A BUZZFLASH GUEST CONTRIBUTION
by Jeff Leys
Voices for Creative Nonviolence (Co-Coordinator)
The Bonhoeffer Moment of nonviolent civil resistance and disobedience to the world war being waged by the United States is clearly at hand. As Congress considers an additional $190 billion to fund the Iraq-Afghanistan war through September 2008 and as the threats of war against Iran become increasingly loud, it is time for us to learn lessons from the German resistance to Hitler, to the Nazi regime, and to the war waged by the German nation-state. We must engage in the Long Resistance to this current world war, using every nonviolent means to bring about its end.Bookmark/Search this post with: buzzflash | delicious | digg | technorati Technorati Tags: Guest Contribution Jeff Leys Voices for Creative Nonviolence war protest Dietrich Bonhoeffer
Manchester, New Hampshire – Today, Senator John Edwards will unveil a plan to end the current system of outsourcing military and security missions to private contractors. Edwards' proposals will fundamentally reform America's oversight and use of security contractors in Iraq by restoring democracy to our military decisions about the war, expanding the rule of law, ensuring accountability by placing all personnel under clear operational command, and eliminating cronyism from the system of contract procurement.
"The recent incidents of violence involving Blackwater contractors in Iraq, including the shooting of Iraqi civilians in Baghdad last month, have caused tremendous damage to America's battle for the hearts and minds of Iraqis," said Edwards. "These incidents hurt America's moral standing, both in Iraq and around the world. And they serve as a tragic reminder of how the Bush Administration has outsourced our military responsibilities to corporate contractors and political cronies who operate outside of the rules of engagement and without any meaningful oversight.
"As president, I will end our current system of outsourcing security missions to private contractors. It is imperative that we do so and return to an all-volunteer military that responds to the will of the American people."
About 50,000 private contractors are currently working on security and military missions in Iraq. Their tasks can include loading weapons systems, operating combat systems and guarding diplomats, and, in many instances, security contractors actually engage in combat. However, these contractors frequently operate without rules of engagement or legal oversight.
Later today, at the Seacoast Media Group Forum in Portsmouth, Edwards will outline a five-part plan to reform the oversight of security contractors:
Restore Democracy to Our Military Decisions About the War: Edwards will transfer most security missions currently performed by contractors back to military command, narrowly limit the circumstances under which security contractors can be engaged and bring all security contractors within the Pentagon's chain of command.
Expand Legal Oversight and Prosecutions: Edwards will ask Congress to expand the range of contractors covered by the Military Extra-Territorial Jurisdiction Act, and work with his Attorney General to ensure criminal allegations involving contractors are always investigated. He will also charge his Secretary of Defense with establishing clear rules of engagement for contractors.
Get Cronyism out of Security Contracts: Edwards will ask Congress to pass legislation prohibiting campaign contributions by applicants for and recent recipients of security contracts. He will also ask Congress to pass legislation prohibiting former officials from working as contractors for five years.
Establish Strong Quality Control and Accountability Measures: Edwards will charge his National Security Advisor with establishing a regular system of Quality Assurance Evaluations of contractors and will make sure that agencies exercise oversight.
Implement a Formal Evaluation of the Role of Contractors: Edwards will order his Secretary of Defense to deliver a comprehensive accounting of all contractors performing security operations and will propose the creation of a new National Security Budget that will include all security activities, so that Congress can better evaluate the role and value of security contractors in the future.
For further details, Edwards' Plan to End the Current System of Outsourcing Security Missions to Private Contractors is included below.
"The recent incidents of violence involving Blackwater contractors in Iraq, including the shooting of Iraqi civilians in Baghdad last month, have caused tremendous damage to America's battle for the hearts and minds of Iraqis. These incidents hurt America's moral standing, both in Iraq and around the world. And they serve as a tragic reminder of how the Bush Administration has outsourced our military responsibilities to corporate contractors and political cronies who operate outside of the rules of engagement and without any meaningful oversight." -- John Edwards
About 50,000 private contractors are currently working on security and military missions in Iraq. Their tasks can include loading weapons systems, operating combat systems and guarding diplomats. In many instances, security contractors actually engage in combat. However, they frequently lack rules of engagement, an operational command and legal oversight. [The New York Times, October 1, 2007; Singer, 2007]
The Bush Administration's outsourcing of security tasks to private industry and political cronies, combined with its poor management and oversight, has led directly to disasters like the recent tragedy involving a convoy operated by Blackwater, an independent contracting firm that guards State Department employees. In September 2007, a Blackwater convoy was involved in a firefight in Baghdad that left at least 8 Iraqi civilians dead. And this is not the first time Blackwater has gotten into trouble. Blackwater contractors have been in nearly 200 shootings in Iraq in the last two years—in most cases firing from moving vehicles without stopping to count the dead or assist the wounded. Their forces have been involved in the shootings of innocent bystanders, a traffic accident where an Iraqi vehicle went up in flames, and an incident in which a drunken Blackwater contractor allegedly killed a security guard of the Iraqi vice president in 2006. Other security contractors were involved in the Abu Ghraib interrogator scandals. [House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform 2007; Singer 2007]
Events like these have caused tremendous damage to America's battle for the hearts and minds of Iraqis. Even worse, security contractors can escape responsibility for alleged misconduct. There does not appear to be any clear legal authority to prosecute Blackwater for the recent event in Baghdad, or the operational command to prevent such incidents in the future.
Such catastrophes have at least three causes. First, the president's disastrous management of the Iraq War and the administration's poor intelligence and planning of missions has required the outsourcing of security functions from the professional military. Second, President Bush has pursued an ideological doctrine that enriches corporate cronies at the expense of good governance and sound policy. Third, Republican policymakers have made an end-run around the main purpose of the modern, post-Vietnam all-volunteer force: that we should not go to war without the backing and involvement of the people. [Singer, 2007]
We must end our current system of outsourcing security missions to private contractors. John Edwards believes we need to return to a military that responds to the will of the American people and that puts all personnel under clear operational command and the rule of law. As president, he will fundamentally reform our system for security contractors by restoring democracy, expanding the rule of law, getting cronyism out of the system and ensuring accountability.
We must put the democracy back in our military and prevent a disaster like the continuation of the Iraq War –despite the opposition of the overwhelming majority of Americans – from ever happening again. Because contractors neither enlist in the services nor have servicemembers' substantial training or service requirements, they can be used without accountability. As president, Edwards will transfer most security missions currently performed by contractors back to military command, narrowly limit the circumstances under which security contractors can be engaged, and bring all security contractors within the Pentagon's chain of command.
The Military Extra-Territorial Jurisdiction Act (MEJA) covers contractors, but only those employed by the Department of Defense. As president, Edwards will ask Congress to amend MEJA to cover contractors employed by any U.S. agency. He will also work with his Attorney General to ensure criminal allegations involving contractors are always investigated and, when appropriate, prosecuted. Finally, there should never be a mystery about when contractors can use force and the penalties for improper actions. Edwards will charge his Secretary of Defense with establishing clear rules of engagement for contractors.
Political cronyism has no place when America's moral reputation, as well as the lives of our brave servicemembers, are at stake. As president, Edwards will ask Congress to pass legislation prohibiting campaign contributions by applicants for and recent recipients of security contracts, extending the ban to current contractors. He will also ask Congress to pass legislation to close the revolving door for government contractors by prohibiting former officials from working as contractors with business before their former offices for five years.
We have seen too much mismanagement and poor personnel choices under the Bush Administration, with a system that lacks clear and consistent measures to insure the quality of contractor operations. As president, Edwards will charge his National Security Advisor with establishing a regular system of Quality Assurance Evaluations of contractors and will make sure that agencies exercise oversight.
Today, we do not have complete information on the role of security contractors in our security operations, as the Department of Defense appears incapable of even reporting how many are working for us in Iraq. As president, Edwards will order his Secretary of Defense to deliver a comprehensive accounting of all contractors performing security operations within the first six months of his administration. Edwards has also proposed the creation of a new National Security Budget that will include all security activities by the Pentagon, the State Department and other agencies. Edwards will require this budget to include all funding requests for all contractors, so that Congress can better evaluate the role and value of security contractors in the future.
Andrew Ferguson's review of Alan Greenspan's new book is very, very good. On the subject of Ayn Rand: This was in the late 1950s. By then, Rand had published her two thick, preposterous novels, The Fountainhead and Atlas Shrugged, and...[...]
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Russ Feingold proves he’s maybe the only one in the Senate who can read a fucking poll:One question that I keep getting asked by reporters is why Democrats aren’t reaching out to moderate Republicans to come up with some sort of consensus[...]
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This is Part I of a three part article. Parts II and III will appear here on successive Wednesdays (October 10 and 17).
I. Introduction: Reveille for Liberals
The Democrats smell blood. If one more Republican gets caught in a men?s room, the Grand Old Party might save its 2008 campaign funds for another year.
Not surprisingly, the bookstores are full of books about the Democrats. In the next six months, yet more liberal journalists are going to avow their liberal consciences and show how history is on their side. As others have said, neither tactics nor avowals are likely to revive political movements. Only philosophy ? principles about what it means to be human and how people should live together ? can ultimately do that.
The Democrats have had a lot of lucky breaks. They have a lot of fierce bloggers. They have a lot of good policy initiatives. Taken together, the initiatives imply a rough set of commitments. Which matters enormously. But it?s an implied philosophy. How can you revive a political movement, or even a political party on the strength of an inference?
In my recent book, ?Get to Work? (Viking 2006), I criticized so-called ?choice feminism,? the belief that whatever a woman chooses to do is a feminist act. ?Choice? liberalism ? a Democratic Party that fills up with whatever happens to be the generous policy initiatives of the moment, does not promise to be more politically effective than choice feminism was.
In the runup to the election of 1992, a philosopher, William Galston (later Clinton?s domestic policy adviser), provided the Democratic Leadership Council and its candidate with the principles, what he called ?Liberal Purposes,? of a winning political movement. Clintonism, and Galston?s virtue-driven liberalism, succeeded in part and then sputtered and died. Now that the Democrats are looking at another chance, it is time to articulate what is merely implied: liberal principles. What should the Democrats believe about what is important about being human and how such humans should live together?
If liberals needed any convincing, all they have to do is consider role of express principles in the success of a resurgent conservatism. Conservatives believe that people are naturally separate and own whatever they create. As a result, at least until the recent debacle, their simple principles were:
These core principles allow conservative politics to be coherent and consistent. They apply over time and without regard to the issue because they rest on clear, metaphysical beliefs about what people are like. Or as George W. Bush said when signing the budget busting 2001 Tax cut bill, ?it?s your money.?
Okay, overgrown frat boy George Bush doesn?t immediately remind us of any philosopher, not even a Greek one. But, on the occasion of the passage of the budget-busting tax cut of 2001, victorious Republicans took a moment to remind Americans about the teachings of John Locke.
President George W. Bush: ?It?s your money to begin with, by the way.? Majority Leader REP. DICK ARMEY (R), TEXAS: ?And I should say, it's our money. It belongs to you and me. It doesn't belong to Washington . . . We have millions of taxpayers from all over America who turn their minds and their hearts to Washington and they said, ?We want a refund. Give us our money back.??
Classical Liberal JOHN LOCKE (Second Treatise on Government, Sec. 27): ?every man has a property in his own person: this no body has any right to but himself. The labour of his body, and the work of his hands, we may say, are properly his. Whatsoever then he removes out of the state that nature hath provided, and left it in, he hath mixed his labour with, and joined to it something that is his own, and thereby makes it his property.?
It?s your money. By the way. What do the Republicans think it means to be human? One of the touchstones of conservative philosophy is that ?politics is based on the individual, not the collective.? To be human in that philosophy is not, as Aristotle suggested, to be social, but rather, as Locke?s image so powerfully conveys, to be alone there in the forest. Keep touching that stone and you eventually produce the tax cuts of 2001. The Republican conservatives have been invoking the Lockean concept of personhood so consistently and for so long that even intellectuals have forgotten that it is ? or can be -- highly contested.
The conventional wisdom is that free market conservatives made a corrupt bargain with religious moralists to trade low taxes for sexual repression in order to win elections. But Republican philosophers did not have to trade off their deep beliefs to build their coalition. In the space cleared out by the classical liberalism of the free market conservative philosophy, government loses most of its power and legitimacy to regulate human behavior. Since life has a habit of producing questions of how humans behave, one possible result is something like anarchy, or at least the moral anarchy of relativism. Anyone other than an obsessive libertarian would recognize that people cannot live together without at least some minimal regulation of human behavior, but public regulation bears the ever-present threat of economic redistribution. Conservatives turned to private sources of regulation ? the church and the nuclear family. The marriage of religious conservatives and free market libertarians wasn?t a corrupt bargain: for all its later strains, it was as close as you can come in politics to a perfect fit.
President Bush expressed the conservative philosophy of private governance in announcing his support for a constitutional amendment banning gay marriage. The United States Constitution, a secular, public document, with its federal structure, threatened to produce the secular, egalitarian result that couples married in a state which permitted gay marriage could invoke the full faith and credit of that state?s act in any other state, effectively making gay marriage an option throughout the nation.
Instead, Bush proposed amending the constitution to enforce moral principles derived from non-political sources: ?America is a free society, which limits the role of government in the lives of our citizens . . . This commitment to freedom, however, does not require the redefinition of one of our most basic social institutions.?
Since the government is thus limited, we must look elsewhere for the category of basic social institutions: ?The union of a man and woman is the most enduring human institution, honored and encouraged in all cultures and by every religious faith,? the president said. ?Ages of experience have taught humanity that the commitment of a husband and wife to love and to serve one another promotes the welfare of children and the stability of society. Marriage cannot be severed from its cultural, religious and natural roots without weakening the good influence of society.?
The actual religious philosophy supporting the conservative revival is more of a snapshot in the history of Christian belief than a return to any first principles. The primary conservative religious philosopher, Richard M. Weaver, was a lapsed Protestant, who valued his faith for mostly for its respect for tradition and nature and its history in Virginia.
A religion cherished for its role in the birthplace of American chattel slavery turned out to be a powerful weapon for inequality. According to his biographer Fred Douglas Young, Weaver argued as follows that social, gender, and age-related equality actually undermined stability and order. He claimed that it should be possible to sort people into suitable categories without the envy of equality. Using the hierarchical structure of a family as an example, he pointed out that family members accept various duties grounded in "sentiment" and "fraternity," not equality and rights. Accordingly, he could not understand the feminist movement, which led women to abandon their stronger connection to nature and intuition for a superficial political and economic equality with men.
Because the principles ? public weakness, private, retrograde morality -- provide the deepest commitments, conservatives have consistent answers to old questions. Government in debt? Cut taxes to raise productivity (?it?s your money?) and revenues. Government surplus? Cut taxes (?it?s your money?). Because the principles run to the deepest beliefs, when new issues arise, conservatives have immediate access to the sources of answers. Stem cell research? Absent secular morality, moral answers must come from the church. Homosexual (contractual) marriage? Traditional social groupings are natural and essential to social order. Health care crisis? Look anywhere (even to the health insurance companies) but to the government.
Conservatives only need two books to know what to think: Libertarian social theorist Freidrich Hayek?s ?The Road to Serfdom? and Weaver?s ?The Southern Tradition At Bay.? (Actually, they don?t even need to read the stuff; the titles alone are probably sufficient.)
It is possible that gross inequality, unsolvable collective problems and the looming worldwide threat of global warming would have ultimately capped the conservative surge. But fortunately for liberals George Bush went to war in Iraq, with, conservatively speaking, disastrous consequences. Liberals have a path out of Egypt. But our principles are still unbaked or at best inferential. Next installment:
II. Liberal Principles
During the October 2 edition of Fox News Live, after broadcasting a segment of Rush Limbaugh's controversial September 26 comments characterizing service members who advocate U.S. withdrawal from Iraq as "phony soldiers," Carrie Lukas, director of policy for the conservative Independent Women's Forum, asserted, "If you go on for another, about 30 seconds, you hear Mr. Limbaugh start talking about Jessie MacBeth, who is a man who the left has made very prominent because he came out and[...]
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Two days before vetoing children's health care, that fucking sociopath in the White House had the motherfucking nerve to declare it Children's Health Day.
The mind reels.
Jesus. You know, I thought I wanted to post the Daily Rant... but I just don't have it in me to do the damned thing justice. I am ranted OUT, man. This motherfucking world is shot to shit and these scumsucking douchebags are just going to keep doing it until people get so fucking sick of it they start doing something about it -- but I really think they're going to keep things just barely tolerable for far longer than I'll be alive. Revolution ain't gonna happen in my lifetime. So what's to keep me involved? What's to keep me engaged?
What? The prospect of perhaps getting that ball rolling? Maybe if I'm lucky I can martyr myself for the cause, eh?
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Yesterday Rep. Darrell Issa (R-CA) asked if Rep. Henry Waxman (D-CA) "really" wanted to investigate Blackwater, since if he went to Iraq to snoop around, "Blackwater will be his support team."
Well, apparently it's not so hypothetical of a scenario. From The New York Daily News:
When a team of FBI agents lands in Baghdad this week to probe Blackwater security contractors for murder, it will be protected by bodyguards from the very same firm, the Daily News has learned.
Half a dozen FBI criminal investigators based in Washington are scheduled to travel to Iraq to gather evidence and interview witnesses about a Sept. 16 shooting spree that left at least 11 Iraqi civilians dead.
The agents plan to interview witnesses within the relative safety of the fortified Green Zone, but they will be transported outside the compound by Blackwater armored convoys, a source briefed on the FBI mission said.
"What happens when the FBI team decides to go visit the crime scene? Blackwater is going to have to take them there," the senior U.S. official told The News.
Yep, the President said he would veto the bipartisan bill and he did it without even having the guts to call a Press conference and do so in the public eye — he vetoed the bill from the comfort of the Oval Office with the door closed…Here’s the “skinny” from the Associated Press (Yahoo! News):Bush [...]
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