Monday, November 24, 2008

Do you have what it takes to support the troops?

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Press Release for END THE FED in DC, Please Help Circulate

You can also help promote this event on Facebook, as well as our film screening of Aaron Russo's America: Freedom to Fascism on Friday at 7pm at New Bethel Baptist Church, 1739 9th St NW, Washington, DC.

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: November 18, 2008
Debbie Krueger
Jordan Page
Adam Kokesh

Growing Movement Strikes at Fed in Washington, DC

National “END THE FED” day of protest calls for sound monetary policy and an end to bailouts

On November 22nd, commemorating the secretive conception of the Federal Reserve System, a growing movement of citizens concerned with this country's fiscal policies will gather in 39 cities nationwide at each Federal Reserve location to demand an end to the Fed, return to sound monetary policy, and an end to corporate bailouts. In Washington, DC, they will gather across the street from the Board of Governors of the Fed at 20th and Constitution at 1pm. Denied a permit to protest on Federal Reserve grounds by the Fed's Public Affairs Office on the basis that it is private property, the rally with a stage and amplification system will be held across the street with a permit granted by the Parks Department. National coordination is being provided by Aaron Russo's Restore the Republic ( and more information can be found at

Speakers will include Gary Franchi of Restore the Republic to discuss his organizational plans for furthering this issue and the duty of all patriotic Americans to get involved. Kevin Zeese, former US Senate candidate, current Executive Director of Break the Bailout, ( will talk about building a broad coalition to stop further “theft from the taxpayers.” Anthony Teolis, veteran of the First Gulf War, member of Veterans For Peace ( will show how the Fed is the primary enabler of our destructive interventionist foreign policy. Rick Williams is a founder of BreakTheMatrix, ( and serves as Chairman and Chief Executive Officer of Basic Media, Inc. From the Center for Economic and Social Justice, ( Norman G. Kurland, President of the Board of Directors, and former Congressman, the Hon. Rev. Walter E. Fauntroy will outline an alternative just economic system. Paul-Martin Foss, Legislative Assistant to Congressman Ron Paul, will explain pending legislation H.R. 2755 and what the movement can do to support it.

Organizer Debbie Krueger is a former Marine, and a mother of 5, living in Delaware. She was a real estate agent, when she witnessed the bottom dropping out of the housing markets across the country, and decided something needed to be done. Her research led her to the conclusion that the Federal Reserve System is at the heart of the crisis. “I am devoting my time to help shed light on the Federal Reserve, and to find solutions that will bring us back to financial policies that will benefit Americans the most."

Co-organizer and performer for the rally Jordan Page is a young poet, singer/songwriter, guitarist, political activist, and social commentator who has become an outspoken voice promoting freedom and liberty. The hyper-inflation of American currency, the funding of worldwide interventionist military policies, the unconstitutional income tax, the recent bailout, and the engineered economic depressions the Fed causes have all motivated Jordan's involvement in this most historic citizens' movement. “Please stand up for the Constitution on November 22nd and help us to support HR 2755 calling for the abolition of the Federal Reserve.”

Adam Kokesh will serve as master of ceremonies at the rally. He is from Santa Fe, NM and served in Fallujah, Iraq in 2004 and has been a vocal critic of the war since leaving the US Marines. He has continued to honor his oath to support and defend the Constitution by taking on those he sees as its domestic enemies, especially the Federal Reserve System. He has also advocated various forms of nonviolent resistance including not paying taxes. “As long as the Federal Reserver System has the power to create money from nothing, the individual income tax is nothing more than a means to oppress and enslave the American people. As with all forms of tyranny, Americans have a duty to resist this injustice.”

# # #

Saturday, November 15, 2008

An Update On "The Hempstead 15" From Matthis Chiroux

If you're on Facebook, join the group I Support "The Hempstead 15" and you can get these updates hot off the grill from Matthis there. My friends,

A few updates on Adam Kokesh’s trial and the court dates for the Hempstead 15.

Adam’s case was adjourned until December 11, however the D.A. did try to raise his bail in obvious contempt toward Adam as an activist and a veteran.

This is yet another clear sign the Nassau County D.A. intends to continue her persecution of veteran activists and escalate injustice against us at every opportunity afforded.

However, a good number of supporters were present at the courthouse to send a clear message to the D.A. that we will not be silenced and her conduct and that of her officers will not be tolerated.

So six more days, total, for us to gather, have our voices heard and condemn the Nassau County Police Department’s offense toward this nations’ veterans and our Constitutional rights.

Dec. 10th and 11th, and Jan. 5th thru 8th are the days set for the 15 of us to be tried. Each day, we will assemble at 8 a.m. to demand that charges are dropped against us and the officers responsible for brutalizing us are held accountable.

Please continue calling District Attorney Kathleen Rice at 516-571-2994 or contacting her here: to demand that all charges be dropped against the Hempstead 15.

As well, we are working on a petition exclusively for Nassau County residents to put some constituent-based pressure on the D.A., who is an elected official. If you can be of assistance either in contacting residents of Nassau county via phone or e-mail or actually street canvassing for signatures in Nassau County, please contact Lillian at

Lastly, Nick has received his first medical bill for his hour-and-a-half hospital stay in Nassau County where he was handcuffed to a gurney, diagnosed with a broken face and given nothing more than Motrin for the pain. $5,000, folks! No kidding. Nick nowhere NEAR has that kind of money, and this is only the first of many bills to right the wrong done by the NCPD to his person. NICK NEEDS YOUR HELP!!!!

Please, if you haven’t already sent a donation to Nick through the IVAW website, do so. This troop deserves everyones’ full support at whatever level they can give. If you already have donated, consider doing so again. Nick’s sacrificed everything to do right by this nation and her Constitution, and now, we MUST do right by Nick.

We’ll be sending out more reminders about court dates as they approach and planned actions around them. As well, we are planning several benefits to raise money for Nick that I will keep all in the loop about as more develops. If you can, consider holding one yourself in your local community to raise money and awareness. This is the type of organizing that really makes a difference to people like Nick and the rest of us.

Please stay in the fight with us, and continue sending me your letters and opinions. I read all of them and respond to as many as I can. Your voices ARE this movement, and I want to hear them as much as our President should.

Peace and Solidarity,

Matthis Chiroux





Kristofer Goldsmith (Army Sergeant)-Dec. 10
Paul Blasenheim-Dec. 10
Geoff Millard (Army Sergeant)-Dec. 11
Megan Day-Dec. 11
Adam Kokesh (Marine Sergeant)-Dec. 11
James Gilligan (Marine Corporal)-Jan 5
Matthis Chiroux (Army Sergeant)-Jan. 5
Nathan Peld (Navy Petty Officer)-Jan. 6
Ryan Olander-Jan. 6
Mike Spinato (Marine Sergeant)-Jan.6
Jose Vasquez (Army Staff Sergeant)-Jan. 7
David Disimino-Jan 7
Nick Morgan (Army Sergeant)-Jan 7
Marlissa Grogan (Marine Captain)-Jan. 8
Leanne Gillouly-Jan. 8

This shirt was made by Lars Ekstrom for members of the Hempstead 15:

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Another Day In Court

In the interest of being on the same page as the rest of the Hempstead 15, since we have all been split up to different dates for the next round of hearings, I allowed the attorney who is representing everyone else to represent me today. His name is Jonathan Moore and he has taken on the Nassau County Horse Mounted Unit before and he is doing a great job so far. He will also most likely be representing Nick Morgan and maybe a few others in a civil case. We were ready for trial today, but the prosecution was not. However, the DA was taking our cases on full force.

In requesting that I be released on my own recognizance (or ROR as everyone else had been) so I could get my bail money returned, my attorney was told by the prosecutor that he would like to have my bail raised! The judge declined, but that would have put me in jail again until I could get bail posted at the raised amount. The judge also declined Mr. Moore's motion to dismiss, or take an ACD, adjourn in contemplation of dismissal. The prosecutor conferred with the police officer who would be testifying, and came up with a date to schedule the trial. So trial is now scheduled for 9:30 AM on December 11th. For reasons I can't discuss, we are very excited about this going to trial. Thanks to those who came out in support this morning and wish us luck!

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Trial Tomorrow

Thanks to Eric Allen for joining us yesterday morning in Hempstead and putting this video together, and thanks to everyone who came out to support us. Sunday, I drove up from DC to Brooklyn with Geoff, Nick, Liz, Paul, Dave, Polly, and Wild Bill to stay with Matthis. After the arraignment, we drove back to DC. Everyone plead not guilty, and were assigned different dates for trial to prevent us from being co-defendents. (Typical divide and conquer.) I am still scheduled to appear tomorrow, so I will be driving back to NYC this afternoon, staying with friends, then back to Hempstead the next morning. Wish me luck!

Sunday, November 9, 2008

Endless War? Inflation Tax? Corporate Bailouts? The Fed Did It!

Thursday, November 6, 2008

Peace - It's Not Just For Hippies Any More

Do as I say, not as I do.

An email from Casey J. Porter, currently in Iraq. He has an extraordinary YouTube channel and is an outspoken member of Iraq Veterans Against the War:

What do you do when the Chaplain doesn't even care? Not only is that a good question, it's one that I am asking myself right now. I have been having issues with a supervisor and the treatment of not only myself, but other Soldiers. She is a Staff Sergeant and is one of those "Do as I say, not as I do." types. I would attempt to feel sorry for her, since it is clear that she is very, very insecure. But you know what? I do not care. Let me say that again so everything is clear: I do not care. She sets rules and standards in play that she does not live up to, but then will break her own rules. She is so incompetent and unprofessional in every aspect of her job it becomes clear why she has stayed in the army for twenty years: She can't get away with the shit she pulls here in the real world. I got so mad at her yesterday that I threw my weapon across the room. I know that if I continue to become and stay this angry it will only get worse and I might end up doing something I regret. So last night I went to go see the Chaplain, a man that is supposed to help you. I walked into his office and let it all out about how NCO's treat their Soldiers like crap, Soldier's do not feel that they are not cared about, and how they are not, so on and so forth. You know what he told me? You can't do anything about it. I can only change how it affects me, change my attitude towards it. Wow gee wiz! That some swell advice, beaver! Why didn't he just tell me to go fuck myself? It would have been more honest. I told him how angry I got, I told him how these Soldiers are being pushed beyond their breaking point, and I got brushed aside. Hello! McFly! It's only when Soldiers start shooting their bosses, or killing themselves that the army does anything. However what they do is the absolute minimum, because guess what? They don't give a shit anything but getting ahead on the backs of Soldiers.

