Meh Culpa

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.

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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

Armed Services Committee – Detainee Report…

From FogCityJournal.com

From FogCityJournal.com

… can be found here.  For those of you who don’t have time to read the entire thing, the Executive Summary and Conclusions begin on page 14 on the .pdf file.

April 22, 2009 Posted by | Abu Ghraib, Afghan War, Afghanistan, Armed Services Committee, Bush administration, Cheney, civil liberties, Congress, Defense, Foreign policy, Geneva Conventions, Guantanamo, Iraq, Iraq War, Middle East, National Security, Senate, torture, US Constitution, war crimes | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Take that, Peggy Noonan!

Some things in life need to be mysterious.  Sometimes you need to just keep walking. –Peggy Noonan

Unlike Peggy Noonan and the stable of pundits who have decried the outing of the USA’s use of torture this weekend, I’m glad about the publication of those torture memos and I hope there’s more daylight where that came from.  We’ve paraded our alleged superiority and exceptionalism for way too long.  What has happened in other countries–such as, Nazi Germany or Rwanda or Turkey or Serbia–can happen here.  Every human being is capable of appalling behavior.  Not all of us follow through, but that’s not the point. None of us are exempt from the capacity to do evil and we shouldn’t forget it.  Rather, we must be en garde, and all those words imply, against our moral and ethical frailties.

Did you miss me?  Yeah, maybe not.  I’ve been busy finishing up my last course and frankly I’ve felt loathe to discuss the subject because I was so angry and disappointed at Obama for wanting to let bygones be bygones, and for opining that he’s against prosecuting CIA operatives who doled out torture.  I didn’t think I could pull off a less than rage fueled post without giving myself an aneurysm.  But maybe I can now.  For the record, I think any prosecution should be from the top down, but I don’t believe the CIA should get off the hook so easily.  We didn’t tell Lt. Calley that we totally empathized with him for “following orders” at My Lai by ordering the massacre of 500 Vietnamese villagers in 1968, and we shouldn’t do anything similar now.  Not even close.

But  I digress.

Today  I’m happy.  Breaking News a la Jennifer Loven at HuffPo: Obama has said he’s open to prosecuting Bush administration for torture.  The article says “officials responsible for devising torture” but I doubt that means we’ll let officials who approved waterboarding off the hook.  There’s always gong to be someone’s who’s going to say, “Oh, well. We didn’t know the CIA was waterboarding Abu Zubaydah 183 times  in a month. That’s not our fault now, is it?”  Uhhh, yeah it is.  The Bush administration opened the floodgates by approving despicable acts, so th Bushies are to blame if entire towns and cities are washed away.  (Sorry, I got carried away with the water metaphor.)

I hope Congress is nervous, too, especially those politicians who were on the Senate Intelligence Committee during the era of torture.  I have a feeling that one of my personal faves, Di Fi (a.k.a., Diane Feinstein, a Democrat from California*), knew all along about the torture being perpetrated in our names and I think she may have gone along.  I don’t have any evidence. What I do have is suspicion: Di Fi has long been big on harsh punishments. I think she was influenced by the assassination of Harvey Milk as well as the shooting at the law firm of of Pettit & Martin at 101 California St. while she was there. The business with anthrax in DC shortly after 9/11 probably didn’t help any either. Anyone would have a case of PTSD after the first two incidents, if not the third.  At the very least, she’s entitled to feel afraid.

But Di Fi opposed Leon Panetta for head of the CIA and promoted Stephen Kappes for the job. Panetta kept Kappes on as one of his deputies, probably at Feinstein’s behest. Unfortunately for Kappes and maybe for Feinstein, “[a]t the time of the worst torture sessions outlined in the ICRC report, Kappes served as a senior official in the Directorate of Operations — the operational part of the CIA that oversees paramilitary operations as well as the high-value detention program.”  It’s unlikely he was kept in the dark.  And for that matter, the same goes for Di Fi.  After all, the Bushies liked to co-opt members of Congress by letting them in on the administration’s dirty laundry.

That’s precisely why Jane Harman, another California Democrat, couldn’t be approved for CIA director.  I believe it wasn’t so much that she’s a rival of House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, although their poor relations might have contributed to the loss of Harman’s desired appointment, but that Harman knew about the administrations surveillance program when it was illegal, and she said nothing. And she criticized the NYT for revealing the program. Harman was also the ranking member on the House Intelligence Committee from until 2006 and she was briefed on the ” harsh interrogations of terrorist suspects by the CIA,” but again said nothing.

Di Fi may not be culpable of anything, but  30 members of Congress have been briefed about CIA operations since 2002. I’d like to know who those 30 members are.  And specifically, what did Di Fi know and when did she know it?


* I was a lifelong Democrat until I became an Independent a few years ago.  Di Fi’s actions were responsible for my leaving the party.

April 21, 2009 Posted by | Abu Ghraib, Bush administration, California, Congress, Democrats, Executive branch, Guantanamo, Intelligence Committee, National Security, Obama, Obama administration, politics, Senate, torture, war crimes | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

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