The Greatest Legislative Body in the World

How about that vote yesterday in the House of Commons.

It must be nice to have a working legislature which actually votes in response to public opinion.

It does not appear that there will be any sort of vote in the Congress of the United States. We are already moving forces to attack targets in Syria. The President just has to brief (secretly) some committees in Congress – who because of their security oaths cannot talk about it.

Murder

President Barack Obama,

Sooner or later I knew that I would have to write to you about your policy of murdering people without due process.

We have this capacity now with pilot-less drone aircraft, which can fly virtually undetected just about anywhere where there are not sufficiently advanced air defenses to defend against them; to target anyone we please. At first, we just used this capacity for surveillance. But during the Iraq and Afghanistan wars we realized how handy it would be to be able to shoot missiles from these platforms.

It only took us a few years to go from mistakenly attacking wedding parties of Afghans to murdering our own citizens and their families (sometimes mistakenly and sometimes not) in countries where we are not even officially conducting military activities. Only after the missile fragments are positively identified as being from the United States do we then proclaim that yes we did expressly target Anwar al-Awlaki but his 16 year old son; Abdulrahman al-Awlaki was “not specifically targeted” by the United States.

There is no expression of regret, nor even that a mistake was made. And since the United States did not make any mistakes – we need not apologize to anyone.

As to the targeting process, there are no trials, just a discussion at the Tuesday morning counter-terrorism meeting where the kill-list is finalized. There is no need for a trial – because you have a finding (Just like President George W Bush) that you don’t need a trial in a time of war.

Just because we are able to kill someone does not mean that we should.

Even when we had the chance to capture Osama bin Ladin, and try him for his crimes, we did not. We murdered him and dumped his body into the ocean.

This is wrong. It goes against all the traditions of English common law on which our legal system is based. The use of national security by the executive branch of government to shut down any and all court proceedings challenging these policies, and the threat of prosecution to members of Congress (anyone up for whistle-blowing?) who are supposed to provide oversight; disables the other two branches of government which are supposed to provide the checks and balances to the governments use of power.

The accumulation of all powers, legislative, executive, and judiciary, in the same hands, whether of one, a few, or many, and whether hereditary, selfappointed, or elective, may justly be pronounced the very definition of tyranny.

James Madison – The Federalist No. 47

Anger

Yesterday, I read an interview with Jeremy Scahill promoting his documentary movie ‘Dirty Wars’. (Jeremy Scahill also published a book Dirty Wars) He was talking about the United States assassination by drone missile of the son of  Anwar al-Awlaki: Abdulrahman al-Awlaki, then 16 years old – and I realized that Abdulrahman was born the same year as my daughter.

I have been too angry since to post coherently.

Courage

President Barack Obama,

I ran across Chelsea (Bradley) Manning’s sentencing statement this morning. I think that everyone that goes to war as an idealist (and what twenty-something is not an idealist) at some point discovers the truth about war. If only we as a species could somehow teach this truth to our young so that they could learn it without having to experience war themselves every other generation.

The decisions that I made in 2010 were made out of a concern for my country and the world that we live in. Since the tragic events of 9/11, our country has been at war. We’ve been at war with an enemy that chooses not to meet us on any traditional battlefield, and due to this fact we’ve had to alter our methods of combating the risks posed to us and our way of life.

I initially agreed with these methods and chose to volunteer to help defend my country. It was not until I was in Iraq and reading secret military reports on a daily basis that I started to question the morality of what we were doing. It was at this time I realized in our efforts to meet this risk posed to us by the enemy, we have forgotten our humanity. We consciously elected to devalue human life both in Iraq and Afghanistan. When we engaged those that we perceived were the enemy, we sometimes killed innocent civilians. Whenever we killed innocent civilians, instead of accepting responsibility for our conduct, we elected to hide behind the veil of national security and classified information in order to avoid any public accountability.

In our zeal to kill the enemy, we internally debated the definition of torture. We held individuals at Guantanamo for years without due process. We inexplicably turned a blind eye to torture and executions by the Iraqi government. And we stomached countless other acts in the name of our war on terror.

Patriotism is often the cry extolled when morally questionable acts are advocated by those in power. When these cries of patriotism drown our any logically based intentions [unclear], it is usually an American soldier that is ordered to carry out some ill-conceived mission.

Our nation has had similar dark moments for the virtues of democracy—the Trail of Tears, the Dred Scott decision, McCarthyism, the Japanese-American internment camps—to name a few. I am confident that many of our actions since 9/11 will one day be viewed in a similar light.

As the late Howard Zinn once said, “There is not a flag large enough to cover the shame of killing innocent people.”

I understand that my actions violated the law, and I regret if my actions hurt anyone or harmed the United States. It was never my intention to hurt anyone. I only wanted to help people. When I chose to disclose classified information, I did so out of a love for my country and a sense of duty to others.

If you deny my request for a pardon, I will serve my time knowing that sometimes you have to pay a heavy price to live in a free society. I will gladly pay that price if it means we could have country that is truly conceived in liberty and dedicated to the proposition that all women and men are created equal.

– Chelsea (Bradley) Manning (August 21, 2013)

Although, as I read through this again – it seems there is still a great deal of idealism in there.

This is the kind of person we should be trying to recruit into our military.

This is the kind of person who would never dishonor our country or our military by committing atrocities in our name; even when ordered to do so.

This is the kind of person that you have allowed to be imprisoned for up to 35 years.

Promises

President Barack Obama,

When I was researching my last letter to you, I was reminded of the ‘secret’ prison that Jeremy Scahill reported on in the Nation magazine 2 years ago. In looking for good articles to add as links to my letter – I ran across this article in the New American that copied most of the information in the Nation article but then linked the existence of this ‘secret’ prison to the executive order you signed on January 22, 2009.

Everybody knows that Presidents as a matter of state must lie from time to time. But, you aren’t supposed to be caught in your lies so easily. You promised in your executive order when you took office to prevent the CIA from running secret prisons in foreign countries. You have lied. Whether you intended to close the prisons and the CIA has managed to play you into maintaining these capabilities or you just signed the executive order as a public relations stunt and never intended to follow your own order: does not really matter at this point. What really matters is once you went along with these CIA policies the military and intelligence bureaucracies were safe from you. Unlike President Jimmy Carter who instituted intelligence reforms including the establishment of the FISA courts, your ability to rein in the military and intelligence organizations has been severely limited. Any move on your part to close these sites will result in leaks and questions being asked that you don’t want to answer.

As long as these allegations are just being made by some reporter for the Nation, you can ignore them. You are lucky (and the American people are most unlucky) that the media for the most part in the United States is so cooperative; acting as your own press office, and that the American people themselves are so complacent. It seems that no action, no matter how despicable, underhanded, or dishonorable is questioned as long as it is purported to be done in the defense of the United States.

Some of us do notice however. I wish that you were more honest with us. I wish that your administration stood for something other than political or military expediency.

 

Muhamed Hussein Abdallah

President Barack Obama,

Muhamed Hussein Abdallah was kidnapped in Pakistan in May 2002. He was sent to the military prison on the Guantanamo Bay Naval Base on the 5th of August 2002. Mr. Abdallah was then transferred to Somalia presumably to be held in prison there by the Somalians (Mr. Adballah was born in Booro, Somalia). It is fortunate that the United States has that handy little ‘secret’ prison in Mogadishu in the basement of the Somali National Security Agency. Muhamed Hussein Abdallah is probably still being held there: if so, he has spent the last 11 years as our prisoner.

Mr. President, have you read this document which was leaked to wikileaks about Muhamed Hussein Abdallah?

Muhamed Hussein Abdallah is a school teacher. His only intelligence value is for information about Non Governmental Organizations (NGO)s which have had some association with organizations that we have designated as terrorist groups. As you can probably tell, I am damned skeptical of anything alleged by the United States these past 14 years or so; “Often-Wrong” best describes my opinion of the veracity of the United States.

Lets say that Muhamed Hussein Abdallah was guilty of something. God alone knows what – since you don’t have any evidence that he ever touched a gun or a bomb let alone participated in any violent activity of any kind. (How do I know this? I know it because if there was any incriminating information against Muhamed Hussein Abdallah you would have leaked it long ago.) Even if Muhamed Hussein Abdallah had been tried (There is no evidence that any trial has ever taken place.) and convicted of some crime; what crime could he have committed to be sentenced to be imprisoned by the United States for 11 years?

Muhamed Hussein Abdallah has suffered enough no matter what crime he supposedly has done.

Let Muhamed Hussein Abdallah go. Call the Somalian guards on our payroll in the basement of the Somalian National Security Agency building, and give the order. No pardon is required, you’ve effectively rendered Muhamed Hussein Abdallah invisible; in our custody but deniably so.

