Archive for July, 2010

Byrd, Kagan Hearings and the Constitution 7/1/10

July 1, 2010

Institute for Public Accuracy
980 National Press Building, Washington, D.C. 20045
(202) 347-0020 * *

CBS News reports: “The Senate Judiciary Committee will suspend Solicitor General Elena Kagan’s Supreme Court confirmation hearing from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Thursday while the late-Sen. Robert Byrd lies in state at the Capitol.”

Byrd famously made a habit of carrying a copy of the U.S. Constitution in his shirt pocket. In 2004, he succeeded in passing legislation that deemed September 17 “Constitution Day.”

Byrd is prominently featured in the 2007 film “Body of War” by Phil Donahue.

During the Kagan hearings, several Republicans urged Kagan to be a “strict constructionist” (Sen. Tom Coburn, R-Okla.). Meanwhile, many Democrats argued she would “uphold the Constitution” (Sen. Dick Durbin, D-Ill.). Several legal analysts however warn that both Democratic and Republican administrations have been violating basic Constitutional rights.

Available for interviews:

Buttar is executive director of the Bill of Rights Defense Committee, which recently wrote a letter to the Senate Judiciary Committee.

Professor of law at the University of Illinois, Boyle is author of “Tackling America’s Toughest Questions.” He said today: “After 9/11 Sen. Byrd made repeated appearances in the Senate condemning violations of the Constitution, the war against Iraq and the Bush police state tactics. During the same period, Kagan was remarkably silent and has supported most of those Bush policies in her capacity as U.S. Solicitor General. As Dean of Harvard Law, she hired Jack Goldsmith who wrote torture memos for Bush and is testifying on Kagan’s behalf.”

Fein was Associate Deputy Attorney General and General Counsel to the Federal Communications Commission under President Reagan and is author of the forthcoming book, “American Empire: Before the Fall.” He raises four major ways that the Constitution and Bill of Rights are being violated:

“1. Violations of due process: Detentions of enemy combatants indefinitely without accusation or trial; military commissions that combine judge, jury, and prosecutor in a single branch; detentions at Bagram prison with no right to habeas corpus; listing of organizations and individuals as global terrorists based on secret evidence; targeting American citizens abroad for assassination based on the President’s say-so alone.

“2. Fourth Amendment violations: Interceptions of U.S. email and phone communications without individual warrants under new FISA amendments; Patriot Act acquisition of business records without probable cause.

“3. Secrecy: Executive branch refusals to respond to congressional subpoenas or claims of executive privilege to conceal from Congress such practices as waterboarding or enhanced interrogations techniques or targeting methodology for predator drones that indiscriminately kill militants and innocents alike.

“4. War powers: Congress’ delegating to the President or acquiescing in the President’s decision to initiate war in Iraq, Pakistan, etc. The Founding Fathers unanimously agreed that only Congress had the power to authorize the initiation of war because the President would inflate danger to commence war to capture more power and leave a mark on history.”

For more information, contact at the Institute for Public Accuracy:
Sam Husseini, (202) 347-0020, (202) 421-6858


Unanimous Conformity in the Senate By Norman Solomon 7/1/10

July 1, 2010

For the warfare state, it doesn’t get any better than 99 to 0.

Every living senator voted Wednesday to approve Gen. David Petraeus as the top U.S. commander in Afghanistan.

Call it the unanimity of lemmings — except the senators and their families aren’t the ones who’ll keep plunging into the sea.

No, the killing and suffering and dying will be left to others: American soldiers who, for the most part, had scant economic opportunities in civilian life. And Afghans trapped between terrible poverty and escalating violence.

The senatorial conformity, of course, won’t lack for rationales. It rarely does.

An easy default position is that the president has the right to select his top military officers. (Then why is Senate confirmation required?) Or: This is a pivotal time for the war in Afghanistan. (All the more reason for senators to take responsibility instead of serving as a rubber stamp for the White House.)

In today’s Senate, the conformity is so thick that it’s almost enough to make you nostalgic for the Senate of four and a half decades ago. At least there were a couple of clear dissenters from the outset — first and foremost, Wayne Morse of Oregon and Ernest Gruening of Alaska, who in August 1964 voted against the Gulf of Tonkin resolution that “authorized” the horrors of the U.S. war on Vietnam.

Within a couple of years, appreciable dissent was coming from William Fulbright, chair of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, as well as Frank Church and George McGovern. Then Eugene McCarthy, Robert Kennedy and other senators.

The process of getting off the war train was pitifully slow, in view of the wholesale deadly ferocity of the Vietnam War — and in view of the fact that Congress, like the U.S. news media, lagged so far behind the clarity of opposition emerging from many millions of Americans. Whatever good happened on Capitol Hill was a direct result of the anti-war movement and more generalized public sentiment against continuing the war.

In the Senate of 2010, the baseline of conscience and courage is at an abysmally low level.

When the chair of the Senate Armed Services Committee, Carl Levin, said he’s “deeply concerned” about the course of the Afghan war, his tactical objections dodged the fundamentals of the escalating conflagration. And so, Levin dutifully declared that Petraeus will “bring highly experienced leadership and a profound understanding of the president’s strategy in Afghanistan.”

Chiming in was Sen. John McCain, who lauded the general as “one of the finest military leaders our country has ever produced.” McCain has long been appreciative of Petraeus’ record, including his services as a military spinmeister for President George W. Bush’s Iraq war policies midway through the decade.

In 2007, a notable ad from described Petraeus as “a military man constantly at war with the facts.” There’s no reason to believe that Petraeus is more candid these days. At any rate, the policy from the White House is what really matters, not the proclivities of any particular general.

Like mice who won’t try to bell the chief-executive cat, senators complain but keep on purring. That explains their unanimous vote for a general pledging to stay the course in Afghanistan.

Every few months, I take another look at footage of Sen. Morse, directly challenging the war president, a man of his own party. It’s inspiring — yet painful to watch, because of the sharp contrast with today’s mealy-mouthed senators.

A growing number of House members are lining up against the Afghanistan war, although they’re far short of a majority. Meanwhile, the Senate is a bastion of bluster. The overarching congressional problem is a pattern of doing what the war machinery requires — most importantly, voting to pay for the war. Until that stops, the war won’t stop.


Norman Solomon is national co-chair of the Healthcare Not Warfare campaign, launched by Progressive Democrats of America. His books include “War Made Easy: How Presidents and Pundits Keep Spinning Us to Death.” For more information, go to: