Waterboarding and George Bush


Waterboarding is criminal behavior and and the US government has ratified no less than three international treaties that say so, obligating its lawmakers to prosecute any American citizen who engages in such activity AND it’s torture. So why is George Bush saying it isn’t, and hiding behind the UK to justify it? Perhaps he doesn’t fear prosecution any longer after sweeping Republican gains in this month’s elections or maybe he just doesn’t care. His indifference leaves an indelible stain on the reputation of the country he once led.

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Now just what is waterboarding? Listen to this guy tell what it is. He should know!

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Waterboarding in the news again!


waterboardedI saw Jesse Ventura on one of the talk shows ask the rhetorical question, ‘if waterboarding isn’t torture, why don’t the police waterboard criminal suspects to get information from them’, or words to that effect.  Of course at the time I thought to myself, ‘score one for Ventura’.  After reading this bit of shocking news, I wish Jesse hadn’t gone there!

The Independent Police Complaints commission is investigating claims that Metropolitan police officers mishandled prisoners and submerged the head of one man in a bucket of water during the course of a raid. The allegation was made by Metropolitan Police employee, thought to be a serving officer.

There was alarm at the allegations at Scotland Yard, which has faced several crises over the actions of its officers in past months, including the death of a man at the G20 protests.

The officers under investigation were among 10 based in Enfield, north London, who were suspended in February in one of the worst allegations of corruption to hit the Metropolitan police in recent years.

And there’s this

A group of Scotland Yard officers were suspended after “serious allegations” about their behavior during the arrests of five suspects last year, police said Tuesday.London’s police force did not go into detail, but Sky News television, the Daily Mail and The Times of London newspapers reported that six officers were accused of “waterboarding” drug suspects.

The papers gave varying accounts of the exact technique used by police, with the Times saying that officers poured water on a cloth and placed it over a suspect’s face to simulate the experience of drowning. The Daily Mail said police officers repeatedly dunked the suspects’ heads in buckets of water.

At first glance this shouldn’t be so disturbing, because British police have shot at and in one case shot and killed an innocent man, lied about why and how he was shot with nothing happening to the offending officer(s). On a more visceral level is the terrible thought that criminal behavior is now commonly employed by police the world over  plunging the world into chaos.  We’ve written about police brutality here in the States and now waterboarding or some variation thereof used in the UK seems to suggest an attitude of ‘anything goes’ in government’s reaction with its citizenry.  Whereas possession of marijuana used to be viewed as an offense which merely got a person a ticket, and large amounts a court date and maybe a few years in jail, now law officers see nothing wrong with waterboarding suspects.  Whereas failure to yield to a police or emergency vehicle would get one a ticket, now one is liable to be arrested and brutalized by law enforcement officers!  So I wish Jesse hadn’t mentioned that the reason  the law doesn’t waterboard suspects is because it’s illegal, because now it appears they don’t it’s illegal and a necessary part of the trade!  As an aside, I wonder if any of the officers in the UK charged with this served in Iraq either in the regular British army or as mercenaries……..make that contractors.  Finally, I’m glad to see that it was someone on the force who turned these thugs in. The only way this problem of criminal behavior on the part of the police is going to get solved is when good cops turn in the bad ones who then get prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law.  I love good, faithful, law abiding police and appreciate their service to the society; the bad ones are the reasons we should cherish and internalize the 2nd amendment.

If you think waterboarding isn’t torture, think again


waterboardingWaterboarding is torture, pure and simple.  Those brave and stupid enough to try it have come away with that conclusion, even the ones who have been waterboys for neocon arguments and excuses, which we have already discounted, which claimed waterboarding helped saved lives and is nothing more than an enhanced interrogation technique.  The latest waterboy who agreed to be waterboarded, one of the faux pas conservative radio talk show hosts, Eric Mancow Muller tried it and didn’t last 6 seconds on the waterboard, embarrassing himself  live during his radio talk show on WLS radio.  There’s video of his experience at the above link as well.  Muller went on to say afterwards

“It is such an odd feeling to have water poured down your nose with your head back…It was instantaneous…and I don’t want to say this: absolutely torture.

That should have come as no surprise to him.  Christopher Hitchens, another writer, media star of neocon bent was waterboarded and came to the same conclusion.  Why he had to experience it to be convinced is beyond me, especially after he was obliged to sign a statement BEFORE being waterboarded that read in part

“Water boarding” is a potentially dangerous activity in which the participant can receive serious and permanent (physical, emotional and psychological) injuries and even death, including injuries and death due to the respiratory and neurological systems of the body.

Hitchens was lucky enough to have been forewarned and any senility evident in post waterboard writings is due to his ignoring the above indemnification and most likely not hereditary as I was earlier led to believe. Yet after all that, Hitchens managed to say succinctly, unambiguously that waterboarding is torture.  I have a few more pundits and media personalities I would like to see undergo the waterboard to determine for themselves whether it is torture or not, but in their absence there’s certainly more than enough anecdotal evidence, backed by the rule of law that substantiates the conclusion of the two mentioned in this article.  That said, why isn’t Dick Cheney facing indictment for torture?

It’s been decided-Marathon Bombers were Muslim-Chechen Immigrants


bombingA terrible thing happened on Monday, 15 April at the Boston Marathon.  Three people were killed and scores maimed and injured towards the close of the Marathon by two brothers. The act was atrocious; bodies were strewn everywhere and victims were young, old, male or female and from places all over the country and the world.  To begin this post let us remember the names of the victims, who were Martin Richards, 8 years old; Krystle Campbell, 29 and Lu Lingzi, a Boston University graduate student.  There are others who have been forever damaged by this senseless act of violence; they, corporeally, will never be whole again and neither  will the Nation; scarred beyond recognition despite the slogans of resilience and courage.  No doubt there was plenty of that which was demonstrated that day; people helping and saving the lives of strangers in ways that tested the endurance of both the helper and the victim.  Such displays are what make America great and humanity even greater, we reach across  cultural divides and help those who need it without regard to race, color or creed.

However, just as I began by mentioning the names of the victims of America’s latest tragedy without any regard to where they come from, what they believe and the color of their skin, no such consideration is given to the perpetrators of this heinous crime, Dzhokhar A. Tsarnaev,19 and his 26 year old brother Tamerlan who have had their ethnicity and faith dragged into the fracas of this brutal and callous act of murder in attempts to further demonize the perpetrators, their ethnicity and their faith. Indeed such identification in today’s American jargon is just as calculated and fatal meant to cut through bone and flesh and spirit as any pipe bomb or drone missile.  Taking a page from age old, proven concepts, words are the first weapon used to denigrate and ease the way towards genocide and cultural extermination and they have been used with precision and skill.

It began with President Obama’s first speech about the bombing where he was remiss in not saying the word “terrorism“.   Pundits, reporters and the general public hung on his every word at the first speech just hours after the bombing and they all made sure to point out that this one word, terrorist was missing from his vocabulary at that time, as if somehow the deaths of three innocent lives was less important without have that word uttered.  Every speech thereafter was flooded with the buzz word enough that it obscured any other point or lesson to be learned  from this latest tragedy and instead returned America to its roots of racist ideology which points to “others” as being unworthy of consideration, or the rights and privileges of citizenship.  Somehow, the purveyors of this brutal form of 21st century America punditry are able to parlay all of what’s negative about our diversity and turn tragedy into a plethora of causes it seeks to push at the expense of our civic cohesiveness.  Terrorism, immigration, radical Islam, government have become piggy back issues detractors have seized upon to push before the deceased have even been accorded their rights to an eternal rest.

Radical Islamic terrorism of course was the first cause which was promoted to an anxious audience before the last bomber was even captured.  That mantle of “radical Islam” was hung around the necks of the two brothers simply because of where they hailed from or what videos they might have added to their YouTube channels and yes it is true there are Muslims who embrace an ideology of violence to address what they consider are injustices but that is not relevant to Islamic beliefs as much as it is to their own personal demons. youth That Muslim organizations the world over denounced for the umpteenth time the brothers’ murderous rampage and the expulsions the older brother faced twice from Muslim masajid in his area because of his virulent rhetoric should speak to the legitimacy of Muslim condemnation of what took place that fateful week.  It’s impossible to find, outside of the imagination of the two suspects any rationality for their murderous impulses, among ANY community much less America’s Muslims.  That seems to go unnoticed however, as the events of the week invigorated a smoldering Islamophobic community that has been practicing its craft since 911.

No one could see that this violence so closely echoes all the other episodes of mass killing that have become sporadic constants  in our lives, borne out of rage and disenchantment with things personal and social?  How could a fan of movies kill scores of people in his object of obsession a movie theater; how could an emotionally dependent young man kill his doting, loving mother on his way to seek revenge on others who were not guilty?  The Boston suspects’ actions sprouted from a rage that began with a Ruslandysfunctional family dynamic that was no more clearly evident than during the “interview” given by Ruslan, the uncle of the suspects.  Even his act of contrition seemed filled with rage……his staccato cadence dripping with anger towards his nephews and family.  Yet the painfully obvious was ignored by most who weighed in on the side of fear and racial animus in describing what happened in Boston.  “He was a Muslim”, declared Tom Brokaw, the implication nothing else matters; to some not even the crime he committed was important absent reference to his faith.  Indeed , even being white offered the two no escape from the curse of being Muslim.  Joan Walsh in one of her pieces for Salon.com noted,

Over its long history America has regularly featured a process of sorting white from non-white, even among European immigrant groups. I’m not a huge admirer of the now-dated whiteness studies academic movement, but those scholars did help illuminate the way various groups of European immigrants, particularly the Irish, but also Jews, Italians and Eastern Europeans, “became” white over time, in a complicated process of determined assimilation, gradually lessening prejudice by existing “white” society, and most important, the arrival of newcomers to take the place of the scapegoated non-white other, alongside the definitive non-white scapegoats, African-Americans. Embracing racism and xenophobia, sadly, could be a shortcut to white status for previously non-white European immigrants.

…..or disavowing one’s faith.  America is in the firm grip of racism and xenophobia towards Muslims.  It doesn’t matter if you’re white, black, American, European, Caucasian, Arab, Asian…..you are all lumped into the one category of being a terrorist and therefore the rules of civilization no longer apply to you.

