7/26/08

The Torturing Company We Keep

I've often pointed out to my friends at Lucianne.com that torture is both morally wrong and essentially ineffective except for satisfying primative instincts for revenge and obtaining false confessions for use in propaganda.

This Republican administration has been breathtakingly stupid in its policies on the use of torture, and anybody who comes after them in government is going to have to undo considerable damage to our reputation and sensibilities.

This is, of course, a direct result of the ideological inbreeding rampant in the modern Republican Party in general. We've managed to elect (did we really?) the intellectual least common denominator of American culture, and in return the world views us as knuckle dragging villains just as bad as the thugs who attacked us.

Congratulations to "movement conservatism" for delivering us this day..... I say this so-called version of conservatism should join other failed experiments in the dust bin of history, and America should be restored to its Liberal roots.

Here is a very nice article on the issue from The Consortium:

Published on Saturday, July 26, 2008 by Consortium News
The Torturing Company We Keep
by Michael Winship


At one point during the five and a half years John McCain spent as a prisoner of war in North Vietnam, he was tortured and beaten so badly he tried to kill himself.

After four days of this brutality, he gave in and agreed to make a false confession, telling lies to end the unbearable pain.

Later, he would write, “I had learned what we all learned over there: Every man has his breaking point. I had reached mine.”

Similar techniques were utilized in the Asian war preceding Vietnam - Korea. The Communist Chinese used these techniques to interrogate U.S. POW’s and force them to confess to things they didn’t do, such as germ warfare.

A chart of the Chinese methods, compiled in 1957 by an American sociologist, lists the methods, among them, “Sleep Deprivation,” “Semi-Starvation,” “Filthy, Infested Surroundings,” “Prolonged Constraint,” and “Exposure.”

The effects are listed, too: “Makes Victim Dependent on Interrogator,” “Weakens Mental and Physical Ability to Resist,” “Reduces Prisoner to ‘Animal Level’ Concerns,” and others.

On July 2, The New York Times reported that the chart had made a surprise return appearance, this time at Guantanamo Bay, where in 2002 it was used in a course to teach our military interrogators “Coercive Management Techniques,” to be used when interrogating detainees held there as prisoners in the “war on terror.”

In other words, we had adopted the inhumane tactics of enemies past, tactics we once were quick to call torture. Tactics created not to get at the truth but to manufacture lies that we then characterize as credible.

How can we expect this to be an effective way to extract real information from terrorists?
Since 2005, Congress has banned the use of such methods by the military but we have no way of knowing whether the CIA continues to use them.


For example, The Associated Press reported Thursday that, “CIA Director Michael Hayden banned waterboarding in 2006, but government officials have said it remains a possibility if approved by the attorney general, the CIA chief and the president.”

Such is the secrecy and deliberate obfuscation that have characterized our nation’s descent into lawlessness and duplicity, depicted brilliantly in New Yorker magazine investigative reporter Jane Mayer’s new book, The Dark Side: The Inside Story of How the War on Terror Turned into a War on American Ideals.

Post 9/11, she reports, “For the first time in its history, the United States sanctioned government officials to physically and psychologically torment U.S.-held detainees, making torture the official law of the land in all but name.”

The late American historian Arthur Schlesinger, Jr., she says, told her that “the Bush administration’s extralegal counterterrorism program presented the most dramatic, sustained and radical challenge to the rule of law in American history.”

Over lunch in 2006, the year before Schlesinger died, he said, “No position taken had done more damage to the American reputation in the world — ever.”

Read all of this in light of the series of hearings on Capitol Hill over the last weeks in which members of Congress have tried to find out how in the name of protecting us from further terrorist attacks, the Bush White House has twisted or abandoned the law to allow what most of the international community recognizes as torture.

The administration remains in denial.

Former Attorney General John Ashcroft told the House Judiciary Committee, “I don’t know of any acts of torture that have been committed by individuals in developing information. …
“So I would not certainly make an assumption. I would attribute the absence of an attack [since 9/11] at least in part, because there have been specific attacks that have been disrupted, to the excellent work and the dedication and commitment of people whose lives are dedicated to defending the country. Interrogators have used enhanced interrogation techniques but they haven’t used torture.”


Grim hairsplitting. This week, as the result of a Freedom of Information Act suit, the ACLU received a heavily redacted copy of an infamous August 2, 2002, memo, signed by then-head of the Justice Department’s Office of Legal Counsel Jay Bybee and written with his subordinate, the equally infamous John Yoo.

“An individual must have the specific intent to inflict severe pain or suffering,” it reads. “The absence of specific intent negates the charge of torture… We have further found that if a defendant acts with the good faith belief that his actions will not cause such suffering, he has not acted with specific intent.”

Jameel Jaffer, head of the ACLU’s national security project, told Spencer Ackerman of The Washington Independent, “Imagine that in an ordinary criminal prosecution a bank robber tortures a bank manager to get the combination to a vault. He argues that the torture was not to inflict pain, but to get the combination. Every torturer has a reason other than to cause pain. If you’re going to let people off the hook for an intention other than to cause pain, you’re not going to be able to prosecute anyone for torture.”

Deborah Pearlstein, a constitutional scholar and human rights lawyer who has spent time at Guantanamo monitoring conditions there, testified to Congress that, “As of 2006, there had been more than 330 cases in which U.S. military and civilian personnel have, incredibly, alleged to have abused or killed detainees. This figure is based almost entirely on the U.S. government’s own documentation.

“These cases involved more than 600 U.S. personnel and more than 460 detainees held at U.S. facilities throughout Afghanistan, Iraq, and Guantanamo Bay. They included some l00-plus detainees who died in U.S. custody, including 34 whose deaths the Defense Department reports as homicides. At least eight of these detainees were, by any definition of the term, tortured to death.”

Pearlstein cited a recent British study that discovered that our detainee policies had led to Britain’s withdrawal from joint, covert counterterrorism operations with the CIA “because the U.S. failed to offer adequate assurances against inhumane treatment.”

The House of Commons Select Committee on Foreign Affairs has issued a report stating the United States can’t be trusted to tell the truth about how it interrogates detainees.
“Given the clear differences in definition,” the report concludes, “the UK can no longer rely on US assurances that it does not use torture, and we recommend that the Government does not rely on such assurances in the future.”


On Monday, the first American war crimes trial since World War II opened at Guantanamo, the United States presenting its case against Salim Ahmed Hamdan before a jury of U.S. military officers.

Hamdan, who at the time of 9/11 was Osama bin Laden’s driver, is charged with conspiracy and providing material support for terrorism. Two surface-to-air missiles were found in a car he was driving - he says it was a borrowed vehicle and that he had no idea what was in the trunk.

The judge has thrown out confessions Hamdan made in Afghanistan after his capture.
“The interests of justice are not served by admitting these statements,” the judge said, “because of the highly coercive environments and conditions under which they were made.” Hamdan was bound for long periods of time, with a bag over his head.


You will know us by the company we keep. The burners of witches and the medieval masters of thumbscrews and Iron Maidens, the interrogators of the Spanish Inquisition, the North Vietnamese soldiers who beat John McCain and his fellow American prisoners of war into false confessions.

We have joined their ranks.

In the almost seven years since 9/11, we have countered terror not only with vigilance and war but fear, imprisonment without due process and yes, torture.
Torture is no more about learning the truth than rape is about sex. