Fold The Holder Nomination

graphic by twolf

Clearly it is Eric Holder day here at FDL and I didn’t want to be left out of the party. Especially since I was one of the ones starting it. Now Looseheadprop has covered a lot of the ground, here, here and here and Dr. Kirk Murphy here and here, but I would like to elaborate and knock back a meme that has been floated by Glenn Greenwald, namely that Holder’s involvement in the Chiquita matter is just principled, zealous representation of his client akin to the heroic souls that have taken the mantle of defending Gitmo detainees.

I’ve seen some attempts to criticize Holder based upon clients he has represented while in private practice, most notably his defense of Chiquita Brands in a criminal case brought by the DOJ arising out of Chiquita’s payments and other support to Colombian death squads. Attempts to criticize a lawyer for representing unsavory or even evil clients are inherently illegitimate and wrong — period. Anybody who believes in core liberties should want even the most culpable parties to have zealous representation before the Government can impose punishments or other sanctions. Lawyers who defend even the worst parties are performing a vital service for our justice system. Holder is no more tainted by his defense of Chiquita than lawyers who defend accused terrorists at Guantanamo are tainted by that.

I admire Glenn Greenwald’s writing and respect his work immensely, but I take pretty big issue with this position. The key that Greenwald is putting in the wrong lock is that those ethical standards of guaranteed zealous representation, like the detainees at Gitmo and other defendants are entitled to, apply to formally charged actual criminal defendants.

Chiquita, their executives, offices and board, et al. were not. Instead, what you had here was a dirty as mud corporation that had been illegally and immorally playing both sides a third world country’s violent terrorist/factional problem, sometimes clandestinely with the CIA, including drug running and attendant money laundering, but always for the benefit and profit of Chiquita. You then have this complicit company, whose powerful Board member Rod Hills (and his wife, Carla Hills, a powerful former DOJ official and significant voice with the Bush Administration) is a major friend, supporter and donor to the Bushies, conspiring with the Bush DOJ to whitewash and cover up all this muck. And that is what Holder and the DOJ, together, did.

This from Marcy Wheeler gives a good description of the Chiquita situation:

The Sentencing Memorandum the government filed in the Chiquita case reveals something rather interesting. Chiquita was an equal opportunity terrorist supporter. You see, from 1989 to 1997, Chiquita paid protection money to FARC and ELN, left wing terrorist groups. Then, after FARC and FLN were declared terrorist groups in 1997, Chiquita switched sides, paying protection money to right wing terrorist group AUC instead. Of course, Chiquita got in trouble because, in 2001, after the US declared AUC a terrorist organization, Chiquita kept right on paying their protection money, presumably having no other side to flip to. I guess it’s nice not to be bound by ideology in your support of terrorist organizations.

In spite of funding the AUC long after Chiquita became aware they were breaking the law, the government is recommending that Chiquita be able to keep half of its profits from doing business under the protection of a terrorist organization. They’re recommending a fine of half their profits, when the maximum fine was twice their profits for the period.

We knew that that was the government’s recommendation for a fine. What is new, though, is that the government has decided not to indict the well-connected Republican lawyer Roderick Hills for recommending his clients engage in ongoing criminal behavior. Perhaps Michael Chertoff had something to say about that decision. You see, Hills alleged that Michael Chertoff, the guy who’s in charge of our Homeland Security, okayed Chiquita’s ongoing payments to right wing terrorists. The government denies those allegations in its Sentencing Memorandum.

The Department of Justice never authorized defendant Chiquita to continue under any circumstances the Company’s payments to the AUC–not at the meeting on April 24, 2003, nor at any other point. To be sure, when first presented with this issue at the meeting on April 24th, Department of Justice officials acknowledged that the issue of continued payments was complicated. But this acknowledgment did not constitute an approval or authorization for defendant Chiquita to continue to break the law by paying a federally-designated Foreign Terrorist Organization.

But I guess they weren’t confident enough in their own side of the story to take that to court.

And so it happens that another well-connected Republican with ties to funding terrorism gets off scot free.

Holder didn’t represent a charged criminal with protected rights in relation to an active prosecution, he conspired with an unethical and corrupt Justice Department to cover up and conceal crimes. This is a far cry from the heroic zealous public defender type of representation Glenn Greenwald, and others, are painting for Holder.

No, Holder is a lot closer to a mob consigliere than principled defender of justice. He should be treated as such. And if you want the Department of Justice to get serious about business and financial fraud, which this country desperately needs, we sure need someone diametrically different than Eric Holder.

You got to know when to hold them and when to fold them. Fold Holder.

101 replies
    • yellowdogD says:

      He can’t be nominated until Obama is sworn in.
      Unless, of course, Bush wants to nominate him beforehand.

  1. Loo Hoo. says:

    Couldn’t we all just forfeit bananas for a good long while? Or any corporation involved in this kind of crap. It’s not like we’ll all die for lack of bananas.

    I know that’s not the point of your post, bmaz, but it seems like a simple, just reward for Chiquita (which is the only really good banana I’ve known.) Love the price of the Costco banana, but it ain’t worth eating imo.

    • demi says:

      But, but. What are we going to put our ice cream on?
      Rutabaga splits?
      I get your point, tho. I still can’t buy gallo wine.

  2. californiarealitycheck says:

    “Department of Justice officials acknowledged that the issue of continued payments was complicated.”

    i think his nomination might be doomed at this point bc of the bad publicity. it’s not going to go away. probably should withdraw. but, i am not as sure as others that he is a criminal, etc.

    • bmaz says:

      I didn’t say he was criminal; I just don’t find his work to be admirable in the least as Glenn and others have argued, not do I think that a guy like Holder, who is tied to the hip of powerful big business and finance interests, is the right guy to lead the DOJ out of the wilderness.

      • californiarealitycheck says:

        yes, i know you didn’t say it. but, exercising inapropriate influence in this case seems like a charge of doj tampering. i am willin to give him the benefit of the doubt. that’s all. i don’t know the details first hand and i am reluctant to trash the guy. still would be a good idea to withdraw, imo.

        • bmaz says:

          Yeah, i would like to make clear that I am not arguing he will be corrupt or anything, but his chumminess with business and power players will taint his thinking and policies in the department when it comes time to investigating and prosecuting them. I want someone that will go after the old business as usual crowd, clean up some of the stench and put the fear in them to start being responsible corporate citizens. Holder is not that guy.

          Secondly, thing is, everybody seems focused solely on the ideology of the person that should lead the DOJ; but that is only half, in some ways not even the most important half. Even with the right ideology, you need someone that is a technocrat that can evaluate a giant bureaucracy, reshape and restock it, and nurture it with team building and inspire confidence both in the department ranks and in the public and judiciary as well. This is my objection to Holder, he is most certainly not this guy either.

  3. Teddy Partridge says:

    This is ridiculous. Why can’t you just trust Obama and his nominees for at least six months? He was elected; that was his accountability moment. Now we have to believe in Obama and his every choice without question. If Holder is who Obama wants to head DoJ, that’s who he should get.

    Was I first?)

    This nomination must be stopped. The GOPs on the Judiciary Committee will make Obama’s life hell right out of the box. Grassley has already spoken on exactly this matter:

    “It’s going to be much more controversial than a new administration ought to try to put forth,” Grassley said, according to a transcript on his Web site.

    That is just the kind of statement a GOP Senator puts out there when he knows his wingnut colleagues smell blood in the water. And what a bunch of wingnuts on the JComm!

    Spectre, Hatch, Grassley, Kyl, Sessions, Graham, Cornyn, Brownback, Cornyn.

    Who among these will pass on the opportunity to torpedo this nomination, given the ammunition lying around? Is Holder worth the trouble to Obama? His lackadaisical performance as USAttorney for DC would suggest not. His disastrous actions during the Marc Rich pardon fiasco would suggest not. His slippery representation of Chiquita would suggest not. Taken together, this is a nomination not worth making.

    Choose wisely, Mr President-Elect. We’ll have your back when you do, but count on us to challenge you when you don’t. In this regard, you have not.

    • smartlady says:

      From the Washington Post article that the Grassley quote is taken from (re comment #15)

      “”Joseph diGenova, a former U.S. attorney in the District and a self-avowed “lifelong Republican,” said yesterday that he would testify about Holder’s sterling credentials and temperate judgment at a possible confirmation hearing.

