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Progressives: Defeat Romney/Ryan in Swing States

I agree with nearly everything Jill Stein of the Greens and Rocky Anderson of the Justice Party say: except when they say “vote for me” in swing states.

Here’s why:

It is critical to prevent a Republican administration under Romney/Ryan from taking office in January 2013.

The election is just a week away, and I want to urge those whose values are generally like mine—progressives, especially activists—to make this a high priority.

An activist colleague recently said to me: “I hear you’re supporting Obama.”  I was startled, and took offense.

“I lose no opportunity,” I told him angrily, “to identify Obama publicly as a servant of Wall Street: a man who’s decriminalized torture and is still complicit in it, a drone assassin, someone who’s launched an unconstitutional war, who claims authority to detain American citizens and others indefinitely without charges or even to execute them without due process, and who has prosecuted more whistleblowers like myself than all previous presidents put together. Would you call that support?”

My friend said, “But on Democracy Now you urged people in swing states to vote for him!  How could you say that?  I don’t live in a swing state, but I will not and could not vote for Obama under any circumstances.”

I said to him: “Like it or not, we have a two-party system in America. The only real alternative for the next four years is Mitt Romney, who has endorsed every one of those criminal and unconstitutional offenses. And those are promises I believe he will keep.  That’s a terrible situation, but it won’t be improved by replacing Obama with Romney.

“I don’t ‘support Obama’. I oppose the current Republican party. Obama’s policies, as I see them, range from criminal to—at their best—improvements on the recent past, partial and inadequate.  But current Republican policies range from criminal to disastrous. That’s not really a hard choice.”

This not a contest between Barack Obama and a progressive—primary challenger or major candidate—or even a Republican who’s good on foreign policy and civil liberties like Ron Paul or Gary Johnson. What voters in a handful or a dozen close-fought swing states are going to determine on November 6 is whether or not Mitt Romney and Paul Ryan are going to wield great political power for four, maybe eight years.

A Romney/Ryan administration would be no better on any of the constitutional violations I mentioned, or on anything else. But it would be catastrophically worse on many other important issues: The likelihood of attacking Iran, Supreme and Federal Court appointments, the economy and jobs, women’s reproductive rights, health coverage, the safety net, green energy and the environment.

As Noam Chomsky said recently,“The Republican organization today is extremely dangerous, not just to this country, but to the world. It’s worth expending some effort to prevent their rise to power, without sowing illusions about the Democratic alternatives.”

He also told an interviewer: “Between the two choices that are presented, there are I think some significant differences. If I were a person in a swing state, I’d vote against Romney/Ryan, which means voting for Obama because there is no other choice. I happen to be in a non-swing state, so I can either not vote or—as I probably will—vote for [Green Party candidate] Jill Stein.”

I see it the same way. Chomsky lives in Massachusetts, a “safe” blue state.  I too live in a non-swing state, blue California, so I too intend to vote for a progressive candidate, either Jill Stein or (as a write-in) my friend Rocky Anderson of the Justice Party.

Along with Jim Hightower, Barbara Ehrenreich, Frances Fox Piven, Cornel West and others, I have encouraged others in non-swing states (including red states like Texas and Mississippi) to consider doing the same, in contrast to what we urge progressives in swing states to do, which is to vote against Romney/Ryan by voting for Obama/Biden.

We see long-term merit for our movement in registering a large protest vote against both major candidates and in favor of a truly progressive platform.  In the almost 40 non-swing states—red or blue—that can be done without significant risk of affecting the electoral votes of those states or the final outcome in favor of the Republicans.

But that isn’t true in the dozen or less battleground states—Ohio, Virginia Florida, Iowa, Colorado, Iowa, Wisconsin, along with Nevada, New Hampshire, North Carolina, Pennsylvania—where decisions by relatively small numbers of progressives to vote for a third party or not to vote at all would risk and might well result in a Republican triumph. That risk, as we see it, outweighs any benefits there might be in pursuing votes for a progressive third party in those states.

