Archive for category Veterans

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


What Happened To Gary Care?

Gary Herbert is the governor of Utah. Many fast food workers are moments away from having to spend more then they can afford to get any healthcare. Maybe I missed it, but I haven’t seen our governor out there every day to promote his plan to give them the Medicaid plan that might save their lives.

It’s probably too late to prevent the fast-food workers from signing up for the plan, even if Herbert came clean and rejected the Republican plan to oppose Obama at any cost.

Americans shouldn’t have to give up everything they have if they get sick. We should care for our fellow veterans and people by paying taxes. Grover Norquist can go to hell.

We need single-payer healthcare; NOT something that was dreamed up by the “Heritage Foundation”, or the “Americans For Tax Reform”. We need REAL organizations in our country, but who has time?

Update: I changed the post a little, because I have procrastinated on signing up for Obamacare, and it actually looks pretty darn good. I would still prefer single-payer, of course.

Update: I take it back! They are saying that Obamacare is working now, but I can tell you it isn’t! I have spent ten hours listening to music that fades out and skips like a broken record. Maybe I should have told them I was 22 instead of 62, but I can’t get through.


To The ‘Barry-cades’!

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When you shut down the federal government, that means the national parks will be closed. Duh. Senators Mike Lee and Rafael (“Ted”) Cruz were protesting against themselves. The funniest part was Sarah Palin screeching about the “barry-cades.”


Redge Ranyard Versus John Boehner

Contribute to to help keep this ad on the air.

Remember that Speaker Boehner, like most of his GOP colleagues, never served in combat. He enlisted in the U.S. Navy in 1968, but was administratively separated after eight weeks because of a bad back.

If the pointless Republican Shutdown of the federal government continues, disabled veterans benefits will be cut off at the end of this month. Boehner and the Tea-GOP would be well-advised to re-open the government before then.


The grown-ups

When the conservatives started buying french wine and champagne to pour down the gutters after France had the nerve to say there where no WMDs in Iraq, i assumed the children had taken over the GOP. Did it occur to any of them that after you buy the stuff, it doesn’t really matter what you do with it? I mean they got the cash, does it matter how you waste it? (by the way, how did that turn out? Find those weapons did you? Proved those frenchie frogs wrong did you? Anyone apologize for “freedom fries”? No, I thought not) When the lunatic right started calling themselves “teabaggers” I started to suspect that we didn’t have any adults left in conservative politics. When they started marching around with tea-bags stapled to their hats I really did think it was too late.

When Mitt started the campaign with things like driving in circles and honking the bus horn at Obama rallies, well let’s just say my opinion of his level of class was confirmed. Watching GOP members censor women for daring to speak out about abortion (as if that is an issue women are allowed to have an opinion on! Ha!) and later for using the (gasp!) word “vagina” (I do declare get my fainting couch!) was almost anticlimactic. Watching the GOP campaign and pretend to govern is a bit like watching third graders try to run a country. Backwards third graders. The girls have cooties, the boys spend all their time proving a manhood they don’t have, normal English terms are off limits and I suspect the height of sophistication is fart jokes.

But even given that history, even if those are your peers, some people manage to stand out from the crowd as the most immature of the children.

Behold, dead beat dad, offender of war veterans, and all around class act, Joe Walsh.

Ladies and gentlemen, I give you the party of Lincoln. Who, if we could wrap him in copper and mount him in a ring of magnets, could single handedly solve our power problems, due to the unbelievable speed with which he is currently spinning his grave…


Can George W. Bush Find a “one-legged Veteran” Who Won’t Beat Him?

Yesterday, Bush announced “I’m takin’ a bunch ‘o Vets mountain bike riding.” “I like mountain bike riding.”

And, I realize Chimpy was trying to be self-deprecating when he said, “what I don’t like is to be beaten on a mountain bike ride by a one-legged Veteran.”

All I could think is, how will he find a one-legged Veteran who won’t try to beat him on sight?

The Chimpster goes on to brag that his “Institute” is sponsoring a golf tournament for Vets. How thoughtful. And why not? Most of them have fairly flexible schedules nowadays (unemployed).

Except for the few lucky troops who found time to practice at the driving range when not dodging IEDs, I imagine most have never stepped onto a golf course, other than to pick up trash, turn on the sprinklers or to find a quiet spot to spend the night?

Yes, a golf tournament. What better to say I love you and avoid missing a day on the links?



Poof – Goes The “Troubled Young” Hero



Free Bradley Manning!

