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Obama @ the UN: The Overwhelming Arrogance of American Imperialism

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From WSWS.org

Obama at the UN: The arrogant voice of imperialism

By Bill Van Auken
24 September 2010

President Barack Obama used his speech at the United Nations General Assembly Thursday to defend US wars and state terror abroad and to proclaim that the economic crisis has been resolved thanks to his Wall Street bailout.

The US president received a noticeably tepid response from the assembled UN delegates. While in his first address to the body last year, he was able to pose as a fresh alternative to the crimes carried out by the Bush administration, by now it has become clear to most on the international stage that his administration’s policies are largely in continuity with those of its predecessor.

In its tone and its content, the Obama speech was the authentic and arrogant voice of US imperialism.

Parroting remarks delivered by George W. Bush from the same podium, Obama began by invoking September 11, 2001, once again exploiting the terrorist attacks of that day to justify the acts of military aggression committed by both US administrations in the intervening nine years.

In the same breath, he referred to Wall Street’s financial meltdown of September 2008, as an event that “devastated American families on Main Street,” while “crippling markets and deferring the dreams of millions on every continent.”

These two events were presented as the source of the core challenges confronting the US administration. Supposedly in response to the first, the Obama administration has continued and escalated wars in Iraq and Afghanistan-Pakistan, while reaffirming Washington’s “right” to carry out unilateral military aggression anywhere on the planet.

In response to the second, the administration continued the massive bailout begun under Bush, committing more than $12 trillion to propping up the US banks and financial institutions, while holding none of those involved responsible for the criminal forms of speculation practiced on Wall Street.

Obama claimed that the so-called Wall Street reform legislation passed by his administration would ensure “that a crisis like this never happens again.” It does nothing of the kind, placing no serious limits on the speculative activities and profitability of the big banks and leaving Wall Street to continue with “business as usual.”

“The global economy has been pulled back from the brink of a depression,” Obama told his UN audience. This statement flies in the face of the grim conditions confronting working people on every continent. This includes the US itself, where the official unemployment rate remains near 10 percent, the unemployed and underemployed account for 17 percent of the workforce, some 30 million people, and one out of every seven Americans is living below the poverty line.

While profits have returned to pre-crisis levels, the reality is that none of the underlying contradictions that have given rise to the deepest world economic crisis since the Great Depression of the 1930s has been resolved. They have only grown in intensity. The response of the ruling classes throughout the world has been to redouble their attacks on the working class in an attempt to force it to pay for this crisis.

Obama followed his assertion about the economy being pulled back from “the brink” with an even more absurd claim that he would not “rest until these seeds of progress grow into a broader prosperity, not only for all Americans, but for peoples around the globe.”

In the US, throughout Europe and in much of the rest of the world, governments are pursuing unprecedented austerity policies that are ripping up basic social rights and dramatically lowering the living standards of working people. Meanwhile, Obama himself spoke before a global poverty summit the day before his speech, warning the world’s poorest that Washington was determined to break their cycle of “dependency.”

The US president’s lies about the economy were followed by the fraudulent claim that the military operations his administration is pursuing abroad are aimed at upholding “our common security.”

Obama said that he is “winding down the war in Iraq” and will pull out all of its occupation troops by the end of next year. At the same time, he declared Washington’s intention to forge “a lasting partnership with the Iraqi people,” by which he means maintaining a US protectorate over the oil-rich country in order to advance the geo-strategic interests of American capitalism.

He said that the drawing down US troops in Iraq had allowed the US military to be “refocused on defeating al Qaeda and denying its affiliates a safe haven” in Afghanistan. This is another lie. US military and intelligence officials acknowledge that there are no more than 100 al Qaeda members in all of Afghanistan. The nearly 100,000 US troops deployed in that country are not combating “terrorism,” but asserting US neo-colonial control in a bid to advance Washington’s quest for hegemony in Central Asia.

In one of the speech’s more chilling passages, Obama bragged that “from South Asia to the Horn of Africa, we are moving toward a more targeted approach” in the war on terror, that did not require “deploying large American armies.” In other words, while constrained in its ability to carry out another major military occupation, US imperialism is pursuing its policies by means of assassinations, drone missile attacks and the deployment of elite killing squads, and has arrogated to itself the right to target and kill its perceived opponents anywhere on the planet.

Obama used the speech to once again threaten Iran. Only days before his appearance at the UN, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton delivered a speech urging elements within the Iranian ruling elite to carry out regime change in the country. He reiterated the vow made in his speech last year that Iran “must be held accountable” for its alleged violations of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty.

At least a quarter of Obama’s address was dedicated to the US-brokered Israeli-Palestinian “peace talks” that appear to be on the brink of yet another breakdown in the face of Israeli intransigence and provocation.

For all the hackneyed rhetoric about the “Holy Land” and “our common humanity,” the Obama administration is pursuing these negotiations as a means of solidifying support among the Arab regimes for its escalating threats of aggression against Iran and to further its domination of the Middle East.

The content of the speech made clear the US administration’s unwavering complicity in Israel’s crimes against the Palestinian people. Obama urged that a limited moratorium declared by the Israeli government be extended beyond September 26, when it is set to expire. He said Israel should do this because it “improved the atmosphere for talks,” not because the entire settlement activity in the Israeli-occupied West Bank is a violation of international law and multiple UN resolutions. In the same breath, the US president asserted that “talks should press on until completed,” presumably regardless of what Israel does.

Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu has insisted that his government will not extend the moratorium, while Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas had initially insisted that his delegation would be forced to walk out if it does not. An ever-pliant servant of Washington, Abbas has since indicated that he might back down on this threat.

The rest of Obama’s remarks on the Israeli-Palestinian question had an Orwellian flavor, in which Israel was presented as the victim. “The slaughter of innocent Israelis is not resistance—it’s injustice,” Obama declared. He made no mention of the slaughter of 1,400 Palestinians in the US-backed siege of Gaza in 2008-2009 or the criminal attack on the Gaza aid flotilla that killed nine Turkish civilians last May. The day the US president spoke, the UN issued a report charging that Israel’s actions were illegal and employed an “unacceptable level of brutality,” meriting war crimes prosecution.

The US president concluded his speech with an exaltation of “democracy” and “human rights,” which again echoed similar language employed by his predecessor, George W. Bush.

In Bush’s case, this phony democratic rhetoric was employed to justify US imperialism’s drive for dominance in the Middle East, where Washington demonstrated its commitment to “human rights” by carrying out mass killings, the detention of tens of thousands without charges or trial, and the infamous acts of torture at Abu Ghraib, Bagram and Guantánamo.

In Obama’s case, the posturing as the global champion of democratic rights is no less contemptible. The target, however, appears to have shifted.

The Council on Foreign Relations, the establishment thinktank that enjoys close ties to the administration and the State Department, spelled this out. Noting Obama’s “full-throated endorsement of democracy as the best form of government,” it commented: “Yet the appeal of such an idea faces challenges at bodies like the UN. This is not, for example, the future world that Chinese leaders envision.”

Indeed, Obama followed his celebration of democracy by calling attention to his upcoming trip to Asia, ticking off the countries he will visit—India, Indonesia, Korea, Japan—and praising each for having promoted “democratic principles in their own way.” The itinerary includes the four largest countries that US strategists envision as bulwarks against the expansion of Chinese influence.

On the same day that Obama delivered his speech, the New York Times published a front-page article on the increasingly tense US-China relationship that was clearly based on the perspective of the US administration. The Times reported that “rising frictions between China and its neighbors in recent weeks over security issues have handed the United States an opportunity to reassert itself—one the Obama administration has been keen to take advantage of.”

It noted that Washington has inserted itself into territorial disputes between China and Southeast Asian countries, organized provocative joint military exercises with South Korea near Chinese waters and has solidified its alliance with Japan, largely in opposition to China’s influence.

Under conditions of rising conflicts between Washington and Beijing over currency and trade relations, Obama’s praise for “democracy” at the UN represents a thinly veiled threat of new and far more catastrophic eruptions of American militarism.

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Massive birth defects in Fallujah; ICC bails

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The US Takes the Matter of Three-Headed Babies Very Seriously

by William Blum, The Anti-Empire Report
Featured Writer, Dandelion Salad
http://www.killinghope.org
5 April, 2010

When did it begin, all this “We take your [call/problem/question] very seriously”? With answering-machine hell? As you wait endlessly, the company or government agency assures you that they take seriously whatever reason you’re calling. What a kind and thoughtful world we live in.

The BBC reported last month that doctors in the Iraqi city of Fallujah are reporting a high level of birth defects, with some blaming weapons used by the United States during its fierce onslaughts of 2004 and subsequently, which left much of the city in ruins. “It was like an earthquake,” a local engineer who was running for a national assembly seat told the Washington Post in 2005. “After Hiroshima and Nagasaki, there was Fallujah.” Now, the level of heart defects among newborn babies is said to be 13 times higher than in Europe.
The BBC correspondent also saw children in the city who were suffering from paralysis or brain damage, and a photograph of one baby who was born with three heads. He added that he heard many times that officials in Fallujah had warned women that they should not have children. One doctor in the city had compared data about birth defects from before 2003 — when she saw about one case every two months — with the situation now, when she saw cases every day. “I’ve seen footage of babies born with an eye in the middle of the forehead, the nose on the forehead,” she said.

A spokesman for the US military, Michael Kilpatrick, said it always took public health concerns “very seriously”, but that “No studies to date have indicated environmental issues resulting in specific health issues.” 1

One could fill many large volumes with the details of the environmental and human horrors the United States has brought to Fallujah and other parts of Iraq during seven years of using white phosphorous shells, depleted uranium, napalm, cluster bombs, neutron bombs, laser weapons, weapons using directed energy, weapons using high-powered microwave technology, and other marvelous inventions in the Pentagon’s science-fiction arsenal … the list of abominations and grotesque ways of dying is long, the wanton cruelty of American policy shocking. In November 2004, the US military targeted a Fallujah hospital “because the American military believed that it was the source of rumors about heavy casualties.” 2 That’s on a par with the classic line from the equally glorious American war in Vietnam: “We had to destroy the city to save it.”

How can the world deal with such inhumane behavior? (And the above of course scarcely scratches the surface of the US international record.) For this the International Criminal Court (ICC) was founded in Rome in 1998 (entering into force July 1, 2002) under the aegis of the United Nations. The Court was established in The Hague, Netherlands to investigate and indict individuals, not states, for “The crime of genocide; Crimes against humanity; War crimes; or The crime of aggression.” (Article 5 of the Rome Statute) From the very beginning, the United States was opposed to joining the ICC, and has never ratified it, because of the alleged danger of the Court using its powers to “frivolously” indict Americans.

So concerned about indictments were the American powers-that-be that the US went around the world using threats and bribes against countries to induce them to sign agreements pledging not to transfer to the Court US nationals accused of committing war crimes abroad. Just over 100 governments so far have succumbed to the pressure and signed an agreement. In 2002, Congress, under the Bush administration, passed the “American Service Members Protection Act”, which called for “all means necessary and appropriate to bring about the release of any US or allied personnel being detained or imprisoned by … the International Criminal Court.” In the Netherlands it’s widely and derisively known as the “Invasion of The Hague Act”. 3 The law is still on the books.

