Citizen Action Monitor

Two moral cripples vie for U.S. presidency

Romney and Obama dodge emerging allegations, implying moral turpitude

No 545 Posted by fw, August 12, 2012

Two recent stories in prominent online news and information publications raise serious concerns about the moral character of Mitt Romney and President Barack Obama.

If these allegations are true, we are led to believe that presidential hopeful Mitt Romney started Bain Capital with $9 million in funding pledges from investors with ties to El Salvador death squads responsible for the deaths of tens of thousands of innocents, including the assassination of El Salvador’s Archbishop, Oscar Romero.

As for President Barack Obama, he appears to be the first President to personally authorize the killing of a particular U.S. citizen without that citizen having been charged formally with a crime or convicted at trial.

Mitt Romney’s ties to El Salvadoran Death Squads

Turning to the sources of the allegations, first, the Romney story, Mitt Romney Started Bain Capital with Money From Families Tied To Death Squads, by Ryan Grim and Cole Stangler, Huffington Post, August 8, 2012

Here are the opening paragraphs. To read the complete, original article, click on the above linked title.

In 1983, Bill Bain asked Mitt Romney to launch Bain Capital, a private equity offshoot of the successful consulting firm Bain & Company. After some initial reluctance, Romney agreed. The new job came with a stipulation: Romney couldn’t raise money from any current clients, Bain said, because if the private equity venture failed, he didn’t want it taking the consulting firm down with it.

When Romney struggled to raise funds from other traditional sources, he and his partners started thinking outside the box. Bain executive Harry Strachan suggested that Romney meet with a group of Central American oligarchs who were looking for new investment vehicles as turmoil engulfed their region.

Romney was worried that the oligarchs might be tied to “illegal drug money, right-wing death squads, or left-wing terrorism,” Strachan later told a Boston Globe reporter, as quoted in the 2012 book The Real Romney. But, pressed for capital, Romney pushed his concerns aside and flew to Miami in mid-1984 to meet with the Salvadorans at a local bank.

It was a lucrative trip. The Central Americans provided roughly $9 million — 40 percent — of Bain Capital’s initial outside funding, the Los Angeles Times reported recently. And they became valued clients.

“Over the years, these Latin American friends have loyally rolled over investments in succeeding funds, actively participated in Bain Capital’s May investor meetings, and are still today one of the largest investor groups in Bain Capital,” Strachan wrote in his memoir in 2008. Strachan declined to be interviewed for this story.

When Romney launched another venture that needed funding — his first presidential campaign — he returned to Miami.

“I owe a great deal to Americans of Latin American descent,” he said at a dinner in Miami in 2007. “When I was starting my business, I came to Miami to find partners that would believe in me and that would finance my enterprise. My partners were Ricardo Poma, Miguel Dueñas, Pancho Soler, Frank Kardonski, and Diego Ribadeneira.”

Romney could also have thanked investors from two other wealthy and powerful Central American clans — the de Sola and Salaverria families, who the Los Angeles Times and Boston Globe have reported were founding investors in Bain Capital.

While they were on the lookout for investments in the United States, members of some of these prominent families — including the Salaverria, Poma, de Sola and Dueñas clans — were also at the time financing, either directly or through political parties, death squads in El Salvador. The ruling classes were deploying the death squads to beat back left-wing guerrillas and reformers during El Salvador’s civil war.

The death squads committed atrocities on such a mass scale for so small a country that their killing spree sparked international condemnation. From 1979 to 1992, some 75,000 people were killed in the Salvadoran civil war, according to the United Nations. In 1982, two years before Romney began raising money from the oligarchs, El Salvador’s independent Human Rights Commission reported that, of the 35,000 civilians killed, “most” died at the hands of death squads.United Nations truth commission concluded in 1993 that 85 percent of the acts of violence were perpetrated by the right, while the left-wing Farabundo Martí National Liberation Front, which was supported by the Cuban government, was responsible for 5 percent.

When The Huffington Post asked the Romney campaign about Bain Capital accepting funds from families tied to death squads, a spokeswoman forwarded a 1999 Salt Lake Tribune article to explain the campaign’s position on the matter. She declined to comment further.

[Note — as of today, the Huffington Post story has generated an astounding 28,793 reader comments].

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President Barack Obama’s Alleged Authorized Killing of a U.S. Citizen

The Obama story appeared in the August 2, 2012 issue of The New Yorker, entitled, Kill or Capture, by Steve Coll.

Again, here are the opening paragraphs.

On September 30, 2011, in a northern province of Yemen, Anwar al-Awlaki, an American citizen and a senior figure in Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, finished his breakfast and walked with several companions to vehicles parked nearby. Before he could drive away, a missile fired from a drone operated by the Central Intelligence Agency struck the group and killed Awlaki, as well as a second American citizen, of Pakistani origin, whom the drone operators did not realize was present.