      “He is one of the most singularly well-qualified people to ever be nominated to serve as attorney general,” diGenova said. “. . . If the Republicans go after him, they’re going to make a terrible mistake.” “”

      Joseph diGenova is VICTORIA TOENSING’s husband and partner.

      • MadDog says:

        That’s an interesting WaPo article on Holder’s nomination.

        The Senators quoted (both Democrats and Repug), seem to only be focused on the Marc Rich Pardon controversy:

        …Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Patrick J. Leahy (D-Vt.) noted that Holder won confirmation in 1997 as the department’s second in command without a single negative vote, and he predicted a similar outcome.

        Sen. Orrin G. Hatch (R-Utah), the second-ranking Republican on the Judiciary panel, told reporters late yesterday that he would support Holder and said the pardon issue would not outweigh Holder’s reputation and experience.

        Sen. Charles E. Grassley (R-Iowa) told home-state reporters yesterday that Holder, 57, has impeccable credentials. But he said he would reserve judgment until he sifted through congressional testimony about the pardons…

        Nothing at all about Chiquita, or for that matter, anything else untowards.

        • bmaz says:

          A modicum of perfunctory whining about Rich is all that there will likely be. Obama and his people have quietly vetted and staffed Holder with all the key Republicans in committee and full Senate, and there is a basic understanding that the Repubs will make this limited noise and then confirm him. They actually, like DiGenova, like him; which ought to be a freaking disqualifier all by itself.

    • jayt says:

      And what a bunch of wingnuts on the JComm!

      Spectre, Hatch, Grassley, Kyl, Sessions, Graham, Cornyn, Brownback, Cornyn.

      jaysus. I may have to root for those guys?


      • Teddy Partridge says:

        No, you don’t have to root for them!

        But you should fear them, and their lack of scruple, and their eagerness to tarnish the new administration, and their grasping for partisan gain after a huge electoral setback. They may see Holder’s nomination as their way back from the wilderness.

        Obama should not give them this chance. He must choose someone else.

  4. jdenham says:

    Although you make a good case I agree with Greenwald that a lawyer should not be held responsible for the crimes of his Client. Yes the Bush Justice Department is incompotent either by design or in fact, but Holder was a lawyer for Chiquita. His first responsibilty is to the client. If Justice does not make their case or does not want to make their case it is not the fault of the Defendant. But if we tar and feather every lawyer that represents a defendant (even if that defendant is a corporation or an axe murderer), good lawyers will not take cases of questionable defendants. Unfortunately those are the people that need a good lawyer.

    If you have evidence that Holder did not act in an ethical manner that should be addressed to the Bar Association.

    • eCAHNomics says:

      a lawyer should not be held responsible for the crimes of his Client.

      We’re not doing that. We’re using who he chose to represent and how he represented them as insight to his character & whether he is suitable for one of the highest offices in the land. Scumbags are entitled to good lawyers but those lawyers are not necessarily entitled to become AG. It’s quite relevant.

      • Watson says:


        A lawyer must represent his/her client zealously. The moral decision for the lawyer comes in choosing whom to represent.

        Representation of the Gitmo defendants is admirable because of their impecunious status, and even more so because the circumstances of their confinement, and the nearly universal hatred for them makes it extremely difficult for them to get competent counsel.

        Representation of the rich and powerful is neither lonely nor courageous.

    • californiarealitycheck says:

      yes, sir. that is where i am coming from. however, this is politics.i just don’t bama to be embarassed with holder.

    • bmaz says:

      Well, thanks for the help, but I think I’ll stick with my position and, further, think I’ll go right on ahead speaking with the forum I have available here. Thanks for all the advice though.

    • Teddy Partridge says:

      You miss the point that Holder’s client was the corporation, while he got the corporation’s executives off. This has been covered in some detail elsewhere on FDL, and remains a primary conflict for him. The corporation paid the fine, but the executives who arranged the bribes were never punished.

  5. MadDog says:

    I’m curious in the case of the Holder nomination (if that actually occurs), how was he selected?

    Does Barack Obama personally know him?