I have NO respect for the United States Army, the Corps of Non-Commissioned Officers, Officers, or any other branch, unit, creed, value, or mandate of ethics that comes from this army. There are some of you who will read that and be offended, but if I do not call you out by name, then don't be. Because I respect you for who you are, not the rank and title that you carry, or once carried.
The next time some civilian comes up to me and says "Thank you for what you do." I will reply with "Fuck you for what you don't do." because civilians are just as much to blame.

Casey J Porter

Oh, yeah, how could I forget! If you think this so some sign of giving up or breaking, think again. I have even more planed to expose this mess for what is, and put these people in the spot light for what they do. Keep fucking with me, see where it gets you. Oh and that's not a threat of violence "big army", so don't even try to pull that shit.

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Obama endorses American imperialism - anti-war activist

Friday, October 31, 2008

Adam Kokesh in Anti-McCain Ad

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Discrimination Against Iraq Veteran in Long Island

Letter from Kristofer Goldsmith:

To Whom it May Concern,

I am writing you as a Veteran, concerned that First Amendment Rights are not being protected in the United States. My name is Kristofer Goldsmith, and I am from Long Island New York. I spent the year of 2005 with the 3rd Infantry Division in Baghdad. While overseas I received the Army Commendation Medal, and was recommended for the Bronze Star Medal. I was quickly promoted to the rank of Sergeant after just over two years in service, and graduated from Fort Stewart's Non-commissioned Officer School with honors in May of 2006 at the age of twenty.

After coming home from Iraq I began suffering from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) and major depression, but for over a year managed my symptoms on my own, and continued to have a successful career. After being stop-lossed for a second deployment, my PTSD was aggravated beyond my control. I was removed from the Army under honorable conditions after a suicide attempt last summer. I am now rated by the VA as 50% disabled due to PTSD, chronic depression and other problems generated from my time in service.

I now continue my service to this great nation as a member of a group called "Iraq Veterans Against the War (IVAW)." As a member of this non-profit organization I have traveled the country seeking to help the veterans of my generation find a welcoming community and get the benefits they were promised upon enlisting. I have testified before Congress, and worked the hill advocating for an end to the Stop-Loss policy and reminding Politicians of the cost of the Iraq war back at home. I have been fighting to make sure that recent Veterans return from overseas to an America prepared to care for it's wounded.

You may have heard of the 10 Veterans arrested outside the third Presidential Debate on October 15th 2008 at Hofstra University. I was the first of the ten to be handcuffed and charged with "Disorderly Conduct" for attempting to demand of the Presidential Nominees, John McCain and Barrack Obama, that they begin to address the issues most important to Veterans in this country. 1000 Veterans receiving care from the VA attempt suicide each month in this country. An average of 18 Veterans successfully kill themselves each month in America. The VA system has over half a million claims waiting to be processed in it's back-log. One third of the homeless people in this country are Veterans, meaning an estimated 200,000+ Veterans will be sleeping on the street tonight. These are the issues that I fight to push into mainstream America's living rooms.

While most of my work with Iraq Veterans Against the War has been directed regionally or nationally, recently I've attempted to reach the high population of Veterans around my home, here on Long Island. The Annual Bellmore Family Street Festival is an event which has occurred just three blocks from my home each year since before I was born. I remember waiting each year as a child for my favorite part of the fair, the military recruiters and Veterans Groups who would set up their tents around Bellmore's Veterans Memorial Park at the corner of Broadway and Bedford Avenue. This year, home and out of the Army, I approached the Bellmore Chamber of Commerce requesting to set up a table at the Street Festival. At first, as a someone who was late in registry, I was granted space "44" in front of "Madison Smoothies" at the far northern end of Bedford Avenue, close to Oak Street. I was told that regardless of the fact that I am a Veteran of Iraq, if I were to table for Iraq Veterans Against the War, I would be segregated from the other Veterans Groups as to not offend them. The Executive Director/Festival Coordinator, Joni Caputo, explained to me that she was doing me a favor by letting me table at all due to my late registry, so I accepted the terms of the segregation from those at the Veterans Memorial.

The original dates for the Bellmore Street Fair were Saturday, September 27th and Sunday, September 28th. However, due to rain, I was notified by the Bellmore Chamber of Commerce that the fair would be pushed back a few weeks, to Saturday, October 25th, and Sunday, October 26th. At this time I was told by the Bellmore Chamber of Commerce that my space would still be available for the rescheduling, and I confirmed with them I was still planning on tabling.

On Thursday, October 23rd I received a call from the Bellmore Chamber notifying me that my space was now unavailable, and that I would not be allowed to table at the Street Fair. At this time I requested to share a tabling space with another organization, but was denied due to total lack of physical space on the street. Going further, I asked Executive Director Joni Caputo if I found someone willing to share their rented physical space, if I could then be allowed to table there. Her reply was something to the effect of "look, you can't table anywhere, because the Chamber decides who gets to use what space and where. No matter what, you cannot table at the fair."

Saturday, October 25th 2008, I walked along Bedford Avenue to look at the "total lack of physical space" on the street. What I saw on the front window of the Law Office that Joni Caputo works in made it clear as to why my space was suddenly "unavailable" at the last minute. Every Republican Candidate had their posters plastered on the front of this office. A cardboard cutout of John McCain with a sign attached saying "$3.00 for a picture" stood by the front door to the office. Signs for Congressman Peter King taped to the windows reminded me how when I spent a month in Washington DC this summer, King, my own representative, refused to grant me time for a meeting. I know that Peter King supports the troops, but only when they align themselves with his ultra-pro-war views. How could he deny me, an Iraq Veteran, one of his own constituents, time in his office?

Continuing my walk along Bedford this Saturday, I noticed a number of open spaces between tables, ignoring the spaces that were paid for by the store owner to keep their store front clear. When I reached the Veterans Memorial Park, I noticed that Times Magazine, and other Corporations had received preferential treatment from the Bellmore Chamber of Commerce, even more so than the actual Veterans who were placed behind the park in the parking lot and across the street. Vietnam Veterans of America, Veterans of Foreign Wars, the Patriot Riders, and other Veterans Organization all got representation at this event- and I've got it on video to prove it.

Sunday, October 26th 2008, I returned to the Bellmore Street Fair, to a more crowded day with the sun shining brightly. Again, I noticed that there was still plenty of empty space between tables at this event. I approached the Long Island Democrats, who allowed me to speak briefly on stage at the Obama Rally on October 15th; and asked them if they would mind it if I shared their space, since they had more than they could use. Because my organization does not endorse any candidate, I set my table up just to their side, as to provide a clear definitive separation from myself and the Obama campaigners.

On the table I set up I displayed voter information concerning the candidates records on Veterans Issues, Books and DVDs produced by IVAW, and other things. Most important to me, however, was my Army Times Magazines. I was displaying the pictures of all the service members killed in Iraq and Afghanistan over the last few weeks. To my knowledge, the Military Times, is the only publication that prints pictures of those fallen warriors, and my purpose was to help the people of Bellmore put a face on the numbers. As a servicemember, as a Veteran, I know there are few things more offensive than to be regarded as "just a number."

At precisely 1:16pm I set up a table to the east side of the Mid-Nassau Democrats rented street space on Grand Avenue on the side of the Mediterranean Grill Diner. There I sat for over an hour and a half peaceably, talking to people as they walked by, distributing pieces of paper with websites that links them to Veterans Organizations and their voting issues. Many people approached me, thanking me for my service in the Army, and thanking me for my service out on the street that day. Around 2pm a short, stout woman wearing a green shirt labeled "STAFF" and "Kickin' it up Country" approached me demanding to know who said I could set up where I did. I replied with the name of the local democrat who had offered to share his space, as she angrily scurried off barking inaudibly with her clipboard. With my father present, who was wearing a shirt that says "Honor the Warrior, Not the War", I continued talking to the people on the street who were receiving me with warm welcome.

At approximately 2:30pm on Sunday the stout woman returned with about five other people with the green "STAFF" shirts. One bearded older gentleman with a goatee and ponytail who wore the green shirt of authority immediately demanded that I "pack [my] shit up now!" I explained to him that I was sharing a very clearly open spot with the Long Island democrats, and was causing no harm to anyone by being present. I told him in detail how I had reserved a spot, and when my spot was suddenly unavailable, I was suspicious that my views may have had something to do with my cancellation. He responded "do you think I give a fuck about your views? If you won't pack up your shit, I'll pack it up for you!" At this time he began taring at and piling up the pictures of the dead service members I had displayed to honor and remember on the table. Immediately I was extremely offended... Watching as this man disrespectfully manhandled the photographs of every single servicemember who had died over the last few months...

At this time I began packing my suitcase, to protect the pictures of my fallen brothers and sisters, as the man continued his rant and rage. My father then called the police afraid that I would be assaulted. Within seconds Officer Mobilio and at least four other officers from the Nassau County Police Department showed up. The man with the green shirt, who only identified himself as "Paul" continued to threaten me, even in the presence of the officers, as I was packing up and getting ready to leave. He then turned to my father and said "if you want to see assault, they'll (pointing to the police) be picking you up all over the street!" Upon voicing my concerns over the threat made to my father, Officer Mobilio just responded "they have the right to use force, to an extent".

Now I'm left to wonder, how is it that an Veteran who served in one of Our Nation's most current wars, is not allowed to express his views in his own home town? I'm offended that the Bellmore Chamber of Commerce and it's employees questions my patriotism, my love for country, and especially my love for my fellow Veterans. I have devoted every spare penny, every spare minute of my life over the last few months, since leaving active duty, to fight to honor and protect our nations Veterans. I say Support the Troops, All the Troops, and Respect their Rights, no matter what! When I enlisted in the Army I swore to "defend the Constitution of the United States," and I come home to people willing to trample all over my First Amendment Rights! I will not stand for this, and will expect to see those who stood in my way in court.

To reach the Bellmore Chamber of Commerce to find out why they would discriminate against an Iraq Veteran, and to find out who "Paul" is:

Joni Caputo - Executive Director/Festival Coordinator
Joe Verdi- Exhibit and Display Coordinator
Chamber of Commerce of the Bellmores
PO Box 861
Bellmore, NY 11710
Fax 615-409-0544

For Press looking for witness testimonies and comments, please write me at


Kristofer Goldsmith
Former Army Sergeant
Operation Iraqi Freedom III
Iraq Veterans Against the War

Thursday, October 23, 2008

"How To Fight Fascism"

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Please send this to ALL Military members

From afmatt at the Ron Paul Forums:

During the Rally For The Republic I was approached at least a
half dozen times and asked for an interview (because I sang the
anthem) My standard answer was

"I'm sorry but regulations prohibit me from talking to you"

I also left right after the rally instead of staying and checking
out the protests the next day.

During my time there I got to meet a couple awesome patriots
from my home state of TN, they introduced me to Adam Kokesh.
Adam convinced me to check out Iraq Vetrans Against the War and
told me that if I was concerned about publicity I could join
privately. I did so shortly after returning home.

I just got a members packet a few days back - after having read
some of the information in it I am ANGRY. Angry at myself for
believing what I had been told - that is that I had to settle
for not speaking out.

PLEASE send these links (and this story if you'd like) to all
service members or friends of service members you know.

My favorite quote from the dod directive linked above - emphasis
is mine.

3.5.6. Off-Post Demonstrations by Members. Members of the Armed
Forces are prohibited from participating in off-post demonstrations
when they are on-duty, in a foreign country, when their activities
constitute a breach of law and order, when violence is likely
to result, or when they are in uniform


I'm going to follow regulations - but I now KNOW the regulations
and what I'm allowed to do within them - I challenge any military
member that reads this to read the regulations for yourself -
they may be VASTLY different that you have been led to believe.

I am not a lawyer, this is NOT legal advice.
None of the above is the official stance of the US Air Force.
I am speaking as an individual under my first amendment rights.

- Matt C

Sunday, October 19, 2008

10/15/08: Presidential Debate "Hidden Microphone" on Iraq Vet

After you watch this video, join the facebook group: I Support "The Hempstead 15"

Thursday, October 2, 2008

According to the VA I Have “Normal” Uranium Poisoning

I came home today to find a letter from the Department of Veterans Affairs with my urine test results for depleted uranium. “Your total urine uranium level is within normal limits.” I had no idea there was such a thing as “normal limits” for uranium in a person's urine. This was not very reassuring.

The letter also said that there was not enough uranium in my urine sample to determine if it was from “natural sources” or depleted uranium sources. After some research, I learned that there is such a thing as “normal” uranium levels from “natural sources” like air, water, and the food we eat. Fortunately, “any health effects are associated with the total amount of uranium regardless of the of the source and therefore, your normal result does not have any health consequences related to it.” That is to say, no more consequences than for the average American who happens to have been exposed to depleted uranium in their food, water, and air.

My very healthy general distrust of the government prevents me from taking much comfort from any of this. I went to Iraq and crawled around wreckage of Iraqi military equipment as part of our training. Did I dodge a bullet on this one? Maybe. I have a “normal” level of uranium poisoning, but at least I'm in good company.

Monday, September 29, 2008

Adam Kokesh at Ole Miss Punks McCain, Obama, and the Debate

Friday, September 26, 2008

Liveblogging from The Grove at Ole Miss

I am currently liveblogging the debate at United Liberty.

I have been hanging out all day with the students of the UM Constitutionalists and now I am joining them in the heckling section.

And this is the view from the cheap seats:

Another shot of the crowd and McCain sounding like a d-bag.

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Dahr Jamail Reviews Recently Released IVAW Winter Soldier Book

In this age of continuous feedback and instant gratification, it is uniquely satisfying to see the delayed fruits of our labor. In this case, it is in the form of a long-anticipated (at least by me) book written by independent, unembeded journalist, Aaron Glantz. While I am waiting to purchase my copy of Winter Soldier: Iraq and Afghanistan, Eyewitness Accounts of the Occupations at the Bus Boys & Poets book store to support Teaching for Change, you can get it from Amazon here. ***EDIT: You can get it from IVAW here.***

To view the archived footage of the raw WSIA testimony, click here.

BOOKS-IRAQ: "We Blew Her to Pieces"
By Dahr Jamail

MARFA, Texas, Sep 16 (IPS) - Aside from the Iraqi people, nobody knows what the U.S. military is doing in Iraq better than the soldiers themselves. A new book gives readers vivid and detailed accounts of the devastation the U.S. occupation has brought to Iraq, in the soldiers' own words.

"Winter Soldier Iraq and Afghanistan: Eyewitness Accounts of the Occupation," published by Haymarket Books Tuesday, is a gut-wrenching, historic chronicle of what the U.S. military has done to Iraq, as well as its own soldiers.

Authored by Iraq Veterans Against the War (IVAW) and journalist Aaron Glantz, the book is a reader for hearings that took place in Silver Spring, Maryland between Mar. 13-16, 2008 at the National Labour College.

"I remember one woman walking by," said Jason Washburn, a corporal in the U.S. Marines who served three tours in Iraq. "She was carrying a huge bag, and she looked like she was heading toward us, so we lit her up with the Mark 19, which is an automatic grenade launcher, and when the dust settled, we realised that the bag was full of groceries. She had been trying to bring us food and we blew her to pieces."

Washburn testified on a panel that discussed the rules of engagement in Iraq, and how lax they were, even to the point of being virtually non-existent.

"During the course of my three tours, the rules of engagement changed a lot," Washburn's testimony continues. "The higher the threat the more viciously we were permitted and expected to respond."

His emotionally charged testimony, like all of those in the book that covered panels addressing dehumanisation, civilian testimony, sexism in the military, veterans' health care, and the breakdown of the military, raised issues that were repeated again and again by other veterans.

"Something else we were encouraged to do, almost with a wink and nudge, was to carry 'drop weapons', or by my third tour, 'drop shovels'. We would carry these weapons or shovels with us because if we accidentally shot a civilian, we could just toss the weapon on the body, and make them look like an insurgent," Washburn said.

Four days of searing testimony, witnessed by this writer, is consolidated into the book, which makes for a difficult read. One page after another is filled with devastating stories from the soldiers about what is being done in Iraq.

Everything from the taking of "trophy" photos of the dead, to torture and slaughtering of civilians is included.

"We're trying to build a historical record of what continues to happen in this war and what the war is really about," Glantz told IPS.

Hart Viges, a member of the 82nd Airborne Division of the Army who served one year in Iraq, tells of taking orders over the radio.

"One time they said to fire on all taxicabs because the enemy was using them for transportation...One of the snipers replied back, 'Excuse me? Did I hear that right? Fire on all taxicabs?' The lieutenant colonel responded, 'You heard me, trooper, fire on all taxicabs.' After that, the town lit up, with all the units firing on cars. This was my first experience with war, and that kind of set the tone for the rest of the deployment."

Vincent Emanuele, a Marine rifleman who spent a year in the al-Qaim area of Iraq near the Syrian border, told of emptying magazines of bullets into the city without identifying targets, running over corpses with Humvees and stopping to take "trophy" photos of bodies. "An act that took place quite often in Iraq was taking pot shots at cars that drove by," he said. "This was not an isolated incident, and it took place for most of our eight-month deployment."

Kelly Dougherty, the executive director of IVAW, blames the behaviour of soldiers in Iraq on the policies of the U.S. government. "The abuses committed in the occupations, far from being the result of a 'few bad apples' misbehaving, are the result of our government's Middle East policy, which is crafted in the highest spheres of U.S. power," she said.

Knowing this, however, does little to soften the emotional and moral devastation of the accounts.

"You see an individual with a white flag and he does anything but approach you slowly and obey commands, assume it's a trick and kill him," Michael Leduc, a corporal in the Marines who was part of the U.S. attack of Fallujah in November 2004, said were the orders from his battalion JAG officer he received before entering the city.

This is an important book for the public of the United States, in particular, because the Winter Soldier testimonies were not covered by any of the larger media outlets, aside from the Washington Post, which ran a single piece on the event that was buried in the Metro section.

The New York Times, CNN, and network news channels ABC, NBC and CBS ignored it completely.

This is particularly important in light of the fact that, as former Marine Jon Turner stated, "Anytime we did have embedded reporters with us, our actions changed drastically. We never acted the same. We were always on key with everything, did everything by the book."

"To me it's about giving a picture of what war is like," Glantz added, "Because here in the U.S. we have this very sanitised version of what war is. But war is when we have a large group of armed people killing large numbers of other people. And that is the picture that people will get from reading veterans testimony...the true face of war."

Dehumanisation of the soldiers themselves is covered in the book, as it includes testimony of sexism, racism, and the plight of veterans upon their return home as they struggle to obtain care from the Veterans Administration.

There is much testimony on the dehumanisation of the Iraqi people as well. Brian Casler, a corporal in the Marines, spoke to some of this that he witnessed during the invasion of Iraq.

"But on these convoys, I saw marines defecate into MRE bags or urinate in bottles and throw them at children on the side of the road," he stated.

Numerous accounts from soldiers include the prevalence of degrading terms for Iraqis, such as "hajis," "towel-heads" and "sand-niggers".

Scott Ewing, who served in Iraq from 2005-2006, admitted on one panel that units intentionally gave candy to Iraqi children for reasons other than "winning hearts and minds".

"There was also another motive," Ewing said, "If the kids were around our vehicles, the bad guys wouldn't attack. We used the kids as human shields."

Glantz admits that it would be difficult for the average U.S. citizen to read the book, and believes it is important to keep in mind while doing so what it took for the veterans to give this historic testimony.

"They could have been heroes, but what they are doing here is even more heroic -- which is telling the truth," Glantz told IPS. "They didn't have to come forward. They chose to come forward."

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Support the BJ Lawson Money Bomb!

Monday, September 15, 2008

Keep the Pressure on McCain!

By request, the original graphics from the RNC action:

Click on the images above to see the high res versions. To recreate the sign, you can go into any Kinko's and have them make each one as a 20" by 50" print, then laminate them back to back. I would love to see these every time McCain shows his face in public between now and election day!

Tell your friends, tell your enemies, even tell Obama supporters! Let's make this happen and keep showing people how full of crap McCain is!

(Apparently, someone is already making some money with these slogans on CafePress.)
Since someone asked, you can save the files to a thumb-drive, then bring them into Kinko's, or call your local print store and email the files to them, then they can pull them up when you get there.

Sunday, September 14, 2008

Responses to Comments IV

Keep 'em coming and we might have to make this a Sunday tradition!

Bob Barr – Right Time, Right Party, Wrong Man

***Rebekah said...
***I also think it's just a bit suspicious that a media which completely ignored Ron Paul would be giving him SO much positive coverage.***

I noticed that, but even when Barr gets all the good face time, he still looks like a tool. Thank God for the equalizing power of the internet.

***Chip said...
***I almost wonder if he planned it this way for all the extra media coverage he would get. I mean here we are after the press conference and what are we talking about, but Bob Barr who wasn't even there.***

Good observation, but I'm chalking this one up to ineptitude. (He did used to work for the CIA.) This is not the first time he has demonstrated a complete lack of understanding of the Freedom Movement and the libertarian philosophy.

***Stefan said...
***He and his running mate had the balls to ask RP to join them. That was a bold move of leaders; if RP accepted, the revolution would be coming much faster.***

Ron Paul had said repeatedly, even before Barr was nominated, that he would not run for a third party. It wasn't a bold move of leaders, it was a pandering move of calculating hacks trying to reach out to a demographic that is too smart to fall for it.

***Dave Nalle said...
***What Ron Paul did at his press conference was to endorse third parties which support everything from forced redistribution of wealth to giving up US sovereignty to foreign powers. It was a betrayal of everything the liberty movement has tried to achieve. Paul rendered himself irrelevant once and for all. Barr, on the other hand, did the right thing by not playing along with Paul's egotistical grandstanding and he deserves our support for putting liberty ahead of political opportunism.***

Wrong! Ron Paul did not ENDORSE any of the other candidates. If the Freedom Movement wants to achieve anything, it needs to be willing to work around issues with allies of differing ideologies. I would even define the Freedom Movement to be as broad as anyone who would sign on to the four-point platform. “Egotistical grandstanding” for Ron Paul at this point would look like announcing an independent run for president, and holding his own press conference. Wait, isn't that what Barr did?

***Doob said...
***You are a true Patriot. I think Bob Barr is a plant who was meant to bring the LP down. Never again. By the way, your speech at the Rally in Minneapolis made me cry like a baby.***

As long as it makes you want to fight like a rabid wolverine!

***Anonymous said...
***Adam, thank you again for everything you have been doing since your return from Baghdad. I am not happy that you had to go thru this situation, however, if McCain wins, we all will have many many more 'situations' to go thru... Please, a vote for Obama may hurt, but hey, if Ann Coulter can stomach a vote for McCain, whom she loathes, surely you can spare a vote for the man who is promising to bring home our brothers and sisters.***

Damn! How many times do I have to say this: I cannot in good conscience vote for a pro-war candidate. Obama wants to keep 40k troops in Iraq indefinitely, on permanent bases, add more Blackwater mercenaries, and have a surge in Afghanistan. If that's not pro-war, I don't know what is.

McCain and Obama will both perpetuate the decline this country is on at about the same rate. The difference is that Obama will do it smoothly, sing you a lullaby, and after four years we might be more screwed as the public will be lulled into submission. McCain will do it erratically and clumsily, piss people off, and get more of the public engaged, if only because of their shared disgust for him. Both are “situations” that are not good for this country. I will be voting third party or writing in Ron Paul.

***Mike Blankenship said...
***I can't believe you're still running around with your IVAW t-shirt on acting like you're going to get anything accomplished in stopping the war in Iraq. We're on our way to Victory in Iraq, no thanks to any of you anti-war pukes. Or haven't you all figured that out yet?***

You'd better mother-f'in' believe it! Does it make “Victory” more likely when you capitalize it? Or haven't you figured out that you can't win an occupation?

***Doug Burlison said...
***Adam, I do not know you, you do not know me, but as a fellow lover of Liberty, I urge you to reconsider the status of your Barr endorsement. Granted, those of us in internet land are not as close to this issue as you are, and perhaps that gives us a different perspective about this whole matter. I am saddened by how things have transpired in both the Barr and the Paul camps, and I feel that in the interests of Liberty in America, it is time for some bilateral leadership from both sides. It seems that you are in a unique position to make this happen. . . . None of us are perfect, yet somehow, we need to come together. Can you help this struggle by providing that kind of leadership?***

I am also saddened by these recent developments which will harm the movement in the short-term and perhaps mid-term too, but in the long run, we are better off without Barr, and with a higher standard of leadership and cooperation.

If by “the Barr and the Paul camps” you mean their actual staffers, they represent only a minute part of this movement. We don't need “bilateral leadership” to unite these camps. We need leadership like what Ron Paul demonstrated by bringing some powerful people together on important issues. There is a lot still to be done, and I'm working on it!

***mariana said...
***I love Ron Paul. But he's just a man. An incredible man, but the idea of Liberty, now that's something you can't keep down. Liberty is an eternal principle, has no lifespan, and is only limited by *our resolve* to bring it to the fore. . . . I want maximum Liberty, maximum personal responsibility, and to be divested from a "Government" that uses the fruit of my labor to oppress, occupy and murder hundreds of thousands of people. Ron Paul came the closest, but I'm not giving up because I have no one to "rally under". . . . Don't get me wrong. I'll certainly promote candidates who support my dreams and vision for America (indeed, the world). But I won't blindly associate with a party (such as the Libertarian party), vote for a candidate as sleezy as Barr, just to assure ballot access for the LP candidate in four years. There's so many better ways to go about getting what we want. Campaign for Liberty supporters aren't lost if they associate their freedom with responsibility. They're only lost if they think they need Ron Paul to lead them or tell them what to do. I don't :) To quote an awesome bumper sticker, we don't need leaders, we need Liberty. I don't mean we shouldn't get behind those who stand a chance of representing us. I'm just never going to hand my power over completely to someone else and expect them to do the whole job. It's my job. It's your job. Jump in, the water's fine.***

F'in' a, right on! Thank you.

A Slap in the Face, Courtesy of the Department of Veterans Affairs

***SimonNolan said...
***I wish that every person who puts a yellow ribbon magnet on the back of their car would actually do something to support our soldiers-- at least write their congressman demanding reform. Otherwise that cheap magnet is nothing but a hollow platitude that only makes the owner self-righteous.***

You're not the only one who feels that way. A lot of vets get really pissed off when they see yellow ribbons because it's not even a message of support, it's a directive, an order, telling someone else to support the troops. One of my veteran friends hates them so much that whenever he sees one he takes it. He's got quite the collection on his fridge now.

Thank you from the bottom of my heart to everyone who put comments of support on this post. It definitely helped to read them as I was still dealing with this. It's also beautiful to see that the brotherhood of veterans transcends politics. (Thanks TSO)

Pissing In McCain's Kool-Aid

***Pen said...
***Did you get wrapped up in the chaos in the streets of St. Paul, MN while you were sticking it to McCain? It was appalling. Nearly three hundred people: protesters, innocent bystanders, and media were rounded up like cattle, pinned to a bridge, and then arrested for unlawful assembly. Civil liberties out the door. Sickening. You made a guest star appearance in my tribute video to those who were braver than me to try to be heard. I hope that is okay?***

I didn't see much of the chaos, since I was busy working from the inside. That video is more than ok, it's an honor to be included!

***Anonymous said...
***Right when McCain was speaking and I saw the cut to you holding the sign I literally spit out my pepsi all ovr the floor and scremed out "HOLY SHIT THATS ADAM KOKESH!!!" My finace jumped off the couch and got mad at me for screaming so loudly . . . After watching your speech at the March and at the Rally I think it is best for you to run for congress. If you do, i'll drop $2,300 in your campaign. :)***

I have heard a lot of stories like that and I'm glad that I achieved the goals that my sponsors in the soft drink and carpet industries laid out for me. I plan on running for Congress eventually, but you'd better send me some contact info or tell me the check is in the mail!

***Anonymous said...
***Sure would love a written transcript of the speech you gave last night....word for word. Can you post it on your site.***

It doesn't exist. That was straight off the cuff.

***DanDan said...
***How do you feel as a soldier who put his life on the line to fight for his country about people who burn the American Flag?***

The flag is just a symbol. Burning it is just symbolic. It saddens me that someone would do such a thing to trash our country, but it is no different than chanting “death to America,” and just as childish. I still consider it a means of self-expression, and the freedom of speech means nothing without the right to say what others don't want to hear, so I would never do anything to encroach on someone else's right to destroy their own property, or express themselves in whatever way they see fit so long as it doesn't interfere with anyone else's rights. In fact, I will still fight to the death to defend it.

***World Power Network said...
***I loved your speech. It was very enlightening that our troops swore to uphold the constitution, not the government. I would suggest that you lay off the take up arms against the government angle. That is liable to get you thrown in jail and we don't need to take up arms against the government. We just need the military to refuse to take up arms against US citizens and other things which violate the constitution. The fascist state rules through fear. If the members of the Military disobey orders, stand down and will not cause fear, the fascist will fold like origami.***

I agree, but I never advocated that we take up arms against the government. There may be isolated incidents of violence in our revolution, as there have been throughout our history, and we must be ready to defend ourselves, but when the time comes to physically challenge the government, I have no doubt that the troops will be on our side. The point is that we must bring the same dedication and commitment and be ready to make the ultimate sacrifice as undoubtedly, some of us will be called upon to do. Not ALL of the troops will be on our side, but we must have the courage to look them all in the eye just the same.

Saturday, September 13, 2008

Ground Zero - Seven Years Later

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Bob Barr – Right Time, Right Party, Wrong Man

I attended Ron Paul's press conference yesterday expecting Bob Barr to be there. It was going to be as close to an endorsement as Barr could get from Paul. I almost came with a sign that said “Veterans For Barr.” Boy, am I glad I didn't.

