Friday, January 20, 2006

KIA In Alabama

Below my brief comment is, “KIA In Alabama” by Stan Goff. As you read it ask yourself: How many more? How many more veterans of combat will come back to a VA they have to fight with trying to get the help they need? How many more will we allow to end up dead like Douglas Barber because this nation views its troops as disposable as yesterday’s unwanted garbage?

One week before Douglas checked out he called me. During our conversation he told me the doctors at the VA had just put him on a new anti-depressant. The name of which at the moment I cannot remember. What I do remember however, is a red flag went up when I heard what he was being given. The cocktail of drugs they had him on has driven more than one over the edge—just as with Douglas. I am firmly convinced that the drugs he was being given, rather than deal with the PTSD, went a long, long way toward ending the life of Douglas Barber. For now, here is Stan’s article: -- Jack

KIA In Alabama

By: Stan Goff
Feral Scholar @

"All is not okay or right for those of us who return home alive and supposedly well. What looks like normalcy and readjustment is only an illusion to be revealed by time and torment. Some soldiers come home missing limbs and other parts of their bodies. Still others will live with permanent scars from horrific events that no one other than those who served will ever understand." - Douglas Barber, 2005

On January 16th, after having talked quite normally on the phone with at least two other people that same day, Douglas Barber, a member of Iraq Veterans Against the War (IVAW) living in Lee County, Alabama, changed the answer-message on his telephone.

"If you're looking for Doug," it said in his Alabama drawl, "I'm checking out of this world. I'll see you on the other side."

He then called the police, collected his shotgun, and went out onto his porch to meet them. From the sketchy reports we have now, it seems the police wouldn't oblige him with a "suicide by cop" and tried to talk him down. When it became apparent he wasn't able to commit cop-suicide, 27-year-old Douglas Barber did an about face, rotated the shotgun and killed himself.

There is a hell of a lot that we just don't know about how this happened. I talked to Doug on the phone earlier this month, and he described how excited he was to have joined IVAW, how he looked forward to taking up the pen and speaking out. Others had spoken with him only days and hours before he permanently quieted the chaos in his head. None of the "classic" signs of suicidal thinking were manifest. He was gregarious and upbeat, playful.

We know he had been prescribed medication. When he came back from Iraq, having served with the 1485th Transportation Company, a National Guard unit federalized to compensate for the extreme combat overstretch in Iraq, he was diagnosed with severe post-traumatic stress (PTSD), and the Veterans Administration medical system leans toward drugs. In fact, they frequently shazam PTSD into something called "personality disorder," which can be treated with drugs. One veteran I know was prescribed Paxil which made him feel suicidal, and when the VA insisted that it worked, this kid switched to his own anti-depressant -- marijuana, which he says works better than the Paxil and doesn't make him feel like killing himself.

If one has a personality disorder, you see, then the "pathology" has no relation to one's job, like participating in the occupation of Iraq. The etiology exists somewhere within the individual, like a genetic disorder... that was missed during induction, missed by one's units, and missed during medical pre-screeening for deployment into Mesopotamia. We don't know if Doug was taking medication, or had stopped taking medication, or even what medication he had been prescribed.

We do know that he was a truck driver, and that his job in Iraq was driving supply convoys along the shooting gallery between Baghdad Airport and LSA Anaconda in Balad -- a giant military base -- a veritable city -- that is subject to so many mortar and rocket attacks that the troops have renamed it Mortaritaville.

We do know, from Doug's interviews, that the stress of those convoys -- each confronting its participants with the possibility that this could be one's last road trip -- were hard on Doug. In July 2003, his convoy was hit with an improvised explosive device, and the mortar attacks at Anaconda were so regular that they were almost a weather pattern. But Doug said there was something else that was even harder on him. When the grunts came in, they would describe how many civilians they'd killed.

When Doug was in a traffic jam one day, feeling very vulnerable, and the US units dismounted to clear the traffic jam -- angry and afraid and waving weapons at the civilians -- a woman in a bus held up her baby for them to see... like that window-sign we see in cars on American highways -- "Baby on Board." Only she wasn't cautioning other drivers to be careful. She was trying to prevent an armed attack that could kill her child.

Doug may have decomped from medication, I don't know. That could have contributed to his suicide. It's possible. He fought with the defunded, Bush-administration VA for two years trying to get counseling, and trying to get authorization for his disability. It's very difficult to be a "productive member of society" when one fears sleep, and when one has lost meaning.

I read a book on post-traumatic stress once. Rape is the most common cause, then combat. It said that trauma disrupts one's sense that the word is a safe place, that trauma destabilizes our sense of meaning.

Let me explain something, as a veteran myself of eight conflict areas, and something that Doug discovered in Balad. The sense that the world is not a safe place is not a "disorder." It is an accurate perception. And the sense of meaning many of us enjoy is an illusion, a cruel construction that normalizes the orderly activity of the suburb and nurses our children on simple-minded, Disney-fied optimism pumped through television sets in a relentless data stream.

Post-traumatic stress is not a disorder. Calling it that earns it a place in the DSM IV, professionalizes and medicalizes this very accurate perception that the world is not safe, and that life is not a comforting film convention. Calling it an individual "disorder" cloaks the social systems responsible for experiences like Vietnam and Iraq. And it renders invisible the fact that Douglas Barber was not merely a suicide.

Douglas Barber was nurtured on the illusions that secure our obedience, but when the real system needed to demonstrate to the rest of the world just how unsafe our nation could make them as the price of disobedience, the vile carnival barkers of the Bush administration, like administrations before them, did not recruit the children of Martha's Vineyard or Georgetown. They went, as they have always done, to places like Lee County, Alabama, where simple people have formed powerful affective attachments to the myth of our national moral superiority.

When that word view, that architecture of meaning, collapses in the face of realities like convoy Russian roulette, and women holding babies up to prevent being shot, and daily stories of slaughter by the people one sleeps with, the profound betrayal of it is not experienced as some quiet, somber sadness. It is experienced like bees swarming out of a hive that has been broken, as a howling chaos. So we quiet it with marijuana, alcohol, heroin, and even shotguns.

The most fortunate of these survivors find one another. Doug had recently joined IVAW, where our veterans not only establish mutual support networks of plain love and care with one another, but where they can engage in the most "therapeutic" activity of all -- fighting back against the criminality that sent them there in the first place.

We arrived too late for Doug. We were going to met him in Birmingham later this month to involve him in the planning for a from Mobile, Alabama to New Orleans, and serve as the conscience of a nation that will spend trillions to drop bombs on Iraqis, and use a hurricane in the Black Belt as a pretext to accelerate gentrification.
So when we launch out of Mobile in March on this 135-mile trek, we will carry Douglas Barber with us.


Stan Goff is a retired Special Forces Master Sergeant. He is the author of three books;"Hideous Dream - A Soldier's Memoir of the US Invasion of Haiti" (Soft Skull Press, 2000), Full Spectrum Disorder - The Military in the New American Century (Soft Skull Press, 2004), and Sex & War (Soft Skull Press, 2006 [to be released soon]) .

He is the military affairs editor for From The Wilderness:, and writes foreign policy analysis for Sanders Research Associates:

He is a member of Vietnam Veterans Against the War , Veterans For Peace, and Military Families Speak Out His son is in the active duty army and is in Iraq now for the third time.

Goff is on the coordinating committee of the Bring Them Home Now! Campaign: , and advises Iraq Veterans Against the War: on organizational development. His blog is called "Feral Scholar."

Thursday, January 19, 2006

The Forgotten Wounded of Iraq

The following article by Ron Kovic stands on its own. Ron needs no words form me as he says it all. Ron Kovic, you truely are an amazing man; an honorable man. You are an inspiration to us all. -- Jack

The Forgotten Wounded of Iraq
A Dig led by
Ron Kovic

Thirty-eight years ago, on Jan. 20, 1968, I was shot and paralyzed from my mid-chest down during my second tour of duty in Vietnam. It is a date that I can never forget, a day that was to change my life forever. Each year as the anniversary of my wounding in the war approached I would become extremely restless, experiencing terrible bouts of insomnia, depression, anxiety attacks and horrifying nightmares. I dreaded that day and what it represented, always fearing that the terrible trauma of my wounding might repeat itself all over again. It was a difficult day for me for decades and it remained that way until the anxieties and nightmares finally began to subside.

As I now contemplate another January 20th I cannot help but think of the young men and women who have been wounded in the war in Iraq. They have been coming home now for almost three years, flooding Walter Reed, Bethesda, Brooke Army Medical Center and veterans hospitals all across the country. Paraplegics, amputees, burn victims, the blinded and maimed, shocked and stunned, brain-damaged and psychologically stressed, over 16,000 of them, a whole new generation of severely maimed is returning from Iraq, young men and women who were not even born when I came home wounded to the Bronx veterans hospital in 1968.

I, like most other Americans, have occasionally seen them on TV or at the local veterans hospital, but for the most part they remain hidden, like the flag-draped caskets of our dead, returned to Dover Air Force Base in the darkness of night as this administration continues to pursue a policy of censorship, tightly controlling the images coming out of that war and rarely ever allowing the human cost of its policy to be seen.

Mosul, Fallouja, Basra, Baghdad, a roadside bomb, an RPG, an ambush, the bullets cracking all around them, the reality that they are in a war, that they have suddenly been hit. No more John Wayne-Audie Murphy movie fantasies. No more false bravado, stirring words of patriotism, romantic notions of war or what it might really mean to be in combat, to sacrifice for one’s country. All that means nothing now. The reality has struck, the awful, shocking and frightening truth of what it really means to be hit by a bullet, an RPG, an improvised explosive device, shrapnel, a booby trap, friendly fire. They are now in a life-and-death situation and they have suddenly come face to face with the foreign policy of their own nation. The initial shock is wearing off; the painful reality is beginning to sink in, clearly something terrible has happened, something awful and inexplicable.

All the conditioning, all the discipline, shouting, screaming, bullying and threatening verbal abuse of their boot camp drill instructors have now disappeared in this one instant, in this one damaging blow. All they want to do now is stay alive, keep breathing, somehow get out of this place anyway they can. People are dying all around them, someone has been shot and killed right next to them and behind them but all they can really think of at this moment is staying alive.

You don’t think of God, or praying, or even your mother or your father. There is no time for that. Your heart is pounding. Blood is seeping out. You will always go back to that day, that moment you got hit, the day you nearly died yet somehow survived. It will be a day you will never forget—when you were trapped in that open area and could not move, when bullets were cracking all around you, when the first Marine tried to save you and was shot dead at your feet and the second, a black Marine—whom you would never see again and who would be killed later that afternoon—would carry you back under heavy fire.

You are now with other wounded all around you heading to a place where there will be help. There are people in pain and great distress, shocked and stunned, frightened beyond anything you can imagine. You are afraid to close your eyes. To close your eyes now means that you may die and never wake up. You toss and turn, your heart pounding, racked with insomnia ... and for many this will go on for months, years after they return home.

They are being put on a helicopter, with the wounded all around them. They try to stay calm. Some are amazed that they are still alive. You just have to keep trying to stay awake, make it to the next stage, keep moving toward the rear, toward another aid station, a corpsman, a doctor a nurse someone who can help you, someone who will operate and keep you alive so you can make it home, home to your backyard and your neighbors and your mother and father. To where it all began, to where it was once peaceful and safe.

They just try to keep breathing because they have got to get back.

They are in the intensive-care ward now, the place where they will be operated on, and where in Vietnam a Catholic priest gave me the Last Rites. Someone is putting a mask over their faces just as they put one over mine in Da Nang in 1968. There is the swirl of darkness and soon they awaken to screams all around them. The dead and dying are everywhere. There are things here you can never forget, images and sounds and smells that you will never see on TV or read about in the newspapers. The black pilot dying next to me as the corpsman and nurse tried furiously to save him, pounding on his chest with their fists as they laughed and joked trying to keep from going insane. The Green Beret who died of spinal meningitis, the tiny Vietnamese nun handing out apples and rosary beads to the wounded, the dead being carted in and out like clockwork,19- and 20-year-olds.

There is the long flight home packed with the wounded all around you, every conceivable and horrifying wound you could imagine. Even the unconscious and brain-dead whose minds have been blown apart by bullets and shrapnel make that ride with you, because we are all going home now, back to our country. And this is only the beginning.
The frustrations, anger and rage, insomnia, nightmares, anxiety attacks, terrible restlessness and desperate need to keep moving will come later, but for now we are so thankful to have just made it out of that place, so grateful to be alive even with these grievous wounds.

I cannot help but wonder what it will be like for the young men and women wounded in Iraq. What will their homecoming be like? I feel close to them. Though many years separate us we are brothers and sisters. We have all been to the same place. For us in 1968 it was the Bronx veterans hospital paraplegic ward, overcrowded, understaffed, rats on the ward, a flood of memories and images, I can never forget; urine bags overflowing onto the floor. It seemed more like a slum than a hospital. Paralyzed men lying in their own excrement, pushing call buttons for aides who never came, wondering how our government could spend so much money (billions of dollars) on the most lethal, technologically advanced weaponry to kill and maim human beings but not be able to take care of its own wounded when they came home.

Will it be the same for them? Will they have to return to these same unspeakable conditions? Has any of it changed? I have heard that our government has already attempted to cut back millions in much needed funds for veterans hospitals—and this when thousands of wounded soldiers are returning from Iraq. Will they too be left abandoned and forgotten by a president and administration whose patriotic rhetoric does not match the needs of our wounded troops now returning? Do the American people, the president, the politicians, senators and congressmen who sent us to this war have any idea what it really means to lose an arm or a leg, to be paralyzed, to begin to cope with the psychological wounds of that war? Do they have any concept of the long-term effects of these injuries, how the struggles of the wounded are only now just beginning? How many will die young and never live out their lives because of all the stress and myriad of problems that come with sending young men and women into combat?

It is so difficult at first. You return home and both physically and emotionally don’t know how you are going to live with this wound, but you just keep trying, just keep waking up to this frightening reality every morning. “My God, what has happened to me?” But you somehow get up, you somehow go on and find a way to move through each day. Even though it is impossible, you go on. Maybe there will be a day years from now, if you are lucky to live that long, when it will get better and you will not feel so overwhelmed. You must have something to hope for, some way to believe it will not always be this way.

This is exactly what many of them are going through right now.

They are alone in their rooms all over this country, right now. Just as I was alone in my room in Massapequa. I know they’re there—just as I was. This is the part you never see. The part that is never reported in the news. The part that the president and vice president never mention. This is the agonizing part, the lonely part, when you have to awake to the wound each morning and suddenly realize what you’ve lost, what is gone forever.

They’re out there and they have mothers and fathers, sisters and brothers, husbands and wives and children. And they’re not saying much right now. Just like me they’re just trying to get through each day. Trying to be brave and not cry. They still are extremely grateful to be alive, but slowly, agonizingly they are beginning to think about what has really happened to them.

What will it be like for them when one morning they suddenly find themselves naked sitting before that mirror in their room and must come face to face with their injury? I want to reach out to them. I want them to know that I’ve been there too. I want to just sit with them in their room and tell them that they must not give up. They must try to be patient, try to just get through each day, each morning, each afternoon any way they can. That no matter how impossible and frustrating it may seem, how painful, regardless of the anxiety attacks and nightmares and thoughts of suicide, they must not quit.

Somewhere out there there will be a turning point, somewhere through this all they will find a reason to keep on living.

In the months and years that are to follow, others will be less fortunate. Young men and women who survived the battlefield, the intensive-care ward, veterans hospitals and initial homecoming will be unable to make the difficult and often agonizing adjustment.
Is this what is awaiting all of them? Is this the nightmare no one ever told them about, the part no one now wants to talk about or has the time to deal with? The car accidents, and drinking and drug overdoses, the depression, anger and rage, spousal abuse, bedsores and breakdowns, prison, homelessness, sleeping under the piers and bridges. The ones who never leave the hospital, the ones who can’t hold a job, can’t keep a relationship together, can’t love or feel any emotions anymore, the brutal insomnia that leaves you exhausted and practically unable to function, the frightening anxiety attacks that come upon you when you least expect them, and always the dread that each day may be your last.

