And you thought this was over?


We haven’t even heard nor seen the worst of what happened to people imprisoned in AbuGhraib. Eric Fair, the author of the book, Consequence comes out four square against torture or enhanced interrogation saying they are one and the same.  You can find an interview with him here.  What he is saying is what you can find in the pages of Miscellany101 since day one of the war but in today’s political climate where presidential candidates are calling for torture in very explicit terms and not caring to even debate its illegality Fair’s book should be front and center in any public debate on foreign policy where the issue of torture is brought up.

However, there has always been a lingering suspicion that we what we were told only scratched the surface and this latest news piece confirms that.

According to a number of global mainstream media sources, the Pentagon is covering up a disturbing video that was never made public with the rest of the recent torture report.

… the appalling video was recorded at Abu Ghraib, the notorious US torture dungeon in Iraq that made headlines roughly a decade ago, when the inhumane tactics being used at the prison were exposed……While the video has remained under wraps thus far, Hersh says it is only a matter of time before it comes out.

Giving a speech at the ACLU last week after the senate torture report was initially released, Hersh gave some insight into what was on the Pentagon’s secret tape.

In the most revealing portion of his speech he said that:

“Debating about it, ummm … Some of the worst things that happened you don’t know about, okay? Videos, um, there are women there. Some of you may have read that they were passing letters out, communications out to their men. This is at Abu Ghraib … The women were passing messages out saying ‘Please come and kill me, because of what’s happened’ and basically what happened is that those women who were arrested with young boys, children in cases that have been recorded. The boys were sodomized with the cameras rolling. And the worst above all of that is the soundtrack of the boys shrieking that your government has. They are in total terror. It’s going to come out.”

An Open letter to America from James Baldwin


The day after Super Tuesday, 2016 when America is on the verge of seeing a known racist, xenophobic Islamophobe become the titular head of a major American political party James Baldwin‘s words ring clearer and truer today than they did over 45 years ago.

Angela Davis

Angela Davis

Initially he wrote this open letter to Angela Davis in response to her arrest stemming from a prison escape attempt made by Jonathan P Jackson.  In it he alludes to the handcuffs plainly visible in the photos of her arrest. The details regarding her arrest are still today shrouded in controversy but irrelevant to the contents of Baldwin’s letter. The letter written during the height of the civil rights struggle which included the murder of countless people dedicated to that struggle, those known and lesser know, uses symbolism that strikes a cord in today’s political climate.  It is an indictment of an atmosphere that cultivates fear and hatred, insecurity and desperation.

 

November 19, 1970

Dear Sister:

One might have hoped that, by this hour, the very sight of chains on black flesh, or the very sight of chains, would be so intolerable a sight for the American people, and so unbearable a memory, that they would themselves spontaneously rise up and strike off the manacles. But, no, they appear to glory in their chains; now, more than ever, they appear to measure their safety in chains and corpses. ………

You look exceedingly alone—as alone, say, as the Jewish housewife in the boxcar headed for Dachau, or as any one of our ancestors, chained together in the name of Jesus, headed for a Christian land………

I am trying to suggest that you—for example—do not appear to be your father’s daughter in the same way that I am my father’s son. At bottom, my father’s expectations and mine were the same, the expectations of his generation and mine were the same; and neither the immense difference in our ages nor the move from the South to the North could alter these expectations or make our lives more viable. For, in fact, to use the brutal parlance of that hour, the interior language of that despair, he was just a nigger—a nigger laborer preacher, and so was I. I jumped the track but that’s of no more importance here, in itself, than the fact that some poor Spaniards become rich bull fighters, or that some poor black boys become rich—boxers, for example. That’s rarely, if ever, afforded the people more than a great emotional catharsis, though I don’t mean to be condescending about that, either. But when Cassius Clay became Muhammed Ali and refused to put on that uniform (and sacrificed all that money!) a very different impact was made on the people and a very different kind of instruction had begun.

The American triumph—in which the American tragedy has always been implicit—was to make black people despise themselves. When I was little I despised myself, I did not know any better. And this meant, albeit unconsciously, or against my will, or in great pain, that I also despised my father. And my mother. And my brothers. And my sisters. Black people were killing each other every Saturday night out on Lenox Avenue, when I was growing up; and no one explained to them, or to me, that it wasintended that they should; that they were penned where they were, like animals, in order that they should consider themselves no better than animals. Everything supported this sense of reality, nothing denied it: and so one was ready, when it came time to go to work, to be treated as a slave. So one was ready, when human terrors came, to bow before a white God and beg Jesus for salvation—this same white God who was unable to raise a finger to do so little as to help you pay your rent, unable to be awakened in time to help you save your child!

