Fundamental Human Rights

The Right to a Sustainable Future [Filtered & blocked by Google!]

Archive for the ‘George W. Bush’ Category

Colin Powell: Mass Murderer and War Pimp

Posted by terres on May 27, 2009

The following article was posted at ConsortiumNews.com and is mirrored here because of its public information value.

Colin Powell Skates Free on Torture

By Robert Parry
May 25, 2009

http://consortiumnews.com/2009/052509.html

There is no one, it seems, that the U.S. mainstream news media loves more than Colin Powell, a “moderate” Republican who gives a careerist journalist the chance to do some smart positioning in the “center.” But the truth about this retired four-star general is that he is the ultimate careerist.

That was apparent again during Powell’s May 24 interview on CBS’ “Face the Nation” as Powell juxtaposed himself as the reasonable Republican in contrast to former Vice President Dick Cheney, who vowed last week that there was “no middle ground” in the “war on terror.”

Pimping for attack on Iraq. Mass murderer Colin Powell holds a model vial of anthrax at the United Nations Security Council on February 5, 2003 to support his argument that Iraq most likely possessed WMDs. A few weeks later, on March 20, 2003, United States invaded Iraq.

The press coverage of Powell’s CBS appearance focused on his reaffirmation of his membership in the Republican Party – after Cheney and talk show host Rush Limbaugh suggested that he should or had already left the party – and on Powell’s reasonable talk about the GOP’s need to be “more inclusive.”

Given far less attention was Powell’s disingenuous response to Bob Schieffer’s question about the ex-Secretary of State’s knowledge regarding “enhanced interrogation techniques,” which the International Committee of the Red Cross and virtually all other objective observers say constituted torture.

Powell, who was a member of President George W. Bush’s Principals Committee which oversaw the interrogation policies, claimed to have been kept mostly out of the loop. He asserted that while the techniques “were outlined” at meetings he attended, he was “not privy” to the legal memos authorizing the abusive treatment, nor many other details.

“I think it was unfortunate but we had a system that kept that in a very compartmented manner,” Powell said. “And so I was aware that these enhanced interrogation techniques were being considered. And they were judged not to be torture at the time.”

Powell also repeated the all-purpose Cheney-Bush excuse for all manner of sins: “9/11.”

“Facing the possibility of a 9/11, you had to give some — some flexibility to the CIA,” Powell said. “It’s easy now in the cold light of day to look back and say, you shouldn’t have done any of that.”

Outside the CBS News’ Washington offices after the interview, media analyst Sam Husseini asked Powell what he knew about the torture of al-Qaeda suspect Ibn al-Shaykh al-Libi, who made false claims linking Saddam Hussein’s Iraq and al-Qaeda, lies that Powell then cited in his infamous pro-invasion speech before the United Nations on Feb. 5, 2003.

“I don’t have any details on the al-Libi case,” Powell responded.

When asked when he learned that some of the bogus evidence had been extracted by torture, Powell said, “I don’t know that. I don’t know what information you’re referring to. So I can’t answer.”

Told that the information had been publicly discussed by Powell’s former chief of staff, Col. Lawrence Wilkerson, Powell answered, “So what?” [See Consortiumnews.com’s “How Torture Trapped Colin Powell.”]

So what was it? Did Powell participate in the Principals Committee as it – according to some reports – “choreographed” the torture sessions or didn’t he? Did he favor giving the CIA “some flexibility” or did he object to the abusive techniques, including the near-drowning of waterboarding, that he says “were judged not to be torture”?

For a Washington press corps that has been up in arms challenging House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s claim that the CIA obscured key details of the harsh interrogations from congressional leaders, it was impressive to see how little skepticism was evinced by Powell’s claim of ignorance from his seat on Bush’s Principals Committee.

On CBS, Powell deflected attention from his dubious torture explanation by boldly rejecting one of the new absurd “wedge” issues developed by the Republican Right, that it would be dangerous to bring accused terrorists from the Guantanamo Bay prison to the United States for trial or incarceration. But Powell then maneuvered himself back to the “center” by also criticizing President Barack Obama’s handling of the Guantanamo issue.

While saying that the Guantanamo prisoners could safely come to the United States, Powell faulted Obama for not moving faster on the prison closing and “frankly giving enough time to opponents of it to marshal their forces as to why we shouldn’t do this.”

