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Simpich writes: "McGovern just wrote the definitive argument on the disappointments of the Obama presidency - and why it will take an older and more independent individual like Bernie Sanders to get this country anywhere near back on track."

John F. Kennedy on the campaign trail in 1960. (photo: Ted Spiegel/CORBIS)
John F. Kennedy on the campaign trail in 1960. (photo: Ted Spiegel/CORBIS)


Obama Reminds Allies: “Remember What Happened to Dr. King?”

By Bill Simpich, Reader Supported News

12 June 15

 

If there were prosecutions for Bush-era crimes “the CIA, NSA and military would revolt.”
– Christopher Edley, dean of UC Berkeley’s law school and Obama transition team

ay McGovern knows the terrain – he is a former CIA analyst who has prepared presidential Daily Briefs and has chaired National Intelligence Estimates.

McGovern just wrote the definitive argument on the disappointments of the Obama presidency – and why it will take an older and more independent individual like Bernie Sanders to get this country anywhere near back on track.

McGovern points out that fifty-two years ago this week, John F. Kennedy delivered a speech at American University that called for cooperation rather than confrontation with the Soviet Union.

“Kennedy made an urgent appeal to slow down the arms race, and then backed up the rhetoric with a surprise announcement that the U.S. was halting nuclear testing. This daring step terrified those sitting atop the military-industrial complex and, in my opinion, was among the main reasons behind Kennedy’s assassination some five months later.”

The author of this piece used to think JFK was a Cold Warrior. Then he learned how serious Kennedy was about trying to stop the endless arms race. It is stunning to read about how JFK fought his own military to avoid war in Berlin, in Cuba, and in Vietnam.

Kennedy’s death meant that the American military buildup would continue unabated to this very day. The arms race bankrupted the Soviet Union, and is bankrupting this country as well.

In 2008, people united around Obama with the hope that he would turn the ship of state away from war and toward peace.

President Obama and his family. (photo: Brooks Kraft/Corbis for TIME)
President Barack Obama and his family. (photo: Brooks Kraft/Corbis for TIME)

Christopher Edley is the Dean of Boalt Hall, the law school at UC Berkeley, and served on Obama’s transition team. Edley provides to all interested a careful description of the transition team’s fears about what would happen if there were prosecutions for Bush-era crimes. The consensus was that “the CIA, NSA, and military would revolt.” Edley sums it up neatly: “Sometimes politics trumps rule of law.”

When Obama tried to close down the Guantanamo detention camp right after the inauguration, he was told by the power elite that it was impossible. In May 2009, while the Democrats held 59 Senate seats, the Senate blocked any attempt to transfer the prisoners to the United States by a vote of 90-6.” Zachary Katznelson, a senior attorney at the ACLU, said that “President Obama has enough control and power that he can get these men out today if he has the political will to do so ... It is a political decision.”

When military leaders got together with Obama to determine the future of war in Afghanistan in 2009, all of the options given to him were to increase the number of troops. Obama went along. Otherwise, as Rolling Stone reported, Obama would “face a full-scale mutiny of his generals.” Obama fired one of these generals, Stanley McChrystal, only after he mocked Obama’s advisors and Vice President Biden right in front of reporter Michael Hastings.

Obama has said he wants to bring an end to nuclear weapons. The states of the former Soviet Union relinquished most of theirs in the years after 1991. Yet Obama continues to invest untold billions into modernizing nuclear weapons, and approves virtually every military spending request.

For three years, Ray McGovern has revealed how Obama reacted when he was confronted with the impact of these decisions, from a story told to him first-hand by a friend at the scene:

Shortly before his re-election in 2012, Obama reportedly was braced at a small dinner party by wealthy donors who wanted to know whatever happened to the ‘progressive Obama.’ The President did not take kindly to the criticism, rose from the table, and said, ‘Don’t you remember what happened to Dr. King?’”

It is, of course, a fair question as to whether Obama should have run for President if he knew such fears might impinge on his freedom of decision. But let’s ask the other question: What did happen to Martin Luther King Jr.? Would you believe that the vast majority of Americans know only that he was killed and have no idea as to who killed him and why?

McGovern finds himself mulling over a 1999 trial in Memphis not far from where King was murdered. In a wrongful death lawsuit initiated by the King family, the 12 jurors, six black and six white, returned after two hours of deliberation with a verdict that Dr. King was killed by a group that included members of agencies of his own government. McGovern concludes:

My hunch is that Obama walks around afraid, and that this helps explain why he feels he has to kowtow to the worst kind of thugs and liars lingering in his own administration – the torturers, the perjurers, and the legerdemain lawyers who can even make waterboarding, which Obama publicly condemned as torture, magically legal.

I am slightly more forgiving than Ray McGovern – not much. I never expected very much. Obama is still a relatively young man, with a wonderful wife and two young daughters. He has a lot to lose.

There have been repeated failures by the Secret Service during his administration. Obama told the Secret Service that he wanted the code name “Renegade.” I think there’s a reason why. I have heard that during the early days there were run-ins between the Secret Service and Obama’s security people.

Journalist Ronald Kessler wrote in his book about the Secret Service that at Obama’s inauguration “the lack of security was absurd.” Kessler felt the same way when the Secret Service ordered that the magnetometer be turned off prior to an Obama rally of 17,000 at the Reunion Hall in Dallas on February 20, 2008. It’s hard to imagine what would have happened if Obama had been killed in Dallas that night.

Why are there so many incidents at the White House involving breach of the security of the president and his family?

When a Washington couple crashed the first State dinner in 2009 because the Secret Service failed to check if they were on the guest list?

Or when Sasha Obama was inside the White House in 2011, a man with a semiautomatic rifle took seven shots at the building? The supervising Secret Service sergeant told his officers to stand down. The claim was the shots were not aimed at the White House. Only when a housekeeper found broken glass and a chunk of cement did the Secret Service acknowledge that bullets were fired at the White House. The president and Michelle Obama were livid.

Or when a fence-jumper ran right inside the White House door unchallenged last year? The security alarm had been disabled because it was “too noisy.” If he had not dashed past the stairway, he could have gone up a half flight and been inside the family’s living quarters.

We need a full investigation of the Secret Service – the list of outrages put together by NBC News is voluminous. We also need presidential candidates like Bernie Sanders who are fearless and focus on the hardest issues right at the very beginning. I remember seeing a YouTube video of the Obamas discussing their fears of assassination. I give them credit for coming forward. They needed to go the last mile.

Heroes and heroines have warned their families from time immemorial that all of us must be prepared to pay the ultimate price. This is not a pleasant topic, but the subject cannot be treated as taboo. Preventive medicine is the best medicine.

President Barack Obama and his family. (photo: Callie Shell/Aurora for TIME)
President Barack Obama and his family. (photo: Callie Shell/Aurora for TIME)



Bill Simpich is an Oakland attorney who knows that it doesn’t have to be like this. He was part of the legal team chosen by Public Justice as Trial Lawyer of the Year in 2003 for winning a jury verdict of 4.4 million in Judi Bari’s lawsuit against the FBI and the Oakland police.

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