September 6, 2011
With the new Dick Cheyney book out, this monster under the rug has come back to haunt America. Here is a segment of a conversation Col. Lawrence Wilkerson had with then Secretary of State Colin Powell:
He had pulled me aside in the National Intelligence Council spaces in the CIA, put me in a room, he and I alone, and he told me he was going to throw all the presentation material about the connection between Baghdad and al-Qaeda out, completely out. I welcomed that, because I thought it was all bogus.
Within about an hour, George Tenet, having scented that something was wrong with the Secretary vis-à-vis this part of his presentation, suddenly unleashes on all in his conference room that they have just gotten the results of an interrogation of a high-level al-Qaeda operative, and those results not only confirm substantial contacts between an al-Qaeda and Baghdad, the Mukhabarat and Baghdad, the secret police, if you will, but also the fact that they were training, they were actually training al-Qaeda operatives in the use of chemical and biological weapons. Well, this was devastating. Here’s the DCI telling us that a high-level al-Qaeda operative had confirmed all of this. So Powell put at least part of that back into his presentation.
We later learned that that was through interrogation methods that used waterboarding, that no U.S. personnel were present at the time–it was done in Cairo, Egypt, and it was done by the Egyptians–and that later, within a week or two period, the high-level al-Qaeda operative recanted everything he had said. We further learned that the Defense Intelligence Agency had issued immediately a warning on that, saying that they didn’t trust the reliability of it due to the interrogation methods. We were never shown that DIA dissent, and we were never told about the circumstances under which the high-level al-Qaeda operative was interrogated. Tenet simply used it as a bombshell to convince the secretary not to throw that part, which was a very effective part, if you will recall, out of his presentation.
June 12, 2011
are mapped out well by Gabor Rona. This seems to be the day of subjective material:
For one thing, the two countries have different visions of the purposes of the Geneva Conventions. In the European collective memory, war is as much a scourge on civilians as on combatants. For Americans, war happens elsewhere to US combatants, not to US civilians, the last major war fought on US soil having been a century and a half ago. In Europe, human rights and “humanitarian law” (as the laws of armed conflict are known there) are part of a broader school curriculum, as the Geneva Conventions require. In the US, the “laws of war” (as they are known there) are more exclusively the province of the military and you are lucky to find it taught in law school, let alone high school.
The two countries also differ greatly on enforcement of international human rights obligations. The main European human rights treaty, the European Convention on Human Rights, is enforced by an independent court. The main human rights treaty to which the US is a party, the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, has no enforcement mechanism applicable to the US. Meanwhile, American courts typically refuse to enforce the Geneva Conventions and human rights law.
It is astounding that we hold other countries to such a high standard but seem to fail miserably in some major areas (human rights to name a biggie).
June 12, 2011
Tom Rees mulls over a study and continues this discussion:
What they found was consistent with a set up where religion makes people conservative, and that in turn makes them support torture. In other words, religion has a direct and an indirect effect. Basic religion (in their model) opposes torture, but it also religion increases support for conservative politics. As a result, it indirectly increases support for torture.
What’s more, this indirect effect was much stronger in in educated people. In educated people, religion is more likely to be linked to conservative views, and conservative views are more likely to be linked to support for torture.
In my view, the real interest in these results is that they underscore once again just how complex religion is. I think that the motives for educated people to embrace religion differ from the motives of the less educated.As a result, the kind of religion they have, and the purposes they put it too, are different.
They make religion in their own image.
June 2, 2011
This is pretty brutal stuff.
Many nations who use torture utilize it in a very discreet and clandestine manner. Not Syria. They are broadcasting it so to intimidate people. Here is the news of the 13 year old, Hamza al-Khateeb, who was arrested April 29 and returned to his family a month later:
The child had spent nearly a month in the custody of Syrian security, and when they finally returned his corpse it bore the scars of brutal torture: Lacerations, bruises and burns to his feet, elbows, face and knees, consistent with the use of electric shock devices and of being whipped with cable, both techniques of torture documented by Human Rights Watch as being used in Syrian prisons during the bloody three-month crackdown on protestors.