    If not, what was the criteria for the choice, who did the recommending, and who, if anyone, did the vetting?

    And who were/are the other top candidates?

    I’m aware of the differences of opinion held by those on the Democratic side of the fence (Glenn, LHP, bmaz, etc.) and the very fact that there is such a difference of opinion leads me to the inevitable question of:

    Why can’t the Obama Team find a candidate that has no skeletons in his/her closet?

  6. BooRadley says:

    I admire Glenn Greenwald’s writing and respect his work immensely, but I take pretty big issue with this position. The key that Greenwald is putting in the wrong lock is that those ethical standards of guaranteed zealous representation, like the detainees at Gitmo and other defendants are entitled to, apply to formally charged actual criminal defendants. Chiquita, their executives, offices and board, et al. were not.

    Bullseye. Thanks very much bmaz.

  7. helena says:

    Look, I know you think this is irrelevant, but John Edwards made a strong appeal to the netroots and would’ve come through for us. It’s what he stands for. Stupid and naiively, people looked at Obama’s early days as a community organizer and not at his more mature work in the state legislature, nor his wife’s tenure on Walmart-supplying corporate boards.
    If we had come through for Edwards, like we should’ve, that affair would have been over fast. Trust me on this one.

    • greenharper says:

      From his Wikipedia article, John Edwards has no experience, either federal or state, with criminal law. He’s never been a prosecutor. He’s never been a criminal defense lawyer. In other words, he knows zip about the primary business of the U.S. Department of Justice.

      This takes nothing from Edwards’s remarkable achievements as a plaintiff’s lawyer. Successful civil litigation is exceedingly hard work.

      It’s to say that Edwards as AG would be playing catchup ball continually. That’s no way to win the respect of DOJ lawyers, and Americans can’t afford such a learning curve now.

      A guy who cheated on a wife with cancer is, furthermore, scarcely the best choice to inspire those fine lawyers still at the Department, some of whom are women, or to attract the best.

  8. radlib1 says:

    Let’s just say that Eric Holder is an imperfect human being. Let’s also say that Eric Holder represented one of the the worst, most egregious corporate malefactors in the world, Chiquita Brands. They may deserve legal representation, just as the the most horrific serial killers do — but did he have to volunteer? Was it the money?

    Eric Holder may be a fine AG, but he is inalterably compromised by his list of clients. He did Chiquita for the money, not for the honor.

    Let’s not pretend otherwise.

    I like that he’s smart, I like that he’s Afro-American. I just don’t like that he has sold himself out to corporate America.


    • Twain says:

      Certainly he works for the money – I don’t expect my plumber to work for free either. Whatever else is true about him, he has a right to earn money. That alone does not make him a bad person although other things might.

    • bmaz says:

      Bingo. That is exactly what I am saying; you just did it a little more concisely and effectively. I don’t think Holder is a criminal, I don’t think he should face bar action or sanction. I also don’t think he should be Attorney General. We are at a fulcrum point in history with big business and financial entities. They need to be reeled in and clamped down on. Holder is NOT the right guy to do this.

      • Rain says:

        Wait a minute…who would be better suited to clamp down on the excesses of business interests as AG. Perhaps it is one who knows the world of corporate interests from the inside. Mr. Holder’s experience may be just what Obama wants.

        As for representation of Chiquita, consider the possibility that Mr. Holder was assigned to the case and did not choose it for himself. Any large DC firm is going to have clients like this. Many are institutional clients that go back decades of representation — and it may be that Mr. Holder’s firm, Covington & Burling, had represented this particular client for long before he joined them. He may have been assigned to it when he was an associate. We don’t know.

        I’ll bet he’s done a lot of pro bono representation for good causes in the course of his career, though — for Covington has a reputation for doing quite a lot of that.

        I am with Glenn Greenwald on this one.

        • SanderO says:

          Excuse me?

          Why must a firm have sleazy clients? Why can’t a firm choose their clients?

          Answer: they can and better answer: They SHOULD.

        • bmaz says:

          He may have been assigned to it when he was an associate. We don’t know.

