Don’t Forget What Dr. King Taught – That Violence Begets Violence

There’s nothing more important on this Martin Luther King Jr. Day than to remember our nation’s preeminent civil rights hero’s greatest but possibly most ignored insight (at least since the U.S. launched its series of post 9-11 “wars on terror”):

Hate begets hate; violence begets violence; toughness begets a greater toughness. We must meet the forces of hate with the power of love…

The ultimate weakness of violence is that it is a descending spiral begetting the very thing it seeks to destroy, instead of diminishing evil, it multiplies it… Returning violence for violence multiplies violence, adding deeper darkness to a night already devoid of stars. Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that.

Continue reading “Don’t Forget What Dr. King Taught – That Violence Begets Violence”

Why This FBI Whistleblower Seconds Jill Stein’s Call For A New 9/11 Investigation

After the events of September 11, 2001, as a longtime FBI agent and division legal counsel, I blew the whistle on the FBI’s failure to act on information provided by the Minneapolis field office that could have prevented the attacks.

On this sad 15th anniversary of 9/11, I am encouraged to see that Green Party Presidential Candidate Jill Stein put out a statement calling for a new investigation not afflicted by all the limitations, partisan obstacles and other problems that adversely affected the 9/11 Commission.

It’s what so many of us have long called for, including me personally (see here and here) as someone with a front row seat to the FBI’s initial cover-ups. The FBI was only one of the agencies and political entities which strived to cover up the truth of why and how they all ignored a “system blinking red” in the months before the attacks. So successful had this been that when I testified to the Senate Judiciary Committee in June 2002, I actually felt I had to explain why the truth was important. That we “owed it to the public, especially the victims of terrorism, to be completely honest” and “learning from our mistakes” were two of the reasons I came up with.

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Why We’re Going to Dallas for the People’s Response to the Bush Lie-Bury

A recent news report asking “Where is Dubya?” found the former president totally unengaged, spending his time painting strange portraits of himself in the bath. In what seems to be a weird personal attempt to emulate Winston Churchill (but more reminiscent of Marie Antoinette playing shepherdess in her last days), the former president calmly ignores the sickening truth that slowly but surely emerges about his Administration’s crimes as well as recent UN demands that U.S. leaders be charged with war crimes (i.e. Ben Emmerson, the lead special investigator, recently described to gathered UN dignitaries a setting of self-approved legal immunity among U.S. and UK national leaders. He called the two governments’ standing policy, “A policy of de facto immunity for public officials who engaged in acts of torture, rendition and secret detention, and their superiors and political masters who authorized these acts.”)

So the hard task will clearly fall to George W. Bush’s soon-to-open Presidential Center to re-fashion history and create the legacy of the great “Decider” who, with neo-con help, so longed to be a “war president” that he decided to illegally and recklessly launch a “war of choice” (otherwise known as the illegal and catastrophic war of aggression upon Iraq based on false premises). The new Bush Library will undoubtedly also credit their namesake with the idea of initiating the “global war on a tactic (GWOT)” that, despite a recent bipartisan congressional bill to end it, teeters on the verge of being made permanent. Bush’s successor having cleverly re-named it, then stretched and expanded GWOT to so many new countries that it now has come full circle under rhetoric of “keeping us safe” from foreign enemies that it now targets U.S. citizens for indefinite detention and assassination and includes the U.S. as part of its ever-widening global battlefield.

Whoever said we can’t look back must not have reckoned with the fact and force of such a Presidential Lie-Bury! Luckily some Dallas residents have sprung to the task of putting forward an honest “People’s Response” to the deceptive refashioning of this unethical and illegal history. Here’s an excerpt from their press release:

When the George W. Bush Library and Policy Institute is dedicated on April 25, 2013, at Southern Methodist University (SMU) in Dallas, Texas, protestors will be there to demand the ex-president be held accountable for war crimes, crimes against humanity, and violations of U.S. and international law. President Barack Obama, former U.S. presidents and many heads of state are expected to attend the dedication ceremony.

A coalition of local, state and national peace and justice groups organizing the protest is inviting people from across the country to participate in an event called “The People’s Response.” According to Leslie Harris of CODEPINK Greater Dallas, “The illegal invasion of a sovereign nation was declared a ‘supreme crime’ at the Nuremberg trials. That Bush and his advisors walk free today is unconscionable; there must be accountability so history won’t repeat itself.”

Reverend Bill McElvaney, professor emeritus, Perkins School of Theology at SMU, an early opponent of locating the George W. Bush Institute on campus, said, “The invasion of Iraq, and the approval of torture are violations of the United Methodist Social Principles, thus placing Southern Methodist University in contradiction to its own heritage as an institution of The United Methodist Church.”

I plan to participate for a lot of reasons but most fundamentally, from having spent 24 years as an FBI agent working in the criminal justice system always and inherently focused on looking backward to solve the worst crimes, I understand the true purpose of Obama’s ridiculous “only look forward” cover-up was to continue, make worse and even expand upon Bush’s illegal wars, war crimes and war profiteering. It’s hard to put this into words better than author and researcher, “War Is A Crime” and “Let’s Try Democracy” activist David Swanson as he explains “Why I’m Attending the Dedication of the Bush Lie Bury.”


Don’t Confirm Brennan, Torture AND Drone Assassinations Are Illegal

Senator Rand Paul is not the only one with serious questions about the nomination of John Brennan for CIA Director! Many people are rightly concerned that the CIA Nominee failed to provide a clear answer to Paul’s question: “Do you believe that the president has the authority to order lethal force, such as a drone strike, against a U.S. citizen on U.S. soil, and without a trial?”

This coming Wednesday, Feb. 27, the House Judiciary Committee will hold a hearing on “Drones and the War On Terror: When Can the U.S. Target Alleged American Terrorists Overseas?” Unfortunately, besides being framed in a completely leading way, the only witnesses that will testify — all four — were drawn from the same Lawfare blog. Lawfare co-founder Benjamin Wittes (who doesn’t even possess a law degree himself) gloats about it. Have you ever heard of a congressional hearing that calls all of its “experts” from one certain pro-war agenda-driven blog?! (Note how the Lawfare blog byline, “Hard National Security Choices”, masks how these blogging lawyers tend to come up with the very easy answer that the law of force is the answer instead of the rule of law. Clearly the aim of this “Judiciary Hearing” should be questioned as it does not appear it is to fairly consider the range of views about the illegality of drone assassination without judicial process.)

Additionally, we here in Minnesota have initiated meetings and letters signed now by over 200 members of different peace groups asking our Senators Amy Klobuchar and Al Franken, given their important Judiciary Committee assignments, to use their influence to seek answers. We’ve asked several other serious questions about Brennan’s background with CIA torture black sites as well as his role in drone assassinations (in this latest full letter to Sen. Klobuchar.)

Finally, our Veteran Intelligence Professionals for Sanity (VIPS) group sent a letter Senator Feinstein warning her about endorsing Brennan, who cooperated with former CIA Director George Tenet as he helped fix the Bush administration’s case for war on Iraq. It would be her next-to-worst mistake of her tenure on the Senate Intelligence Committee, we told her. The worst – we hope she now concedes – was voting to authorize the Iraq War. Read the letter in full here.

Let me also mention something else that seems to be going on in the “legal” debate that is now distracting people as it devolves into party partisanship. A number of law professors and legal commentators, from both the Right and the Left (even most recently Georgetown Law Professor David Cole who wrote: “Laying Down the Law–Why Obama’s targeted killing is better than Bush’s torture“) have turned what should be a much wider real debate based on facts and law into the narrow, more partisan-driven question of “What’s worse? (Bush’s) Torture or (Obama’s) Drone Bombing?”

Some like Cole, at least have the decency to preface their comments with “well they are both wrong, but…..” while Bellinger III and others of his Lawfare ilk post their challenges on the other side of the partisan “divide,” that in fact killing is worse than torture, using such common sense arguments that it’s better to be alive with your fingernails torn out than to be dead.

Isn’t this partisan “divide” as to whether to prefer torture or assassination as the lesser evil a bit like counting how many demons can dance on the head of a pin? It’s certainly confusing to those of us who think torture AND drone assassination are wrong, wrong, wrong. The unfortunate result, however–and perhaps the goal of the two party kabuki theater–is that the entire red herring “debate” distracts the partisans of both parties, making both Republicans and Democrats more complacent about both torture & drone assassination. This is how so many people come to ignore the right and wrong of it all and turn it into a mere political difference of opinion.

(Cross-posted from Huffington Post.)

The Problem with Human Rights/Humanitarian Law Taking Precedence over the Nuremberg Principle: Torture is Wrong but So Is the Supreme War Crime

A number of human rights issues converge on Friday January 11, 2013. In Washington DC and many other cities around the country, including the Twin Cities, people will don orange “Gitmo” jumpsuits and black hoods to protest the 11th year anniversary-travesty of Guantanamo as well as the (bizarrely coincidental) national release of the  despicable, CIA-inspired “zero conscience” film that falsely conveys the message that torture “works” and is somehow heroic.

This photo was taken a few days ago in Washington DC of a protest by Amnesty International and Witness Against Torture activists outside the opening of the Zero Dark Thirty film at the Newseum.

The third, far less known issue involves the resignation (effective on January 11) of Suzanne Nossel, Director of Amnesty International-USA.  Her resignation after only one year as American Director would be unimportant except for how it exposes more fundamental problems involving the way human rights principles during peace time and humanitarian rules governing warfare can function to undercut the more well established jus ad bellum prohibitions, under international law, of launching wars of choice.  Nossel’s statement itself gave little clue of the more fundamental problematic issues underlying her resignation (except for the fact that she only mentioned her appreciation for working to uphold “human rights” in the Soviet Union, Afghanistan, Myanmar and Syria ­but left out the human rights violations that the US-NATO-Israel is responsible for).
Continue reading “The Problem with Human Rights/Humanitarian Law Taking Precedence over the Nuremberg Principle: Torture is Wrong but So Is the Supreme War Crime”

What to Do after 11 Years of War? How About Occupying Your City Council?!

While electoral politics tends to suck the oxygen out of the room (and apparently out of many people’s brains) in these last few weeks before an election, a number of U.S. citizens committed to ending the wars took to the streets this week. Demonstrations in at least 38 cities in the U.S. as well as in some foreign countries — most notably Code Pink’s courageous peace march in Pakistan — are marking the 11th year anniversary of the longest war in U.S. history.

Veteran Michael Prysner accurately described the heartbreak of the current situation in Afghanistan as a “lost war and pointless mission” that is now sacrificing “life and limb for (nothing but) a slow-motion retreat” for politicians and generals to save face. The broader situation throughout the Middle East appears bleaker still inasmuch as the original congressional Authorization for Use of Military Force (AUMF) that began the war on Afghanistan has been expansively interpreted to now encompass covert “special forces operations”, cyber warfare, and drone bombing in at least five other countries. Additionally the recent National Defense Authorization Act even allows indefinite detentions of American citizens.

Naturally, more than a few of us have begun to lose hope in any American politician getting the country out of the wars, quagmires and messes created by other politicians. However, by recalling Lord Acton’s immutable principle as well as Eisenhower’s warning about the corrosive impact of the Military Industrial Complex, we see that the lower levels of city and state governments are inherently more reachable and less subject to corruption than the higher and more powerful levels of federal government. The notion that more real hope exists at the grassroots, civil society and city council level is being borne out.


Ask yourself and then your city council: “What mostly trickles down: prosperity or austerity?” This week residents of my city (Apple Valley), as in other Minnesota cities and local governing bodies, will ask our city council the following questions:

1) Can we spend trillions on war without cutting essential services on the local level?

2) Tell us about “Community Development Block Grants.” Has our city seen cuts?

3) What are the ramifications? How much does the federal government spend on war and how much on local communities in the US?

4) How many local tax dollars have been spent to fund recent wars and an escalating Pentagon budget while local needs go unmet?

At the same time, we will also ask our City Council to consider putting the following draft resolution on their formal agenda:


City councils prove receptive

Undoubtedly there are some mayors and city councilpersons who might want to shrug off the responsibility of connecting these dots despite the fact that their cities and city residents are the ones paying the price of these costly national wars. But it shouldn’t be necessary to bring our tents or camping gear to make city officials seriously think about this. Already several major cities around the country including Los Angeles, CA, Philadelphia, PA and Hartford, CT have signed on. The U.S. Conference of Mayors passed a similar resolution in June of 2011. Also, the “Women Legislators’ Lobby,” including 36 MN women legislators, signed a letter calling for “responsible cuts in military spending.”


Yesterday, October 10, 2012, the Saint Paul City Council voted unanimously to pass the resolution calling for a reduction and redirection of military spending back to local communities! The St. Paul City Council joined a statewide week of action during the 11 year anniversary of the Afghan War. This resolution was brought forward by the Minnesota Arms Spending AlternativesProject (MN ASAP). MN ASAP is a non-partisan citizen-based initiative using a simple resolution process to build political support to shift federal spending priorities from war to meeting essential needs. MN ASAP’s goal is to build sufficient political power and influence statewide from representatives at all levels of government and from non-governmental organizations and civic groups to effectively demand a shift in priorities from war spending to meeting essential needs.

The group Minnesota Arms Spending Alternatives Project (MN ASAP) is approaching city councils around the state, asking them to connect the dots between federal military spending and cuts to local city council budgets, i.e. Community Development Block Grants, which come from the Federal Discretionary Budget.


Activists around Minnesota — in St. Paul, Minneapolis, Eagan, Apple Valley, Mounds View, Circle Pines, Lakeville, and Duluth (so far) — have been pursuing their council members via email, phone calls, office visits, or by speaking during the public hearing sessions (open microphone sessions). In Minneapolis, a majority of council members have individually endorsed the resolution and it is hoped an official vote will soon be scheduled there. Also noteworthy is the personal endorsement of our resolution by Rep. Keith Ellison who urges the Minneapolis City Council to debate and vote in favor of our resolution.


(Co-written with Nathan J. Ness, Director of MN ASAP: originally appeared on Huffington Post.)