Though American officials have often spoken of “frivolous” indictments — politically motivated prosecutions against US soldiers, civilian military contractors, and former officials — it’s safe to say that what really worries them are “serious” indictments based on actual events. But they needn’t worry. The mystique of “America the Virtuous” is apparently alive and well at the International Criminal Court, as it is, still, in most international organizations; indeed, amongst most people of the world. The ICC, in its first few years, under Chief Prosecutor Luis Moreno-Ocampo, an Argentine, dismissed many hundreds of petitions accusing the United States of war crimes, including 240 concerning the war in Iraq. The cases were turned down for lack of evidence, lack of jurisdiction, or because of the United States’ ability to conduct its own investigations and trials. The fact that the US never actually used this ability was apparently not particularly significant to the Court. “Lack of jurisdiction” refers to the fact that the United States has not ratified the accord. On the face of it, this does seem rather odd. Can nations commit war crimes with impunity as long as they don’t become part of a treaty banning war crimes? Hmmm. The possibilities are endless. A congressional study released in August, 2006 concluded that the ICC’s chief prosecutor demonstrated “a reluctance to launch an investigation against the United States” based on allegations regarding its conduct in Iraq. 4 Sic transit gloria International Criminal Court.

As to the crime of aggression, the Court’s statute specifies that the Court “shall exercise jurisdiction over the crime of aggression once a provision is adopted … defining the crime and setting out the conditions under which the Court shall exercise jurisdiction with respect to this crime.” In short, the crime of aggression is exempted from the Court’s jurisdiction until “aggression” is defined. Writer Diana Johnstone has observed: “This is a specious argument since aggression has been quite clearly defined by U.N. General Assembly Resolution 3314 in 1974, which declared that: ‘Aggression is the use of armed force by a State against the sovereignty, territorial integrity or political independence of another State’, and listed seven specific examples,” including:

The invasion or attack by the armed forces of a State of the territory of another State, or any military occupation, however temporary, resulting from such invasion or attack, or any annexation by the use of force of the territory of another State or part thereof; and
Bombardment by the armed forces of a State against the territory of another State or the use of any weapons by a State against the territory of another State.

The UN resolution also stated that: “No consideration of whatever nature, whether political, economic, military or otherwise, may serve as a justification for aggression.”

The real reason that aggression remains outside the jurisdiction of the ICC is that the United States, which played a strong role in elaborating the Statute before refusing to ratify it, was adamantly opposed to its inclusion. It is not hard to see why. It may be noted that instances of “aggression”, which are clearly factual, are much easier to identify than instances of “genocide”, whose definition relies on assumptions of intention. 5

There will be a conference of the ICC in May, in Kampala, Uganda, in which the question of specifically defining “aggression” will be discussed. The United States is concerned about this discussion. Here is Stephen J. Rapp, US Ambassador-at-Large for War Crimes Issues, speaking to the ICC member nations (111 have ratified thus far) in The Hague last November 19:
I would be remiss not to share with you my country’s concerns about an issue pending before this body to which we attach particular importance: the definition of the crime of aggression, which is to be addressed at the Review Conference in Kampala next year. The United States has well-known views on the crime of aggression, which reflect the specific role and responsibilities entrusted to the Security Council by the UN Charter in responding to aggression or its threat, as well as concerns about the way the draft definition itself has been framed. Our view has been and remains that, should the Rome Statute be amended to include a defined crime of aggression, jurisdiction should follow a Security Council determination that aggression has occurred.

Do you all understand what Mr. Rapp is saying? That the United Nations Security Council should be the body that determines whether aggression has occurred. The same body in which the United States has the power of veto. To prevent the adoption of a definition of aggression that might stigmatize American foreign policy is likely the key reason the US will be attending the upcoming conference.

Nonetheless, the fact that the United States will be attending the conference may well be pointed out by some as another example of how the Obama administration foreign policy is an improvement over that of the Bush administration. But as with almost all such examples, it’s a propaganda illusion. Like the cover of Newsweek magazine of March 8, written in very large type: “Victory at last: The emergence of a democratic Iraq”. Even before the current Iraqi electoral farce — with winning candidates arrested or fleeing 6— this headline should have made one think of the interminable jokes Americans made during the Cold War about Pravda and Izvestia….

