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Iraq: Another False Prosecution

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Headlined to H3 6/25/14

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Recent events in Iraq demonstrate that wars, like people, are often prosecuted for reasons that have no logical connection to the official explanations offered. In the case of Iraq, various false stories were spun in an attempt to justify an indefensible and undeniably preemptive war. When alleged connections to Al Qaeda and possessing "weapons of mass destruction" proved false, meaningless reasons like the need to spread "freedom" were slyly substituted in an attempt to legitimize the effort. The continuing disintegration of Iraq offers a keen insight into the mindset of those whose idea of freedom is death, destruction and genocide.

While an objective observer might tend to see the disastrous results of the war's prosecution and question the wisdom of the initial engagement, those responsible have been making the rounds and defending their calamitous acts with sociopathic certitude. Former vice-president Dick Cheney penned a puzzling Wall Street Journal op-ed, allegedly co-written by his daughter Liz, in which he blasted the current regime's Iraq policy while failing to acknowledge how the ongoing calamity flows directly from his catastrophic decisions.

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Former U.S. vice president Dick Cheney received five deferments for military service, but continues to bang the drums for others to fight endless war

Cheney writes of Obama in the op-ed, "Rarely has a U.S. president been so wrong about so much at the expense of so many." Numerous observers have questioned exactly which administration Cheney is referencing, citing that the assertion better fits Bush/Cheney's engineering of the ill-fated adventure in Iraq.

Even Fox News, a reliable Bush/Cheney ally, was compelled to correct Cheney's historical revisionism. While appearing with Megyn Kelly, Cheney was grilled on his responsibility for the utter fiasco. Kelly began the interview by introducing Cheney as "the man who helped lead us into Iraq in the first place," and told Cheney, in response to his claim that rarely has a president been so wrong about so much, "Time and time again, history has proven that you got it wrong as well in Iraq, sir."

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Even Fox's Megyn Kelly, a staunchly conservative Bush/Cheney supporter, felt compelled to correct Cheney's mischaracterizations

Cheney appeared to be at least momentarily taken aback as Kelly recited a laundry list of his earlier forecasts about Iraq that turned out to be monstrously wrong. Despite all of the listed predictions being painfully inaccurate, Cheney refused to acknowledge any error and instead attempted to deflect attention to President Obama. He said the Obama administration "precipitated the current crisis" in Iraq, while his daughter Liz tagged along and said they started their new group, Alliance for a Strong America, because "there's a lot out there being said that's frankly not true" where the Bush/Cheney administration is concerned.

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Architects of the Iraq War are attempting to shift responsibility for the ongoing debacle to President Obama

Cheney was hardly alone. The recent exposure of exactly how much of a disaster Iraq has become has brought numerous architects of the Iraq invasion out of the shadows. Like psychotic criminals utterly lacking the capacity for remorse and introspection, they have been alternately defending their actions and/or urging people to forget what happened in the past and simply "move on," for the best of everyone concerned. These shameless apologists are no less dangerous than the jihadists approaching Baghdad.

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George Bush has been strangely scarce since the latest round of bad news began to emerge from Iraq

All of these blatant lies and ridiculously rosy predictions beg the question of where was the media. Sadly, the media was largely complicit. As former Washington Post Pentagon correspondent Thomas Ricks has explained, "(Bush) Administration assertions were on the front page. Things that challenged the administration were on A18 on Sunday or A24 on Monday. There was an attitude among editors: 'Look, we're going to war, why do we even worry about all this contrary stuff?" The New York Times ran similarly regretful stories and its editors noted to its readers that the paper had been "perhaps too intent on rushing scoops into the paper." As is so often the case, the supposedly "independent" media merely did the administration's bidding.

Markedly scarcer in the current media environment are the war's original critics. One would think that these people, having been right all along, would be sought out as a result of their prescience. If anything, the opposite is true as despite being proven to be correct in their reluctance to buy into the rush to war, they remain scarce.

One of the war's most vocal early critics was ex-congressman Dennis Kucinich. Despite having been redistricted out of office and largely forgotten, he recently wrote of the latest turn of events:

As Iraq descends into chaos again, more than a decade after "Mission Accomplished," media commentators and politicians have mostly agreed upon calling the war a "mistake." But the "mistake" rhetoric is the language of denial, not contrition: it minimizes the Iraq War's disastrous consequences, removes blame, and deprives Americans of any chance to learn from our generation's foreign policy disaster. The Iraq War was not a "mistake" -- it resulted from calculated deception. The painful, unvarnished fact is that we were lied to. Now is the time to have the willingness to say that.

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Former congressman Dennis Kucinich was an early and outspoken critic of the Bush/Cheney Iraq debacle

Unfortunately, the war's proponents and their shameless prevarications are getting immeasurably more exposure than those who correctly argued against its initial prosecution. They remain impervious to facts and unable to express even a modicum of contrition.

