Meh Culpa

In His Own Defense, Cheney Requests Classified Torture Memos That Appalled Others

Not only that, a 2002 Pentagon memo declared that torture gained unreliable information. Rachel Maddow’s guest, Colonel Lawrence Wilkerson, agrees with me that the Bush administration was outrageously fearful, more so than was necessary given the level of terrorism aimed at the USA versus the terrorism other countries have lived with.

Lawrence Wilkerson was former Secretary of State Colin Powell’s chief of staff.  He has written “Some Truths about Guantanamo Bay,” in which he called Dick Cheney ‘evil’  and “‘They’ Have Stolen My Party And I Want It Back.” Wilkerson  has also appeared on Frontline‘s The  Dark Side” where he depicted  Cheney’s reaction to 9/11 as paranoid and claims, rightly I think, that Cheney has misunderstood the nature of our conflict with Al Qaeda.

Personally, I’d like to see a call for Nuremberg Rules.  We have the obligation to prosecute war crimes, whether or they are formulated and committed by our own people.  Unless we hold our leaders to the same standards we hold leaders of other countries, no one will ever trust us again. And they’ll have good reason not to.   They’ll also be able to turn around and say, “Hey, look:  Democracy doesn’t work.”

April 25, 2009 Posted by | Abu Ghraib, Afghan War, Afghanistan, Arab world, Bush administration, Cheney, Executive branch, Guantanamo, human rights, Iraq, Iraq War, Middle East, Pentagon, politics, torture, war crimes | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Color Me Disgusted

Josh Gerstein and Craig Gordon’s article in Politico yesterday, “Should America Torture?,” begs the question by assuming it’s a reasonable question to ask based on the specious notion that maybe, just maybe, if torture works, it might be all right to use. Not only that, they insert a rationale for “outlawing torture”–as if it were never illegal in the first place–that neglects what Obama has said on the subject. Say Gerstein and Gordon:

Obama took water-boarding and other tactics out of use — not because experts said they never work, but because they offer a recruiting tool for al-Qaida that on balance made America less safe, not more, the White House said Thursday.

Uh, hellllllo?! During his inaugural speech, Obama said:


As for our common defense, we reject as false the choice between our safety and our ideals. Our founding fathers faced with perils that we can scarcely imagine, drafted a charter to assure the rule of law and the rights of man, a charter expanded by the blood of generations.Those ideals still light the world, and we will not give them up for expedience’s sake.

….Recall that earlier generations faced down fascism and communism not just with missiles and tanks, but with the sturdy alliances and enduring convictions. They understood that our power alone cannot protect us, nor does it entitle us to do as we please. Instead, they knew that our power grows through its prudent use. Our security emanates from the justness of our cause; the force of our example; the tempering qualities of humility and restraint.

There is nothing in that speech about stopping torture because it doesn’t work.  In fact, Obama repudiated the “false choice” between allegedly defending our nation in ways that he considered expedient because we somehow thought it would make us safe. In essence, he was arguing that we should act with courage rather than from fear.

Fear brought the Bush administration to its moral knees and left it cowering. Obama has tasked us with the obligation to stand on our feet once more.  I am not certain what the President’s up to now.   I think his political machinations may be such that he can say,”Oh, I’d rather just move forward,” while at the same time delegating authority to his Attorney General, who will decide what to do with those in the last administration that formulated torture as a policy and saw to it that war crimes were carried out by CIA operatives, medical personnel and psychologists. Obama may not approve the idea that Congress should investigate,  partly because some members of Congress approved torture themselves, but he may say something else,  such as, “I think we need to concentrate on the economy, health care and other government business.” That might be the best way for him to proceed, actually. And it would be strategically brilliant because how then could anyone blame him for legal proceedings?

