With well-known Iraq objector Ehren Watada waiting to face his second court martial, objector Agustin Aguayo was found guilty of desertion earlier today. He fled on September 2 from a window of his on-base home in Germany while officers were there trying to force him to redeploy. Here's the Los Angeles Times:

Aguayo first applied for conscientious objector status in February 2004, just before his unit deployed to Iraq.

A combat medic with the 1st Battalion, 18th Infantry Regiment, he served for one year at a base near Tikrit -- often refusing to load his weapon while on guard duty -- while his application was being considered.

The Army rejected his request, and after numerous appeal attempts failed...Aguayo faced a second deployment to Iraq last summer.

Aguayo may face up to 7 years in prison. The number of conscientious objector applications tripled when the Iraq war began, and has held steady since then.

Scooter Libby's legal defense fund has yet to start calling for a presidential pardon. But while it rejiggers its strategy, let's get reacquainted with the group's head, Republican donor and former ambassador Mel Sembler. As John Gorenfeld wrote in our May 2006 issue:

...Sembler knows a thing or two about the humiliations of involuntary confinement. For 17 years, he directed Straight, Inc., a substance-abuse rehab and behavior modification program that treated American teens like terrorism suspects. Sembler's official bio boasts that the "remarkable program" — where children had to flap their arms like chickens or else face shaming as "sluts" and homosexuals — treated 12,000 kids. President George H.W. Bush hailed it as one of his "thousand points of light." But in the early '90s, amid state investigations and suits filed by clients claiming physical and mental abuse, his clinics were dismantled. Hundreds of Straight alums now claim they were scarred for life, among them Samantha Monroe, who was enrolled in 1980 at age 12 and claims she was starved, raped, and confined in a closet.

Once a point of light, always a point of light, I guess.

 libby110.jpg The pressing question for Scooter Libby, now that he's been convicted on four of the five counts against him and faces 25 years in prison, is how to get off the hook. Who will pardon him and when? The answer to the first question is Bush, probably, but would W. really do it in the middle of the 2008 presidential campaign? That would surely sink the already rickety Republican ship.

Libby is to be sentenced in June and cynical professionals in Washington don't expect him to do any jail time. They know he'll get off one way or another. Key pardons of the past:

  • President Jerry Ford pardoned Richard Nixon for official misconduct on September 8,1974. Of course, that was after Nixon resigned. At the time polls showed Americans were against the pardon.
  • Jimmy Carter pardoned Vietnam war resisters.
  • George H.W. Bush pardoned 75 people. They included six top Reagan administration officials tied up in the Iran contra scandal. (Bush senior owed his very political existence to Reagan. Reagan trounced him in the Republicans primaries in '80, then magnanimously offered him the vice presidency, which the Connecticut blueblood grabbed.) Casper Weinberger, secretary of Defense, was convicted of lying to the independent counsel. He was pardoned by Bush Sr.
  • Clinton pardoned billionaire Marc Rich.
  • -- James Ridgeway

     david_hicks65x70.jpg Few people in America know who David Hicks is. He's an Australian man who was captured in Afghanistan shortly after 9/11 and last week was the first person stored away at Guantanamo to be formally charged by the United States government under the new system of military tribunals. Hicks had been in Gitmo for five years (he claims he was subject to beatings), and was there under an allegation of attempted murder until the charges came down. At that point attempted murder was dropped because of lack of evidence (see Padilla, Jose) and Hicks was instead charged with material support of terrorism, which wasn't illegal until 2006.

    Well, now that Hicks's case is actually going to trial, the government is considering charging Hicks' lawyer with "using contemptuous language towards the president, vice-president, and secretary of defense." Apparently that's illegal for a military lawyer (free speech is notoriously lacking in the Armed Services). Never mind the obvious question of how the man is supposed to do his job without violating that law; penalties for that offense include jail time and loss of employment and Hicks' lawyer -- Major Michael Mori of Massachusetts, who has been criticized by the military for repeatedly traveling to Australia to speak out against Hicks' treatment and taking part in events like vigils on Hicks' behalf -- is saying that he may resign from the case because he can no longer speak out for Hicks' without endangering his own legal status. It's a total conflict of interest, one that the government may have created intentionally and in my mind amounts to an obstruction of due process.

    The newest reporting on Hicks is that if he is willing to accept a plea bargain and plead guilty to supporting terrorism, he might get off on time served and return to Australia a free man.

    To learn more, see the David Hicks wikipedia page, which has links to dozens of Australian newspaper articles about him.

    Suddenly, Sen. Sam Brownback wants to apologize to African Americans and Native Americans for generations of suffering. Such attempts have been made by Congress before, but the twist here is that Brownback, who is an extreme right-wing politician, is running for president in 2008.

    The resolution, authored by Brownback and Tennessee Rep. Steve Cohen, "acknowledges that the U.S. government 'violated many of the treaties ratified by Congress and other diplomatic agreements with Indian tribes' while taking actions that caused 'immense harm' to native peoples, including forced removal, relocation and extermination."