Marty, Billy, Bobby, Max, Tom, Washington, Pat, Joe? I knew them all. It’s a long list. It’s amazing that you’re still alive when so many others you knew are dead, and at such a young age. Isn’t all this dying supposed to happen when you’re much older? Not now, not while we’re so young. How come the recruiters never mentioned these things? This was never in the slick pamphlets they showed us! This should be a time of innocence, a time of joy and happiness, no cares and youthful dreams—not all these friends dying so young, all this grief and numbness, emptiness and feelings of being so lost.
The physical and psychological battles from the war in Iraq will rage on for decades, deeply impacting the lives of citizens in both our countries.

As this the 38th anniversary of my wounding in Vietnam approaches, in many ways I feel my injury in that war has been a blessing in disguise. I have been given the opportunity to move through that dark night of the soul to a new shore, to gain an understanding, a knowledge, an entirely different vision. I now believe that I have suffered for a reason and in many ways I have found that reason in my commitment to peace and nonviolence. We who have witnessed the obscenity of war and experienced its horror and terrible consequences have an obligation to rise above our pain and suffering and turn the tragedy of our lives into a triumph. I have come to believe that there is nothing in the lives of human beings more terrifying than war and nothing more important than for those of us who have experienced it to share its awful truth.

We must break this cycle of violence and begin to move in a different direction; war is not the answer, violence is not the solution. A more peaceful world is possible.

I am the living death The memorial day on wheels I am your yankee doodle dandy Your John Wayne come home Your Fourth of July firecracker Exploding in the grave

Dig posted on Jan. 18, 2006

"Shallow Throat": Do the Dems Have a Death Wish?

"Shallow Throat": Do Dems Have a Death Wish?
By Bernard Weiner,
The Crisis Papers

"Shallow Throat" joined me at a mostly-deserted park in Virginia, red-faced and shaking with anger. I didn't even have to ask a question before the rage exploded out:

"I can't believe your Democrat friends are blowing it once again! The Bushies are imploding in one scandal after another, it's dictator-time, the GOP in Congress is tarred by the Abramoff corruption brush, more attacks on Mideast countries are coming soon, Bush ordered spying on Americans with no court permission, impeachment momentum is in the air - and the Dems have let the President off the hook once again! How many times are you going to push that boulder up the steep hill to the top and then let it roll back down again? Do you liberals really have a death-wish?"

Normally, I have to contact the secretive GOP mole high up in the Bush Administration, but this time Shallow Throat came looking for me. To vent, to explode, to dish.

"Whoa there," I said, as we walked quickly down a tree-lined path. "Slow down and tell me what's wrong. And, by the way, I'm not a Democratic consultant, I just play one on the Internet. I presume you're talking about Alito escaping the Judiciary Committee noose in his hearing?"

"No, no, you're missing the point. Your Democrat friends -, Democratic pols, liberal pundits - always miss the point. They're great when they finally decide to hone in on something, usually minor, but they constantly miss the big picture, and rarely have a world-view, a philosophy, even a sense of what their political enemies are trying to do to them. No wonder you guys lose elections - wait, before you call me on that last one, I'll admit: balloting fraud helps, too."

"So what is the 'big picture' here? What did the Democrats ignore?"


"The reality they're missing is that Bush & Co. long ago declared war on our democratic institutions, and the liberals pretend that it never really happened. Bush & Co. have set themselves up as a dictatorship, where, under an extreme interpretation of 'the unitary executive' theory, the president can violate whatever laws he wishes whenever he wishes, totally negating the Legislative Branch's lawmaking and oversight powers. They've been doing this in secret for years - using the 'national security' dodge when carrying out and condoning torture, domestic spying on citizens' emails and phone calls and so on - and now, thanks only to some whistleblower friends of mine inside the Administration, the whole rotten, stinking pile is out in the open.

"The issue is joined, and yet the Dems simply can't face that they're going to have to really fight for freedom and power, not just mouth the words. The Alito hearings were the perfect platform to make their points openly, and with all that free airtime, and they dropped the ball."

"But they did ask Alito plenty of questions about presidential overreach," I responded. "It's not like they ignored the issue."

"Yeah, they asked some questions, a well-rehearsed Alito bobbed and weaved with platitudes, and then the Dems moved on to another line of questioning, as if each issue were equal and a perfectly normal difference of opinion. What you and your friends are failing to grasp is that this is the issue of our time - the amassing of total political and military power in the hands of a few dangerous, power-crazed officials down in a fantasy bunker. The result of this denial has led to a withering away of other countervailing powers in our society, in the Judiciary, the Press, the Legislative branch. It happened in Germany in the '30s, and it is starting to happen here. If we don't stop them now, we may never have another good opportunity to do so."

"But you still haven't told me what the Dems - who are the minority party, remember, with little or no power - could have done in the Alito hearing other than to press the issue with the nominee," I said.


"Think creatively!" shouted Shallow Throat. "If the Democrats truly and sincerely believe America and the Constitution are in imminent danger from this wild, power-hungry crew in the White House - and, believe me, you guys only have seen the tip of the iceberg as to how bad it is - they can't keep behaving in the normal manner.

"The Senate Democrats could have reined in their individual egos, organized themselves and, in effect, held an educational sit-in during the hearings, using their media face-time to lay out the facts of Bush's cockamamie theory underlying his assumption of total power. They could have met elsewhere in the Capitol and held their own hearings, a la John Conyers in the House, about what Bush has done. They could have said they would be unable to vote for Alito as long as he avoided telling the country his philosophical views - not how he might rule on particular cases - on the key issues. As a united body of senators, they could have indicated their support for impeachment hearings based on the usurpation of total power (tying the nominee to this right-wing agenda), domestic spying, torture, corruption, massive lies, etc.

"Instead, they just lobbed a few easy-to-deflect questions at Alito and moved on. If Alito is confirmed to the Supreme Court (joining Roberts, also a supporter of expanded executive power during 'wartime'), the likelihood of more police-state tactics and shredding of more Constitutional protections and more spying on ordinary citizens will move us further along toward an authoritarian, one-party state. Although they seem to recognize this, the Dems' questions (too much on Roe) and disorganized, noncholant approach suggest that they don't really care to try to stop this movement toward an American type of fascism."

"You, a moderate conservative, think America is heading into fascism?" I asked, somewhat shocked.


"It's not just me. There are so many distressed traditional Republican conservatives out there, always opposed to Big Brother government, who think likewise. Even Barron's, that establishment business magazine, is of a similar mind, along with lots of military and intelligence types still inside the administration, but scared to death of saying anything. I'm nervous just being here with you, Bernie. God help me if anybody sees me."

"I think this place is out of the way enough, and you're wearing a wig and dark glasses," I replied. "But what I'm interested in finding out is: Do you think it's too late, is it all a lost cause?"

"Almost, but maybe there still are ways to stop this reckless bunch of ideologues. First of all, the Democrats have to stay united and filibuster the hell out of the Alito nomination. And they have to work on prying a few of the Republican moderates to pledge to vote no, based on the clear indication by Alito that he's willing to re-open the Roe decision, and judicially blessing Bush's assumption of sweeping powers over citizens' privacy, positions not favored by a great many anti-big-government conservatives.

"The hearings may have been a predictable dance, but they did get Alito to reveal several things: First, that he lied to somebody about being a member of the bigoted Concerned Alumni of Princeton; either he lied to Reagan officials to get a job when he asserted that he had been a member, or he lied to the Senators when he claimed he couldn't remember if he was a member. (I wracked my brain and I just can't remember if I was a member of the Klan 20 years ago. Yeah, sure.)