This morning I brushed by an article on HuffPo entitled “Never Again.” How many times have we heard that mantra, and yet how many times, equally mantra-like,  does the same sort of thing happen over and over and over again? The Turks perpetrated genocide upon the Armenians, and still won’t admit to the crimes. The Nazis tried to exterminate all Jews, gypsies,  disabled, mentally ill, and homosexuals.  Serbians conducted ethnic cleansing on ethnic Albanians, Croats and Muslims.  They raped the women as a  tactic of war. The Tutsis massacred Hutus. The National Islamic Government of Sudan has taken Southern Sudanese women and children into slavery; the government-sponsored Janajaweed have murdered “upwards of at [least] 250,000 black Africans” in Darfur. The Israelis and the Palestinians have both perpetrated war crimes against each other.

Never again: those are just words now, a worn out refrain.

April 24, 2009 Posted by | Afghanistan, Arab world, Bush administration, Cabinet, Cheney, Congress, Defense, Executive branch, Gaza, Geneva Conventions, Guantanamo, human rights, Iraq, Israel, Middle East, National Security, Obama, politics, torture, war crimes | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Chas Freeman’s Withdrawal: AIPAC 1, Good Sense 0

Everyone probably knows Chas Freeman withdrew his appointment to NIC. What everyone probably doesn’t know is that the Original Bringer of Doom was none other than “accused spy and former AIPAC director Steve Rosen.”  Although it’s hard for me to believe after reading the indictment,*  Rosen may not have had criminal intent in the matter, which could get him off the hook, but you’ve got to  be a dolt not to know [Classified] National Defense Information (NDI) when you hear it, and pretty slimy and, ummm, traitorous to repeat it to someone else if you do.

You just can’t trust the word of someone who possibly conspired with a spy.  Until he’s cleared.  Which he hasn’t been.  (See below)

So why have we?

You got me.

Yet, despite appearance to the contrary, neither Israel nor AIPAC should be in charge of our foreign policy.   To think or behave otherwise is simply inane, if not criminal.  (I think it’s criminal, but that’s just me.) We expect idiocy from inveterate leaker and Senator “I”m Ready for My Close Up” Chuck Schumer,  but that people would take the word of Steve Rosen, who has not been acquitted, is beyond me.

I’m even more bothered by my senator’s, Diane Feinstein,** involvement in this brouhaha.   I was so  annoyed that Feinstein (or Di Fi, as she’s know elsewhere)  most likely bowed to AIPAC that I wrote to her asking that she start thinking a little more like Golda Meir, who hated the war of attrition between Jews and Arabs,  and less like Netanyahu, a former member of Irgun.   (Irgun: The same folks who brought us at least 60 attacks, culminating in the terrorist bombing of the King Davis Hotel in 1946 that killed 92 people.)  I wonder what’s up with Feinstein that she’d sacrifice the self interest of the United States on behalf of a foreign country.  ‘Cause Israel is a foreign country.  (I think Jonathan Pollard knows that now, don’t you?)

Anyhow, without further ado– Chas Freeman’s brilliant rebuttal to the smear against him:

“You will by now have seen the statement by Director of National Intelligence Dennis Blair reporting that I have withdrawn my previous acceptance of his invitation to chair the National Intelligence Council.

I have concluded that the barrage of libelous distortions of my record would not cease upon my entry into office.  The effort to smear me and to destroy my credibility would instead continue.  I do not believe the National Intelligence Council could function effectively while its chair was under constant attack by unscrupulous people with a passionate attachment to the views of a political faction in a foreign country.  I agreed to chair the NIC to strengthen it and protect it against politicization, not to introduce it to efforts by a special interest group to assert control over it through a protracted political campaign.