Glass-House Stone Throwing

But second-guessing by Colin Powell represents the classic case of a glass-house resident throwing stones. Throughout his career – dating back more than four decades – Powell has almost always taken the route of least resistance that pointed toward the top, but his actions have, in hindsight, failed the test of history.

From his whitewash investigation of My Lai-related complaints as a young Army officer to his key role giving legitimacy to George W. Bush’s presidency and the Iraq War, Powell almost always did what was best for his career, not for his country.

In the 1960s, during Powell’s two tours in Vietnam, he never joined with other U.S. military officers who risked their careers to warn their superiors about the brutal and self-defeating strategies that, eventually, ended up costing the lives of 58,000 Americans and millions of Indochinese.

Indeed, in his memoir, My American Journey, Powell justifies many of the worst tactics, such as burning down Vietnamese villages and shooting unarmed peasants from helicopters, acts that objectively would constitute war crimes.

During his first tour in 1963, Powell describes his work as an adviser to a South Vietnamese army unit that systematically destroyed the homes and food stocks of villagers who were believed sympathetic to the Viet Cong.

“We burned down the thatched huts, starting the blaze with Ronson and Zippo lighters,” Powell recalled. “Why were we torching houses and destroying crops? Ho Chi Minh had said the people were like the sea in which his guerrillas swam. …

“We tried to solve the problem by making the whole sea uninhabitable. In the hard logic of war, what difference did it make if you shot your enemy or starved him to death?”

On his second tour in 1968, as an executive officer for the Americal Division, Powell was asked to investigate allegations from a distraught U.S. soldier who was aware of brutality committed by other Americal Division soldiers against Vietnamese civilians and captives. This complaint was an early official warning about the My Lai massacre, which an Americal unit had committed several months earlier.

However, for Colin Powell, it was another chance to impress the brass. Without interviewing the soldier, Cpl. Tom Glen, Powell simply accepted a claim from Glen’s superior officer that Glen was not close enough to the front lines to know what he was writing about.

After that cursory investigation, Powell drafted a response on Dec. 13, 1968, admitting no pattern of wrongdoing. “In direct refutation of this [Glen’s] portrayal,” Powell wrote, “is the fact that relations between Americal soldiers and the Vietnamese people are excellent.”

Exposing My Lai

It would take another Americal Division veteran, an infantryman named Ron Ridenhour, to piece together the truth about the atrocity at My Lai. After returning to the United States, Ridenhour interviewed Americal comrades who had participated in the massacre.

On his own, Ridenhour compiled this shocking information into a report and forwarded it to the Army inspector general. The IG’s office conducted an aggressive official investigation, in contrast to Powell’s review. Courts martial were held against officers and enlisted men who were implicated in the murder of the My Lai civilians.

In his memoir, Powell did not mention his brush-off of Tom Glen’s complaint, but did include another troubling recollection that belied a statement in his 1968 report, in which he had denied that U.S. soldiers “without provocation or justification shoot at the people themselves.”

“I recall a phrase we used in the field, MAM, for military-age male,” Powell wrote. “If a helo spotted a peasant in black pajamas who looked remotely suspicious, a possible MAM, the pilot would circle and fire in front of him.

“If he moved, his movement was judged evidence of hostile intent, and the next burst was not in front, but at him. Brutal? Maybe so. But an able battalion commander with whom I had served at Gelnhausen [West Germany], Lt. Col. Walter Pritchard, was killed by enemy sniper fire while observing MAMs from a helicopter.

“And Pritchard was only one of many. The kill-or-be-killed nature of combat tends to dull fine perceptions of right and wrong.”

While it’s certainly true that combat is brutal and judgments can be clouded by fear, the mowing down of unarmed civilians in cold blood does not constitute combat. It is murder and a war crime.

Neither can the combat death of a fellow soldier be cited as an excuse to murder civilians. That was precisely the rationalization that the My Lai killers cited in their own defense.

A Murder Case

After returning home from Vietnam in 1969, Powell was drawn into another Vietnam controversy involving the killing of civilians. In a court martial, Powell sided with an Americal Division general who was accused by the Army of murdering unarmed civilians while flying over Quang Ngai province.

Helicopter pilots who flew Brig. Gen. John W. Donaldson had alleged that the general gunned down civilian Vietnamese almost for sport.

In an interview in 1995, a senior Army investigator from the Donaldson case told me that two of the Vietnamese victims were an old man and an old woman who were shot to death while bathing.