"Second, Alito believes many other key issues are 'settled law' precedents, but on executive power and abortion, clearly he's ready to vote to tear away at Roe and to support Bush in his assumption of more and more power, with little oversight. Some of the moderate GOP senators are greatly concerned about the Legislative Branch being stripped of its power, throwing the checks-and-balances system out of whack, so they might be peeled away here. Folks like Collins and Snowe and Chafee and maybe even Warner and McCain (who is pissed at the way Bush humiliated him on his torture amendment, saying he wouldn't necessarily honor it).

"Third, key Democratic Senators and House members should be willing to risk arrest for civil disobedience by joining a sit-in outside the White House gates, along with tens of thousands of ordinary citizens, protesting Bush's breaking of laws passed by Congress and claiming he can and will do it again and again, whenever he wants.

"We need men and women of courage to drive this issue into the mainstream media's front page and TV screens, day after day; imagine the impact if, say, Senators Boxer, Feinstein and Leahy were to put their bodies where their mouths are on the war in Iraq and on Bush's in-your-face executive power-grabbing. If the Dems are serious about confronting Bush where he's weakest, on breaking laws with impunity, then they've got to up the ante and take some calculated risks. Doing so automatically will move the impeachment ball forward.

"Fourth, it's not too late for the Dem senators to start holding hearings on their own - or talking about Alito and over-reaching executive power during a filibuster on his nomination - even if the GOP won't initiate official probes on Bush's having violated the law. (By the way, it was easy for Alito to say that even a President has to remain within the law, because, if he gets onto the Supreme Court, he'll help redefine 'the law' so that Bush always will be seen to be 'inside' it.) Witnesses could be called at such hearings, from inside and outside the government, to explain how Bush is a serial lawbreaker and needs to be reined in, either electorally at the mid-term balloting later this year or through the impeachment process.

"Finally, don't forget that Special Counsel Patrick Fitzgerald may drop a Rove-indictment bomb any day now on the White House. Bush and Cheney might be forced to testify in such a case - or Bush might feel constrained to issue a pardon in advance of Rove going to court, which obvious coverup ploy would add another charge to the impeachment list."


I had to ask the next question: "Do you really believe the Democrats have enough courage to do at least some of what you're suggesting?"

"No," ST said, "but they're slowly coming to realize that unless they do something dramatic to save the republic from the worst of the Bush recklessness and power-amassment, their own days and their power to get things done are numbered, and with more wars of choice in the offing. The Dems will never ever get back in power again unless Bush & Co. are brought down politically, through impeachment. We can't count on Bush and Cheney resigning on their own volition, on Fitzgerald doing it for them, on unsupervised voting-machine tallies (by the Republican-supporting computer-voting companies who control the counting of ballot) giving them earned victories. In short, the Dems and their moderate GOP allies are going to have to force the issue themselves.

"The Dem base - and a lot of angry traditional Republican conservatives and military officers at the Pentagon and intelligence officers at the CIA and elsewhere - are ready for courageous action on their leaders' part. But those leaders have to be willing to step out, take a deep breath and make the moves that need to be made to get rid of this corrupt, incompetent, vicious, power-mad crew. If they don't, we're all liable to go down with them. There are no more chances. This is it."

Shallow Throat turned off my tape-recorder and, before jogging out of the park, said: "Get this conversation published!" Which I am dutifully doing.

Bernard Weiner, Ph.D. in government & international relations, has had numerous conversations with the
Shallow Throat character. He has taught at various universities, worked as a writer/editor with the San Francisco Chronicle

Wednesday, January 18, 2006

In Memory and Mourning of the Tragic Death of Douglas Barber

Below my brief comments, is Jay Shaft’s article on and about Douglas Barber and his tragic death on Monday, January 16, 2006. Please read it carefully.

I had only been talking with Douglas Barber for a little over a month; two or three times a week. Like a lot of veterans of combat tours, Douglas had a myriad emotions running thru him at the same time. Emotions that are extremely difficult to separate and get a handle on especially when a patient within the VA system. Rather than give the vet like Douglas the real help they need, people like Doug must spend years fighting to get that help from the very VA that is supposed to be there for them. In the meantime, while vets like Douglas are forced to fight and wait for extremely extended periods of time which does nothing but more deeply imbue that veteran with that which the veteran is seeking help with and for. The doctors that Douglas were finally able to start seeing were real quick to write him a cacophony of psychotropic and anxiety drugs, most of which will send almost anyone over the edge, let alone someone with significant PTSD as was the case with Douglas. Upon hearing some of what Douglas was being given my concern for him increased. I’ve seen firsthand how some of those drugs drove people completely over the edge over the past 38 years.

I was notified of the death of Douglas by Dan, who is a member of the same veterans’ organization as was Douglas, about two hours after it happened. In turn I wrote an email to someone I have known for some time now telling that person what had just happened. What I heard back was nothing more than blaming the victim, in this case Douglas, for his own state of affairs. Blaming the victim for being the victim. In fact I was told that Doug did not want to be saved. How callous a thing to say; how absurd; how completely ignorant of PTSD, its causes and effects. Douglas had too much going on inside him, was unable to separate so many of the emotions and when he turned to the VA for help, all he got was a lot of drugs. I hold the VA, congress, in short, this entire government responsible for the death of Spc. Douglas Barber on Monday, January 16, 2006.

We cannot allow one more person, one more veteran like Douglas Barber to be abandoned by the very system that is ostensibly there to be of help to veterans like Douglas. And we can never, ever forget Douglas Barber. One more reason we must be in Washington for the
March for Veterans 2006: “Operation Firing For Effect.” -- Jack

A Soldier For Truth Has Fallen: In Memory Of Specialist Doug BarberIn Memory and Mourning of the Tragic Death of Douglas Barber

By: Jay Shaft @:

Today I come to you with a heavy and troubled heart. I have the unfortunate task of giving you some very tragic news. Yesterday afternoon Specialist Douglas Barber, an Operation Iraqi Freedom veteran, took his own life after struggling with the demons and nightmares of PTSD for over two years.

No one really knows what caused his sudden and deadly breakdown. Doug had been on the phone laughing and kidding around with one of his best friends about an hour before the incident. Several friends have said that Doug seemed to be in an upbeat and playful mood throughout the morning, and that he never mentioned any problems.

He was on his way over to his best friend's house to hang out and try to forget about his problems for awhile. Something happened after that which caused Doug to give up and make the decision to take his own life. For some reason Doug decided he could no longer bear the ongoing pain, agony and inner torment.

The Lee County, Alabama sheriff's department was on the scene trying to talk Doug out of it for over 30 minutes. The investigating officer has stated that every effort was made to stop the situation and save Doug's life. Doug apparently turned his back to the officers, fired one shot, and ended his life.

William Wooldridge is a fellow veteran who served in Iraq in 2003. He said that Doug called and left two messages that were playfully making fun of him for still being in bed. William woke up to find one last horrifying message from Doug on his answering machine. He tried to get in contact with Doug's friend and found out it was already too late.

Today I was supposed to publish a positive update to Doug’s case for 100% service connected PTSD with the VA. He had finally achieved a victory in his long struggle and fight to get counseling and medical benefits.Instead I find myself mourning someone who had become a good friend of mine. Instead of writing Doug's story of hope and courage, I find myself compiling his final memorial. An overwhelming wave of sadness washes over me as I write this. What was a story of triumph has turned into a tale of tragedy.

I find myself unable to deny a friendship with Doug, especially after we had invested over a month in telling his story of what happened in Iraq and after he came home with PTSD. He was extremely excited and relieved about going through the process of receiving his full disability and medical benefits.

I was helping Doug to arrange his personal account into an outline for book publication. I have spent hours helping him talk out the chapters and to flesh out his story in fuller detail.
As a result of this work I was in contact with him at least three times a day and we spent over 100 hours in contact over the phone. Next week Doug was planning on coming down to visit and to meet me in person.

Even though I was talking to him every day, I was not aware of how close Doug was to a breakdown. Sadly, I will never be able to shake his hand or go out for a beer and just shoot the shit. We were planning on just sitting down, having a normal conversation, and forgetting about all the problems we had shared and discussed.

I spoke to him on Sunday and was prepared to conduct a final interview about the progress in his life yesterday morning. I never spoke to Doug again. I feel such a loss that I cannot begin to comprehend it. One of the last things he said to me was that he was happy to be standing up for all the other vets who were getting screwed by the VA and the military.

Doug had just been awarded a 50% disability with 100% to be awarded within 90 days. After over two years of hell and agony he was finally able to access proper counseling for his PTSD. Sadly it was too little, too late.

He had been denied treatment for so long that he was in an unimaginably horrifying mental state. All the problems that had been buried and untreated for the last two years finally overcame Doug’s ability to deal with it.

He was looking towards a conclusion to his personal war for benefits and treatment. After fighting for over two years, the end of his struggle appeared on the horizon. He repeatedly told me that the clouds of PTSD were breaking up and that he felt the light of day in his darkness and despair. Those were the last words he ever spoke to me.

He hung up in a cheerful and jubilant mood. All he could think about was that the update was coming out today, and everyone would see that a vet could win against the system if he stuck in there long enough. He wanted every vet to know that they could stand up and tell everyone if they had been denied treatment or recognition from the VA.

He kept his hopes up with the thought that he was leading the way for every returning soldier who would follow in his footsteps. The overwhelming public response and support gave him courage and strength when he was at his weakest.

He could see that his story had made a tremendous impact with the public and had resonated to the highest levels of the VA, Pentagon, and Congress. Because of his story and words of truth, hurried investigations have been initiated and VA administrators are now reviewing their policy in regard to the treatment of returning Reservists and National Guardsmen.

Doug may have taken his own life, but the blame should rest squarely on the shoulders of the VA. They stonewalled his claim and prevented him from getting treatment at every step of the way. He struggled for two years to get any type counseling for his problems.
Last year he turned himself in for emergency crisis treatment through the VA. Their response was to give him a counseling appointment every three months and give him medication without any real supervision or follow-up.

Because they did not immediately respond to Doug’s cry for help, his condition was allowed to grow into an insurmountable problem. If they had given him access to therapy and full PTSD counseling and support I doubt his life would have come to this unnecessary end. It was a complete failure on the part of the VA that led to this senseless death of a man who put his life on the line for his country.

They had the ability to step in last year after they knew without doubt that he was in imminent crisis and desperate for help. Instead they stalled him to the point of utter mental breakdown. His pleas for help were ignored and shuffled through the chain of endless paperwork, applications for services and case reviews.

What happened to Doug has happened to thousands of veterans who have returned from the recent conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan. It is also happening to vets from every previous war.

Doug was just the latest soldier in a long tale of tragedy and woe being suffered by this nation. Many families have lost a loved one after every option and resource was unavailable to a soldier in dire need of immediate care and compassion.

The VA by its denial of assistance and betrayal of trust helped Doug to reach his final day of desperation. It is their failure to help, not Doug’s reaction to problems he could no longer cope with that needs to be the story behind this tragedy. They must be held accountable for their failure not only to help Doug but the hundreds of thousands of other vets being denied their benefits.

We all must realize that if Doug was getting the proper care and supervision, his problems would have been addressed and a path of healing could have been offered. As it was he got no help until he broke down and took his own life because he had lost all hope of recovery. This should never have to happen to another veteran who has served this country.

I will be releasing an article tomorrow in tribute to Doug’s memory and the truth he helped to expose. He should be remembered as a common man who stood up for his brothers and sisters in arms. His personal views may have caused conflict, but his desire for fair treatment of all vets carried above any political views he had.

I have spoken to Doug’s wife Robin and several of his close friends. I have been in contact with many people who loved and cared for Doug, and his death is not going to be forgotten or ignored. I will be releasing some comments and experiences from Doug’s friends that were in touch with him over the last few days. Please look for a press release to come out by tomorrow evening.

I am also releasing over two hours of audio interviews with Doug so that everyone can hear his experiences recounted in his own words.

As I write this I am listening to Doug’s interview with talk show host Doug Basham conducted on 12/16/05. I sit here with tears in my eyes when I realize how much I will miss Doug’s frank and open honesty. I will miss his desire to stand up and expose the truth for the whole country to see.

I will especially miss his burning and ardent dedication to revealing the facts of how veterans are being denied healthcare and access to proper counseling and treatment.

I am unable to write any more at this time. I find myself really feeling the shock and loss for the first time since I heard the tragic news. I just can’t write any more without breaking down. I join in mourning with Doug’s family and friends. I share the pain of all those who knew Doug and will miss his forthrightness, dedication and honesty.

Jay Shaft, Editor, Coalition For Free Thought In Media

Doug’s interview “Iraq took away our innocence” can be read at

To listen to a follow up to the interview go to

To hear the interview with Doug Basham go to

I published Doug’s last article on the 10th of January. Sadly it will stand as his final thoughts and the last words that were ever written by him.

Please read it if you wish to understand the dedication Doug had to his cause. Spc. Doug Barber: PTSD - A Soldier's Personal War!

The Case For A Fair Balance Between Global Security And Human rights

We had all best to pay more heed to just exactly what is at stake in the "New World Order" being set in place by the neo-con/neo-liberals in whose death girp the nation is currently in. This goes way past just Bush. -- Jack

Terrorism And Human Rights

By: FindLaw Columnist Joanne Mariner

FindLaw columnist and human rights attorney Joanne Mariner discusses the recent, sustained global focus on security -- in particular, security against terrorism -- and the threat it poses that human rights gains will be reversed. Not only are Western democracies adopting rights-infringing practices that they once decried, Mariner notes, but their movement towards restricted rights and liberties may have a global impact -- with other countries labeling dissidents "terrorists" and using the label as justification to refuse to recognize rights.

While the dangers of terrorism are surely real and grave in some cases, Mariner argues, a fair balance between security concerns and human rights must be struck.

Special Coverage: Terror-Related Cases and Laws

Bush Has Crossed the Rubicon

The following article by Paul Craig Roberts should be required reading for every man, woman and child in this nation. He correctly defines the crisis we in this nation are faced with, why and by whom. He correctly states exactly what the “neo-con/neo-liberal” cabal around Bush/Cheney is after—permanent dictator rule and the law and Constitution be damned in the process. They are out to create an “Imperial Presidency/Executive Branch of Government with no oversight. This in fact goes way past just Bush or Cheney. This in the end goes to the very heart of what this nation will or will not be. Welcome to the “New World Order” of the “Corporate States of America”, the Usurpers of Our Freedoms. For my entire 62 years I have heard the mantra, “If they [congress, etc] would run the country as a business everything would be fine.” Well those preaching that have gotten their wish as the nation is being run like a giant corporate enterprise and look at the shape it is in. One truly must be careful of what one whishes for, is that not true? End corporate personhood and a lot of this would then go away in my opinion. But then what do I know? I’m just an old disabled vet in a wheelchair? “Together the Ants Devour the Elephant”. -- Jack

The Republican interest in strengthening executive power has its origin in frustration from the constraints placed on Republican administrations by Democratic congresses. The thrust to enlarge the President’s powers predates the Bush administration but is being furthered to a dangerous extent during Bush’s second term. The confirmation of Bush’s nominee, Samuel Alito, a member of the Federalist Society, to the Supreme Court will provide five votes in favor of enlarged presidential powers. – Paul Craig Roberts

Bush Has Crossed the Rubicon
By Paul Craig Roberts

Dictatorships seldom appear full-fledged but emerge piecemeal. When Julius Caesar crossed the Rubicon with one Roman legion he broke the tradition that protected the civilian government from victorious generals and launched the transformation of the Roman Republic into the Roman Empire. Fearing that Caesar would become a king, the Senate assassinated him. From the civil wars that followed, Caesar’s grandnephew, Octavian, emerged as the first Roman emperor, Caesar Augustus.

Two thousand years later in Germany, Adolf Hitler’s rise to dictator from his appointment as chancellor was rapid. Hitler used the Reichstag fire to create an atmosphere of crisis.

Both the judicial and legislative branches of government collapsed, and Hitler’s decrees became law. The Decree for the Protection of People and State (Feb. 28, 1933) suspended guarantees of personal liberty and permitted arrest and incarceration without trial. The Enabling Act (March 23, 1933) transferred legislative power to Hitler, permitting him to decree laws, laws moreover that "may deviate from the Constitution."

The dictatorship of the Roman emperors was not based on an ideology. The Nazis had an ideology of sorts, but Hitler’s dictatorship was largely personal and agenda-based. The dictatorship that emerged from the Bolshevik Revolution was based in ideology. Lenin declared that the Communist Party’s dictatorship over the Russian people rests "directly on force, not limited by anything, not restricted by any laws, nor any absolute rules." Stalin’s dictatorship over the Communist Party was based on coercion alone, unrestrained by any limitations or inhibitions.

In this first decade of the 21st century the United States regards itself as a land of democracy and civil liberty but, in fact, is an incipient dictatorship. Ideology plays only a limited role in the emerging dictatorship. The demise of American democracy is largely the result of historical developments.

Lincoln was the first American tyrant. Lincoln justified his tyranny in the name of preserving the Union. His extra-legal, extra-constitutional methods were tolerated in order to suppress Northern opposition to Lincoln’s war against the Southern secession.

The first major lasting assault on the US Constitution’s separation of powers, which is the basis for our political system, came with the response of the Roosevelt administration to the crisis of the Great Depression. The New Deal resulted in Congress delegating its legislative powers to the executive branch. Today when Congress passes a statute it is little more than an authorization for an executive agency to make the law by writing the regulations that implement it.

Prior to the New Deal, legislation was tightly written to minimize any executive branch interpretation. Only in this way can law be accountable to the people. If the executive branch that enforces the law also writes the law, "all legislative powers" are no longer vested in elected representatives in Congress. The Constitution is violated, and the separation of powers is breached.

The principle that power delegated to Congress by the people cannot be delegated by Congress to the executive branch is the mainstay of our political system. Until President Roosevelt overturned this principle by threatening to pack the Supreme Court, the executive branch had no role in interpreting the law. As Justice John Marshall Harlan wrote: "That congress cannot delegate legislative power to the president is a principle universally recognized as vital to the integrity and maintenance of the system of government ordained by the Constitution."

Despite seven decades of an imperial presidency that has risen from the New Deal’s breach of the separation of powers, Republican attorneys, who constitute the membership of the quarter-century-old Federalist Society, the candidate group for Republican nominees to federal judgeships, write tracts about the Imperial Congress and the Imperial Judiciary that are briefs for concentrating more power in the executive. Federalist Society members pretend that Congress and the Judiciary have stolen all the power and run away with it.

The Republican interest in strengthening executive power has its origin in frustration from the constraints placed on Republican administrations by Democratic congresses. The thrust to enlarge the President’s powers predates the Bush administration but is being furthered to a dangerous extent during Bush’s second term. The confirmation of Bush’s nominee, Samuel Alito, a member of the Federalist Society, to the Supreme Court will provide five votes in favor of enlarged presidential powers.

President Bush has used "signing statements" hundreds of times to vitiate the meaning of statutes passed by Congress. In effect, Bush is vetoing the bills he signs into law by asserting unilateral authority as commander-in-chief to bypass or set aside the laws he signs. For example, Bush has asserted that he has the power to ignore the McCain amendment against torture, to ignore the law that requires a warrant to spy on Americans, to ignore the prohibition against indefinite detention without charges or trial, and to ignore the Geneva Conventions to which the US is signatory.

In effect, Bush is asserting the powers that accrued to Hitler in 1933. His Federalist Society apologists and Department of Justice appointees claim that President Bush has the same power to interpret the Constitution as the Supreme Court. An Alito Court is likely to agree with this false claim.

This is the great issue that is before the country. But it is pushed into the background by political battles over abortion and homosexual rights. Many people fighting to strengthen the executive think they are fighting against legitimizing sodomy and murder in the womb.

They are unaware that the real issue is that America is on the verge of elevating its president above the law.

Bush Justice Department official and Berkeley law professor John Yoo argues that no law can restrict the president in his role as commander-in-chief. Thus, once the president is at war – even a vague open-ended "war on terror" – Bush’s Justice Department says the president is free to undertake any action in pursuit of war, including the torture of children and indefinite detention of American citizens.

The commander-in-chief role is probably sufficiently elastic to expand to any crisis, whether real or fabricated. Thus has the US arrived at the verge of dictatorship.

This development has little to do with Bush, who is unlikely to be aware that the Constitution is experiencing its final rending on his watch. America’s descent into dictatorship is the result of historical developments and of old political battles dating back to President Nixon being driven from office by a Democratic Congress.

There is today no constitutional party. Both political parties, most constitutional lawyers, and the bar associations are willing to set aside the Constitution whenever it interferes with their agendas. Americans have forgotten the prerequisites for freedom, and those pursuing power have forgotten what it means when it falls into other hands. Americans are very close to losing their constitutional system and civil liberties. It is paradoxical that American democracy is the likely casualty of a "war on terror" that is being justified in the name of the expansion of democracy.

Dr. Roberts [send him mail] is John M. Olin Fellow at the Institute for Political Economy and Research Fellow at the Independent Institute. He is a former associate editor of the Wall Street Journal, former contributing editor for National Review, and a former assistant secretary of the U.S. Treasury. He is the co-author of The Tyranny of Good Intentions.


Originally Published on:
Information Clearing House a few days ago but I felt it was too important to not re-publish today. -- Jack

Tuesday, January 17, 2006

Just Call Me A "Disrupter": Bush To Criminalize Protesters Under Patriot Act As "Disrupters"

Just call me a “disrupter” I guess. And so many in this nation still think we are not up to our eye-balls in the re-creation of this nation into something else—think “Brave New World, 1984, It Can’t Happen Here, and The 15% Solution”. Only we the people can stop this. “Together the Ants Devour the Elephant” -- Jack

Bush to criminalize protesters under Patriot Act as "disruptors"
Patriot Daily News Clearinghouse

Bush wants to create the new criminal of "disruptor" who can be jailed for the crime of "disruptive behavior." A "little-noticed provision" in the latest version of the Patriot Act will empower Secret Service to charge protesters with a new crime of "disrupting major events including political conventions and the Olympics." Secret Service would also be empowered to charge persons with "breaching security" and to charge for "entering a restricted area" which is "where the President or other person protected by the Secret Service is or will be temporarily visiting." In short, be sure to stay in those wired, fenced
containments or free speech zones.

Who is the "disruptor"?

Bush Team history tells us the disruptor is an American citizen with the audacity to attend Bush events wearing a T-shirt that criticizes Bush; or a member of civil rights, environmental, anti-war or counter-recruiting groups who protest Bush policies; or a person who invades Bush's bubble by criticizing his policies. A disruptor is also a
person who interferes in someone else's activity, such as interrupting Bush when he is speaking at a press conference or during an interview.

What are the parameters of the crime of "disruptive behavior"?

The dictionary defines "disruptive" as
"characterized by unrest or disorder or insubordination." The American Medical Association defines disruptive behavior as a "style of interaction" with people that interferes with patient care, and can include behavior such as "foul language; rude, loud or offensive comments; and intimidation of patients and family members."

What are the rules of engagement for "disruptors"?

Some Bush Team history of their treatment of disruptors provide some clues on how this administration will treat disruptors in the future.

(1) People perceived as disruptors may be preemptively ejected from events before engaging in any disruptive conduct.

In the beginning of this war against disruptors, Americans were ejected from taxpayer funded events where Bush was speaking. At first the events were campaign rallies during the election, and then the disruptor ejectment policy was expanded to include Bush's post election campaign-style events on public policy issues on his agenda, such as informing the public on medicare reform and the like. If people drove to the event in a car with a bumper sticker that criticized Bush's policies or wore T-shirts with similar criticism, they were disruptors who could be ejected from the taxpayer event even before they engaged in any disruptive behavior. White House press secretary McClellan defended such ejectments as a proper preemptive strike against persons who may disrupt an event:
"If we think people are coming to the event to disrupt it, obviously, they're going to be asked to leave."

(2) Bush Team may check its vast array of databanks to cull out those persons who it deems having "disruptor" potential and then blacklist those persons from events.

The White House even has a
list of persons it deems could be "disruptive" to an event and then blacklists those persons from attending taxpayer funded events where Bush speaks. Sounds like Bush not only has the power to unilaterally designate people as "enemy combatants" in the global "war on terror," but to unilaterally designate Americans as "disruptive" in the domestic war against free speech.

(3) The use of surveillance, monitoring and legal actions against disruptors.

Bush's war against disruptors was then elevated to surveillance, monitoring, and legal actions against disruptor organizations. The FBI
conducts political surveillance and obtains intelligence filed in its database on Bush administration critics , such as civil rights groups (e.g., ACLU), antiwar protest groups (e.g., United for Peace and Justice) and environmental groups (e.g., Greenpeace).

This surveillance of American citizens exercising their constitutional rights has been done under the pretext of counterterrorism activities surrounding protests of the Iraq war and the Republican National Convention. The FBI maintains it does not have the intent to monitor political activities and that its surveillance and intelligence gathering is
"intended to prevent disruptive and criminal activity at demonstrations, not to quell free speech."

Surveillance of potential disruptors then graduated to legal actions as a preemptive strike against potential disruptive behavior at public events. In addition to monitoring and surveillance of legal groups and legal activities, the FBI issued subpoenas for members to appear before grand juries based on the FBI's "intent" to prevent "disruptive convention protests."

The Justice Dept. opened a criminal investigation and
subpoenaed records of Internet messages posted by Bush`s critics. And, the Justice Dept. even indicted Greenpeace for a protest that was so lame the federal judge threw out the case.

So now the Patriot Act, which was argued before enactment as a measure to fight foreign terrorists, is being amended to make clear that it also applies to American citizens who have the audacity to disrupt President Bush wherever his bubble may travel. If this provision is enacted into law, then Bush will have a law upon which to expand the type of people who constitute disruptors and the type of activities that constitute disruptive activities. And, then throw them all in jail.

Also See: Global Research

Secrecy and More Secrecy: Department of War's "Special Access Programs" (SAP's)

While King George and Company are busy trying to convince us the “Unitary Executive” theory is Constitutional (just think Imperial Presidency with zero accountability or oversight), Don Rumsfeld and his Department of War are hiding what is being done thru “Special Access Programs—SAP’s—which allows all to be hidden from congress, the courts and especially us, “We the People”. Welcome to Democracy ala Bush/Cheney & Co., Inc. This will get worse when Samuel Alito is on the Supreme Court as he also believes in an Imperial Presidency as do all members of the Federalist Society. The following on SAP’s is from Steven Aftergood at Secrecy News. -- Jack


The Department of Defense has issued an updated directive governing the conduct of Special Access Programs, or SAPs.

SAPs are highly classified programs involving heightened security measures -- such as access control lists, special non-disclosure agreements, polygraph tests, etc. -- that go beyond those of ordinary ("collateral") programs that involve classified information.

Within the Department of Defense, there are Acquisition SAPs for classified military procurement, Intelligence SAPs dealing with particularly sensitive intelligence collection activities, and Operations and Support SAPs that cover sensitive military operations.

SAPs range in sensitivity from "acknowledged SAPs," the existence of which may be publicly admitted, to "unacknowledged SAPs," whose very existence is classified, to "waived SAPs," a subset of unacknowledged SAPs for which normal congressional reporting requirements are limited to eight senior members of Congress.

Almost by definition, assigning SAP status to a program impedes independent and congressional oversight. In the wake of the collapse of several large DoD acquisition SAPs in the early 1990s, internal DoD controls on SAPs were increased.It is possible that the recently disclosed NSA domestic surveillance operation was a "waived SAP," but this has not been confirmed.

See: DoD Directive 5205.07, "Special Access Program (SAP) Policy," January 5, 2006:

In 2001, Congress prohibited the creation of new SAPs except where 30 day prior notice was given to the congressional defense committees.

But in an early display of its controversial use of presidential signing statements to undercut legislative action, the Bush White House issued a statement reserving the right to defy this notification requirement (Secrecy News, 01/11/02):

Meanwhile, Pentagon program managers have devised a way to impose "SAP-like" security measures without even the limited oversight involved in an actual SAP, observed Washington Post blogger William Arkin last week.ACCMs, or "Alternative or Compensatory Control Measures," are quasi-SAPs that are "easier to establish [than SAPs] and the program doesn't have to be reported to Congress!" wrote Arkin, who notes that hundreds of ACCMs have been initiated since 9/11.

See: "More Compartmented Programs," Early Warning, January 13, 2006:

Monday, January 16, 2006

On The "Unitary Executive" a.k.a. An "Imperial Presidency"

Jennifer Van Bergen, writing for “FindLaw’s Writ” gives an excellent analysis and commentary on “The Unitary Executive” theory being articulated by the Bush camp. John Yoo, Alberto Gonzales, Samuel Alito are all in agreement with the theory of unlimited power for the White House. What Bush/Cheney, Yoo, Gonzales, Alito and the other White House/Bush lawyers/judges are telling us is simply that Bush [White House] that he/it is not above the law—he/it IS THE LAW.

To me that equates to government by fiat; Government by capricious whim and the will of the people, “we the people” be damned. To me that equates to an “Imperial Presidency”.

I for one firmly believe that if Jefferson, Madison, Tom Paine, Washington and the other’s who led the revolutionary war were alive today, they would be repeating their call to overthrow that which no longer heeds the needs of the total population of this nation; that heeds the needs only of a select portion of this nation, just like 230 years ago under a different King George. Corporate interests were the “national interests” back then and corporate interests today are not only defined as our national interests, they dictate what the laws of the nation will be.

This only “we the people” can change and quite frankly it will mean a revisiting of the entire issue of “Corporate Personhood”. “Together the Ants Devour the Elephant” says a lot, does it not? – Jack

The unitary executive:
Is the doctrine behind the Bush presidency consistent with a democratic state?
By Jennifer Van Bergen

FindLaw's Writ-[Link]
January 9, 2006

WHEN GEORGE BUSH signed the new law, sponsored by Senator John McCain, restricting the use of torture when interrogating detainees, he also issued a Presidential signing statement. That statement asserted that his power as Commander-in-Chief gives him the authority to bypass the very law he had just signed.

This news came fast on the heels of Bush's shocking admission that, since 2002, he has repeatedly authorized the National Security Agency to conduct electronic surveillance without a warrant, in flagrant violation of applicable federal law.

And before that, Bush declared he had the unilateral authority to ignore the Geneva Conventions and to indefinitely detain without due process both immigrants and citizens as enemy combatants.

All these declarations echo the refrain Bush has been asserting from the outset of his presidency. That refrain is simple: Presidential power must be unilateral, and unchecked.

But the most recent and blatant presidential intrusions on the law and Constitution supply the verse to that refrain. They not only claim unilateral executive power, but also supply the train of the President's thinking, the texture of his motivations, and the root of his intentions.

They make clear, for instance, that the phrase "unitary executive" is a code word for a doctrine that favors nearly unlimited executive power. Bush has used the doctrine in his signing statements to quietly expand presidential authority.

In this column, I will consider the meaning of the unitary executive doctrine within a democratic government that respects the separation of powers. I will ask: Can our government remain true to its nature, yet also embrace this doctrine?

I will also consider what the President and his legal advisers mean by applying the unitary executive doctrine. And I will argue that the doctrine violates basic tenets of our system of checks and balances, quietly crossing longstanding legal and moral boundaries that are essential to a democratic society.

Bush's Aggressive Use of Presidential Signing Statements

Bush has used presidential "signing statements" -- statements issued by the President upon signing a bill into law -- to expand his power. Each of his signing statements says that he will interpret the law in question "in a manner consistent with his constitutional authority to supervise the unitary executive branch."

Presidential signing statements have gotten very little media attention. They are, however, highly important documents that define how the President interprets the laws he signs. Presidents use such statements to protects the prerogative of their office and ensure control over the executive branch functions.

Presidents since Ronald Reagan also have used such statements to create a kind of alternative legislative history. Attorney General Ed Meese explained that in 1986:

"To make sure that the President's own understanding of what's in a bill is the same . . . is given consideration at the time of statutory construction later on by a court, we have now arranged with West Publishing Company that the presidential statement on the signing of a bill will accompany the legislative history from Congress so that all can be available to the court for future construction of what that statute really means." [Emphasis added]

The alternative legislative history would,
according to Dr. Christopher S. Kelley, professor of political science at the Miami University at Oxford, Ohio, "contain certain policy or principles that the administration had lost in its negotiations" with Congress.

The Supreme Court has paid close attention to presidential signing statements. Indeed, in two important decisions -- the Chadha and Bowsher decisions -- the Court relied in part on president signing statements in interpreting laws. Other federal courts, sources show, have taken note of them too.

Bush has used presidential signing statements more than any previous president. From James Monroe's administration (1817-25) to the Jimmy Carter administration (1977-81), the executive branch issued a total of 75 signing statements to protect presidential prerogatives. From Ronald Reagan's administration through Bill Clinton's, the total number of signing statements ever issued, by all presidents, rose to a total 322.

In striking contrast to his predecessors, Bush issued at least 435 signing statements in his first term alone. And, in these statements and in his executive orders, Bush used the term "unitary executive" 95 times. It is important, therefore, to understand what this doctrine means.

What Does the Administration Mean When It Refers to the "Unitary Executive"?

Dr. Kelley notes that the unitary executive doctrine arose as the result of the twin circumstances of Vietnam and Watergate. Kelley asserts that "the faith and trust placed into the presidency was broken as a result of the lies of Vietnam and Watergate," which resulted in a congressional assault on presidential prerogatives.

For example, consider the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) which Bush evaded when authorizing the NSA to tap without warrants -- even those issued by the FISA court. FISA was enacted after the fall of Nixon with the precise intention of curbing unchecked executive branch surveillance. (Indeed, Nixon's improper use of domestic surveillance was included in Article 2 paragraph (2) of the
impeachment articles against him.)

According to Kelley, these congressional limits on the presidency, in turn, led "some very creative people" in the White House and the Department of Justice's Office of Legal Counsel (OLC) to fight back, in an attempt to foil or blunt these limits. In their view, these laws were legislative attempts to strip the president of his rightful powers.

Prominent among those in the movement to preserve presidential power and champion the unitary executive doctrine were the founding members of the Federalist Society, nearly all of whom worked in the Nixon, Ford, and Reagan White Houses.

The unitary executive doctrine arises out of a theory called "departmentalism," or "coordinate construction."
According to legal scholars Christopher Yoo, Steven Calabresi, and Anthony Colangelo, the coordinate construction approach "holds that all three branches of the federal government have the power and duty to interpret the Constitution." According to this theory, the president may (and indeed, must) interpret laws, equally as much as the courts.

The Unitary Executive Versus Judicial Supremacy

The coordinate construction theory counters the long-standing notion of "judicial supremacy," articulated by Supreme Court Chief Justice John Marshall in 1803, in the famous case of Marbury v. Madison, which held that the Court is the final arbiter of what is and is not the law. Marshall famously wrote there: "It is emphatically the province and duty of the judicial department to say what the law is."

Of course, the President has a duty not to undermine his own office, as
University of Miami law professor A. Michael Froomkin notes. And, as Kelley points out, the President is bound by his oath of office and the "Take Care clause" to preserve, protect, and defend the Constitution and to "take care" that the laws are faithfully executed. And those duties require, in turn, that the President interpret what is, and is not constitutional, at least when overseeing the actions of executive agencies.

However, Bush's recent actions make it clear that he interprets the coordinate construction approach extremely aggressively. In his view, and the view of his Administration, that doctrine gives him license to overrule and bypass Congress or the courts, based on his own interpretations of the Constitution -- even where that violates long-established laws and treaties, counters recent legislation that he has himself signed, or (as shown by recent developments in the Padilla case) involves offering a federal court contradictory justifications for a detention.

This is a form of presidential rebellion against Congress and the courts, and possibly a violation of George Bush's oath of office, as well. After all, can it be possible that that oath means that the President must uphold the Constitution only as he construes it -- and not as the federal courts do?

And can it be possible that the oath means that the President need not uphold laws he simply doesn't like -- even though they were validly passed by Congress and signed into law by him?

Analyzing Bush's Disturbing Signing Statement for the McCain Anti-Torture Bill

Let's take a close look at Bush's most recent signing statement on the torture bill. It says:

"The executive branch shall construe Title X in Division A of the Act, relating to detainees, in a manner consistent with the constitutional authority of the President to supervise the unitary executive branch and as Commander in Chief and consistent with the constitutional limitations on the judicial power, which will assist in achieving the shared objective of the Congress and the President, evidenced in Title X, of protecting the American people from further terrorist attacks."

In this signing statement, Bush asserts not only his authority to internally supervise the "unitary executive branch," but also his power as Commander-in-Chief, as the basis for his interpretation of the law -- which
observers have noted allows Bush to create a loophole to permit the use of torture when he wants.

Clearly, Bush believes he can ignore the intentions of Congress. Not only that but by this statement, he has evinced his intent to do so, if he so chooses.

On top of this, Bush asserts that the law must be consistent with "constitutional limitations on judicial power." But what about presidential power? Does Bush see any constitutional or statutory limitations on that? And does this mean that Bush will ignore the courts, too, if he chooses - as he attempted, recently, to do in the Padilla case?

The Unitary Executive Doctrine Violates the Separation of Powers

As Findlaw columnist
Edward Lazarus recently showed, the President does not have unlimited executive authority, not even as Commander-in-Chief of the military. Our government was purposely created with power split between three branches, not concentrated in one.

Separation of powers, then, is not simply a talisman: It is the foundation of our system. James Madison wrote in The Federalist Papers, No. 47, that:

"The accumulation of all powers, legislative, executive, and judiciary, in the same hands, whether of one, a few, or many, and whether hereditary, self-appointed, or elective, may justly be pronounced the very definition of tyranny."[Emphasis added]

Another early American, George Nicholas, eloquently articulated the concept of "power divided" in one of his letters:

"The most effectual guard which has yet been discovered against the abuse of power, is the division of it. It is our happiness to have a constitution which contains within it a sufficient limitation to the power granted by it, and also a proper division of that power. But no constitution affords any real security to liberty unless it is considered as sacred and preserved inviolate; because that security can only arise from an actual and not from a nominal limitation and division of power."[Emphasis added]

Yet it seems a nominal limitation and division of power - with real power concentrated solely in the "unitary executive" -- is exactly what George Bush seeks. His signing statements make the point quite clearly, and his overt refusal to follow the laws illustrates that point: In Bush's view, there is no actual limitation or division of power; it all resides in the executive.

Thomas Paine wrote in Common Sense:

"In America, the law is king. For as in absolute governments the King is law, so in free countries the law ought to be king; and there ought to be no other." [Emphasis added]

The unitary executive doctrine conflicts with Paine's principle -- one that is fundamental to our constitutional system. If Bush can ignore or evade laws, then the law is no longer king. Americans need to decide whether we are still a country of laws -- and if we are, we need to decide whether a President who has determined to ignore or evade the law has not acted in a manner contrary to his trust as President and subversive of constitutional government.

Jennifer Van Bergen, a journalist with a law degree, is the author of
THE TWILIGHT OF DEMOCRACY: THE BUSH PLAN FOR AMERICA (Common Courage Press, 2004). She writes frequently on civil liberties, human rights, and international law. Her book, ARCHETYPES FOR WRITERS, about the characterization method she developed and taught at the New School University, will be out in 2006. She can be reached at