There is always, of course, more to any picture than can speedily be perceived and in all of this—groaning and moaning, watching, calculating, clowning, surviving, and outwitting, some tremendous strength was nevertheless being forged, which is part of our legacy today. But that particular aspect of our journey now begins to be behind us. The secret is out: we are men!

But the blunt, open articulation of this secret has frightened the nation to death. I wish I could say, “to life,” but that is much to demand of a disparate collection of displaced people still cowering in their wagon trains and singing “Onward Christian Soldiers.” The nation, if America is a nation, is not in the least prepared for this day. It is a day which the Americans never expected or desired to see, however piously they may declare their belief in “progress and democracy.” These words, now, on American lips, have become a kind of universal obscenity: for this most unhappy people, strong believers in arithmetic, never expected to be confronted with the algebra of their history.

One way of gauging a nation’s health, or of discerning what it really considers to be its interests—or to what extent it can be considered as a nation as distinguished from a coalition of special interests—is to examine those people it elects to represent or protect it. One glance at the American leaders (or figure-heads) conveys that America is on the edge of absolute chaos, and also suggests the future to which American interests, if not the bulk of the American people, appear willing to consign the blacks. (Indeed, one look at our past conveys that.) It is clear that for the bulk of our (nominal) countrymen, we are all expendable. And Messrs. Nixon, Agnew, Mitchell, and Hoover, to say nothing, of course, of the Kings’ Row basket case, the winning Ronnie Reagan, will not hesitate for an instant to carry out what they insist is the will of the people.

But what, in America, is the will of the people? And who, for the above-named, are the people? The people, whoever they may be, know as much about the forces which have placed the above-named gentlemen in power as they do about the forces responsible for the slaughter in Vietnam (or Iraq, or Afghanistan or Syria or Kosovo). The will of the people, in America, has always been at the mercy of an ignorance not merely phenomenal, but sacred, and sacredly cultivated: the better to be used by a carnivorous economy which democratically slaughters and victimizes whites and blacks alike. But most white Americans do not dare admit this (though they suspect it) and this fact contains mortal danger for the blacks and tragedy for the nation.

Or, to put it another way, as long as white Americans take refuge in their whiteness—for so long as they are unable to walk out of this most monstrous of traps—they will allow millions of people to be slaughtered in their name, and will be manipulated into and surrender themselves to what they will think of—and justify—as a racial war. They will never, so long as their whiteness puts so sinister a distance between themselves and their own experience and the experience of others, feel themselves sufficiently human,sufficiently worthwhile, to become responsible for themselves, their leaders, their country, their children, or their fate. They will perish (as we once put it in our black church) in their sins—that is, in their delusions. And this is happening, needless to say, already, all around us.

……….White lives, for the forces which rule in this country, are no more sacred than black ones, as many and many a student is discovering, as the white American corpses in Vietnam prove. If the American people are unable to contend with their elected leaders for the redemption of their own honor and the lives of their own children, we, the blacks, the most rejected of the Western children, can expect very little help at their hands: which, after all, is nothing new. What the Americans do not realize is that a war between brothers, in the same cities, on the same soil, is not a racial war but a civil war. But the American delusion is not only that their brothers all are white but that the whites are all their brothers.

So be it. We cannot awaken this sleeper, and God knows we have tried. We must do what we can do, and fortify and save each other—we are not drowning in an apathetic self-contempt, we do feel ourselves sufficiently worthwhile to contend even with inexorable forces in order to change our fate and the fate of our children and the condition of the world! We know that a man is not a thing and is not to be placed at the mercy of things. We know that air and water belong to all mankind and not merely to industrialists. We know that a baby does not come into the world merely to be the instrument of someone else’s profit. We know that democracy does not mean the coercion of all into a deadly—and, finally, wicked—mediocrity but the liberty for all to aspire to the best that is in him, or that has ever been.

We know that we, the blacks, and not only we, the blacks, have been, and are, the victims of a system whose only fuel is greed, whose only god is profit. We know that the fruits of this system have been ignorance, despair, and death, and we know that the system is doomed because the world can no longer afford it—if, indeed, it ever could have. And we know that, for the perpetuation of this system, we have all been mercilessly brutalized, and have been told nothing but lies, lies about ourselves and our kinsmen and our past, and about love, life, and death, so that both soul and body have been bound in hell.

The enormous revolution in black consciousness which has occurred in your generation, my dear sister, means the beginning or the end of America. Some of us, white and black, know how great a price has already been paid to bring into existence a new consciousness, a new people, an unprecedented nation. If we know, and do nothing, we are worse than the murderers hired in our name.

If we know, then we must fight for your life as though it were our own—which it is—and render impassable with our bodies the corridor to the gas chamber. For, if they take you in the morning, they will be coming for us that night.

Therefore: peace.

