Archive for April 4th, 2010

McCain and Lieberman’s “Enemy Belligerent” Act Could Set U.S. on Path to Military Dictatorship

McCain and Lieberman’s “Enemy Belligerent” Act Could Set U.S. on Path to Military Dictatorship

McCain and Lieberman’s “Enemy Belligerent” Act Could Set U.S. on Path to Military Dictatorship
By Liliana Segura, AlterNet
Posted on March 19, 2010, Printed on April 4, 2010

On March 4th, Senators John McCain and Joe Lieberman introduced a bill called the “Enemy Belligerent Interrogation, Detention, and Prosecution Act of 2010” that, if passed, would set this country on a course to become a military dictatorship.

The bill is only 12 pages long, but that is plenty of room to grant the president the power to order the arrest, interrogation, and imprisonment of anyone — including a U.S. citizen — indefinitely, on the sole suspicion that he or she is affiliated with terrorism, and on the president’s sole authority as commander in chief.

The Act begins with the following (convoluted) requirement:

Whenever within the United States, its territories, and possessions, or outside the territorial limits of the United States, an individual is captured or otherwise comes into the custody or under the effective control of the United States who is suspected of engaging in hostilities against the United States or its coalition partners through an act of terrorism, or by other means in violation of the laws of war, or of purposely and materially supporting such hostilities, and who may be an unprivileged enemy belligerent, the individual shall be placed in military custody for purposes of initial interrogation and determination of status in accordance with the provisions of this Act.

In other words, if at any point, anywhere in the world, a person is caught who might have done something to suggest that he or she is a terrorist or somehow supporting a terrorist organization against the U.S. or its allies, that person must be imprisoned by the military.

For how long?

As long as U.S. officials want. A subsequent section, titled “Detention Without Trial of Unprivileged Enemy Belligerents,” states that suspects “may be detained without criminal charges and without trial for the duration of hostilities against the United States or its coalition partners.” In a press conference introducing the bill earlier this month, Sen. Joe Lieberman said, “I know that will be — that may be — a long time, but that’s the nature of this war.”

As constitutional expert Glenn Greenwald has pointed out, “It’s basically a bill designed to formally authorize what the Bush administration did to American citizen Jose Padilla — arrest him on U.S. soil and imprison him for years in military custody with no charges.” What happened to Padilla, a notorious perversion of justice in a country that claims to be a democratic standard-bearer, would thus go from being an exception to the rule itself.

As “war on terror”-era legislation goes, Greenwald calls the Enemy Belligerent Interrogation, Detention, and Prosecution Act “probably the single most extremist, tyrannical and dangerous bill introduced in the Senate in the last several decades, far beyond the horrific, habeas-abolishing Military Commissions Act.” This is a sobering statement, especially given the intense controversy the MCA generated at the time of its passage, in the heady weeks preceding the 2006 midterm elections. Then-Senator Obama was one of only 34 senators who voted against it, calling it “sloppy,” and expressing his wish that “cooler heads … prevail after the silly season of politics is over.”

Now, however, as president, Obama has helped pave the way for such radical legislative efforts as the one introduced by McCain and Lieberman, by embracing — and re-branding — the military commissions he once opposed.

“Belligerents” are the new “Combatants”

Three years after Obama eloquently opposed the Military Commissions Act, the now-president signed a Military Commissions Act of his own, as part of the 2010 Defense Authorization Bill. The law, which sought to overhaul the discredited Bush-era military commissions for “alien enemy combatants,” introduced what is apparently turning out to be an important new term to the counterterror lexicon: Unprivileged Enemy Belligerent, defined as “an individual who: 1) has engaged in hostilities against the United States or its coalition partners; or 2) has purposefully and materially supported hostilities against the United States or its coalition partners.”

Months before, in March of 2009, the Obama administration announced that it was phasing out the term “alien enemy combatant,” even as it held on to the authority to hold terror suspects indefinitely. “Unprivileged Enemy Belligerent,” then, was its replacement.

As Human Rights Watch attorney Joanne Mariner wrote last fall, “this is a cosmetic change, not a real improvement, which mirrors the administration’s decision to drop the enemy combatant formula in habeas litigation at Guantanamo Bay.”

What overshadows all of these differences is, however, a key similarity with the Bush-era definition. Just as, in the Guantanamo habeas litigation, the Obama administration has adopted the Bush-era position of claiming that persons who provide support to hostilities can be treated just like persons who engaged in hostilities, the new law’s “unprivileged enemy belligerent” definition takes the same tack.”
In other words, it is as expansive a definition of “terrorism” as possible.

In Obama’s defense bill, the word “alien” preceded the term “unprivileged belligerents,” in defining who can be held before a military commission. For McCain and Lieberman’s purposes, omitting the word “alien” apparently means the label can apply to U.S. citizens, while, politically, the word “unpriviliged” provides a useful connotation: terror suspects will not be coddled like common criminals!

This now-familiar line is the one Senators McCain and Lieberman have taken in pushing their legislation. “These are not common criminals. They are war criminals,” Lieberman told reporters at his press conference with McCain. The bill now has eight Republican co-sponsors: Sen. Saxby Chambliss (GA), Sen. James Inhofe (OK), Sen. George LeMieux (FL), Sen. Jeff Sessions (AL), Sen. John Thune (SD), Sen. David Vitter (LA), Sen. Roger Wicker (MS), and the newly-elected Sen. Scott Brown (MA).

In case there was any doubt that terror suspects will have no rights under this law, the Right’s cynical attack on Miranda rights has been conveniently inscribed into the Enemy Belligerent Interrogation, Detention, and Prosecution Act of 2010:

A individual who is suspected of being an unprivileged enemy belligerent shall not, during interrogation under this subsection, be provided the statement required by Miranda v. Arizona … or otherwise be informed of any rights that the individual may or may not have to counsel or to remain silent consistent with Miranda v. Arizona.
But what is perhaps most dangerous is the tremendous amount of power it gives to a U.S. president to determine who is and who is not a terrorist. Under the bill, the president would establish a ‘high-value detainee interrogation group,” comprised of Executive Branch experts “in matters relating to national security, terrorism, intelligence, interrogation, or law enforcement as the President considers appropriate.” This group would be in charge of making a “preliminary determination whether or not the detainee is an unprivileged enemy belligerent … based on the result of its interrogation of the individual and on all intelligence information available to the interrogation group.” Its findings would go to the Secretary of Defense and the Attorney General, who would “jointly submit to the President and to the appropriate committees of Congress a final determination whether or not the detainee is an unprivileged enemy belligerent.”

“In the event of a disagreement between the Secretary of Defense and the Attorney General, the President shall make the final determination.”

Also, all of this has to happen no more than 48 hours after the detainee is brought into military custody.

Where’s the Controversy?

The Enemy Belligerent Interrogation, Detention, and Prosecution Act has yet to go anywhere — it has been referred to the Senate Judiciary Committee — which might account for the lack of discussion about it. But, especially coming from two politicians as influential as McCain and Lieberman — “Serious Centrists” as Greenwald calls them, regularly “feted on Sunday shows” — such a radical stab at authoritarian rule must be swiftly and loudly condemned.

“Why is the national security community treating the ‘Enemy Belligerent, Interrogation, Detention, and Prosecution Act of 2010,’ introduced by Sens. John McCain and Joseph Lieberman … as a standard proposal, as a simple response to the administration’s choices in the aftermath of the Christmas Day bombing attempt?” asked The Atlantic’s Marc Ambinder this month, “A close reading of the bill suggests it would allow the U.S. military to detain U.S. citizens without trial indefinitely in the U.S. based on suspected activity.”

This is a defining characteristic of a military dictatorship. Where’s the outrage? And will it come before it’s too late?
Liliana Segura is an AlterNet staff writer and editor of Rights & Liberties and World Special Coverage. Follow her on Twitter.
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US support for Israel’s brutal oppression/occupation of the Palestinian people got US tragically attacked on 9/11 (and earlier at the World Trade Center in 1993 as one can also look up ‘Israel as a terrorist’s motivation’ in the index of James Bamford’s ‘A Pretext for War’ book as well) as such was used as the pretext for invading Afghanistan and Iraq in the ‘War on Terror’ as such has basically shredded the Bill of Right of the US Constitution (access the following URLs if interested further):

What Motivated the 9/11 Hijackers? See testimony most didn’t:

Additional via and

Also access the following URL:

George Washington, A Passionate Attachment, and Israel

AIPAC confronts its worst fear: daylight.

The American Conservative                                                                    

  May 1, 2010
Out From the Shadows

AIPAC confronts its worst fear: daylight.

Philip Weiss

In that radical handbook on the workings of American society, the Wizard of Oz never recovered once Dorothy pulled back the curtain of her own innocence. One would like to believe that AIPAC will never recover from a brutal spring that has exposed its real interests to the American public. Even supporters of the Jewish state have criticized the American Israel Public Affairs Committee for fully taking Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s side in his battle with Barack Obama over settlements, and during its recent annual conference, the lobby looked wobbly and defensive.

Yes, there was the usual procession of weak-kneed politicians professing love for Israel, not to mention AIPAC board members explaining how they cultivate “relationships” with the powerful. Yes, Sen. Chuck Schumer gave a bloodcurdling yowl, Am Yisroel Chai—the Jewish people live!—as he pledged to be Israel’s guardian. But a large shift in American policy and opinion has left the lead institution of the lobby exposed, and worse, mocked.

AIPAC was taking on water before its VIP-studded conference began in late March. Important supporters of Israel in the media, including Jeffrey Goldberg of The Atlantic and David Remnick of The New Yorker, questioned whether reflexive support for Israel’s right-wing policies served the American interest, echoing the view of Gen. David Petraeus that the Palestinian problem is our problem in the battle for hearts and minds in the Middle East.

AIPAC designed its conference to defeat this understanding in Washington. Still it crept in and panicked the faithful. Alan Dershowitz and executive director Howard Kohr gave fiery speeches that sought to puncture the new conventional wisdom. It is “bigoted” to suggest that Israel is hurting the U.S. in the Middle East, Dershowitz said; the Arabs hate us because they hate freedom. With his usual precision, he bragged, “Israel’s high technology accomplishments exceed those of all of Europe and most of Asia.” Kohr, too, retailed Israel’s techno achievements, before saying that it is “specious, insidious,” and “dangerous” for anyone to make the “reductivist” argument that the “relationship between the United States and Israel rests on resolving the conflict between Israel and the Palestinians.”

But a few minutes later, Hillary Clinton said that everywhere she goes in the world, leaders of foreign countries bring up the Israel/Palestine issue as one of the top three problems affecting them. So much for anti-reductivism. She said firmly that Israel must stop building settlements and honor Palestinian “aspirations” for Jerusalem. Christian ones, too, for that matter.

The scholar who put the lobby on the map with a famous paper four years ago says that everyone is now seeing the divergence between American and Israeli interests. John Mearsheimer wrote in an e-mail, “Listening to the speeches at the AIPAC conference—especially Alan Dershowitz’s—I had the sense that the hardliners in the lobby are getting desperate because they recognize that more and more Americans are coming to understand that Israel is a strategic liability for the United States. Plus there is the not so small matter that Israel is turning itself into an apartheid state, and more and more people are seeing that, too.”

AIPAC’s doctrinaire inability to say boo in favor of Obama’s efforts to bring about Palestinian self-determination was mocked to wide laughter on the second day of the conference, when the antiwar group Code Pink released a hoax press release saying that AIPAC had called for an immediate freeze on settlements. Several news organizations, including C-SPAN and Al Jazeera, promptly put the “news” up on the screen, surely because it seemed a shrewd political step for an organization seeking influence in Obama’s Washington. Minutes later, the hoax was admitted, exposing AIPAC’s willing puppetry for a foreign government, an act climaxed that night when Netanyahu himself repeated the talking point that two AIPAC executives had uttered from the podium before him: “Jerusalem is not a settlement.”

The other talking point AIPAC pushed was the criticism that Obama should never have publicly quarreled with Israel because open disagreement gives ammunition to our enemies, who are trying to undermine the Jewish state. “Allies should work out their differences privately,” explained Lee Rosenberg, the incoming president of AIPAC who is, what a coincidence, a former member of Obama’s finance committee.

This is not something you will find in the Federalist Papers, which say that policy must be formed by open and robust debate. Indeed, the repeated suggestion that a foreign government ought to wield its influence behind closed doors—not to mention the repeated appearance of Israeli soldiers in uniform at the podium, when there was nary an American uniform in sight—only added to the methane in the atmosphere.

“This could be a moment of waking up and wisdom,” says Stephen P. Cohen, author of the recently published Beyond America’s Grasp: a Century of Failed American Diplomacy in the Middle East.

The long silence toward Israeli settlements that has been the policy of American Jewish leadership is no longer fully sustainable. It’s a failure of courage of our leadership that we have not recognized our responsibility to be a primary supporter of an American foreign policy that has been advocated now by both Republican and Democratic presidencies going back to George H.W. Bush. … Israel is putting itself at risk, and the United States.

This is not to say that the Israel lobby will not win on the issue it most cares about: the happy work of applying “crippling” sanctions to Iran, followed no doubt by U.S. military action. Scores of congressmen were on hand to affirm that position in public letters to the president, as were Senators Schumer, Lindsey Graham, and Evan Bayh and Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty. Speakers routinely invoked the murder of Jews in the Holocaust before describing Iran’s nuclear plans as an “existential” threat to Israel and the Jewish people—notwithstanding the fact that Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak, sitting at a front table, has said specifically that an Iranian bomb is not an existential threat to Israel.

But the political capital the lobby will need for the Iran battle has clearly been damaged by a public spectacle that it has worked to prevent for 50 years: daylight between the U.S. government and the Israeli government. The growing awareness that the two countries’ interests diverge, and that AIPAC will stick with Israel, has surely hurt the lobby’s claim to be an American organization. The special bond between the countries is unbreakable and forever, its leaders insisted. But the conference-goers weren’t heartened.

“The mood is one of fear over the rift with the administration. People here feel they are less and less appreciated by the U.S. government. This is a frightening time for them,” says Medea Benjamin, leader of Code Pink. “They feel that Israel’s allies are shrinking, the press is pro-Palestinian. Nobody understands Israel, and this administration is pro-Palestinian. And we’ve got to protect ourselves, and building settlements is part of what keeps Israel alive.”

Despair was evident. The theme of the conference, “Israel, Tell the Story,” was an effort to stop the bleeding. Even Howard Kohr warned that the lobbyists are internalizing this message. “The pro-Israel community [must] go on the offense in demanding fair treatment for Israel,” he said. “The first thing we must do is break free of our own doubts.”

But who can maintain such blinders? An Arab American Institute poll released the day Netanyahu spoke says that only 42 percent of American Democrats have a favorable view of Israel. Former Israeli aide Tal Becker warned the conference that without some offerings to Obama, the lobby is likely to lose influence over policy. Hillary Clinton implored the conference to understand that the “status quo is unsustainable.” The special relationship is suddenly embarrassing. As Cohen says, blind American allegiance to Israeli policy toward the Palestinians is making us look like a “paper tiger” in China’s eyes.

Mearsheimer says that the spell has been broken among well-informed Americans: “AIPAC will surely remain a powerful lobbying organization in the short term, but it is hard to see how it can maintain its present level of influence over the long term. Not only is it trying to sell flawed merchandise—the special relationship—but it now operates out in the open in ways that can only reduce its effectiveness.”

Ironically, he now believes less in the lobby’s power than the lobby itself. When Netanyahu dares to defy U.S. policy on the settlements and his American hosts give him standing ovations, they are all betting that Israel’s friends in Congress and the media will be able to defy presidential policy as in days past. It’s a reasonable bet. The lockstep of Schumer and Howard Berman and Henry Waxman and other so-called liberals on AIPAC’s Iran agenda reminds us that the Jewish establishment is committed to the Jewish claim to an undivided Jerusalem and is mixed on giving up land in the West Bank. Even J Street, the alternative Israel lobby, which boldly supported Obama against Netanyahu, has been lukewarm in its criticism of Israel’s colonization project.

What about the bet on Obama? “Everyone in this city is wondering that,” says Matt Duss of the Center for American Progress. “He played a successful long game with healthcare. Is he going to make clear what American interests are?”

The bad news from AIPAC is that the Jewish community is so wedded to Jim Crow in Palestine that it won’t offer Obama much support. That is quite a comedown for an American group long associated with freethinking and minority rights. But the good news is that this Jewish tragedy doesn’t have to be an American one.

Philip Weiss blogs at

“Hold Me Back!” by Uri Avnery

“Hold Me Back!” by Uri Avnery

Bombing Iran?

The Lobby vs. America: Netanyahu’s Lies and the Spineless Politicians

The Lobby vs. America: Netanyahu’s Lies and the Spineless Politicians

Israeli war crimes were made possible because of American funds.

By Ramzy Baroud

As I listened to Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu address an animated crowed of supporters on March 22, I felt physically sick. The man has already displayed time and again a complete lack of moral sense or ethical framework in his words and actions. In his recent arguments, he once again twisted history, manipulated facts and fabricated his own selective, self-interested and highly questionable narrative. Netanyahu, a colonialist from a faraway land, also had the audacity to convince himself and a few others that he had legal, moral and historic rights over my land. While I am the son of a Palestinian family rooted in Palestine since time immemorial, Netanyahu is the son of an immigrant from Lithuania. While he giddily robs more Palestinian land in Jerusalem, I live in exile.

Netanyahu was addressing the annual conference of the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC). The ‘powerful’ lobby group encompasses a large conglomerate of rightwing Zionist politicians and lobbyists and is seen by many as the most instrumental platform that influences – and, to a large degree, controls – US foreign policy regarding Palestine, Israel and the entire Middle East.

AIPAC is dangerous for many reasons. For one, it’s not a lobby group in the conventional sense – meaning a group of well-paid lobbyists harassing US Congressmen with telephone calls with the hope of advancing the agenda of their benefactors (in this case, the state of Israel). The pro-Israel lobby has actually grown and morphed into a political body that is embedded within all branches of the US government, as well as the media, academia and elsewhere. It is no secret that the neo-conservative cliques of politicians who engineered, steered and to an extent continue to influence US war policy are in fact a mere component of the same ‘lobby’.

While Jewish communities in the US may not be united in their support of the largely rightwing and hawkish Zionist lobby groups, both major political parties in the US and all branches of the government stand in complete support of Israel. The AIPAC annual conference is almost mandatory for them. Sadly, Netanyahu’s speech before AIPAC is of equal, if not of greater import to some of them than the State of the Union address. Following Obama’s address in 2010, many US politicians openly voiced criticism of his take on many issues. But few dare challenge Netanyahu on much of the malice he spewed on March 22.

Americans need to realize that this is no longer about Palestine and Israel. It is now about their own country, their own sovereignty and the future of their own democracy. They must ask hard questions and refuse to settle for sentimental answers. How could America be so divided on so many issues, yet so united on the ‘cause of Israel’? Where does a feeble politician like Netanyahu find the courage to defy the president of the very country that supplied his own with many billions of taxpayer dollars? Of course, we know that much of the fund was used to occupy, torment and wage war on Palestinians for many years. This is the atrocious fact that Americans need to understand fully: Israeli war crimes were made possible because of American funds, weapons and political cover. America is not an outside party to the conflict. It has done more than its fair share in the ongoing Palestinian tragedy.

Even if one is somehow convinced by the most recent and unusually strong stance taken by the Obama administration regarding Israel’s settlement policy in East Jerusalem, there still remains the question of what comes next. When the President of the United States articulates a seemingly unmovable US position that rejects the building of more illegal settlements that would preclude any possible peace talks, and yet he fails to weaken Israel’s resolve even by an iota, some questions must be asked. Will the US use its leverage to twist Israel’s arm to respect international law? Will it at least hold on to some of the billions of dollars of funds that it continues to pour into Israel – especially as the US undergoes an unprecedented financial crisis, resulting in growing poverty and homelessness?

The answer might be in the UPI report on March 26, citing Israeli daily newspaper Haaretz:

“Despite the sharpest rift in decades between Israel and the United States, the Pentagon is reported to have given the green light to the $250 million sale of C-130J transport aircraft to Israel…The deal…involves three ‘Super Hercules’ aircraft manufactured especially to the Israeli air force’s requirements. (The report) indicates that despite the belief among the United States’ top military commanders that Israel’s failure to reach a peaceful settlement with the Palestinians is undermining U.S. influence and standing in the Muslim world and thus endangering its forces, the Pentagon is prepared to maintain Israel’s military superiority in the Middle East.”

The timing and the nature of the ‘sale’ signify the following: first, if the US government was ready to actively back up its supposed disagreement with Israel, it would have stopped this unwarranted sale. Second, considering that the deal was made through the Pentagon, the very platform used to express concern and call for at least a reconsideration of US policy in the region, the sale is both a slap on the face of the US military, and a veiled apology to Israel. Third, if the failure to reexamine this absence relationship continues, then there is absolutely no doubt left that US foreign policy in the Middle East is indeed held hostage to Israeli, not American priorities, misguided at times as they maybe.

Those individuals in the US government, military and media that have the courage and the platform to confront Israel must take the opportunity. They should not succumb to intimidation or fear, nor should they be swayed by Netanyahu’s lies. The fact is, Netanyahu will continue to lie; it’s what he does best. The onus is on those US politicians who readily and barefacedly continue to give the professional liar a standing ovation following every statement he utters. And it is only really they who give any power to the ‘powerful’ lobby.

– Ramzy Baroud ( is an internationally-syndicated columnist and the editor of His latest book is “My Father Was a Freedom Fighter: Gaza’s Untold Story” (Pluto Press, London), now available on