder announced the closing without charges of the only two cases under investigation relating to the US torture program: one that resulted in the 2002 death of an Afghan detainee at a secret CIA prison near Kabul, and the other the 2003 death of an Iraqi citizen while in CIA custody at Abu Ghraib. This decision, says the New York Times Friday, “eliminat[es] the last possibility that any criminal charges will be brought as a result of the brutal interrogations carried out by the CIA”.

Note: more than 100 detainees were reported to have died in custody, many after being tortured. Only two cases were investigated by the Obama DOJ.

Meanwhile, President Obama’s highly original “look forward not backward” approach to law enforcement does not apply to whistle-blowers. As Friday’s Times article on Holder’s announcement pointedly notes:

“While no one has been prosecuted for the harsh interrogations, a former CIA officer who helped hunt members of al-Qaida in Pakistan and later spoke publicly about waterboarding, John C Kiriakou, is awaiting trial on criminal charges that he disclosed to journalists the identity of other CIA officers who participated in the interrogations.”

While everyone is rightly focused on the lackluster economy recovery, the DOJ’s announcement that torturers now have immunity from prosecution (at least in the U.S.) represents another major failure of the Obama administration.


Poof – Goes The “Troubled Young” Hero



Rocky Anderson vs Sean Hannity. Live Debate at University of Utah – Entire Show – Fox News

University of Utah, May 4, 2007. Two Hours. Moderated by Ken Verdoia.

Rocky laid out a bullet-proof prima-facie case for the impeachment of George W. Bush.

Hannity retreated into his hallmark pandering strategy refusing to address the facts in the case for impeachment of Bush. Not one word about Bush, the Constitution, illegal rendition, torture, wiretapping US citizens illegally, or the suspension of Habeas Corpus. Just personal attacks on Rocky as if labeling Rocky will somehow make the fact that Bush is impeachable go away.

Some still support Bush. They need to ask themselves:

Is your patriotism strong enough to hold a president you love accountable for his crimes and impeachable offenses? Or are you making an exception? Are you a full time American Patriot, or does it “depend?”

Part 1 of 3

Part 2 of 3

Part 3 of 3

Full Show Broadband (137mg) / Smaller Dial-up (37mg) version here
Play or download full high quality MP4 (525MG) here.

Thanks as always to Norm at OneGoodMove for providing this video.

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Harry Truman’s Choice and the Defenders of Torture

The fact that people are seriously arguing that the US can torture prisoners is deeply troubling.  It occurred to me that we can look at our own history – sending Japanese Americans to internment camps during World War Two, centuries of stealing Native American’s their land and sending them off to reservations and stealing their children and sending them to “Indian Schools” – and identify actions which are unambiguous historical and national crimes, but we can also identify far more ambiguous examples of a difficult, even horrific, moral calculus.

By 1945, it was clear that Japan was not going to emerge victorious from the war – there were simply too many factors working against them.  However, it was also clear that a victory would come only after long and difficult battles.  Harry Truman, thrust into the presidency unexpectedly and frankly unprepared (FDR never much cared for Truman but accepted him as VP to maintain party unity) was faced with horrible options.

The obvious option was an invasion of Japan.  Despite heavy bombing, the Japanese mainland had been left relatively functional (for instance food continued to be shipped internally). In preparing for an invasion, the Allies would have stepped up attacks on transportation systems in the Japanese islands.  Breaking the back of Japan’s national transportation infrastructure, would have plunged the Japanese population into mass starvation (as it was, there was widespread famine in Japan in 1946).  Japan’s governing junta was prepared to put citizens on the frontlines of an invasion.  An invasion of the Japanese homeland could easily have cost a million Allied soldiers and millions of Japanese citizens (I’ve read one article that estimated as much as 10% of Japan’s civilian population killed in battle – not counting those killed by starvation and bombing raids).  In addition, an invasion of Japan would have almost certainly have resulted in the deaths of all POWs being held by the Japanese.  Even faced with such a scenario, Japan’s leaders were convinced they could win a negotiated settlement that would leave them in power.

Truman could have informed the Japanes the US possessed atomic weapons and arranged a demonstration; I’ve never fully understood the reasons for not choosing this option but I also understand that such an option might easily have spurred the Japanese to develop nuclear weapons and then deploy them against the US (IIRC, Japan had two separate efforts to develop atomic weapons but they were hampered by bureacratic infighting).

