Read Len Goodman’s Latest from In These Times: It’s Not Enough to Fight Trump—Progressives Need a Vision for the Future

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Protesters demand Democratic Sens. Chuck Schumer and Kirsten Gillibrand (N.Y.) fight Trump’s Wall Street-insider Cabinet picks. (Photo by Spencer Platt/Getty Images)

It’s Not Enough to Fight Trump—Progressives Need a Vision for the Future

Either decorporatize the Democrats or create a viable third party.

BY LEONARD C. GOODMAN

Opposing Trump is necessary but not sufficient to move the country in a progressive direction.

It’s heartening to see so many folks out in the streets standing up to our new president and his proposed team of racists and plutocrats. It is also worth remembering that Trump was elected by less than 25 percent of eligible voters and has some of the lowest approval numbers in history for an incoming president.

The election of such an unpopular and unqualified leader is a symptom of something even more dangerous than Trump: a systemic rot at the heart of our national politics. Trump was elected because a record number of eligible voters stayed home, including some 2 million African Americans who voted for Obama in 2012.

Ordinary Americans understand what the pundits and political operatives living in the D.C. bubble fail to comprehend: The system is rigged. Our national politics is controlled by a duopoly of corporate-owned Republicans and Democrats. To be sure, with the Democrats you get more reasonable rhetoric, the occasional grilling of a Wall Street villain on C-SPAN, and even a few votes of conscience by lawmakers in safe seats. But in the end, both national parties make sure that the interests of corporations will be advanced while the interests of the poor and working class are brushed aside. Business owners win over workers; creditors win over debtors; war profiteers win over the safety and security of everyone on the planet.

I say this as someone who stood in Chicago’s Grant Park in November 2008, celebrating the election of Barack Obama. Inspired by his message of hope and change, I ignored that he had accepted more money from Wall Street interests than any candidate in history. Then I watched as Obama spent eight years serving his Wall Street financiers.

To cite just one example, Obama’s Department of Justice (DOJ) chose not to prosecute a single banker for the systemic mortgage fraud that wrecked our economy and caused many middle-class people to lose their homes and fall into poverty. Then, to deepen the insult, the DOJ prosecuted and jailed hundreds of low-income Americans for lying to the banks on their mortgage applications. The DOJ ignored that it was banks that developed these “liar loans,” which encouraged home buyers to inflate their income numbers, saddling them with unaffordable housing while the banks sold the loans to unwitting investors. As a lawyer, I have represented many of these folks. In every one of my cases, federal prosecutors demanded both lengthy prison sentences for my clients and restitution to the predator banks upon release—assuming my clients can find someone to hire them with a felony fraud conviction.

And of course, Obama, with the cooperation of a Democratic-majority House and Senate, continued George W. Bush’s massive taxpayer bailout of the nation’s financial elite. Apologists for the Democratic Party say that Obama had to bail out the banks to avoid a depression. This is true only if you apply corporate media’s definition of a “depression”: an economic collapse that causes wealthy capitalists to suffer. But if you consider the fates of ordinary people, we did have a depression. According to a Federal Reserve study, African Americans and Latinos who graduated from four-year colleges lost 60 percent and 72 percent of their wealth, respectively, after the 2008 financial crisis.

The outsize influence of corporate interests on our politics is nothing new. But one important difference today is that the interests of corporations have grown more opposed to the interests of working people and the poor. It once could be said that “What’s good for General Motors is good for America.” Back then, capitalists relied on American workers to produce their products and American consumers to buy them—so they cared about things like public schools, infrastructure and wages. Today’s plutocrats outsource their factories and earn wealth through complex financial schemes. They live in gated communities and fly on private jets.

I don’t mean to minimize the menace that is President Trump. Opposing Trump is necessary but not sufficient to move the country in a progressive direction. We must fight to either disengage the Democratic Party from its corporate masters, or to develop a viable third party. If the 2016 presidential election has taught us anything, it’s that Americans need more than a villain to vote against, they need a political party to vote for.

http://inthesetimes.com/article/19896/progressives-democrats-third-party-vision-obama

Len Goodman’s Latest from In These Times: HOW TO VOTE WHEN THERE’S NO LESSER EVIL

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HOW TO VOTE WHEN THERE’S NO LESSER EVIL

On foreign policy, both candidates are bad, but Clinton may be worse. We can’t keep supporting militarism out of fear.

 

 

 OCTOBER 4, 2016

JILL STEIN, THE GREEN PARTY NOMINEE FOR PRESIDENT, WANTS YOUR SUPPORT.

Her platform seeks to move “from the greed and exploitation of corporate capitalism to a human-centered economy that puts people, planet and peace over profit.” Author and professor Cornel West has endorsed Stein, calling her “a major force for good.” If Stein can get to 15 percent in the polls, she will get into future debates and could pose a real threat to the two major parties’ remarkably unpopular nominees.

Progressives are told it’s too risky to support a third party candidate because that might clear a path for Trump. I reject the idea that, out of that fear, we must support a Democratic Party that has sold out the interests of working people in favor of its corporate funders. If we allow corporate Democrats to control us by fear, we only enable further betrayals.

There are plenty of ways a Trump presidency could prove a disaster. But as someone who has been horrified by U.S. foreign policy under both Republican and Democratic administrations, I am not convinced a President Clinton would be any better. As the New York Times reported in 2014, neoconservatives are backing Clinton “in a bid to return to the driver’s seat of American foreign policy.” Clinton has a solid allegiance to the Endless War Doctrine that has driven foreign policy since 9/11. As a senator, Clinton was an outspoken supporter of the Iraq War and opposed restrictions on cluster bombs. As secretary of state—our nation’s chief diplomat—Clinton championed military solutions over diplomacy, including escalating the war in Afghanistan, regime change in Libya and arming Syrian rebels with weapons now in the hands of ISIS.

Trump, despite his lunatic rantings and constant contradictions, has at least acknowledged that “after 15 years of wars in the Middle East, after trillions of dollars spent and thousands of lives lost, the situation is worse than it has ever been before.”

Of course, Trump made those remarks before his campaign began relying on the backing of the GOP, which—like the Democratic Party—is deep in the pocket of the defense industry. Trump is now calling for increased defense spending of $500 billion over 10 years, along with a stepped-up bombing campaign.

On trade, however, Trump is more progressive than Clinton, who has repeatedly supported trade agreements like NAFTA that protect corporate profits over workers’ rights and the environment, and whose surrogates rejected a platform plank that opposed the Trans-Pacific Partnership. Trump at least pledges to reject trade agreements that hurt U.S. workers.

If you care about peace between Israel and Palestine, you should know that Clinton promises a complete embrace of Netanyahu and his right-wing government. Her surrogates rejected a platform plank calling for an “end to occupation.” Clinton has slammed Trump for daring to suggest that, as the broker of peace negotiations, the U.S. ought to be neutral. However, if Trump accepts the $5 million reportedly offered by Republican mega-donor Sheldon Adelson, he may be to the right of Clinton on Israel by the time he is sworn in.

And the uproar over Trump’s most odious proposal—to ban Muslims from entering the United States—contrasts with the remarkable silence about the far more horrific reality under Clinton/Obama, which has been to assassinate Muslims who frighten us (including U.S. citizens), often by mechanized drone, based on secret evidence and without any judicial process or meaningful oversight. If you are concerned about a person with Trump’s vindictive and unstable temperament presiding over a fleet of missile-armed drones and other high-tech weapons, remember that it was President Obama, a Democrat, who has overseen a drone assassination spree based on a White House “kill list” of targets chosen in what are called “terror Tuesday” meetings, despite the fact that government-planned assassinations were officially banned in 1976. It would be far better, I suggest, to support a candidate, like Stein, who would do away with this dangerous and destructive policy rather than scrambling every four years to elect a president who is not completely insane.

Further, if Trump’s despicable proposals about immigrants are based on ignorance rather than outright racism, there might be some hope for a change in policy. Ignorant people can sometimes be enlightened, while people who are bought and paid for tend to stay that way. And if we take Trump at his word to “figure out what is going on” (a dubious proposition to be sure), he will quickly learn what the Pentagon has known since at least 2004, that Muslims do not “hate our freedom,” they hate our policies: our drones, our interventions in the Muslim world, our support for Islamic tyrannies in places like Egypt and Saudi Arabia, and our occupation of Iraq and Afghanistan.

