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Iraq is an atrocity producing situation


That’s what Christopher Hedges says in his new book, Collateral Damage.  The author spares no punches in assigning blame to those responsible for making the Iraqi war one of murder and not defense of the homeland.  He includes in his stinging indictment, members of his own profession, the press.

The press coverage of the war in Iraq rarely exposes the twisted pathology of this war. We see the war from the perspective of the troops or from the equally skewed perspective of the foreign reporters, holed up in hotels, hemmed in by drivers and translators and official security and military escorts. There are moments when war’s face appears to these voyeurs and professional killers, perhaps from the back seat of a car where a small child, her brains oozing out of her head, lies dying, but mostly it remains hidden. And all our knowledge of the war in Iraq has to be viewed as lacking the sweep and depth that will come one day, perhaps years from now, when a small Iraqi boy reaches adulthood and unfolds for us the sad and tragic story of the invasion and bloody occupation of his nation.

As the war sours, as it no longer fits into the mythical narrative of us as liberators and victors, it fades from view. The cable news shows that packaged and sold us the war have stopped covering it, trading the awful carnage of bomb blasts in Baghdad for the soap-opera sagas of Roger Clemens, Miley Cyrus, and Britney Spears in her eternal meltdown. Average monthly coverage of the war in Iraq on the ABC, NBC, and CBS newscasts combined has been cut in half, falling from 388 minutes in 2003, to 274 in 2004, to 166 in 2005. And newspapers, including papers like the Boston Globe, have shut down their Baghdad bureaus. Deprived of a clear, heroic narrative, restricted and hemmed in by security concerns, they have walked away.

Most reporters know that the invasion and the occupation have been a catastrophe. They know the Iraqis do not want us. They know about the cooked intelligence, spoon-fed to a compliant press by the Office of Special Plans and Lewis Libby’s White House Iraq Group. They know about Curveball, the forged documents out of Niger, the outed CIA operatives, and the bogus British intelligence dossiers that were taken from old magazine articles. They know the weapons of mass destruction were destroyed long before we arrived. They know that our military as well as our National Guard and reserve units are being degraded and decimated. They know this war is not about bringing democracy to Iraq, that all the clichés about staying the course and completing the mission are used to make sure the president and his allies do not pay a political price while in power for their blunders and their folly.

The press knows all this, and if reporters had bothered to look they could have known it a long time ago. But the press, or at least most of it, has lost the passion, the outrage, and the sense of mission that once drove reporters to defy authority and tell the truth.

Politicians also find their way in Hedges’ ire.

War is always about betrayal: betrayal of the young by the old, of idealists by cynics, and of troops by politicians. This bitter knowledge of betrayal has seeped into the ranks of America’s Iraq War veterans. It has unleashed a new wave of disillusioned veterans not seen since the Vietnam War. It has made it possible for us to begin, again, to see war’s death mask and understand our complicity in evil.

But the book is full of personal accounts of soldiers who served time in Iraq and the experiences they had, and it’s a gruesome narrative.  For the average American it reveals a side of the war that is not portrayed in the media yet it’s a portrayal we should all be familiar with in order to prepare ourselves for what will come when Americans service men and women return.  We’ve already heard the stories of suicides are up among Iraqi veterans as well as post traumatic stress disorder and other problems people who’ve been lied to and ordered to kill have to face.

These combat veterans are often alienated from the world around them, a world that still believes in the myth of war and the virtues of the nation. They confront the grave, existential crisis of all who go through combat and understand that we have no monopoly on virtue, that in war we become as barbaric and savage as those we oppose.

Here are some examples of the accounts you will find in his book.

“This unit sets up this traffic control point, and this 18 year-old kid is on top of an armored Humvee with a .50-caliber machine gun,” remembered Sgt. Geoffrey Millard, who served in Tikrit with the 42nd Infantry Division. “And this car speeds at him pretty quick and he makes a split-second decision that that’s a suicide bomber, and he presses the butterfly trigger and puts two hundred rounds in less than a minute into this vehicle. It killed the mother, a father, and two kids. The boy was aged four and the daughter was aged three.

“And they briefed this to the general,” Millard said, “and they briefed it gruesome. I mean, they had pictures. They briefed it to him. And this colonel turns around to this full division staff and says, ‘If these f—ing hajis learned to drive, this sh-t wouldn’t happen.'”

“The first briefing you get when you get off the plane in Kuwait, and you get off the plane and you’re holding a duffel bag in each hand,” Millard remembered. “You’ve got your weapon slung. You’ve got a web sack on your back. You’re dying of heat. You’re tired. You’re jet-lagged. Your mind is just full of goop. And then you’re scared on top of that, because, you know, you’re in Kuwait, you’re not in the States anymore… So fear sets in, too. And they sit you into this little briefing room and you get this briefing about how, you know, you can’t trust any of these f—ing hajis, because all these f—king hajis are going to kill you. And ‘haji’ is always used as a term of disrespect and usually with the F-word in front of it.”

*************

“A lot of guys really supported that whole concept that, you know, if they don’t speak English and they have darker skin, they’re not as human as us, so we can do what we want,” said Spc. Josh Middleton, who served in the 82nd Airborne in Iraq. “And you know, 20 year-old kids are yelled at back and forth at Bragg, and we’re picking up cigarette butts and getting yelled at every day for having a dirty weapon. But over here, it’s like life and death. And 40 year-old Iraqi men look at us with fear and we can — do you know what I mean? — we have this power that you can’t have. That’s really liberating. Life is just knocked down to this primal level of, you know, you worry about where the next food’s going to come from, the next sleep or the next patrol, and to stay alive.

“It’s like, you feel like, I don’t know, if you’re a caveman,” he added. “Do you know what I mean? Just, you know, I mean, this is how life is supposed to be. Life and death, essentially. No TV. None of that bullsh-t.”

*************

Sgt. Camilo Mejía, who eventually applied while still on active duty to become a conscientious objector, said the ugly side of American racism and chauvinism appeared the moment his unit arrived in the Middle East. Fellow soldiers instantly ridiculed Arab-style toilets because they would be “sh-tting like dogs.” The troops around him treated Iraqis, whose language they did not speak and whose culture was alien, little better than animals.

These scenes of abuse, which began immediately after the American invasion, were little more than collective acts of sadism. Mejía watched, not daring to intervene yet increasingly disgusted at the treatment of Iraqi civilians. He saw how the callous and unchecked abuse of power first led to alienation among Iraqis and spawned a raw hatred of the occupation forces. When Army units raided homes, the soldiers burst in on frightened families, forced them to huddle in the corners at gunpoint, and helped themselves to food and items in the house.

“After we arrested drivers,” he recalled, “we would choose whichever vehicles we liked, fuel them from confiscated jerry cans, and conduct undercover presence patrols in the impounded cars.

Iraqi families were routinely fired upon for getting too close to checkpoints, including an incident where an unarmed father driving a car was decapitated by a .50-caliber machine gun in front of his small son. Soldiers shot holes into cans of gasoline being sold alongside the road and then tossed incendiary grenades into the pools to set them ablaze. “It’s fun to shoot sh-t up,” a soldier said. Some opened fire on small children throwing rocks. And when improvised explosive devices (IEDS) went off, the troops fired wildly into densely populated neighborhoods, leaving behind innocent victims who became, in the callous language of war, “collateral damage.”

“We would drive on the wrong side of the highway to reduce the risk of being hit by an IED,” Mejía said of the deadly roadside bombs. “This forced oncoming vehicles to move to one side of the road and considerably slowed down the flow of traffic. In order to avoid being held up in traffic jams, where someone could roll a grenade under our trucks, we would simply drive up on sidewalks, running over garbage cans and even hitting civilian vehicles to push them out of the way. Many of the soldiers would laugh and shriek at these tactics.”

What’s disturbing to this observer is the people who exposed young innocent Americans to this atrocity producing situation are themselves veterans of the atrocity called Vietnam, many of them if not in service through experience as citizens of the country during that tumultuous time.  Why weren’t they smart enough to learn from Vietnam so as not to put their  grandchildren through the same horror?  This is the insidious nature of the phony war on terror, all the more complicated by a compliant press that has been bought and paid for by the US government.  The press’ silence however is not enough to quiet stories, as horrific as the accounts in Hedges’ book, from still coming out.