Though long retired – and quite elderly himself – the Army investigator spoke with a raw disgust about the events of a quarter century earlier. He requested anonymity before talking about the behavior of senior Americal officers.

“They used to bet in the morning how many people they could kill – old people, civilians, it didn’t matter,” the investigator said. “Some of the stuff would curl your hair.”

For eight months at Americal headquarters in Chu Lai during 1968-69, Powell had worked with Donaldson and apparently developed a great respect for this superior officer. When the Army charged Donaldson with murder on June 2, 1971, Powell rose in the general’s defense.

Powell submitted an affidavit dated Aug. 10, 1971, which lauded Donaldson as “an aggressive and courageous brigade commander.” Powell added that helicopter forays in Vietnam had been an “effective means of separating hostiles from the general population.”

In the 1995 interview, the old Army investigator told me that “we had him [Donaldson] dead to rights,” with the testimony of two helicopter pilots who had flown Donaldson on his shooting expeditions.

Still, the investigation collapsed after the two pilot-witnesses were transferred to another Army base and apparently came under pressure from military superiors. The two pilots withdrew their testimony, and the Army dropped all charges against Donaldson.

But this complex and troubling history of Powell’s time in Vietnam is routinely white-washed by Washington journalists who uniformly treat Powell with the respect owed a genuine war hero. The U.S. news media’s fawning over Colin Powell also has not been a victimless exercise.

By holding Powell up as a near-perfect hero, journalists have allowed Powell to steer public opinion at key moments – from his work containing the Iran-Contra scandal in the late 1980s, to his political embrace of George W. Bush during the Florida recount battle in 2000, to his selling of the Iraq War in 2003, to his support for Bush’s second term in 2004. [For more details on Powell’s record, see our book Neck Deep.]

Now, at this late date, the Washington press corps doesn’t want to spoil its splendid narrative of Colin Powell’s heroic career by concentrating too much on his role on Bush’s Principals Committee as it oversaw torture.

Robert Parry broke many of the Iran-Contra stories in the 1980s for the Associated Press and Newsweek. His latest book, Neck Deep: The Disastrous Presidency of George W. Bush, was written with two of his sons, Sam and Nat, and can be ordered at neckdeepbook.com. His two previous books, Secrecy & Privilege: The Rise of the Bush Dynasty from Watergate to Iraq and Lost History: Contras, Cocaine, the Press & ‘Project Truth’ are also available there. Or go to Amazon.com.

Related Links:

Advertisements

Posted in 9/11, CIA, George W. Bush, Nancy Pelosi, waterboarding | Tagged: , , , , | 1 Comment »

Indict Bush, Blair et al for crimes against humanity

Posted by terres on April 3, 2009

The following article by John Pilger is well written and worth reading.

Fake Faith and Epic Crimes

By John Pilger

April 02, 2009 “Information Clearing House” — These are extraordinary times. With the United States and Britain on the verge of bankruptcy and committing to an endless colonial war, pressure is building for their crimes to be prosecuted at a tribunal similar to that which tried the Nazis at Nuremberg. This defined rapacious invasion as “the supreme international crime differing only from other war crimes in that it contains within itself the accumulated evil of the whole.” International law would be mere farce, said the chief US chief prosecutor at Nuremberg, Supreme Court justice Robert Jackson, “if, in future, we do not apply its principles to ourselves.”

That is now happening. Spain, Germany, Belgium, France and Britain have long had “universal jurisdiction” statutes, which allow their national courts to pursue and prosecute prima facie war criminals. What has changed is an unspoken rule never to use international law against “ourselves,” or “our” allies or clients. In 1998, Spain, supported by France, Switzerland and Belgium, indicted the Chilean dictator Augusto Pinochet, client and executioner of the West, and sought his extradition from Britain, where he happened to be at the time. Had he been sent for trial he almost certainly would have implicated at least one British prime minister and two US presidents in crimes against humanity. Home Secretary Jack Straw let him escape back to Chile.

The Pinochet case was the ignition. On 19 January last, the George Washington University law professor Jonathan Turley compared the status of George W. Bush with that of Pinochet. “Outside [the United States] there is not the ambiguity about what to do about a war crime,” he said. “So if you try to travel, most people abroad are going to view you not as ‘former President George Bush’ [but] as a current war criminal.” For this reason, Bush’s former defence secretary Donald Rumsfeld, who demanded an invasion of Iraq in 2001 and personally approved torture techniques in Iraq and at Guantanamo Bay, no longer travels. Rumsfeld has twice been indicted for war crimes in Germany. On 26 January, the UN Special Rapporteur on Torture, Manfred Nowak, said, “We have clear evidence that Mr. Rumsfeld knew what he was doing but nevertheless he ordered torture.”

The Spanish high court is currently investigating a former Israeli defence minister and six other top Israeli officials for their role in the killing of civilians, mostly children, in Gaza. Henry Kissinger, who was largely responsible for bombing to death 600,000 peasants in Cambodia in 1969-73, is wanted for questioning in France, Chile and Argentina. Yet, on 8 February, as if demonstrating the continuity of American power, President Barack Obama’s national security adviser, James Jones, said, “I take my daily orders from Dr. Kissinger.”

Like them, Tony Blair may soon be a fugitive. The International Criminal Court, to which Britain is a signatory, has received a record number of petitions related to Blair’s wars. Spain’s celebrated Judge Baltasar Garzon, who indicted Pinochet and the leaders of the Argentinian military junta, has called for George W. Bush, Blair and former Spanish prime minister Jose Maria Aznar to be prosecuted for the invasion of Iraq — “one of the most sordid and unjustifiable episodes in recent human history: a devastating attack on the rule of law” that had left the UN “in tatters.” He said, “There is enough of an argument in 650,000 deaths for this investigation to start without delay.”

This is not to say Blair is about to be collared and marched to The Hague, where Serbs and Sudanese dictators are far more likely to face a political court set up by the West. However, an international agenda is forming and a process has begun which is as much about legitimacy as the letter of the law, and a reminder from history that the powerful lose wars and empires when legitimacy evaporates. This can happen quickly, as in the fall of the Berlin Wall and the collapse of apartheid South Africa — the latter a spectre for apartheid Israel.

Today, the unreported “good news” is that a worldwide movement is challenging the once sacrosanct notion that imperial politicians can destroy countless lives in the cause of an ancient piracy, often at remove in distance and culture, and retain their respectability and immunity from justice. In his masterly Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde R.L. Stevenson writes in the character of Jekyll: “Men have before hired bravos to transact their crimes, while their own person and reputation sat under shelter … I could thus plod in the public eye with a load of genial respectability, and, in a moment, like a schoolboy, strip off these lendings and spring headlong into the sea of liberty. But for me, in my impenetrable mantle, the safety was complete.”

Blair, too, is safe — but for how long? He and his collaborators face a new determination on the part of tenacious non-government bodies that are amassing “an impressive documentary record as to criminal charges,” according to international law authority Richard Falk, who cites the World Tribunal on Iraq, held in Istanbul in 2005, which heard evidence from 54 witnesses and published rigorous indictments against Blair, Bush and others. Currently, the Brussels War Crimes Tribunal and the newly established Blair War Crimes Foundation are building a case for Blair’s prosecution under the Nuremberg Principle and the 1949 Geneva Convention. In a separate indictment, former Judge of the New Zealand Supreme Court E.W. Thomas wrote: “My pre-disposition was to believe that Mr. Blair was deluded, but sincere in his belief. After considerable reading and much reflection, however, my final conclusion is that Mr. Blair deliberately and repeatedly misled Cabinet, the British Labour Party and the people in a number of respects. It is not possible to hold that he was simply deluded but sincere: a victim of his own self-deception. His deception was deliberate.”

Protected by the fake sinecure of Middle East Envoy for the Quartet (the US, EU, UN and Russia), Blair operates largely from a small fortress in the American Colony Hotel in Jerusalem, where he is an apologist for the US in the Middle East and Israel, a difficult task following the bloodbath in Gaza. To assist his mortgages, he recently received an Israeli “peace prize” worth a million dollars. He, too, is careful where he travels; and it is instructive to watch how he now uses the media. Having concentrated his post-Downing Street apologetics on a BBC series of obsequious interviews with David Aaronovitch, Blair has all but slipped from view in Britain, where polls have long revealed a remarkable loathing for a former prime minister — a sentiment now shared by those in the liberal media elite whose previous promotion of his “project” and crimes is an embarrassment and preferably forgotten.

On 8 February, Andrew Rawnsley, the Observer’s former leading Blair fan, declared that “this shameful period will not be so smoothly and simply buried.” He demanded, “Did Blair never ask what was going on?” This is an excellent question made relevant with a slight word change: “Did the Andrew Rawnsleys never ask what was going on?” In 2001, Rawnsley alerted his readers to Iraq’s “contribution to international terrorism” and Saddam Hussein’s “frightening appetite to possess weapons of mass destruction.” Both assertions were false and echoed official Anglo-American propaganda. In 2003, when the destruction of Iraq was launched, Rawnsley described it as a “point of principle” for Blair who, he later wrote, was “fated to be right.” He lamented, “Yes, too many people died in the war. Too many people always die in war. War is nasty and brutish, but at least this conflict was mercifully short.” In the subsequent six years at least a million people have been killed. According to the Red Cross, Iraq is now a country of widows and orphans. Yes, war is nasty and brutish, but never for the Blairs and the Rawnsleys.

Far from the carping turncoats at home, Blair has lately found a safe media harbour — in Australia, the original murdochracy. His interviewers exude an unction reminiscent of the promoters of the “mystical” Blair in the Guardian of than a decade ago, though they also bring to mind Geoffrey Dawson, editor of The Times during the 1930s, who wrote of his infamous groveling to the Nazis: “I spend my nights taking out anything which will hurt their susceptibilities and dropping in little things which are intended to sooth them.”

With his words as a citation, the finalists for the Geoffrey Dawson Prize for Journalism (Antipodes) are announced. On 8 February, in an interview on the Australian Broadcasting Corporation, Geraldine Doogue described Blair as “a man who brought religion into power and is now bringing power to religion.” She asked him: “What would the perception be that faith would bring towards a greater stability …[sic]?” A bemused and clearly delighted Blair was allowed to waffle about “values.” Doogue said to him that “it was the bifurcation about right and wrong that what I thought the British found really hard” [sic], to which Blair replied that “in relation to Iraq I tried every other option [to invasion] there was.” It was his classic lie, which passed unchallenged.

However, the clear winner of the Geoffrey Dawson Prize is Ginny Dougary of the Sydney Morning Herald and the Times. Dougary recently accompanied Blair on what she described as his “James Bondish-ish Gulfstream” where she was privy to his “bionic energy levels.” She wrote, “I ask him the childlike question: does he want to save the world?” Blair replied, well, more or less, aw shucks, yes. The murderous assault on Gaza, which was under way during the interview, was mentioned in passing. “That is war, I’m afraid,” said Blair, “and war is horrible.” No counter came that Gaza was not a war but a massacre by any measure. As for the Palestinians, noted Dougary, it was Blair’s task to “prepare them for statehood.” The Palestinians will be surprised to hear that. But enough gravitas; her man “has the glow of the newly-in-love: in love with the world and, for the most part, the feeling is reciprocated.” The evidence she offered for this absurdity was that “women from both sides of politics have confessed to me to having the hots for him.”

These are extraordinary times. Blair, a perpetrator of the epic crime of the 21st century, shares a “prayer breakfast” with President Obama, the yes-we-can-man now launching more war. “We pray,” said Blair, “that in acting we do God’s work and follow God’s will.” To decent people, such pronouncements about Blair’s “faith” represent a contortion of morality and intellect that is a profananation on the basic teachings of Christianity. Those who aided and abetted his great crime and now wish the rest of us to forget their part — or, like Alistair Campbell, his “communications director,” offer their bloody notoriety for the vicarious pleasure of some — might read the first indictment proposed by the Blair War Crimes Foundation: “Deceit and conspiracy for war, and providing false news to incite passions for war, causing in the order of one million deaths, 4 million refugees, countless maiming and traumas.”

These are indeed extraordinary times.

Related Links:

Posted in British Government, Donald Rumsfeld, George W. Bush, Spanish high court, war criminal | Tagged: , , , , | 1 Comment »

What Presidential Debates?

Posted by terres on October 21, 2008

In the Public Interest

Debatable Debates
By Ralph Nader

The three so-called presidential debates—really parallel interviews by reporters chosen by the Obama and McCain campaigns—are over and they are remarkable for two characteristics—convergence and avoidance.

A remarkable similarity between McCain and Obama on foreign and military policy kept enlarging as Obama seemed to enter into a clinch with McCain each time McCain questioned his inexperience or softness or using military force.

If anyone can detect a difference between the two candidates regarding

  • belligerence toward Iran and Russia,
  • more U.S. soldiers into the quagmire of Afghanistan (next to Pakistan),
  • kneejerk support of the Israeli military oppression,
  • brutalization and colonization of the Palestinians and their shrinking lands,
  • keeping soldiers and bases in Iraq, despite Obama’s use of the word “withdrawal,” and
  • their desire to enlarge an already bloated, wasteful military budget which already consumes half of the federal government’s operating expenses,

please illuminate the crevices between them.

This past spring, the foreign affairs reporters, not columnists, for the New York Times and the Washington Post concluded that Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton are advancing foreign and military policies similar to those adopted by George W. Bush in his second term.

Where then is the “hope” and “change” from the junior Senator from Illinois?

Moreover, both Obama and McCain want

  • more nuclear power plants,
  • more coal production, and
  • more offshore oil drilling.

Our national priority should be energy efficient consumer technologies (motor vehicles, heating, air conditioning and electric systems) and renewable energy such as wind, solar and geothermal.

Both support the gigantic taxpayer funded Wall Street bailout, without expressed amendments. Both support

  • the notorious Patriot Act,
  • the revised FISA act which opened the door to spy on Americans without judicial approval, and
  • Obama agrees with McCain in vigorously opposing the impeachment of George W. Bush and Dick Cheney.


Photo: Reuters. Image may be subject to copyright.

What about avoidance? Did you see them speak about a comprehensive enforcement program to prosecute corporate crooks in the midst of the greatest corporate crime wave in our history? Did you see them allude to doing anything about consumer protection (credit card gouging, price of medicines, the awful exploitation and deprivation of the people in the inner city) and the ripoffs of buyers in ever more obscure and inescapable ways?

Wasn’t it remarkable how they never mentioned the poor, and only use the middle class when they refer to “regular people?” There are one hundred million poor people and children in this nation and no one in Washington, D.C. associates Senator Obama, much less John McCain, with any worthy program to treat the abundant poverty-related injustices.

What about labor issues? Worker health and safety, pensions looted and drained, growing permanent unemployment and underemployment, and outsourcing more and more jobs to fascists and communist dictatorships are not even on the peripheries of the topics covered in the debates.

When I was asked my opinion about who won the debates, I say they were not debates. But I know what won and what lost. The winners were

  • big business,
  • bailouts for Wall Street,
  • an expansionary NATO,
  • a boondoggle missile defense program,
  • nuclear power,
  • the military-industrial complex and its insatiable thirst for trillions of taxpayer dollars, for starters.

What’s lost was

  • peace advocacy,
  • international law,
  • the Israeli-Palestinian peace movement,
  • taxpayers,
  • consumers,
  • Africa and
  • We the People.

The language of avoidance to address and challenge corporate power is spoken by both McCain and Obama, though interestingly enough, McCain occasionally uses words like “corporate greed” to describe his taking on the giant Boeing tanker contract with the Pentagon.

Funded by beer, tobacco, auto and telecommunications companies over the years, the corporation known as the Commission on Presidential Debates features only two corporate-funded candidates, excludes all others and closes off a major forum for smaller candidates, who are on a majority of the states, to reach tens of millions of voters.

In the future, this theatre of the absurd can be replaced with a grand coalition of national and local citizen groups who, starting in March, 2012 lay out many debates from Boston to San Diego, rural, suburban and urban, summon the presidential candidates to public auditoriums to react to the peoples’ agendas.

Can the Democratic and Republican nominees reject this combination of labor, neighborhood, farmer, cooperative, veteran’s, religious, student, consumer and good government with tens of millions of members? It will be interesting to see what happens if they do or if they do not. END

Related Links

Posted in George W. Bush, national priority, Patriot Act, renewable energy, spy on Americans | Tagged: , , , , | Leave a Comment »

Closing the Courthouse Door

Posted by terres on October 18, 2008

In the Public Interest

Closing the Courthouse Door
By Ralph Nader

“Real change comes from the bottom up, not the top down. The genius of the American system has been to let that change flow upward, from neighborhoods to cities to states and then to the federal government.” George W. Bush February 26, 2001.

Unfortunately, the difference between words and deeds in Washington is often shocking even to those who think they have seen it all. Alicia Mundy in the October 15, 2008 edition of the Wall Street Journal reports: “Bush administration officials, in their last weeks in office, are pushing to rewrite a wide array of federal rules with changes or additions that could block product-safety lawsuits by consumers and states.”