I really hate associating myself with Michael Moore or Bradley Manning with an insignificant post, because I’m not anywhere near worthy, but:

From Michael Moore:

A Man in Tunisia, a Movement on Wall Street, and the Soldier Who Ignited the Fuse

Protesters chant slogans against the political party of former President Zine el-Abedine Ben Ali in Sidi Bouzid, Tunisia, on January 21, 2011. The city was where Mohamed Bouazizi, a fruit seller, had a confrontation with a municipal inspector that eventually led to his self-immolation in front of the governor’s office in protest. The act fatally burned Bouazizi and is said to have sparked the protests that toppled President Zine el-Abedine Ben Ali’s government.

It’s Saturday night and I didn’t want the day to end before I sent out this note to you.

One year ago on December 17th, Mohamed Bouazizi, a man who had a simple produce stand in Tunisia, set himself on fire to protest his government’s repression. His singular sacrifice ignited a revolution that toppled Tunisia’s dictator and launched revolts in regimes across the Middle East.

Three months ago on December 17th, Occupy Wall Street began with a takeover of New York’s Zuccotti Park. This movement against the greed of corporate America and its banks — and the money that now controls most of our democratic institutions — has quickly spread to hundreds of towns and cities across America. The majority of Americans now agree that a nation where 400 billionaires have more wealth than 160 million Americans combined is not the country they want America to be. The 99% are rising up against the 1% — and now there is no turning back.

Twenty-four years ago on December 17th, U.S. Army Spc. Bradley Manning was born. He has now spent 570 days in a military prison without a trial — simply because he allegedly blew the whistle on the illegal and immoral war in Iraq. He exposed what the Pentagon and the Bush administration did in creating this evil and he did so by allegedly leaking documents and footage to Wikileaks. Many of these documents dealt not only with Iraq but with how we prop up dictators around the world and how our corporations exploit the poor on this planet. (There were even cables with crazy stuff on them, like one detailing Bush’s State Department trying to stop a government minister in another country from holding a screening of ‘Fahrenheit 9/11.’)

The Wikileaks trove was a fascinating look into how the United States conducts its business — and clearly those who don’t want the world to know how we do things in places like, say, Tunisia, were not happy with Bradley Manning.

Mohamed Bouazizi was being treated poorly by government officials because all he wanted to do was set up a cart and sell fruit and vegetables on the street. But local police kept harassing him and trying to stop him. He, like most Tunisians, knew how corrupt their government was. But when Wikileaks published cables from the U.S. ambassador in Tunis confirming the corruption — cables that were published just a week or so before Mohamed set himself on fire — well, that was it for the Tunisian people, and all hell broke loose.

People across the world devoured the information Bradley Manning revealed, and it was used by movements in Egypt, Spain, and eventually Occupy Wall Street to bolster what we already thought was true. Except here were the goods — the evidence that was needed to prove it all true. And then a democracy movement spread around the globe so fast and so deep — and in just a year’s time! When anyone asks me, “Who started Occupy Wall Street?” sometimes I say “Goldman Sachs” or “Chase” but mostly I just say, “Bradley Manning.” It was his courageous action that was the tipping point — and it was not surprising when the dictator of Tunisia censored all news of the Wikileaks documents Manning had allegedly supplied. But the internet took Manning’s gift and spread it throughout Tunisia, a young man set himself on fire and the Arab Spring that led eventually to Zuccotti Park has a young, gay soldier in the United States Army to thank.

And that is why I want to honor Bradley Manning on this, his 24th birthday, and ask the millions of you reading this to join with me in demanding his immediate release. He does not deserve the un-American treatment, including cruel solitary confinement, he’s received in over eighteen months of imprisonment. If anything, this young man deserves a friggin’ medal. He did what great Americans have always done — he took a bold stand against injustice and he did it without stopping for a minute to consider the consequences for himself.

The Pentagon and the national security apparatus are hell-bent on setting an example with Bradley Manning. But we as Americans have a right to know what is being done in our name and with our tax dollars. If the government tries to cover up its malfeasance, then it is the duty of each and every one of us, should the situation arise, to drag the truth, kicking and screaming if necessary, into the light of day.

The American flag was lowered in Iraq this past Thursday as our war on them officially came to an end. If anyone should be on trial or in the brig right now, it should be those men who lied to the nation in order to start this war — and in doing so sent nearly 4,500 Americans and hundreds of thousands of Iraqis to their deaths.

But it is not Bush or Rumsfeld or Cheney or Wolfowitz who sit in prison tonight. It is the hero who exposed them. It is Bradley Manning who has lost his freedom and that, in turn, becomes just one more crime being committed in our name.