I personally agree with almost everything Jill Stein and Rocky Anderson have to say—except when they say “Vote for me” in a swing state.

This election is a toss-up. That means this is one of the uncommon occasions when we progressives—a small minority of the electorate—could actually determine the outcome of a national election. We might swing it one way or the other by how we vote and what we say about voting to fellow progressives in the battleground states.

Given that third party candidates with genuinely progressive platforms are on the ballots of most of these swing states, their supporters—who might successfully encourage those with the same values to vote for Jill Stein or Rocky Anderson instead of Obama—could well provide the margin for Romney that would send him to the White House.

If, to the contrary, such voters in those states could be convinced  to overcome their disinclination to vote for Obama, they could crucially block the far more regressive agenda of the Republican Party.

Our task is clear. The only way to block Romney/Ryan from office is to persuade enough people in swing states to vote for Obama—not stay home or vote for someone else.  And that has to include progressives and disillusioned liberals who are inclined not to vote at all or vote for a third-party candidate (because like me, they’re not just disappointed but disgusted and even enraged by much of what Obama has done in the last four years and will probably keep doing).

This is not easy. But it’s precisely the effort that is worth expending right now to prevent the Republicans’ rise to power.  And it will take progressives—some of you reading this, I hope—to make that effort effectively.

It’s true the differences between the major parties are not nearly as large as they and their candidates claim, let alone what we would want. In many aspects, especially in the areas of foreign and military policy and civil liberties that are the focus of my own activism, their policies closely converge (though small differences remain significant, all favoring Obama/Biden over Romney/Ryan).

It’s even fair to use Gore Vidal’s metaphor that they form two wings (“two right wings”) of a single party, the Money or Plutocracy Party, or as Justin Raimondo calls it, the War Party.

Still, the reality is there are two distinguishable wings, and one is even worse than the other. To deny that reality serves only the possibly imminent, yet still avoidable, victory of the worse.

The traditional third-party mantra, “There’s no significant difference between the major parties” amounts to saying: “The Republicans are no worse, overall.” And that’s absurd. It constitutes shameless apologetics for the Republicans, however unintended. It’s crazily divorced from the present reality.  (I say that although I agree with virtually every passionate criticism of Obama’s policies I’ve ever heard from the left. What I don’t hear from third-party partisans is comparable realism about the Republicans.)

Some progressives who do acknowledge that the Romney/Ryan party is “marginally” worse in some respects nevertheless believe that “worse is better” for progress in the longer run, by evoking more effective protest and resistance—especially from Democrats in Congress and the media—and a popular turn to leftist leadership and policies. But, historically, they’re profoundly wrong. That hoary theory would seem to have been well tested and demolished by eight years under George W. Bush.

And it’s very harmful to be propagating either of those false perspectives. They encourage progressives in battleground states either to refrain from voting or to vote for someone other than Obama, and more importantly, to influence others to do the same. That serves no one but the Republicans and  the 1%, and not only in the short run.

It is true that Obama has often acted outrageously, not merely timidly or “disappointingly.”  If impeachment on constitutional grounds were politically imaginable, he’s earned it (like George W. Bush, and many of his predecessors.)  It is entirely understandable to not want to reward him with another term or a vote that might be taken to mean trust, hope or approval.

But to punish Obama by depriving him of progressives’ votes in battleground states and hence of office, in favor of Romney and Ryan, would serve to punish most of the poor and marginal in society, along with women, workers and the middle class. It would mean the end of Roe v. Wade, via Supreme Court appointments.

And the damaging impact would be not only in the U.S. but worldwide. In terms of the economy, I believe the Republicans would not only deepen the recession, but could convert it to a Great Depression.  They would attack women’s reproductive rights globally, and further worsen the environment and the prospects of climate change. Disastrously, it could lead to war with Iran  (a possibility even with Obama, but far more likely under Romney).

The re-election of Obama, in itself, is not going to bring serious progressive change, end militarism and empire, or restore the Constitution and the rule of law. That’s for us and the rest of the public to bring about after this election and for the rest of our lives—through organizing, building movements and agitating.