Truman was concerned about the Soviet Union’s military and territorial ambitions in both Europe and Asia. A quick end to the war with Japan would present opportunities on that front.

Truman opted for the one scenario that seemed most likely to save the most lives: drop atomic bombs on a Japanese city.  I once read a description of all the strategic reasons for choosing Hiroshima and Nagasaki but I’m not sure they matter at this point.  Truman authorized the use of the atomic bomb against a Japanese city, with plans to drop a second bomb a few days later if the Japanese did not surrender.

As I undersatnd it, Japan’s leaders didn’t fully realize what they were facing; initially they suspected the city had been subjected to an attack using incediary devices or some new bombing strategy and discounted reports that a single bomb could have inflicted the damage the city suffered (their belief concerning the incendiary attack made sense given the massive conflagration that consumed much of Hiroshima).  After Nagasaki, Japan’s leaders realized that continued war meant not just military loss but national suicide.  Internal Japanese politics – including an attempted military coup – delayed Japan’s surrender a few days.  (I never really known but I suspect that the Allies were largley ignorant of Japan’s internal political struggles and circumstance.)

It’s entirely possible that Truman’s choice to use atomic weapons is not morally defensible.  The generally accepted explanation seems to hold – and I agree – that the use of such weapons saved millions of lives on both sides by ending the war more quickly.  The moral value is that the lost of two hundred thousand lives is preferable to the loss of millions.

The morality of using atomic weapons (and that’s not a phrase you ever expect to write) can only be established within a very specific historical context – the context of a war that had already lasted for years, that promised to last for years more and cost millions of lives and many more casualties. 

I’ve chosen this scenario because it really happened and it comes as close to any real world “ticking time bomb” scenario that defenders of torture like to offer.  Literally, Japan and the US were aiming guns at each other.  The suffering inflicted on the citizens of Hiroshima and Nagasaki was every bit as bad as the suffering torture would inflict on an individual.  Certainly, if hurting one person is bad, then hurting a hundred thousand is worse.

Torture’s proponents tell us that the use of torture would be limited to circumstances in which it would get information to save lives.  Truman’s use of the atomic bomb saved lives.

So, then, you might ask, am I defending the use of torture?  Not at all.  Even a basic examination of the two situations reveal deep and very differences.  The basic moral arguments concerning the two circumstances are radically different. Read the rest of this entry »


Karl Rove is Furious? He’s Not the Only One

Last Friday, the one and only Karl Rove (aka Turd Blossom) visited Utah and informed us that he is “furious” about Attorney General Eric Holder’s plan to investigate torture by the CIA. “I almost can’t speak about it, I’m so mad,” said Rove, according to the Salt Lake Tribune. After scrambling the facts beyond recognition, as the Trib reporter helpfully points out, Rove concluded:

“This country is less secure today because this president, and his attorney general made it so, and we all have reason to mourn that.”

Of course we now know, thanks to the declassification of the (still considerably redacted) CIA Inspector General’s report from 2004 and some memos that former VP Dick Cheney said he wanted released, that torture never produced any valuable intelligence whatsoever. If there was any evidence at all that “torture works,” then the CIA would be coming out with it in a desperate attempt to justify breaking the law.

Glenn Greenwald and other people who believe in the rule of law are every bit as angry at AG Holder, but not for Rove’s bogus reasons. Emphasis in the original:

Holder’s decision does not amount to the appointment of a Special Prosecutor, since a preliminary review is used, as he emphasized, “to gather information to determine whether there is sufficient predication to warrant a full investigation of a matter.” More important, the scope of the “review” is limited at the outset to those who failed to “act in good faith and within the scope of legal guidance” — meaning only those interrogators and other officials who exceeded the torture limits which John Yoo and Jay Bybee approved. Those who, with good faith, tortured within the limits of the OLC memos will “be protected from legal jeopardy” (the full Holder statement is here).

President Bush will go down in history as the Worst President Ever, having presided over the bloodiest terrorist attack in history, an illegal war of aggression, the wiping out of a major American city in the most expensive disaster in history, the doubling of the National Debt and the biggest worldwide collapse of the financial sector since the Great Depression.

We can add to that dismal record a breathtaking new precedent: the Attorney General of the United States now considers it settled that federal law and international treaties can be nullified at any time by a handful of Justice Department lawyers, acting in secret. No need to go to Congress, just write a few memos and illegal acts can be made legal. Imagine the possibilities!

