Updates & Weekly Round Up for December 19

Boiling Frogs Updates, Obama’s Preferred Killing Machines, Obama: Armed & Dangerous with States Secrets Privilege, & More

A major snow storm in effect with seven inches of snow already on the ground, fireplace roaring in the background, an ultra large mug of traditionally brewed Darjeeling tea sitting next to my pc, and my now 17 month old daughter playing right in front of the window where she can have a full view of the winter wonderland, make up the personal side of my update for this Saturday.

As for site updates, not much to report. Our site traffic this week was simply amazing, which is what it takes to get me going and make my ambitious to-do list even longer and more outrageous than it already is!

Peter B and I had a very interesting and informative string of interview sessions: Daniel Ellsberg, Nafeez Ahmed, and Andy Worthington. There will be no new interview posted next week, since I’ll be taking a real break from my computer for a few days starting on Wednesday, Dec 23. After that, I still have our interview with Mark Klein (AT&T-NSA) to post, and after that we’ll have the new year series starting with Dan Ellsberg.

I’ve been working with two producer-editor friends on a very exciting new project for Boiling Frogs Post. We’re planning to produce and publish an exclusive online documentary series, and we are already rolling! I won’t give out too much here, but in a month or so we’ll have much more to report on this. Stay tuned.

Now, here are a few items of interest:

Obama’s Preferred Killing Machines: Drones, drones, and more drone attacks

DronePresident Obama and his hawks are planning to increase the number of drone attacks. Since the new administration has taken office, the campaign of drone strikes in Pakistan, which ironically began during the final months of the Bush administration, has intensified significantly. The US establishment media’s reporting on this issue has been limited to cursory and ultra-shallow pieces with a cosmetic line or two to give the effect of covering all sides; I’m sure all are vetted, approved, and dictated by the usual puppet masters. Absent in almost all these reports are: the real number of civilian casualties and the implications, and the real assessment of the purpose and effectiveness of our new president’s preferred killing machines in our undeclared wars.

Let me give you a few examples and a bit of a context:

Here are a few excerpts from L.A. Times reporting on this:

Senior U.S. officials are pushing to expand CIA drone strikes beyond Pakistan's tribal region and into a major city in an attempt to pressure the Pakistani government to pursue Taliban leaders based in Quetta.

Okay, so that’s the introduction. They sanitize the real purpose with key words: Taliban Leaders. They want the reader to take that as the purpose.  Next is this:

The proposal has opened a contentious new front in the clandestine war. The prospect of Predator aircraft strikes in Quetta, a sprawling city, signals a new U.S. resolve to decapitate the Taliban. But it also risks rupturing Washington's relationship with Islamabad.

As you can see it is indirectly, but not very subtly, justifying and cheering the drone attacks. Pay special attention to the following: ‘A new U.S. Resolve’- As in a strong, determined new administration, and ‘decapitate the Taliban’- as in wiping out the big bad evil shalvars-wearing curly-bearded cavemen who have been somehow declared, without technically being declared, as the terrorists and culprits in 9/11.

The side effect, the only tiny side effect aka risk cited is: oh it may put a little dent in our relationship with Pakistan.

The propaganda piece published by the stenographers at LA Times first offers the mike to the proponents of upping the killing machines:

The concern has created tension among Obama administration officials over whether unmanned aircraft strikes in a city of 850,000 are a realistic option. Proponents, including some military leaders, argue that attacking the Taliban in Quetta -- or at least threatening to do so -- is critical to the success of the revised war strategy President Obama unveiled last week.

As for the opponents, they only site the possibility of some dents on our relationship with Pakistan:

But others, including high-ranking U.S. intelligence officials, have been more skeptical of employing drone attacks in a place that Pakistanis see as part of their country's core. Pakistani officials have warned that the fallout would be severe.” We are not a banana republic," said a senior Pakistani official involved in discussions of security issues with the Obama administration. If the United States follows through, the official said, "this might be the end of the road."

And finally, the stenographers continue with this glowing report on this now widely popular war machine strategy, albeit stating a false and unproven success record:

The CIA has carried out dozens of Predator strikes in Pakistan's tribal belt over the last two years, relying extensively on information provided by informant networks run by Pakistan's spy service, Inter-Services Intelligence.


The campaign is credited with killing at least 10 senior Al Qaeda operatives since the pace of the strikes was accelerated in August 2008, but has enraged many Pakistanis because of civilian casualties.

….

The so-called report conveniently omits the number of civilian casualties, the ratio between the actual targets hit and the innocents murdered, the real cost, and the implications when it comes to probable violation of sections 4 and 5 of Article 51, which prohibits attacks that treat military and civilian objects as one and the same. Yap, as always, the establishment media provides zip zip zilch on all the important facts and issues that really matter. Now, please read this propaganda trash that is being marketed by not only the L.A. Times stenographers but almost all the other establishment propaganda machines collectively referred to as the US Media.

Now, let’s look at some facts and reality points involving these drone attacks our new president seems to be so enamored with:

The US Drone Attacks, its Casualties, and the Implications

DroneVictimHow long have we been hearing and reading glowing reports by our establishment media on ‘allegedly killed Al Qaeda Leaders’ and the glowing success of our drone attacks? And, once in a while, in small print, back-page, after-the-fact, corrections saying ‘ooooppps, now they say it couldn’t be confirmed whether these top Al Qaeda targets were actually killed’? You know exactly what I’m talking about. So, where are the balancing reports that are alleged, and in some cases supported and confirmed, from the other side?

For instance, there are reports that allege that between January 2006 and April 2009, U.S. drone attacks have killed 687 civilians and 14 al-Qaeda operatives, amounting to a ratio of 50 civilians killed per one al-Qaeda target killed. In other words, our drone attacks civilian death ratio has been around 95%. Or that of 60 drone strikes only 10 of them hit actual al-Qaeda targets, because of either faulty intelligence or reasons deemed top classified. [Read more...]

Bombing Afghanistan: Where Have All the Photos Gone


Mounting Civilian Casualties …Silently

The latest bombing in Afghanistan killed at least nine Afghan civilians, including six children. Here are a few excerpts from the
report:

 

"Nine civilians including six children were killed in a NATO air strike targeting a Taliban position in restive southern Afghanistan, the provincial governor's office said on Thursday.”Six children and three women were killed and another three civilian men were wounded," he said.”

“Ehsanullah, an elder from Khoshal village, where the strike took place, earlier told AFP that Haji Kot Aka's house was hit late Wednesday."They had four guests at home when the bombing took place. The bomb killed Aka, his wife, four children and three of the guests. One of the guests was wounded," he said.

Civilian casualties are a sensitive issue in Afghanistan, creating a rift between President Hamid Karzai's government and international forces as well as resentment on the ground against foreign troops.”

Here is a section from my op-ed piece last May on Mr. Obama’s presidency and the mounting casualties in Afghanistan:

Here is the first paragraph in a New York Times report on May 15, 2009:

“The number of civilians killed by the American air strikes in Farah Province last week may never be fully known. But villagers, including two girls recovering from burn wounds, described devastation that officials and human rights workers are calling the worst episode of civilian casualties in eight years of war in Afghanistan.”

The report also includes the disagreement over the exact number of ‘Civilian Casualties’ in Afghanistan by our military airstrike:

“Government officials have accepted handwritten lists compiled by the villagers of 147 dead civilians. An independent Afghan human rights group said it had accounts from interviews of 117 dead. American officials say that even 100 is an exaggeration but have yet to issue their own count.”

Does it really matter - the difference between 147 and 117 or just 100 when it comes to children, grandmothers…innocent lives lost in a war with no well-defined objectives or plans? If for some it indeed does matter, then here is a more specific and detailed

report:

“A copy of the government's list of the names, ages and father's names of each of the 140 dead was obtained by Reuters earlier this week. It shows that 93 of those killed were children -- the youngest eight days old -- and only 22 were adult males.”

Maybe releasing the photographs of the nameless unrepresented victims of these airstrikes should be as important as those of torture. Because, from what I see, they and their loss of lives have been reduced to some petty number to fight about.

Now I am going to ask the same question: Where are these photographs in the no-coverage coverage of Afghan casualties by our simply despicable mainstream media? Why don’t they show us the real ugly face of our aimless, objective-less, but nonetheless vicious assault tagged as a War on Terror in Afghanistan?

Remember this picture from the Vietnam War?

The picture above, and many similar pictures and war footage, helped shape our public opinion in regard to another senseless war and vicious assaults on civilians. It helped open our people’s eyes to the real horrors of war. It led to mounting pressure from our people demanding an end to these atrocities.

Well, after searching and searching, and searching more I found only a couple of pictures depicting the real face of our war in Afghanistan. For reasons I am sure you all are aware of our corporate media-Government Joint Venture, and in fact many pseudo alternative ones, don’t want our public to see these pictures, since they would speak more than a thousand words and help shape opinions again.

[Read more...]

Tidbits Round Up-July 27


Russ Tice Interview, The True Face of Facebook?, Outlaw Rabbis Busted & More

This Thursday I’ll post our second ‘Boiling Frogs’ Podcast interview, with Russ Tice, Former NSA Intelligence Analyst & Capabilities Operations Officer Specializing in Offensive Information Warfare (O-IW). You may want to check out the post I had on Tice last month. It’s a full hour show with Tice unplugged on the latest NSA related developments, US Congress, his Kafkaesque journey as a whistleblower, and more.

Our list of upcoming Boiling Frogs guests includes Peter Lance, Phil Giraldi, Sandalio Gonzalez, and Stephen Kohn. Stay Tuned!

Here are a few interesting stories from last week:

Here is a very interesting developing story about a gang of rabbis arrested in New Jersey:

    “Several rabbis were arrested as part of a public corruption and international money-laundering investigation in New Jersey. According to reports, among the 44 people arrested Thursday morning by the FBI along with the rabbis were the mayors of three New Jersey towns, a deputy mayor and a state assemblyman. They were to appear in federal court in Newark later in the day. The money-laundering suspects were accused of moving “at least tens of millions of dollars through charitable, nonprofit entities controlled by rabbis in New York and New Jersey,” according to a release by acting U.S. Attorney Ralph Marra.”

The story goes beyond money laundering and reaches the shadowy world of illicit organ trade:

    “Even by New Jersey standards, Thursday’s roundup of three mayors, five rabbis and 36 others on charges of money laundering and public corruption was big. But what put this FBI dragnet head and shoulders above the rest are the charges of trafficking in human body parts.

    According to a federal criminal complaint filed in district court in New Jersey, Levy Izhak Rosenbaum of Brooklyn conspired to broker the sale of a human kidney for a transplant. The cost was $160,000 to the recipient of the transplant, of which the donor got $10,000. According to the complaint, Mr. Rosenbaum said he had brokered such sales many times over the past 10 years.”

Here is the Youtube Clip:

As you can see these rabbis were not dealing in peanuts. Their money-laundering deals involved moving “at least tens of millions of dollars through charitable, nonprofit entities controlled by rabbis in New York and New Jersey.” I recommend that you put this story on your radar, since the case may end up mysteriously dropped once AIPAC and JINSA make their congressional rounds and poke their men inside various executive branch agencies. Remember the Franklin, AIPAC, and Asher Karni cases? Okay, so that you know what I’m talking about here is a sample of what will be coming and will be done so very typically shrewdly and effectively:

    “Anti-Semitism was behind the highly publicized arrests last week of rabbis, including three from the Aleppo-Syrian Jewish community in New York and New Jersey, according to Yitzhak Kakun, editor-in-chief of the Shas weekly Yom Le’Yom.
    “There is a feeling here that the FBI purposely attempted to arrest as many rabbis as possible at once in an attempt to humiliate them,” Kakun said in a telephone interview Sunday.

    “Regardless of the details of the case – I am not familiar with the precise charges and the evidence – you would never see the FBI and police behaving that way with Muslim sheikhs or Christian priests. It is so obvious that the whole thing is motivated by anti-Semitism,” he said. Kakun added that he planned on devoting the editorial of his paper to an attack on the Obama administration for attempting to whip up anti-Semitic feelings against the Orthodox Jewish community in the US.”

What has this guy been smoking?! “…you would never see the FBI and police behaving that way with Muslim sheikhs...”! Can someone send him the known list of Guantanamo inmates held there for eight years with no charges? Or maybe the secret list of those kidnapped and tortured around the world by our government? Did the Brooklyn mobs ever use this line; you know, the fact that the FBI was targeting devote churchgoing Catholics?! Okay I’ll leave it here because I am sick of this tactic, used over and over in cases ranging from espionage to plain ole criminal!

Is Facebook joining AT&T, Verizon and others who are willing to act as the extension of US Government policing practices? It may be. Check out this recent article, and let me know what you think:

    “The operators of the internet site Facebook have recently removed a webpage dedicated to fans of Hamas' prime minister in Gaza, Ismail Haniyeh, the London-based Al-Hayat reported Sunday. The webpage, called 'Commander Ismail Haniyeh', had attracted more than 10,000 Facebook users by the time it was removed from the internet.

    One such user told the Arab daily that the site's operators had not provided an explanation for their action. He warned that similar action may be taken against other Hamas-affiliated Facebook webpages, including that of Hamas' politburo chief, Khaled Mashaal, which has already accumulated 17,000 'friends'.”

This story is worth putting on our radar…Is this the true face of Facebook? Where is the outrage? Where are the riots?!

Bill Conroy of NarcoNews reports on how former a DEA agent’s lawsuit exposes CIA fraud, and on the litigation’s claim that the spook agency engages in wholesale spying on other federal agencies:

    “The secretive government agency is now coping with the embarrassing exposure of its deceit in a lawsuit filed by Horn, who previously served as the DEA’s country attaché in Burma (now officially known as the Union of Myanmar) from June 1992 to September 1993. In addition, the events that prompted the CIA’s lie appear to point to serious dysfunction within the agency that potentially poses a threat to the very U.S. national security it is charged with protecting.”

    “After Tenant filed his declaration with the court invoking state secrets privilege, Judge Lamberth discovered that several CIA attorneys were likely aware as early as 2002 that Brown was no longer officially deemed to be undercover, yet those attorneys and Brown failed to inform the court. That deception resulted in a ruling by Lamberth, and subsequently a U.S. Appeals Court, that hamstrung Horn’s case under national security restrictions and led to Brown being dismissed as a defendant in the case.”

    “Narco News has previously reported at length on the Horn case in a 2004 story that was based on leaked court pleadings. That story can be found at this link.
    Horn’s lawsuit was filed in 1994 against Brown and State Department Chief of Mission in Burma Franklin Huddle Jr., who also was stationed in Burma at the same time Horn served as DEA’s country attaché. In the litigation, both Brown and Huddle are accused of violating Horn’s constitutional rights by conspiring to plant an eavesdropping bug in his government-leased quarters in Burma. Horn also alleges in the lawsuit that the eavesdropping was part of a larger effort by Brown and Horn to undermine DEA’s anti-narcotics mission in Burma.”

...

I strongly encourage you to read the entire piece, including the link provided by Conroy to Horn’s original leaked story. We have covered the CIA-Narc ties and history, and of course the MSM chronic agenda-driven blackout of similar cases.

Here is the latest by Jeremy Scahill published in Nation on Blackwater, now ‘Xe,’ titled ‘Blackwater Seeks to Gag Iraqi Victims & Their Lawyers’:

    “Now, Blackwater (which recently renamed itself "Xe") is attempting to use other means to silence its victims. On July 20, the company's high-powered lawyers from Mayer Brown, which boasts that it represents eighty-nine of the Fortune 100 companies and thirty-five of the fifty largest US banks, filed a motion in the US District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia to impose a gag order on Iraqi civilians suing the company. The motion also seeks to silence the lawyers representing the families of Iraqis allegedly killed or injured by Blackwater in a series of violent incidents spanning several years. Four cases in the Washington, DC, area were recently consolidated before Judge T.S. Ellis III of the Eastern District of Virginia for pretrial motions.”

    “At the same time, according to a court filing, Blackwater is also asking Judge Ellis to seal evidence that Blackwater claims is confidential or could impact national security. The company argues that if its contracts with the State Department and its "Tactical Standard Operating Procedure" guide are publicly revealed, it "could give valuable information to those who wish to plan more effective attacks against diplomatic personnel stationed in Iraq." Susan Burke, the lead attorney on the civil lawsuits against Blackwater, is not contesting Blackwater's request to seal these specific documents--primarily because they will still remain evidence. But, it does mean that the public will not be able to view them. "Blackwater is basically trying to keep from public view all of the evidence that shows their criminality," says Burke. "They are trying to ensure that we cannot apprise the public of the progress of the lawsuit."”

I wonder how long before intelligence related firms and mercenary government contractors will feel bold enough to invoke their own ‘State Secrets Privilege’ or other classification and gag orders. It may seem farfetched, but so many other cases we’ve been witness to in the past eight years or so…

And finally,

The Center for Public Integrity ran an interesting story about how the US government retroactively classifies information when they get stuck and engage in CYA. This is especially prevalent when they deal with whistleblowers. One of the stories is about Robert MacLean, US Air Marshal, who is also a member of my organization:

    “The elements are all there for another thrilling episode of the TV program “24.” The backdrop: A U.S. agency of armed government agents who fly anonymously as passengers on airlines to stop terrorist hijackings. In the summer of 2006, British authorities subvert a plot to blow up transatlantic flights to the U.S. and Canada. But then, eight days later, sensitive information about a cutback on agent deployments on flights over the United Kingdom spills onto the public pages of an online forum. The U.S. agency, while monitoring websites where its employees post, rapidly mounts an inquiry into who posted the information.”

    “In 2003, federal air marshal Robert MacLean blew the whistle to the press about an attempt by his agency to cut air marshal coverage of flights during a period of heightened threat warnings. His disclosure led to a congressional outcry that the Federal Air Marshal Service was putting security at risk, leading the decision to be reversed. Though the information was not marked “sensitive security information” when MacLean received it, it was retroactively determined to be sensitive after he was fired on the basis of disclosing SSI.”

    “MacLean’s case illustrates the complex dynamic between secrecy and security. TSA argues that his disclosures weakened security, were in violation of agency regulations, and that MacLean should have known the information was SSI whether it was marked or not. MacLean, several members of Congress, and others say he prevented a policy that would have left airlines more vulnerable to attacks, improving security. And the way the TSA utilized the “sensitive security information” label retroactively to fire him could create a chilling effect, preventing future potential whistleblowers…”


Two Sides of the Same Coin… Heads-Heads

"In politics we presume that everyone who knows how to get votes knows how to administer a city or a state. When we are ill...we do not ask for the handsomest physician, or the most eloquent one." -- Plato

During the campaign, amid their state of elation, many disregarded Presidential Candidate Senator Barack Obama's past record and took any criticism of these past actions as partisan attacks deserving equally partisan counterattacks. Some continued their reluctant support after candidate Obama became grand finalist and prayed for the best. And a few still continue their rationalizing and defense, with illogical excuses such as 'He's been in office for only 20 days, give the man a break!' and 'He's had only 50 days in office, give him a chance!' and currently, 'be reasonable - how much can a man do in 120 days?!' I am going to give this logic, or lack of, a slight spicing of reason, then, turn it around, and present it as: If 'the man' can do this much astounding damage, whether to our civil liberties, or to our notion of democracy, or to government integrity, in 'only' 120 days, may God help us with the next [(4 X 365) - 120] days.

I know there are those who have been tackling President Obama's changes on change; they have been challenging his flipping, or rather flopping, on issues central to getting him elected. While some have been covering the changes comprehensively, others have been running right and left like headless chickens in the field - pick one hypocrisy, scream a bit, then move on to the next outrageous flop, the same, and then to the next, basically, looking and treating this entire mosaic one piece at a time.

Despite all the promises Mr. Obama made during his campaign, especially on those issues that were absolutely central to those whose support he garnered, so far the President of Change has followed in the footsteps of his predecessor. Not only that, his administration has made it clear that they intend to continue this trend. Some call it a major betrayal. Can we go so far as to call it a 'swindling of the voters'?

On the State Secrets Privilege

Yes, I am going to begin with the issue of State Secrets Privilege; because I was the first recipient of this 'privilege' during the now gone Administration; because long before it became 'a popular' topic among the 'progressive experts,' during the time when these same experts avoided writing or speaking about it; when many constitutional attorneys had no idea we even had this "law" - similar to and based on the British 'Official Secret Act; when many journalists did not dare to question this draconian abuse of Executive Power; I was out there, writing, speaking, making the rounds in Congress, and fighting this 'privilege' in the courts. And because in 2004 I stood up in front of the Federal Court building in DC, turned to less than a handful of reporters, and said, 'This, my case, is setting a precedent, and you are letting this happen by your fear-induced censorship. Now that they have gotten away with this, now that you have let them get away, we'll be seeing this 'privilege' invoked in case after case involving government criminal deeds in need of cover up.' Unfortunately I was proven right.

So far The Obama administration has invoked the state secrets privilege in three cases in the first 100 days: Al Haramain Islamic Foundation v. Obama, Mohammed v. Jeppesen Dataplan, and Jewel v. NSA.

In defending the NSA illegal wiretapping, the Obama administration maintained that the State Secrets Privilege, the same draconian executive privilege used and abused voraciously by the previous administration, required the dismissal of the case in courts.

Not only has the new administration continued the practice of invoking SSP to shield government wrongdoing, it has expanded its abuses much further. In the Al Haramain case, Obama's Justice Department has threatened to have the FBI or federal marshals break into a judge's office and remove evidence already turned over in the case, according to the plaintiff's attorney. Even Bush didn't go this far so brazenly. In a well-written, disgust-provoking piece plaintiff's attorney Jon Eisenberg, poses the question: "The president's lawyers continue to block access to information that could expose warrantless wiretapping. Is this change we can believe in?"

This is the same President, the same well-spoken showman, who went on record in 2007, during the campaign shenanigans, and said the following:

"When I am president we won't work in secret to avoid honoring our laws and Constitution." --Presidential Candidate Barack Obama, 2007

Yes, this is the same President who had frowned upon and criticized the abuses and misuse of the State Secrets Privilege.

On NSA Warrantless Wiretapping

The new Administration has pledged to defend the Telecommunications Industry by giving them immunity against any lawsuit that may involve their participation in the illegal NSA wiretapping program. In 2007, Obama's office released the following position of then Senator Obama: "Senator Obama unequivocally opposes giving retroactive immunity to telecommunications companies ... Senator Obama will not be among those voting to end the filibuster." But then Senator Obama made his 180 degree flip, and voted to end the filibuster. After that, along with other colleagues in Congress, he tried to placate the critics of his move by falsely assuring them that the immunity did not extend to the Bush Administration - the Executive Branch who did break the law. Another flip was yet to come, awaiting his presidency, when Obama's Justice Department defended its predecessor not only by using the State Secrets Privilege, but taking it even further, by astoundingly granting [PDF] the Executive Branch an unlimited immunity for any kind of 'illegal' government surveillance.

Let me emphasize, the Obama Administration's action in this regard was not about 'being trapped' in situations created and put in place by the previous administration. These were willful acts fully reviewed, decided upon, and then implemented by the new president and his Justice Department.

Accountability on Torture

President Obama's action and inaction on Torture can be summarized very clearly as follows: First give an absolute pass, under the guise of 'looking forward not backward,' to the ultimate culprits who had ordered it. Next, absolve all the implementers, practitioners and related agencies, under the excuse of 'complying with orders without questioning,' and then start giving the 'drafters' of the memos an out by transferring the decision for action to the states.

After granting the 'untouchable' status to all involved in this shameful chapter in our nation's dangerous downward slide, he now refuses to release the photos, the incriminating evidence, and is doing so by using the exact same justification used repeatedly by his predecessors: 'Their release would endanger the troops,' as in 'the revelation on NSA would endanger our national security' and 'stronger whistleblower laws would endanger our intelligence agencies' and so on and so forth.

Not only that, he goes even further to shove his secrecy promotion down other nations' courts throat. In the case of Binyam Mohamed, an Ethiopian citizen and a legal resident in Britain who was held and tortured in Guantanamo from 2004 to 2009, and filed lawsuits in the British courts to have the evidence of his torture released, Mr. Obama's position has been to threaten the British Government in order to conceal all facts and related evidence. This case involves the brutal torture and so very 'extraordinary' rendition practices of the previous administration, the same practices that 'in words' were strongly condemned by the President during his candidacy.

Today he and his administration unapologetically maintain the same Bush Administration position on extraordinary rendition, torture, and related secrecy to cover up. Here is Ben Wizner's, the attorney who argued the case for the ACLU, response "We are shocked and deeply disappointed that the Justice Department has chosen to continue the Bush administration's practice of dodging judicial scrutiny of extraordinary rendition and torture. This was an opportunity for the new administration to act on its condemnation of torture and rendition, but instead it has chosen to stay the course." Yes indeed, President Obama has chosen to protect and support the course involving torture, rendition and the abuse of secrecy to cover them all up.

The Revival of Bush Era Military Commission

After all the talk and pretty speeches given during his presidential campaign on the 'failure' of Bush era military tribunals of Guantanamo inmates, Mr. Obama has decided to revive the same style military commission, albeit with a little cosmetic tweak here and there to re-brand it as his own. Many former supporters of Mr. Obama who've been vocal and active on Human Rights fronts have expressed their 'total shock' by this move and its pretense of being different and improved, "As a constitutional lawyer, Obama must know that he can put lipstick on this pig - but it will always be a pig," said Zachary Katznelson, legal director of Reprieve.

Thankfully the 'on the record' statements of Candidate Obama in 2008 on this issue, contradicting his action today, are accessible to all:

"It's time to better protect the American people and our values by bringing swift and sure justice to terrorists through our courts and our Uniform Code of Military Justice."

Suspect terrorists (emphasis on 'suspect') cannot have just trials consistent/in line with our 'courts and Uniform Code of Military Justice' via military commissions. It's almost an oxymoron! And if you add to that the other Obama-approved ingredients such as secrecy, rendition, and evidence obtained under torture, what have we got? Anything resembling our courts and Uniform Code of Military Justice system?

On War and Bodies Piling Up

Here is the first paragraph in a New York Times report on May 15, 2009:

"The number of civilians killed by the American air strikes in Farah Province last week may never be fully known. But villagers, including two girls recovering from burn wounds, described devastation that officials and human rights workers are calling the worst episode of civilian casualties in eight years of war in Afghanistan."

The report also includes the disagreement over the exact number of 'Civilian Casualties' in Afghanistan by our military airstrike:

"Government officials have accepted handwritten lists compiled by the villagers of 147 dead civilians. An independent Afghan human rights group said it had accounts from interviews of 117 dead. American officials say that even 100 is an exaggeration but have yet to issue their own count."

Does it really matter - the difference between 147 and 117 or just 100 when it comes to children, grandmothers…innocent lives lost in a war with no well-defined objectives or plans? If for some it indeed does matter, then here is a more specific and detailed report:

"A copy of the government's list of the names, ages and father's names of each of the 140 dead was obtained by Reuters earlier this week. It shows that 93 of those killed were children -- the youngest eight days old -- and only 22 were adult males."

Maybe releasing the photographs of the nameless unrepresented victims of these airstrikes should be as important as those of torture. Because, from what I see, they and their loss of lives have been reduced to some petty number to fight about.

When I was around twelve years old, in Iran, during the Iran-Iraq war, my father, a surgeon in charge of a hospital specializing in burns and reconstructive surgery, decided to take me to the hospital to teach me an unforgettable lesson on war. I think one of the factors that prompted him was my new obsession with classic war movies; you know, ones like 'the Great Escape.' Anyhow, he took my hand and we entered a 'transition ICU Unit.' In that room, on a standard size hospital bunk bed, laid an infant of eight or nine months of age, or what was remaining of her. Over eighty percent of her body was burned; to a degree that the skin had melted and absorbed the melting clothing on top -impossible to remove without removing the skin with it. Instead of a nose two holes were drilled in the middle of her face with tubes inserted allowing breathing, the upper eyelids were melted and glued to the lower ones, and…I am not going to go further - I believe you get the picture.

This baby was the victim of an air strike, a bombing that killed her entire family and leveled her modest home to the ground. My father pointed at this heartbreaking baby and said, "Sibel, this is war. This is the real face of war. This is the result of war. Do you think anything can justify this? I want to replace the glamorous exciting phony images of those war movies in your head. I want you to remember this for the rest of your life and stand against this kind of destruction…"

And I do. This is why I am offended by those petty numbers when it comes to civilian deaths. This is the reason I believe some may need pictures of these atrocities as much as those of torture to replace those 'Shock & Awe' footages fed to them by our MSM.

All this death and destruction is carried out while the administration's Afghan policy is still murky and confused, and it's strategy ambiguous. Sure, our so-called 'New' Afghan Strategy includes more troops and asks for a much larger budget allocation; nothing new there. It is another war with no time table. It is the continuation of the same abstract 'War on Terror' without any definition of what would constitute an 'accomplished mission.' One minute there is pondering on possible 'reconciliation' with the Taliban, and the next minute seeking to topple it. In fact, to confuse the matter even further, we now hear this distinction between 'Good Taliban, Bad Taliban, and the Plain Ugly Taliban.' As stated by Karzai on Meet the Press on May 10, 2009, not all Taliban are equal!!

I can go on listing cases of Mr. Obama's change on change. Whether it is his reversal on protection for whistleblowers, despite his campaign promise to the contrary, or his expansion of the Un-American title of 'Czardom,' where we now have more czars than ever: Border Czar, Energy Czar, Cyber Security Czar…Car Czar…maybe even a Bicycle Czar!. Or…But for now I'll stick with the major promises that were 'Central' to him getting elected, all of which he has flipped on in less than 150 days in office, a track record indeed.

What I want the readers to do is to read the extremely important cases above, step back in time to those un-ending campaign trail days, and answer the following questions:

How would Senator McCain have acted on these same issues if he had been elected? How would Senator Hilary Clinton? Do you believe there would have been any major differences? Weren't their records almost identical to Senator Obama's on these issues? If you are like me, and answer 'same,' 'same,' 'no,' and 'yes,' then, why do you think we ended up with these exact same candidates, those deemed 'viable' and sold to us as such?

With too much at stake, too many unfinished agendas for the course of our nation, and too many skeletons in the closet in need of hiding for self-preservation, the 'permanent establishment' made certain that they took no risk by giving the public, via their MSM tentacles, a coin that no matter how many times flipped would come up the same - Heads, Heads.

"Politics will eventually be replaced by imagery. The politician will be only too happy to abdicate in favor of his image, because the image will be much more powerful than he could ever be." -- Marshall Mcluhan

Cross-posted at The BRAD BLOG...Brad Blog