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.

Advertisements

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

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

Fandango Friday: Chas Freeman’s appointment to NIC


Scaramouche from Early Dance Circle

While I’m waiting for my laundry before I head out to print an exam and Fed-Ex it (::gasp::) to the East Coast, I thought I’d mention a few things about Chas Freeman’s appointment to the National Intelligence Council (NIC). Really, it’s not all that bad. Israel would like you to think so, as would all the legislators and lobbyists who would say I’m anti-Semitic if they knew I existed, and thank goodness they don’t, but that doesn’t mean the appointment is bad for the United States.  And the United States’ interests are what we need to be worried about.  We are in far more danger from what folks are now calling Islamic extremists than we are from Israel.  Sure, the Israelis have The Bomb–in fact, Israel has a number of Bombs–but I’d like to see them get one over here.  (NOT. That was a rhetorical device)

On the other hand, there are Muslim extremists sympathizing with Palestinians, ticked off about our occupation of Iraq as well as about the war in Afghanistan, and threatening to overthrow Pakistan, which is right next to Afghanistan if you hadn’t noticed. Understanding how Arabs, Persians and various other Muslim groups think is rather crucial for protecting the interests of our country. It is actually Rocket Science.

Contrary to the way they’ve been portrayed in the past, Arabs aren’t fools.  Neither are Muslims. There is no Al-Farabi for Dummies published anywhere in the world, nor should there be.  Muslims / Arabs/ Persians had a lock on the Greek philosophers while Europe was in the so-called Dark Ages.* No Christian philosopher would even come close until Thomas Aquinas, and then, not so much, because people in the Middle Ages liked to make everything fit into nicely arranged pigeonholes. (The world is less scary when you can do that.)  Anyone who can understand how Arabs and Persians and Muslims in General think–and if anyone can, it’s Freeman–is bound to be good for the US.  We just haven’t been able to do it before, or at least not so’s you’d notice.

Let’s not forget that not understanding Iraqis got us into a passel of trouble we’re still paying for. We didn’t even have enough translators to fight the war we started, and that hurt us. We also didn’t trust our own Muslim citizens to help us out and that hurt us, too. The neo-cons stuck us with what’s-his-head, Chalabi, and he was a nightmare. Talk about lousy intelligence!  Oy vey.

And another thing–I’ve mentioned this before in a rhetorical device-y sort of way–Israel’s policies don’t seem to be helping Israel at all, and they haven’t for as long as I can remember.  (That would be way back to the 1967 War, mind you.)  The missiles from Gaza (and sometimes Lebanon) haven’t stopped.  Iran is still fulminating.  And Syria would really like the Golan Heights back.  Egypt is quiet because we give ’em money.  Let’s see what happens when their fearless dictator leader dies.  Mubarak’s over eighty, so it could happen at any time.

I don’t see why we need to duplicate Israel’s mistakes. We don’t need to use unnecessary force against “enemy combatants,”**  or occupy countries full of Arabs, Persians, or Muslims.  We need diplomacy and good intelligence.  Charles Freeman can help with both. You know, when I get the time and read a bit of Israeli news, I see lots of tweaking over various things Israel complains are jeopardizing our alliance.  Some of the stuff is really minor. (You should check it out some time.)  Sure, the Israelis were angry when Bush 43 wouldn’t join them in a war against Iran and only gave them a wildly expensive defensive missile detection thingy, but they freak when Obama (or anyone else with a little influence) sneezes, and that’s just silly.

I could pretty much say the same about Freeman’s relationship with China that lots of people are complaining about because they’re scared of his pragmatism.  He’s the guy who translated for Nixon on the Epic Trip Going Where No President Had Been Before.  We could use a little understanding of China, too–and yes, it’s more Rocket Science–because we owe the Mainland a bajillion (not a technical term) dollars and are likely to owe much more as long as  we’re on  China’s good side.  See, the deal is that we’re involved in a Struggle To Survive and if we muck  it up with ideology, we’ll be full of fail.  Bigtime fail.

Besides, I don’t think we have a whole lot to brag about in the human rights department after the last eight years.  Do you?  😦


* You can blame that on the folks who torched the Library in Alexandria, whoever they were.

** Wait until you hear what I think of Obama’s current policies about torture, state secrets, and expanding US Air Bases.

March 6, 2009 Posted by | Afghan War, appointments, Arab world, borrowing, Bush administration, China, diplomacy, Economy, Egypt, Foreign policy, National Security | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment