Progressive Calendar 05.05.09
From: David Shove (
Date: Tue, 5 May 2009 03:11:32 -0700 (PDT)
            P R O G R E S S I V E   C A L E N D A R    05.05.09

1. Pawlenty o Nuttin 5.05 12noon
2. NWN4P vigil       5.05 4:45pm
3. Palestine/Indians 5.05 5pm
4. RNC court watch   5.05 6pm
5. Salon/discussion  5.05 6:30pm
6. Amnesty Intl      5.05 7pm StCloud MN
7. OutFront MN       5.05 7pm
8. Vs Israeli lobby  5.05 7pm

9. Shut down ICE     5.06 7am
10. LRT boondoggle   5.06 11am  [ed head]
11. N Mpls gardners  5.06 6:30pm

12. Mary Turck    - Organizing around the Central Corridor
13. Chris Hedges  - Buying Brand Obama
14. David Swanson - An even worse Bybee memo

--------1 of 14--------

From: Sue Ann <mart1408 [at] UMN.EDU>
Subject: Pawlenty of Nuttin' 5.05 12noon

Help us present Governor Pawlenty with the Golden Bush Award!
Tuesday, May 5, Noon, on the Capitol Steps, St. Paul

We thank the gov for his commitment to George W. Bush¹s policies of tax cuts
for the wealthy and corporations.
We support his far-thinking intention to slash budgets for schools, health
care, infrastructure, libraries, and so forth. . . .
Can¹t children educate themselves?
Can¹t people take care of their own roads? Put out their own fires?

Formal or other attire encouraged.
Minnesotans for Personal Responsibility
PawLENTY for us!
FFI:  minn4PR [at]

Mrs. I.M. Rich, Education Chair, Minnesotans for Personal Responsibility
M. Antoinette Sans-Tete, Head (so to speak), Erase Entitlement Committee
Fran E. May, President Foreclosure, Inc.
Dim Murphy, Corporate CEO, A Lie & Tech
Mrs. Iva Lot O'Mooney Member, Minnesotans for Personal Responsibility
and other such notables.

[such as:
F. DaPeople
Letta M'Etcake
Merrily Up-Yerz
Consta Pater
Dik Tater
Lord Andmaster
Owtov Myway
and other awards:
Shaved Bush Award?
Bush Bash?

--------2 of 14--------

From: Carole Rydberg <carydberg [at]>
Subject: NWN4P vigil 5.05 4:45pm

NWN4P vigil every Tuesday.
Corner of Winnetka and 42nd Avenues in New Hope. 4:45 to 5:45 PM.
All welcome; bring your own or use our signs.

--------3 of 14--------

From: Eric Angell <eric-angell [at]>
Subject: Palestine/Indians 5.05 5pm

Surmounting St. Paul Neighborhood Network (SPNN) viewers:
"Our World In Depth" cablecasts on SPNN Channel 15 on Tuesdays at 5pm,
midnight and Wednesday mornings at 10am, after DemocracyNow!  All
households with basic cable may watch.

Tues, 5/5, 5pm & midnight and Wed, 5/6, 10am

Parallel Injustices: American Indians and Palestinians
At an amazing gathering, for the first time in Minnesota, Native Americans
and Palestinians publicly shared their respective experiences of
dispossession of their land and genocide of their people.  Council on
American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) National Director Nihad Awad and
American Indian Movement (AIM) leader Clyde Bellecourt speak at Augsburg
College.  April 2009.

--------4 of 14--------

From: Do'ii <syncopatingrhythmsabyss [at]>
Subject: RNC court watch 5.05 6pm

RNC Court Watchers are in need of participants to help with organizing
court information, documentation and etc.  RNC Court Watchers Meetings are
every Tuesday, 6 P.M. at Caffeto's. Below is announcement for our

Preemptive raids, over 800 people arrested, police brutality on the
streets and torture in Ramsey County Jail. Police have indiscriminately
used rubber bullets, concussion grenades, tasers and chemical irritants to
disperse crowds and incapacitate peaceful, nonviolent protesters. The
RNC-8 and others are facing felonies and years in jail. We must fight this
intimidation, harassment and abuse!

Join the RNC Court Solidarity Meeting this coming Tuesday at Caffetto's to
find out how you can make a difference in the lives of many innocent

Caffetto's Coffeehouse and Gallery (612)872-0911 708 W 22nd Street,
Minneapolis, MN 55405
Every Tuesday @ 6:00 P.M to 7:00 P.M
participate and help organize RNC court solidarity.
For more information, please contact: rnccourtwatch [at]

--------5 of 14--------

From: patty <pattypax [at]>
Subject: Salon/discussion 5.05 6:30pm

Tuesday, May 5 is time for Open Discussion again.  There must be lots on
your mind these days.  Come and share and feel better for awhile.

Pax Salons ( )
are held (unless otherwise noted in advance):
Tuesdays, 6:30 to 8:30 pm.
Mad Hatter's Tea House,
943 W 7th, St Paul, MN

Salons are free but donations encouraged for program and treats.
Call 651-227-3228 or 651-227-2511 for information.

--------6 of 14--------

From: Gabe Ormsby <gabeo [at]>
Subject: Amnesty Intl 5.05 7pm StCloud MN

Saint Cloud Area Amnesty International meets on Tuesday, May 5th, from
7:00 to 8:00 p.m. at the St. Cloud Public Library, 1300 W. St. Germain,
Saint Cloud. For more information contact Jerry Dirks, 320-251-6491 or
jerry.dirks [at]

--------7 of 14--------

From: Erin Parrish <erin [at]>
Subject: OutFront MN 5.05 7pm

May 5: OutFront Minnesota Community Action Training. Join OutFront
Minnesota organizers to learn more about how you can help move Minnesota
toward full marriage equality. Attendees are asked to bring a dish to
share. 7 - 9 PM at White Bear Unitarian Universalist Church, 328 Maple
Street, Mahtomedi.

--------8 of 14--------

From: William Bailey <wbailey [at]>
Subject: Vs Israeli lobby 5.05 7pm

Middle East Peace Now endorses the following event and strongly recommends
The International Jewish Anti-Zionist Network (IJAN) - Twin Cities

Tuesday May 5th from 7-9pm at the Carlson School of Management Building,
Room 1-147 on the U of M West Bank Campus

What Explains US Policy Toward the Middle East--The Israel Lobby, Imperial
Interests, or Both?  Why does the US unconditionally support Israeli

Panel includes:
August Nimtz, Professor of Political Science at the U of M
Sylvia Schwarz, Engineer and IJAN member
Jordan Kushner, Civil Rights Attorney and National Lawyers Guild member
Moderated by Lisa Albrecht, Associate Professor U of M School of Social
Work, Social Justice Minor, and IJAN member

This event is endorsed by the Al Medina Cultural Center, Minnesota Cuba
Committee, Middle East Peace Now, and Northfielders for Justice in

--------9 of 14--------

From: Shutdown Ice <shutdownice [at]>
Subject: Shut down ICE 5.06 7am

Direct action protest to shut down I.C.E. (Immigration and Customs
Enforcement) operations in Bloomington Minnesota

May 6th
Rally: 7:00am
Press Conference:   7:15am
I.C.E. Headquarters, 2901 Metro Drive Bloomington, MN 55425

We are part of a national movement that has been calling on the Obama
administration to declare a moratorium on raids and deportations during
the first 100 days.

We are here today put our bodies on the line to show what our consciences
believe - that the immigration system and enforcement is dehumanizing and
destructive of families and communities.  There is a long tradition of
people committing civil disobedience in order to call on the conscience of
the nation.  Just last week, for example, even Representative Ellison was
arrested for protesting at the Sudanese embassy. He was speaking out about
human rights in Sudan.  We are speaking out about human rights here in the

Our immigration laws are broken, as President Obama himself has said, and
they are unjust laws.  We believe that unjust laws need to be changed, not

OUR DEMAND IS SIMPLE:  We demand that President Obama sign an executive
order declaring an immediate moratorium on raids and deportations until a
JUST immigration law is passed.

Erika Zurawski : 612-702-4169 Loren McGrail: 612-386-9789

From: Meredith Aby <awcmere [at]>
Subject: [AntiWarMN]

Shut Down Immigration and Customs Enforcement!
Wednesday, May 6th @ 7:00am @ ICE Headquarters in Bloomington, MN, 2901
Metro Drive
There will be a civil disobedience action and a legal rally to demand
immigration reform.

For those who are not planning / able to get arrested, we will need to
fill a lot of key positions, including: marshalls, jail support, press,
etc.  Let us know if you are interested in filling any of those positions.
If you have any questions, email us at shutdownice [at]

--------10 of 14--------

From: Andy Driscoll <andy [at]>
Subject: LRT boondoggle 5.06 11am  [ed head]

TRUTH TO TELL   KFAI 11am 5.06
CENTRAL CORRIDOR UPDATE: Are Community Advocates Winning?

After a half-dozen years or more of public scrutiny and controversy over
community demands for constituent services along the light rail corridor
soon to break asphalt in St. Paul and Minneapolis, many of those
communities' continue to voice frustrations with decision-makers treating
transit-dependent populations as second in line for the resources
necessary to make the revamping of this umbilical cord between the two
downtowns actually serve them. Coalitions of groups have seen themselves
marginalized in a billion-dollar process that promises much but guarantees
far less as the state and Met Council vie for federal transit funds, argue
over local and state matches required for completion and, especially the
important issues of sufficient station stops, business loss mitigation
along University Avenue during construction, and the loss of parking to
accommodate small retailers, among other.

TTT's ANDY DRISCOLL and LYNNELL MICKELSEN talk with several community
leaders deeply engaged in advisory committees and other efforts trying
to affect ivory tower decisions that separate political leaders from
neighborhood representatives.

 ANNE WHITE - Chair, District Councils Collaborative of St. Paul &
Minneapolis (DCC); member, Central Corridor Advisory Committee (CCAC)
 VERONICA BURT - Community Organizer; member, CCAC
 VIC ROSENTHAL - Executive Director, Jewish Community Action; member,
Campaign to Add Transit Stops Along Central Corridor
 INVITED: METRIC GILES - Aurora-St. Anthony Neighborhood Development
Corp.; member, CCAC
 AND YOU! CALL IN - 612-341-0980

[Corridor a huge developer boondoggle that will leave the cities in worse
shape. The (mis)developers don't have to live here after they've got their
loot; the rest of us will be stuck living here and paying for it. -ed]

--------11 of 14--------

From: lois swenson <swenson2206 [at]>
Subject: N Mpls gardners 5.06 6:30pm

Folks from North Mpls interested in community gardens are welcome to
attend a meeting Wed May 6 6:30pm at Plymouth Christian Youth Center 23rd
and Oliver North A master gardner frrom Hennepin County Extension will be
present, so bring your gardening questions and any extra seeds or plants
you would like to share

--------12 of 14--------

Organizing around the Central Corridor
By Mary Turck
TC Daily Planet
May 04, 2009

Nieeta Presley says she is "not going to stand still and let the Central
Corridor train run me over". Along with hundreds of neighbors along the
Central Corridor route in St. Paul and Minneapolis, she is organizing to
protect and promote the interests of the people who live and do business
along that route. The executive director of the Aurora St. Anthony
Neighborhood Development Corporation, Presley was one of the organizers
who showed up at an April 28 meeting at the Central Corridor Resource
Center in St. Paul.

At the meeting, leaders of more than a dozen community groups that
organized a two-day community summit in March, issued a Draft Community
Statement on the Central Corridor Light Rail Transit Project April 28.
Organizers are asking for more community feedback.

Michelle Dibblee, an organizer with Transit for Livable Communities, said
she saw two hot-button issues at the summit: the desire of members of the
community to have a place at the table as active participants when
decisions are being made, and the feeling that what residents and
community members have to offer is not always part of Central Corridor
discussions. She characterized the summit as "an optimistic event," and
very solutions-focused.

When people talk about the Central Corridor Light Rail Transit (LRT)
project, the Metropolitan Council is often a target for criticism. Dibblee
said that's not helpful now. "The real thrust," she insisted, "is the
desire for development of housing and business mitigation that respects
the community and cultures as they are, and don't displace businesses,
families, and community members". To achieve those aims, said Dibblee,
organizers need to focus on elected officials, including the city council,
mayor and legislators.

Veronica Burt of the Aurora St. Anthony Neighborhood Development
Corporation is not willing to let the Met Council off the hot seat yet.
One thing the community needs, she said, is additional stops that are more
accessible to community residents, but a deeper, more critical issue is
jobs for local residents. While the Met Council has insisted that there is
no money for additional stops, Burt said she doesn't believe it, pointing
to agreements reached with MPR and the University of Minnesota. "When they
say there's no money," she said, "it's all about will".

"In fairness to the Met Council," Burt said, "they have made adjustments,
but it's about how deep those adjustments are". She said the project has
to change to become "win-win for everybody, as opposed to making it
'others win and we lose' and we're the sacrificial lambs".

Several participants in the April 28 meeting expressed concern that the
Central Corridor's impact on the community will parallel the destruction
of the Rondo community by the construction of I-94.

Stan Gartner addressed business issues, both during and after
construction. "If I lose 25% of my business [during construction]," he
said, "I'm going to shut the door". He also expressed concern about
property values and property taxes: "How are some of the people on
University Avenue going to afford those property values to continue to
rise? They are small business people, and their property taxes are going
to go up."

John Slade of MICAH agreed with Gartner, and spoke about the negative
impacts of gentrification on both renters and property owners. "The
largest impact of light rail is increased property values," said Slade.
"They rocket up right around the station like a volcano. Do all the people
who live there get rolled off the side and a new group of people come in
to benefit?"

The coalition will gather input on the Draft Community Statement on the
Central Corridor Light Rail Transit Project throughout May.

For further information or to read, download or give feedback on the Draft
Community Statement, go to the District Councils Collaborative website or
call Carol Swenson, District Councils Collaborative of Saint Paul and
Minneapolis, 651-249-6877. Organizations participating in the Community
Summit Planning Group include:

 Alliance for Metropolitan Stability
 Aurora Saint Anthony NDC
 Community Stabilization Project
 District Councils Collaborative of Saint Paul and Minneapolis
 JUST Equity
 Jewish Community Action
  Minnesota Project
 Ramsey Chapter of MICAH
 Saint Paul NAACP
 Transit for Livable Communities
 UFCW Local 789
 University Avenue Business Association
 University UNITED
 Wm Mitchell Community Development Clinic

--------13 of 14--------

Buying Brand Obama
by Chris Hedges
Monday, May 4, 2009

Barack Obama is a brand. And the Obama brand is designed to make us feel
good about our government while corporate overlords loot the Treasury, our
elected officials continue to have their palms greased by armies of
corporate lobbyists, our corporate media diverts us with gossip and trivia
and our imperial wars expand in the Middle East.  Brand Obama is about
being happy consumers. We are entertained. We feel hopeful. We like our
president. We believe he is like us. But like all branded products spun
out from the manipulative world of corporate advertising, we are being
duped into doing and supporting a lot of things that are not in our

What, for all our faith and hope, has the Obama brand given us? His
administration has spent, lent or guaranteed $12.8 trillion in taxpayer
dollars to Wall Street and insolvent banks in a doomed effort to reinflate
the bubble economy, a tactic that at best forestalls catastrophe and will
leave us broke in a time of profound crisis. Brand Obama has allocated
nearly $1 trillion in defense-related spending and the continuation of our
doomed imperial projects in Iraq, where military planners now estimate
that 70,000 troops will remain for the next 15 to 20 years. Brand Obama
has expanded the war in Afghanistan, including the use of drones sent on
cross-border bombing runs into Pakistan that have doubled the number of
civilians killed over the past three months. Brand Obama has refused to
ease restrictions so workers can organize and will not consider
single-payer, not-for-profit health care for all Americans. And Brand
Obama will not prosecute the Bush administration for war crimes, including
the use of torture, and has refused to dismantle Bush's secrecy laws or
restore habeas corpus.