Ron Paul had decided to throw some of his now considerable weight behind the electoral issues that marginalize third party candidates and got all four major third party candidates to endorse a four-point platform that included libertarian positions on foreign policy, privacy, the national debt, and the federal reserve.

When I think of the freedom movement, I think of it as broadly as possible. Everyone who thinks the government is too big, too intrusive, too burdensome, and not representing our will abroad with the current interventionist foreign policy is part of the freedom movement. We are a diverse group, and we do not need to be uniform in all of our beliefs to be unified against a government that is out of control. What Ron Paul did was put that down into four points of agreement and got a team united behind them in a very powerful way. It may not have been as dramatic as some people were hoping, but it was beautiful. Our founders would have recognized the importance of what Paul was doing, or as Benjamin Franklin said, “We must all hang together or most assuredly we will all hang separately.”

Bob Barr just had to ruin it for everyone for his own selfish reasons. He had agreed to the platform, and agreed to be at the event, only to withdraw thirty minutes before it happened. There was an empty seat for him on the stage. Paul was gracious and kind, saying things like, “if he can make it,” but behind the scenes he was angry and hurt.

I went to Barr's own press conference right afterwards still giving him the benefit of the doubt. I had hoped that he had a good reason for not being there that I was not aware of. Maybe he would say he had a personal issue. But instead, I sat there and listened to him prattle on about Ross Perot and getting votes and forcing policy issues and “principled leadership.” Then he asked Ron Paul to be his VP.

I was fuming. I had reservations about Barr before publicly endorsing him, but I even offered my support in a letter that was delivered through the LP staff which was ignored by the campaign. I thought his transformation was genuine and that it was a powerful sign for the LP to elect a newcomer, as if to say “we will embrace anyone who comes around to our principles.” Unfortunately, we picked Barr instead. He has since shown himself to not fully comprehend or endorse the philosophy, having praised the troop surge, argued for intervention in Iran and South America, and advocated a national sales tax. He has also run as far from the LP as possible, and there is still no link to the LP on his website. His lack of willingness to work with other people on key issues (issues any true libertarian would be passionate about) is very revealing.

I raised my hand and stood up to speak when Russ Verney acknowledged me. Maybe he realized who I was when I did not claim any press credentials, but he interrupted me and tried to get me to sit down. One of his staffers actually got up and stood next to me, looking like he was ready to carry me out. I guess he realized that was not a good idea. I ignored him and pressed on, despite Verney's continued interruptions. I don't remember exactly what I said, but what I was trying to say went something like this:

“What Ron Paul was doing today was taking leadership on some issues that I know you agree with and your lack of willingness to be a part of a team and work with others on these issues is telling. You have spoken a lot just now about leadership and unity, but it is clear you care about neither, except when you are the leader, and people are united behind you. Good leadership includes good followership and today, you showed your lack of both, and a complete lack of integrity. I am retracting my endorsement.”

The freedom movement is bigger than any one party, and any one leader. The revolution of which I speak is a revolution of values, of political culture, and of the understanding of the responsibility of being a good citizen. When that happens, it will be reflected in our political system one way or another, be it through the Republicans, Democrats, Green Party, Constitution Party, or an independent candidate. As a moderate libertarian, I still believe that the Libertarian Party will be the mechanism by which our movement will come to fruition and I will remain an enthusiastic lifetime member. More than the party or any one candidate, I am committed to this movement, my country, and my principles.


I have signed a petition to have Bob Barr removed from the Libertarian Party ticket. Please click here and sign this petition to join me in this effort. Please forward this to everyone you know who cares about the future of this movement and the Libertarian Party.


Russ Verney is full of crap. Click here to read his response to the events of the last day in which he praises Bush's leadership, exploits 9/11, and claims that Ron Paul's press conference was “about promoting a man.” Maybe their campaign strategy goes something like, “Screw liberty, screw the issues, screw the principles of the party of principle. If we can just get enough votes this year, we can get Bob back on the ticket in four!” He was right about Wayne Allen Root though: it was gracious of him to step off the ticket for Ron Paul, but of course if Barr gave a crap about the movement, he would have offered Ron Paul the top spot on the ticket.

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

A Slap in the Face, Courtesy of the Department of Veterans Affairs

I had another anxiety attack today. I left the post office and walked to my car. The rage was building, the despair was creeping, and I could tell I was losing it, but I kept going. I called my advisor from the Disabled American Veterans, and screamed into the phone. I got into the car, still yelling, and started the engine.

I had just gotten three letters from the VA. The first two were just like the ones I had been receiving for months. “We are still processing your application for compensation. We apologize for the delay.” It had taken me years to be able to admit to myself that I had PTSD. I registered with the VA when I got off active duty. The first time I went to the VA hospital, I knew the numbers, and I knew it was a disaster. Then I saw it first hand.

At first I saw the Vietnam vets. Men that were hustled through their midlife years and were walking with canes or in wheelchairs, sometimes muttering to themselves the regrets that only a broken soldier knows. Then I saw the World War II vets, clinging to life with the pride of a dieing breed. Then I saw the vets that looked like me. They bore the scars I recognized but couldn't feel. The IEDs of Fallujah echoed in the halls.

I thought I didn't belong. I got a consultation for PTSD, but missed my first appointment and never rescheduled. I didn't want to be a burden. There were those far more deserving than I. But then I needed help, and help came in the form of a fistful of prescriptions. It didn't help.

Then a Vietnam vet told me that I had earned my due. I needed to file for disability. It was the cost of my innocence, but I felt dirty to put a price tag on that and I didn't want to even ask what kind of check came with the “70%” label. So I filled out a lot of forms, and in a gut-wrenching all-nighter, described in detail my “stressors.” With my advisor, I turned in the forms in person in a building that could only make a bureaucrat smile.

It took me over a year and a meeting in person with the secretary of the VA just to get an ID card. I wasn't surprised when they wanted me to fill out more forms and I sent them in, like a good little veteran. Then over the course of months, the letters came. “We apologize for the delay.”

Today was different. The third letter I opened said, “We determined that the following condition was not related to your military service, so service connection couldn't be granted: Medical Description, Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD)” “Service connection for post-traumatic stress disorder is denied.” “Review of your DD214, Certificate of Release or Discharge from Active Duty, and 201 Personnel file are negative for any evidence of combat medals or ribbons that can be considered evidence of participation in a stressful episode.” Bureaucratic words that still slice like razors to the bone. I guess they didn't see my Combat Action Ribbon, or Navy Commendation Medal. Maybe I really was crazy before I joined the Marines!

I was livid to say the least. As I drove on and the desperation overcame the anger I cried. I turned up the music to drown the sorrow, but the tears kept coming. I know there is an appeals process that I intend to pursue, but this is worse than being called a “phony soldier” by some neocon nut job. So I guess it's back to being another struggling veteran, trying to figure out how I will cover the rent this month.

But my veteran friends were able to put things in perspective for me. I spoke to Scot Camil, whose courage as a veteran speaking out against the war in Vietnam has been a great source of inspiration for me. I spoke to Chris Hill of Gathering of Eagles, who happens to be a bit of a war fetishist, but understands the brotherhood of veterans. I spoke to Jeremy Williams, who served with me in the same unit at Camp Pendleton, and is now toiling as a tireless veterans advocate in Texas. It could be a lot worse. And before I went to bed, I spoke to my muse and heard the music and she touched my soul and everything was right as rain again.

Monday, September 8, 2008

Pissing In McCain's Kool-Aid

Wednesday, September 3, 2008


I have been in Minneapolis for the last week, first for the IVAW/VFP national convention and then for the launch events for the Campaign For Liberty which culminated last night with the Rally For The Republic. I wish I could sit here and write about all the amazing experiences I have had recently, but there is someone who wants to get an IVAW t-shirt on the floor of the RNC! Duty calls!

I was not planning on speaking at the rally last night, but the organizers decided to squeeze me in at the last minute to introduce Aimee Allen. So I leave you with this:

Thursday, August 28, 2008

Video of Speech From Revolution March

I knew this was in the works for a while, and it's very exciting to see REP FREEDOM FORCE finally release it on YouTube:


"Adam Kokesh of Iraq Veterans Against the War delivered a powerful message to the freedom movement at the Revolution March in Washington. We were completely blown away!"

Here is a video of the complete speech:
Adam Kokesh Revolution March

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Adam Kokesh Fighting Alongside Mike and Jake on The Fire Team For Freedom Radio Show

From The Fire Team For Freedom:

Listen here: 08.26.2008 Tuesday - FT4F
Show 90+min
This is a good one! Adam Kokesh of the IVAW, who has been on Larry King, CNN and Fox News joins us for the show: We discuss mumerous topics including Impeaching the President, the movie Sir No Sir and Beyond Treason, 9/11 and much much more!


I will be joining these guys again on Monday night in St. Paul for a broadcast from the Rally For the Republic festivities, so check back and tune in!

Monday, August 25, 2008

Some Gave All For Nothing

Some Gave All For Nothing

With sweat and toil, give blood for oil,
Make an offer to the Gods!
The Gods of war eat dogs of war,
But we all face the odds.
Roll the dice, you'll sacrifice,
For country, God and Corps.
No purple hearts, no bleeding hearts,
But touched forever more.
Mom's reticence, your innocence,
Like dust into the wind.
Home to war, or back for more,
No matter how it's spinned!
Let dreams of glory make your story,
Face the ultimate test.
They'll deceive and you'll believe,
Dulce et decorum est!

Heed the call, don't take the fall,
We know they're only bluffing.
We all gave some and some gave all,
But some gave all for nothing.

It's our blood lust, it's dust to dust,
The seeds of death we sew,
Bury the caches, scatter the ashes,
The people don't want to know.
An IED here, or a bombing there,
What's the death count today?
It's old news, and just half-true,
What is there left to say?
A father's fears, a mother's tears,
Await that number to mount.
Stories we heed of a hero's deed,
But suicides don't even count.
Fill your tanks and save your thanks,
No need to give me props.
We fought, we died, we killed, they lied,
But my friend came home in a box.

Heed the call, don't take the fall,
We know they're only bluffing.
We all gave some and some gave all,
But some gave all for nothing.

A city besieged, a country deceived,
Fallujah was just a ploy,
We couldn't elect, with just disrespect,
When soldiers become just like toys.
Lance Corporal Frank, didn't catch a blank,
From his armpit to his spine.
That same flak vest, protected his chest,
It might as well have been mine.
They dropped the ball, we got the call,
To get him on the mend.
My lead foot fell, we raised some hell,
To make him whole again.
We carried him in, as he faded out,
Told him he would be alright.
Have no fear, your cure is here.
But then he died on site.

Heed the call, don't take the fall,
We know they're only bluffing.
We all gave some and some gave all,
But some gave all for nothing.

Music by Blindfold

Sunday, August 10, 2008

The Conventions Are Coming!

The American people are about to be subjected to another round of partisan pandering this fall with the Democratic National Convention in Denver, and the Republican National Convention in Minneapolis. As with most of our political discourse today, the two-party system has taken something that was once a meaningful chance to further our national dialog and reduced it to a distraction. When the conventions actually meant something, weren't those the good old days? Not really. By the time the conventions meant something, the two parties were joining hands around the neck of the people and starting the process of choking the political vitality out of this country. The way that they conduct conventions today is simply an indicator of the ensuing decline.

Originally, conventions would bring the parties together to nominate their presidential candidates through various delegate mechanisms. In the 1800s, this was an improvement over secret deals in the halls of Congress that had previously determined the candidates. In the further democratization of this process, we now have primaries in a way that ensures that candidates are determined long before
the conventions, which have become glorified acceptance speeches. Despite being completely unnecessary and a horrendous waste of tax dollars, these vestigial political limbs are still being used to beat this country to death.

While the delegates of past conventions sometimes discussed candidates in a way that served to make the process a referendum in itself, they also used to have meaningful debates about party platforms. Today, the mantra is unity, and the big speeches are scheduled for prime-time. These are going to be slick affairs and there will be no room for substantive debate.

Although only one of many pertinent issues, I have to mention the war here to make some critical points. Most of the country is already against the war and we made that clear in the 2006 elections, which were largely referendums on the war. The Democrats were eager to disappoint, and Pelosi has become a shill for the administration. Obama has been positioning himself as a pro-war candidate, advocating a draw-down (not a withdrawal – look at his numbers!) in Iraq, a large long-term presence, increased reliance on contractors, a surge in Afghanistan, and possible strikes against Iran and now Russia. I actually have more faith in McCain (malleable a maverick as he is) to take charge strategically of the Global War of Terror and get us out of Iraq by the end of his first term as he said he hoped to in a recent speech.

Of course neither Republicans or Democrats are willing to discuss a principled philosophy of foreign policy the way that Nader, McKinney, and Barr are clamoring to. But who would be listening? We have made it clear that we would rather be spoon-fed sound-bites than have an intelligent discussion. In the words of Thomas Jefferson, “If a nation expects to be ignorant and free ... it expects what never was and never will be.” The American founders by and large disdained and distrusted political parties and would be shocked at how difficult it has become for a third party or independent candidate to just get on the ballot.

The sham media events that conventions have become are indicators of not only how low we have sunk politically, but how we are allowing ourselves to be easy targets for pandering. These events will get widespread media coverage and millions of Americans will be watching. At least the ones who still care about being relatively informed voters. Part of the decline of our culture is because of widespread insecurity and disempowerment. This increases people's psychological need to feel like they belong to a group and derive an identity from it. “I'm a Democrat because that hot girl down the street is a Democrat.” “I'm a Republican because the party is grand. And old.”

Be that as it may still be prevalent, more and more of us are growing past this need to indulge our ignorance and insecurities. We are setting new records for independent and third party voter registrations. The parties are losing their grip. There will be large numbers of principled, passionate, politically aware people in Denver and Minneapolis, but they won't be inside the conventions. In Denver, they will be protesting outside and holding a four day festival at a nearby park. In Minneapolis, they will be marching in the street, but they will also be holding a “counter-convention.” Ron Paul, having been (predictably) denied a speaking spot at the RNC, will headline the “Rally For The Republic,” which will be a celebration of the Freedom Movement and a launch party for Ron Paul's “Campaign For Liberty.”

The conventions may have some utility yet this year: they can show the differences between the goals of the two-party system and the people who tolerate it. As large as the spectacles outside promise to be this time, (“Recreate '68” is a slogan for DNC protesters who have said they will make 1968 “look like a small get together”) the media will be slobbering over the “real news” coming out of the conventions. I have a couple of predictions for what we're going to be presented with as news: Obama will accept the Democratic nomination, John McCain will accept the Republican nomination, the protesters will be ridiculed, the American people will go back to sleep when it's over, and continue to fool themselves into believing that real change can come out of the two-party system.

Friday, July 25, 2008

An Imperial Presidency? Check! Impeachment? Not likely.

On July 25th, 2008, I attended the Judiciary Committee hearing officially titled, “Executive Power and Its Constitutional Limitations.” It was a pulled punch if there ever was one. According to the press release issued July 17, 2008, it was supposed to be a hearing on the “Imperial Presidency of George W. Bush and possible legal responses.” Conyers said in his opening statement, “We are not done yet, and we do not intend to go away until we achieve the accountability that Congress is entitled to and the American people deserve.” He may be honest in his intentions, but if the “we” he refers to is his committee, his party, or the Congress as a whole, I don't believe him for a second. Somehow, he even managed to look bored throughout a good part of the proceedings.

Despite the original call for “legal responses,” Conyers advised the committee and all the witnesses that House rules prohibit “personal abuse, innuendo or ridicule of the president,” and he made sure that no allegations about specific individuals were allowed. However, one of the Republican members noted the extended talk of impeachment and referred to it as the “elephant in the corner that we have been feeling our way around to.” Kucinich had his way around this, of course. “The rules of the House prevent me or any witness from utilizing familiar terms. But we can put two and two together in our minds.” We sure can. And you, Congressman Kucinich, seem to possess one of the few spines your party has left.

I was joined by several members of Iraq Veterans Against the War and Veterans for Peace. We were there primarily to support Elliott Adams, Presiden of VFP, who did a wonderful job representing our organization. Although we arrived over two hours early for the hearing, we were not in time to claim any of the sixteen seats available to the public. Because Congressman Conyers canceled a meeting with VFP because of the hearing, we had been promised seats in the hearing room that never materialized. After waiting patiently while one man got arrested in the hall for “not backing up” as ordered by United States Capitol Police, crazy lefties had numerous outbursts of off-key singing, and most of the other several hundred people trying to get in left to the overflow room, I was able to get in just in time for the second panel as some more seats opened up and some of the original sixteen gave up on controlling their bladders.

I was pleasantly surprised when I learned that Libertarian Party Presidential Candidate Bob Barr would be testifying. He didn't disappoint. He made a great opening statement about “Preserving Constitutional Liberty through Checks and Balances and the Separation of Powers,” but the best part of his testimony was in the second round before questioning. “What we are facing now is a Constitutional clock, and it is counting down what remains of the Constitution of this great land. I might ask then to introduce for the record the disappearing Bill of Rights. This is the Bill of Rights that we as member of the Judiciary Committee know [he holds up a copy of the Bill of Rights] as adopted in 1791. [he flips it over to reveal a copy of the Bill of Rights that is largely redacted] This is what it is fast becoming.” You know it's a sad day when a former Congressman has to submit the Bill of Rights for the record in a Congressional hearing!

There were numerous outbursts of laughter and applause from the crowd and little authority exercised by Conyers despite repeated ribbing from the Republicans. After one of them complained about “signs,” Conyers told his staff to address the issue. One of the committee staffers arbitrarily approached IVAW members TJ Buonomo and Nick Morgan who were sitting together. They were both wearing pins that said, “VETERANS FOR IMPEACHMENT” and neither had a sign. There were about a dozen of us wearing the same pin. The staffer pleaded incessantly with them to remove their pins, but TJ was offended and when he vocally proclaimed that this was a violation of his Constitutional rights, the Capitol Police descended upon him and escorted him out. He was later charged with “Disrupting Congress” and has a hearing pending for August 12th.

Cindy Sheehan made a more petulant, childish exit in her typical fashion.
Testifier Vince Bugliosi: “By taking this nation into war on a lie, all of the killings of American soldiers in Iraq became unlawful killings, and therefore murders.”
Cindy Sheehan: “Thank you Vince.”
Conyers: “Members are urging me to take more action than merely reminding our audience.”
Cindy Sheehan: “I urge you to take action.”
Conyers: “OK then, Sheehan, you're out.”
Cindy Sheehan: [already getting up and leaving] “I’m going. Good-bye.”
She was allowed to leave without incident. It's ironic that it wasn't for her original interruption, but rather for urging Conyers to take action that she was told to leave.

While the Democrats made a powerful case for impeachment, led by Congressman Kucinich, who was called as a testifier, they seemed to be really trying to make a case for their own party's reelection. They failed. As petulant and petty as the Republicans were throughout the hearing, Representative Lamar Smith of Texas, the ranking Republican, hit the nail on the head: “It seems that we are hosting an anger management class. This hearing will not cause us to impeach the president; it will only serve to impeach Congress's credibility.”

The Democrats have become a sorry excuse for an opposition party. I don't think any of the many potentially deserving members of the Bush Administration will ever be impeached for the same reason that we didn't have impeachment hearings today or even months ago. The Democrats are just as corrupt, and complicit. Spineless Democrats are Neocon Appeasers and the blood is on their hands too.

So what was accomplished? A case for impeachment was made, everyone had a chance to posture and pander, and a few witnesses got to promote their books. The Democrats tried to make the case for why we need to give their party more power in November, but I think this is going to back fire. Now that the state of decay of our republic and our leadership has reached a new low, pointing out that the Republicans are worse than the Democrats (barely) is only going to drive voters into the open arms of our very deserving, uniquely principled, Libertarian Party.

I have a lot more photos and even some good video that I'm going to putting together soon, but for now, I will leave you with the wisdom of Bob Barr's written testimony:

Member of Congress, 1995-2003

Preserving Constitutional Liberty
through Checks and Balances and the
Separation of Powers


July 25, 2008

Mr. Chairman and distinguished Members of this Committee, on which I was privileged to serve throughout my eight years as a Member of the House of Representatives, it is an honor to appear today to speak on the importance of the separation of powers in the federal government as a tool for protecting the people’s liberties. Many vital issues confront our nation, but few are more important than repairing and maintaining the constitutional bulwarks that guarantee individual liberty and limit government power.

Mr. Chairman, today I appear as a private citizen, and also as a former Member of this Committee and as a once-again practicing attorney. I am also honored to be serving as the presidential nominee of the Libertarian Party.

It is axiomatic that no matter how much power government has, it always wants more. While the executive branch under George W. Bush has taken this truism to new heights, it is not unique in its quest for power. Unfortunately, the other branches of government have failed to do enough to maintain the constitutional balance. Particularly disturbing has been Congress’ recent reluctance, in the face of aggressive executive branch claims, to make the laws and ensure that the laws are properly applied. This failure has inhibited the operation of the separation of powers, necessary to provide the checks and balances which undergird our system of constitutional liberty.


The Constitution employs several techniques to preserve our liberties and privacy. One is to limit federal authority to enumerated powers. Another is to explicitly restrict government power, most notably through the Bill of Rights. The Founders also used the basic structure of government to protect the people from abuse, relying upon federalism, dividing power between state and national governments, as well as the separation of powers within the federal government itself.

The latter concept goes back to ancient Greece and was explicated by such political philosophers as John Locke and most famously by Baron de Montesquieu, who was much studied by America’s Founders. Many countries have implemented the same principle, though with different government structures, ranging up to six branches in Germany. In the U.S. the Founders established the executive, legislative, and judicial branches. The result is intentional inefficiency: the three branches are expected to constantly check and balance each other.

For instance, James Madison declared in Federalist No. 51: “the great security against a gradual concentration of the several powers in the same department, consists in giving to those who administer each department the necessary constitutional means and personal motives to resist encroachments of the others.” He went on to explain that, “[i]n framing a government which is to be administered by men over men, the great difficulty lies in this: you must first enable the government to control the governed; and in the next place oblige it to control itself.” This means “the constant aim is to divide and arrange the several offices in such a manner as that each may be a check on the other.”

Despite the inevitable problems which will afflict any political system, the original constitutional scheme has worked extremely well. Although the relative power of the different branches has varied over time, checks and balances have always operated.

More than two centuries have passed, and the constitutional limits on both the legislative and judicial branches remain robust – at least in theory. The president appoints and the Senate confirms judges, for instance. Presidents veto legislation and administer the laws, while the judiciary assesses the constitutionality of and interprets statutes.

In contrast, however, the constitutional constraints on the executive branch have eroded, with some breaking down substantially or entirely. The process has been underway for many years, but has greatly accelerated since 2001. In particular, President Bush and his appointees have used his power as commander in chief—of the military, not American society, it should be noted—to disregard congressional authority and override explicit constitutional provisions. Indeed, since 9/11, the president has let few opportunities slip by without reminding us that he is not only commander in chief but also a “wartime president,” and to argue that this status justifies whatever new power he claims to possess and wishes to utilize.

The president’s authority is substantial, but limited by law. The Constitution directs him or her to “take care that the laws be faithfully executed.” However, Congress is vested with the sole power to legislate, thereby determining the laws to be executed. Moreover, the president’s administration of the law is constrained by the Bill of Rights, including the Fourth Amendment, which bars searches and seizures absent a warrant based on probable cause. Further, though the president by the nature of his office has a lead role in shaping foreign and military policy, the Constitution shares powers in these areas between the legislative and executive branches.

Since the nation’s founding, Congress and the executive have struggled for supremacy. The 20th Century witnessed a steady if irregular expansion of presidential authority, which has carried over into this first decade of the 21st Century. The role of the president as the military’s commander in chief has taken on increasing importance as it has been used to justify the aggrandizement of the executive’s authority at the expense of that of both Congress and the judiciary. The issue is not just an abstract struggle between different government officials. Rather, this expansion of presidential power has increasingly put the people’s liberties and privacy at risk.


One of the most important expansions of executive authority has been transforming the president’s power to conduct a war into that of starting a war. Congress is vested with the sole power to declare, meaning to start, war; the Constitution’s framers explicitly intended to diverge from the British system and vest the authority to initiate war with the many in the legislature rather than the one in the executive. The Constitution also empowers Congress to create the military and enact rules governing both the military and the conduct of war. Although the constitutional convention changed the term from “make” to “declare” to allow the president to respond to a surprise attack, and the president’s authority to conduct war as commander in chief suggests that Congress cannot second guess his tactical judgments, he is to exercise all his powers within the larger framework created by the legislative branch.

Yet modern presidents increasingly assert their unilateral authority to bomb and invade other nations, without legislative approval, and to conduct military operations for years even after the original circumstances giving rise to a congressional authorization to use force have changed. This trend did not originate with the Bush administration, but has continued and grown under it. For instance, in 2002 President George W. Bush insisted that Congress not tie his hands, and refused to acknowledge the constitutional necessity of winning legislative approval to invade Iraq. Rather than make the decision for or against war, Congress transferred discretion to initiate war against Iraq to the president.

After launching the Iraq invasion in 2003 based on a 2002 congressionally-passed resolution to do so, the current administration has rejected the argument that a multi-year occupation violates Congress’ authorization of force, which legally controls the executive’s war objectives. The president also has resisted congressional oversight of its objectives and policies, which is an essential aspect of Congress’ authority. Although acknowledging that Congress controls the budgetary purse strings, the president and his aides have fought any attempt to condition appropriations—conveniently bundled in “emergency” supplementals in order to reduce the opportunity for legislative review.


The administration has attempted to use the same commander in chief power, as well as Congress’ Authorization for Use of Military Force (AUMF), approved after 9/11, to trump constitutional protections for civil liberties and privacy. Yet the Constitution does not create a national security exception to the Bill of Rights or separation of powers, and no member of Congress imagined that voting to authorize the use of force abroad simultaneously authorized the president to engage in unspecified and otherwise unconstitutional conduct at home. There is no basis for the argument the president’s authority as commander in chief in effect swallows and trumps the rest of the Constitution.

For instance, the administration undertook warrantless surveillance of Americans without court order or supervision. Conducted by the National Security Agency, the program was inaugurated shortly after the terrorist attacks of 9/11 and was inaccurately dubbed the Terrorist Surveillance Program, since in fact it targeted American citizens with no reason to believe they were engaged in any actions involving terrorism. The eavesdropping directly violated even the relaxed warrant requirements of the 1978 Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act.

Under Republican control, Congress unashamedly refused to conduct serious inquiry into the obviously improper NSA surveillance program. Unfortunately, the GOP majority put partisan comity ahead of fidelity to the law and Constitution. Although more members of the Democratic majority, which took over in January 2007, indicated concern about administration lawlessness, this Congress recently caved in to administration demands and amended FISA to grant the government unprecedented power to surreptitiously spy on the phone calls and emails of American citizens in our own country, based on nothing more then a belief they are communicating with someone not in the U.S. The measure also granted immunity – retro-active and prospective -- to telephone companies which aided government law-breaking.

Thus did a genuine need to modernize certain of FISA’s technical provisions—for example, to reverse the court interpretation that monitoring calls sent by modern routing mechanisms through the U.S., even though both parties were located abroad, required a court order—became an opportunity to greatly expand the law’s reach. The result is to make virtually every international call or email subject to monitoring without court oversight. Thereby carving out an entire class of communication from constitutional protection is a breathtaking decision with the potential to do enormous damage to the very meaning of the Fourth Amendment and to the essential foundation of limited government. This law also has effectively neutered the oversight role the Congress or the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court should play in this area.

Similarly extravagant has been the administration’s claimed right, as an adjunct of both the president’s constitutional warpowers and the AUMF, to designate American citizens arrested in America as well as alleged terrorists captured overseas as “enemy combatants” beyond the reach of the U.S. Constitution and courts. The detention of combatants captured in battle is a natural adjunct to war, but not the suspension of all constitutional and legislative oversight of the executive’s power to imprison anyone it claims to be a combatant for as long as it desires. The argument that the president has the unique power to suspend basic constitutional guarantees, including the “Great Writ” of habeas corpus, whereby a person has a fundamental right to be brought before a court to determine the lawfulness of his or her detention or deprivation, is particularly dangerous in the midst of a potentially endless “war” where the American homeland is considered to be a -- and perhaps the chief -- battlefield.

There is nothing in Article II of the Constitution which provides that the president is the military’s commander in chief, to suggest that he thereby gains the power to suspend any law and any constitutional provision at his discretion. Indeed, the very next section reminds the president that at all times he has a responsibility to “take Care that the Laws be faithfully executed,” with no hint of an exception whenever he decides he is acting as commander in chief. In Youngstown Sheet & Tube Co. v. Sawyer (1952), the Supreme Court rejected a similar claim by the Truman administration -- that the president’s powers as commander in chief allowed him to seize steel mills despite Congress’ refusal to authorize such an act.

Nor is it plausible that Congress believed that by authorizing military action in response to 9/11 it was empowering the president to deny American citizens their constitutional rights at home. Authorizing military action overseas does not logically mean authorizing every conceivable use of surveillance, arrest, and imprisonment by the federal government at home. Indeed, if the administration had believed this theory at the time, there would have been no reason for it to have proposed the Patriot Act, since all those powers, too, should have been included in the AUMF. Equally important, Congress itself only has the authority to suspend—and only if our country is invaded or faced with overt “Rebellion”—not eliminate, habeas corpus. Congress cannot authorize the president to limit that right in additional circumstances.


Another example of a direct presidential assault on the separation of powers, and thus the constitutional structure undergirding our free society, are presidential signing statements. Throughout history, signing statements have been used to thank supporters, provide reasons for signing a bill or express satisfaction or displeasure with legislation passed by Congress. Presidents Ronald Reagan, George H.W. Bush, and Bill Clinton all used signing statements to express constitutional and other objections to legislation, influence judicial interpretation, and otherwise advance policy goals.

President George W. Bush has more aggressively – to an historically unprecedented degree -- employed the presidential signing statement to challenge or deny effect to legislation that he considers unconstitutional, but nonetheless signs. As the Congressional Research Service reported last year, a much higher share of President Bush’s signing statements have contained a constitutional challenge, and they “are typified by multiple constitutional and statutory objections, containing challenges to more than 1,000 distinct provisions of the law.” This tactic, adds CRS, is “an integral part of the administration’s efforts to further its broad view of presidential prerogatives and to assert functional and determinative control over all elements of the executive decision making process.”

In scores of cases President Bush has claimed that legislation has improperly interfered with presidential authority. In a democracy, such assertions of power—most fundamentally the underlying failure to comply rather than the explanatory signing statement—do not happen in a vacuum. They affect the careful balance of power in our system of government. The executive branch is not free to unilaterally change that balance; our Constitution requires legislative and judicial involvement in lawmaking to ensure public debate and oversight and to guard against centralization of power.

Article I of the Constitution gives Congress the power to make the laws. Under Article II, the president has the duty to ensure that the laws are faithfully executed. The Constitution also provides that if the president objects to a proposed law, he can veto it. This gives Congress the chance to override his veto, enacting the law despite his opposition, or to sustain his veto, and then work to address the president’s objections. A president may also challenge a law he believes to be unconstitutional in court.

Instead, the current president, especially, has used signing statements, and a refusal to enforce the law, as a sub rosa form of unreviewable veto, usurping the power of Congress and aggrandizing the power of the executive.


Another tool of executive aggrandizement has been the doctrine of executive privilege. No where spelled out in the Constitution itself, the claim has been advanced by presidents starting with George Washington. The doctrine is most persuasively rooted in national security, but presidents often have more generally contended that confidentiality is necessary for the operation of the executive branch.

Although the argument at its core is not without force, executive privilege has become an all-purpose shield and boilerplate excuse to hide embarrassing and potentially incriminating information from Congress and the public. That a claim for executive privilege had to be balanced with other interests was evident in 1807 when Aaron Burr, on trial for treason, sued President Thomas Jefferson to produce a supposedly exculpatory letter. Chief Justice John Marshall rejected Jefferson’s argument that disclosure risked public safety and ordered the president to comply. In 1974 the climactic case of United States v. Nixon confronted President Richard M. Nixon’s attempt to use the claim of executive privilege to avoid having to turn over evidence of criminal misbehavior to Watergate special prosecutor Leon Jaworski. The Supreme Court unanimously acknowledged a generalized right of confidentiality, but ruled that this privilege must yield to other government interests, most notably the criminal process. The order that he yield up the tapes recording his Oval Office conversations led to his resignation.

Other presidents have relied on the doctrine to shield their operations from scrutiny. The Clinton administration avoided disclosure of the deliberations of the president’s health care reform task force because First Lady Hillary Clinton was considered to be a government employee under the relevant legislation. This admittedly strained interpretation allowed the courts to avoid ruling on the question of whether executive privilege applied to conversations between government officials and people outside of government.

As in other areas, the Bush administration has even more energetically sought to keep information about many of its activities, even those with no sensitive national security implications, from public view. For instance, the administration resisted a request for disclosure, based on legislation covering “advisory committees,” of the names of participants and results of discussions by members of the Vice President’s National Energy Policy Development Group. The administration lost in the lower courts, but was partially upheld by the U.S. Supreme Court, which sent the case back to the District Court for reconsideration. The D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals ultimately refused to order disclosure based on its interpretation of the relevant statute, based on the fact that several government officials served on the Group.

Elsewhere the administration’s case for secrecy has been more frivolous and less well received. For instance, the administration attempted to keep secret visitor logs detailing Christian leaders who visited the White House and vice president’s residence. Earlier this month the D.C. Circuit distinguished this case from the energy group decision and ruled that the logs were not the property of the White House—which took custody from the Secret Service (part of the Treasury Department) in order to thwart a request under the Freedom of Information Act—and ordered their release.

These cases centered on statutory interpretation. The Bush administration also has more directly used the doctrine of executive privilege to resist disclosures to Congress, even as part of investigations of potential executive wrong-doing. For instance, at a recent hearing of this Committee, Karl Rove refused to appear, based on advice of the White House Counsel, to discuss his role in possible meddling in Justice Department prosecutions. Last year White House Chief of Staff Josh Bolten and former White House Counsel Harriet Miers similarly refused to obey committee subpoenas to appear to discuss the firing of U.S. attorneys; the House voted to hold them in contempt.

The House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform has been investigating the White House’s involvement in the disclosure of Valerie Plame’s employment by the CIA. In June Chairman Henry Waxman pointed out to Attorney General Michael B. Mukasey that “In his interview with the FBI, Mr. Libby stated that it was ‘possible’ that Vice President Cheney instructed him to disseminate information about Ambassador Wilson’s wife to the press. This is a significant revelation and, if true, a serious matter. It cannot be responsibly investigated without access to the Vice President’s FBI interview.” However, in an echo of the Watergate controversies, Mukasey refused to comply, citing fear of “the chilling effect that compliance with the committee’s subpoena would have on future White House deliberations.” The White House cited executive privilege in refusing to turn over the FBI interview, even though the vice president’s chief of staff had been convicted of perjury.

In an extraordinary twist on the doctrine of executive privilege, the Bush administration announced last year that it would not allow any U.S. Attorney to pursue a contempt citation on behalf of Congress. By attempting to control federal employees who also are officers of the courts, the administration attempted to place itself beyond effective accountability by any person or institution. Mark Rozell of George Mason University termed this position “astonishing” and “a breathtakingly broad view of the president’s role in this system of separation of powers. What this statement is saying is the president’s claim of executive privilege trumps all.” Indeed, if sustained, Rozell added, this position will allow “the executive to define the scope and limits of its own powers.” As a result, the House has filed suit to enforce its subpoena, the first such lawsuit in history.


Another doctrine used by the executive branch to the detriment of the constitutional separation of powers is the so-called “state secrets privilege.” According to this doctrine, the executive branch refuses to release information in court cases on the grounds that disclosure would harm “national security.” First recognized by the U.S. Supreme Court in 1953, the doctrine has been treated as well-nigh absolute by some judges.

In this case, like many others, there is an obvious basis for shielding sensitive information in extraordinary instances from public view, even - 10 -
to the detriment of a valid lawsuit. However, again, a legitimate doctrine has been twisted to frustrate cases that might expose government wrong-doing and executive misconduct. As a result, government accountability, and redress of wrongs suffered by individuals as the result of government action, have suffered greatly.

For instance, Khalid El-Masri filed a civil case against the U.S. government in a case involving “extraordinary rendition,” in which the government illegally detained Mr. El-Masri in a case of mistaken identity. The trial court judge accepted the government’s claimed “state secrets privilege,” which thwarted disclosures necessary to prosecute the case. A similar result was reached in a similar case by Canadian Maher Arar, who was deported, based on false information, by the U.S. to Syria (he was a dual citizen), where he was apparently tortured. The Bush administration also invoked the state secrets privilege to defeat lawsuits challenging the government’s unlawful FISA surveillance program.

Although judges can order, and have ordered, disclosure of disputed documents and other information to them for in camera screening, too often courts have given inordinate deference to executive branch claims. But the privilege should be treated as qualified, not absolute. A government refusal to allow judicial inspection could be met with forfeiture of the case. Congress could assist the judiciary by holding hearings and drafting legislation clarifying the authority of judges, procedures to be used to adjudicate executive claims of state secrecy, and sanctions to be imposed for the executive branch’s refusal to comply.


Unfortunately, Congress has been at least impartially complicit in this and other presidential “power grabs.” It repeatedly has acquiesced to President Bush’s unilateral actions. It has failed in its constitutional obligation to make the laws and to oversee the executive branch to ensure that the latter properly implements the laws passed by Congress.

Enforcing presidential compliance with the law is not easy, especially since a pattern of executive law-breaking has been established. However, the people—the citizens in whose name this House and the rest of the government act—can and should insist that those elected president, this coming November and in the future, respect the separation of powers and other constitutional limits on their authority. - 11 -
Taking an oath to “preserve, protect and defend the Constitution of the United States” requires no less.

Moreover, the legislature has many tools at its disposal to promote respect for the nation’s fundamental law. It can enlist the courts, of course. It can use its power to hold oversight hearings, backed by the power to subpoena and hold executive officers in contempt. It can refuse to confirm presidential appointments.
Most fundamental is its power to control appropriations. Congress can shape funding in the relevant area to encourage compliance with the law. Moreover, broader retaliation, though less desirable, is another possibility. For instance, the Reagan administration’s attempt to thwart explicit congressional guidelines over federal contracting led to a vote by this Committee to defund the Office of the Attorney General. A compromise was reached: Congress funded the Attorney General’s Office while the administration complied with the law.

The most important requirement is that Congress treat seriously its responsibility to uphold the Constitution. Neither the Bill of Rights nor the separation of powers are self-enforcing documents or principles. The legislative branch has a critical role to play.

The Constitution creates explicit guarantees for individual liberty and limits on government power out of the recognition that even the best-intentioned public officials working to achieve the most public-spirited aims make mistakes. That surely has been evident during the so-called “Global War on Terror,” in which more than a few innocent people have been not just detained, but also imprisoned and tortured. The Bill of Rights and the separation of powers are not mere technicalities, but essentials of our government and our entire system of ordered liberty.

I know this Committee understands that the president’s quest for intelligence and desire for flexibility, legitimate as they are, should not be allowed to serve as a subterfuge for circumventing constitutional protections for liberty and restrictions on presidential power. U.S. District Court Judge Royce Lamberth, appointed by President Ronald Reagan, has reminded us that, “[w]e have to understand you can fight the war [on terrorism] and lose everything if you have no civil liberties left when you get through fighting the war.”

The temptation to cut constitutional corners is not the province of any one party. Rather, it grows when one party controls both the executive and legislature. Then party comity sometimes overrides institutional differences, as it did most recently between 2001 and 2006.

But our constitutional system, and its commitment to limited government and individual liberty, is based both on a series of explicit guarantees that constrain the use of government authority, and a structure that divides government authority. As such, the separation of powers, with the checks and balances expected to naturally follow, is the bedrock foundation of American constitutional government. It is a foundation clearly in danger of crumbling.