Hamza’s eyes were swollen and black and there were identical bullet wounds where he had apparently been shot through both arms, the bullets tearing a hole in his sides and lodging in his belly. On Hamza’s chest was a deep, dark burn mark. His neck was broken and his penis cut off.
His father supposedly fainted when he saw his son.
This has then been followed up with protests:
In a revolutionary season that has seen countless “Fridays of Rage” in half a dozen countries, Syrian activists marched on a day that some dubbed “the Saturday of Hamza.” … In the Damascus suburb of Douma, protesters marched through the night chanting “Leave! Leave!” to Mr. Assad while holding signs declaring, “We are all Hamza al-Khateeb,” according to a video posted on YouTube. Video from another suburb, Dereya, showed women and children demonstrating, with a chorus of young voices shouting, “The people want the overthrow of the regime.” They held aloft signs that read, “Did Hamza scare you that much?”
One final note: Syrians across religious, ethnic, geographical, and tribal lines are banding together in support against their government.
May 24, 2011
From the Dish, some political humor:
The KGB, the FBI and the CIA are all trying to prove that they are the best at catching criminals. The Secretary General of the UN decides to give them a test. He releases a rabbit into a forest and each of them has to catch it. The CIA goes in. They place animal informants throughout the forest. They question all plant and mineral witnesses. After three months of extensive investigations they conclude that the rabbit does not exist. The FBI goes in. After two weeks with no leads they burn the forest, killing everything in it, including the rabbit, and make no apologies: the rabbit had it coming. The KGB goes in. They come out two hours later with a badly beaten bear. The bear is yelling: “Okay! Okay! I’m a rabbit! I’m a rabbit!”
May 21, 2011
An hour and a half discussion on CIA torture methods moderated by a non-convicted war criminal from the Bush II presidency, John Yoo.
May 21, 2011
Is Rick Santorum that patriotic (caring so much to protect our country at the cost of breaking down another human being) that he has formed a level of cognitive dissonance? He is a Catholic yet agrees with using torture on our enemies. Here is the rub that doesn’t add up:
Catholic bishops described torture as an assault on the dignity of human life and an “intrinsic evil” in their 2007 statement Faithful Citizenship. (For a more in depth look at intrinsic evil and political responsibility read this essay by Cathleen Kaveny of the University of Notre Dame in America magazine.) “The use of torture must be rejected as fundamentally incompatible with the dignity of the human person and ultimately counterproductive in the effort to combat terrorism,” the bishops wrote in Faithful Citizenship. As Kyle R. Kupp points out over at Vox Nova, Pope Paul VI described such acts as “infamies” that “poison society,” do “supreme dishonor to the Creator,” and “do more harm to those who practice them than to those who suffer from injury.”
May 17, 2011
“…everything I’ve read shows that we would not have gotten this information as to who this man was if it had not been gotten information from people who were subject to enhanced interrogation. And so this idea that we didn’t ask that question while Khalid Sheikh Mohammed was being waterboarded, he doesn’t understand how enhanced interrogation works. I mean, you break somebody, and after they’re broken, they become cooperative”, Rick Santorum as he calls out former prisoner of war and tortured soldier John McCain for not understanding torture and its role in American foreign policy. (emphasis mine in the quote).
Foreign policy aside, what does the emphasized quote by Santorum say about treating others made in the image of God? Santorum, sadly, may on purpose conflate torture with Christianity.
May 10, 2011
For the torture hawks out there:
“Listen, waterboarding and/or other coercive techniques did nothing to contribute to our attempts to track down OBL (Osama bin Laden). What did succeed was weeks, months and years of diligent, laborious, and dedicated work – all within the bounds of legal and ethical boundaries … No torture, no waterboarding, no coercion – nothing inhumane – is considered a useful tool in our work…
I cannot even count the amount of times that I personally have come face to face with detainees, who told me they were primarily motivated to do what they did, because of hearing that we committed torture.
Even the rumor of torture is enough to convince an army of uneducated and illiterate, yet religiously motivated young boys to strap bombs to their chests and blow themselves up while killing whoever happens to be around – police, soldiers, civilians, women, or children. Torture committed by Americans in the past continues to kill Americans today,” – a seniorUS interrogator in Afghanistan.
May 10, 2011
Whether or not torturing (or it’s euphemism “enhanced interagation techniques” (EIT) lead America Navy Seals to OBL, it strips humans of their dignity and God-given image.
Now that that is out of the way, I want to confront this ideology mix-up. When the Khmer Rouge (the architects of the Killing Field in Cambodia) tortured, we called it inhumane and torture. When the Nazi’s tortured Jews, we called it inhumane and torture. When America tortures terrorist suspects (while there are more effective legal alternatives out there), we call it “protecting our country”, “defending liberty”, “fighting terrorists”, or some other Americanized slogan that could go on a bumper sticker.
I want to know why we don’t see our torture as what it is: torture. It isn’t any nice, prettier, or better if we do it, too. We will go down in history as torturing and we have little room to condemn others (even radical Muslims who torture Americans and their own). An eye for an eye, even when doing it for “just” causes, leaves all blind.
This all reminds me of the death penalty and the war on terror. We kill people who kill people to show that killing people is bad. We torture people who torture people to try to attain some righteous outcome. That doesn’t sound like logical math to me.
May 5, 2011
Oh, welcome back torture to the political debate. So many have wished you’d go away and never come back.
H/T: Tony Auth
May 4, 2011
Don’t believe the spin. Read for yourself.
September 15, 2010
Glenn Greenwald shows how sad American exceptionalism can be:
So, to recap: the U.S. creates a worldwide regime of torture, disappearances and lawless imprisonment. Then, the Bush administration, the Obama administration, and the American federal judiciary all collaborate to shield the guilty parties from all accountability (Look Forward, Not Backward!), and worse, to ensure that not a single victim can even access American courts to obtain a ruling as to the legality of what was done to them, let alone receive compensation for their suffering, even while recognizing that many of the victims were completely innocent and even though other countries have provided the victims with compensation for their much more minor role in what happened. Our courts even ensure that Blackwater guards are shielded from prosecution for the cold-blooded murder of Iraqi citizens.
But we invade, occupy and destroy Iraq — while severely abusing, torturing and killing their citizens — and then demand, as a condition for our allowing the end of crippling sanctions, that they fork over hundreds of millions of dollars in compensation to American torture victims, even though it all happened 20 years ago, under an Iraqi regime that no longer even exists. They hate us for our Freedoms.
To me, this puts a big black eye on the USA and lowers us down a few notches to an archaic nation of yore. We very well may have different reasons to act in this case when compared to Iraq. I guess it comes back to the Wikileaks comparison – don’t release information that could harm our troops.
September 10, 2010
Julian Sanchez gets in depth about the constitutional boundaries the USA has crossed with the expansion of the surveillance state.
Andrew Sullivan is disappointed in Barack Obama for not prosecuting the war criminals under our previous administration.
*Both of these reads are longer but rather interesting.
“If we are to recover as a nation under law rather under a prince, it will not be through the channels of the two major parties or through any president acceptable to the mainstream of either party. It will require a citizenry so enraged and protective of its core liberties against this security Leviathan that it compels dismantling this machinery and exposing it to the light of day – not recklessly, not abruptly, but by close examination, judicial review, press inquiry, protest. There are legitimate trade-offs between national security and liberty. But the protection of war criminals where no secrets are at stake except the scandal of torture itself is not one of them. Alas, there are few such citizens around. And, most tragic of all, those who say they care about liberty above all – the tea-partiers who invoke the founders – seem only too willing to surrender every liberty for the prize of a security against a threat we cannot even measure, and to bow down before a new king (and probably warrior-queen) rather than elect a new president.”
August 25, 2010
You may have heard some disparaging or supportive comments pertaining to the proposed building of a mosque near Ground Zero. A few outcomes are generated from the discourse related to this topic:
- Deciding on the place of Muslims in America
“The question is whether they should be presumed to be terrorists unless proven otherwise — hence the constant, suspicious demands to find out where the money behind the putatively innocent project is coming from — or whether they should be afforded the same general presumption of innocence enjoyed by other religions”, Jonathan Chait
- The differing stances within the GOP on the mosque and questioning if they are meant to boost a candidates potential
“The project is opposed by many of the leading GOP officials in Congress, from John Boehner to Eric Cantor to Mitch McConnell. What’s more, the battle over the Islamic center has actually become a litmus test for the 2012 GOP hopefuls, with Sarah Palin, Newt Gingrich, Mitt Romney, and Tim Pawlenty all trying to out-demagogue each other on the issue.
Meanwhile, on the other side, the Republicans who have stepped forward to support the project are largely former Bush officials who are no longer in positions of power or aren’t running for office anytime soon. In other words, the Cheney-ite line has become the required position of thise with actual influence within the GOP — or those who are currently in the process of seeking it”, Greg Sargent (emphasis added by me).
The first point on the benefit of doubt given to other religions except Islam is clear as day. The actions and emotions on 9/11 are still fresh as they approach 9 years since the day the planes were hijacked. As Stephen Budiansky notes perfectly, “it is hard in this age of endless memorialization to even express this view (getting beyond sacred ground) without sounding callous.” The crimes committed by the Protestant or Catholic churches, at least as of late, have been attempted to of been covered up (see child molestation in the Catholic church) or ambiguously wrapped in innocuous religious-political stances (aka euphemisms) such as “state building” via carpet bombing innocent civilian villages in hopes of rooting out terrorists or conducting “enhanced interrogation techniques” such that can be found in great description here and here; these two links are essential to having a solid understanding of contemporary torture (in my opinion).
My second comment above alluding to the blood shed in killing innocent foreign denizens or in torture chambers is not meant to directly link American foreign policies to the Protestant church. Far from that, I am looking at that in terms of an religious influence referenced by many government officials (by any means necessary) and many Christianists when supporting nation building or the ticking time bomb theory.
Not to sound doomsdayish, but Sargent’s point is wrapped up with an auspicious outlook for the House and Presidency in the coming general and mid-term elections should the GOP swoop in.
August 14, 2010
Harpers tells of Osama Bin Laden’s cook who has “sentenced” to 15 years in prison at Guantanamo Bay:
The cases of al-Qosi and child warrior Omar Khadr, now underway, highlight America’s current prosecutorial dilemma. Any prosecutor worth his salt would want to start the process just as Justice Jackson did at the end of World War II: with high-profile targets against whom powerful evidence has been assembled. But nine years after 9/11, Osama bin Laden and Ayman al-Zawahiri remain at large. Thus the world is shown not the mastermind of a heinous crime but a short-order cook and a 15-year-old child who offers credible evidence that he was tortured in U.S. custody. The spectacle is so pathetic that we can understand why those running it want to turn to carnival tricks to conceal the unseemly reality.
I appreciate what Scott Horton says, especially since I just watched Nuremberg and enjoyed all three hours of it. It should be noted that even though al-Qosi was merely bin Laden’s cook, he had to have some inside information and be somewhat valuable to bin Laden to be in his inner circle. Horton makes a good point as he refer’s to Justice Jackson: Jackson mulled over what to do with the city of Nuremberg and it’s ecumenical role in the Holocaust. He said that he preferred going after 22 men and putting together 22 solid cases based off of the evidence. I don’t think we can simply discredit this because of his role as a cook but it is disheartening that Osama is still out free. Remember, we still haven’t given up.
August 13, 2010
Two stories I bring up pertain to Bagram, Afghanistan.
A first hand account:
Contrary to Ackerman’s report, Bagram really isn’t that big. Seriously. I live there, and I’ve been there for more than a year. It’s crowded, surely, but it is not a “massive” base. The crowding, IMO, is more a result of shitty planning on the part of base operations than because it has such a massive number of forces in it (everybody is packed into about two miles along Disney. The rest is more like an industrial park). The traffic is, as Ackerman notes, absolutely ridiculous on Disney, but not because there is some overwhelming number of vehicles. Rather, it’s because there are several crossing areas – the largest being between the PX on the west side of Disney, and Kohle DFAC, the main chow hall directly across the street on the east side of Disney – that cause traffic to have to stop for pedestrians for several minutes at a time. During off hours, Disney is clear.
FT Hood in Texas – that’s massive. I thought Camp Victory in Iraq was pretty big too, especially considering it butts right up against several other bases that in reality are all one base, they just have different names. Victory and it’s sister bases *dwarf* Bagram.
I’m all for keeping Obama’s feet to the fire on our mindless efforts in Afghanistan, but let’s not devolve into hysterics and hyperbole.
Finally, a 15-year old detainee was sent to the Bagram center under the Bush years and sentenced the other week in Gitmo:
Khadr, then 15 years old, was taken to Bagram near death, after being shot twice in the back, blinded by shrapnel, and buried in rubble from a bomb blast. He was interrogated within hours, while sedated and handcuffed to a stretcher. He was threatened with gang rape and death if he didn’t cooperate with interrogators. He was hooded and chained with his arms suspended in a cage-like cell, and his primary interrogator was later court-martialed for detainee abuse leading to the death of a detainee. During his subsequent eight-year (so far) detention at Guantánamo, Khadr was subjected to the “frequent flyer” sleep deprivation program and he says he was used as a human mop after he was forced to urinate on himself.
As Sullivan makes this simple, “What happens is that physical force is introduced into the system of alleged justice. There is no justice then; just power.”
July 20, 2010
It has to be more complicated than this:
Gitmo shut-down not a priority, top Dem says
House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer acknowledged Tuesday that closing down the Guantanamo Bay prison is not a top priority for congressional Democrats.
In response to a question from a reporter about where shutting down Gitmo stands, Hoyer said, “I think that’s not an item, as you point out, of real current discussion. There’s some very big issues confronting us – dealing with growing the economy and Iraq and Afghanistan.”
Hoyer added, “I think you’re not going to see it discussed very broadly in the near term.”
How can it be that it’s not a priority to end something which — as Hoyer put it in 2007 — “threatens the safety of U.S. citizens and military personnel detained abroad”?
This, needless to say, is par for the course: policies which establishment Democrats pretended to vehemently oppose when out of power magically transformed into policies they embrace when in power.
July 11, 2010
Greenwald points out the issues seen over the past several years:
* If you torture people or eavesdrop on Americans without the warrants required by the criminal law, you receive Look-Forward Imperial Immunity.
* If you shoot and kill unarmed rescuers of the wounded while occupying their country and severely wound their unarmed children sitting in a van — or if you authorize that conduct — your actions are commended.
* If you help wreck the world economy with fraud and cause hundreds of millions of people untold suffering, you collect tens of millions of dollars in bonuses.
* If you disclose to the world evidence of war crimes, government lawbreaking, or serious corruption, or otherwise embarrass the U.S., you will be swiftly prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law and face decades in prison.
As was true for Ellsberg, the issue isn’t that Manning is being prosecuted; the issue is the extreme disparities in how such decisions are made and what that reveals about the objectives and priorities of those responsible for these decisions.