I know, I know, c’mon Mike — it’s the holiday season, there’s presents to buy and parties to go to! And yes, this really is one of my favorite weeks of the year. But in the spirit of the man whose birth will be celebrated next Sunday, please do something, anything, to help this young man who spends his birthday tonight behind bars. I say, enough. Let him go home and spend Christmas with his family. We’ve done enough violence to the world this decade while claiming to be a country that admires the Prince of Peace. The war is over. And a whole new movement has a lot to thank Bradley Manning for.

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A Third of Veterans Say Iraq and Afghanistan Wars Not Worth Fighting

Tanks in Baghdad

U.S. forces were sent into Afghanistan in the weeks after the 9/11 attacks on the United States to topple that country’s Taliban leaders who had harbored the al-Qaeda terrorists responsible. What initially seemed like a quick victory became the longest war in American history. The Taliban made a comeback, and now have shadow governments in nearly every Afghan province. They seem likely to overthrow the U.S.-backed government in Kabul when our troops are withdrawn.

The invasion of Iraq was launched by the Bush administration based on false claims. It was a breach of the United Nations Charter, a war of aggression. By September 2004, the Iraq Survey Group final report concluded that the dangerous weapons of mass destruction cited by President Bush as a threat to U.S. national security never existed. By March 2007, the Pentagon finished reviewing more than 600,000 Iraqi documents that were captured after the U.S. invasion. The conclusion: there is no evidence that Saddam Hussein’s regime ever had any operational links with Osama bin Laden’s al Qaeda terrorist network.

Therefore, it should not be surprising that 33 percent of the post-9/11 veterans who took part in a recent poll by the nonpartisan Pew Research Center said neither of those two wars was worthwhile considering the costs versus the benefits to the United States. That compared to 45 percent of nonmilitary poll respondents who said neither war was worthwhile.

More than 4,400 U.S. troops have been killed in Iraq and almost 1,700 killed in Afghanistan. These figures do not include suicides.

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Can We Change?

Barack Obama is being besieged from all sides about his pending decision on what to do about an undeclared war. I don’t know why this should be his decision alone. If conservatives in congress still have ants in their pants for war, as they did when Lyndon Johnson was president, why don’t they summon the courage to commit. Better yet, maybe Obama should ask them to declare war on a country that had much less to do with the 911 attacks then Saudi Arabia. I’m not the expert here, but shouldn’t congress convene debate on what could become the biggest blunder since Viet Nam.

Johnson was obviously steered by the specter of falling dominoes, vitriolic Republicans like Goldwater and a largely uninformed public, (things never seem to change), wanting strength instead of weakness in his reluctant adventure into an undeclared war that John F. Kennedy wanted to end.

Thanks to President Johnson’s tortured decision to sign into law something called the “Freedom Of Information Act”, we have access to a fascinating piece of American history. Bill Moyers, who will regrettably end his unsurpassed television journalism in April, and who served under President Johnson, has picked out what he believes are the most important recorded telephone conversations between Johnson and the people he asked for guidance, (some of whom were not in an inner circle of friends, which seems to be Obama’s method also.)

If America ever gets to hear recordings of George W. Bush’s or Dick Cheney’s conversations, I think we will be horrified beyond anything we’ve ever experienced. They were not asking friends and potential enemies what they thought – they were rushing the United States into a fire sale of Biblical proportions.

Maybe I’m wrong. Maybe tapes of Bush and Cheney will illuminate why we dove into a war which Cheney himself warned against a few years earlier, but I’m doubtful Cheney would allow any tapes of his actions to survive under the auspice of, (you know), SECURITY; a word I’ve come to hate more then I ever dreamed possible, because it’s meaning had much more to do with SECRECY under these “men.”

Moyers starts this weeks program, which I’m sure he hopes Obama will see, saying:

Granted, Barack Obama is not Lyndon Johnson, Afghanistan is not Vietnam and this is now, not then. But listen and you will hear echoes and refrains that resonate today.

And ends with:

Now in a different world, at a different time, and with a different president, we face the prospect of enlarging a different war. But once again we’re fighting in remote provinces against an enemy who can bleed us slowly and wait us out, because he will still be there when we are gone.

Once again, we are caught between warring factions in a country where other foreign powers fail before us. Once again, every setback brings a call for more troops, although no one can say how long they will be there or what it means to win. Once again, the government we are trying to help is hopelessly corrupt and incompetent.

And once again, a President pushing for critical change at home is being pressured to stop dithering, be tough, show he’s got the guts, by sending young people seven thousand miles from home to fight and die, while their own country is coming apart.

