Another War of Jenkins' Ear

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Archive for March 2011

James Inhofe Supports Gbagbo in Ivory Coast: The Oil Connection

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Props to Salon’s Justin Elliot for breaking the story and to Crooks and Liars for exploring it further, but by focusing on the Family and the religious element (which does deserve attention) both miss a crucial element: the oil ties that Inhofe has to Gbagbo through Vanco Energy.

I explored the entire story here, but here is the short version, starting with Inhofe’s connection:

Two oil companies, Vanco (a Texas company) and LUKoil (a Russian company) are working with the Ivory Coast state oil company Petroci and l have extensive plans in 2011 and 2012 to drill off the Ivory Coast; there are indications here the Russians feel this project may be at stake with the Gbagbo and Ouattara dispute. Moreover, the state oil company has very close ties to Gbagbo; the CEO of Petroci was actually sanctioned by the EU.

Vanco Energy has been accused of essentially partnering with the Russian mob to complete their oil deals in the Ukraine; there’s little evidence their deals in Africa are any better, given the behavior of Inhofe here.

Leadership of Vanco energy has donated extensively to prominent Republicans. Vanco Founder Gene Van Dyke has donated to Republican Senators John Cornyn, Rand Paul, Roy Blunt, Kelly Ayotte, and . . . James Inhofe. He’s donated to House members Ted Poe, Bill Flores, Michael McCaul, Pete Olson, and John Culberson. He also donated a substantial amount to the Republican National Committee.

Of these, James Inhofe alone is on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, and is also on the Subcommittee on African Affairs.

It seems that among other things, Inhofe is simply carrying water for his big oil contributors here.


Written by John Whitehouse

March 31, 2011 at 9:04 pm

Alien and Sedition Acts in Ecuador

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Human Rights Watch:

President Rafael Correa’s efforts to prosecute his critics for defamation under criminal law is a serious blow to free expression in Ecuador, Human Rights Watch said today. Ecuador should repeal the defamation provisions in its criminal code, Human Rights Watch said. 

On March 21, 2011, President Correa filed a criminal libel suit against a journalist, Emilio Palacio, and three members of the board of directors of the Guayaquil-based newspaper El Universo – Carlos Eduardo Pérez Barriga, César Enrique Pérez Barriga, and Carlos Nicolás Pérez Barriga. He asked the court to sentence each of the men to three years in prison and to fine them US$50 million. He also sought $30 million from the company that owns the paper.

[. . .]

The Inter-American Court of Human Rights has held that public officials “who have voluntarily exposed themselves to greater public scrutiny are subject to greater risks of being criticized, since their activities are … part of the public debate.”  The honor of public officials or public people must be legally protected, the court says, but that must be accomplished “in accordance with principles of democratic pluralism.” The use of criminal proceedings for defamation must therefore be limited to cases of “extreme gravity” as a “truly exceptional measure” where its “absolute necessity” has been demonstrated, and that in any such case the burden of proof must rest with the accuser.

In 2007, the Mexican Congress decriminalized defamation at the federal level. In June 2009, Uruguay eliminated criminal sanctions against those who publish opinions or information about public officials or issues of public interest. In November 2009, Argentina eliminated criminal penalties in cases involving information of public interest. In December 2009, the Costa Rican Supreme Court eliminated prison terms for criminal defamation.

America has had it’s own issues with prosecuting dissent. The first was the Alien and Sedition acts passed during the Adams administration. Later, during the First World War, there were numerous cases that went to the Supreme Court regarding the First Amendment.

The Alien and Sedition acts died quicker probably largely because they were substantially partisan – it was just easier for Jeffersonian Republicans to oppose the law.

But the Alien and Sedition acts were written and enforced by the same generation that is basically the Greatest Generation’s Greatest Generation: the founding fathers. We tend to limit the flaws of the founding fathers to treatment of minorities: slaves, African Americans, women, Native Americans, etc. And that’s a pretty glaring flaw. But the Alien and Sedition Acts were a massive, massive problem that only was forgotten because Jefferson took over and let them lapse. So as bad as they were, at least they were partisan – that made it easier for the laws to go away (so quickly that they were never challenged in court).

The Founding Fathers Have a Hissy Fit

As bad as the Alien and Sedition acts were, far more insidious was  applying publishing restrictions against minority ideas such as any anti-war ideas, socialism, and communism (see cases like Schenk,FrohwerkMasses PublishingDebs (yes, that Debs), AbramsGitlowWhitneyDennis and ultimately Brandenberg. Communists were never a political force in this country, but you wouldn’t have known it by the number of laws made to silence them. The laws passed against anti-war activists would shock the conscience of even the most fervently pro-war neocon. We as a country have generally moved away from restrictions against such speech. At most, nowadays, there are simply social norms regarding such speech, not laws. And while some of those norms are deeply disturbing (see treatment of protesters before the Iraq war) they are at least constitutional.

