Monday, May 26, 2008



I suppose, to countless families in Iraq, George Bush is no batter than former Ethiopian dictator Mengistu Haile Mariam. Each is someone who seized control of a powerful government apparatus and used its destructive might killing and maiming and ruining the very functioning capacity of civil society. Today Ethiopia's supreme court sentenced Mengistu to death. He's living in comfortable exile in Zimbabwe so it isn't likely that the death sentence will be carried out. And the people of Iraq don't have possession of George W. Bush.

Until he absconds to Paraguay, we do. Will Bush ever be tried? Will his cronies and accomplices who made up his criminal regime? Don't count on it-- especially not with Blue Dog "Democrats" like Melissa Bean (IL), John Barrow (GA), Leonard Boswell (IA) working with Republicans to grant more and more Bush crooks retroactive immunity so that they can never be tried for their crimes. There isn't much people can do about this... or is there?

People in Maryland rose up on primary day and defeated Bush-collaborationist Al Wynn and replaced him with a real Democrat, Donna Edwards, who has vowed to oppose retroactive immunity with all her might. There are still primaries pitting supporters of retroactive immunity against people who want to law to take its course. Above, I mentioned Leonard Boswell and John Barrow. I singled them out because they are both major Bush rubber stamps, because they both signed the letter to Nancy Pelosi demanding retroactive immunity-- and, most important, because they are both facing strong progressive opponents in their respective primaries. Iowa votes June 3 and Ed Fallon is running neck and neck with Boswell. Regina Thomas in Georgia will face off with Barrow on July 15. Regina and Ed oppose retroactive immunity.

Almost all the non-Blue Dog Democrats running for Congress oppose retroactive immunity and want to see criminals go to court and face judges and juries just like the Constitution says they should. Republicans and Blue Dogs want to see special exceptions for the rich and powerful, for the Mengistus of our country. Jim Inhofe of Oklahoma is most reviled by people around the country because he is a corporately well-paid climate changed denier. But there are many things about Inhofe that make him anathema to Americans who want a better and fairer society. If it's better and if it's fairer, he opposes it... always. Predictably, Inhofe is fanatically fighting for retroactive immunity. The populist Democrat running against him is state Senator Andrew Rice. The other day I asked Andre about retroactive immunity and this is what he told me:
"Having lost my brother in the World Trade Center on 9/11, I am very sensitive to the importance of the U.S. intelligence community's ability to effectively monitor foreign terrorist targets. However, our country must preserve our constitutional principles and such monitoring must be accomplished without compromising the civil liberties of American citizens. I am hopeful that Congress is on the verge of finally properly scrutinizing the Bush Administration's warrantless surveillance programs, and can create reasonable legislation that provides our government the tools it needs to monitor legitimate international threats, while at the same time not compromising the personal liberties of law-abiding Americans. Members of congress must ensure that any surveillance of U. S. Citizens be granted with the proper warrant. If they fail to accomplish this, then we will have lost something very sacred about America and what our system of values is supposed to provide for all Americans.
The provision for corporate immunity for the telecom companies who may have violated federal law is unacceptable and unfortunately another example of the Bush administration wanting the legislative branch to craft legislation that protects the executive branch from its own incompetance."

Similarly, Debbie Cook in Orange County is running against the loopy Republican-Taliban member of Congress, Dana Rohrabacher. Recently Rohrabacher used typical Rovian scare tactics when talking about why he wants to make sure Bush and his cronies never face justice: "Just think about shutting down the interceptions because of some misplaced notion about protecting American rights and we end up with families being murdered at Disneyland because some messages weren't intercepted."

Debbie responded immediately-- and the same way I think the Founding Fathers would have: "Since 1776, Americans have fought and died to defend the rights guaranteed by our Constitution. The 4th amendment is not "some misplaced notion," and it's unconscionable that any member of Congress who has sworn to uphold the Constitution would vote for retroactive immunity."

If you're in Orange County you can vote for Debbie in November, just like you can vote for Ed Fallon in Des Moines, for Regina Thomas in Augusta and Savannah and for Andrew Rice in Oklahoma. These 4 candidates are also part of the Blue America contest that started today. No matter where you live, you can vote for them today at our Blue America page.

If the Bush Regime's crimes aren't dealt with-- and dealt with seriously-- they will be repeated. Ethiopia has its Red Terror, let's hope we never have one here.
"Considering the prosecution's appeal that a life sentence was not commensurate to the crimes committed by the Mengistu regime, the court decided to sentence him to death," the court said in its ruling.

The prosecution in July appealed a life term handed to Mengistu in January 2007, after he was found guilty of genocide for thousands of killings during a 17-year rule that included famine, war and the "Red Terror" purges of suspected opponents.

He and more than a dozen other senior officers were found guilty after a 12-year trial that ruled Mengistu's government was directly responsible for the deaths of 2,000 people and the torture of at least 2,400.

Witnesses had told the court that family members who went to collect the bodies of their loved ones were asked to pay for the bullets that killed them, and evidence included torture videos.

Mengistu seized power in 1974 after the overthrow of Emperor Haile Selassie, and clawed his way to the top in the military junta called the Derg.

His regime's brutality was exemplified by the Red Terror purges of 1977-78, in which at least 1,200 suspected political opponents were murdered and their bodies dumped in the streets as a warning to others.

"Crimes committed by Mengistu and his co-defendants by killing an emperor and burying him under a toilet is unheard of in the annals of human history," the court ruling said.
Mengistu's 19 co-defendants were also sentenced to death, but one, Lieutenant Akililou Belae, was sentenced to life.

The sentence will be carried out after the head of state approves it.

Zimbabwe has refused to extradite Mengistu since he fled there in 1991, when rebels led by current Prime Minister Meles Zenawi toppled his regime and took the capital Addis Ababa.

But were Mugabe to cede power if he loses next month's run-off to opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai, Mengistu could be extradited.

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