Islam and plastic surgery


I found two rather conflicting realities regarding the above subject which I will post here.  First the ideal.

Does Islam allow facial plastic surgery?

Plastic cosmetic surgery is permissible in Islam only if it can correct or improve a defect that bothers a person physically, emotionally or psychologically. It should be done when it is very much needed. Unnecessary plastic surgery, just to change the shape and style, is a waste of time and money and is disliked according to the Shri’ah.

Now the reality.

Women between the ages 20 and 65 are the most common age group seeking plastic surgery here, she said. Men commonly seek liposuction or other forms of weight reduction. Many patients simply want a surgical makeover. Some see models and celebrities and are dissatisfied with what they see in the mirror. Some seek a nose job to fit the image of an Arab. “They like long noses because a traditional Arab should have a long nose,” said the surgeon.

What gives?  I have seen more than once Muslim women with their abayas in local area malls, wearing dark glasses with nose bandages on, a sure sign of plastic surgery.  They see no contradiction in the procedure and their ‘way of life’, but such scenes harken back to the old days when people hot combed their hair or use skin whiteners to bleach their skin in an attempt to meet the “standard” of beauty.  Perhaps it’s time to redefine the standard.  And as for those who want to be with people who are long legged, or blond hair and blued eyes, or whatever your vision of beauty is, then just do it!  Don’t try to shape people of your culture into bodies and colors of another culture.  There are plenty of people in the world you can find already “made” it that’s your thing.

The war on terror and the war on drugs at odds with one another?


While the US is fighting their misplaced war on terror in Iraq, the opium trade is growing like it never has since the euphemistic WOT began! Afghan opium poppy cultivation grew 17 percent last year, continuing a six-year expansion of the country’s drug trade and increasing its share of global opium production to more than 92 percent, according to a recently released UN study. The numbers and the time line are rather significant. The war on terror meant to eliminate those dastardly terrorists which have claimed the lives of thousands of Americans here and abroad are some how able to grow and produce opium at record levels while US and NATO troops scour their country looking for them! And they have continued to do so during the entire time of the occupation of their country by those forces! How does that happen? Such questions make it possible for some to make claims like this or this or this. More likely is the fact we will see more of the same here in the US as it pertains to drug use; an increase in the number of users and the accompanying debilitating affects on the society. Drug induced stupor makes it easier for the government to imprison its citizens while enacting unconstitutional measures such as the Military Commission Act and FISA, et.al.

Repeal, abolish the Military Commission Act


The judiciary branch of the government has handed down another defeat to President Bush when it declared a detainee in Guantanamo was improperly labeled an enemy combatant.

A three judge-panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit said Huzaifa Parhat (pronounced hoo-ZY’-fah PAHR’-haht), a Chinese Muslim known as a Uighur, is not an enemy combatant, undermining the basis for his more than six years in detention.  The court rejected the Bush administration’s argument that the president has the power to detain people who never took up arms against the U.S.

In the Military Commission Act of 2006 there are two “enemy combatant” designations. One lawful and the other unlawful. Parhat falls under the latter category and specifically this application of the law was used against him:

a person who, before, on, or after the date of the enactment of the Military Commissions Act of 2006, has been determined to be an unlawful enemy combatant by a Combatant Status Review Tribunal or another competent tribunal established under the authority of the President or the Secretary of Defense.

Whether this ruling means the provision in the Act is unconstitutional or not is undetermined.  There are scores of detainees in Guantanamo who were sold to the US military by Northern Alliance members in the early stages of the conflict in Afghanistan who probably had similar circumstances as Parhat, i.e. they were captured without bearing arms or firing on American forces, who should be likewise released.  There are scores of other prisoners of Guantanamo who have already been released without charge after being imprisoned for years.  Both presidential candidates have called for Guantanamo Bay’s facilities to be closed, and that’s one thing I applaud them for but the stain the facility has left on America’s moral cloth is indisputable.  Holding people indefinitely, without the hope of a trial and/or exoneration is torture in and of itself, and something that was repudiated by the “founding fathers” of this country.  It is a national disgrace that we have let that moral guide evade our collective consciousness.  I am glad to see that the judicial branch of the government has redeemed us.

World’s Top Ten Intellectuals are all Muslims


Imagine that; at least according to the secular magazine, Foreign Policy, which conducted a poll of who are the world’s top public intellectuals.  Of course one has to add the caveat it’s a rather unscientific poll.  However, over 500,000 responded to this poll and here are the results:

FETHULLAH GÜLEN-Religious leader • Turkey

MUHAMMAD YUNUS-Microfinancier, activist • Bangladesh

YUSUF AL-QARADAWI-Cleric • Egypt/Qatar

ORHAN PAMUK-Novelist • Turkey

AITZAZ AHSAN-Lawyer, politician • Pakistan

AMR KHALED-Muslim televangelist • Egypt

ABDOLKARIM SOROUSH-Religious theorist • Iran

TARIQ RAMADAN-Philosopher, scholar of Islam • Switzerland

MAHMOOD MAMDANI-Cultural anthropologist • Uganda

SHIRIN EBADI-Lawyer, human rights activist • Iran

Quite a potpourri of schools of thought and political philosophies.  I don’t see any warriors,  jihadists, former al-Qaida members  on the list although some would try to argue that Qaradawi or Ramadan might qualify for that title.  What this list does show is the diversity inherent in the world wide Muslim community and the appreciation Muslims have for people of all walks of life who make a contribution to the benefit of their way of life.

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Stop the Iran War Resolution


House Resolution 362 is a prelude to war with Iran and one of the tricks the neocons will use to get the US into a conflagration and extend their influence on into the Obama administration. Thinking they have the situation well under control in Iraq, the warring parties are now looking for other places to foment chaos. There has been since the revolution in 1979 a desire on the part of many in American political circles to get back at Iran and seizing on the issue of Iran’s purported nuclear weapons program, neocons have turned up the heat.

Resolution 362 demands that President Bush “initiate an international effort” to impose a land, sea, and air blockade on Iran to prevent it from importing gasoline and to inspect all cargo entering or leaving Iran and many see this as an act of provocation if not total declared war. An organization known as STOP AIPAC is spear heading the opposition to this resolution, which just might have legs if headlines like these keep popping up.

IAEA Chief: Iran Could Make Nuke In 6 Months

Fellow blogger xymphora still thinks there is no chance for an attack against Iran, but I wouldn’t bet the house on that. Desperation leads people to do strange things and this Resolution, along with the media’s help might lead the US into a repeat of its actions in 2002-2003.

Another lie debunked from the war on terror


Following up on an earlier post where I talked about people who are held in Guantanamo Bay and are tortured are far more likely to become terrorists when they are released than when they were first imprisoned.  It seems that is not true!

According to the Department of Defense’s published and unpublished data and reports, not a single released Guantánamo detainee has ever attacked any Americans.

Hope this sets the record straight.

When will Muslims learn?


There reportedly is a saying from the Prophet of Islam which says something to the effect that ‘a Muslim is smart enough to have learned from his life experiences not to be abused, or attacked from the same hole (vantage point) twice!’  That hasn’t sunken in to a lot of Muslims yet.  I mentioned in an earlier blog here how Obama wants to distance himself from  the “smear” of being Muslim as if that is a terrible thing to be.  His detractors have given him a host of things to distance himself from, starting with being black, being Muslim, being white, they have assigned him an identity and he responds by taking the opposite course.  If he’s “Muslim” he claims to be Christian; if he’s “black” he identifies with being white and of course the opposite is true, EXCEPT when it comes to Islam.

As Senator Barack Obama courted voters in Iowa last December, Representative Keith Ellison, the country’s first Muslim congressman, stepped forward eagerly to help.

Ellison believed that Obama’s message of unity resonated deeply with American Muslims. He volunteered to speak on Obama’s behalf at a mosque in Cedar Rapids, one of the nation’s oldest Muslim enclaves. But before the rally could take place, aides to Obama asked Ellison to cancel the trip because it might stir controversy. Another aide appeared at Ellison’s Washington office to explain.

“I will never forget the quote,” Ellison said, leaning forward in his chair as he recalled the aide’s words. “He said, ‘We have a very tightly wrapped message.’ ”

When Obama began his presidential campaign, Muslim Americans from California to Virginia responded with enthusiasm, seeing him as a long-awaited champion of civil liberties, religious tolerance and diplomacy in foreign affairs. But more than a year later, many say, he has not returned their embrace.

