Continuing Prosecutions for Bush Era Crimes

Ari Melber makes a great point about outstanding questions of how the Obama administration will be able to restore the rule of law and prosecute those responsible for a number of civil liberties violations, war crimes, and anti-American acts.

The immunity crowd has one more card to play. Crimes committed on behalf of national security, they say, are different. On closer inspection, that claim also dissolves into an elitist pitch for the powerful.

The fact is that there are U.S. soldiers sitting in jail right now for what happened at Abu Ghraib.

The question is not whether to prosecute those crimes; that process has already begun. The question is whether the Bush administration correctly prosecuted the people actually responsible for the conduct — or whether the entire episode was blamed on those low on the chain of command.

This is very salient, especially given the intrinsic desire for people inside the Beltway to try and put the past behind us regardless of the consequences. There is always a desire to take any action on a situation and presume that it is sufficient to count as handling the problem.  We’re already seeing a drumbeat for Obama to put the past behind him and not investigate Bush era officialdom for their role in torture, warrantless wiretapping, and the illegal politicization of the Justice Department. Melber makes a strong case that because prosecution on some of these matters has already begun, the question should rightly be on whether they need stop with the new administration.

Continuing prosecutions of higher level Bush administration officials involves recognizing that the buck will almost never stop at a lowly grunt doing a job they weren’t trained to do. This isn’t about retribution or prosecuting the political. It’s about ensuring that there is meaningful disincentive for any other executive branch officials to ever again maintain such a casual attitude towards the law and the rule of law that they will not bow before the pressure of a White House with no moral inclination to keep the US government’s actions in line with our principles and beliefs.

Conservativism with a Socialist Twist

Or is it socialism with a conservative twist?

Most of the terms are relatively good for Citigroup and its existing shareholders. While the bank had to reduce its dividend to a penny, it is getting money from the government relatively cheaply. The preferred shares that the government is buying, for example, carry a relatively small 8 percent dividend payment and only slightly erode the value of shares held by existing investors.

Even though the American government can secure a nearly 8 percent stake, overtaking an Abu Dhabi investment fund and a Saudi prince as Citigroup’s largest shareholder, it will not have any seats on the board.

Other strings that the government attached are not onerous.

New limits on executive pay still leave Citigroup with room to maneuver, even though regulators must approve compensation. A required program to modify home mortgages is similar to an effort that Citigroup voluntarily announced earlier this month. [Emphasis added]

It’s hard to read this about the Citigroup bailout (Version 2.0) and not think the Bush-Paulson team has come up with a new brand of socialism, unique to American corporatist conservatism. The US Government now owns more of Citigroup than any other individual or entity in the world. But while the American taxpayer is watching their money rescue one of the biggest white collar corporations in America, they must also watch the government decline any control of the company they are seeking billion after billion into.

What a uniquely corporatist conservative position: Government will prop up major corporations and hold larger portions of these corporations than anyone else, but exert no control over how the company is run. Private benefit with no public accountability.

If anyone in the Bush cabinet or Obama transition team can look the American taxpayer straight in the eye and assure us that having no control in our stake in Citigroup is in America’s best interest, I’d be shocked. I’d also probably be lied to.

Tibetan Special Meeting Outcome

The Tibetan community’s Special Meeting in Dharamsala, India has concluded. The 600 delegates from around the Tibetan exile community, including a number of very recent refugees, have voted to continue with the Dalai’ Lama’s Middle Way posture towards China, but called for a re-evaluation if China continues to be non-responsive. Rangzen, or independence, — the position advocated by Students for a Free Tibet and myself — was included as something would specifically be evaluated if China does not show willingness to work with the Dalai Lama on meaningful autonomy.

Lhadon Tethong of Students for a Free Tibet and Tenzin Choeying of SFT India have penned an op-ed in The Indian Express on the outcome of the meeting and how it represents a big step forward for the Tibetan exile community.

Some observers have described this outcome as a blow to those of us advocating independence, but we don’t see it that way. As Tibetan youth leaders who participated in this historic meeting, we see this as a first step toward fundamental change. We understand, in spite of our impatience, that it is going to take some time to move the Tibetan establishment and public, long been committed to this approach. We were encouraged to see senior ministers and employees of the Tibetan Government in exile openly exchanging ideas with delegates representing the grassroots from far-flung Tibetan communities and NGOs. Many of us participated in passionate debates with respect for each other’s differing views. And in the end, we felt refreshed by the openness of the discussions.

To anyone who knows the recent history of Tibetan exile society and the often painful divisions that have occurred around the question of independence versus autonomy, this meeting was a very positive sign. The ultimate success of our movement depends on the creation of a vibrant democratic society that brings out the best in every individual — and that is exactly what we witnessed in Dharamsala last week.

Many who attended this meeting argued that Independence is the most strategic goal for our movement. We believe that the Middle Way approach is too heavily dependent on the cooperation of the Chinese government to succeed. We don’t believe the current government in China is capable of giving Tibetans any measure of freedom because its sole interest is to maintain power and Tibetans have proven time and time again that they challenge the authority of Beijing even at the worst of times. While our analysis reflects a very obvious political difference with the Dalai Lama’s chosen path, we felt that our voices were heard and our opinions respected. We were witnessing the emergence of a democratic Tibetan society, and though it is not perfect yet, it is certainly light years ahead of China’s one party dictatorship.Ultimately, two opinions gained unanimous support within the meeting’s subgroups: that the Tibetan government should adopt a more aggressive, less conciliatory approach toward the Chinese government and that our movement should remain nonviolent.

As Tibetan youth, we have sincerely responded to the Dalai Lama’s calls for new ideas to help end the suffering of our brothers and sisters across the Himalayas. We are ready to take responsibility for our political destiny and commit ourselves to a political solution, no matter how many years or decades it may take.

We believe that this meeting lays the foundation for realising this vision. And though we have not yet reached the point of fundamental change in the position or approach of the Tibetan government, this was a major step in the right direction — one that signals the beginning of a new era in our struggle.

I’m very happy that people I know who were at the meeting (Lhadon, Choeying, Tenzin Dorjee, & Jamyang Norbu, among others in all likelihood) have reported that they are happy with the outcome. Previous reports and statements I’d seen coming from the Special Meeting, including efforts by some Tibetans there to abdicate the responsibility given to them by the Dalai Lama to craft their peoples’ way forward, was deeply troubling. But if some of the Tibetan independence movements youngest and brightest leaders, people who are the leading advocates for Rangzen in the world, say that this was a good step forward, then I have to agree with them.

With that in mind, it’s time for the Tibetan exile community to open there eyes and begin to prepare themselves to the reality that China is not going to change, at least not under the rule of the Chinese Communist Party. As this reality continues to set in, it will be up to the exile community to come back to this resolution and move beyond the Middle Path and return to the moral mandate that is Rangzen.

Lhadon in the Irish Times

Clifford Coonan of the Irish Times has a piece on the Special Meeting in Dharamsala, India that will help determine next steps for Tibetan government policy towards China. Lhadon Tethong of Students for a Free Tibet is quoted heavily in the piece:

Tibetans wanted a stronger response to China, including the introduction of a deadline by which China should react.

Lhadon Tethong, director of Students for a Free Tibet, which carried out bold demonstrations during the Beijing Olympics, described the outcome as a stark response by the Tibetan people to attacks on their beloved spiritual leader by the Chinese.

“It’s been very refreshing and exciting to see discussion of independence coming back into the mainstream.

“Independence is what the Tibetan people really want and this shows that the people are prepared to make massive compromise, but China has to react. This is a turning point,” she said.

If the Chinese do not make reciprocal moves towards the Tibetan position, then events will turn towards independence, Ms Tethong said.

Lhadon & Tendor on BoingBoing
Lhadon Tethong and Tenzin Dorjee of Students for a Free Tibet are interviewed by Xeni Jardin of Boing Boing via video chat. Lhadon and Tendor are currently in Dharamsala, India, taking part in the Special Meeting called by the Tibetan Government in Exile to discuss the future policy towards China. It’s a very interesting interview and worth a watch.