And once again, the loudest case for enlarging the war is being made by those who will not have to fight it, who will be safely in their beds while the war grinds on. And once again, a small circle of advisers debates the course of action, but one man will make the decision.

We will never know what would have happened if Lyndon Johnson had said no to more war. We know what happened because he said yes.

You simply have to watch, hear, or read this program here, (two parts.)

Isn’t it interesting how real journalists like Moyers and Amy Goodman give everybody as much access to their programs as possible, while CNN’s and FOX “news” videos routinely disappear from YouTube.


You’re Either the Commander-in-Chief Or You’re Not (6)

After visiting Arlington National Cemetery in the morning, President Obama completed his eighth meeting of the war council this afternoon without making a decision about Afghanistan strategy.

President Obama visits Arlington National Cemetery

The President asked the Pentagon brass for more options on Afghanistan. They gave him four, all of them based on plans to deploy more soldiers to an unwinnable war –with no exit strategy that we know of. Tonight, the Associated Press is reporting that Obama has rejected all four options. He also wants to make it clear that the US commitment in Afghanistan is not open-ended.

Why have we sent 68,000 U.S. military,
74,000 civilian contractors and 50,000 NATO allies halfway around the world? October was the deadliest month ever for US troops in Afghanistan, as an unseen enemy plants simple but powerful IEDs.

Not because we believe in Hamid Karzai’s government. It’s widely despised, ineffective and corrupt. The U.S. ambassador in Kabul, Karl Eikenberry, has reportedly sent urgent cables to Washington warning against the deployment of more troops because the Afghan government is not willing to tackle the corruption and mismanagement.

Not because we are stopping terrorism from reaching the USA. The recent shooting rampage at Fort Hood demonstrated that waging war against Muslims in other parts of the world stokes the very grievances that people use to justify violence against Americans (Glenn Greenwald and others argue that if an attack directed at combatants on an Army post can be classified as “terrorism,” then we would have to admit many of our own military and CIA actions could be classified the same way).

Not because Pakistan is better off due to the allied presence in Afghanistan. Pakistan is suffering greatly from the consequences of our foreign policy blunders. CIA air strikes using UAVs have been effective at killing jihadist leaders, but there is no legal authority for them and many noncombatants have been killed.

Not because people are enthusiastic about extending the war, which in March 2010 will become the longest in American history. A new CNN/Opinion Research survey found 56 percent of respondents were against deploying more troops to Afghanistan.

UPDATE: James Gordon Meek, a New York Daily News reporter, describes his emotional meeting with President Obama at Arlington.

Previous One Utah posts in this series:
You’re Either the Commander-in-Chief Or You’re Not (5) (October 25th)
You’re Either the Commander-in-Chief Or You’re Not (4) (October 7)
You’re Either the Commander-in-Chief Or You’re Not (3) (February 27)
You’re Either the Commander-in-Chief Or You’re Not (2) (February 3)
You’re Either the Commander-in-Chief Or You’re Not (January 29)


Burning the Flag and Freedom of Speech

Utah’s own Senator Orrin Hatch is perhaps best-known nationally as the sponsor of a constitutional amendment prohibiting flag burning, which he has promoted for almost 20 years. “If you’re going to burn our flag, you’re going to pay a price for it,” he says.

Flag burning

Is Senator Hatch aware that a major flag-burning event is being planned in Provo? On the evening of Monday, June 15, a crowd will gather to participate in the burning of hundreds of American flags. This is billed as part of the so-called “America’s Freedom Festival.” People are even being encouraged to bring their own flags, which will be set on fire by members of the Boy Scouts and Girl Scouts.

How could this happen? According to the U.S. Flag Code, which is a federal law, “The flag, when it is in such condition that it is no longer a fitting emblem for display, should be destroyed in a dignified way, preferably by burning” (36 USC 19 176K). Most often, this service is quietly performed by the American Legion. In Provo, it’s an annual public ritual. “This is a great family event that teaches patriotism and love for the flag,” according to the website.

Senator Hatch’s amendment isn’t really about flag burning at all. It’s intended to empower the government to restrict freedom of speech. To his credit, Senator Bob Bennett opposes the amendment, which failed by a single vote in the Senate on June 27, 2006.

In Orrin Hatch’s America, you would be put in jail with the rest of the DFHs if you burned a flag in protest. Burning hundreds of flags in public at a “patriotic” ceremony would still be perfectly legal, nobody would “pay a price” for doing that. Because some free speech would be government-approved and other free speech would be penalized.


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