Brother James

 

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The judicial system’s new “crack” cocaine fix


crack vs powderRemember how the punishment for possessing or dealing in crack was substantially higher than for cocaine, even though “crack” was nothing more than cocaine on steroids?  That disparity was eliminated when President Obama signed the Fair Sentencing Act in 2010 because quite frankly is disproportionately negatively impacted minorities.  The Act was unanimously approved by both Houses of Congress meaning it faced no serious opposition from Republicans.

As usual, the criminal justice system has found other ways to exacerbate racial divisions in enforcement and punishment and have filled the gap with “suspended license” offenses.  Like all bad policy it has not yielded the intended results of increased revenue for the “State” simply because it was not well thought out and unfair public policy.  Basically what happens is suspended licensestates “suspend” a person’s drivers license if they are unable to pay court costs for appearances before the judicial system for any offense meaning the only way a driver can retrieve or if they don’t have one get a license is by paying all past due court costs. Of course it doesn’t matter if you have to drive to get to work or not, and in the case of  places with large rural populations like Tennessee where public transportation is sparse in some areas, tough! Such poorly planned law means a person commits the other illegal act of driving with a suspended license and when caught only increases their debt and criminal record…..if they’re lucky enough to survive the encounter with police when ticketed for such an offense.   The NYT piece goes on to say

Going through the legal system, even for people charged with nonviolent misdemeanors, can be expensive, with fines, public defender fees, probation fees and other costs running into hundreds and sometimes thousands of dollars. Many people cannot pay.

As a result, some states have begun suspending driver’s licenses for unsatisfied debts stemming from any criminal case, from misdemeanors like marijuana possession to felonies in which court costs can reach into the tens of thousands of dollars……..Most states also suspend licenses for failure to pay traffic fines, another policy that critics say creates a quicksand of debt.

Though the law was projected to raise more than $20 million a year, it has not come close, according to state agencies. Revenue from litigation taxes, the primary court fee collected by the state, has remained flat and even declined a bit in 2014, and license reinstatement fees have increased far less than was anticipated.

But since suspensions under the law began in mid-2012, almost 90,000 licenses have been suspended. Over the same period, 170,000 Tennessee licenses were suspended for unpaid traffic tickets. In both categories, more than 40 percent of the suspended drivers were black, compared with 16 percent of state residents.

Bad policy often gives bad results that are of no benefit to the state or its citizens.  This trend in the justice system is another example of bad policy.  Fix this America!!

 

John Boehner’s outrageous plan to help a foreign leader undermine Obama


When I first saw this headline, I tweeted how some members of America’s body politic love all of these foreign leaders rather than their own President and as they stand compared to Obama, these leaders, Putin and Netanyahu  are losers in the arena of policy vis-a-vis American interests.  That hasn’t stopped Speaker of the House, Joh n Boehner from doing an end round and bringing Netanyahu to town to upstage the American President.  America, love it or move to Israel…

Vox

House Speaker John Boehner has invited Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to speak to a joint session of Congress in February, on the topic of Iran. On the surface, this might seem innocent enough. Israel is a close American ally. Surely he should be welcome in Congress, particularly to discuss an issue that concerns his country.

On the surface, Netanyahu’s speech will be about opposing Obama’s nuclear talks with Iran and supporting Republican-led sanctions meant to blow up those talks.

But there’s more than meets the eye here. Netanyahu is playing a game with US domestic politics to try to undermine and pressure Obama — and thus steer US foreign policy. Boehner wants to help him out. By reaching out to Netanyahu directly and setting up a visit without the knowledge of the White House, he is undermining not just Obama’s policies but his very leadership of US foreign policy. The fact that Netanyahu is once again meddling in American politics, and that a US political party is siding with a foreign country over their own president, is extremely unusual, and a major break with the way that foreign relations usually work.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu meets with Obama in the White House in March 2014 (Andrew Harrer-Pool/Getty)

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu meets with Obama in the White House in March 2014 (Andrew Harrer-Pool/Getty)

Throughout Obama’s tenure, he has clashed with Netanyahu. That is no secret, and it’s nothing new for American and Israeli leaders to disagree, sometimes very publicly. But Netanyahu, beginning in May 2011, adopted a new strategy to try to deal with this: using domestic American politics as a way to try to push around Obama.

During a trip that month to Washington, Netanyahu publicly lectured Obama at a press conference and then gave a speech to Congress slamming the president. That speech, also hosted by Republicans, received many standing ovations for Netanyahu’s finger-wagging criticism of Obama.

At first it appeared that Netanyahu was merely trying to steer Obama’s foreign policy in a direction that he, Netanyahu, preferred. Obama wanted Netanyahu to freeze Israeli settlement growth in the West Bank, for example; Obama has also sought, in his second term, to reach a nuclear deal with Iran that Netanyahu earnestly believes is a bad idea.

Netanyahu’s first responsibility is to Israel’s national interests, not to Obama, so it makes sense that he would push for policies that he thinks are good for Israel.

But in 2011 Netanyahu started going a step further, and appeared to be working to actively remove Obama from power. During the 2012 election cycle, Netanyahu and his government were increasingly critical of Obama and supportive of Republicans, including presidential candidate Mitt Romney, for whom he at times appeared to be actively campaigning. Netanyahu’s criticisms of Obama were so pointed that some of Obama’s opponents cut a campaign ad out of them. It became a joke within Israel that Netanyahu saw himself not as the leader of a sovereign country, but as the Republican senator from Israel.

But trying to unseat a foreign leader is not a joke, especially when that foreign leader is funding your military and guaranteeing your nation’s security.

Netanyahu’s government ramped down this strategy after Obama won; he even gave Obama the world’s most awkward congratulations speech. But throughout Obama’s second term he has once again gradually escalated from trying to influence Obama to actively undermining both the president and his party. The new Israeli ambassador to the US for months would not even bother to meet with National Security Advisor Susan Rice, yet held many meetings with Republican fundraiser Sheldon Adelson. Israel’s foreign policy, in other words, was more focused on undermining the American leadership than working with it.

The Jerusalem skyline (MARCO LONGARI/AFP/Getty)

The Jerusalem skyline (MARCO LONGARI/AFP/Getty)

Republicans, aware that Americans are supportive of Israel, have urged on Netanyahu’s anti-Obama campaign since it began in 2011. Inviting him to speak to Congress that year was shrewd domestic politics, and it will be shrewd legislative politics next month when Netanyahu publicly supports the GOP’s sanctions efforts.

This makes sense within the narrow scope of domestic politics — if you can use something to convince voters your party and its policies are a better choice than your opponents, you use it, even if that something is a foreign head of state. But members of Congress are purportedly supposed to put their country before their party, and siding with a foreign leader over your own president doesn’t seem to do that. Neither does cheering a foreign leader when he lambasts the president of the United States.

More to the point, it was a really significant breach when some conservatives supported Netanyahu’s implicit lobbying on behalf of the Romney campaign. If a foreign country wants to unseat your president, that is generally considered an outrageous breach. But Netanyahu has been invited in, and with the 2016 presidential elections ramping up it appears likely he will be invited in once more to implicitly run against the Democrats.

This speaks, in a very real sense, to just how extreme political polarization has become in Washington.

This sort of practice is bad for America’s ability to conduct foreign policy

To be very clear, this is not just a breach of protocol: it’s a very real problem for American foreign policy. The Supreme Court has codified into law the idea that only the president is allowed to make foreign policy, and not Congress, because if there are two branches of government setting foreign policy then America effectively has two foreign policies.

The idea is that the US government needs to be a single unified entity on the world stage in order to conduct effective foreign policy. Letting the president and Congress independently set their own foreign policies would lead to chaos. It would be extremely confusing for foreign leaders, and foreign publics, who don’t always understand how domestic American politics work, and could very easily misread which of the two branches is actually setting the agenda. (This confusion, by the way, is exactly what some Republicans are hoping to create in Iran with new sanctions.)

This could also allow a foreign country to play those two branches off of each other. That’s in part what Netanyahu is attempting to do here, and it’s working. The Obama administration did not even find out about Netanyahu’s planned visit to Washington until Boehner announced it. The Republicans are attempting to run a foreign policy that’s separate from the actual, official US foreign policy.

One more anti-Obama speech from Netanyahu on the floor of Congress is not going to break US foreign policy, of course. But it’s troubling that Republicans are willing to breach such an important principle for some pretty modest short-term gains.

Jihad in Islam


One always hears how there are no voices opposing Islamic terrorism, or so the saying goes, although the two term “Islamic terrorism” is an oxymoron, and it’s really a false argument.  If you want to know what Muslims say about terrorism there are plenty of places where you can find the voice that expressly unequivocally denounces terrorism.  One can find a very good source here if you care to look.  jihad

However, as for the issue of “jihad”, there’s lots written about it but it all boils down to this.

Declare your Jihad on thirteen enemies you cannot see – egoism, arrogance, conceit, selfishness, greed, lust, intolerance, anger, lying, cheating, gossiping, and slandering. If you can master and destroy them, then you are ready to fight the enemy you can see.

Ok…do you know anyone who has fought jihad in the way described above?

 

Dueling tweets


These two tweets ran across one another in the net-o-sphere

Right

 

Left

…and here’s the skinny

The number of Americans who have been killed by Islamic extremists in the United States since September 2001 is just 21 — less than two per year — and none of them on airplanes. Statistically speaking, you’re several times more likely to be fatally attacked on an American schoolyard: in just the year and a half since the December 2012 Sandy Hook attack, 28 people have been killed in US school shootings. And meanwhile, right-wing extremists — virtually all of them white — have killed 37 people since 2001.

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