          Why yes, as a matter of fact, we do know. And we know that your speculation is dead wrong and not the case. Holder was not some scrub associate and he was lead on the case. Exactly what excess of “pro bono” work are you talking about with respect to Holder. More rank peculation from what I can discern. Are you seriously analogizing the representation of the Chiquita cads with freaking pro bono work??? Please forward whatever you have been smoking.

          Seriously, this take is so amusing that I literally wonder if you are not related to Eric Holder or something. Jeebus.

  9. Suzanne says:

    from the nytimes:

    Is linked to Mr. Obama by: Mutual friends and shared experiences, though Mr. Holder and Mr. Obama did not meet until 2004, when they were seated next to each other at a small dinner party in Washington. Mr. Holder has said he immediately ”clicked” with Mr. Obama over the dinner, hosted by Alice Walker Marchant, niece of Vernon E. Jordan Jr., one of the city’s superlawyers.

  10. igo2go says:

    Did you stop eating bananas when you first had a hint what was up? Let you who have not eaten a plantain cast the first banana. He was a cog in a crap infested machine. Give a brother a little break maybe?

    • Suzanne says:

      i refuse to accept that ‘give a brother a little break’ is reason enough to appoint him top cop when there is reason to suspect he has not repudiated being a cog in a crap infested machine.

      • Teddy Partridge says:

        There’s more than one break that needs giving if Holder is to be approved:
        1. Chiquita
        2. USAttorney for DC without indicting a single DC officeholder
        3. Marc Rich pardon mess

        Really, who wants to carry all that baggage into a Judiciary Committee confirmation hearing?

        • eCAHNomics says:

          LOL. You talk about congressional hearings as though they were serious stuff instead of just an opportunity for critters to preen in front of the camera.

            • eCAHNomics says:

              selise & I need a life. We watch far too many hearings. Very discouraging stuff, at least under these critters. Waxman is one of the few who talks tough, but then does nothing. Kinda the Ds’ Arlen Specter.

              • demi says:

                Darling…for a nice break, I’m watching a Victor Borge special on PBS. Far more entertaining than those hearings. He’s hysterical.
                (now, y’all can go back to bananas…)

                    • demi says:

                      Oh. I don’t watch any regular tv shows. Why I didn’t get it. Not even Monk.
                      The worst is when we watch Bill Moyers on Friday night and leave that channel on and then when we turn the tv on Saturday morning, we get Barney! I just loose it.

                    • eCAHNomics says:

                      I told my son when he was little that he would have a short life if I had to listen to cartoons in the morning. (And IMO Barney is worse than commercial cartoons.) It never happened because the only TV in the apt was in my bedroom and in the country, where we spent weekends, there was no TV until long after he went away to college.

          • Teddy Partridge says:

            But why would Obama’s Holder-vetters trust the GOP Senators and their staffs when the opportunity for preening in front of cameras is so vast? When there’s only one vector to go at a nominee, the cameras get tired and seek other eyeballs; when there are three (or maybe more) aspects to get under a nominee’s skin, and question his professional competence, ethics, and representation — well, then the circus is worth staying for.

            • eCAHNomics says:

              I’m just speculating here because I have no idea whether O has vetted Holder with the Rs. But supposing he has & knows that there will be a few embarrassing rants from Rs and then they’ll confirm him.

  11. steelhead says:

    Mr. Holder is just another legal tool of a law firm that does not hold itself to a very high ethical standard.

  12. AZ Matt says:

    Chiquita’s actions got people murdered. They might not be from here but they had families who loved them. If Chiquita had done this in say Florida or Hawaii would we even be having this conversation. Bullets for Bananas pure and simple.

    • bmaz says:

      Well, yeah, and not to mention this is EXACTLY what the Bushies are prosecuting entities like the Holy Land Foundation and al-Haramain and numerous others for.

        • eCAHNomics says:

          It’s a preposition, which is allegedly a bad word to end a sentence with. However, Grammar maven Patricia T. O’Connor (author of Woe Is I among other books) sez that and “split infinite” are derived from French grammar (French being the high class language in the day) and make no sense in English.

  13. demi says:

    I refuse to have a tv in my bedroom. I’m weird that way.
    And, speaking of Bill Moyers, Laura Doty has a post upstairs….

  14. spoonful says:

    The President elect has s such a way of speaking out of both sides – the one thing I heard in any presidential debate that was worthwhile was where he scolded McCain for supporting Bush’s Colombia free trade agreement, because the Colombian government was “killing all the labor leaders” of Colombia . . . bit Rahm Emanuelle, eh?

  15. SanderO says:

    The fact is that MONEY makes them do it.

    As soon as these guys get around the big bucks they fold like a cheap card table.

    His principle getting money and power.

    This is what makes them all do what they do, despite their being intelligent and KNOWING what they are getting in to. Rubin the same, Gorelick, Clinton. The list goes on.

    Narcissistic power and greed is what drives these people.

    • Rain says:

      It doesn’t work that way, SanderO — not at the big, uptown firms. They don’t pre-judge their clients and pick and choose — except as to where there might be a conflict of representation. And as I said, Chiquita may have been (probably has been) an institutional client of Covington & Burling. The firm may well have been representing that company before Holder was born.

      If you go over to the firm’s website and look at Holder’s bio, you’ll see that he has several specialties — and one of them is white collar defense and investigation. That may be why Obama is looking at him for this position — that he has a lot of experience in the area of white collar crime. And investigation.

  16. THATanonymous says:

    Why is no one observing that there is a difference between corporations and flesh and blood. It doesn’t matter that the law says that corporations are super-human beings (immortal), it’s just a disgusting and completely unjustified fiction. Corporations DO NOT “deserve” any kind of representation. Therefore, when you choose to reprsent a corporation you are doing nothing that could ever rise to being noble, IN ANY WAY. Being immortal is simply another way of being a vampire (bloodsucking, don’t you know). And whose blood do you think they’re sucking? Helen Thomas said it first and said it all in response to Obama’s choice of Rahm Emanuel: “Doesn’t he know anybody?”

    In case my feelings are not clear, Obama is simply Bush V2.5 — smarter, faster and a whole lot MORE dangerous. The sky really is falling. Lookout!

  17. slide says:

    The most troubling aspect of Holder’s representation of Chiquita for me is that he actually sold Chiquita the corporation down the river. The corporation was his client but he actually saved the directors ass from criminal charges at the expense of the stockholders by settling the case and allowing the corporation to be found guilty instead of the directors. He did not represent the directors. The corportion through the directors hired him because of his political connections and that is not a proper purpose for an attorney to represent a criminal client. In short he sold his client down the river to save the individual directors. A serious conflict of interest for all concerned.

  18. BayStateLibrul says:

    A healthy debate, but whoever leads DOJ must reopen the Plame affair
    and Rove’s dirty tricks at Justice. I want ACCOUNTABILITY, and no fucking
    Also, as indicated below our Defense Department needs to be ripped apart…..=2&hp

  19. 4jkb4ia says:

    Out of all the nominations, I am most alarmed by this one. This is not to say that I am alarmed by the others, and when I saw Bonior’s name being floated for Labor Secretary I was highly cheered. This may mean that Obama is paying attention to the clamor for a “progressive”. You knew that the Republicans would try to bring up the issue of Rich. For those of us who saw the mad attempts to manufacture some scandal in the case of Alito, it might be an achievable goal to have Leahy talk about management of the Department and bring in some people who worked under Holder. At the very least this might make the incompetence at the Bush-era DOJ more of a public issue.

    OT, today I am 37 years old, and I do not expect the St. Louis Lambs to recognize this occasion at all.

  20. phred says:

    Great post bmaz, thanks! And slide, thanks for your comment as well. Too often the distinctions between what is in the best interest of the corporation v. that of its officers is overlooked. I agree wholeheartedly that Chiquita the corporation was sold down the river by thuggish corporate officers with criminal inclinations.

    At the risk of going off-topic… this observation about the divergent interests of the corporation (i.e. shareholders and employees) and its officers seems to be replaying in various ways these days. If banks are in need of a bailout, fine. But fire the officers and boards of directors that allowed them to get into trouble in the first place. If the car companies need a bailout fine, but again fire the officers and boards. If Obama really represents change, why is he surrounding himself with so many re-treads?