As for the appointment of judges, we know little about Trump’s philosophy except that he does not appear to bow to the wishes of ideological conservatives. Clinton, on the other hand, will select judges acceptable to her corporate backers, which means corporate lawyers and federal prosecutors. Lawyers who fight injustice on behalf of poor people—like my dream nominee, Bryan Stevenson, executive director of the Equal Justice Initiative in Montgomery, Ala., and lawyer for dozens on death row in the South—need not apply.

I fully agree that Trump’s ignorant, racist, sexist and xenophobic rhetoric should disqualify him from the presidency. But this should not require us to get behind a candidate whose rhetoric may sound progressive but whose policies are anything but. Remember that candidate Obama pledged to work toward a nuclear-free world while President Obama is now presiding over a trillion dollar modernization of that very arsenal. Candidate Obama pledged to get us out of wars in the greater Middle East while President Obama has, during the past month alone, dropped bombs on, or fired missiles at, at least six largely Islamic countries: Iraq, Syria, Afghanistan, Libya, Yemen, and Somalia.

People are right to be concerned about Trump’s climate change denial, embrace of torture, authoritarian rhetoric and despicable scapegoating of immigrants. But remember that the Democratic Party’s betrayal of working Americans, which began in earnest under President Bill Clinton, caused them to turn to someone like Trump. And if we settle for another four years of empty rhetoric about hope and change, coupled with policies that serve corporate backers, we will end up with an anti-establishment Republican even scarier in 2020.

So don’t be afraid to vote Green, even if you live in a swing state.

LEONARD C. GOODMAN Leonard Goodman is a Chicago criminal defense lawyer and Adjunct Professor of Law at DePaul University.

Originally published at:

http://inthesetimes.com/features/hillary_clinton_jill_stein_militarism.html

Rod Blagojevich Sentencing Memorandum – Chicago Tribune Article

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Chicago Tribune: Prosecutors want Blagojevich to serve full 14 years, defense asks for 5

READ LEN GOODMAN’S LATEST ARTICLE “THE BIZARRE EXPERIENCE OF AGREEING WITH TRUMP.”

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Marco Rubio wants to make sure his arms dealer campaign funders know he’s got their back. (Scott Olson/Getty Images)

PUBLISHED JANUARY 22, 2016 – IN THESE TIMES 

The Bizarre Experience of Agreeing with Trump

It’s no coincidence that Trump, the candidate least in need of money or media attention, is the most outspoken against war.

BY LEONARD C. GOODMAN

 

In a rare moment of candor in the Dec. 15, 2015, Republican debate, Donald Trump acknowledged how our misguided policies since 9/11 have squandered trillions on wars that have made us less safe: “We’ve spent $4 trillion trying to topple various people. … The Middle East is totally destabilized. A total and complete mess.”

Trump’s ability to self-fund allows him to take on the military-industrial complex, at least rhetorically. Of course, rhetoric is not the same as policy. Trump’s association with groups like Frank Gaffney’s Center for Security Policy—funded by the likes of Boeing and promoting bogus conspiracies about Sharia law in America—suggests that a President Trump would follow the same failed corporate-friendly policies of Bush and Obama.

Nevertheless, it is worth noting that none of the corporate-funded candidates would dare risk taking on the military-industrial complex, even with empty rhetoric. The last thing that the war industry wants is an honest discussion of the effects of our perpetual bombing campaign against targets in the Middle East and North Africa—a policy that has been profitable for contractors, costly for taxpayers and instrumental in producing failed states, floods of refugees and the terror threats it was supposed to eliminate.

Compare Trump’s rhetoric to what you hear from a corporate-funded candidate like Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.), backed by Northrop Grumman and Raytheon, who is running an advertisement that declares:

[Radical Muslims] do not hate us because we have military assets in the Middle East—they hate us because of our values. They hate us because young girls here go to school. They hate us because women drive. They hate us because we have freedom of speech, because we have diversity in our religious beliefs.