Which brings me to the final point of this tragedy and that is how quickly everyone seems to talk about abandoning the rights we’re given by our Constitution and codified over the years.  The ugly specter of torture and waterboarding has resurfaced….some claiming the younger brother should have been tortured to extract information.  Mention has been made of declaring him an enemy combatant, indefinite detention, not allowing him access to a lawyer, trial by military tribunal in essence making him persona non grata effectively disappearing him from our view.  How many of us know what has happened to Jose Padilla, another American who was subjected to labyrinthine exegesis of a judicial system determined to strip him of his humanity because he is Muslim.  The fear index has produced in all of us this desire to rid ourselves of undesirables by any means necessary, including illegal and unconstitutional ones in order to feel safe.  What’s unfortunate about that is we falsely apply our fear  to groups of  people with a very large bull’s eye on their collective backs while ignoring other groups we’re not so interested in targeting at this time.  DVHonestly, we are a Nation awash in violence.  It plagues our cities and communities on a daily basis.  On the normal scheme of things killing three people is about the average for violent deaths in America.  Not even a week after the Boston bombers were corralled five people were murdered in Seattle, Washington in a domestic violence dispute that barely made the news and we don’t even know who they are or why they died. Moreover after hearing about such news one would not even suggest that we resort to the types of punishment now being mentioned in media that should apply to the lone Boston bomber suspect in custody.   No race, tribe, group of people are immune to the ravages of violence and Muslim Americans are no exceptions, but just like we don’t do in 99% of the violence we encounter as a Nation daily, ascribing a motive to that violence that centers around ethnicity or religious belief or imparting to an entire group of people the sins of some one of its wayward members is as evil an act as any perpetrator of a crime.  Fix this America!

Speaking truth to power-Jimmy Carter


Former President Jimmy Carter

Former President Jimmy Carter

I admire people who stick to their principles, and former President Jimmy Carter is one of those.  He has my deepest respect for the positions he takes, no matter how controversial or unpopular they are.  He came out in a NYT editorial to talk about human rights and the US government and what he writes today is the same thing he said when he was president 36 years ago.  However, many of his remarks are directed towards a Democratic administration that has mimicked its GOP predecessor in almost all aspects when it comes to citizenship and human rights.

Fortunately for many of us who believe in what Carter wrote and appears below, he supposedly will address the Democratic Convention.  What he will say this observer doesn’t know, but I certainly hope it’s the exact same message that appears below.  I can’t think of a better place to throw down the gauntlet to the Democrats to put the brakes on the slide towards abandonment of civil/human rights and I can think of no person with more integrity to say so than Carter.

THE United States is abandoning its role as the global champion of human rights.

Revelations that top officials are targeting people to be assassinated abroad, including American citizens, are only the most recent, disturbing proof of how far our nation’s violation of human rights has extended. This development began after the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, and has been sanctioned and escalated by bipartisan executive and legislative actions, without dissent from the general public. As a result, our country can no longer speak with moral authority on these critical issues.

While the country has made mistakes in the past, the widespread abuse of human rights over the last decade has been a dramatic change from the past. With leadership from the United States, the Universal Declaration of Human Rights was adopted in 1948 as “the foundation of freedom, justice and peace in the world.” This was a bold and clear commitment that power would no longer serve as a cover to oppress or injure people, and it established equal rights of all people to life, liberty, security of person, equal protection of the law and freedom from torture, arbitrary detention or forced exile.

The declaration has been invoked by human rights activists and the international community to replace most of the world’s dictatorships with democracies and to promote the rule of law in domestic and global affairs. It is disturbing that, instead of strengthening these principles, our government’s counterterrorism policies are now clearly violating at least 10 of the declaration’s 30 articles, including the prohibition against “cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment.”

Recent legislation has made legal the president’s right to detain a person indefinitely on suspicion of affiliation with terrorist organizations or “associated forces,” a broad, vague power that can be abused without meaningful oversight from the courts or Congress (the law is currently being blocked by a federal judge). This law violates the right to freedom of expression and to be presumed innocent until proved guilty, two other rights enshrined in the declaration.

In addition to American citizens’ being targeted for assassination or indefinite detention, recent laws have canceled the restraints in the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act of 1978 to allow unprecedented violations of our rights to privacy through warrantless wiretapping and government mining of our electronic communications. Popular state laws permit detaining individuals because of their appearance, where they worship or with whom they associate.

Despite an arbitrary rule that any man killed by drones is declared an enemy terrorist, the death of nearby innocent women and children is accepted as inevitable. After more than 30 airstrikes on civilian homes this year in Afghanistan, President Hamid Karzai has demanded that such attacks end, but the practice continues in areas of Pakistan, Somalia and Yemen that are not in any war zone. We don’t know how many hundreds of innocent civilians have been killed in these attacks, each one approved by the highest authorities in Washington. This would have been unthinkable in previous times.

These policies clearly affect American foreign policy. Top intelligence and military officials, as well as rights defenders in targeted areas, affirm that the great escalation in drone attacks has turned aggrieved families toward terrorist organizations, aroused civilian populations against us and permitted repressive governments to cite such actions to justify their own despotic behavior.

Meanwhile, the detention facility at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba, now houses 169 prisoners. About half have been cleared for release, yet have little prospect of ever obtaining their freedom. American authorities have revealed that, in order to obtain confessions, some of the few being tried (only in military courts) have been tortured by waterboarding more than 100 times or intimidated with semiautomatic weapons, power drills or threats to sexually assault their mothers. Astoundingly, these facts cannot be used as a defense by the accused, because the government claims they occurred under the cover of “national security.” Most of the other prisoners have no prospect of ever being charged or tried either.

At a time when popular revolutions are sweeping the globe, the United States should be strengthening, not weakening, basic rules of law and principles of justice enumerated in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. But instead of making the world safer, America’s violation of international human rights abets our enemies and alienates our friends.

As concerned citizens, we must persuade Washington to reverse course and regain moral leadership according to international human rights norms that we had officially adopted as our own and cherished throughout the years.

 

Read it and weep


10 reasons the U.S. is no longer the land of the free

By Jonathan Turley

Every year, the State Department issues reports on individual rights in other countries, monitoring the passage of restrictive laws and regulations around the world. Iran, for example, has been criticized for denying fair public trials and limiting privacy, while Russia has been taken to task for undermining due process. Other countries have been condemned for the use of secret evidence and torture.

Even as we pass judgment on countries we consider unfree, Americans remain confident that any definition of a free nation must include their own — the land of free. Yet, the laws and practices of the land should shake that confidence. In the decade since Sept. 11, 2001, this country has comprehensively reduced civil liberties in the name of an expanded security state. The most recent example of this was the National Defense Authorization Act, signed Dec. 31, which allows for the indefinite detention of citizens. At what point does the reduction of individual rights in our country change how we define ourselves?

While each new national security power Washington has embraced was controversial when enacted, they are often discussed in isolation. But they don’t operate in isolation. They form a mosaic of powers under which our country could be considered, at least in part, authoritarian. Americans often proclaim our nation as a symbol of freedom to the world while dismissing nations such as Cuba and China as categorically unfree. Yet, objectively, we may be only half right. Those countries do lack basic individual rights such as due process, placing them outside any reasonable definition of “free,” but the United States now has much more in common with such regimes than anyone may like to admit.

These countries also have constitutions that purport to guarantee freedoms and rights. But their governments have broad discretion in denying those rights and few real avenues for challenges by citizens — precisely the problem with the new laws in this country.

The list of powers acquired by the U.S. government since 9/11 puts us in rather troubling company.

Assassination of U.S. citizens

President Obama has claimed, as President George W. Bush did before him, the right to order the killing of any citizen considered a terrorist or an abettor of terrorism. Last year, he approved the killing of U.S. citizen Anwar al-Awlaqi and another citizen under this claimed inherent authority. Last month, administration officials affirmed that power, stating that the president can order the assassination of any citizen whom he considers allied with terrorists. (Nations such as Nigeria, Iran and Syria have been routinely criticized for extrajudicial killings of enemies of the state.)

Indefinite detention

Under the law signed last month, terrorism suspects are to be held by the military; the president also has the authority to indefinitely detain citizens accused of terrorism. While the administration claims that this provision only codified existing law, experts widely contest this view, and the administration has opposed efforts to challenge such authority in federal courts. The government continues to claim the right to strip citizens of legal protections based on its sole discretion. (China recently codified a more limited detention law for its citizens, while countries such as Cambodia have been singled out by the United States for “prolonged detention.”)

Arbitrary justice

The president now decides whether a person will receive a trial in the federal courts or in a military tribunal, a system that has been ridiculed around the world for lacking basic due process protections. Bush claimed this authority in 2001, and Obama has continued the practice. (Egypt and China have been denounced for maintaining separate military justice systems for selected defendants, including civilians.)

Warrantless searches

The president may now order warrantless surveillance, including a new capability to force companies and organizations to turn over information on citizens’ finances, communications and associations. Bush acquired this sweeping power under the Patriot Act in 2001, and in 2011, Obama extended the power, including searches of everything from business documents to library records. The government can use “national security letters” to demand, without probable cause, that organizations turn over information on citizens — and order them not to reveal the disclosure to the affected party. (Saudi Arabia and Pakistan operate under laws that allow the government to engage in widespread discretionary surveillance.)

Secret evidence

The government now routinely uses secret evidence to detain individuals and employs secret evidence in federal and military courts. It also forces the dismissal of cases against the United States by simply filing declarations that the cases would make the government reveal classified information that would harm national security — a claim made in a variety of privacy lawsuits and largely accepted by federal judges without question. Even legal opinions, cited as the basis for the government’s actions under the Bush and Obama administrations, have been classified. This allows the government to claim secret legal arguments to support secret proceedings using secret evidence. In addition, some cases never make it to court at all. The federal courts routinely deny constitutional challenges to policies and programs under a narrow definition of standing to bring a case.

War crimes

The world clamored for prosecutions of those responsible for waterboarding terrorism suspects during the Bush administration, but the Obama administration said in 2009 that it would not allow CIA employees to be investigated or prosecuted for such actions. This gutted not just treaty obligations but the Nuremberg principles of international law. When courts in countries such as Spain moved to investigate Bush officials for war crimes, the Obama administration reportedly urged foreign officials not to allow such cases to proceed, despite the fact that the United States has long claimed the same authority with regard to alleged war criminals in other countries. (Various nations have resisted investigations of officials accused of war crimes and torture. Some, such as Serbia and Chile, eventually relented to comply with international law; countries that have denied independent investigations include Iran, Syria and China.)

Secret court

The government has increased its use of the secret Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court, which has expanded its secret warrants to include individuals deemed to be aiding or abetting hostile foreign governments or organizations. In 2011, Obama renewed these powers, including allowing secret searches of individuals who are not part of an identifiable terrorist group. The administration has asserted the right to ignore congressional limits on such surveillance. (Pakistan places national security surveillance under the unchecked powers of the military or intelligence services.)

Immunity from judicial review

Like the Bush administration, the Obama administration has successfully pushed for immunity for companies that assist in warrantless surveillance of citizens, blocking the ability of citizens to challenge the violation of privacy. (Similarly, China has maintained sweeping immunity claims both inside and outside the country and routinely blocks lawsuits against private companies.)

Continual monitoring of citizens

The Obama administration has successfully defended its claim that it can use GPS devices to monitor every move of targeted citizens without securing any court order or review. (Saudi Arabia has installed massive public surveillance systems, while Cuba is notorious for active monitoring of selected citizens.)

Extraordinary renditions

The government now has the ability to transfer both citizens and noncitizens to another country under a system known as extraordinary rendition, which has been denounced as using other countries, such as Syria, Saudi Arabia, Egypt and Pakistan, to torture suspects. The Obama administration says it is not continuing the abuses of this practice under Bush, but it insists on the unfettered right to order such transfers — including the possible transfer of U.S. citizens.

These new laws have come with an infusion of money into an expanded security system on the state and federal levels, including more public surveillance cameras, tens of thousands of security personnel and a massive expansion of a terrorist-chasing bureaucracy.

Some politicians shrug and say these increased powers are merely a response to the times we live in. Thus, Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) could declare in an interview last spring without objection that “free speech is a great idea, but we’re in a war.” Of course, terrorism will never “surrender” and end this particular “war.”

Other politicians rationalize that, while such powers may exist, it really comes down to how they are used. This is a common response by liberals who cannot bring themselves to denounce Obama as they did Bush. Sen. Carl Levin (D-Mich.), for instance, has insisted that Congress is not making any decision on indefinite detention: “That is a decision which we leave where it belongs — in the executive branch.”

And in a signing statement with the defense authorization bill, Obama said he does not intend to use the latest power to indefinitely imprison citizens. Yet, he still accepted the power as a sort of regretful autocrat.

An authoritarian nation is defined not just by the use of authoritarian powers, but by the ability to use them. If a president can take away your freedom or your life on his own authority, all rights become little more than a discretionary grant subject to executive will.

The framers lived under autocratic rule and understood this danger better than we do. James Madison famously warned that we needed a system that did not depend on the good intentions or motivations of our rulers: “If men were angels, no government would be necessary.”

Benjamin Franklin was more direct. In 1787, a Mrs. Powel confronted Franklin after the signing of the Constitution and asked, “Well, Doctor, what have we got — a republic or a monarchy?” His response was a bit chilling: “A republic, Madam, if you can keep it.”

Since 9/11, we have created the very government the framers feared: a government with sweeping and largely unchecked powers resting on the hope that they will be used wisely.

The indefinite-detention provision in the defense authorization bill seemed to many civil libertarians like a betrayal by Obama. While the president had promised to veto the law over that provision, Levin, a sponsor of the bill, disclosed on the Senate floor that it was in fact the White House that approved the removal of any exception for citizens from indefinite detention.

Dishonesty from politicians is nothing new for Americans. The real question is whether we are lying to ourselves when we call this country the land of the free.

Where’s the waterboard?


I’m against waterboarding because I believe it’s illegal, but many on the right clamored for it when we were fighting our war on terror against people with Arabic names who, it was said, posed a threat to our Republic.  The waterboard, that instrument of death, was pointed to as something needed to extract information from even the most diehard terrorist in order to save lives.  When it was presented in those stark terms even some “progressives” demurred in their protests afraid they would be seen as anti-American, traitors or worse, threats themselves and singled out for persecution.  (Regrettably, the latter  may have happened a time or two.)  It didn’t matter that America was a signatory to a law that said we were against torture and would prosecute anyone who committed it, we were told waterboarding was necessary.

After the latest assault on a sitting member of Congress and the murder of a federal judge at the hands of an assassin who resembles a skinhead in all appearances and who had made references to Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords, there comes news that another congressman has received ominious  threats from places unknown, raising the specter that more death and destruction might be visited on members of Congress.  How can we stop what looks like certain carnage?  Waterboarding and profiling are two solutions offered up by those on the right when they spoke of Muslims and jihadists who were threats to the American way of life and yet not once, except on the pages of Miscellany101 have these tools not too long ago embraced by many Americans, been mention in the latest discourse.  Unfortunately, neither has the matter of whether what Loughner commited is terrorism been discussed much in the media and for obvious reasons.

Terrorists can’t be white, non-Muslims and waterboarding or profiling (racial profiling) can’t be applied to them because it obscures the debate about what’s good and what’s bad for America.  White crime is tolerated and ostensibly good for America…we can build case law around it, institutionalize it and put people to work combating it yet maintain a civil society, or so it seems.  Terrorism many on the right maintain is the purveyor of dark skinned or Muslim people who  threaten  our very civilization and we must fight them by any means necessary, even illegal means that we visit upon them and sometimes ourselves. We have bemoaned that double standard time and time again here on Miscellany101. The right seems to relish, embrace it and heap scorn on those who point it out.

The “wingnuts” on the right have for the past decade managed to escape responsibility for any miscalculations on the political stage.  The WMD fiasco was dismissed because Saddam was a bad guy and we needed to get rid of him anyway, the encroachment on our civil liberties was proposed because it’s government’s job to take care of us, during the administration of Bush, and during Obama because liberals elected him into office and he is a socialist and that’s what socialists do.  The spiteful and intemperate political rhetoric is necessary because it’s a “war” of ideas and too the hearts and minds of the people.  It seems every excuse is made that absolves the right from any responsibility for any misfortune that has occurred over the past decade even though they were the party in power for over half the time.

Now comes the political assassination in Tuscon, Arizona right after the virulent election campaigning of 2010 where the political opposition rode on the backs of people who believe in conspiracy theories that rival those concocted after 911.  This murder didn’t come in a vacuum; it was sparked by a constant barrage of speech that equated a democratically elected  political party  with the equally repugnant foe of terrorists, jihadists and Muslims; some even calling the President a secret Muslim, whose goal is to promote a socialist agenda.  It was against these policies that the right was shaped and the makers of these policies were the focal point of everyone’s  rage.  Loughner who it was claimed by neighbors/friends targeted Congresswoman Giffords wasn’t the only one.  Byron Williams who had a shootout with authorities after planning acts of violence against the ACLU, a favorite target of the right and the Tides Foundation, said he wanted to spark a civil war and he pointed to a radio head pundit as being a primary source of his information and motivation.   Yet the right, the more vocal among them, claim no responsibility for this violent swing in politics even while others among them are asking for de-escalation in the rhetoric. Fat chance.

This is the group that claims when it comes to their enemies that everyone of them is responsible for the crimes committed by one of them; that the idea of collective punishment, something practiced by the Israelis against Palestinians, is a legitimate way of dealing with a threat, not just the kind that a Loughner, or a Williams or the unknown assailant threatening Congressman Renny Davis pose.  So there will be no talk of waterboarding anyone to get information from them about the impending murder of another Congressman, now will there be calls for profiling white males who look like Loughner, or Williams and we won’t hear not one suggestion that the motivating factors behind their rage be investigated  or asked to condemn their murderous impulses because in almost every case they, these perpetrators of terrorism against the homeland are just like the pundits and politicians who use these acts of government coercion on others.  That is the story of America and her injustices and it will plague us for as long as we continue to ignore it.

 

Terrorism strikes again


Six people, as of this writing, were killed in a terrorist attack against federal officials in Arizona on Saturday.  That’s probably how the news would read if the attacker(s) were Muslim, but instead the “attack” is invariably called a “shooting spree” or merely a “shooting” and any notion that this was politically motivated is even further dispelled with descriptions of the shooter being mentally unstable, deranged, almost apolitical or so crazy that one cannot make any political sense out of what he did.

Jared Loughner, right,  is the man and there’s nothing about his identity to lead people to suspect anything other than the obvious…he quite simply is a murderer, like so many who’ve gone before him in this country.  What’s special about him is not the crime…..America is as violent as apple pie; we are a Nation steeped in violence and in many cases we inflict it on others.  Just ask the Iraqis.  What’s special about Loughner is he committed this crime at a time when we have politicized murder and led the country to believe that only a certain group of people are able to carry it out; that they lie in wait to unleash it against us and that all of our efforts should be aimed at this group of individuals exclusively to identify them, flush them out and bring them to justice.  It didn’t help that tangential notions like places of worship, choices of food, articles of clothing, ballot initiatives in Oklahoma, etc.,  got put into the mix to further confuse and infuriate us our goal was shortsighted and pretty damn near illegal.

In 2009 after Obama came into office and HIS Department of Homeland Security came into power and identified the treat to the homeland as being from right wing extremism, a hue and cry went up from those on the right lambasting government for targeting them….in much the same way as Homeland Security targeted others before Obama and it’s been denial ever since.  Perhaps even today, with the identity of this latest terrorist, captured alive I might add, there is every effort to distance him from the ideology or way of thinking he embraced. I opined somewhere that perhaps we might waterboard this captured shooter to know the extent of his act; whether he was helped in any way by others who might be ready to pounce on the next government official, since for now such a notion is likely,  and I was half joking.  Remember when “waterboarding” was considered appropriate for some in our not too distant past?

Why we aren’t more honest with one another during hard times is a case study for psychologists. Speaking of which I would like to mention one who I think has nailed down what ails us today.  In a piece entitled ‘Rudeness is a Neurotoxin’, Dr. Douglas Fields says we are a product of our environment and today’s environment is one of ‘profane language, hostilities and stress from which we adults, raised a generation ago, were carefully shielded.’  In other words the lack of civil discourse, the in-your-face, put-on-your-man pants attitude is the blowback which causes us, Americans,  to be terrorist and makes it perfectly acceptable in our minds, or rather the minds of those so affected, to kill men, women and children….there was a six year old girl killed yesterday.  After being battered for the last 10 years about the power of words and how important they are in giving ‘aid and comfort’ to the enemy when many of us rallied against government intrusion into our lives and the lives of others who were of no threat to us or our interest, we no doubt will be told how the words that rang in the ears of this latest terrorist are of no importance in talking about his heinous crime, and that, no doubt, will make us all feel better about what happened.

But really folks, what we have is an American terrorist, a murderer….all murder, especially against an unsuspecting victim is terror isn’t it?  He even used the tools of terrorism…..his suicidal confessional on his My Space page and Youtube were some of the trappings he had in common with other terrorists but he’s distinct from them in he’s more acceptable as a murderer than as a terrorist, because terrorists have a special place in the American psyche that only people of certain persuasions can occupy and therein lies the problem.  We have made race, religion, the standard by which we make things legal or illegal or how we categorize crime and criminals.  Once again, despite all the trappings of being an advanced society, mature and wiser after  all these over 230 years, we still have the inclination to either raise or lower the bar depending on who the perpetrator/victim is.  Jared Loughner is either a terrorist or a murderer, and Major Hassan Nidal is either a terrorist or a murder and they both belong on the same page in American history with the same designation applied to them and if they’re not then we still too color conscious to be just.  It’s our call America.

 

UPDATE

One has to wonder whether the news that this attempted assassination was religiously inspired, anti-Semitic in origin might make the “terrorist” label more palatable.

A U.S. Department of Homeland Security memo reportedly notes that Gabriel Giffords is Jewish in describing the motives of the Arizona congresswoman’s alleged assailant.The memo, obtained by Fox News Channel, says that Jared Lee Loughner mentioned American Renaissance, an extremist anti-immigrant group, in some of his own postings.

“The group’s ideology is anti-government, anti-immigration, anti-ZOG (Zionist Occupational Government), anti-Semitic,” says the memo sent to law enforcement, which also notes that Giffords, a Democrat, was the first Jewish congresswoman from Arizona.

In this writer’s opinion, however, all of that is irrelevant.  It is now what it was then, an act of premeditated terror which resulted in the deaths of 6 humans and the maiming of many more.  Are the parents of the 9 year old girl killed by the assassin any more relieved from their anguish and grief that because one of the survivor’s of his terror was Jewish, therefore the crime which killed their daughter should be considered an act of terrorism?   Hardly!  The broadest most inclusive definition, ‘any actions that endanger human life or violate U.S. laws’ is indeed the best.  Not that it would mean anything more in terms of a punishment, but it removes the racist element of the term and hopefully makes truly combating and solving terrorism more urgent.

Obama’s Hit List


I read this very interesting article that asserts President Obama is going down the same onerous road as his predecessor in dispensing justice to perceived enemies of the state…..at the expense of breaking the law and further endangering the national security as well as the national psyche.  What is the matter with America that she has become afraid of people, not nations mind you, but individual people, that it makes her break her own laws as well as the laws she has agreed with the international community upon for decades?!?

The Obama administration now claims a right to kill American citizens without trial, without notice, and without any chance for the marked men or women to object legally. The Bush administration’s “targeted killing” program has been radically expanded to include Americans far from any war zone. Director of National Intelligence Dennis Blair testified earlier this year that the targeting-to-kill decision depends only on “whether that American is involved in a group that is trying to attack us.”

The poster boy for the targeted killing program is Anwar al-Awlaki, an American-born Muslim cleric who is reportedly in Yemen. The Obama administration touts allegations that al-Awlaki helped spark the slaughter at Ford Hood, Texas, inspired the attempt to destroy a jetliner on Christmas Day 2009, and has done other dastardly things that the government has not yet disclosed (for our own good, of course). Al-Awlaki might well be a four-star bastard, but government press releases and background briefings have not previously been sufficient to justify capital punishment.

The American Civil Liberties Union is suing to compel Uncle Sam “to disclose the legal standard it uses to place U.S. citizens on government kill lists.” The Obama administration has responded by invoking the doctrine of state secrets, effectively claiming that national security demands that these policies be kept hidden. By hiding behind state secrets, the feds don’t even have to explain why the law doesn’t apply to their actions.

In oral arguments in federal court on Nov. 9, Justice Department attorney Douglas Letter asserted that no judge has authority to be “looking over the shoulder” of the Obama administration’s targeted-killing program. Letter declared that the program involves “the very core powers of the president as commander-in-chief.” When Obama campaigned for the presidency in 2008, entitling the president to kill Americans without trial was not one of the reforms he promised.

The Obama administration has decided to pursue a Bush administration policy of extra-judicial punishment for individuals anywhere in the world, even American citizens, and claim no one has the right to oversight.  It is an extraordinary position to take on the heels of an administration whose party was soundly defeated in the presidential elections in part one may argue for just such a disregard for law and the rights of US citizens.  There has been no hue and cry on the part of the people for their president to undertake this action, so why does he feel the need to do so?

The Obama administration’s position “would allow the executive unreviewable authority to target and kill any U.S. citizen it deems a suspect of terrorism anywhere,” according to Center for Constitutional Rights attorney Pardiss Kebriae. And the feds have a horrible batting average when it comes to accurately identifying terrorist suspects. In the six weeks after the 9/11 attacks, the U.S. government rounded up 1,200 people as suspected terrorists or terrorist supporters. None of the detainees proved to have links to the attacks. And as the ACLU noted earlier this year, “the government has failed to prove the lawfulness of imprisoning individual Guantanamo detainees in 34 of the 48 cases that have been reviewed by the federal courts thus far, even though the government had years to gather and analyze evidence for those cases and had itself determined that those prisoners were detainable.”

It’s clear to this viewer that the Obama approach to the war on terror, is  just as pernicious as Bush.  In fact it is a continuation of the former President’s policy at at time when the “threat” level is not as imminent as it was after 911 all the inaccurate and misleading press propaganda to the contrary.  What we are witnessing is the way in which government works; it’s march towards diminution of citizen rights is gradual, slow, deceptive and relentless.  New faces have little to do with changing the progress of government’s march toward this goal.  Obama isn’t ‘change we can believe in’, he’s more of the same.

 

The poster boy for the targeted killing program is Anwar al-Awlaki, an American-born Muslim cleric who is reportedly in Yemen. The Obama administration touts allegations that al-Awlaki helped spark the slaughter at Ford Hood, Texas, inspired the attempt to destroy a jetliner on Christmas Day 2009, and has done other dastardly things that the government has not yet disclosed (for our own good, of course). Al-Awlaki might well be a four-star bastard, but government press releases and background briefings have not previously been sufficient to justify capital punishment.

The American Civil Liberties Union is suing to compel Uncle Sam “to disclose the legal standard it uses to place U.S. citizens on government kill lists.” The Obama administration has responded by invoking the doctrine of state secrets, effectively claiming that national security demands that these policies be kept hidden. By hiding behind state secrets, the feds don’t even have to explain why the law doesn’t apply to their actions.

In oral arguments in federal court on Nov. 9, Justice Department attorney Douglas Letter asserted that no judge has authority to be “looking over the shoulder” of the Obama administration’s targeted-killing program. Letter declared that the program involves “the very core powers of the president as commander-in-chief.” When Obama campaigned for the presidency in 2008, entitling the president to kill Americans without trial was not one of the reforms he promised.

The main difference between the Bush administration and the Obama administration is that the Obama team publicly claims a right to do what Bush’s lawyers authorized behind closed doors. Steven Bradbury, head of the Justice Department’s Office of Legal Counsel, told the Senate Intelligence Committee in early 2006 that Bush could order killings of suspected terrorists within the United States. When Newsweek contacted the Justice Department to verify this novel legal doctrine, spokeswoman Tasia Scolinos stressed that Bradbury’s comments occurred during an “off-the-record briefing.” Newsweek’s report generated no media stir. Apparently, unless the government disclosed that it had actually begun assassinations within the United States, it was a non-story.

An article by Charlie Savage in the New York Times in mid-September noted that “There is widespread agreement among the administration’s legal team that it is lawful for President Obama to authorize the killing of someone like Mr. Awlaki.”

It is comforting to know that top political appointees concur that some “law” gives them the right to assassinate Americans. But this is the same “legal” standard the Bush team used to justify torture. Since Bush’s lawyers told him that waterboarding wasn’t torture—despite a hundred years of U.S. court decisions to the contrary—the president was blameless, or so he recently claimed to NBC’s Matt Lauer.

There are other ominous parallels with the worst abuses of the Bush administration. When Bush decreed in November 2001 that he had the authority perpetually to detain anyone as an enemy combatant, based solely on his own assertion, administration defenders rushed to assure the media that the new policy did not apply to Americans or inside the United States. Seven months later, after José Padilla was arrested in Chicago and labeled an enemy combatant, the administration acted as if only fools would believe the president would not use his boundless power any way he could.

Similarly, Obama’s power grab has not spurred much opposition, perhaps in part because it is assumed to apply only to killing Americans abroad. (Hopefully farther away than Niagara Falls, Canada.) But the basis of the policy is that the entire world is a battlefield, thus the president has unlimited “commander in chief” powers everywhere.

Once the principle is accepted that the U.S. government can label Americans as enemies of the state and kill them without judicial nicety, the bureaucratic wish list of targets will continually expand. A similar metamorphosis occurred when the FBI decided to use illegal powers to target people who garnered official displeasure. Nixon White House aide Tom Charles Huston explained that the FBI’s COINTELPRO program continually stretched its target list “from the kid with a bomb to the kid with a picket sign, and from the kid with the picket sign to the kid with the bumper sticker of the opposing candidate. And you just keep going down the line.”

Blank checks for killing enemies of the state is the recipe for domestic tranquility that most dictatorships have used throughout history. And apparently this is a standard that many Americans might embrace. Some movement conservatives—such as columnist Jonah Goldberg—are already whooping for the U.S. government to assassinate people such as Wikileaks founder Julian Assange. Should the government be entitled to kill anyone who exposes its lies? Or should the standard be broader, permitting governments to kill anyone who is inconvenient?

The Obama administration’s position “would allow the executive unreviewable authority to target and kill any U.S. citizen it deems a suspect of terrorism anywhere,” according to Center for Constitutional Rights attorney Pardiss Kebriae. And the feds have a horrible batting average when it comes to accurately identifying terrorist suspects. In the six weeks after the 9/11 attacks, the U.S. government rounded up 1,200 people as suspected terrorists or terrorist supporters. None of the detainees proved to have links to the attacks. And as the ACLU noted earlier this year, “the government has failed to prove the lawfulness of imprisoning individual Guantanamo detainees in 34 of the 48 cases that have been reviewed by the federal courts thus far, even though the government had years to gather and analyze evidence for those cases and had itself determined that those prisoners were detainable.”

In fact, debacles over false charges against Gitmo detainees may have spurred the expansion of the targeted-killing program. Dead men file no appeals. Assassinations could be less embarrassing than trials because most of the American media will roll over and permit the government to blacken its victims however it pleases. As long as officials, speaking anonymously, assure reporters that the deceased were bad people, the story is closed.

The Food and Drug Administration recently proposed far more graphic warning labels for cigarette packages. But while the feds are demanding extraordinary measures to inform people about private risks, nothing is being done to warn people of the health risks of an unleashed Leviathan.

What sort of warning labels would be appropriate for Obama’s killing program? A picture of a sniper’s crosshairs on a mother holding a baby in her cabin door, à la Vicki Weaver? A picture of young demonstrators lying dead on the ground after a National Guard volley, à la Kent State? A picture of children lolling in the streets moments before they are obliterated, courtesy of the helicopter gun-sight video from the Wiki-Leaked “Collateral Murder” recording made by the U.S. military in Iraq?

If Obama gets away with this power-grab, the rhetoric for the 2012 race for the White House should be retuned. Instead of listening to candidates compete based on the number of new benefits they promise to lavish upon voters, prudent citizens will focus on which presidential candidate seems least likely to kill them or members or their family. We might hear campaign slogans like “Vote for Smith: he won’t have you killed unless all of his top advisers agree you deserve to die.” Unfortunately, as with other campaign promises, there will be no way for voters to compel politicians to honor their pledges.

Obama’s doctrine enabling the targeted killing of American citizens is at least as much an assassination of the Constitution as anything George W. Bush perpetrated. Yet most of the media has ignored the issue or treated it like an arcane legal dispute of interest only to people in desert hideaways 6,000 miles away. The more power the government has seized, the more craven the media has become.

Thanks to sovereign immunity and cowardly judges, it is unlikely that any Obama administration official will be held liable, regardless of whom the U.S. government slays. Americans have had plenty of warnings that the federal government is destroying the leashes the Founding Fathers created. Once it is accepted that the executive branch is entitled to kill Americans without a trial, only damn fools should expect Leviathan to limit its ravages here and abroad.

James Bovard is the author of Attention Deficit Democracy.

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15 Responses to “Assassin Nation”

  1. […] This post was mentioned on Twitter by AmericanConservative, Roy F. Moore. Roy F. Moore said: RT @amconmag: James Bovard | Assassin Nation | http://bit.ly/gz0Wqu […]

  2. hahahahaha….this is your tide American Conservative, Obama’s just riding it. Where were you when Bush & Co. created this mess? Cheerleading. This is not Obama’s policy, it’s Bush’s and years ago when this was first raised as an issue you folks were calling such critics traitors.

    If Obama tried to loosen the efforts against Terrorism(TM) you would be calling him traitor. This article is rich with hypocrisy.

  3. The American Conservative was an early critic of the Bush administration and the war. Don’t confuse these folks with the National Review.

  4. […] today from the January issue of American Conservative […]

  5. river c. should read The Bush Betrayal written by the author of this article.

  6. good to see once again the Kenyan King walking in the very same foot steps of his predecessors, bashing Bush then doing likewise and more

  7. […] of Attention Deficit Democracy, discusses the Obama administration’s claim that they have the right to kill American citizens without a trial, without notice, and without any chance for targets to legally object; the […]

  8. @River C… Why don’t you ask TAC why they came out against invading Iraq while the NYTs was publishing neo-con propaganda day after day? Maybe you should ask why the refused to endorse Bush in 2004 while the NYTs was sitting on the story of Bush spying on US citizens as to not hur his chances of re-election?

    Oh, I know why you don’t ask because you’re an idiot (as your comment demonstrated). In fact, you Obama supporters are exactly the same as Bush supporters. It’s uncanny how similar the Obama apologists are to the Bush apologists. Go worship the state so more.

  9. “No person shall . . . be deprived of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law. . .” US Constitiution, 5th amendment.

    What part of that don’t people understand?

    If someone is actually in the act of perpetrating violence against American citizens, then the police or military have an exemption, but that’s all.

    You would think that a guy who has taught constitutional law might have known about this. . .

  10. Hasn’t anyone here seen a ‘Wanted: Dead or Alive’ poster?

    American governments have been paying for the killing of Americans without a trial well before Obama was born (wherever that was)

    Just ask John Dillinger.

  11. Whatever the TAC has been doing all these years, Bovard has been a tireless critic of empire and chronicler of its consequences, through several administrations, and all the more energetically in recent times with Presidents GW Bush and Obama.

    The “where were you when Bush was doing it” whine is getting very tiresome. It identifies clueless partisans, making it all the easier to dismiss their boiler-plate bleating. We should instead ask the kool-aid drinking duckspeakers, “where were you when courageous people like Bovard were speaking out and being called ‘unpatriotic’ and even ‘treasonous’?” The river c’s of the world come very late to the party, then criticize the host for the crowding.

  12. Stefan, don’t be fooled. No person allowed to run for office gives a damn about the Constitution anymore. We don’t have a Constitutional Republic anymore; we have a dictatorship masquerading as a democracy. No candidate who believes that they should be governed by the Constitution will be allowed to run. They will be weeded out long before we even hear of them. Both parties are in on this. We will not see a patriot run for high office in this country again.

  13. OK, Stefan Stackhouse knows her constitution, ‘..“No person shall . . . be deprived of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law. . .” US Constitiution, 5th amendment.

    If they can authorize the killing of each of us then they can authorize the killing of our family members as other dictators have done.

    Need to read this new book just out about Americans who actually take a stand against tyranny (based in part on real people & events). It’s a thriller so I recommend it.

    http://www.booksbyoliver.com

    This is tyranny & way beyond what the TSA is doing at airports. No one would have ever thought this could happen in America. Great article, James

  14. Frank,

    Although your other points are well taken, you are guilty of the same type of thoughtless jumping to conclusions as river c. who is obviously ignorant of what TAC is. What part of his comment led you to conclude that he is an “Obama supporter”? He may or may not be. Why is it necessary to hurl insults? River c.’s ignorance will be obvious to the vast majority who read this. Correction and guidance without insult as per Anonymous and Tom Blanton is much more helpful.

  15. This is only possible thanks to George W Bush who rescinded habeus corpus. My pointing this out is in no way an endorsement of Obama. I am merely pointing out the historical facts. Without the Bush Junta’s idiotic reign, the excesses of the Obama plague would not have been possible, or even really imaginable.

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Another GW Bush moment of candor


Thank God for the US Constitution which sets a 2 term limit for the office of President because I really think there are enough people so anesthetized to violations of the law that they would elect Bush to a third term in order to satisfy the blood lust currently going on in the social psyche. Thank God too for Bush’s moments of candor, where he admits to waterboarding and claims he would do it again, which should seal his fate and make him a convicted war criminal.  What’s sad about a grown man with the experiences he has had making false assertions about how this one violation of international law, rather of law that we the American government instituted during the Reagan administration, could save lives is that he is lying.

Throughout the heated debate about waterboarding it was pointed out again and again that (a) it’s illegal and the Congress of the United States codified it and (b) there was never any actionable intelligence that resulted from the practice against anyone!  Yet there are still people who dismiss the former, we wrapped the term ‘waterboarding’ into a more pleasant sounding euphemism, ‘enhanced interrogation’ to get out of admitting to an illegal act, and erroneously tout the latter about all the lives saved when we finally tortured  the information from harden criminals.  Why are they purposefully lying?  Even more importantly, and this leaves a very dark stain on the Obama administration, why hasn’t Bush been prosecuted for violating that law which explicitly states

The State Party in the territory under whose jurisdiction a person alleged to have committed any offence referred to in article 4 is found shall in the cases contemplated in article 5, if it does not extradite him, submit the case to its competent authorities for the purpose of prosecution.

These authorities shall take their decision in the same manner as in the case of any ordinary offence of a serious nature under the law of that State. In the cases referred to in article 5, paragraph 2, the standards of evidence required for prosecution and conviction shall in no way be less stringent than those which apply in the eases referred to in article 5, paragraph 1.

Therefore we are obliged to prosecute members of the former administration for their illegal acts of torture and the fact that is not even on the table, or up for discussion, means America continues to go down the road of not respecting its own law or laws it enters into with other nations.  In other words we have become lawless, and GWBush feels quite comfortable propagating his false bravado even though it is illegal because no longer feel it binding to follow the rule of law.  There is no distinction between us and the enemy we claim to fight.

Back From The Brink


One of the reasons Barack Obama received the Nobel Peace Prize from a grateful prize committee is because those who awarded it to him realized America has barely escaped falling into the abyss of becoming a dictatorial and insane government worse than Josef Stalin et.co could ever imagine.  It wasn’t without a big price that we as a Nation and the world community had to pay; two invasions, the almost complete evisceration of the US Constitution and the de facto persecution and or ethnic cleansing of a religious group that would make even Israel green with envy.  In the clear light of day, absent the Bush Administration and its evil cohorts cooperation spin of fantasy from reality, the blinders are falling from our eyes and there is some sense of truth that has made its way in the media, that was once the stenographer for what could be the most corrupt US administration in the history of this country.

One such revelation came in the form of a lecture by a CIA employee, a 30 year veteran by the way, who it can be said has been around in the intelligence field a lot longer than Dick Cheney has, that intelligence gathering by his agency HAS NOT suffered as a result of not waterboarding terrorist suspects.  This flies in the face of assertions made by Dick Cheney, most notably, and others in the former Administration who claimed the US was at risk of an imminent attack if it did not waterboard information from people.  We’ve written about waterboarding alot here on the pages of Miscellany101 because it is an illegal activity that was sanctioned and made legal by the illegal Administration of Bush/Cheney.  Every other month or so another crack appears in the wall they set up to separate America from the rule of law and slowly but surely voices are speaking out to say we can survive as a Nation without resorting to criminal behavior.  This latest voice, that of  career intelligence agent, Michael Sulick is a welcomed addition to the others who stand up to say what makes America great and exceptional is ‘after 200 years, two centuries, she still stands strong and true to the granite ridge, and her glow has held no matter what storm. And she’s still a beacon, still a magnet for all who must have freedom, for all the pilgrims from all the lost places who are hurtling through the darkness, toward home.’

Those Bushism Lies Keep Getting Refuted-Another One Bites the Dust!


by Jason Leopold
Truthout

The Justice Department has quietly recanted nearly every major claim the Bush administration had made about “high-value” detainee Abu Zubaydah, a Guantanamo prisoner who at one time was said to have planned the 9/11 attacks and was the No. 2 and 3 person in al-Qaeda.

Additionally, Justice has backed away from claims intelligence officials working in the Clinton administration had also leveled against Zubaydah, specifically, that he was directly involved in the planning of the 1998 embassy bombings in East Africa.

Zubaydah’s name is redacted throughout the 109-page court document, but he is identified on the first page of the filing by his real name, Zayn Al Abidin Muhammad Husayn. He was the first detainee captured after 9/11 who was subjected to nearly a dozen brutal torture techniques, which included waterboarding, and was the catalyst, the public has been told, behind the Bush administration’s “enhanced interrogation” program. Former Vice President Dick Cheney has publicly admitted that personally approved of Zubaydah’s waterboarding.

His torture was videotaped and the tapes later destroyed. The destruction of 90 videotapes of his interrogations is the focus of a high-level criminal investigation being conducted by John Durham, a federal prosecutor appointed special counsel in 2008 by then-Attorney General Michael Mukasey.

In recent months, former Bush speechwriter Marc Thiessen has been on a public relations campaign promoting his book, “Courting Disaster,” in which he defended the torture of Zubaydah, claiming, among other things, that he reviewed classified intelligence that revealed Zubaydah’s torture produced actionable intelligence that thwarted imminent plots against the United States.

But court documents unclassified last week debunk Thiessen’s assertions as well as those made by, among others, George W. Bush, who said Zubaydah was one of al-Qaeda’s “top operatives plotting and planning death and destruction on the United States.”

For the first time, the government now officially admits that Zubaydah did not have “any direct role in or advance knowledge of the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001,” and was neither a “member” of al-Qaeda nor “formally” identified with the terrorist organization.

The government has a new set of eharges it is leveling against Zubaydah and claims he is being detained by the United States based on his “actions” as an “affiliate” of al-Qaeda that may have included the planning of a counterattack against US forces after the US invaded Afghanistan in November 2001 and a “thwarted” attack at the time of his arrest.

“The Government’s accounts frequently have been at variance with the actual facts, and the government has generally been loath to provide the facts until forced to do so,” said Zubaydah’s attorney, Brent Mickum, in an interview. “When the Government was forced to present the facts in the form of discovery in Zubaydah’s case, it realized that the game was over and there was no way it could support the Bush administration’s baseless allegations. So it changed the charges.”

The government wants the judge presiding over the habeas case to deny defense requests for evidence that would “undermine” government claims that Zubaydah worked in Bin Laden’s “military and security plan to confront an American counterattack” in Khost, Afghanistan, after 9/11.

“The Government does not rely on any contention that [Zubaydah] did this work as an ‘al-Qaida’ deputy or because he was subject to al-Qaida command,” according to the court document.

But the exact charges the government appears to be making here is unknown because the information is classified.

“Evidence suggesting that [Zubaydah] lacked knowledge of plans by other persons or groups would not undermine the Government’s allegations about [Zubaydah’s] own thwarted plans, or any other allegations” against him, according to the Justice Department’s filing.

The government acknowledges that it’s case against Zubaydah is based entirely on the first six volumes of his diaries that he wrote beginning in 1992 [Please see this report for details about Zubaydah’s diaries.] In the court filing, the government says that it filed a “factual return” on April 3, 2009, which included “six volumes of diaries written by REDACTED” and “an undated “propaganda video [Zubaydah] recorded before his capture in which [he] appears on camera expressing solidarity with Usama Bin Laden and al-Qaida.” The government further says that it does not rely on “any statements [Zubaydah] made after his capture” in Pakistan in March 2002.

But later in the filing, however, the government concedes that Zubaydah was not aligned with or directly associated with Bin Laden or al-Qaeda.

The government “does not contend that [Zubaydah] was a ‘member’ of al-Qaida in the sense of having sworn bavat (allegiance) or having otherwise satisfied any formal criteria that either [Zubaydah] or al-Qaida may have considered necessary for inclusion in al-Qaeda. Nor is the government detaining [Zubaydah] based on any allegation that [Zubaydah] views himself as part of al-Qaida as a matter of subjective personal conscience, ideology or worldview.

“Rather, [the government’s] detention of [Zubaydah] is based on conduct and actions that establish [Zubaydah] was ‘part of’ hostile forces and ‘substantially supported’ those forces,” states the Justice Department’s point-by-point response to 213 discovery requests Zubaydah’s attorneys made in connection with his habeas corpus case, which sought evidence to support the government’s position that Zubaydah was a top al-Qaeda official.

The Justice Department declined to comment on what appears to be contradictory claims in its court filing.

The Bush administration claimed in April 2002, days after Zubaydah was captured in Afghanistan and moved to a CIA-operated black site prison in Thailand that he was a top al-Qaeda official.

Former Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld described Zubaydah on April 1, 2002, as a “close associate of [Osama Bin Laden], and if not the number two, very close to the number two person in the organization. I think that’s well established.”

Nor did the Bush administration deviate from that position after Zubaydah was transferred to Guantanamo in 2006 and declared an “enemy combatant” in 2007 following a Combatant Status Review Tribunal.

John Bellinger, former legal adviser to Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, said during a June 2007 briefing on Guantanamo Bay that Zubaydah helped plan the 9/11 attacks and was “extremely dangerous.”

The Justice Department’s response to discovery request “No. 21” says that “the Government has not contended in this [habeas] proceeding that [Zubaydah] had any direct role in or advance knowledge of the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, so [to] the extent that this request seeks information ‘tending to show … that [Zubaydah] did not know of the planned attacks of 9/11’, the request seeks evidence about contentions the Government has not made.”

The government’s new position is significant because one of the August 2002 torture memos prepared for the CIA and signed by former Justice Department Office of Legal Counsel attorneys Jay Bybee, now a Ninth Circuit Appeals Court judge, that described the torture techniques interrogators could use against Zubaydah, asserted that he “is one of the highest ranking members of the al-Qaeda terrorist organization,” “has been involved in every major terrorist operation carried out by al-Qaeda,” and was “one of the planners of the September 11 attacks” and that his torture was necessary in order to thwart pending attacks on US interests, which the CIA claimed Zubaydah knew about.

Exactly what Zubaydah’s attorneys had requested from the government in their discovery filing is unknown as the document has not been cleared for release. The Justice Department asked the judge presiding over the case to deny virtually every discovery request sought by his attorneys, explaining, in some instances, that the government no longer relied upon the explosive allegations the Bush administration made about Zubaydah when he was captured and subsequently tortured.

At the time the response to the discovery requests was filed in the fall of 2009, the government argued that the court should “stay further evidentiary proceedings” because it could interfere with Durham’s criminal probe into the destruction of the torture tapes. Durham filed a motion under seal thereafter that said as much. A report published in the Washington Post last week said Durham’s probe is now winding down.

According to Mickum, the government’s “entirely new position” about Zubaydah was revealed late last year in a 50-page Factual Return that included 2,500 pages of exhibits.

“I’m not surprised at all that the Government has dropped the old charges against our client and is alleging new charges against him,” Mickum said in an interview. “That is their tried and true modus operandi. That’s exactly what they did with my client Bisher al Rawi. He was initially charged with associating with a known al-Qaeda figure in London. Unfortunately, Bisher was associating with him at the express request of Britain’s MI5 [intelligence service]. After we established that he worked for MI5, the US simply changed the charges against him, alleging that he had terrorist training in Bosnia and Afghanistan.

“Once again, we were able to show those charges were utterly bogus when we proved that Bisher had never left England from 1998 until his fateful business trip to Africa, where he was arrested by the CIA, rendered to the ‘Dark Prison’ in Afghanistan and tortured, tortured at Bagram Air Force base and tortured in Guantanamo. What all these cases have in common is torture, and [Zubaydah’s] case has that in spades. Given, the government’s history, it is not likely they would simply let him go and apologize. No, when their case falls apart, they rejigger the evidence, and come up with new charges and we will defend the new charges with the same zeal we defended the earlier bogus charges.”

Zubaydah’s attorneys argued in his initial petition for habeas corpus filed in February 2008 that he was not a member of al Qaeda, that he had no knowledge of any terrorist operations, and that the military camp he was alleged to be affiliated with, Khaldan, was closed by the Taliban after it refused repeated demands that it fall under the formal control of Osama bin Laden and al-Qaida.

“We have never deviated from that position, and now the government admits that we were correct all along,” Mickum said.

Indeed, the Justice Department’s response agrees with Zubaydah’s attorneys that Khaldan was “organizationally and operationally independent” of al-Qaeda’s camps and backed off of other claims made by Bush administration officials that Zubaydah knew the identities of specific individuals who trained at Khaldan and later went on to al-Qaeda-operated camps and allegedly took part in terrorist activities.

“The Government has not contended in this proceeding that petitioner selected or knew the identities of specific persons who were selected to leave Khaldan for training at al-Qaida camps,” the filing states.

Nor does the government contend that Zubaydah was responsible for paying Khaldan’s “expenses” or that he financed specific terrorist operations that may have had ties to Khaldan. Therefore, the Justice Department said, evidence Zubaydah’s attorneys requested to support these earlier claims should be denied.

The government’s new position also dramatically changes the substance of the final contents of the 9/11 Commission’s report, as it relates to Zubaydah. The report said he was the leader of Khaldan.

When she revealed last year that Zubaydah had been waterboard 83 times in August 2002, blogger Marcy Wheeler noted that the 9/11 Commission had obtained “just ten pieces of information are sourced to Abu Zubaydah’s interrogation reports.”

“…There are several other damning details that come from this analysis,” Wheeler wrote. “One of the ten pieces of intelligence that appears in the 9/11 Report–regarding Abu Zubaydah’s role running terrorist training camps–came from July 10, 2002, before the CIA first received oral authorization to use torture. Thus, it either came from persuasive, rather than coercive, techniques. Or it came from treatment that had not been legally approved.”

The 9/11 report also said Zubaydah was a “major figure” in the “Millennium plot,” claiming he was one of the masterminds behind a plan to blow up a hotel in Jordan and the Los Angeles International Airport (LAX). The 9/11 report cited several intelligence memoranda from then-counterterrorism czar Richard Clarke that Zubaydah was planning “a series of major terrorist attacks” on Israeli and possibly US targets and was working closely with Bin Laden.

Clarke declined numerous requests for comment.

But the Justice Department no longer supports any of those claims, according to the court document.

When asked about what the 9/11 Commission was told, Mickum suggested that the panel was lied to by the CIA.

“After torturing our client, the CIA knew he was never a member of al-Qaeda and that he had no knowledge of any al-Qaeda terrorist activities,” Mickum said. “And this fact was confirmed after other members of al-Qaeda like [self-professed 9/11 mastermind Khalid Sheikh Mohammed] and the [alleged mastermind of the USS Cole bombing] al Nashiri were tortured.”

Zubaydah was also identified as Bin Laden’s “lieutenant” in the infamous August 6, 2001, Presidential Daily Brief titled, “Bin Laden Determined to Strike in US, ” which alleged that he “helped facilitate” the plot to detonate a bomb LAX. FBI officials obtained that information from Ahmed Ressam, who was actually convicted for the crime in April 2001.

In exchange for a lenient sentence he made up stories about Zubaydah’s connections to Bin Laden and his role at Khaldan, which Ressam attended for five to six months in 1998). Ressam also said Zubdaydah told him in 1998 that, independent of Bin Laden, he was preparing his own attack against the United States. He later recanted those claims.

In an exclusive interview last year, Jack Cloonan, a former FBI special agent assigned to the agency’s elite Bin Laden unit, said the CIA and the Bush administration were flat wrong in designating Zubaydah as a top official in al-Qaeda.

“To cast him and describe him as the al-Qaeda emir or leader for the subcontinent or worse … I think was a mistake… . Based on his age and ethnicity, [he] would [n]ever be brought into the inner circle of al-Qaeda,” Cloonan said.

There was also the question of Zubaydah’s personality. “My partner had a chance to look at a lot of Abu Zubaydah’s diaries [which forms the basis of the government’s case], poems and other things that he has written and he said that after reading this you just come away with the feeling that this is a guy who can’t be trusted or be given huge amounts of responsibility.”

At his Combatant Status Review Tribunal in March 2007, Zubaydah said that his torturers eventually apologized to him and told him they concluded he was not a top al-Qaeda lieutenant as the Bush administration and intelligence officials had claimed (h/t Marcy Wheeler).

“They told me sorry we discover that you are not number three [in al-Qaeda], not a partner, even not a fighter,” Zubaydah said during his tribunal hearing.

Evil Personified


In an interview on ABC’s This Week, Dick Cheney loudly proclaimed, ‘I was a big supporter of waterboarding. I was a big supporter of the enhanced interrogation techniques’ and forever cast himself as an indictable war criminal who will never be indicted.   He has been assailed by the progressive side of the political spectrum for not only putting his foot in his own mouth but also for so clearly incriminating himself.  Cheney however knows he won’t be indicted and the simple reason is his logic is far more pervasive in the American body politic than any of us would care to admit.  It would appear the only opposition coming to his remarks is from people outside of government and politics who might possess the last vestiges of decency still have left in America; those people who believe in the American system and ideals and not those who merely spout them as a means to assuming a really nice paying job in government at taxpayer expense.

On all the websites that feature articles about Cheney so prominently one can always find letters or comments from people who ask why isn’t Cheney in jail, or why hasn’t he been indicted.  I myself have asked that question a time or two, but when reading another reporter’s take on Cheney’s remarks ran across this snippet

The “torture memo” and related legal opinions were considered so unprofessional that Bybee’s replacement to head the OLC, Jack Goldsmith, himself a conservative Republican, took the extraordinary step of withdrawing them after he was appointed in October 2003.

However, Goldsmith was pushed out of his job after a confrontation with Cheney’s counsel Addington, and the later appointment of Bradbury enabled the Bush White House to reinstate many of the Yoo-Bybee opinions.

Last month, Newsweek reported that Yoo and Bybee had avoided any disciplinary recommendations because a draft report by the Justice Department’s Office of Professional Responsibility had been rewritten to remove harsh criticism that the two lawyers had violated professional standards, softening the language to simple criticism of their judgment.

The weaker language meant that the Justice Department would not refer the cases to state bar associations for possible disbarment proceedings.

Despite the really sophomoric job that Yoo and Bybee did in supporting the Bush administration’s desire to torture, a job done so poorly that it was immediately tossed out by someone who replaced them, someone who was also a lawyer,  who knew the law and knew that the legal brief written didn’t have a leg to stand on and would not hold up to judicial review, members of the Department of Justice’s Office of Professional Responsibility would not phrase their criticism of such low standards in such a way as to punish Yoo and Bybee.  Instead those two gentlemen have gone on to lucrative careers, Bybee as a federal judge who might very well adjudicate terrorist cases he was responsible for jeopardizing with his justification for torture, and Yoo as law professor at UC-Berkeley without any consequence for advising a US administration to break the law!  That eventuality was made possible by career government officials who are not accountable to all the voices of disgust and anger at obvious Bush-Cheney illegality who have made it possible for all concerned to evade and escape punishment.  But there’s also this admission by Cheney himself

The reason I’ve been outspoken is because there were some things being said, especially after we left office, about prosecuting CIA personnel that had carried out our counterterrorism policy or disbarring lawyers in the Justice Department who had — had helped us put those policies together, and I was deeply offended by that, and I thought it was important that some senior person in the administration stand up and defend those people who’d done what we asked them to do.And that’s why I got started on it. I’m the vice president now — ex-vice president. I have the great freedom and luxury of speaking out, saying what I — what I want to say, what I believe. And I have not been discouraged from doing so.

The obvious implication is that Cheney’s reach inside the bowels of government is long; anyone not willing to accommodate those who have signed on to his belief in the validity of torture as a tool of foreign policy risks losing his or her job.  Similarly, if you are willing to cover for those who have broken the law there is some temporal reward for you.  Bybee was appointed to his seat as a circuit court judge  by Bush.  While he may be at the end of his political career Cheney still has  access to  many others who depend on politics, political good fortune, appointments and corruptible politicians and he seems quite intent on keeping those who agree with his torturous politics from any harm, professionally or legally, and they in turn are intent on protecting him.  So the fix is in and despite our protestations to the contrary, Cheney will not face prosecution because career diplomats, lawyers, intelligence agents and agencies have too much at stake and will do everything possible to protect themselves and their titular heads, i.e. the Cheneys and the Bushes,  Obama’s pledges of change and transparency nothwithstanding.  It’s sad that a constitutional lawyer now president like Obama has had his hands tied up by criminal politicians like Cheney who have no regard for the Constitution but such is the situation he finds himself.  Realistically, there is no way out; Obama’s position is intractable and for us progressives, the sooner we realize that the better.  Such is the cost of doing business with evil.

Where do they find these people?


I saw JD Hayworth do an interview with Chris Mathews on Hardball the other night and one of his comments really struck me as being typical of the last eight years of nonsense, lies and deception.  No, it wasn’t his remark about Obama needing to produce his birth certificate to prove to the American people whether he is a real American or not, and in the process avoiding Mathews question whether he, Hayworth, was a conspiracy theorist birther.  It was Hayworth’s dodging the question of whether he supported torture as an implement for policy by American agencies.  He went on to say that waterboarding, i.e. torture was responsible for stopping several planned terror attacks because of actionable intelligence derived therefrom.

Anyone who knows anything about torture and its use during the last decade and all of the “actionable intelligence” that might have come about because of it would and should take such claims with a grain of salt.  Such claims of the importance of torture came from people like John Kiriakou, a former CIA operative who affirmed that waterboarding quickly unloosed the tongues of hard-core terrorists.  His accounts were picked up by main stream media and pundits and published as gospel in an attempt to legitimize an internationally recognized crime.  Of course it turns out all of Kiriakou’s stories were lies made up to extricate a criminal administration and its agencies from criminal behavior.

On the next-to-last page of a new memoir, The Reluctant Spy: My Secret Life in the CIA’s War on Terror (written with Michael Ruby), Kiriakou now rather off handedly admits that he basically made it all up.”What I told Brian Ross in late 2007 was wrong on a couple counts,” he writes. “I suggested that Abu Zubaydah had lasted only thirty or thirty-five seconds during his waterboarding before he begged his interrogators to stop; after that, I said he opened up and gave the agency actionable intelligence.”

“I wasn’t there when the interrogation took place; instead, I relied on what I’d heard and read inside the agency at the time.”

“Now we know,” Kiriakou goes on, “that Zubaydah was waterboarded eighty-three times in a single month, raising questions about how much useful information he actually supplied.”

Indeed. But after his one-paragraph confession, Kiriakou adds that he didn’t have any first hand knowledge of anything relating to CIA torture routines, and still doesn’t. And he claims that the disinformation he helped spread was a CIA dirty trick: “In retrospect, it was a valuable lesson in how the CIA uses the fine arts of deception even among its own.”


Yet again, another lie about the effectiveness of our war on terror, from the people who too many of us depend on to protect us! It would behoove Hayworth not to mention this proven lie too many times as he stumps for John McCain’s senate seat for the state of Arizona, or else he might have to explain to those who are conscientious to want to know how it’s all a lie!

No comment


waterboarding lady liberty

Release the hounds!


releasing houndsIt started out as a trickle but it has crescendoed to the point it is becoming increasingly more difficult for the Obama administration to ignore, in my opinion, the call for an investigation into Bush administration era torture.

It began with the “conservative” radio personality ‘Mancow’ undergoing a fake waterboarding and then declaring to his radio audience it really is torture.  There was a slight diversion to this confession involving emails sent by publicists and whether what happened was real or fake; clearly it was nothing as horrendous as what actual detainees go through, but the distraction caused a blip on the national conscious.  David Petraeus continued the onslaught when he said that Bush violated the Geneva Conventions.  This was significant coming from a political appointee, as it were, of the Bush administration.  Unfortunately that admission has not been enough to get Bush, et.co to shut up, as Mr. Cheney still insists that torture was NOT really torture, just enhanced interrogation techniques that are not violations of international law.

Janet Karpinski chimed in saying the orders for illegal and criminal behavior on the part of the soldiers under her command came from the very top of the military structure and beyond.  Her interview below, underscores the assertion that abusers at Abu Ghraib were merely following the orders given them by superiors outside the military command structure……intelligence “contractors”.

Lately we have General Ricardo Sanchez, the former commander of all coalition forces in Iraq, calling for a truth commission to investigate the abuses and torture which occurred in Iraq.  He went on to say that his troops were abandoned by the Bush administration while they were in Iraq and that here was not one instance of actionable intelligence that came out of interrogation techniques which were, or bordered on, criminality!

