Thursday, April 5

The Brutality of Rudy Giuliani

Today former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani is often painted as "America's Mayor" after his decisive response to the attacks on September 11, 2001.

What is often forgotten and ignored is the well worn streak of brutality and totalitarianism that runs like a river through both his public and private actions. Let us look back to before the 9/11, to 1999 and Giuliani's dramatic reforming of the NYPD for both the better and the worst.

From Human Rights Watch.

New York is enjoying a dramatic drop in violent crime, with some attributing it to the police department's emphasis on more minor, "quality of life," crimes, such as graffiti, squeegee windshield washing, and subway turnstile-jumping, pursued as a way to demonstrate control of the streets and to apprehend individuals who may have outstanding arrest warrants against them.


Police abuse experts have wondered why, if the police leadership is eager to stop crime by aggressively pursuing minor criminals and crimes, it is failing to demonstrate the same aggressiveness in dealing with officers before they commit more serious offenses.

In 1997 the Giuliani dichotomy of being tough on civilians who commit minor offense and light on police who abuse their authority gradually began to be exposed and led to several tragic incidents.

First there was the wrongful arrest, torture and sexual abuse of Abner Louima by NYPD officers who mistakenly thought he had insulted one of them outside of a night club.

A federal court jury in Brooklyn convicted three New York City cops March 6 of conspiring to cover up the 1997 station house torture of Haitian immigrant Abner Louima.

Thomas Weise and Thomas Bruder each face five years in prison on the charge of conspiracy to obstruct a federal investigation into the savage assault on Louima. The third cop, Charles Schwarz, was convicted in a previous trial as an accomplice with Justin Volpe in torturing the immigrant worker inside the bathroom of the 70th Precinct in the Flatbush section of Brooklyn.

Volpe, convicted of sodomizing Louima with a broken piece of a broomstick, tearing a one-inch hole in his rectum and bladder, was sentenced to 30 years in prison. Schwarz, who was found guilty of holding Louima down during the attack, faces up to a life sentence.

The three cops greeted the verdict with disbelief and rage. "They're f—-ing liars; this is f—-ing bullshit," exclaimed Schwarz, who turned his wrath on his lawyer. As he was taken back into custody he slammed the wall and shouted out other obscenities.

Let me point out again that Louima wasn't even the guy they were looking for in the first place! This kind of brutality doesn't just happen, there has to be a permissive attitude in play at the department in order for anyone - let alone several officers - to believe that kidnapping and assaulting someone this way, not to mention intimidating witness and the victim to "keep quiet" could possibly work.

And how did Rudy react at the time? (From Human Rights Watch)

In August 1997, after the alleged torture of Haitian immigrant Abner Louima by police officers made national headlines and outraged city residents, the anti-crime record of the mayor and police department was tarnished. In uncharacteristic fashion, Mayor Rudolph Giuliani and Police Commissioner Howard Safir condemned the officers implicated in the incident as well as those who reportedly did nothing to stop it or report it.2 These were welcome condemnations, but conflicted with the mayor's persistent and seemingly automatic defense of officers accused of abusive treatment - even when he lacked a factual basis to do so - in his first term.

So did Rudy then take decisive steps to correct the problem? Not really.

Even when the mayor himself asked a task force to review police-community issues following the alleged beating and torture of Abner Louima, he immediately criticized the task force's majority report: "Some of the things [recommended] we've already done. Some of the things I've opposed in the past, I'll continue to oppose them. And some of the things are unrealistic and make very little sense."

Two years after Louima, another high profile police misconduct case landed on Rudy's lap - the murder of Amadou Diallo.

In February 1999, four New York City policemen searching for a rape suspect knocked on Amadou Diallo's door to question him. When he came to the door he reached inside his jacket, at which point the officers shot at him 41 times, hitting him with 19 bullets. The object Diallo was reaching for turned out to be his wallet.

Many New Yorkers were incensed and began to raise cries of W.W.B. - "Walking While Black!"

