Archive for the 'Torture' Category

Our post-Constitutional era.

Nov 30, 2011 in Abortion, Christian Right, Clueless Conservatives, Constitution, Disappointing Dems, Politics, Religion, Sophistry, Straight-up madness, teh gay, Torture, War on Terra, Where's the outrage?!?!

This is becoming inevitable, as the Republican Party, while ever ready to say the word, “Constitution,” is a complete and udder fraud on the subject, and has categorically dismissed most of the Amendments and the underlying philosophy behind the Constitution’s writing.

Now, I know it is required that I disclose the presence of a certain contingent of chickenshit Democrats who regularly cave whenever Republicans get hot and bothered, but they’re never the driving force, and they’re a minority within the Democrat Party, so there. It’s the wholly unbridled unified army of the Republican Order that drives an agenda that has absolutely nothing whatsoever to do with the Constitution or the Bill of Rights, except as their protections pertain to white Christian heterosexual males.

1. They’re actively pro-torture, even though they square that by declaring any form of torture they like to not be torture. Simple, right? Not only is the Constitution unambiguously against cruel or unusual punishment, i.e. torture, but the entire history of the country at war has hewn to the same principles. Ronald Reagan was explicit in his condemnation of torture. The Republican Party today is best represented by Rick Santorum telling John McCain that he doesn’t understand torture.

2. They’re consistently against or dismissive of the religious freedom of gays, gay-supporting straights, Wiccans, atheists, Muslims. That the First Amendment ever be read in context with a world of varying beliefs is verboten. It’s about the Christian right to inject Christianity into anything they do, even and especially as a public employee. But when it comes to gays, the Christian right directly posits its beliefs as important enough to cancel out those of gays and to directly affect how gays live their lives by forbidding them marriage. The thought that Jesus might look kindly upon a loving gay couple cannot be entertained.

3. Search and seizure, forget it! Everything is open, up for grabs, ready to be peeped upon by Uncle Sam whenever he wants. The Drug War paved the way, the War on Terror planted the settlement and opened shop. Merely being suspected of having drugs can result in asset forfeiture, meaning your property rights are violated without due process, the police department acting as judge and jury. The burden of proof is often reversed onto suspects in such cases, and property is rarely returned regardless of charges.

Every phone and internet conversation has been opened up, and siphons through the NSA’s data miners.

Binney, for his part, believes that the agency now stores copies of all e-mails transmitted in America, in case the government wants to retrieve the details later. In the past few years, the N.S.A. has built enormous electronic-storage facilities in Texas and Utah. Binney says that an N.S.A. e-mail database can be searched with “dictionary selection,” in the manner of Google. After 9/11, he says, “General Hayden reassured everyone that the N.S.A. didn’t put out dragnets, and that was true. It had no need—it was getting every fish in the sea.”
Binney considers himself a conservative, and, as an opponent of big government, he worries that the N.S.A.’s data-mining program is so extensive that it could help “create an Orwellian state.” Whereas wiretap surveillance requires trained human operators, data mining is automated, meaning that the entire country can be watched. Conceivably, U.S. officials could “monitor the Tea Party, or reporters, whatever group or organization you want to target,” he says. “It’s exactly what the Founding Fathers never wanted.”

Power creeps, as the Founders realized, and always, always had to be balanced.

4. While ever ready to claim that rights not spelled out in the Constitution aren’t really rights, directly contradicting the Ninth Amendment, the Republican Party has declared that money equals speech. Why then should I be punished for bribing a police officer or judge? I’m merely talking to the them.

No, anybody knows exactly what money in politics means, it means buying politicians, period. Money buys politicians, it buys media outlets, it pays people to spout theories that testify to the greatness of the wealthy, and it’s all done for the sake of ever more money. As Danny DeVito said in The Heist, “That’s why they call it money.” It’s not the same as speaking your mind, it’s engaging in a transaction. There’s a reason “money talks” is a cliche. With money, speech isn’t so important anymore. It becomes the pretty envelope on a fat wad of cash.

5. Nor does it say anywhere in the Constitution that corporations constitute distinct immortal citizens with full rights. The very construction of a corporation is a legal designation, a product of government legislation. Who ever talks about it in those terms? Certainly not Republicans. Apparently God made corporations?

Ruling in Citizens United that not only could these corporations donate unlimited funds to candidates, but do so anonymously? Does anybody on this planet think the politicians don’t know exactly who donated? It merely creates a gigantic firewall against the public, keeping them out of the process, refusing to tell them who’s bought their supposed representative.

Jesus declared that the rich would not easily find their way into Heaven. He said no such thing about those with lots of opinions. Yet a party built on Judeo-Christian superiority delivers the sentiment, “money equals speech,” to us with deeply sincere faces, even strident faces. Add to that, “a corporation is a person,” whereas one soulless legal entity is equated to a human being, and the conundrum deepens. How do these people maintain such cognitive dissonance? With great strain.

6. Indefinite detention. Like torture, it is the complete and utter opposite of each and every plank, nail, and window in the Constitution’s house. It is the Gulag. It is the dungeon. It is the concentration camp. And now one of the two major parties has not merely let it fly under their radar, but made it their agenda. Take a few Dem politican scalps if you will, but only lefties and a few libertarians (where are you guys when we need you?) are going to bring this fight at all. Lesson from 2010: Letting more Republicans get into office is not a solution.

7. General Welfare: Abolishing the EPA? YHGTBFKM (You have got to be fucking kidding me). The Koch brothers need to dump more poison in our groundwater, Michele, won’t you help them?

The entire concept of the general welfare of the country has completely evacuated the Republican Party. In their eyes, fuck the general welfare. People get what they deserve, and if your life sucks, blame yourself. Of course, if everybody did a lot more looking in the mirror at themselves, we wouldn’t have many Republicans left. Instead, they survey only the oily shell of the individual, and perceive nothing of the complex lattice-work of society that supports their existence.

If you don’t fund schools, you end up living in a world of noisy uneducated people giving you rotten service, and you can only keep moving to new suburbs so long. If you don’t fund police departments, you end up with high crime rates and decreased property values. If you fund prisons while not funding rehab clinics, your Drug War will result in financial incentives that outweigh regular crime prevention. A Drug War waged primarily on minorities will turn jail into a martyrdom ritual, and your children will revere felons as heroes.

President Obama turned the health care system into a universal program, for which he is reviled by the right (not to ignore the political convenience…had there perhaps been a President Romney in 2008, his Massachusetts plan would be considered to be a rightful and just conservative blueprint to accomplish the goals of liberals through free-market means). The rather explicit permission of the Commerce Clause gives the government more than fair leeway to point out that uninsured people merely transfer the cost of their care to others. A mandate is really little more than a distribution of that cost among all citizens. You might not like it, but who’s going to be there for you if you have a stroke in twenty minutes and spend your remaining decades fully paralyzed?

8. Abortion. The government should enter the womb and put up a sign telling the mother to keep providing the nutrients but she’s not in charge anymore? That assertion of domain over the entirety of her body and its natural processes isn’t listed in the Constitution as a specific right, thus it does not exist?

As I mentioned, this is in direct violation of the Ninth Amendment, which explicitly states that the enumeration of certain rights is not meant to disparage the others. The Constitution is not a finite list of rights, and it says so clearly! And it certainly grants the government no power over a woman’s reproductive process. Anti-abortion sentiments were rare at the time of the writing of the Constitution, unfit for a special extension of government powers. And yet as the subject has become a crusade for religious fundamentalists, attempts to justify its Constitutionality have naturally occurred. Their crowing is as predictable as a rooster.

______

Republicans have in many cases not merely gone passive about certain rights, they’ve turned outright aggressive against them. Such a republic facing this prospect would rightly be deemed to be in or near its death throes, about to face a civil war. No matter how casually Republicans treat the Constitution, they’re emphatic about it, often moreso than Democrats. And that should just never be the case, because the only people I see left standing up for the Constitution anymore are left. And if libertarians were to be believed for half the things they say about liberty, there wouldn’t be Republican majorities anywhere.

-hw

Whether or not torture got bin Laden does not justify torture, but torture didn’t get bin Laden.

May 12, 2011 in Torture, War Crimes

John McCain, who takes the torture issue a bit more seriously than the Republican party due to the fact that he experienced torture firsthand in Vietnam and has authority on this issue, felt the need to get to the bottom of what led to the intel that eventually led to bin Laden.