What President George W. Bush should have said is that he believes in states rights when they are in the interest of Big Business and their lobbyists in Washington. Mr. Bush and his cronies would like to forget about those harmed by dangerous products or reckless conduct. Indeed, Bush & Company seem to regard the civil justice system as a nuisance that threatens to destroy our economy and way of life. In reality, America’s civil justice system plays an indispensable role in our democracy. When the rights of injured consumers are vindicated in court, our society benefits in countless ways: compensating victims and their families for shattering losses (with the cost borne by the wrongdoers rather than taxpayers); preventing future injuries by deterring dangerous products and practices and spurring safety innovation; stimulating enforceable safety standards; educating the public to risks associated with certain products and services; and providing society with its moral and ethical fiber by defining appropriate norms of conduct.

The Center for Progressive Reform has in painstaking detail chronicled the attack on the civil Justice system by the Bush Administration. In “The Truth about Torts: Using Agency Preemption to Undercut Consumer Health and Safety” legal scholars William Funk, Sidney Shapiro, David Vladeck and Karen Sokol write: “In recent years, the Bush administration has launched an unprecedented aggressive campaign to persuade the courts to preempt state tort actions…. Widespread preemption of state tort law would significantly undermine, if not eliminate, the rights of individuals to seek redress for injuries caused by irresponsible and dangerous business practices and to hold manufacturers and others accountable for such socially unreasonable conduct.” (See: http://www.progressiveregulation.org).

And, Les Weisbrod, the President of the American Association for Justice (formerly known as the Association of Trial Lawyers of America) hit the nail on the head when he said: “In effect the Bush administration made the safety of Americans secondary to corporate profits.” Mr. Weisbrod added: “Big business lobbyists have been on a crusade to destroy state consumer protection laws, and further stack the deck against American consumers.” The American Association for Justice has just published a report titled: “Get Out of Jail Free: A Historical Perspective of How the Bush Administration Helps Corporations Escape Accountability” – this report is available at: http://www.justice.org/getoutofjailfree.

Tort deform comes in many shapes and sizes – but the common theme is that tort deform severely damages Americans’ cherished constitutional right to trial by jury. It ties the hands of jurors, preventing them from doing justice as the case before them requires. Only the judges and juries see, hear, and evaluate the evidence in these cases. But it is the politicians, absent from the courtrooms, who push bills greased by campaign cash that send a perverse message to judge and jury.

Tort law has produced decades of slow but steady progress in state after state respecting the physical integrity of human beings against harm and recognition that even the weak and defenseless deserve justice. Instead of seeing this evolution as a source of national and global pride, a coalition of insurance companies, corporate defendants’ lobbies, and craven politicians, led by George W. Bush, want to destroy our civil justice system.

When Georgetown Law School Professor David Vladeck testified before the Senate Judiciary Committee on September 12, 2007, he noted that the Bush Administration has “seized on regulatory preemption as a way to cut back dramatically on State law remedies for those injured by products and services Americans depend on every day for their health and well-being — medicines, medical devices, motor vehicles, the mattress on which we and our children sleep, and the commuter trains millions of us take to work every day.”

Let us hope that Congress and the Supreme Court stop Mr. Bush from once again trampling the Constitutional rights of citizens throughout the land and preventing victims of corporate violence from obtaining justice in a court of law.

Safety of Americans must not be secondary to corporate profits!

Posted in Big Business, George W. Bush, justice for victims, product-safety lawsuits, special interest | Tagged: , , , , | 1 Comment »

An Unreasonable Man

Posted by terres on January 14, 2008

The Anti-Empire Report
Read this or George W. Bush will be president the rest of your life
January 13, 2008
by William Blum
www.killinghope.org

Defenders of the Democrats now ask: “Would Al Gore have invaded Iraq?” Maybe not. He might have invaded Iran instead; that apparently was the first choice of Israel and their American lobby. Remember that the Clinton-Gore administration imposed eight years of heartless and needless sanctions upon the people of Iraq, simultaneously bombing them hundreds of times, costing the lives of more than a million people, ruining the lives of millions more. Al Gore has already invaded Iraq. ~ Excerpt from An Unreasonable Man

Posted in Al Gore, Empire, George W. Bush, Israel Lobby, politics, William Blum | Leave a Comment »