Free files

My apartment is running out of space. Would anyone like some FBI files I received under the Freedom of Information Act?
Liberation News Service (the Associated Press of the left), late 1960s, early 1970s, about 800 pages.
Prairie Fire Organizing Committee, mid-1970s, about 1,000 pages. From their website:
“In 1974, the Weather Underground Organization published a book entitled ‘Prairie Fire: The Politics of Revolutionary Anti-Imperialism.’ Discussion groups sprang up around the country to discuss the book. In response, Prairie Fire formed in cities across the U.S.”

Notes
BBC, March 4, 2010; Washington Post, December 3, 2005 ↩
New York Times, November 8, 2004 ↩
Christian Science Monitor, February 13, 2009 ↩
Washington Post, November 7, 2006 ↩
Diana Johnstone, Counterpunch, January 27/28, 2007 ↩
Washington Post, April 2, 2010 ↩
Associated Press, March 2, 2008 ↩
The Sunday Telegraph (Sydney, Australia), August 10, 2003 ↩

***

William Blum is the author of: Killing Hope: US Military and CIA Interventions Since World War 2; Rogue State: A Guide to the World’s Only Superpower; West-Bloc Dissident: A Cold War Memoir; and Freeing the World to Death: Essays on the American Empire. Portions of the books can be read, and signed copies purchased, at http://www.killinghope.org. Previous Anti-Empire Reports can be read at this website at “essays”.
Note:

Must See Rare Interview with William Blum

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Collateral Murder: US massacre of civilians uncovered

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Thanks to Reuters for digging up and securing this footage of US military personnel in choppers shooting 12 civilians near Baghdad. Thanks to WikiLeaks and CollateralMurder.com for recently posting this video with background information. How many times have these atrocities been repeated?

ONE MILLION PEOPLE HAVE BEEN MURDERED in IRAQ. Millions more have lost their homes and families. Now the same thing is happening in Colombia, Haiti, Pakistan and Afghanistan and is being planned for Africa, Indonesia, Yemen, Russia and Venezuela. Fed up yet?

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Splitting the Sky Goes to Trial

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Splitting the Sky, who attempted a citizen’s arrest of George W Bush for crimes against humanity, will be tried today in a Canadian court.

=Citizen’s Arrest of Alleged War Criminal George W. Bush in Canada

Splitting the Sky, indigenous activist, seized by security forces in Canada last year when he attempted to make a citizen’s arrest of George W. Bush will have his day in court on Monday, March 8th. According to Professor Anthony J. Hall, this case will demonstrate whether Canada is ruled by law or fear and highlight the need for new principles, the Calgary Principles to amend the victor’s justice of the Nuremberg Principles, in light of the new impunities for high level crimes against humanity and the Earth in this era, and the need to protect and honor civil resistance to those high crimes.

Dacajaweiah, John Boncore, or Splitting the Sky, is not a man of few words. If you read his hefty 653-page autobiography, it is very clear that he has lived an extraordinary life and has survived more than his share of violence, to find deep within himself a well of energy and spirit enabling him to not only endure hardships, but to serve his people and the land in the timeless struggle against oppression and tyranny. From the Attica Rebellion to Gustafen Lake to Calgary in 2009, when he attempted a citizen’s arrest of George W. Bush, “Dac” has consciously taken a leadership role to politically challenge the powerful forces that dominate the North American continent. Brutally arrested for his action, he earned his “day in court” to voice not only his defense, but “to highlight the hypocrisy and criminality of the Canadian government for allowing Bush into Canada, and to firmly establish the legal defense of ‘civil resistance’, the duty of citizens to act when our governments and their agents are derelict in their duty. This will be very useful in the future to rein these criminals in.”

Prior to Bush’s visit, the Canadian group Lawyers Against the War asked Canadian officials to bar entry or try Bush for his suspected crimes since Canadian Law prohibits “people suspected of any involvement in torture or other war crimes and crimes against humanity from entering Canada for any period and for any purpose. The most recent report of the War Crimes Program affirms the necessity of barring war crimes suspects from Canada: ‘The most effective way to deny safe haven to people involved or complicit in war crimes or crimes against humanity is to prevent them from coming to Canada.’”