Leon Panetta gave torture supporters some ammo last week with a vague statement that info came from detainees, and that some of those detainees were tortured. This week Panetta seems to have looked into the specifics more closely and is thus able to shed a little more light on exactly what intel was gleaned from who and how:

I asked CIA Director Leon Panetta for the facts, and he told me the following: The trail to bin Laden did not begin with a disclosure from Khalid Sheik Mohammed, who was waterboarded 183 times. The first mention of Abu Ahmed al-Kuwaiti — the nickname of the al-Qaeda courier who ultimately led us to bin Laden — as well as a description of him as an important member of al-Qaeda, came from a detainee held in another country, who we believe was not tortured. None of the three detainees who were waterboarded provided Abu Ahmed’s real name, his whereabouts or an accurate description of his role in al-Qaeda.

In fact, the use of “enhanced interrogation techniques” on Khalid Sheik Mohammed produced false and misleading information. He specifically told his interrogators that Abu Ahmed had moved to Peshawar, got married and ceased his role as an al-Qaeda facilitator — none of which was true. According to the staff of the Senate intelligence committee, the best intelligence gained from a CIA detainee — information describing Abu Ahmed al-Kuwaiti’s real role in al-Qaeda and his true relationship to bin Laden — was obtained through standard, noncoercive means.

McCain doesn’t rule out that torture can potentially offer leads, but reminds us that torture will give you fewer leads of poorer quality than standard interrogation practices. Consistent with that paradigm, the most useful info that came from torture was when KSM and al-Libi lied badly, arousing investigator suspicions. It should be self-evident that interrogation that produces lies isn’t effective, and the question of what more could have been found will always haunt us. Instead, we got such paltry info that the CIA had declared the trail cold.

In conclusion, the bin Laden leads did not originate with torture and were not enhanced by torture, thus removing even the appearance of a moral quandary.

Torture would still be wrong even if we had gotten a useful nugget out of it, but the lack of evidence that torture led to bin Laden important to note because Republicans are perfectly content to use the pragmatic argument. Removing that plank reveals just how depraved and unscrupulous they’ve been the past week, as Fox News and nearly the entire Bush administration has launched a PR salvo in order to rehabilitate their reputations and retroactively justify torture. Much like Andrew Sullivan has noted, they are war criminals seeing an out. More literally, they are torturers who are desperate to find excuses for torture. They got it temporarily legalized, they got the NYT and others to call torture other names when it was done by the US, they got the next president to back off on prosecutions, but they still seem to understand that they lost the argument. They still felt that need for justification.

They thought they had it, and they squeezed tightly, but…it has run through their fingers, and there they are, empty-handed except for the bulk of their crimes. We are left with the threat that the next Republican president will resume torture, and of future blowback from torture-hardened enemies and sympathetic populaces. Letting criminals off inevitably rewards crime and guarantees its continuance.

-hw

If you keep killing terrorists we can’t torture them!

Feb 20, 2010 in Clueless Conservatives, Torture, War Crimes

I personally care about the innocents killed in Obama’s drone attacks, but rightwingers don’t, so his steady success rate in whacking terrorists and Taliban leaders (the two are not the same) is painting them into a corner on a stepladder:

“That doesn’t mean I think they are not illegitimate,” he added. “No, we have every right to kill the other side’s warriors. But at what cost? When we do not have an effective detention policy the only option we have is to kill them before we can detain them. And if we don’t detain them, we don’t know what they know and what they are up to.”

And the only way we can know what they know according to the right, despite all evidence, is torture.

Marc Thiessen’s attempt to justify torture as something consistent with Catholic doctrine, which specifically forbids torture, has been sparking a firestorm, on the Daily Dish and, shockingly, at National Review, where a writer named Mike Potemra has broken from the pack and admitted what anybody who wasn’t mainlining Republican doctrine already knew, that waterboarding is torture (the Washington Post’s shark-jumping addition of Thiessen to its op-ed page has been a story unto itself). Andrew Sullivan guides Potemra toward the obvious:

If an American merely suspected of being a spy were captured in Iran, if he were then shackled in a stress position for hours on end, if he were tied to a post in a yard in freezing conditions and regularly doused with cold water and beaten (as happened under Stanley McChrystal’s Camp Nama in Iraq), if he were slammed against a ply-wood wall repeatedly by a collar around his neck, if he were strapped to a waterboard and nearly drowned 183 times, and then confessed that he was indeed a spy, and was planning to sabotage Iran’s nuclear program, would the New York Times say he was subjected to “enhanced interrogation techniques” and that his confession roved that those techniques worked? Would National Review? Would Dick Cheney?

Look, Bush/Cheney introduced and legitimized torture, and it’s become part of the Republican Party’s plank. Intellectual honesty just doesn’t fit into their calculus anymore. It’s a pretty natural result of the rightwinger’s authoritarian lust for power and control. “Six of one, half dozen of the other!” so-called-centrists need to step off the balancing beam to Hell.

-hw

Now for some criticism of President Obama that actually makes sense.

Oct 26, 2009 in Clueless Conservatives, Disappointing Dems, National Security, Politics, Torture, War Crimes, War on Terra

NYT editorial:

In the United States, the Obama administration is in the process of appealing a sound federal appellate court ruling last April in a civil lawsuit by Mr. Mohamed and four others. All were victims of the government’s extraordinary rendition program, under which foreigners were kidnapped and flown to other countries for interrogation and torture.

In that case, the Obama administration has repeated a disreputable Bush-era argument that the executive branch is entitled to have lawsuits shut down whenever it makes a blanket claim of national security. The ruling rejected that argument and noted that the government’s theory would “effectively cordon off all secret actions from judicial scrutiny, immunizing the C.I.A. and its partners from the demands and limits of the law.”

This is a huge topic on the internet, one liberals and centrists are having with each other over the disappointment with Obama for picking up too many Bush-era habits of mind and practice. Even if it’s more rope-a-dope with some eventual plan to make the courts hem Obama in with rulings that become political armor. “We no longer violate human rights simply by uttering the words ‘national security.'” (because the courts told me I couldn’t anymore…) It’s still playing with innocent people’s lives. Much less worthy things have been given 24/7 coverage.

Yet it’s just not sexy enough for reporters, who would also have to look back at how they stood by while Bush re-wrote the rules or threw them out altogether. Wingers make a hot stink over getting an ACORN scoop and get bowed down to, while everybody ignores Obama playing it Beltway centrist on human rights.

Is this what teabaggers are talking about when they scream about feeling like Jews in 1939? Of course not. They think tyranny is social health care. As long as rightwing terrorists get due process, they’re happy.

-jb

Cheney not feeling so cocky lately?

Oct 09, 2009 in Barack Obama, Torture, War on Terra

Obama has been collecting scalps in Pakistan, even avenging the death of Benazir Bhutto.

How can this be? We aren’t torturing anybody!

-jb

Verschaerftene Vernehmung.

Jun 11, 2009 in Journamalism, Politics, Torture, War Crimes

Andrew Sullivan offers a priceless piece of research demonstrating how the New York Times always used to know what torture was, until Dick Cheney decided he wanted to do it.

The classic techniques used by Cheney – sleep deprivation, cold cells, hypothermia, stress positions, forced nudity and “walling” – were described by the NYT in the past very plainly, using the term “mental torture,” or in the recent obit (obviously written before Cheney p.c. came in) of an American airman, captured by the Communist Chinese, simply “torture.” In reporting on the similar techniques used Agabuse by the British in Northern Ireland in 1972, the NYT called them “torture and brainwashing”, which is exactly what the Cheney techniques are designed to accomplish. In 1996, the NYT ran a story on reports of “torture” in Brazil, which included “being kept naked in a cold cell,” the Gestapo specialty that Cheney made standard procedure for the US. In 1997, in reporting on the CIA’s record in training torturers in Latin America in the early 1980s, the NYT used the terms “psychological torture” and “mental torture” to describe long-time standing, stress positions, “deep exhaustion”, and solitary confinement.

In 1998, the NYT reported on the CIA’s training of Palestinian security forces. The Times reported that the CIA had dropped all last-resort use of physical torture in 1985, but also what they called “mental torture.” In discussing allegations of torture by the Palestinian security services, the NYT noted a relevant fact as support for the claim: 18 prisoners had died in custody during interrogation. Even after a hundred deaths have now been recorded under the Cheney torture regime, the NYT refuses to call it torture. In 1999, in contrast, the NYT reported on “allegations of torture” in China that amounted to “beatings and solitary confinement”.

The right has no explanation how “teh librul media” can behave this way, because their media theories are entirely self-serving and incomplete.

-jb