This last point was further underscored by CIA officials, past and present who ridiculed claims that illegal interrogations were necessary to stop imminent treats against the US.  This all leads up to a huge body of evidence that would seem to make it difficult for a controlling legal authority, ANY controlling legal authority to ignore and that efforts to initiate some type of criminal prosecutions of those people responsible are critical.  Do we as a country have to be observers to the prosecution of our elected officials by authorities outside our borders or will we be willing and active participants in bringing such people to justice?  Calls for the latter, in some form or another,  have come from every segment of our society, up to the very highest levels of the political and military branches of government.  To continue to ignore, placate, make excuses for and cover up criminal behavior only makes the US a pariah country on other countries’ lists, joining the likes of North Korea, Iraq, Sudan, Iran and old castaways like Libya, the former USSR, Nazi Germany, et.al.  There really is no choice for us but to pursue, at the very least, a grand jury to investigate charges against these officials.

I am happy to see that those no longer under the constraint of political correctness have come out and made strong statements of assertion against former political allies.  It’s now time for us as a society to do the same and demand that from our elected officials, under threat of a significantly truncated political career when their time for reelection comes up. Can we do that?

Cheney’s lies


If you think, as I do, that Dick Cheney is off his rocker, you’ve hit the jackpot.  If you think, as I do, that Cheney’s a liar you’ve won the daily double.

Sen. Carl Levin, chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, says former Vice President Dick Cheney’s claims — that classified CIA memos show enhanced interrogation techniques like waterboarding worked — are wrong.

Levin, speaking at the Foreign Policy Association’s annual dinner in New York on Wednesday, said an investigation by his committee into detainee abuse charges over the use of the techniques — now deemed torture by the Obama administration — “gives the lie to Mr. Cheney’s claims.”

The Michigan Democrat told the crowd that the two CIA documents that Cheney wants released “say nothing about numbers of lives saved, nor do the documents connect acquisition of valuable intelligence to the use of abusive techniques.”

“I hope that the documents are declassified, so that people can judge for themselves what is fact, and what is fiction,” he added.

Cheney is a mentally unstable man with a mean streak a mile long running down his back. He gave in to the animal side of human nature and has led the rally cry for other Americans to join him on this dark, unstable journey of lawlessness and inhumanity. He managed to do so, thus far, through the bully pulpit and an obsequious press that parroted his every proclamation. Now that the curtain has been removed and the wizard exposed, why do we continue to be threatened by such a sick individual?

We were wrong!


Once again we are told our conduct during the war on terror was criminal in nature, and this time it comes from almost the top!  General David Petraeus went on live television, thank God it was live and not something that could be later edited out of an interview, and said the United States of America violated the Geneva Conventions, read that broke the law. Petraeus was appointed by the Bush administration to lead the war effort in Iraq and I think it’s significant he would come out so publicly and disavow the direction his boss took in carrying out the war on terror.  However, most of us knew that  long before Petraeus joined in this fracas, and indeed many have been saying so since the  inception of the war on terror; it  was a diversionary one meant to mask or cover up the real agenda of the people in power during the Bush years.

The whole issue of torture is also an indication of where America is as a Nation.  Sixty years ago, post World War II,  there would be no discussion of whether waterboarding was torture, and what the consequences are for those who participate in such illegal activity, let alone whether such tactics are effective.  Now however, a lot of time and effort has been put into describing this technique as ‘enhanced interrogation’ to make it as benign as possible and allow some a chance to escape from the penalty of law.  I’m glad to see someone on the front line of war and terror, Petraeus,  saying that it is a violation of international law, as opposed to the arm chair quarterbacks and political pundits who seem to make their punditry akin to the life and death of fighting in real wars proclaiming the opposite.

Now comes word that sugar free cookies went further to produce actionable intelligence than waterboarding.

The most successful interrogation of an Al-Qaeda operative by U.S. officials required no sleep deprivation, no slapping or “walling” and no waterboarding. All it took to soften up Abu Jandal, who had been closer to Osama bin Laden than any other terrorist ever captured, was a handful of sugar-free cookies.

Abu Jandal had been in a Yemeni prison for nearly a year when Ali Soufan of the FBI and Robert McFadden of the Naval Criminal Investigative Service arrived to interrogate him in the week after 9/11…..

While Abu Jandal was venting his spleen, Soufan noticed that he didn’t touch any of the cookies that had been served with tea: “He was a diabetic and couldn’t eat anything with sugar in it.” At their next meeting, the Americans brought him some sugar-free cookies, a gesture that took the edge off Abu Jandal’s angry demeanor. “We had showed him respect, and we had done this nice thing for him,” Soufan recalls. “So he started talking to us instead of giving us lectures.”It took more questioning, and some interrogators’ sleight of hand, before the Yemeni gave up a wealth of information about al-Qaeda — including the identities of seven of the 9/11 bombers — but the cookies were the turning point. “After that, he could no longer think of us as evil Americans,” Soufan says. “Now he was thinking of us as human beings.”

What does that say about a country far more interested in torture and sadism to get information than cookies and respect?  This isn’t the first time we’ve heard that interrogation methods that stressed identifying with the prisoner, affording him his rights and treating him with respect got more information out of him than banging his head against a wall or waterboarding him.  Post 911 we were an angry country and some people in government took advantage of that rage to settle age old scores of tribes and jealousy which have had a devastating impact on the psyche of the country.  We have worsened this problem by refusing to admit it exists and/or addressing it and the ultimate abuse of the country is to allow the perpetrators of this criminal activity to go free.  Forgetting about the criminality and who did it does not spare the collective from our mental anguish.  American military personnel  felt perfectly justified posing and smiling next to dead bodies, or smearing human feces on people to take their pictures and laugh or as has been more recently asserted, raping and sodomizing women and children all under the guise of authorities of the United States.  We should not give any one that kind of power to abuse what the country has fought for and sustained for so many years until now.  Nothing will do more to drive that point home than for the citizenry to rise up and demand all people who participated in illegal activity in our name be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law.  I hope you will join me in making that proclamation!

Torture’s benefits don’t exist


I watched an hilarious exchange between former Minnesota governor, Jesse Ventura and a Fox TV chat show host who I must admit I was not very impressed with at all.  However they talked about whether waterboarding was torture and necessary for today’s American body politic.  The Fox host repeated several canards that weren’t really addressed by Ventura although he made up for a lack of response with passion and directing the argument in ways he wanted.  I want to briefly address some of the points from a document put together by the folks at Think Progress which I have alluded to in another post.

1. Information from enhanced techniques is unreliable.

This has been stated by several branches of government from the military to the FBI who have all concluded torture doesn’t yield any actionable intelligence and the opposite of torture, rapport building gives a far higher yield.  It’s not as gory or satisfying to the sadistic nature of today’s neocons but it gets results. In fact, according to some, torture gets in the way of intelligence gathering and has negative effects.

2. The torture of Khalid Shaikh Muhammad and Abu Zubayday produced no valuable intelligence.

CIA and FBI officials have gone on record saying nothing was gained from torturing either of those two individuals and they were both tortured scores of time.

“The proponents of torture say, ‘Look at the body of information that has been obtained by these methods.’ But if K.S.M. and Abu Zubaydah did give up stuff, we would have heard the details,” says Cloonan. “What we got was pabulum.” A former C.I.A. officer adds: “Why can’t they say what the good stuff from Abu Zubaydah or K.S.M. is? It’s not as if this is sensitive material from a secret, vulnerable source. You’re not blowing your source but validating your program. They say they can’t do this, even though five or six years have passed, because it’s a ‘continuing operation.’ But has it really taken so long to check it all out?”

And again, there’s this:

As for K.S.M. himself, who (as Jane Mayer writes) was waterboarded, reportedly hung for hours on end from his wrists, beaten, and subjected to other agonies for weeks, Bush said he provided “many details of other plots to kill innocent Americans.” K.S.M. was certainly knowledgeable. It would be surprising if he gave up nothing of value. But according to a former senior C.I.A. official, who read all the interrogation reports on K.S.M., “90 percent of it was total fucking bullshit.” A former Pentagon analyst adds: “K.S.M. produced no actionable intelligence. He was trying to tell us how stupid we were.”

I strongly urge you to go to the document linked above to read it in its entirety.  It’s very well sourced and proves conclusively that torture was not responsible for any intelligence which prevented further attacks against America, that it was viewed as illegal by many of the people the Bush Administration sought to envelope in the torture fabric and that it is prosecutable should the legal community have the will to press charges against those responsible.  Why that hasn’t happened is something politicians in the next election should have to answer.

The entire Bush Administration should be in jail


They have become so bad, so obnoxious even Lanny Davis who works for Republicans is now saying Dick Cheney should be indicted for his actions on torture.  To hell with the past is the past, an excuse every criminal who ever lived wishes could be used as a defense, Davis asserts it would not be difficult to bring charges against Cheney.  But why stop at Cheney?  There’s an entire Administration that was equally complicit in using torture, something illegal, to get people to lie, something also illegal, in order to justify invading a defenseless country, something I hope is still illegal and in the process killing thousands of its citizens, also an illegal act.  If we look at the Bush Administration’s eight years, it was ALL illegal.  I am most offended by the use of torture to get people to lie and even more amused by people who minimize torture, especially waterboarding, and talk about the number of pours of water over a victim’s face not constituting torture.  Nevertheless the fact of the matter, as stated by those who were present, is that some victims were waterboarded scores of times in order to get them to admit to a fictitious link, that didn’t offer up any actionable intelligence, in other words no terror plots were disrupted as a result of anything told by these victims, and the hands of a corrupt Administration, until now not taken to task,  from top to bottom are responsible for this action.  Go visit the links established by the folks at Think Progress which debunk all the torture myths put up by those on the right who sought to justify it.

I can think of nothing more heinous than torturing people to get them to confess to a lie.  In other words, people who knew nothing of a link between al-Qaeda and Saddam Hussein were tortured until they were finally able to figure out what it was their torturers wanted from them and finally gave it to them.  No wonder Khalid Shaikh Muhammad is supposed to have confessed to doing things that didn’t happen or could be easily proven he had no part of; a human will do or say anything to escape pain once he realizes what it is to be done or said.  Of course, by the time such confessions were given the world had already figured out, been told, that such links didn’t exist, as did neither the WMDs we were told were within a hairs breath of being deployed against us, it was all a lie, sorry, let’s just forget the whole thing and opt for …….change and again, the rule of law is cast aside for political expediency.  The guards at Gitmo Bay and Abughraib are not the only ones culpable for this breach of law and our Nation’s confidence.  One of the measures of greatness is how well the law is equally applied to all regardless of status.  We are failing that measure miserably and we have no one to blame but ourselves.  I’m glad Lanny Davis has come around and sees that Cheney should be held accountable; I hope his list of those who need to be brought to justice grows.  If he needs help compiling it, I’ll be glad to hand him mine; it’s eight years long.