But the political speech laws are where they should be. Nowadays, we can even allow speech from the likes of the Westboro idiots and deal with it. People talk about whether American exceptionalism does or does not exist, but I can say that American laws regarding political speech have generally evolved well. It’s something we can all be proud of. Now, if we can just fix other areas of free speech….

And to Ecuador: good luck.

(Image from here)

Standards for Humanitarian Intervention

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Lawyers, Guns, Money has a quick read so short that I just want to link it for being so succinct and correct:

I see there’s somenaysaying about the use of force to protect civilians in Libya. Among various refrains is the claim that “Responsibility to Protect” (R2P) doctrine lacks moral strength if applied selectively: the international community can’t legitimately go after Qaddafi if it won’t/can’t also go after every other dictator.

So just a reminder that the doctrine, as laid out by the International Commission on Intervention and State Sovereignty and acknowledged as a legal principle in several multilateral documents, actually promotes military force for civilian protection not in every case where it might be merited, but rather only in limited circumstances mapping roughly onto just war theory.

The criteria include just cause (which I agree would be fulfilled in a case like North Korea or Bahrain) but also right authority (which in R2P requires multilateral consent – not feasible in Bahrain) and proportionality (requiring a judgment that the overall good to civilians outweigh the potential harm – unlikely in North Korea). In cases not meeting this threshold, the doctrine urges merely non-coercive protection measures, including humanitarian assistance and diplomacy.

I can’t add anything to this; the rest of the post is worth reading too.

It is worth noting, though, that these have aligned in Cote D’Ivoire such that some things are being done.

Tell FOX: Native Americans are Constitutional

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Last week, John Stossell said that “no group in America has been more helped by the government than the American Indians.” There was immediate pushback, but now there’s some pushback against FOX as a whole from Native Americans:

The obtuse rhetorical questions have created groans of outrage from coast-to-coast in Indian Country and prompted Chief Allan, chairman of the Coeur d’Alene Tribal Council, to write a letter to Fox News president Roger Ailes demanding an apology from Stossel and the network.

“In a matter of minutes, Mr. Stossel made a series of misinformed and irresponsible statements that has insulted an entire population of Native Americans and highlighted his level of disrespect and misunderstanding toward Indians,” Allan writes in his letter.

Neither Stossel nor the other Fox personalities in the segment are aware that, unlike other minorities or ethnicities, Indians have a unique relationship with the federal government through executive orders and treaties made as — often scant — compensation for land grabs, conquests and genocide.

Had Stossel been better informed, Allan writes, he may have learned “U.S. military campaigns ordered to forcibly remove Indians from those lands, did so with lies, deception and ultimately by slaughtering our men, women and children.”

The entire letter can be found here.

Also, it’s worth noting that the Constitution practically demands the existence of a Bureau of Indian Affairs. – Congress is specifically charged with regulating commerce “with foreign Nations, and among the several States, and with the Indian Tribes.” To make a very long story short (i.e.: the framers did not explain well at all what the status of tribes were, mostly because it did not come up much), the Constitution has been interpreted as saying that Indians are not part of states, and that the federal government has to deal with them. That’s why there’s a Bureau of Indian Affairs, john Stossel. The same reason there’s a State Department or a Treasury Department: the federal government has specific agencies to do the specific duties the Constitution lays out.

But this is a somewhat charitable interpretation: the reality has been worse. One of the most famous Indian cases is Cherokee Nation v. Georgia. In this case, famed Justice John Marshall held that “domestic dependent” nations did not own legal title to the land (no matter how long they had held it) but instead legal title was held by the United States, and these native populations could use it. This meant that Native American tribes could only sell their land to the United States government. In essence, this made Native populations the wards of the United States.

This has been the rationale used throughout all of American history to oppress Native American populations: that they are wards of the state that America must do something with. That’s how we’ve ended up with Indian wars, forced relocations, and essentially genocide. For John Stossel to repurpose this as something good for Native Americans is truly astonishing. Stossel is lucky to still be employed.

Written by John Whitehouse

March 31, 2011 at 12:38 pm

This Is What the CIA Does and Should Do

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The CIA is in Libya and this has some people very upset.

Spencer Ackerman describes what they are doing:

[A]ccording to the Times, the CIA role in Libya is more furtive. The agency isn’t giving guns to the rebels. It’s finding out precisely who they are — important, since the U.S. has “flickers” of intel that they include some al-Qaeda members. And along with British spies, the CIA teams are learning “the location of Colonel Qaddafi’s munitions depots [and] the clusters of government troops inside Libyan towns.” And figure they probably have some tasking to get Gadhafi’s inner circle to abandon him.

Dave von Ebers gives historical context:

Anyway, here’s the thing. This, unfortunately, is exactly what every president has done with the CIA, since its inception in the late 1940s.The CIA was on the ground in Vietnam long before the United States was at war there; meddled in the affairs of Guatemala dating back to the 1950s; was neck deep in the 1953 Iranian coup d’état that secured the brutal reign of Shah Mohammad-Reza Pahlavi; aided the Chilean military in the coup that brought Augusto Pinochet to power; worked with El Salvadoran death squads for decades; established secret prisons in Eastern Europe to detain and interrogate detainees in the “war on terror” … and on and on and on. I’m not suggesting that any of that was right – it most definitely wasn’t – but note that for decades the CIA was, in almost every instance, on the side of brutal dictators who were oppressing their own people.

And don’t forget that with or without the CIA’s assistance, past American presidents tacitly supported Pol Pot in Cambodia after Vietnam overthrew him in 1978 (later Pres. Reagan doubled down on America’s covert support for Pol Pot, leading to years of civil war there); supported the Shah throughout his dictatorial reign despite hishorrific record of human rights abuses; supported the Contra rebelsin Nicaragua, many, if not most, of whom formerly worked under the dictator Somoza; and only grudgingly (and ineffectively) came to oppose Apartheid in South Africa in the 198os.

Dave concludes that here, at least, the CIA is on the right side. (BTW: follow Dave on Twitter.) But even more broadly speaking, it makes sense to have some sort of communication with these rebels and to find out who they are, what their factions are, etc. We shouldn’t have to just wonder.

And it makes sense to give them basic intelligence of what we know about Gaddafi’s approaching forces. I don’t think warning them that they’re about to be outflanked works so well when you say it from inside the cockpit of an F-15.

And I’m really at a loss as to how the CIA being on the ground means there’s boots on the ground. We’ve had numerous memoirs such as this one written from CIA agents about how they were on the ground in places the US was not at war with. I remember a lot of stories when Anna Chapman, alleged Russian spy, was captured. None of which were: “OMG, Russia is invading the United States! Wolverines!” I’d certainly have hoped the CIA or Mi6 or some similar agency was on the ground making contacts in Libya, Algeria, Bahrain, Yemen, etc. That information is crucial for policymakers to actually make the right choices.

What’s doubly surprising about the leak is that we’ve known about MI6 being on the ground in Libya for weeks now. In fact, this defense of human intelligence ought be read by anyone confused about the role of intelligence services (putting aside the role of SAS support):

First, much is made of the notion that the British could have simply put in a phone call. Such an assertion is naive in the extreme, and conveniently forgets the fact that telecommunications in Libya are vulnerable – as the British ambassador to Libya knows all too well.

As any intelligence officer would tell you, signals intelligence is vital, but it needs to be supplemented by human intelligence. When business people broker deals, they like to see each other first, check out the cut of their jibs, have a drink, build up a rapport – in short, build trust. Gathering secret intelligence is no different, and it is essential for agencies such as MI6 to build personal relationships with parties such as the Libyan rebels. A mere phone call will not do. [. . .]

Some have also speculated that all the British needed to have done was to have popped into Benghazi to see the rebel leadership, rather than head off into the desert. This is another naive assertion, and supposes that the rebel forces are a unified bunch under a centralised command structure. As we shall see, there are numerous groups of rebels, and it is possible that Tom had made contact with a group that was not represented in Benghazi. Besides, it is just as possible that Tom and his team had in fact received some sort of blessing from Benghazi. We don’t know, but what we do know is that the lives of two MI6 officers, six SAS men and a helicopter crew are not risked on a mere jaunt.

Why people thought MI6 was running around Libya then and not the CIA boggles the mind (not everyone was so dense). The risk in early March was that the rebellion would not look endemic; by now it’s clear that there is no reason for that particular concern – which is one reason why it seems the Administration intentionally leaked this news now.

Indeed, members of the administration are even pointing to this Atlantic article that came to the same conclusion:

Perhaps two of the organizations least known for leaking, the CIA and the Obama White House, the latter of which has made a special habit of prosecuting leakers, appear to have both leaked the same story at the same time to the New York Times and to Reuters, the latter of which cites four separate sources. Together, they report that President Obama signed a secret finding authorizing the clandestine operations in support of Libya’s rebels, including Central Intelligence Agency agents on the ground but not including arms for the rebels.  . . .

. . . [I]t’s also possible that the leak was planned, as so many U.S. government leaks are. [. . .] Such a leak makes appear Obama more bullish on Libya without requiring him to explain the plan for this new secret authority. It wards off domestic pressure without actually engaging those pressuring him. It also prepares the American people for the possibility of clandestine actions without actually carrying them out or even promising to consider carrying them out. After all, though the finding’s approval may be broad, very little appears to have actually been done with it. Arming the rebels, the first logical step in a serious clandestine commitment, doesn’t have the necessary congressional approval.

Perhaps most significant of all, leaking news of the finding would send a clear and no doubt chilling message to Libyan leader Muammar Qaddafi and the remainders of his regime: if you allow this war to continue, you could go up against the CIA . . .

With the rebel advance stalled, and the war appearing to head for either Qaddafi’s victory or a costly stalemate that could consume Libya for years, Obama faces a dauntingly hard choice: escalate U.S. involvement and risk entangling the country in another Afghanistan or, by refusing to escalate, put make the U.S. culpable for the rebels’ failure and Qaddafi’s sure-to-be bloody victory. The best possible way forward, then, could be to coerce Qaddafi into stepping down voluntarily, as both Egypt’s Mubarak and Tunisia’s Ben Ali did. These hints of greater U.S. involvement could be Obama’s way of showing Qaddafi the door. Also on Wednesday, a senior official with the government of Uganda, a close U.S. ally, suddenly announced to Al Arabiya, a pan-Arabic TV network, that his country would consider an asylum request from the Libyan leader.

The whole article is worth reading.

There’s no evidence that ground troops would be welcome by regional partners in the coalition. But liaising with the rebels, getting on the ground intelligence to match with satellite overlays, and maybe looking for creative ways to push Gaddafi out? That’s just prudent.

There are ways the Libya conflict could potentially escalate in ways I would not support. This is not one of them.

Written by John Whitehouse

March 31, 2011 at 9:16 am

BREAKING: I Oppose Both Arpaio and Gaddafi

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This is kind of a weird Nation article:

Could Obama and his supporters take a break from celebrating so-called no-fly zones—and take a look at what’s happening in Arizona?

Qaddafi, after all, isn’t the only one using military technology against his own people. Sheriff Joe Arpaio of Maricopa County, Arizona, has launched “Operation Desert Sky” to round up “illegal drugs and human cargo”—read: men, women, human, immigrants.

If that name sounds familiar, perhaps you’re remembering Operations Desert Shield and Desert Storm in Iraq under the first President Bush. That’s right, the sheriff of a US county is deliberately evoking the names of military operations in his war on migrants.

THIRTY aircraft will be used in the operation, and, according to the Cypress Times, will be furnished and flown largely by the sheriff’s armed volunteer posse—in other words, vigilantes. They’ll be armed with M-16s and a 50 caliber machine gun.

Isn’t it time for a no-fly zone in Arizona? . . .

Former GRITtv guest Salvador Reza, an Arizona immigration activist, says it’s unconscionable for Obama and the Justice Department to be part of Arpaio’s coalition of the willing. But beyond that, isn’t it time for us to put a stop to Arpaio’s violence once and for all?

I mean, even progressives are arguing that intervention in Libya was justified on humanitarian grounds. How big a humanitarian disaster must we see on our own soil before we act?

Before we go any further, while I support the action in Libya, I do oppose this action and the Department of Justice and Homeland Security should prevent it from happening. There’s obvious jurisdictional questions, as well as issues regarding armed vigilantes without the necessary training.

And while it’s easy to blithely accuse the Obama Administration of being complicit, just days ago Sec. Janet Napolitano said that the border security was as good as it ever had been – which does not sound much like she’s agreeing to a massive air invasion. Second, I had to find a Spanish language version of this story to confirm Arpaio is, in fact under federal investigation for human and civil rights abuses. Per the Great Orange Satan, they’re looking into: “the funding of SCA; the bogus filing of charges against County Supervisor Don Stapley, meant to intimidate one of Arpaio’s opponents; racial profiling and abuse of powers; the misuse of restricted funds; and a corrupt land deal for one of the Sheriff’s headquarters.” Also, the feds have permission to look into anything else that may arise.

That makes the Obama Administration complicit!?

Moreover, I don’t see why Arpaio and Gaddafi are even connected… unless you’re looking for a hook for anti-interventionists and wanted to get page hits. That couldn’t be it, could it? Gin up controversy against Obama from the left to get attention and sell magazines, even if the criticism isn’t entirely based in reality?

Lastly, Arpaio just announced this. Let’s give Napolitano and/or Holder a chance to respond before we accuse every Obama supporter of killing people with machine guns, ok?


Written by John Whitehouse

March 30, 2011 at 6:16 pm

SHOCK: Obama Believes in Executive Power

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Can anyone square the circle this paragraph presents:

The answer surprised many in the room because Clinton plainly admitted the administration would ignore any and all attempts by Congress to shackle President Obama’s power as commander in chief to make military and wartime decisions. In doing so, he would follow a long line of Presidents who have ignored the act since its passage, deeming it an unconstitutional encroachment on executive power.

It’s shocking that a President agrees with previous Presidents on executive power?! I have no idea why this is surprising to anyone. But I’m also expecting this to become the new scandal for the far left.

Written by John Whitehouse

March 30, 2011 at 4:31 pm