You could release him today.

Adnan Farhan Abdul Latif

President Barack Obama,

Adnan Farhan Abdul Latif committed suicide September 8, 2012; he had been held prisoner by the United States at the Guantanamo Bay Naval Base since January of 2002.

Adnan Farhan Abdul Latif had been ordered released from prison via a habeas corpus petition in July 2010. It was appealed by the Justice Department and overturned in October of 2011.

The wikipedia and Amnesty International web pages referenced above further reference many reported incidents that Mr. Latif was abused by our military in the prison on the Guantanamo Bay Naval Base.

You could have released Adnan Farhan Abdul Latif. The Justice Department did not have to appeal the habeas corpus order. Mr. Latif could have been released back in July of 2010. He could have been trying to put all this behind him, and rebuilding his life.

It is too late for Adnan Farhan Abdul Latif, but it is not too late to do something about the other prisoners on the Guantanamo Bay Naval Base.

These men have suffered enough. Please let them go.

You could pardon them. You could do it today.

Keep it Simple

President Barack Obama,

In my last letter, I mentioned specifically ordering gentle treatment for the prisoners in the military prison on the Guantanamo Bay Naval Base. There was a reason for this comment. Any hierarchy takes it’s lead from the top. During the Bush Administration we had a president, vice-president, and secretaries of Defense who were negligent in enforcing discipline on the armed forces of the United States. The Bush Administration sanctioned torture and mistreatment from the President’s office. If torture was now OK – then all the ugliness which mankind so often expresses in war was, if not officially sanctioned, was tolerated. This is why we see the blood-lust and glee in the “Collateral Murder” video. This is why we hear of such disturbing incidents of violence against the Iraqi and Afghan civilian populations. It is a basic lack of discipline, from the top, which then poisons the attitudes of our soldiers causing some of them to act out of their basest impulses – and mostly getting away with atrocities, which shame all of us who have served the United States.

I was in the United States Navy from 1981 – 1985. I can speak from personal experience that any military unit takes it’s lead from its commanding officer. A bad CO means a bad unit. I was lucky that all the CO’s I had were very good, (I had 3 commanding officers during my time with my squadron VAW-117, and 2 Captains of the USS Enterprise – the ship on which my air wing deployed.) but there are always a few bad apples out there, their commands are like bad neighborhoods in an otherwise well-run city.

You set the tone for our military. You are responsible for selecting Generals and Admirals who will enforce discipline on down the line.

An outstanding example of a good commander is Australia’s Chief of Army Lieutenant General David Morrison. He has a great video where he expresses his disgust with sexual harassment of female members of the Australian armed services and the understanding that tolerated behavior is approved behavior.

It would be wonderful, if all of our officers started acting like General David Morrison; not tolerating sexual harassment, and not tolerating the mistreatment of prisoners of war and civilian populations where our soldiers and sailors are stationed.

Making Things Right

President Barack Obama,

If it was not so tragic, it would be funny. President George W Bush kidnapped a number of people from around the world and populated the military prison on the Guantanamo Bay Naval Base. You are elected to be president inheriting this problem. Enough information has leaked out about conditions at this prison: the abuse and torture that have taken place there, that any sort of court trials have no credibility. Congress does not want the prisoners brought into the United States to be imprisoned further or to be released. The only politically workable legal solution seems to be to get some other country to accept these men.

Why don’t you just order the intelligence / military services to just return these men to wherever we got them? It’s not like there was anything legal about anything to do with Guantanamo in the first place. Returning these men may not be legal; however, it is the compassionate thing to do. The whole legal theory that a prison physically outside the United States – but still controlled by our military is not subject to our laws is really ridiculous. It’s like arguing that a United States citizen does not have any rights or protections just because they are in a remote part of the world; like Yemen. (Sorry to say; you have argued this – ordering the deaths of United States citizens overseas – this is also a terrible, wrong legal argument.)

These men have suffered enough. Please let them go.

You could order this done.

Make sure to order the prisoners to be treated gently – (more about this will be posted later this week.)

You could do it today.

Stamps

President Barack Obama,

I use the United States Flag forever stamps to send these hardcopy letters to you.

stamp1

As I have researched the details of what we have done to the men we have imprisoned in the military prison on the Guantanamo Bay Naval Base, the message of these stamps seems like such a cruel joke.

Freedom? Liberty? Equality? and especially Justice? For who?

These men have suffered enough. Please let them go.

You could pardon them. You could do it today.