No serious person believes this tripe. It is pure corporate propaganda that seeks to justify a policy of more bases, more drones and more killing. And Rubio is not running his ad to appeal to voters. Rather, he is assuring his corporate donors that nothing will come out of his mouth that is not fully vetted by their think tanks.

Hillary Clinton, the Democratic frontrunner, has similarly avoided any honest discussion of foreign policy. That might upset her donors, like Lockheed Martin and Boeing. Instead, Clinton has been busy condemning Trump’s anti-Muslim rhetoric as “inconsistent with our values as a nation.”

“At a time when America should be doing everything we can to fight radical jihadists,” Clinton said in December 2015, “Mr. Trump is supplying them with new propaganda.”

Yet Clinton has been a whole-hearted supporter of Obama’s drone war, which slaughters Muslims in Yemen, Afghanistan, Pakistan and Somalia based on secret evidence, a policy at least as un-American as Trump’s shameful rhetoric. As far as “supplying them with new propaganda,” a video depicting 178 children killed by Obama’s drone strikes is readily available online. As U.N. Special Rapporteur on human rights and counterterrorism Ben Emmerson told CNN after a recent trip to Pakistan: “The consequence of drone strikes has been to radicalize an entirely new generation.”

At the most recent Democratic debate, Clinton voiced support for “the United States leading an air coalition [in Syria], which is what we’re doing.” As of this Thanksgiving, the U.S. and its allies had already launched more than 7,000 air sorties against ISIS in Syria and Iraq. But we know very little about the people we are killing or what the blowback will be against the American people. While we know the precise numbers of civilians killed in Paris and San Bernardino, the U.S. military typically doesn’t bother counting the civilians killed from its own strikes. The clear message we send to the world is that Muslim lives don’t matter very much to the United States.

The other major candidate not in the pocket of corporations is Bernie Sanders. But, while he voted against the Iraq War and appears willing to take on Wall Street, in the Senate he has consistently approved appropriations to the war profiteers.

And if a candidate were willing to tell the truth about the war on terror, the corporate-controlled networks would do their best to censor and ignore them. As The Intercept reported, when CBS News ran a segment in mid-December featuring a focus group of American Muslims discussing causes of terror and radicalization, it edited out all of the criticisms of U.S. government policy toward Muslims. And as The Huffington Post has reported, the handful of journalists and politicians who were early skeptics of the Iraq War have been systematically shut out of the televised debate about how to combat ISIS and other threats.

Perhaps this explains why Bernie Sanders doesn’t want to take on the war machine. He is afraid the media blackout of his campaign would become a black hole.

http://inthesetimes.com/article/18758/2016_presidential_election_corporate_funding

READ LEN GOODMAN’S LATEST ARTICLE FOR IN THESE TIMES MAGAZINE

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On Nov. 20, 2015, Syrian pro-government forces prepare their weapons at a train station in Aleppo. (George Ourfalian/AFP/Getty Images)

Bernie Is Right: The Military-Industrial Complex Is Alive and Well

For some, the Paris attacks were a windfall

BY LEONARD C. GOODMAN

During the last Democratic debate, the presidential candidates pledged to make defeating ISIS a priority. But more significant was the question raised by Bernie Sanders about front-runner Hillary Clinton’s corporate donors “from Wall Street, from the military-industrial complex” and “what they’re gonna get” for their money.

As long as we continue to allow corporate funding of candidates for high office, we will continue to have corporate-driven policies. Big Oil supports a strong U.S. military presence in the Middle East and North Africa to prop up repressive regimes that serve its interest and to stamp out democratic or nationalist governments that might seek to expel foreign investors and U.S. military bases. This fuels instability, anti-Western anger and terrorism. That terrorism, in turn, boosts profits for the military-industrial complex. The Paris attacks occurred on a Friday. When the markets opened on Monday, “defense” industry stocks—Boeing, Raytheon, Northrop Grumman, Lockheed Martin, General Dynamics, Booz Allen Hamilton—soared in anticipation of the coming weapons sales and security contracts. Any foreign policy with the potential to stabilize the region is bad for business and won’t get corporate backing, and thus won’t get a fair hearing in the Pentagon, the halls of Congress or the corporate press.

The results of policies that cater to Big Oil and the military-industrial complex come as no surprise. Since 9/11, five countries in the region—Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya, Syria and Yemen—have disintegrated as nation states. Three were the focus of direct American interventions. The fourth (Yemen) was destabilized by an American drone war. The fifth (Syria) suffered from the chaos and mayhem in neighboring Iraq and from a flood of U.S. arms to so-called moderate rebels.

Bernie Sanders, who has shunned corporate funding for his campaign, deserves credit for discussing our disastrous history of regime change. During the debate, in addition to Iraq, Sanders mentioned the 1953 CIA-initiated coup to overthrow Mohammad Mossadegh, the democratically elected leader of Iran, which caused untold suffering for the Iranian people and spurred decades of conflict between the United States and Iran. Sanders failed to mention that the coup was initiated for the direct benefit of Big Oil. (Mossadegh had nationalized Iran’s oil reserves in 1951.)

Sanders’ message is muddied by his support for regime change in Afghanistan, which resulted in a costly and bloody 13-year U.S. occupation that failed to weaken the Taliban, and has produced a flood of refugees and potential ISIS recruits. Why was it necessary, after 9/11, to obliterate the Taliban because they “harbored” terrorists, while leaving a regime in Saudi Arabia that funded that very same terrorism?

The disparity is easy to understand. The Saudi regime may be funding the enemies of the American people, but they are a friend to its corporations, and thus a reliable U.S. ally. Saudi Arabia is one of the largest buyers of U.S. weapons, which it is presently using to bomb its neighbor, Yemen. Again, on behalf of the arms industry, our leaders are ignoring evidence of Saudi war crimes in Yemen in order to ensure congressional support of a $1.29 billion arms sale (approved by the State Department the Monday after the Paris bombing) that includes thousands of “smart” and general-purpose bombs.

On top of which we have the puzzle of the National Security Agency and other spy agencies that receive tens of billions of dollars (their exact budgets are secret) to collect and analyze Americans’ personal data. Yet every large-scale terrorist attack from Bali to Madrid, London, Mumbai, Boston, Kenya, Paris and most recently, San Bernardino, comes as a complete surprise. Such failures are easy to understand. Corporate-driven policies favor lucrative contracts over demonstrated effectiveness. Thus, rather than hire a reasonable number of intelligence professionals to investigate actual threats, we hire for-profit corporations to collect the data, others to store it all in huge data warehouses, and still others to write and run algorithms to try and find the terrorists. The result is a bureaucratic morass of analysts drowning in data—and taxpayer dollars.

Until we can find a way to end the illicit union between corporate power and foreign policy, America will continue to play the dual roles of arsonist and fire brigade, and taxpayers will continue getting burned on both ends.

Leonard Goodman is a Chicago criminal defense lawyer and Adjunct Professor of Law at DePaul University.

Obama’s Drone Policy Crashes and Burns Yemen, the poster child for drone-based foreign policy, has collapsed on itself.

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Supporters of the anti-U.S. Houthi rebels march in Yemen’s capital, Sanaa, on January 28. (Photo by Mohammed Huwais/AFP/Getty Images)

Published in In These Times – March 19, 2015

Obama’s Drone Policy Crashes and Burns

Yemen, the poster child for drone-based foreign policy, has collapsed on itself.

BY Leonard C. Goodman

The unraveling of Yemen should be a wake-up call for Obama loyalists. Obama was elected in large part because of his opposition to the disastrous Iraq War and his promise of a smarter Middle East policy, one less reliant on invasion and occupation. Nevertheless, in office, Obama has supported the occupation of Afghanistan and the NATO-led overthrow of Libya’s Muammar Gaddafi, which led to chaos.

Still, as Obama explained in a September 2014 foreign policy speech, the centerpiece of his strategy in the Middle East has been a more long-distance approach: “taking out terrorists who threaten us, while supporting partners on the front lines.” In other words: air strikes, drones and military aid. He touted the success of this strategy in Yemen and Somalia.

Indeed, Yemen has been the poster child for Obama’s Middle East strategy. Using the U.S. military bases that surround Yemen, we have propped up the corrupt and repressive regimes of President Ali Abdullah Saleh and his successor, Abdu Rabbu Mansour Hadi (i.e., our “partners on the front lines”). In exchange, they let us incinerate alleged militants. And when we slaughter innocents (like 35 women and children in a 2009 bombing, or 12 members of a wedding party in a 2014 drone strike), our partners help cover up our crimes, even jailing the Yemeni journalist who exposed the U.S. role in the 2009 attack.

Of course, the cover-up was effective only in the United States, where most of our news comes from corporate sources that almost never challenge official pronouncements about military or CIA missions. The Yemeni people know all too well our criminal acts. Last September, 13-yearold Mohammed Tuaiman al-Jahmi told the Guardian that “he lived in constant fear of the ‘death machines’ in the sky that had already killed his father and brother” in 2011, as they were out herding the family’s camels. In February, Mohammed himself was killed by a U.S. drone.

The Obama “success story” in Yemen had already come to an end in January, when Houthi rebels took control of the presidential compound in Sanaa, ousting Hadi, his prime minister and his entire cabinet. The motto of the new leaders is “Death to America, death to Israel, curse on the Jews, victory to Islam.” On February 10, the State Department confirmed that it had closed the U.S. embassy in Yemen, the third in an Arab country since 2012.

In truth, Obama’s foreign policy is similar to George W. Bush’s. The war contractors want to keep the rivers of taxpayer cash flowing into their coffers, while multinational energy firms want the U.S. to keep supporting brutal, undemocratic regimes that keep their boots on the necks of restive citizens who might object to foreign firms exploiting national resources. And as long as our laws permit corrupt ties between corporate interests and politicians, we will continue to see disastrous failure after failure of our foreign policy.

In February, Obama led a three-day summit on countering violent extremism. The president’s remarks at this summit, of course, made no mention of our odious drone policy. No citizens of Yemen or Pakistan were invited to speak about how living with the constant anxiety caused by armed drones buzzing in the sky drives residents to join anti-U.S. terror groups. Nor was there any talk of the blowback caused by the U.S. military bases which garrison the greater Middle East, or of the corrupt, repressive regimes that those U.S. bases support. Instead, leaders of some of those regimes attended the summit.

Obama did offer empty rhetoric about how we are not at war with Islam. Such words are unlikely to impress Muslims outside the United States, who know that it’s Muslims who populate Obama’s kill list, who are indefinitely detained at Guantánamo without charges and whose systematic torture by the CIA was swept under the rug by Obama.

Americans, who are ill-informed about our actions overseas, will hear Obama’s empathetic rhetoric and quite rationally conclude that the reason we are losing in places like Yemen, Libya, Iraq and Afghanistan is because Obama is too soft. Perhaps our next president will be someone who promises to get tougher on Muslim extremists. But until we end the partnership between government and corporate power, three things will remain constant: Our foreign policy will be expensive for U.S. taxpayers, profitable for the war contractors and disastrous for everyday people.

Leonard Goodman is a Chicago criminal defense lawyer and Adjunct Professor of Law at DePaul University.

Read it at In These Times: http://inthesetimes.com/article/17762/obamas-drone-policy-crashes-and-burns

The Afghan Militant in the Photo? The Wrong Man, and He’s Not Happy By TAIMOOR SHAH and JOSEPH GOLDSTEIN. FEB. 16, 2015

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Len Goodman’s December 2014 Article from In These Times

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The latest from Len Goodman “Sabotaging Peace with Iran” as featured in “In These Times”

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As Published in In These Times on February 16, 2014

Obama announces the November deal to inspect Iran’s nuclear power plants. (T.J. Kirkpatrick-Pool/Getty Images)

Sabotaging Peace with Iran

Congress couldn’t undermine Obama’s deal without the help of the arms industry.

At some point, taxpayers will start asking their representatives tough questions. If, contrary to what we have been told, it is possible to talk to even our most intractable enemies, such as Iran, why do we need to pay for hundreds of military bases around the world?

The Obama administration deserves great credit for its role in negotiating the historic November 2013 accord with Iran, which lifts some sanctions in exchange for Iran freezing certain nuclear activities. The deal also establishes frequent and transparent inspections of Iran’s major nuclear fuel enrichment facilities.
Like all good diplomacy, this deal benefits both sides. The United States and the other negotiators—the UN Security Council’s five permanent members and Germany—advance their goal of preventing Iran from building a nuclear weapon. Iran gets some relief from economic sanctions and demonstrates to its people that it’s trying to end its isolation from the rest of the world—something Iranians strongly desire, as demonstrated by the sweeping victory of anti-isolationist moderate Hassan Rouhani in last year’s presidential election.
Yet 58 of our 100 Senators, including 16 Democrats, signed onto a bill slapping new sanctions on Iran, thereby attempting to sabotage the president’s deal before it went into effect in January. Even by the low standards most Americans have for Congress, this bill is particularly idiotic. Not only does it undermine the President’s ability to conduct foreign policy, it also effectively begins to march the country into another senseless war.
According to the bill, titled the “Nuclear Weapon Free Iran Act of 2013,” the United States must use “military force” against Iran (i.e., go to war) if the government of Israel decides to strike “against Iran’s nuclear weapon program.” No Congressional declaration of war is required. Thus, the U.S. Senate would effectively hand over to a foreign government the power to send more American kids off to war.
Why would the majority of U.S. senators support such an un-American bill? The answer should come as no surprise. First, the bill is supported by the right-wing government of Israel’s American lobbying arm, AIPAC, which spends millions of dollars each year lobbying on Capitol Hill and whose leaders make large campaign gifts to compliant lawmakers.
But AIPAC donors and lobbyists could not, acting alone, buy the support of 58 senators for a bill that is so contrary to the wishes of a war-weary American public. The way was paved by the arms industry, which also has a great interest in seeing negotiations with Iran fail. Its allied think tank pundits and op-ed writers have been telling us for years that any attempt to negotiate with the Iranian mullahs will be a fool’s errand. They fail to mention that rapprochement with Iran would be a huge blow to the military industrial complex. Without the threat of an armed-and-dangerous Iran, it will become harder for their patrons to justify trillion-dollar “defense” budgets.
At home, U.S. taxpayers are facing crumbling infrastructure, massive unemployment and a $17.2 trillion debt. Indeed, both Democrats and Republicans have just agreed to cut $800 million a year from food stamps at a time when millions of Americans are working two or three low-wage jobs but still can’t afford to feed their families. And with another debt ceiling deadline fast approaching, working Americans can expect to see further cuts to the few remaining federal programs that provide them any benefit.
Yet rivers of cash keep flowing to the Pentagon and to its contractors. At some point, taxpayers will start asking their representatives tough questions. If, contrary to what we have been told, it is possible to talk to even our most intractable enemies, such as Iran, why do we need to pay for hundreds of military bases around the world? Wouldn’t it be more cost-effective (and more neighborly) to establish diplomatic relations with our enemies and explore our common interests, rather than our current program of isolating our foes, surrounding them with U.S. military bases, punishing their people with crippling sanctions, and covertly paying thugs and warlords to destabilize their governments?
Laudably, the White House held firm against the Senate’s bill for new sanctions, challenging its congressional supporters to acknowledge publicly that they favor military action against Iran. AIPAC’s bid to build a veto-busting majority for its bill has stalled, still eight senators short of the needed 67.
A deal with Iran may be bad news for certain powerful special interests, but it is good news for the rest of us. And right now, the people are winning.

LEONARD C. GOODMAN

Leonard Goodman is a Chicago criminal defense lawyer and Adjunct Professor of Law at DePaul University.

Drone Justice is Blind

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By Leonard Goodman. Published in “In These Times”, April 10, 2013.

There’s no way President Obama can fairly review each drone strike.

To whom did each targeted person pose a threat? Were they a threat to U.S. military bases or CIA installations located within their country? Were they a threat to corporate interests located within their country? Were they a threat to the regime that governs their country and allows us to fly the drones?

For the first time in history, the United States government has proclaimed its legal right to assassinate any person, anywhere on the globe, as long as our chief executive believes that person to be a terrorist. President Barack Obama has said that most of the people we are incinerating are “al-Qaeda suspects who are up in very tough terrain along the border between Afghanistan and Pakistan.”

Precise numbers are hard to come by, due to the secrecy under which the drone program operates. But the various groups that track drone strikes agree that since Obama took office, more than 350 strikes in Pakistan, Yemen and Somalia have killed at least 2,400 people. This means, outside of Afghanistan, U.S. drones are killing on average at least 47 people a month. If you include drone strikes in Afghanistan, the numbers are much larger.

The administration’s claim as to the legality of these strikes relies on the fiction that a rigorous review of evidence takes place before a “terrorist” is targeted. However, no matter how smart and reasonable Obama might be, he is not personally reviewing the evidence against most of the people we are killing. In fact, according to CNN, at least half of drone strike deaths have been the result of “signature strikes,” in which drone operators decide, based on visual evidence of suspicious behavior, to fire on people whose identities they don’t even know. As one government official told the New York Times, to the CIA, “three guys doing jumping jacks” looks suspiciously like a terrorist training camp.

We are told that drone killings neutralize imminent threats to America, but we need only consider the numbers to know we are being lied to. There cannot be 50 people every month who were on the verge of launching an attack on the U.S. until they were “neutralized” by a drone. We therefore must ask: To whom did each targeted person pose a threat? Were they a threat to U.S. military bases or CIA installations located within their country? Were they a threat to corporate interests located within their country? Were they a threat to the regime that governs their country and allows us to fly the drones?

As new details emerge about the drone program in Pakistan, the administration’s official explanations begin to unravel. We now know, as Mark Mazzetti reported in the April 6 New York Times, that the first strike occurred in June 2004, when the United States used a Predator drone to assassinate Nek Muhammad, a Pashtun tribesman, at the request of Pakistan. The drone also killed two boys, ages 10 and 16. In return for this killing, Pakistan allowed the CIA to deploy Predator drones in its airspace.

And as reported by the McClatchy newspapers based on a review of classified intelligence reports, under President Obama, the drone program has continued to target and kill not just senior al-Qaeda leaders, but also “hundreds of suspected lower-level Afghan, Pakistani and unidentified ‘other’ militants in scores of strikes in Pakistan’s rugged tribal area.”

In the rare cases in which Obama does personally review evidence and approve a drone strike, he is hearing only one side of the story. Just as criminal suspects always seem guilty after a briefing by law enforcement, Muslim men living in remote and lawless regions of Pakistan or Yemen will always seem like terrorists to Obama after a CIA briefing. Moreover, much of the information used for drone targeting comes from informants, who are notoriously unreliable. For example, agent “Curveball” composed elaborate drawings of Saddam’s mobile weapons labs that existed only in Curveball’s head, but were nevertheless used to justify the Iraq War.

Our founding fathers valued an adversarial system of justice because they understood that government officials, even smart and well-meaning ones, are not always right.

Law enforcement agents and prosecutors might find it convenient never to have anyone oppose or even question their evidence, but the good ones also recognize the inherent danger of such an unbalanced system.

I recently defended a murder case in Charleston, Ill. If you spoke only to the prosecutors and detectives, you would have heard how three witnesses observed my client, Chris Oliver, kicking and stomping a developmentally disabled man to death, and you would have been easily convinced that Oliver is a killer.

But because Oliver had a defense lawyer and an investigator on his side, we were able to show the jury that two of the prosecution’s witnesses were severely mentally ill, had given numerous conflicting stories and had been pressured by the police to implicate Oliver, and that the third witness had himself been implicated in the beating and named Oliver only after cutting a deal with the state. We also introduced time sheets and cell phone records overlooked by the police, which showed that Oliver was not even present for the attack but was called to the scene after the beating to care for the victim. After hearing both sides of the story, the jury in Charleston quickly acquitted Oliver of murder.

Sadly, all we will ever know about the thousands of humans incinerated by our drones is that the CIA believed them to be terrorists.

View this article online at inthesetimes.com

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