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Home / Articles / Archive / News & Columns /  Feature | Rocky Times: Rocky Anderson is still on the case. Barack Obama had better watch his back. Page 3
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Feature | Rocky Times: Rocky Anderson is still on the case. Barack Obama had better watch his back. Page 3

By Ted McDonough
Posted // February 3,2009 - n

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Democrats need a shove, too
nAnyone who thinks that the election of Barack Obama and a solid Democratic majority in Congress will take the edge off Anderson doesn’t know Rocky.

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Man With a Plan
n Former Salt Lake City Mayor Rocky Anderson has a seven-point plan to repair the U.S. Constitution after the Bush years. High Road for Human Rights, Anderson’s nonprofit, is gathering signatures on the proposal before presenting it to Congress and the Obama administration.

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1. “STATE SECRETS” DOCTRINE. The courts tossed out nearly all lawsuits brought by war-on-terror suspects held in Guantanamo and secret CIA prisons after the Bush administration said letting the cases go to trial would reveal “state secrets.” High Road wants Congress to pass a law limiting the use of that doctrine. President Obama will have to decide where he stands on the issue soon. A San Francisco judge has rejected the state-secrets argument and is letting the lawsuit of one war-on-terror detainee go forward.

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2. VIOLATIONS AND TERMINATION OF TREATY OBLIGATIONS. Fighting the war on terror, Bush administration lawyers ruled the Geneva conventions and treaties the United States signed against torture didn’t apply to them. High Road wants new rules that dictate a clear process to be followed before the president, or Congress, breaks future treaty obligations.

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3. “SIGNING STATEMENTS.” After photos of U.S. soldiers mistreating prisoners at Iraq’s Abu Ghraib prison hit the press, Congress passed a law forbidding official torture. President Bush signed it, then added a note that said the law didn’t apply to him. High Road wants Congress to pass a law limiting the effect of such presidential “signing statements.”

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4. ACCOUNTABILITY FOR VIOLATIONS OF THE LAW. High Road wants special prosecutors appointed to investigate Bush-era crimes, particularly in the areas of wiretapping phones, torture and so-called “extraordinary rendition” in which war-on-terror suspects were “kidnapped,” then flown overseas to secret CIA prisons outside the jurisdiction of U.S. laws. A recent report from the House Judiciary Committee asks Obama’s Justice Department for special prosecutors.

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5. CONSTITUTIONAL REQUIREMENT OF A CONGRESSIONAL DECLARATION OF WAR. High Road wants Congress to insist on an explicit declaration of war before the United States next attacks a foreign country, “except in cases of actual or imminent attack of the U.S. by that nation.”

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6. DISCLOSURE OF THE TRUTH AND PREVENTION OF FUTURE ABUSES. High Road is urging a probe of the Bush era, either by a nonpartisan “truth commission” or congressional committee similar to the Church and Ervin committees of the 1970s. Those committees investigated past presidential abuses of the FBI and CIA and led to laws against the government spying on Americans. Those anti-spying laws appear to have been set aside by the Bush administration. House Judiciary Committee Chairman John Conyers, D-Mich., recently filed a bill calling for such a probe.

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7. REPEAL THE MILITARY COMMISSIONS ACT. In 2006, Congress passed a law that officially gave to the president many of the powers the Bush administration had already asserted for itself for the war on terror. The Military Commissions Act said the president wasn't bound by Geneva Convention limits on prisoner treatment, and gave immunity to U.S. employees for war crimes. The act also tried to make military trials of Guantanamo suspects square with the Constitution by saying foreigners named as “enemy combatants” by the president couldn’t ask U.S. courts to intervene in their cases and could be held indefinitely without charges. The Supreme Court rejected that part of the law, saying Guantanamo suspects must be given something like a fair trial. tttt

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“This is a nonpartisan issue,” Anderson says. “Whether the Democrats or Republicans control Congress, or whether there is a Republican or Democrat in the White House, it never matters. Both parties, the leaders in both parties, have been responsible for truly abysmal complacency in the place of major human-rights atrocities.

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“For those who think, ‘Oh, that’s going to be solved now because there is so much hope with the new president,’ we’re going to learn a very sad lesson again. We’ll be worlds ahead with the new administration and Congress, but we as citizens can’t fall back asleep at the switch. We need to keep pushing or we’re not going to see the kind of change people hope for.”

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If progressives want reasons to be suspicious of Obama, Anderson’s got plenty. He points to Obama’s U.N. Ambassador Susan Rice, one of many Clinton retreads in the Obama administration who Anderson faults for “doing nothing” to stop genocide in Rwanda as Clinton's African affairs director. Anderson and like-minded progressives point to Obama’s support for Bush’s phone-tapping program during the presidential campaign or Obama’s initial pick for CIA chief and now Obama's counterterrorism adviser, John Brennan. In the Bush administration CIA, Brennan publicly supported wiretapping, “enhanced interrogation” and the “rendition” of war-on-terror suspects to offshore prisons beyond the reach of American law.

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Many on the left hailed the first days of the Obama administration for the new president’s swift action making good on campaign promises to close Guantanamo, end CIA secret prisons and ban official torture. But Anderson, who was hoping for a shorter timetable on Guantanamo closing, says the injustice of holding innocent prisoners “simply continues” while the Obama review goes forward. “What I’d like to hear from President Obama—and what the world would like to hear—is a firm commitment to the obligations set forth in the Geneva conventions.”

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Obama also has stated his reluctance to begin an open-ended probe of the Bush years like that requested in the High Road letter. Anderson wants something like the 1975 Church Commission that examined abuses of the CIA and FBI and led to laws against government spying on Americans.

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Anderson insists it isn’t about sour grapes. Rather, he argues the Constitution has become Swiss cheese during the past eight years and must be stitched together or leave gaping holes for future abuse. Of Bush administration “perpetrators,” Anderson says, “If these people had robbed the gold buillon out of a government safe, would we just say, ‘Let bygones be bygones; forget the rule of law?’”

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As for the future, Anderson notes some of the worst presidential abuses of the U.S. intelligence community unearthed by the Church Commission occurred during Lyndon Johnson’s Democratic administration.

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“That doesn’t mean Barack Obama is a Lyndon Johnson, but there is no record of Barack Obama during four years in the U.S. Senate ever standing up against torture, against extraordinary rendition, or for a restoration of the rule of law," Anderson says, launching a long, heavily footnoted monologue and working up to the tone of a protest-rally preacher.

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“A Democracy is never safe if there’s not accountability for violations of the law and especially when those violations are committed by the most powerful.”

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REPLY TO THIS COMMENT
Posted // February 5,2009 at 05:30 Limp Fucking Noodle

 

REPLY TO THIS COMMENT
Posted // February 5,2009 at 05:27 Hey John Mac - do you work with Anderson?nnSounds like it.

 

REPLY TO THIS COMMENT
Posted // February 5,2009 at 05:15 I agree with Tom K’s evaluation. Anderson is no builder. He doesn’t bring people together, except on one side of an adversarial situation.nnSo,if you notice a problem and don’t care to solve it, but instead want to fix the blame on someone else, call on the Andersons of the world. But if you want the problem fixed, call on the Mother Teresas or the churches of the world -- who, really, are everywhere.nnHis popularity among some folks (see some of the above comments) is due to the fact that many people have difficulty expressing their anger. Anderson, on the other hand, enjoys in-your-face criticism, whether he’s right or wrong, especially when the problems are somewhere else, like slavery in Asian and Africa, or when the problems are difficult to manage or resolve, like global warming.nnHe’s great at casting blame, but he falls short in resolving problems. This is made all the more clear by his defenders, who always have to exaggerate his work to make him sound good, like the above comments about open space at library square, or the successful 2002 Olympics (it was all Anderson; Mitt Romney and those other guys, including the thousands of Utahns who donated their time, had nothing to do with it).

 

REPLY TO THIS COMMENT
Posted // February 5,2009 at 04:54 And what about all those orange flags at pedestrian crossings. Didn’t Anderson come up with that idea? All right, he didn’t come up with that idea. Other cities did and his people put it in place. But he’s the one who gave all the interviews. And it really caught on -- I’ve even seen them in Park City! So there.

 

REPLY TO THIS COMMENT
Posted // February 5,2009 at 04:27 The above comments have unfortunately veered away from the nub of the CW article - that Bush and his coterie may have violated several laws, and the Constitution itself, and that there is a small but dedicated group working to keep that fact from being forgotten or ignored.nI am not a citizen of SLC, so I have no axe to grind on the issue of whether Rocky was an effective Mayor. I do know that I felt tears of pride whenever Rocky came by in a parade or at a public affair; pride for his detemination to envision the right and to do what he could to effect it.nLet’s focus on what Rocky wants us to focus on - the crimes and misdemeanors of the Bush debacle.nThanks.

 

 
 
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