Archive for Torture
With 2014 gone (and good riddance), perhaps in 2015 America will look itself in the mirror and reflect on what it means to behave as if civilized rules only apply to everyone else. We look somewhat less exceptional from across the pond. Take this op-ed from Christian Christensen, a professor in Stockholm, for example:
… 2014 has been a year in which the mythology of domestic U.S. legal egalitarianism — reinforced by the mantra of blind justice and a near religious reverence of the U.S. Constitution — was exposed as a pretense. As abroad, so at home: Some people are more equal than others.
After the police killings of unarmed black men, Michael Brown and Eric Garner; after the botched execution of Clayton Lockett in Oklahoma; after the SCCI report on a torture program approved by the White House — more brutal than the world already knew, and in violation of domestic and international law; and after a majority of Americans when asked approved the torture; on reflection, exceptionalism looks more like license. There are not two sets of rules in America, Christensen concludes, but three: “one for white killers, one for black killers and one for police officers who killed black suspects.” And a fourth for rich, Wall Street bankers, I might add.
One thread ties together all these cases: The willingness of the U.S. to bend the law and condone the barbaric treatment of human beings is grounded in differences of race, ethnicity or religion. Police violence, the death penalty and torture are predominantly applied to nonwhites or non-Christians. How supportive would white Americans and lawmakers be of procedures such as “rectal rehydration” — a gruesome procedure that, according to the torture report, was applied to hunger-striking inmates — if they were performed on white Christians? How long would they would be to willing to tolerate routine police killings of unarmed white citizens?
It all seems, I don’t know, a little medieval:
Perhaps critics are right. Perhaps we’ve been wrong to base interrogation and prisoner treatment on traditions and superstitions of past centuries. Maybe as citizens of a democratic republic we should strive in the 21st century to live up to our lofty, Enlightenment ideals of freedom, equality, and justice for all. Maybe instead of falling prey to jingoism, we should reflect, examine our assumptions analytically, through experimentation and a “scientific method”. Maybe this scientific method could be extended to other fields of learning: the natural sciences, art, architecture, law. Perhaps it could lead the way to a new age, an age of rebirth, a Renaissance! … Naaaaaahhh!
(Cross-posted from Hullabaloo.)
All the news about the CIA torture program reminded me of those batches of FBI emails the ACLU obtained through FOIA requests. The ones Sen. Dick Durbin held up and described to colleagues like this:
“If I read this to you and did not tell you that it was an FBI agent describing what Americans had done to prisoners in their control, you would most certainly believe this must have been done by Nazis, Soviets in their gulags, or some mad regime — Pol Pot or others — that that had no concern for human beings. Sadly, that is not the case. This was the action of Americans in the treatment of their prisoners.”
I so want to overdub Cheney with Pee Wee Herman repeatedly saying, “I know what you are, but what am I?”
George W. Bush made me a blogger of me. Writing was the only way of dealing with the intensity of the frustration at America’s
A flood of post-September 11 articles asked how the attacks happened, what we would do next, and why terrorists hate us. One savvy pundit asked, Would America keep its head?
We invaded Iraq on trumped-up intelligence. We conducted illegal surveillance on our own citizens. We imprisoned people without charge, here and abroad. We rendered prisoners for torture and tortured others ourselves in violation of international law. All the while, millions of staunch, law-and-order conservatives supported and defended it, and still do. Vigorously.
Did America keep its head? Uh, no.
Just as a friend’s PTSD flares up each year at this time (she lost a loved one in the New York attack), we’re still coping with the aftermath of decisions made by Bush’s Mayberry Machiavellis. So sure that they were God’s instruments (if not Halliburton’s), they could rationalize all of it. Their elaborate justification memos in legaleze are still trickling out.
“We conclude only that when the nation has been thrust into an armed conflict by a foreign attack on the United States and the president determines in his role as commander in chief .?.?. that it is essential for defense against a further foreign attack to use the [wiretapping] capabilities of the [National Security Agency] within the United States, he has inherent constitutional authority” to order warrantless wiretapping — “an authority that Congress cannot curtail,” Goldsmith wrote in a redacted 108-page memo dated May 6, 2004.
The program, code-named Stellar Wind, enabled the NSA to collect communications on U.S. soil when at least one party was believed to be a member of al-Qaeda or an al-Qaeda affiliate, and at least one end of the communication was overseas.
The ACLU obtained the memos through a Freedom of Information Act lawsuit. Staff attorney Patrick Toomey tells the Washington Post,
“Unfortunately, the sweeping surveillance they sought to justify is not a thing of the past,” Toomey said. “The government’s legal rationales have shifted over time, but some of today’s surveillance programs are even broader and more intrusive than those put in place more than a decade ago by President Bush.”
Now that Bush is home in Texas painting and Vice President Dark Side is still stumping for renewed U.S. intervention in the region his intervention helped destabilize, we are still dealing with the after effects of their misrule.
Has any one else noticed: Have any of these former global players from the Bush administration actually set foot outside U.S. borders since leaving office? Can they?
(Cross-posted from Hullabaloo.)
I really didn’t follow the career of Aaron Swartz, but his apparent suicide made news and brought details to light that had fallen down my memory hole (if they were ever in memory). Including his passion for making public information public … and accessible. That got him in trouble with the law in 2011. The New York Times explains:
In an effort to provide free public access to JSTOR, he broke into computer networks at M.I.T. by means that included gaining entry to a utility closet on campus and leaving a laptop that signed into the university network under a false account, federal officials said.
Mr. Swartz turned over his hard drives with 4.8 million documents, and JSTOR declined to pursue the case. But Carmen M. Ortiz, a United States attorney, pressed on, saying that “stealing is stealing, whether you use a computer command or a crowbar, and whether you take documents, data or dollars.”
Except stealing isn’t stealing in this country. And torture isn’t torture. That is, if you’re powerful enough to be above the law, as Swartz clearly was not. The same U.S. Department of Justice Ms. Ortiz works for has decided that if criminals are well-connected and powerful, bank fraud, massive fraud, shift the Earth on its axis fraud is not something this country prosecutes. Instead it negotiates. It holds meetings, like this recent one.
Cross posted from Ascend of Asheville.
As of 2005 there were 737 US military bases in other countries around the world. Every two years the Executive branch of the US government submits about 4000 civilian, and about 65,000 military appointments to Congress for positions within the government. Most of these positions are within the Executive branch. Essentially, the vast majority of the Executive is military in it’s origin, purpose and/or personnel.
This represents, to borrow a phrase from a famous General turned Executive, a vast military/executive complex, with power that arises in many ways from a single admonishment in the Constitution that the President “take care that the laws be faithfully executed”.
The framers of the Constitution wished to avoid a capricious government that was subject to the whims of the population (too much Democracy) or prone to abuse by dictators (too little Democracy). By aiming for “just right” as they understood it, they created a system approaching genius, but they also created a Damoclean situation that has deteriorated over time. Read More→
Local blogger, gadfly and muckraker Jason Bugg traveled to Georgia Diagnostic Prison to bear witness to the Troy Davis execution, here’s an excerpt and a link to the entire story…
I’m not a journalist; I’m a guy who writes simple little things for this blog. Thanks to the readers of this blog, I went down to Jackson, Georgia yesterday to see what was happening at the vigil and protest for Troy Davis. I’ve never been close to anything like what I saw. I’ll do my best to add in names of people and try to recount things that they said, but what I’ve included here are my impressions, and should by no means be treated as authoritative.
The successive waves of document dumps by WikiLeaks have revealed just how much goes on behind the scenes, some aimed at driving the public to where leaders want to go. I am old enough (barely) to remember the Gulf of Tonkin incidents. Signal intelligence declassified by the National Security Agency in 2005 reveals that Americans were the first to fire (warning shots unreported at the time) in the first incident and the second reported incident – as we already knew – never took place. The USS Maddox took a single bullet hole. No Americans were injured. But records doctored to support claims of a second attack gave the Johnson administration a blank check to escalate the Vietnam war. Nearly 60,000 Americans and countless numbers in Vietnam, Laos and Cambodia lost their lives in the aftermath. Because of leaks, Americans did not have to wait forty years to find out about the lies behind nonexistent WMDs, prisoner abuse and government-sponsored torture. Lies and secrecy seem to have a pretty high potential for doing great harm. It’s hard to imagine what greater damage the truth can do.
And now some reaction to the reaction to the WikiLeaks document release.
Beyond the inadvisability of giving unlimited access to diplomatic cables to plainly unreliable employees, the leaks so far have done remarkably little harm to the reputation of the US internationally. But the apparent marshalling of corporate America, assorted showboating legislators and, quite possibly, techno-savvy “patriots” acting as guerrilla deniers of service in an attempt to harass WikiLeaks out of existence may be what, in the end, does the real harm. The country’s over-reaction is looking increasingly like that of a bully who, having had his nose put slightly out of joint, is determined to batter the upstart into a pulp. If America wanted to convince the entire online world that it has no sense of perspective, the past few days have been a triumph. Talk of boycotts is now in the air.
The media was quick to declare the Obama honeymoon over this summer. Yet supporters exhilarated by Barack Obamaâ€™s stunning win in November 2008 were still willing to cut him a lot of slack. That slack just ran out.