But to urge people in swing states to “vote their conscience” by voting for a third-party candidate is dangerously misleading advice. I would say to a progressive in a battleground state that if your conscience is telling you to vote for someone other than Obama, you need a second opinion. Your conscience seems to be ignoring the realistic impact of your actions or inactions. You need to reexamine your estimates of likely consequences and moral reasoning.

Our demonstrations, petitions, movement building and civil disobedience—including protest and resistance to the wrongful practices of the incumbent administration—are needed every month, every year, including campaign seasons like this one. (I faced trial two weeks ago, with fourteen others, for civil disobedience protesting Obama’s continued tests of the Minuteman III ICBM’s, my fifth arrest protesting policies of President Obama, including the treatment of Bradley Manning and the continuation of war in Afghanistan).

But it has been clear for months that this is a moment when effective resistance to an even worse alternative administration that is within sight of power is also urgently needed, leading up to and on Election Day.

In this last week of this campaign, there is no more effective or pressing political effort which progressives can undertake than to make their voices heard—through e-mails, blogs, social media and public appearances—to encourage citizens in swing states to vote against a Romney victory by voting for the only real alternative, Barack Obama.

Obama Gave Manning “Verdict First, Trial Later.”

Edited excerpts of transcript from Keith Olbermann’s interview of Daniel Ellsberg on Current:

ELLSBERG: The commander-in-chief, President Obama, gave Manning ‘verdict first, trial later.’ He said Manning had broken the law, before even the prosecution case had been heard, let alone the defense case. He said he was guilty,

That alone is virtually a directed verdict. It’s unlawful command influence on the subordinate officers, who will be carrying out both this decision, and later in the trial. The court martial should be out for that reason alone.

Second, the way Manning has been treated at my old base at Quantico, was shameful, and amounted to torture. My own case, the first one ever brought on this, was dismissed for reasons of “gross governmental misconduct” by President Nixon. There has been gross governmental misconduct in this case, in the form of that 10-and-a-half months of isolation. The case should be dismissed, for that reason. But it won’t be.

Obama’s practically got a war going on here against whistleblowers. He’s setting precedents here for the use of the Espionage Act against whistleblowers, which is of very questionable constitutionality in this guise. It was meant for espionage, and has often been used against espionage successfully.

But he’s setting a precedent of using it against whistleblowers now–five times under Obama now, and only three times in all the years before Obama.

40 Years Ago Today, the New York Times Began Publishing the Pentagon Papers

Forty years ago today—June 13, 1971—the New York Times began publishing the top secret study which came to be known as the Pentagon Papers.

Daniel Ellsberg talked with the AP on the anniversary:

“I was part, on a middle level, of what is best described as a conspiracy by the government to get us into war,” [Ellsberg] said. Johnson publicly vowed that he sought no wider war, Ellsberg recalled, a message that played out in the 1964 presidential campaign as LBJ portrayed himself as the peacemaker against the hawkish Republican Barry Goldwater.

Meantime, his administration manipulated South Vietnam into asking for U.S. combat troops and responded to phantom provocations from North Vietnam with stepped-up force.

“It couldn’t have been a more dramatic fraud,” Ellsberg said. “Everything the president said was false during the campaign.”

His message to whistleblowers now: Speak up sooner. “Don’t do what I did. Don’t wait until the bombs start falling.”

In an op-ed for the Guardian published today, Daniel wrote:

What we need released this month are the Pentagon Papers of Iraq and Afghanistan (and Pakistan, Yemen and Libya). . . .

Yes, the languages and ethnicities that we don’t understand are different in the Middle East from those in Vietnam; the climate, terrain and types of ambushes are very different. But as the accounts in the Pentagon Papers explain, we face the same futile effort in Afghanistan to find and destroy nationalist guerrillas or to get them to quit fighting foreign invaders (now us) and the corrupt, ill-motivated, dope-dealing despots we support. As in Vietnam, the more troops we deploy and the more adversaries we kill (along with civilians), the quicker their losses are made good and the more their ranks grow, since it’s our very presence, our operations and our support of a regime without legitimacy that is the prime basis for their recruiting. . . .