    The political/economic elite of this country have brainwashed the public into believing that only a handful of people in the country are qualified for high level corporate and political positions. This is prima facie absurd in a country with a population over 300 million. It strains credulity to believe that the US is so bereft of talent, that we must continue to recycle those who have proven themselves to be ineffective or incompetent. I for one am more than ready to take a chance on the devils we don’t know rather than turning to the ones we do know.

  21. JohnLopresti says:

    Looking at the Chiquita matter, here are two links, one an appeal opinion September 2008 Ivory Coast and other countries nearby, another simply a news article 2007 announcing a decision affecting plaintiffs from Panama and other region nations, without casename or even location of the court. Both mostly are nonChiquita, yet provide a glimpse at court processes in international toxic torts in approximately the same industry as Chiquita’s; Abagninin v Amvac 07-56326, and Dole, et al.

  22. manonfyre says:

    Free association:

    Chiquita = United Fruit = Banana Wars = Smedley Butler . . .

    BUTLER: I spent 33 years and four months in active military service and during that period I spent most of my time as a high class muscle man for Big Business, for Wall Street and the bankers. In short, I was a racketeer, a gangster for capitalism. I helped make Mexico and especially Tampico safe for American oil interests in 1914. I helped make Haiti and Cuba a decent place for the National City Bank boys to collect revenues in. I helped in the raping of half a dozen Central American republics for the benefit of Wall Street. I helped purify Nicaragua for the International Banking House of Brown Brothers in 1902-1912. I brought light to the Dominican Republic for the American sugar interests in 1916. I helped make Honduras right for the American fruit companies in 1903. In China in 1927 I helped see to it that Standard Oil went on its way unmolested. Looking back on it, I might have given Al Capone a few hints. The best he could do was to operate his racket in three districts. I operated on three continents.

    As to the motivations of a luminary like Holder and a legal/lobbying shop like Covington & Burling, the first bell that rings in my head is not, “the rights of the accused to competent representation.” It’s billable hours. Ding! Ding! Ding!

    The letter of the law — black and white (more or less). The practice and application of the law — especially at the level of a “top shop” like C&B — infinite shades of gray and piles upon piles of green.

    “Them that’s got the gold, makes the rules.”

    ~ Anonymous

    “All my life I kept trying to go up in society. Where everything higher up was legal. But the higher I go, the crookeder it becomes. Where the hell does it end?”

    ~ Michael Corleone, Godfather III

    Still, my personal bottom line on Obama’s choice of Holder . . . I tend to want to give them both the benefit of the doubt. I’m willing to wait to see Holder in action.

    And, for me, the bellwether “rule of law” issue for the new Administration/AG is torture. I emphatically HOPE to see them adopt the game plan proposed by Scott Horton in the current issue of Harper’s, “Justice after Bush: Prosecuting an outlaw administration.” [sub. req. — buy the ‘zine!]

    Alternatively, see Glenn Greenwald’s Salon Radio interview: Scott Horton on war crimes prosecutions:

    GREENWALD: I spoke to Scott today on Salon Radio regarding this article, and we discussed:

    * what distinguishes the Bush administration’s lawlessness from the isolated lawbreaking of past Presidents (”This administration did more than commit crimes. It waged war against the law itself”);

    * why — of all the Bush crimes — torture is, in Scott’s words, “not only the crime that most clearly calls for prosecution but also the crime that is most likely to be successfully prosecuted”; [ding!, ding!, ding!]

    * whether the limited retroactive immunity bestowed on war criminals by the Detainees Treatment Act and Military Commissions Act is a barrier to such prosecutions;

    * whether it should be a defense for high level government officials that the Bush DOJ issued legal opinions authorizing these interrogation programs and asserting that they were legal;

    * how the issuance of presidential pardons could be overcome;

    * what the benefits are of beginning with a Truth Commission, rather than having the DOJ simply investigate and prosecute.

    If, at Obama’s direction, Holder can step out of the gray/green world of fronting for corporate bad actors and [re-]establish — more clearly than ever before — bright-red and universal prohibitions against torture, I will cut the guy some slack.

    Am I a chump, setting myself up for a fall? Will any of Obama’s Team Establishment deliver much more than incremental variations of more of the same? We’ll see.

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