While the senator has visited churches and synagogues, he has yet to appear at a single mosque. Muslim and Arab-American organizations have tried repeatedly to arrange meetings with Obama, but officials with those groups say their invitations — unlike those of their Jewish and Christian counterparts — have been ignored.

It is patently clear to me that Obama, or his handlers, want nothing to do with the Muslim American community.  He is beholden to an interest group or is courting  interest groups, from newspaper editors, fundamentalists of all religions to political interest groups such as AIPAC that has for the moment declared itself at war with Islam.  It would behoove the Muslim American community to remember Sami al-Arian and his courting of the Bush administration, which ended disastrously for him.


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Speaking truth to power


Who is this student who refused to shake the hand of a US Ambassador when presented an award in his native Pakistan?  Samad Khurram is an active member of the Student Action Committee (SAC) which has been actively protesting with the lawyers movement for the restoration of the judiciary and removal of military rule from Pakistan. He was last in the news in Pakistan just a week ago when he was beaten up by activists from the Islami-Jamiat-e-Talaba (IJT)  the student wing of the Jamaat-i-Islami – in a political scuffle on the judiciary issue in Lahore. He is a regular columnist for the Harvard University student newspaper, The Harvard Crimson, where he has also written on Pakistan politics and why the U.S. should dump Gen Musharraf.  He was given an award for academic excellence from United States Ambassador Anne Patterson  but refused it in protest against the US bombing in an area of Pakistan  last week and its support of President Pervez Musharraf, who he said was an unconstitutional president and had destroyed Pakistan’s judicial institution.

He is another example of how the US’ strategy of winning friends and influencing people is simply NOT working!

Obama’s mea culpa


Obama personally called two Muslim women who were denied seating in a visible place at one of his rallies to apologize for the way they were treated and evidently the women were satisfied with the way he handled himself in his phone call to them.

“We both immensely appreciate the Senator’s phone call and his commitment to remedy this issue,” Abdelfadeel said. “We commend him for displaying qualities befitting an effective President.”

It certainly is a step in the right direction.  My question is as more and more Muslims support his candidacy, how will Obama address the public perception as well as his own issues raised by his opponents that Islam is bad.

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Kucinich might have been on to something


Kucinich’s articles of impeachment and a full explanation of each of them can be found here.

Article XVIII
Torture: Secretly Authorizing, and Encouraging the Use of Torture Against Captives in Afghanistan,
Iraq, and Other Places, as a Matter of Official Policy

Medical examinations of former terrorism suspects held by the U.S. military at Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq and Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, found evidence of torture and other abuse that resulted in serious injuries and mental disorders, according to a human rights group.

For the most extensive medical study of former U.S. detainees published so far, Physicians for Human Rights had doctors and mental health professionals examine 11 former prisoners. The group alleges finding evidence of U.S. torture and war crimes and accuses U.S. military health professionals of allowing the abuse of detainees, denying them medical care and providing confidential medical information to interrogators that they then exploited.

“Some of these men really are, several years later, very severely scarred,” said Barry Rosenfeld, a psychology professor at Fordham University who conducted psychological tests on six of the 11 detainees covered by the study. “It’s a testimony to how bad those conditions were and how personal the abuse was.”

As if that wasn’t enough comes this stinging indictment by a former top military official who served under Bush.

“After years of disclosures by government investigations, media accounts and reports from human rights organizations, there is no longer any doubt as to whether the current administration has committed war crimes….[T]he only question that remains to be answered is whether those who ordered the use of torture will be held to account.”

It appears these crimes were committed at the behest of the infamous “neocons” whose agenda is still undefined and unclear. Career military officers and bureaucrats objected to the methods being pushed on them to extract information.

a probe by the Senate Armed Services Committee revealed how senior Pentagon officials pushed for harsher interrogation methods over the objections of top military lawyers. Those methods later surfaced in Afghanistan and Iraq.

Let’s not forget, senior Pentagon officials at that time consisted of the likes of Richard Perle, Paul Wolfowitz, Douglas Feith, and others who ranked equally as senior neocons.

Barack’s Muslim “problem”


Barack Obama doesn’t want people to even think he is a Muslim so he’s now disassociating himself from his Muslim supporters.

Obama, who is Christian and promises to turn a page on America’s cultural wars, has struggled to counter false Internet rumors that he is a Muslim.

Obama’s vigorous denials have frustrated some followers of Islam because of the implication that there is something wrong with the religion.

In separate incidents Monday at the rally in Detroit, which boasts one of the largest Muslim communities in the United States, two women were told they could not sit in the section that forms the visual backdrop behind Obama.

“I was coming to support him, and I felt like I was discriminated against by the very person who was supposed to be bringing this change,” Aref told Politico.com.

“The message that I thought was delivered to us was that they do not want him associated with Muslims or Muslim supporters,” she said.

I’m not surprised by this latest development. Obama’s detractors have made Islam so disgusting in the eyes of the American public that he will do anything to remove himself from appearing to even like Muslims. Instead of asking, ‘what’s wrong with being a Muslim’ Obama’s political body language seems to me ‘don’t stick that tag on me.’ It’s more of the same Islamophobia but coming from the party of jack-asses.

Bin Laden’s right hand man released in Britain


It seems kind of strange reading a headline about someone associated with bin Laden being released from prison during the same week American politicians are calling for his head. Abu Qatada seems to have as many lives as a cat.  He’s been arrested three times, escaped from prison twice and is now being allowed out of prison on bail.  Living in Britain illegally for many years, the government of Britain has even been stifled in their attempts to deport him to his native Jordan.  Qatada was once known as “Osama bin Laden’s right-hand man in Europe” is now free and this observer can’t understand why?  Hundreds of people less involved with al-Qaida and bin Laden are languishing in Guantanamo Bay for years with no end in sight, yet Qatada has gone free AGAIN, and beaten all attempts  at imprisoning or deporting him.  How does that happen?

Islamic law is good enough for Blackwater


I found this headline in a local paper and was surprised. I thought the neocon right, represented by companies such as KBR, Halliburton, Blackwater, et.al were supposed to help the US in the war on terror. Instead, Blackwater is looking for divine intervention with the help of Islamic law?

To defend itself against a lawsuit by the widows of three American soldiers who died on one of its planes in Afghanistan, a sister company of the private military firm Blackwater has asked a federal court to decide the case using the Islamic law known as Shari’a.

The lawsuit “is governed by the law of Afghanistan,” Presidential Airways argued in a Florida federal court. “Afghan law is largely religion-based and evidences a strong concern for ensuring moral responsibility, and deterring violations of obligations within its borders.”

If the judge agrees, it would essentially end the lawsuit over a botched flight supporting the U.S. military. Shari’a law does not hold a company responsible for the actions of employees performed within the course of their work.

So does this mean Islam isn’t so bad after all?

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We have seen the enemy and he is us!


One of the excuses the present Administration uses for remaining an occupying power is to fight the terrorists in the Middle East so that they don’t have to fight them on American soil.  What is not said is the way we are waging this “war” insures we will create terrorists where there were none.

………….. U.S. detention policies fueled support for extremist Islamist groups. For some detainees who went home far more militant than when they arrived, Guantanamo became a school for jihad, or Islamic holy war.

Why is there still a Guantanamo Bay?

………top Bush administration officials knew within months of opening the Guantanamo detention center that many of the prisoners there weren’t “the worst of the worst.” From the moment that Guantanamo opened in early 2002, former Secretary of the Army Thomas White said, it was obvious that at least a third of the population didn’t belong there.

………..most of the prisoners at Guantanamo weren’t terrorist masterminds but men who were of no intelligence value in the war on terrorism.

I can think of no reason other than precedent.  The US government wanted to see just how far it could go in detaining people, US citizens and others, without any recourse to the judicial system in order to say at some point in the future this was allowed and accepted by the other branches of government as well as the American people.  Thankfully, the Supreme Court ruled that detainees must have access to the court system so that precedent has been halted, somewhat. What has happened with American foreign policy is it has created enemies where there once were none, through the occupation of Iraq and the setting up of a puppet government that is now at odds with its citizens.  Rendering foreigners  from all over the world who have no intelligence value,  torturing them and eventually letting them go as the McClatchey study reveals is one way to guarantee distrust and dislike for American foreign policy and the people who are seen as carrying it out.