President Barack Obama had personally authorized the killing. “I want Awlaki,” he is said to have told his advisers at one point. “Don’t let up on him.” The President’s bracing words about a fellow American are reported in Kill or Capture, a recent and important book on the Obama Administration’s detention and targeted-killing programs, by Daniel Klaidman, a former deputy editor of Newsweek.

With those words attributed to Obama, Klaidman has reported what would appear to be the first instance in American history of a sitting President speaking of his intent to kill a particular U.S. citizen without that citizen having been charged formally with a crime or convicted at trial.

The due-process clause of the Fifth Amendment prohibits “any person” from being deprived of “life, liberty, or property without due process of law.” Obama authorized the termination of Awlaki’s life after he concluded that the boastful, mass-murder-plotting cleric had, in effect, forfeited constitutional protection by waging war against the United States and actively planning to kill Americans. Obama also believed that the Administration’s secret process establishing Awlaki’s guilt provided adequate safeguards against mistake or abuse—all in all, enough “due process of law” to take his life.

Awlaki was certainly a murderous character; his YouTube videos alone would likely convict him at a jury trial. Yet the case of Awlaki’s killing by drone strike is to the due-process clause what the proposed march of neo-Nazis through a community that included many Holocaust survivors in Skokie, Illinois, was to the First Amendment when that case arose, in 1977. It is an instance where the most onerous facts imaginable should lead to the durable affirmation of constitutional principle, as Skokie did. Instead, President Obama and his advisers have opened the door to violent action against American citizens by future Presidents when the facts may be much less compelling.

Last March, Eric Holder, the Attorney General, delivered an address at Northwestern University in which he sought to explain and justify the Awlaki killing, without ever naming the victim, apparently because such honesty would violate the Administration’s classification rules. Holder’s arguments are worth absorbing at length. He explained,

Now, it is an unfortunate but undeniable fact that some of the threats we face come from a small number of United States citizens who have decided to commit violent attacks against their own country from abroad. Based on generations-old legal principles and Supreme Court decisions handed down during World War II, as well as during this current conflict, it’s clear that United States citizenship alone does not make such individuals immune from being targeted. But it does mean that the government must take into account all relevant constitutional considerations with respect to United States citizens—even those who are leading efforts to kill innocent Americans….

An individual’s interest in making sure that the government does not target him erroneously could not be more significant. Yet it is imperative for the government to counter threats posed by senior operational leaders of al Qaeda, and to protect the innocent people whose lives could be lost in their attacks….

Let me be clear: an operation using lethal force in a foreign country, targeted against a U.S. citizen who is a senior operational leader of al Qaeda or associated forces, and who is actively engaged in planning to kill Americans, would be lawful at least in the following circumstances: First, the U.S. government has determined, after a thorough and careful review, that the individual poses an imminent threat of violent attack against the United States; second, capture is not feasible; and third, the operation would be conducted in a manner consistent with applicable law of war principles.

It would be difficult to list all of the ways in which Holder’s arguments are disturbing. Overall, the large-scale targeted killing of non-Americans affiliated with Al Qaeda during the Obama Administration’s first term raises many questions about legality and transparency. The more recent addition of Klaidman’s reporting, however, calls attention to one area, infrequently discussed, where it seems clear that the Obama Administration has driven right through a constitutional stop sign. This involves the second of Holder’s three conditions for killing a U.S. citizen who has joined Al Qaeda and is actively planning to kill Americans—that is, “capture is not feasible.”

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As a supplement to Coll’s article, consider, too, this penetrating paragraph by Glenn Greenwald, in his August 4, 2012 piece in Salon, Obama the Pioneer.

So to summarize the Obama campaign’s apparent argument: it’s absolutely vital that we know all about the GOP nominee’s tax shelters and financial transactions over the last decade (and indeed, we should know about that), but we need not bother ourselves with how the Democratic nominee is deciding which Americans should die, his claimed legal authority for ordering those hits, the alleged evidence for believing the target deserves to be executed, or the criteria used to target them. So low are one’s expectations for an American Election Year that there are very few spectacles so absurd as to be painful to behold, but the Obama campaign’s waving of the transparency flag definitely qualifies.

MY COMMENT – First, given the masterful job that America’s corporate-controlled mainstream media do in keeping U.S. citizens misinformed or uninformed, how many Americans will come to learn that the two main presidential candidates are morally challenged? Second, even if they do know, will they much care? In his 1882 book, The Gay Science, Friedrich Nietzsche proclaimed “God is dead. And we have killed him.” And morality, it appears, died with God.

Fair Use Notice: This blog, Citizen Action Monitor, may contain copyrighted material that may not have been specifically authorized by the copyright owner. Such material, published without profit, is made available for educational purposes, to advance understanding of human rights, democracy, scientific, moral, ethical, and social justice issues. It is published in accordance with the provisions of the 2004 Supreme Court of Canada ruling and its six principle criteria for evaluating fair dealing

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