Dennis Loo

Sometimes asking for the impossible is the only realistic path

Dennis Loo

Dennis Loo
Los Angeles, California,
December 31
Professor of Sociology
Cal Poly Pomona
Author of Globalization and the Demolition of Society; Co-Editor/Author of Impeach the President: the Case Against Bush and Cheney, World Can't Wait Steering Committee Member, co-author of "Crimes Are Crimes, No Matter Who Does Them" statement, dog and fruit tree lover. Published poet. Winner of the Alfred R. Lindesmith Award, Project Censored Award and the Nation Magazine's Most Valuable Campaign Award. Punahou and Harvard Honor Graduate. Ph.D. in Sociology from UC Santa Cruz. An archive of close to 500 postings of mine can be found at my blogspot blog, Dennis Loo, link below. I publish regularly at, (link below) and also at OpEd News and sometimes at Counterpunch.

MARCH 14, 2009 1:07PM

Undermine the Foundation, What Happens to the Structure?

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Obama during a September 8, 2008 campaign rally stated: "Habeas corpus ... is the foundation of Anglo-American law, which says very simply, if the government grabs you, then you have the right to at least ask, `Why was I grabbed?' and say, `Maybe, you've got the wrong person." (Thanks to Rachel Oswald’s article in Raw Story for this reference.)

"The reason we have that safeguard is we don't always have the right person," said Obama at the campaign rally. "We don't always catch the right person. We may think this is Muhammad the terrorist. It might be Muhammad the cab driver."

On March 12, 2009, the Obama Justice Department kicked this foundation out from under the edifice of Anglo-American law by arguing that the June 2008 Supreme Court decision (Boumediene v Bush) that held that Gitmo detainees had a right to challenge their detention, did not apply to those detainees held (and tortured) prior to Boumediene.

The Justice Department states in its brief:

"Boumediene - decided four years after plaintiffs' detention ended - cannot support a finding that the law was so clearly established that a reasonable official would have known that his or her conduct violated the Constitution or the RFRA [Religious Freedom Restoration Act] statute."

As Rachel Oswald recounts:

“The brief was filed as part of the Rasul v. Rumsfeld lawsuit of four former detainees, who include the ‘Tipton Three,’ and are seeking damages for their detention and reported torture at Guantanamo Bay against Rumsfeld, the Chairmen of the Joint Chief of Staffs and other top military officials. The suit charges them with violations of the Fifth and Eighth Amendments, the Alien Tort Statute, the Geneva Conventions and the Religious Freedom Restoration Act. The plaintiffs are individually each seeking $10 million in damages.

“The men were held for more than two years at Guantanamo where they were reportedly subjected to regular beatings, death threats, sleep deprivation, extreme temperatures, forced nakedness, interrogations at gun point and religious and racial harassment. They were never charged with any crime. The men were released in March 2004 and returned to their home country of Britain.”

As it turns out, these detainees were during humanitarian work in Afghanistan when they were turned in to U.S. authorities by Afghan warlords seeking the bounty offered by the U.S. for “terrorists.”

According to the Obama Justice Department then, a) habeas corpus was not a foundation of Anglo-American law before the June 2008 Supreme Court Boumediene decision because if it had been then they wouldn’t be arguing now that these defendants are not and were not entitled to that right, and b) government officials who were engaged in beatings, death threats, sleep deprivation, extreme temperatures, forced nakedness, interrogations at gun point, religious and racial harassment, et al, were not aware that these acts were illegal until told so by the Supreme Court.

Candidate Obama thinks that habeas corpus is a foundational principle for our law but President Obama apparently has rethought that terribly rash statement and now holds that habeas corpus has only been around for less than a year and not since the Magna Carta of nearly nine hundred years ago.

This is consistent – Obama’s administration has been nothing if not consistent in their deeds and in their court filings (as opposed to their public statements before Congress or before the nation) – with Obama’s stance on Bagram: prisoners there have no habeas corpus rights and Gitmo detainees “ultimately” have a right to habeas corpus, but only (now with this latest shoe being dropped by the Obama administration) if they were unjustly detained after June 2008.

As I wrote in January 2008:

“Imagine that you and a police officer have both just seen a cold-blooded murderer and sadist torturing and then killing people in plain daylight. The cop turns to you - instead of going after the murderer - and says: ‘If you vote for me to become the police chief I will stop this murderer from doing what he is doing.’

“He promises you change and the end to murderous rampages.

“You scream at him, ‘Why aren't you doing something RIGHT NOW about that murderer?!’

“He says: ‘What that guy is doing isn't serious enough to warrant immediate action. We must wait for over a year before I can do anything because as police chief I'll have more power and REALLY be in charge. THEN I can really do something to stop these things from happening.’

“Meanwhile the murderer is still murdering people and torturing them. But the cop promises you that he will change things if you elect him police chief.

“What would you think of such a cop?”

If you are one of the tens of millions of people who hoped that Obama would right what has been so terribly wrong, what do you think of him now? His appalling actions since becoming president are actually in line with his immoral stance before he was elected. His opposition to the Iraq war was never on the grounds that it was an illegal and immoral war. His opposition to it was on the putative grounds that it was the “wrong” war. His opposition to the Military Commissions Act of 2006 that “legalized” torture and the suspension of habeas corpus rights were on the grounds that it was “dumb,” not that it was morally and legally wrong. His stance of “change” and “hope” were never designed to do anything but deceive people.

This week Obama made the extraordinary claim that the Bush regime rectified their abuses about two years after 9/11. This is: a) a dramatically false statement, as the longer Bush and Cheney were in office, the more brazen and monstrous their transgressions became, and b) being put forward now by Obama as groundwork for his claim that there is no reason to prosecute the Bush gang of criminals and tyrants.

Yesterday the New York Times reported:

 “The Obama administration said Friday that it would abandon the Bush administration’s term ‘enemy combatant’ as it argues in court for the continued detention of prisoners at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba, in a move that seemed intended to symbolically separate the new administration from Bush detention policies.

“But in a much anticipated court filing, the Justice Department argued that the president has the authority to detain terrorism suspects there without criminal charges, much as the Bush administration had asserted. It provided a broad definition of those who can be held, which was not significantly different from the one used by the Bush administration.” (Bold added).

In other words, the Obama Administration is going to retain the content of what Bush and Cheney were doing but they’re not going to call it by the same name. What a relief! All I really wanted from Obama was for him to change the names, not change the actions! Nomenclature, after all, is reality.

Can we any longer rely upon people who from one side of their mouth say that they are standing up for sacrosanct principles of the law and on the other side of their mouth defend, excuse (and perpetuate themselves) the actions of those who have explicitly, repeatedly, and egregiously violated those so-called sacred principles?

Isn’t it time that we grow up as a people and recognize that we cannot pass our responsibilities for standing up for justice and fairness onto others but must shoulder these responsibilities ourselves? March 19th is the sixth anniversary of the immoral, illegal and unjust invasion of Iraq. Where will you be on that day? What will you be doing?

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BBE: Actually, there are growing numbers of people who I have spoken to and who have written to me or to others expressing a great deal of disillusionment and concern. This needs to spread and they need to act upon their knowledge.
BBE: The power of wishful thinking is immense indeed. A major reason why people did what you describe is that they mistakenly think that a) individual leaders are more powerful than the institutions that they head up (social psychologists call this the "fundamental attribution error," b) they want to believe that there is a real difference between the GOP and the Democrats, c) they think that the key constituency politicians have to satisfy is the voters rather than elites, and d) Americans have a very hard time seeing that their political responsibilities are much larger than going into vote every few years.

Polemicizing against wrong and mistaken views is a big part of what those who see these errors have to do. You are right that people SHOULD have seen these things. But the fact remains that most people didn't. And they need to be woken up.
This just goes to show the genius of the [anti-Christ 43rd President]'s administration in undermining our laws and liberty. Not just in civil rights but in any area that required accountability. They knew the core areas to go after. While brilliantly keeping up the facade, they have wrecked and gutted the underpinnings of the inner workings of the government.

And yes, once they saw the public at large would not challenge them on their misdeeds, they did become "more brazen and monstrous" over time. The entire American public needs to do a mea culpa for the past 8 years. I don't see that happening, I see a sweeping under the rug to haunt us later. We're just full of good ideas!

Obama is not a brave politician - he just wants to be known as one. Of course, there's a word for brave politicians: assassinated.
The contempt that people are expressing for the American people here is partly justified, but I think we have to direct our GREATEST enmity towards the perps rather than towards those who have co-operated with it passively. Those perps that I speak here of are, of course, Bush, Cheney and now Obama. We cannot say of Obama's remarks and actions here that he is deluded and thinking wishfully. He knows what he is saying and knows what he is doing.

Americans need to arouse themselves from their too-long slumber, but many people still don't understand the dimensions of this - which is part of the problem. I talk to students frequently who, upon being exposed to the gritty reality of this, express shock and amazement. "I feel like I've been lied to all of my life," they say.

It would help here if my posting on this were to get more publicity (e.g., an EP and more ratings). I mean, what is more important than this?
I guess I see it as we'll always have the perps around to betray us but it's up to us not to enable them to do it. The only way a con man can get away with lying to you in the first place is if you're lying to yourself to begin with.

Liars, cheats and thieves will always be among us like winter storms come to assault our homes every year. It's to be expected. It's throwing open your doors, saying you don't deserve to be hurt and then complaining of the cold I have a problem with. Don't let these fuckers in the door! I blame each equally. No one has the right to be comfortably dumb just as no one has the right to invade your home.

These vile voices have been among us since day one, they rise and fall for one reason: us.

(Not saying I don't appreciate your point of view, my feelings on liberty are the same as yours. And, uh, yeah, I told you to put LeBron in all your posts if you want on the cover!)
HH: How about this as a title: LBJ (and habeas corpus) gets clotheslined by Obama!
This is a good post.

I think that the people behind Obama's election were consciously planning to get Americans cheated to give even more support for the wars, which were started during the previous administration.

By his appearance as the first black president he can already ascertain the support of the majority of black Americans whatever his politics would be. On the other hand for many democrat party voters it was enough to beat republicans, and still for many who consider themselves to be leftist among democrats it was a victory to defeat hawkish Hillary Clinton...

It will maybe take time, if that time will ever come for most of those people to realize that Obama is just a cleaner looking facade to continue the same politics of Bush' administration.

It is difficult to predict the future. But if you don't try changing the things yourself, it is quite clear that people, who are trying to continue the same disastrous way what you have seen the past eight years will get their wishes to become fulfilled.

I think that one way to get publicity here is to comment posts of many different people. So those people will check your posts to see, who is that person who commented their posts.
Thanks for your comments and suggestions Hannu.

HH: You wrote: "Liars, cheats and thieves will always be among us like winter storms come to assault our homes every year. It's to be expected.... I blame each equally. No one has the right to be comfortably dumb just as no one has the right to invade your home.

"These vile voices have been among us since day one, they rise and fall for one reason: us."

The "us" here needs to be differentiated into its component elements.

Yes, there are con men, crooks, liars, sociopaths, etc. and to some extent they will always be with us. But mobilizing people against these predators isn't something that people in their mass are able to clearly recognize. It is the responsibility of those among the people who can better discern the villains and the problems to raise the level of understanding of others who don't see it yet.

Unevenness among the people in all matters is to be expected. The fact that Americans are more naive and more ill-informed and less willing to demonstrate in the streets just means the work that needs to be done is more necessary and difficult.
It seems with the suspension of habeas corpus for Guantanamo detainees that the American government has decided to become official terrorists. I say this with all seriousness in light of the wire-taps, government cover-ups, FBI's new powers. I digress to make a point. During WWII we incinerated thousands of women and children in Nagasaki and Hiroshima. Our government decided that these civilians were not innocent because they supported the Japanese war machine. In September 11, civilian aircraft crashed into twin towers, and we were angered, upset, that terrorists would hurt innocent lives. However, according to the atomic bomb rationale, the Twin Towers civilians are also not innocent, they supported the American war/propaganda machine. What I am saying is that if we remain quiet as a nation and let things like basic rights be buried under the hope that Obama's administration will set things to right, are we stating to ourselves that we are complicit in all that our government has done. Right now, the economy is in terrible shape. So was Germany's economy before WWII. However Hitler got rid of unemployment by employing Germans to further the Nazi war machine. Is Obama going to focus on the economy so that legal rights sanctioned since our nation was created be buried because we want to stuff our mouths with bread? Isn't there more to life than a full stomach?
However, if we protest, we are then labeled as a dissident, a radical, and a FBI file is created on us. In finding government or civilian work, we are subject to background checks, fingerprints, and we will never pass as a person who has shaken the boat. What are the choices, to be complicit and subjugated our morality to live in this country or to be a political dissident and possibly never call America home again?

State terror is what it's called. You are right about the matter of silence and complicity. Since this government is already spying on all of us, the creation of a dossier on you because you stand up to protest isn't a novel thing. The question is, especially as we go forward as a country, what will you accept? The precedents set by the government especially beginning under Bush and Cheney (although as I have written previously, they are just the furthest and logical extension of a trajectory begun under Reagan) are shocking and extremely ominous.
Oh, and incidentally, the atomic bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki by the US in WW II resulted not in thousands dead but close to 200,000 at least.