In New York City under Rudy Giuliani, we have seen the terrible resurgence of officially condoned police racism. Not long ago, a black cast member of a Broadway play was arrested and held overnight, missing his performance. Like Diallo, his only "crime" was that of being a black man in his own building at a time when it came under police attention. Ask any young black man in New York City, neatly dressed teenager or even a computer consultant wearing a suit, how many times he has been stopped and harassed by the police.


Giuliani's first Mayoral campaign began in a police riot, which no-one today remembers. The cops were demonstrating in front of City Hall, then inhabited by a black mayor, David Dinkins. Giuliani stood on the steps and delivered a speech so incendiary that the cops, many of them already drunk, began beating journalists and blocking traffic on the Brooklyn Bridge. It is heavily ironic that Giuliani no longer permits demonstrations on the steps of City Hall.

After Diallo, there was also the case of shooting of Patrick Dorismond:

On March 16, 2000, an undercover New York City narcotics officer approached Haitian-American Patrick Dorismond to solicit marijuana. Dorismond reportedly grew upset at officer's request, and scuffled with Detective Anthony Vasquez, who fatally shot Dorismond. Dorismond was later found to not have any drugs or weapons on him.

As he had done before, Giuliani blamed the victim.

Before Patrick Dorismond's body was cold, the Giuliani administration launched an obscene campaign to vilify the dead security guard and all but portray him as someone who had a police bullet coming to him. Having little to work with, Giuliani ordered Police Commissioner Safir to unseal a juvenile record on the man, disclosing that he had been arrested for robbery and assault in 1987, when he was 13.

The charge, reportedly stemming from a childhood fist fight over a quarter, was dropped and his record sealed because he was a child. But Giuliani's legal advisers took the position that once he was dead, Dorismond's right not to have police records from his childhood publicized by the mayor died with him. It allowed Giuliani to declare that Dorismond was no "altar boy" and that his previous brush with the police "may justify, more closely, what the police officer did."

As for the cop who shot the security guard, Giuliani praised him for his "distinguished" career as an undercover officer, declaring that in going out and shooting an innocent, unarmed man to death in the street he "put his life on the line in the middle of the night to protect the safety and security of this city."

But then 9/11 happened washed all this away from our collective memories, remaking Rudy into a brand new golden boy for the G.O.P.

He became a key speaker at the G.O.P's 2004 Presidential Convention even while NYPD officers continued their suppression tactics and even engaged in political espionage. Milking the situation for every ounce of juice Rudy wrote to the Republican faithful in an RNC mass-mailing on the eve of the 2004 elections repeating what he'd stated on the Convention floor.

On September 11, our nation faced the worst attack in our history.

On that day, we had to confront reality. Our people were brave in their response.

At the time, we believed we would be attacked many more times that day and in the days that followed. Spontaneously, I grabbed the arm of then Police Commissioner Bernard Kerik and said to Bernie, "Thank God George Bush is our President." I've been saying that every day since.

We needed George Bush then; we need him now; and we need him for four more years!

That conversation has since been shown to have been a complete fabrication, while Bernard Kerik who Giuliani had been pushing as the new head of Homeland Security has since been unceremoniously tossed off the bus in the wake of ethics issues and alleged ties to organized crime.

Skip forward to the here and now.

I have recounted all the above in such detail in order to provide context for what may be some of the most chilling aspects of Rudy Giuliani radical authoritarianism to be yet revealed : His belief in absolute Presidential Authority.

From Glenn Greenwald.

Rudy was asked about the Iraq supplemental. He said he finds it "irresponsible and dangerous." Then he began to muse about, after a veto, "would the president have the constitutional authority to support them [the troops], anyway?" He said he's a lawyer so he wouldn't offer an opinion "off the top of his head," then he proceeded to do just that.

He seemed to suggest that Bush could fund the Iraq war without Congress providing funding, but it was confusing. In an interview with a New Hampshire TV reporter after his remarks, he seemed more categorical and said, since the war had been authorized by Congress, the president has "the inherent authority to support the troops." But he added, "You have to ask a constitutional lawyer."

Glenn Greenwald is a Constitutional Lawyer, and he's not down with this.

Not only does Rudy believe that the President has some magic ability to fund a War on his own (ala Iran/Contra) but he also believes that the President has the authority to imprison American Citizens without charges, justification or review.

This view flies totally in the fact of Hamdi v Rumsfeld which clearly called for Judicial Review in such cases:

It would turn our system of checks and balances on its head to suggest that a citizen could not make his way to court with a challenge to the factual basis for his detention by his government, simply because the Executive opposes making available such a challenge. Absent suspension of the writ by Congress, a citizen detained as an enemy combatant is entitled to this process.

Following Hamdi the 109th Congress via the MCA effectively suspended the writ for foreign combatants - but it did not suspended for U.S. Citizens and the President certainly does not have that power independent of Congressional authority.

Giuliani may simply be confused on this point - but I doubt it since also think the President has the inherent power to defy the will of Congress.

In fact, it may well be this very long and clearly defined authoritarian streak of Giuliani's that is making him the darling of the Neo-Con Sect, causing them to brush aside his pro-abortion, pro-gay stances even among the deepest, darkest hearted of the red-staters. Especially among them.

For you see, they love nothing so much as a whip-cracking, brutal authoritarian in those parts. Just listen to what Katie O'Beirn and Rich Lowry have said about how Giuliani "women issues" have actually helped him. Lowry via Greenwald...

Have been talking to some smart people today about Giuliani. Two of them said independently that the appeal of Giuliani is he'd be "a tough SOB -- for you," and that he'd be "a d*head -- for you." Another said . . . that a Giuliani supporter he knows considers the nasty divorce a kind of asset because it speaks to his toughness. . . .

I think it's clear he'd be a "tough dickhead son of a bitch" for somebody - but there's no guarantee that it's going to you.

Greenwald on O'Beirn:

O'Beirne passed along an email from a friend which stated: "Contrary to popular speculation, the apparently brutal public dumping of Donna Hanover can only bolster the popularity of the man with conservatives." O'Beirne also suggested that an old Giuliani campaign ad showcasing his lovely family could be revised to say: "Don't worry. I dumped them all because I am that tough guy."

The Past is Prologue.

If you look back, the signs are all there. With a Giuliani Presidency we can not expect to see an actual moderate Republicanism, we will not see "Compassionate Conservative" finally realized, instead we can expect to see an even more extreme version of the Unitary Executive Theory than we have from John Yoo, more corruption and cronyism (Kerik), and even more excuses and justifications of racial profiling (against Muslims, Blacks and probably Latinos), illegal detainment of suspects and possibly even torture than we've seen so far from President Bush.

And that's saying something.

Even back in 1998 in response to Louima and Diallo - some New Yorkers saw it all clearly. He is George Bush Redux.

The kind of mayor I want for my city would be deeply agitated by the killing of Amadou Diallo and would ask why he had such poorly trained, highly strung "heroes" patrolling in plainclothes. Giuliani, on television, merely seemed pained, as he always does. Undoubtedly he wishes it had not happened, but only because it is a nuisance to deal with and (had it gotten out of control,

Yes, exactly how George Bush looked pained by the aftermath of Katrina - not because he was sorry that it had happened to all those who lost their lives and homes, but that it had happened to deeply embarrass him.

More from 1999:

Rudy Giuliani is a dictator in waiting. He is self righteous, absolute, has no sense of humor, and will go to any lengths to punish his enemies. He is temperamentally completely unsuited to be senator [As he was vying at the time], as it is a job requiring negotiation, collegiality, and charm. I believe he is interested in the job for one reason only: as a stepping stone to the Presidency. If so, he would be the most dangerous president since Richard Nixon. In fact, I think he would be more dangerous: Nixon doubted himself and sometimes hesitated at the opportune moment; Giuliani feels no doubt and will not hesitate.

He feels no doubt and would not hesitate, as Bush continues to "feel no doubt" about his decision to attack, invade and occupy an unarmed Arab nation?

This "lack of doubt", his self-righteous and authoritarian nature is exactly why he continues to be the rights true darling, and why should he succeed in claiming the Republican nomination he should be opposed by all who abhor neo-con fascists at all costs.


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