This cannot stand. We learned in the IG report that CIA torturers knew full well that they were being ordered to break the law and the Geneva Conventions. Now they are to be let off simply because the Obama administration doesn’t want to try and make a case against Yoo and Bybee, and their bosses in the White House. By not appointing a special prosecutor empowered to bring charges against everyone who broke the law, AG Holder is rejecting the rule of law.

Matt Yglesias is getting tired of the news media playing along with Holder and the CIA.

Not the most repugnant, but certainly the most bizarre, aspect of the most recent twists in the torture debate has been the willingness of the press to take seriously the argument that criminals who also happen to be CIA employees should not be held account for breaking the law because holding them to account might discourage them from breaking the law in the future.

One Utah archive for Torture category


Torture Pro Judge Bybee Fails Backbone Test

Friends Say Judge Wasn’t Proud of Outcome


Via his roommate at BYU, this morning’s Washington Post reports that Torture Memo author Judge Jay Bybee is tortured by self-pity.

“Jay would be the sort of lawyer who would say, ‘Look, I’ll give you the legal advice, but it’s up to someone else to make the policy decision whether you implement it,’ ” said Randall Guynn, who roomed with Bybee at Brigham Young University and remains close.

In other words, “Its not my fault those evil men used my advice to justify torture.” Is Bybee then standing by his legal opinion?

Neither Guynn nor his brother, Steve, who also roomed with Bybee, recalled the judge distancing himself from the memos. But in the years since the first memo became public, Bybee left that sense with some.

Where is the personal responsibility?  Where is the moral compass?

Since moving to Utah years ago, I am frequently reminded that without religion there is no morality.

If morality – the sense of  right vs wrong — is derived exclusivily from religion, and Bybee’s religious training is straight from the bosum of The LDS Church…  Is it possible the training at BYU Law School is at odds with religious doctrine?  Or is Bybee a weak-kneed, ambitious, self-serving schmuck with a pretty face?

Bybee’s friends said he never sought the job at the Office of Legal Counsel. The reason he went back to Washington, Guynn said, was to interview with then-White House counsel Alberto R. Gonzales for a slot that would be opening on the 9th Circuit when a judge retired. The opening was not yet there, however, so Gonzales asked, “Would you be willing to take a position at the OLC first?” Guynn said.

I can only imagine what must be going on in Bybee’s head. “Dang. I got caught.”

Bybee should take this opportunity to become a ‘man.’ Otherwise, he’s going to face the fasted impeachment in history.  Three Senators have already called for his resignation.

What is he waiting for?

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Is The Salt Lake Tribune Covering for BYU Grad Jay Bybee?

A first time commenter posted this OneUtah today claiming a Salt Lake Tribune blog deleted it?s-bybee-large

A little background on Jay Bybee Says:

I posted this to Glen Warchol’s blog … it was deleted.

Bybee graduated magna cum laude from Brigham Young University in 1977. He earned his Juris Doctor cum laude[5] from BYU’s J. Reuben Clark Law School in 1980. While in law school, he served on the editorial board of the BYU Law Review.

I couldn’t find a post on Glen Warchol’s SLC Crawler related to the recent revelations about Bybee or his torture memo, so it may well be that the comment was removed for being off subject. and probably by someone in a more administrative role at the paper.

I’m not sure how I feel about that. It is certainly their right, but it also reflects a policy of control that is at odds with the value and merit of blogging and open discussion. I will send this off to Glen so he has a chance to respond.

There is a story here though. Not only is it likely that Bybee will be impeachedwhich would be a serious black mark on BYU, but it seems that BYU Law School graduates made up a disproportionate number of Bush era appointees and hires. The Bush administration proved to be an unabashed recruiter of the most dependably right-wing collaborators whose greater value was not so much in their credentials, but rather in their loyalty and reliability in following order without regard for precedent or law.

It should surprise no one that the neocons looked to Utah County for their foot soldiers. After all, Utah County produced Chris Cannon and Jason Chavetz.

BYU Law School has produced some good lawyers, but it has produced at least one celebrated graduate who has subverted his teachings (legal training) for self-interest and promotion and in the process, participated in one of the ugliest episodes in American and World history.

Judge Bybee MUST be impeached and then indicted for his role in the administration’s violation of domestic and international law. He should also be ‘judged’ for not speaking out for his Country when he had the opportunity.

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Faith Based Torture

Because no matter what we do, closing detention centers, electing new blood, or whatever else, we should always remember the times that we failed to do what we knew was right. Those who forget history…
Read the rest of this entry »


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