Lawyers Against the War and protestors implored the government to do their duty and arrest Bush. “Dac” was carrying papers detailing the evidence against George W. Bush, which he had planned to serve him with on behalf of the victims and the people of the world, and he raised his hands to show that he was “non-violent.” Dac was then thrown down, stomped on, kicked, handcuffed and led off to be brutalized in a Calgary jail.

Monday, March 8, 2010, he will have his opportunity to put forward his case and present evidence, with support, testimony and affidavits on his behalf from respected scholars, including David Ray Griffin, Peter Dale Scott, and Michel Chossudovsky, as well as from former US Congresswoman, outspoken human rights advocate, and former Green Party Presidential candidate Cynthia McKinney. Professor Anthony J. Hall, author of The American Empire and the Fourth World and founding coordinator of Globalization Studies at the University of Lethbridge, stated last December:

“Splitting the Sky’s action in Calgary highlights the abject failure of law enforcement agencies to do their job. It highlights the unwillingness of police and those who direct them to apply the law equitably and independently…

“As the Nuremberg principles make clear, the implicated law enforcement officers cannot claim in their defense that they were merely following orders in deciding to arrest Splitting the Sky rather than George W. Bush.

“I propose that the trial of Splitting the Sky presents a platform for the elaboration of a new set of juridical rules and protocols to be known as The Calgary Principles.

“It has been six decades since the UN general assembly agreed to a succinct refinement of the principles that emerged from the trial of some of the top Nazis, as well as their juridical, medical, and industrialist accomplices. During those decades, there has been an intensification of the culture of impunity that immunizes those at the top of the hierarchy of wealth and power from any legal accountability for their crimes.

“Like the Tokyo trials of the defeated leadership of imperial Japan, the Nuremberg Trials were a classic example of victors’ justice.

“As long as the power politics of victors’ justice continues to protect the likes of George W. Bush and Dick Cheney, the rule of law remains a fraud. Under present conditions, the rule of law is a sad hoax designed to disguise the role of law enforcement agencies as protectors of the ill-gotten wealth often stripped from the branches of humanity that Frantz Fanon once labeled ‘the wretched of the earth.’

“The elaboration of the Calgary Principles will have to entail the quest for new language and juridical concepts to capture the full extent and complexity of international crime in the twenty-first century…

“Consider, for instance, the nature of the crime that takes place when whole populations are sentenced to endless futures of disproportionately high rates of genetic deformity through the saturation of their mother lands with depleted uranium. Consider the nature of a crime that would see a drug company covertly introduce a new disease strain in order to market a prepared antidote of vaccine to cure the disease it had disseminated.

“What names, what prohibitions, and what punishments do we need to respond to and discourage crimes that infect populations, deform populations, and even destroy whole ecosystems, making the renewal of all kinds of life, including human life, impossible to sustain?

“Hence it can be said that these days the most important agencies of the military-industrial complex and the national security state are the media conglomerates. These agencies of propaganda for an aggressive war bombard us on a daily basis with mental missiles of psychological warfare.

“The constant barrage of messages we receive that peace is to be found in war, that freedom is to be found in slavery, that wealth is to be found in indebtedness, and that truth is to be found in lies, is pulling humanity away from our fragile inheritance of reason, rationality, and enlightened discourse on the real menaces we face…”

Splitting the Sky’s action mirrors the actions of countless people in countless demonstrations that are taking place across the world where lives, land, forests, lakes, jobs, homes, species, and communities are threatened by powerful forces, making decisions in luxury and comfort, protected by men with guns from citizens trying to make their voices heard to protect that which they love and care deeply about. The trial will illustrate whether or not Canada is ruled by laws or by fear. Whatever happens, the struggle for truth, justice, and peace will continue.

For Anthony J. Hall’s entire article and speech, see http://www.globalresearch.ca/index.php?context=va&aid=16377 .
More details about Splitting the Sky are posted at http://www.splittingthesky.net/

Splitting the Sky and Anthony J. Hall will be on the new weekly radio show, Community Currency, hosted by local activist, Carol Brouillet Thursday, March 11, 2010, 2 pm – 3 pm PST, on the Progressive Radio Network (http://www.progressiveradionetwork.com)

http://dailycensored.com/2010/03/07/the-tr…

Finally! A Bi-Partisan Police State!

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I am so sick and tired of “gridlock” and “squabbling” in Congress. Can’t we all just get along (by going with with the program)?  Finally, we have a government with bi-partisan support. A government that has unlimited power to oppress its citizens, a federal-state coalition of military, police and corporate interests with the ability to arrest, detain, torture and even assassinate its any American, anywhere, at any time… yippee.

I feel so relieved… Hope and change, baby!

WSWS

Democrats vote to renew Patriot Act

By Bill Van Auken
27 February 2010

With almost no debate, the Democratic leadership in Congress pushed through an unamended extension of the USA Patriot Act’s most notorious provisions, granting sweeping powers to eavesdrop and seize library, Internet and other personal records of US citizens.

The provisions were set to expire by Sunday. President Barack Obama is expected to sign the legislation before then, securing his administration the ability to continue and expand the domestic spying and attacks on basic democratic rights that he and other Democrats had pretended to oppose under the Bush administration.

The three extended provisions give US intelligence agencies the power to: 1) conduct “roving” wiretaps without specifying a particular phone number or e-mail account; 2) force institutions to surrender credit, banking, medical, mental health and library records; and 3) spy on so-called lone-wolf foreign nationals, who have no affiliation to either terrorist organizations or foreign governments.

The Senate approved the one-year extension Wednesday by a voice vote and without any debate. The House followed suit on Thursday night, voting 315 to 97 in favor of the legislation.

Originally, the three provisions were to expire at the end of December, but Congress passed a two-month extension late last year, while continuing to discuss proposed amendments that would ostensibly introduce greater protection of privacy and constitutional rights.

Last fall, the Senate Judiciary Committee approved President Obama’s request to renew the measures after debating various limited proposals to increase judicial oversight and otherwise reform the legislation, while keeping its essential powers intact. The Obama administration offered no support for even the most modest changes, with both the Justice Department and the FBI calling for the provisions to be extended as is.

Among the proposed changes was an amendment that would have barred the government from using National Security Letters (NSLs)—administrative subpoenas issued by the FBI, the CIA and the Pentagon—to obtain confidential records of US citizens who are not suspected of terrorism or espionage. Another would have let the “lone-wolf” provision expire. A third would have required the government to issue written statements setting out the factual basis for obtaining an NSL. There was also a proposal to allow recipients of NSLs limited ability to challenge the so-called gag orders that bar them from informing anyone that they have been targeted for investigation.

A separate proposal called for the repeal of the section of the FISA Amendments Act that granted blanket immunity to telecommunications companies that cooperated with the government in its illegal warrantless wiretapping program.

Seeking bipartisan consensus on the legislation, all of these measures were defeated, with the committee ultimately adopting—with eight Democrats voting in favor and only three against—virtually meaningless proposals introduced by Senator Dianne Feinstein, a member of the Judiciary Committee and chairman of the Senate intelligence panel.

Even these toothless amendments were stripped from the final extension resolution. Democratic leaders justified the action on the grounds that it was necessary to secure Republican support.

Judiciary Committee Chairman Patrick Leahy justified extending the worst abuses in the Patriot Act without any changes by declaring, “I would have preferred to add oversight and judicial review improvements to any extension of expiring provisions in the USA Patriot Act, but I understand some Republican senators objected.”

The media has largely attributed the Democrats’ support for the renewal of the Patriot Act provisions and the scrapping of any attempt to amend them as an attempt to avoid any debate that would allow the Republican minority to portray them as “soft on terrorism” in the run-up to the midterm election.

While no doubt such cowardice and opportunism govern all of the decisions made by the Democrats like Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, the reality is that support for the police state measures introduced with the Patriot Act has been bipartisan from the outset.

The measure was passed by the Senate in 2001 with just one dissenting vote and under conditions in which members of Congress acknowledged that they had not even read the legislation. The Democrats have provided the necessary votes for approving every attack on democratic rights enacted since, while leading members of the party in Congress have collaborated in covering up illegal surveillance activities.

While the Democratic Party won the 2008 election based on a platform that explicitly promised to overturn unconstitutional provisions in the Patriot Act and halt “the use of national security letters to spy on citizens who are not suspected of a crime,” since coming to office the Obama administration has continued and expanded these practices.

Successive reports have revealed that hundreds of thousands of NSLs have been issued since the Patriot Act was initially enacted, and there have been repeated revelations of illegal spying on American citizens—including reporters writing stories placing intelligence agencies in a bad light. Nonetheless, the Obama administration Justice Department insisted that there was no real abuse of authority under the Bush administration, and that therefore the act should be renewed.

At the same time, the administration has intervened repeatedly in lawsuits challenging illegal wiretapping under the Bush administration, invoking the “state secrets privilege” to have them quashed. Last October, US Attorney General Eric Holder used this method to seek the dismissal of a suit demanding a halt to the National Security Agency’s illegal dragnet surveillance of AT&T Internet communications and to hold Bush administration officials responsible for this unconstitutional program accountable.

The Obama White House opposes such lawsuits because it does not want its own powers curtailed and fears that any prosecution of former officials could set a legal precedent that could be used against it.

Similarly, it has opposed any probe of senior Bush administration and CIA officials responsible for the torture and killing of detainees, under conditions in which the Obama administration has upheld the policies of rendition and administrative detention without charges or trials.

Just as with its foreign policy that continues the wars and occupations in Iraq and Afghanistan and an economic policy designed to defend Wall Street at the expense of workers’ jobs, wages and benefits, the Obama administration is continuing the wholesale assault on democratic rights initiated by its predecessor.

The staggering repudiation of the promises made by the so-called candidate of “change” is not a matter merely of Obama’s own duplicity. He heads a government that is dedicated to the defense of the essential interests of a financial oligarchy.

Under conditions of deepening economic crisis and in the face of ever-wider social polarization at home, it can defend these interests only by embracing the unconstitutional methods adopted by the Bush administration. The Obama White House is continuing to build up a police state not for use against some ubiquitous terrorist threat, but to counter the inevitable growth of mass struggles by the American working class.

Galloway on The Chilcot Inquiry and Blair, the Teflon Don

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Sometimes Only a Drink Helps…

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I created a Black Russian yesterday with vanilla vodka, Creme de Cacao and choocolate soy yogurt. Very soothing especially while knitting. A remedy for too much research on the quake. French & US imperialism, US occupation, the IMF, the Clintons, natural and unnatural disasters, and so on. Today my stress was resolved with a screwdriver: orange juice, Absolut citron, ginger liqueur, & Grand Marnier.

One 9-11 after another. They’ll keep invading, we’ll keep pouring. At least until it finally reaches our house. Will it “take away the sting of the occupation…”  as Monsieur Rick suggested? Not nearly enough…

“The merry dance of death and trade ” [Conrad] has accelerated to a breakneck pace. Not only are the merchants of death willing to destroy the earth, they’re willing to take the lives of millions of innocent people, all over the world, along the way. How many Pakistanis will freeze and starve this winter? Sri Lankans watch their children die? Haitians die will waiting for supplies? How many Gazans will be killed for their land? And how many children in Afghanistan and Iraq will be buried alive by US bombs? Oh, yes, it’s always “regrettable.” But there’s always a “higher goal.” But for any reason, it’s intolerable. It’s a crime that reaches to the skies. It could be our kids. It probably will be eventually. Driving one to drink.

ADDENDUM: Created my next 2 drinks in a happier scenario: a sewing bee-2-B. Natural pomegranate soda, Grand Marnier, Amaretto, lemon juice was the first. The second was Vanilla Vodka, Creme de Cocoa, Goldschlager, etc. Hasn’t all come back to me yet…