    Brownback has a 20% rating (lower than Harry Reid's!) from the ACLU, which means that he has gone out of his way to deny civil liberties to citizens, many of whom, of course, are minorities. He voted to end special funding to minority-owned businesses and against setting aside highway funds for minorities.

    Brownback voted against maintaining the right of habeus corpus in death penalty appeals, has consistently voted against public education, and--despite his talk about Native Americans' stewardship of the land--has consistently voted against conserving the environment (he has a 0% rating from the League of Conservation Voters).

    And while it's nice that hypocrites in Congress are falling all over themselves to apologize to African Americans and Native Americans, when is Congress going to consider apologizing to women? We were burned as witches, denied birth control, denied the vote, forbidden to take most jobs, forbidden to enroll in many schools (until the 1970s), had genital mutilation performed on us (until the late 1970s), denied credit, given no protection against spousal abuse, denied the right to divorce, placed in psychiatric hospitals for asking questions or speaking our minds, sexually abused and assaulted in the workplace, denied the right to participate in most sports...the list goes on and on.

    The truth, of course, is that "apologies" like Brownback's are shallow and offensive, but at least Congress considers African Americans and Native Americans politically important enough to pander to.

    The BBC recently asked 28,000 people around the world to rate a dozen countries plus the EU in terms of whether they have a positive or negative influence on world affairs.

    The country that most people believe has a negative affect on the world? Israel. Followed by Iran. Third is the United States and fourth is North Korea. Five years after President Bush named Iran and North Korea to the "axis of evil", we find ourselves rated as dangerous as both by the world community. Awesome.

    CNN reports that the jury in the Scooter Libby trial has returned a guilty verdict on four of five counts. Libby faces a maximum sentence of 25 years in prison and a fine of $1 million.

    Update: More from CNN.

    Libby was convincted of:

  • Obstruction of justice when he intentionally deceived a grand jury investigating the outing of CIA operative Valerie Plame
  • Making a false statement by intentionally lying to FBI agents about a conversation with NBC newsman Tim Russert
  • Perjury when he lied in court about his conversation with Russert
  • A second count of perjury when he lied in court about conversations with other reporters
  • Jurors found Libby not guilty of a second count of making a false statement relating to a conversation he had with Matt Cooper of TIME. Libby's defense team plans to appeal.

    Mother Jones has covered the Libby trial from start to finish.

    "The Libby Trial: Courtroom Theatrics in the Closing Arguments," February 21, 2007

    "The Libby Trial: Tim Russert Takes the Stand," February 7, 2007

    "Leakers Who Lunch: Judith Miller Testifies How Scooter Libby Pushed Plame Story," January 30, 2007

    "Libby Defense Lawyer: Scooter Scapegoated, Culprit is Karl," January 23, 2007

    "Plame Case: Fitzgerald is Getting Nifonged," January 17, 2007

    Don't miss Khaled el-Masri's op-ed in the Los Angeles Times. El-Masri was a victim of the CIA's extraordinary rendition program, and was held and tortured even after the CIA realized they had mistaken him for Al Qaeda operative Khalid al-Masri. The CIA can't keep el-Masri, an innocent, private German citizen, from talking about his ordeal. But it's fighting mightily to avoid apologizing to him. El-Masri sued the U.S. government, but the government claimed successfully that the entire case is a "state secret," even though it has been widely reported. For more about the absurd and frightening implications of the "state secret" privilege, click here.

    El-Masri's op-ed is called, simply, "I am not a state secret." I'm betting this is one guy the CIA wishes they'd never touched.

    Ann Coulter's hateful comments at the CPAC this weekend have been condemned by John McCain, Rudy Giuliani, and, more blandly, Mitt Romney. That's no surprise, really—these guys yuck it up in a roomful of conservatives and then tell the media what it wants to hear. What is surprising is that a group of conservative bloggers have written a letter to the conference organizers requesting that Coulter never be invited back. They say—and I can only hope this is how it plays to average American voters—that her hate speech coarsens the political dialogue.

    It's funny, though, Coulter and I agree about one thing: Mitt Romney. She supports him and I can't stand the guy, but we have the same take on his past tolerance for gays and abortion: "He tricked liberals into voting for him." (Coulter went on to say, "I like a guy who hoodwinks the voters so easily.")

    CNN is reporting that Vice President Cheney has been treated for blood clot in his leg after experiencing discomfort in his calf. More info as it becomes available.

    Update: From CNN.

    Doctors found a blood clot in Vice President Dick Cheney's left leg Monday, Cheney's office said.
    The vice president was given blood-thinning medication, which he will need to take for several months, and allowed to return to work.

    Looks like it was nothing serious. For a guy who has had four heart attacks since 1978, this is probably like a little indigestion.