America's criminal justice system has much in common with the Iraq war. There are a plethora of criminal justice proponents who have a vested interest in maintaining the status quo and seeing as many matters prosecuted to the fullest, regardless of disastrous outcomes and evidence that alternatives would prove to be more effective. Various false data and outrights lies are offered up in support of the entire misguided enterprise in an attempt to convince the public that it is all necessary to "keep them safe."

The current criminal justice debacle is the result of a conglomeration of self-interested parties who greatly profit from over prosecution and mass incarceration. Those feeding from the public trough include judges, probation officers, prosecutors, private prison corporations and various other operators who profit from the State's various wars on people.

(image by mahirdrahumanities.fas.harvard.edu)
America's policy of mass incarceration is viewed by many as an assault on its population

Many point to these various "wars" (War on Drugs, War on Terrorism, etc.) as catalysts for America's explosion in prosecution and incarceration. Like the ill-fated adventure in Iraq, they are open-ended affairs with no clear objective or definition of victory. Proponents refuse to acknowledge the utter failure of these efforts and instead simply create new ways to misrepresent the woeful results while convincing the public that what is needed is an even greater effort.

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The never-ending and destructive War on Drugs has been a major factor behind America's record prison population

Recently, there have been voices calling for reform of America's criminal justice debacle. An interesting mix of elected officials from across the political spectrum have come together in recognizing that there is something very wrong with a system of justice that imprisons more of its citizens than any nation on earth.

Much of the current criticism of the criminal justice system comes from a realization that the ongoing program of mass incarceration simply does achieve its intended goal and its retributive nature may in fact be responsible for an increase in crime. The writer and poet W.H Auden recognized the futility of retribution when he wrote "Those to whom evil is done do evil in return." Still, those steadfastly insisting that only more of the same will solve the suppose problem refuse to objectively consider alternatives. Like those who urged a rush to war in Iraq, many of the enthusiasts of the current system have a vested financial interest in its continuation. The supposed concern for the public's protection is nothing more than a pretense.

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W.H. Auden recognized the ill effects of a cycle of retribution

In April of 2014, the United States Sentencing Commission voted to shorten the prison sentences for certain non-violent drug offenses. While Attorney General Eric Holder publicly supported the move, numerous assistant U.S. attorneys (AUSA's) publicly came out against any relief from the status quo. Despite flowery language referencing "public protection" found in their mission statement, the reticence of federal prosecutors to alleviate the current situation has nothing to do with a concern for those they allegedly serve.

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U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder is proposing moderate sentencing reforms, but even these modest proposals are meeting stiff resistance

The U.S. attorney's office has long served as a springboard for the judicial-corporate ladder. Success is measured in the number of convictions and years imposed, so there is forceful resistance to any proposal which will make the securing of lengthy sentences more difficult. Other self-interested parties have similarly opposed relief from the draconian sentences currently being imposed in U.S. federal courts. These organizations include those representing law enforcement and are quietly trying to extirpate any legislation that would roll back pernicious mandatory sentences for those convicted of federal drug offenses.

As with the Iraq invasion, elected officials often stick with proven talking points, knowing that "get tough" language is often what voters want to hear. In May, three senior Republican senators - Charles Grassley of Iowa, John Cornyn of Texas and Jeff Sessions of Alabama- came out against federal sentencing reductions, disingenuously arguing that mandatory minimums are only used for the highest level of drug traffickers. This mendacity is contradicted by data from the United States Sentencing Commission, which found that at least 40 percent of convicted federal drug defendants were couriers or low-level dealers.

(image by thenation.com)
Senator Jeff Sessions, former federal prosecutor and federal judge, is leading the charge against even modest reformation of the federal criminal justice system

The public's zeal for repressive sentencing measures can be traced to the same media outlets that manipulated popular opinion on the Iraq War. The symbiotic relationship between federal prosecutors and their media myrmidons knows no bounds. What passes for journalism are often regurgitated press releases from the U.S. attorney's office. Sensationalizing offenses and offenders serves the interests of both the media and prosecutors. The more seriously the offense can be portrayed, the more significant the prosecution appears. This deliberate mischaracterization of the offense continues right into court where prosecutors cast the accused in as negative a light as possible in order to secure the harshest conceivable sentence.

While the disaster of the Iraq invasion is unfolding for all to see, the burgeoning fiasco of America's proclivity to punish has yet to be fully recognized. Almost daily stories of false prosecution and wrongful convictions are just the tip of the proverbial iceberg. Less obvious social costs and societal damage are just now being first identified. Donald Braman, an anthropologist at the George Washington University Law School, noted, "The social deprivation and draining of capital from these (minority) communities may well be the greatest contribution our state makes to income inequality. There is no social institution I can think of that comes close to matching it."

It is not difficult to see that locking up a record number of people is a negative for any society. Those justifying and advancing this policy create a tremendous harm, largely for selfish interests, and are arguably more dangerous than those they seek to ensnare within the criminal justice system.

 

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Barry Scott Sussman- Born and raised in New Jersey. Graduated from Rutgers University with a BA in Sociology. Graduated with a JD from the Benjamin Cardozo School of Law specializing in Federal Criminal Procedure and Federal Prosecutorial (more...)
 
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