Brand Obama offers us an image that appears radically individualistic and
new. It inoculates us from seeing that the old engines of corporate power
and the vast military-industrial complex continue to plunder the country.
Corporations, which control our politics, no longer produce products that
are essentially different, but brands that are different. Brand Obama does
not threaten the core of the corporate state any more than did Brand
George W. Bush. The Bush brand collapsed. We became immune to its studied
folksiness. We saw through its artifice. This is a common deflation in the
world of advertising. So we have been given a new Obama brand with an
exciting and faintly erotic appeal. Benetton and Calvin Klein were the
precursors to the Obama brand, using ads to associate themselves with
risqué art and progressive politics. It gave their products an edge.  But
the goal, as with all brands, was to make passive consumers mistake a
brand with an experience.

"The abandonment of the radical economic foundations of the women's and
civil-rights movements by the conflation of causes that came to be called
political correctness successfully trained a generation of activists in
the politics of image, not action," Naomi Klein wrote in "No Logo."

Obama, who has become a global celebrity, was molded easily into a brand.
He had almost no experience, other than two years in the Senate, lacked
any moral core and could be painted as all things to all people. His brief
Senate voting record was a miserable surrender to corporate interests. He
was happy to promote nuclear power as "green" energy. He voted to continue
the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. He reauthorized the Patriot Act. He
would not back a bill designed to cap predatory credit card interest
rates. He opposed a bill that would have reformed the notorious Mining Law
of 1872. He refused to support the single-payer health care bill HR676,
sponsored by Reps. Dennis Kucinich and John Conyers. He supported the
death penalty. And he backed a class-action "reform" bill that was part of
a large lobbying effort by financial firms. The law, known as the Class
Action Fairness Act, would effectively shut down state courts as a venue
to hear most class-action lawsuits and deny redress in many of the courts
where these cases have a chance of defying powerful corporate challenges.

While Gaza was being bombarded and hit with airstrikes in the weeks before
Obama took office, "the Obama team let it be known that it would not
object to the planned resupply of "'smart bombs' and other hi-tech
ordnance that was already flowing to Israel," according to Seymour Hersh.
Even his one vaunted anti-war speech as a state senator, perhaps his
single real act of defiance, was swiftly reversed. He told the Chicago
Tribune on July 27, 2004, that "there's not that much difference between
my position and George Bush's position at this stage. The difference, in
my mind, is who's in a position to execute." And unlike anti-war stalwarts
like Kucinich, who gave hundreds of speeches against the war, Obama then
dutifully stood silent until the Iraq war became unpopular.

Obama's campaign won the vote of hundreds of marketers, agency heads and
marketing-services vendors gathered at the Association of National
Advertisers' annual conference in October. The Obama campaign was named
Advertising Age's marketer of the year for 2008 and edged out runners-up
Apple and Take it from the professionals. Brand Obama is a
marketer's dream. President Obama does one thing and Brand Obama gets you
to believe another. This is the essence of successful advertising. You buy
or do what the advertiser wants because of how they can make you feel.

Celebrity culture has leeched into every aspect of our culture, including
politics, to bequeath to us what Benjamin DeMott called "junk politics."
Junk politics does not demand justice or the reparation of rights. Junk
politics personalizes and moralizes issues rather than clarifying them.
"It's impatient with articulated conflict, enthusiastic about America's
optimism and moral character, and heavily dependent on feel-your-pain
language and gesture," DeMott noted. The result of junk politics is that
nothing changes - "meaning zero interruption in the processes and
practices that strengthen existing, interlocking systems of socioeconomic
advantage." It redefines traditional values, tilting "courage toward
braggadocio, sympathy toward mawkishness, humility toward self-disrespect,
identification with ordinary citizens toward distrust of brains."  Junk
politics "miniaturizes large, complex problems at home while maximizing
threats from abroad. It's also given to abrupt unexplained reversals of
its own public stances, often spectacularly bloating problems previously
miniaturized." And finally, it "seeks at every turn to obliterate voters'
consciousness of socioeconomic and other differences in their midst."

An image-based culture, one dominated by junk politics, communicates
through narratives, pictures and carefully orchestrated spectacle and
manufactured pseudo-drama. Scandalous affairs, hurricanes, earthquakes,
untimely deaths, lethal new viruses, train wrecks - these events play well
on computer screens and television. International diplomacy, labor union
negotiations and convoluted bailout packages do not yield exciting
personal narratives or stimulating images. A governor who patronizes call
girls becomes a huge news story. A politician who proposes serious
regulatory reform, universal health care or advocates curbing wasteful
spending is boring. Kings, queens and emperors once used their court
conspiracies to divert their subjects. Today cinematic, political and
journalistic celebrities distract us with their personal foibles and
scandals. They create our public mythology. Acting, politics and sports
have become, as they were during the reign of Nero, interchangeable.

In an age of images and entertainment, in an age of instant emotional
gratification, we do not seek reality. Reality is complicated.  Reality is
boring. We are incapable or unwilling to handle its confusion. We ask to
be indulged and comforted by clichés, stereotypes and inspirational
messages that tell us we can be whoever we seek to be, that we live in the
greatest country on Earth, that we are endowed with superior moral and
physical qualities, and that our future will always be glorious and
prosperous, either because of our own attributes, or our national
character, or because we are blessed by God. Reality is not accepted as an
impediment to our desires.  Reality does not make us feel good.

In his book "Public Opinion," Walter Lippmann distinguished between "the
world outside and the pictures in our heads." He defined a "stereotype" as
an oversimplified pattern that helps us find meaning in the world.
Lippmann cited examples of the crude "stereotypes we carry about in our
heads" of whole groups of people such as "Germans," "South Europeans,"
"Negroes," "Harvard men," "agitators"  and others. These stereotypes,
Lippmann noted, give a reassuring and false consistency to the chaos of
existence. They offer easily grasped explanations of reality and are
closer to propaganda because they simplify rather than complicate.

Pseudo-events - dramatic productions orchestrated by publicists, political
machines, television, Hollywood or advertisers - however, are very
different. They have, as Daniel Boorstin wrote in "The Image: A Guide to
Pseudo-Events in America," the capacity to appear real even though we know
they are staged. They are capable, because they can evoke a powerful
emotional response, of overwhelming reality and replacing reality with a
fictional narrative that often becomes accepted truth. The unmasking of a
stereotype damages and often destroys its credibility. But pseudo-events,
whether they show the president in an auto plant or a soup kitchen or
addressing troops in Iraq, are immune to this deflation. The exposure of
the elaborate mechanisms behind the pseudo-event only adds to its
fascination and its power. This is the basis of the convoluted television
reporting on how effectively political campaigns and politicians have been
stage-managed. Reporters, especially those on television, no longer ask if
the message is true but if the pseudo-event worked or did not work as
political theater. Pseudo-events are judged on how effectively we have
been manipulated by illusion. Those events that appear real are relished
and lauded. Those that fail to create a believable illusion are deemed
failures. Truth is irrelevant. Those who succeed in politics, as in most
of the culture, are those who create the brands and pseudo-events that
offer the most convincing fantasies. And this is the art Obama has

A public that can no longer distinguish between truth and fiction is left
to interpret reality through illusion. Random facts or obscure bits of
data and trivia are used to bolster illusion and give it credibility or
are discarded if they interfere with the message. The worse reality
becomes - the more, for example, foreclosures and unemployment skyrocket -
the more people seek refuge and comfort in illusions. When opinions cannot
be distinguished from facts, when there is no universal standard to
determine truth in law, in science, in scholarship, or in reporting the
events of the day, when the most valued skill is the ability to entertain,
the world becomes a place where lies become true, where people can believe
what they want to believe. This is the real danger of pseudo-events and
why pseudo- events are far more pernicious than stereotypes. They do not
explain reality, as stereotypes attempt to, but replace reality.
Pseudo-events redefine reality by the parameters set by their creators.
These creators, who make massive profits peddling these illusions, have a
vested interest in maintaining the power structures they control.

The old production-oriented culture demanded what the historian Warren
Susman termed character. The new consumption-oriented culture demands what
he called personality. The shift in values is a shift from a fixed
morality to the artifice of presentation. The old cultural values of
thrift and moderation honored hard work, integrity and courage. The
consumption-oriented culture honors charm, fascination and likability.
"The social role demanded of all in the new culture of personality was
that of a performer," Susman wrote.  "Every American was to become a
performing self."

The junk politics practiced by Obama is a consumer fraud. It is about
performance. It is about lies. It is about keeping us in a perpetual state
of childishness. But the longer we live in illusion, the worse reality
will be when it finally shatters our fantasies. Those who do not
understand what is happening around them and who are overwhelmed by a
brutal reality they did not expect or foresee search desperately for
saviors. They beg demagogues to come to their rescue. This is the ultimate
danger of the Obama Brand. It effectively masks the wanton internal
destruction and theft being carried out by our corporate state. These
corporations, once they have stolen trillions in taxpayer wealth, will
leave tens of millions of Americans bereft, bewildered and yearning for
even more potent and deadly illusions, ones that could swiftly snuff out
what is left of our diminished open society.

© 2009 Chris Hedges writes a regular column for
. Hedges graduated from Harvard Divinity School and was for nearly two
decades a foreign correspondent for The New York Times. He is the author
of many books, including: War Is A Force That Gives Us Meaning, What
Every Person Should Know About War, and American Fascists: The Christian
Right and the War on America.  His most recent book, Empire of Illusion:
The End of Literacy and the Triumph of Spectacle, will be out in July,
but is available for pre-order.

Article printed from
URL to article:

--------14 of 14--------

The Iraq War Memo
An Even Worse Bybee Memo
May 4, 2009

Jay Bybee wrote another memo that nobody has noticed, one purporting to
authorize crimes far worse than torture, the same crimes the torture was
itself intended to create false justifications for. On October 23, 2002,
Assistant Attorney General Bybee signed a 48-page memo to the "counsel to
the president" (Alberto Gonzales) titled "Authority of the President Under
Domestic and International Law to Use Military Force Against Iraq." This
was another secret law, but instead of authorizing particular uses of
torture (which in reality were far exceeded, engaged in prior to the
memos, etc.), this one authorized any president to single-handedly commit
what Nuremberg called "the supreme international crime, differing only
from other war crimes in that it contains within itself the accumulated
evil of the whole."

And while the torture memos extensively and grotesquely limited the days
of sleep deprivation and the hours of waterboarding, the aggressive war
memo included only a single paragraph at the bottom of page 47 requiring

"Were the President to determine that the use of force in self-defense is
necessary to counter the threat posed by Iraq's WMD program, such force
should be proportional; in other words, it should be limited to that which
is needed to eliminate the threat posed by Iraq."

When this memo was written, our president, vice president, and top cabinet
officials were screaming about Iraq's vast quantities of weapons, but
Bybee was already crafting his justifications around the idea of weapons

The result was guaranteed to be massive death, no matter how
"proportional" to the nonexistent threat. But the permission was also
guaranteed to be wildly exceeded by anybody's definition. The result has
been 1.2 - 1.3 million deaths according to Just Foreign Policy's updated
figure based on the Johns Hopkins / Lancet report, and according to the
British polling company Opinion Research Business's estimate as of August

According to the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR),
the number of Iraqis who have fled their homes has reached 4.7 million. If
these estimates are accurate, a total of nearly 6 million human beings
have been displaced from their homes or killed. Many times that many have
certainly been injured, traumatized, impoverished, and deprived of clean
water and other basic needs, including the need to have parents.

And what has accumulated in the evil of the whole? The current occupation
of Iraq has seen the United States target civilians, journalists,
hospitals, and ambulances; use antipersonnel weapons including cluster
bombs in densely settled urban areas; use white phosphorous as a weapon;
use depleted uranium weapons; employ a new version of napalm found in Mark
77 firebombs; engage in collective punishment of Iraqi civilian
populations; including by blocking roads, cutting electricity and water,
destroying fuel stations, planting bombs in farm fields, demolishing
houses, and plowing down orchards; detain people without charge or legal
process without the rights of prisoners of war; imprison children;
torture; and murder. Michael Haas has published a well-documented book
with the clear title: "George W. Bush, War Criminal? The Bush
Administration's Liability for 269 War Crimes." Jay Bybee's liability must
not be minimized.

Bybee's memo declares that a president has the power to launch wars.
Period. The "authorization to use force" passed by Congress is treated as
gravy on top of this basic power. According to Bybee's copy of the U.S.
Constitution, Congress can "issue formal declarations of war." According
to mine, Congress has the power "to declare war," as well as every related
substantive power. In fact, there are no incidental formal powers anywhere
in my copy of the Constitution.

Bybee dismisses the War Powers Act by citing Nixon's veto of it rather
than the law itself, and upholds the "authorization to use force" without
mentioning the requirements it included for the president, requirements he
later met by lying about weapons and ties to 9-11. Bybee cites letters
written by Bush as authoritative. He even cites a Bush signing statement.
And, of course, he cites and relies on previous memos produced by his
office, the Office of Legal Counsel in the Department of Justice.

Bybee relies heavily on the "Bill Clinton sort-of did it and might have
done it, and therefore it is legal," argument. For good measure, he throws
in Truman and Bush Sr. and Kennedy and Reagan, not to mention an Israeli
ambassador's opinion of a U.N. declaration condemning an aggressive attack
by Israel. The thrust of the argument is that, because Bush Sr. and
Clinton launched strikes into Iraq it's OK for Bush Jr. to launch a whole
lot of them. This would be the same as arguing that because Bush Jr. and
Obama launched strikes into Pakistan, Obama or any future president can
launch a full-scale war there. Legally, this is nonsense. The strikes are
as illegal as the war would be. Politically, it's something to consider:
do we really want to maintain silent acceptance of such strikes?

Bybee claims not only that a president can simply launch any war he wants,
and that the "authorization to use force" somehow adds to that complete
and total power, but also that - in terms of international law - attacking
Iraq would be justified both as authorized by the UN Security Council and
as an act of self-defense. The war would not be so much a new war, Bybee
claims, as the suspension of a cease-fire that Iraq suspended first. And
the Security Council would have authorized a war even though the Security
Council itself might claim otherwise. Bybee redefines self-defense as
"anticipatory self-defense" and argues that the authors of the UN Charter
could never possibly have meant otherwise. And he adds that, in an age of
nuclear weapons, anticipatory self-defense can justify launching a war
against any nation that might conceivably acquire nukes, even if there was
no reason to think that nation would use them to attack yours:

"We observe, therefore, that even if the probability that Iraq itself
would attack the United States with WMD, or would transfer such a weapon
to terrorists for their use against the United States, were relatively
low, the exceptionally high degree of harm that would result, combined
with a limited window of opportunity and the likelihood that if we do not
use force, the threat will increase, could lead the President to conclude
that military action is necessary to defend the United States."

This memo justified a war of aggression and all the crimes and abuses of
power abroad and at home that were justified by the war. Jay Bybee has a
lifetime appointment as a federal judge wearing black robes drenched in
the crimson blood of his victims. His crimes are on paper in black and
white for the world to see. If he is not impeached and prosecuted, similar
horrors await our planet in the near future.

David Swanson is the author of "Daybreak: Undoing the Imperial Presidency
and Forming a More Perfect Union" by Seven Stories Press. He can be
reached at: david [at]


   - David Shove             shove001 [at]
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