In accounts of wars 40 years and half a world apart, we read of the same irresponsible, self-serving presidential and congressional objectives in prolonging and escalating an unwinnable conflict: namely, the need not to be charged with weakness by political rivals, or with losing a war that a few feckless or ambitious generals foolishly claim can be won. Putting the policy-making and the field realities together, we see the same prospect of endless, bloody stalemate – unless and until, under public pressure, Congress threatens to cut off the money (as in 1972-73), forcing the executive into a negotiated withdrawal.

To motivate voters and Congress to extricate us from these presidential wars, we need the Pentagon Papers of the Middle East wars right now. Not 40 years in the future. Not after even two or three more years of further commitment to stalemated and unjustifiable wars.

Yet, we’re not likely to get these ever within the time frame they’re needed. The WikiLeaks’ unauthorised disclosures of the last year are the first in 40 years to approach the scale of the Pentagon Papers (and even surpass them in quantity and timeliness). But unfortunately, the courageous source of these secret, field-level reports – Private Bradley Manning is the one accused, though that remains to be proven in court – did not have access to top secret, high-level recommendations, estimates and decisions.

Very, very few of those who do have such access are willing to risk their clearances and careers – and the growing possibility (under President Obama) of prosecution – by documenting to Congress and the public even policies that they personally believe are disastrous and wrongly kept secret and lied about. I was one – and far from alone – with such access and such views, as a special assistant to the assistant secretary of defence for international security affairs in the Pentagon in 1964-65. . . .

I’ve long regretted that it didn’t even occur to me, in August 1964, to release the documents in my Pentagon safe giving the lie to claims of an “unequivocal, unprovoked” (unreal) attack on our destroyers in the Tonkin Gulf: precursors of the “evidence beyond any doubt” of nonexistent WMDs in Iraq, which manipulated Congress, once again, to pass the exact counterpart of the Tonkin Gulf resolution.

Senator Morse – one of the two senators who had voted against that unconstitutional, undated blank cheque for presidential war in 1964 – told me that if I had provided him with that evidence at the time (instead of 1969, when I finally provided it to the senate foreign relations committee, on which he had served): “The Tonkin Gulf resolution would never have gotten out of committee; and if it had been brought to the floor, it would have been voted down.”

That’s a heavy burden for me to bear: especially when I reflect that, by September, I had a drawer-full of the top secret documents (again, regrettably, not published until 1971) proving the fraudulence of Johnson’s promises of “no wider war” in his election campaign, and his actual determination to escalate a war that he privately and realistically regarded as unwinnable.

Had I or one of the scores of other officials who had the same high-level information acted then on our oath of office – which was not an oath to obey the president, nor to keep the secret that he was violating his own sworn obligations, but solely an oath “to support and defend the constitution of the United States” – that terrible war might well have been averted altogether. But to hope to have that effect, we would have needed to disclose the documents when they were current, before the escalation – not five or seven, or even two, years after the fateful commitments had been made.

A lesson to be drawn from reading the Pentagon Papers, knowing all that followed or has come out in the years since, is this. To those in the Pentagon, state department, the White House, CIA (and their counterparts in Britain and other Nato countries) who have similar access to mine then and foreknowledge of disastrous escalations in our wars in the Middle East, I would say:

Don’t make my mistake. Don’t do what I did. Don’t wait until a new war has started in Iran, until more bombs have fallen in Afghanistan, in Pakistan, Libya, Iraq or Yemen. Don’t wait until thousands more have died, before you go to the press and to Congress to tell the truth with documents that reveal lies or crimes or internal projections of costs and dangers. Don’t wait 40 years for it to be declassified, or seven years as I did for you or someone else to leak it.

The personal risks are great. But a war’s worth of lives might be saved.