As those who know me are well aware, I have greatly enjoyed life since retiring from government.  Nothing was further from my mind than a return to public service.  When Admiral Blair asked me to chair the NIC I responded that I understood he was “asking me to give my freedom of speech, my leisure, the greater part of my income, subject myself to the mental colonoscopy of a polygraph, and resume a daily commute to a job with long working hours and a daily ration of political abuse.”  I added that I wondered “whether there wasn’t some sort of downside to this offer.”  I was mindful that no one is indispensable; I am not an exception.  It took weeks of reflection for me to conclude that, given the unprecedentedly challenging circumstances in which our country now finds itself abroad and at home, I had no choice but accept the call to return to public service.  I thereupon resigned from all positions that I had held and all activities in which I was engaged.  I now look forward to returning to private life, freed of all previous obligations.

I am not so immodest as to believe that this controversy was about me rather than issues of public policy.  These issues had little to do with the NIC and were not at the heart of what I hoped to contribute to the quality of analysis available to President Obama and his administration.  Still, I am saddened by what the controversy and the manner in which the public vitriol of those who devoted themselves to sustaining it have revealed about the state of our civil society.  It is apparent that we Americans cannot any longer conduct a serious public discussion or exercise independent judgment about matters of great importance to our country as well as to our allies and friends.

The libels on me and their easily traceable email trails show conclusively that there is a powerful  lobby determined to prevent any view other than its own from being aired, still less to factor in American understanding of trends and events in the Middle East.  The tactics of the Israel Lobby plumb the depths of dishonor and indecency and include character assassination, selective misquotation, the willful distortion of the record, the fabrication of falsehoods, and an utter disregard for the truth.  The aim of this Lobby is control of the policy process through the exercise of a veto over the appointment of people who dispute the wisdom of its views, the substitution of political correctness for analysis, and the exclusion of any and all options for decision by Americans and our government other than those that it favors.

There is a special irony in having been accused of improper regard for the opinions of foreign governments and societies by a group so clearly intent on enforcing adherence to the policies of a foreign government – in this case, the government of Israel.  I believe that the inability of the American public to discuss, or the government to consider, any option for US policies in the Middle East opposed by the ruling faction in Israeli politics has allowed that faction to adopt and sustain policies that ultimately threaten the existence of the state of Israel. It is not permitted for anyone in the United States to say so.  This is not just a tragedy for Israelis and their neighbors in the Middle East; it is doing widening damage to the national security of the United States.

The outrageous agitation that followed the leak of my pending appointment will be seen by many to raise serious questions about whether the Obama administration will be able to make its own decisions about the Middle East and related issues.  I regret that my willingness to serve the new administration has ended by casting doubt on its ability to consider, let alone decide what policies might best serve the interests of the United States rather than those of a Lobby intent on enforcing the will and interests of a foreign government.

In the court of public opinion, unlike a court of law, one is guilty until proven innocent.  The speeches from which quotations have been lifted from their context are available for anyone interested in the truth to read.  The injustice of the accusations made against me has been obvious to those with open minds.  Those who have sought to impugn my character are uninterested in any rebuttal that I or anyone else might make.

Still, for the record: I have never sought to be paid or accepted payment from any foreign government, including Saudi Arabia or China, for any service, nor have I ever spoken on behalf of a foreign government, its interests, or its policies.  I have never lobbied any branch of our government for any cause, foreign or domestic.  I am my own man, no one else’s, and with my return to private life, I will once again – to my pleasure – serve no master other than myself.  I will continue to speak out as I choose on issues of concern to me and other Americans.

I retain my respect and confidence in President Obama and DNI Blair.  Our country now faces terrible challenges abroad as well as at home.  Like all patriotic Americans, I continue to pray that our president can successfully lead us in surmounting them.”

I have one question: where the heck was the allegedly liberal, dovish  J Street in all this? They don’t say.  Just another irrelevant PAC, I suppose.


* The indictment against Rosen is here in a .pdf file.

** Chair of the Senate Intelligence Committee, now an oxymoron if ever there was one.

All emphasis above is mine, by the way.

March 11, 2009 Posted by | Arab world, Congress, diplomacy, Executive branch, Foreign policy, Intelligence Committee, Israel, Middle East, National Security, Obama administration, political operatives, politics, Senate | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment