Tuesday, April 28, 2009

* Patriotic sadism ~ if at first you don’t succeed… - Former VP Dick Cheney and his chain gang claim that waterboarding works. That being the case one would think that after one or two or three or even unbelievably ten waterboardings a suspect would provide the information sought. Okay, it wasn’t a lucky interrogation for the inquisitors. Let’s try it 20 times on Khalid Sheikh Mohammed. How about 30 or 40 or 50 times? That should cover it. But then again, maybe the guy is an encyclopedia of information. Let’s try waterboarding him 80 or 90 or 100 times. Nah, this is America with a documented work ethic and a penchant for going for the gold. Let’s waterboard the SOB 183 times. Maybe the interrogations ceased because they ran out of water.

* The Ticking Bomb ~ The Catastrophic Fallout – Defenders of torture generally begin the debate by saying, “Torture methods are necessary to get information from a detainee who has information about a bomb about to go off that will take American lives.” Seemingly compelling, one wonders whether this scenario applied to any of the hundreds (or more) of detainees “harshly” interrogated at Guantanamo, Abu Ghraib and untold secret sites? Even more telling of this blanket reasoning is the recently released report by the Senate that abusive techniques were used to try to produce evidence of ties between al Qaeda and Iraq. To summarize: detainees were abused to extract evidence of a relationship that never existed, except in the necon planet of the Bush administration. This may be the greatest lesson to be learned from the Bush years: the dangerous and self-defeating consequences of believing your own lies.

* Bombastic rhetoric – I find it interesting that those folks defending the actions of the Bush administration at Guantanamo et al reply that critics of such behavior can only be found in the political far left. I guess this means that citizens on the near left, moderates and conservatives (near and far) believe that torture is acceptable. Except for the majority of conservatives the majority of Americans are against the use of torture. Look at the polling. For as long as I have been on this planet, at least until seven years ago, I was under the impression that AMERICA AND AMERICANS DO NOT TORTURE. That being said, Defenders of the Bush Administration would have us believe that what took place at Guantanamo et al was not torture. John McCain strongly disagrees with his fellow conservatives and stated on Face the Nation that under George W. Bush the U.S. violated the Geneva Convention. FBI director Robert Mueller told his agents who had observed and reported back CIA enhanced interrogation techniques, "No, you can't do that. That violates our own rules. That violates our understanding of the law. You have to step back." Both the inquiries yet to take place and history will condemn this period and note that torture, even when wrapped in the Stars and Stripes, is still torture.

* Two misunderstandings have gained widespread attention concerning Barack Obama and his approach to dealing with the torture issue. Contrary to many media pundits, it is not Obama’s decision to seek or not seek investigations into the commitment of torture. It is the decision of the Attorney General, the person designated to oversee the legal interests of the American people (contrary to how Alberto Gonzales interpreted this position).

The second area that requires further thought is when Obama said that he was immunizing CIA personnel from possible prosecution for committing torture. Recall that we function under the laws of the U.S. AND international law that our country has signed on to. From Glenn Greenwald at Salon.com: “After President Obama announced last week that he opposes prosecutions of CIA officials who tortured detainees in reliance on OLC memos purporting to legalize that conduct the United Nations Special Rapporteur on Torture, Manfred Nowak, announced that Obama's policy of immunizing CIA torturers violates international law and, specifically, the clear obligations of the U.S. under the Convention Against Torture (signed by Ronald Reagan in 1988).”

For those macho guys (and gals) who want to treat waterboarding as a day at Wet N Wild, they should be reminded that, “After World War II, we convicted several Japanese soldiers for waterboarding American and Allied prisoners of war.” They were hanged or sentenced to 15 years in prison. Apparently the Bush lawyers who wrote justifications for the use of waterboarding were ignorant of or ignored history and the law.

If you have the stomach the LA Times offers 10 just-released photos depicting treatment of detainees at Abu Ghraib. We may never know to what extent abusive American actions contributed to the further recruitment of terrorists but it is safe to say that what are known as “enhanced techniques” did little or anything to make us or our troops in Iraq safer. If anything, such actions increased the threat to American troops and citizens.

And let us not forget the complicity of some Democrats, if the claim is correct that a small number were informed of the program. And let us not forget the pathetic lack of opposition by the Democratic Party as the enhanced techniques became publicly know. This is not a political party issue. It is a humane issue, a legal issue and strikes at the heart of what this country stands for. It matters not to me, and hopefully other citizens, whether an individual politically affiliates with an R or a D. If they knowingly enabled or did not vociferously oppose the use of torture, the light of shame should be shone upon them.

For the record, a new poll out today by the New York Times and CBS found that 71% of Americans consider waterboarding to be a form of torture. It is interesting to note that 26% said it was not torture, about the same percentage of Americans that approved of George W. Bush as he left office. I will leave it to the political scientists to draw conclusions.

* The Party of smaller government ~ until government is needed – The recent outbreak of Swine Flu is a reminder that we are susceptible to pathogens that result in widespread illness or worse. Rightfully so, Obama’s original stimulus packaging contained $870 million for flu pandemic preparedness. In order to gain the support in the Senate needed to pass the stimulus bill, Republicans Susan Collin and Arlen Specter demanded that this money be cut from the spending bill. Perhaps these esteemed Senators did not feel it necessary to prepare for viral outbreaks since they benefit from an excellent government-sponsored health plan. For the rest of the citizenry, let them eat cake.

Last week tough-as-a-longhorn Rick Perry, Governor of Texas, stood on a soapbox and suggested that Texas could secede from the union. It is a good thing that secession takes time because this week, “Gov. Rick Perry has asked for 37,430 courses of anti-viral medicine from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention because of the swine flu outbreak.” It reminds one of the child who runs away from home but returns in two hours because it is getting cold and dark.

* Swine Flu conundrum – The Center for Disease Control says, “If you have a fever and you're sick or your children are sick, don’t go to work and don't go to school." The National Partnership points out: “nearly half of private sector workers in the United States don't have a single paid sick day. It's even worse for low wage workers. And nearly 100 million workers don’t have a paid sick day they can use to care for a sick child. “

* “The layman's constitutional view is that what he likes is constitutional and that which he doesn't like is unconstitutional.”
Justice Hugo L. Black (1886 – 1971) Associate Justice of the Supreme Court 1937 to 1971

1 comment:

Ruth Deming said...

I admire your tackling this most somber of topics, stephen, esp. since you once told me you avoid films of gratuitous violence.

the mind boggles at the gratuitous violence of our own government.