Ellsberg on Obama’s View that Manning’s Treatment is “Appropriate”

[This statement by Daniel Ellsberg was published in the Guardian (UK), two days before P.J. Crowley was fired.]

President Obama tells us that he’s asked the Pentagon whether the conditions of confinement of Bradley Manning, the soldier charged with leaking state secrets, “are appropriate and are meeting our basic standards. They assure me that they are.”

If Obama believes that, he’ll believe anything. I would hope he would know better than to ask the perpetrators whether they’ve been behaving appropriately. I can just hear President Nixon saying to a press conference the same thing: “I was assured by the the White House Plumbers that their burglary of the office of Daniel Ellsberg’s doctor in Los Angeles was appropriate and met basic standards.”

When that criminal behavior ordered from the Oval Office came out, Nixon faced impeachment and had to resign. Well, times have changed. But if President Obama really doesn’t yet know the actual conditions of Manning’s detention – if he really believes, as he’s said, that “some of this [nudity, isolation, harassment, sleep-deprivation] has to do with Private Manning’s wellbeing”, despite the contrary judgments of the prison psychologist – then he’s being lied to, and he needs to get a grip on his administration.

If he does know, and agrees that it’s appropriate or even legal, that doesn’t speak well for his memory of the courses he taught on constitutional law.

The president refused to comment on PJ Crowley’s statement that the treatment of Manning is “ridiculous, counterproductive and stupid”. Those words are true enough as far as they go – which is probably about as far as a state department spokesperson can allow himself to go in condemning actions of the defence department. But at least two other words are called for: abusive and illegal.

Crowley was responding to a question about the “torturing” of an American citizen, and, creditably, he didn’t rebut that description. Prolonged isolation, sleep deprivation, nudity – that’s right out of the manual of the CIA for “enhanced interrogation”. We’ve seen it applied in Guantánamo and Abu Ghraib. It’s what the CIA calls “no-touch torture”, and its purpose there, as in this case, is very clear: to demoralise someone to the point of offering a desired confession. That’s what they are after, I suspect, with Manning. They don’t care if the confession is true or false, so long as it implicates WikiLeaks in a way that will help them prosecute Julian Assange.

That’s just my guess, as to their motives. But it does not affect the illegality of the behavior. If I’m right, it’s likely that such harsh treatment wasn’t ordered at the level of a warrant officer or the brig commander. The fact that they have continued to inflict such suffering on the prisoner despite weeks of complaint from his defence counsel, harsh publicity and condemnation from organisations such as Amnesty International, suggests to me that it might have come from high levels of the defence department or the justice department, if not from the White House itself.

It’s no coincidence that it’s someone from the state department who has gone off-message to speak out about this. When a branch of the US government makes a mockery of our pretensions to honour the rule of law, specifically our obligation not to use torture, the state department bears the brunt of that, as it affects our standing in the world.

The fact that Manning’s abusive mistreatment is going on at Quantico – where I spent nine months as a Marine officer in basic school – and that Marines are lying about it, makes me feel ashamed for the Corps. Just three years as an infantry officer was more than enough time for me to know that what is going on there is illegal behaviour that must be stopped and disciplined.

Daniel Ellsberg on Colbert Report: Julian Assange is Not a Criminal Under the Laws of the United States

The Colbert Report Mon – Thurs 11:30pm / 10:30c
International Manhunt for Julian Assange – Daniel Ellsberg
www.colbertnation.com
Colbert Report Full Episodes Political Humor & Satire Blog March to Keep Fear Alive

[Daniel’s segment starts at 4:06]

ELLSBERG: Julian Assange is not a criminal under the laws of the United States. I was the first one prosecuted for the charges that would be brought against him. I was the first person ever prosecuted for a leak in this country—although there had been a lot of leaks before me. That’s because the First Amendment kept us from having an Official Secrets Act. . . . The founding of this country was based on the principle that the government should not have a say as to what we hear, what we think, and what we read. . . .

If Bradley Manning did what he’s accused of, then he’s a hero if mine and I think he did a great service to this country. We’re not in the mess we’re in, in the world, because of too many leaks. . . . I say there should be some secrets. But I also say we invaded Iraq illegally because of a lackof a Bradley Manning at that time.

Ellsberg: “EVERY attack now made on WikiLeaks and Julian Assange was made against me and the release of the Pentagon Papers at the time.”

[Below is a news release put out by the Institute for Public Accuracy, co-signed by Daniel Ellsberg]

Ex-Intelligence Officers, Others See Plusses in WikiLeaks Disclosures

WASHINGTON – December 7 – The following statement was released today, signed by Daniel Ellsberg, Frank Grevil, Katharine Gun, David MacMichael, Ray McGovern, Craig Murray, Coleen Rowley and Larry Wilkerson; all are associated with Sam Adams Associates for Integrity in Intelligence.

WikiLeaks has teased the genie of transparency out of a very opaque bottle, and powerful forces in America, who thrive on secrecy, are trying desperately to stuff the genie back in. The people listed below this release would be pleased to shed light on these exciting new developments. Continue Reading

Daniel Ellsberg Documentary, “The Most Dangerous Man in America,” Premieres Tonight on PBS

“The Most Dangerous Man in America,” the Academy-Award-nominated documentary about Daniel Ellsberg, premieres tonight nationwide on PBS. Check the link for more info and local listings. You will also be able to watch the entire film for free via that link between Oct. 6-Oct. 27.

Daniel was interviewed by about parallels between Afghanistan and Vietnam on the USA Today site here.

Did you watch the film? What are your reactions? Leave them in the comment section!

Daniel Ellsberg’s WikiLeaks Wishlist- Will a Patriotic Truthteller Please Leak These Documents?

Daniel Ellsberg told the Washington Post the four documents he most wishes someone would release to WikiLeaks:

1. The official U.S. “order of battle” estimates of the Taliban in Afghanistan, detailing its size, organization and geographic breakdown — in short, the total of our opponents in this war. If possible, a comparison of the estimate in December 2009 (when President Obama decided on a troop increase and new strategy) and the estimate in June or July 2010 (after six or seven months of the new strategy). We would probably see that our increased presence and activities have strengthened the Taliban, as has happened over the past three years.

2. Memos from the administration’s decision-making process between July and December 2009 on the new strategy for Afghanistan, presenting internal critiques of the McChrystal-Petraeus strategy and troop requests — similar to the November 2009 cables from Ambassador Karl W. Eikenberry that were leaked in January. In particular, memos by Vice President Biden, national security adviser Jim Jones and others; responses to the critiques; and responses to the responses. This paperwork would probably show that, like Eikenberry, other high-level internal critics of escalation made a stronger and more realistic case than its advocates, warranting congressional reexamination of the president’s policy.

3. The draft revision, known as a “memo to holders,” of the National Intelligence Estimate on Iran from November 2007. This has been held up for the past several months, apparently because it is consistent with the judgment of that NIE that Iran has not made a decision to produce nuclear weapons. In particular, the contribution to that memo by the State Department’s Bureau of Intelligence and Research (INR), since the INR has had the best track record on such matters. Plus, estimates by the INR and others of the likelihood of an Israeli attack on Iran later this summer. Such disclosures could arrest momentum toward a foreseeably disastrous U.S.-supported attack, as the same finding did in 2007.

4. The 28 or more pages on the foreknowledge or involvement of foreign governments (particularly Saudi Arabia) that were redacted from the congressional investigation of 9/11, over the protest of then-Sen. Bob Graham (D-Fla.).

On each of these matters, congressional investigation is called for. The chance of this would be greatly strengthened by leaks from insiders. Subsequent hearings could elicit testimony from the insiders who provided the information (whose identities could be made known to congressional investigators) and others who, while not willing to take on the personal risks of leaking, would be ready to testify honestly under oath if requested or subpoenaed by Congress. Leaks are essential to this process.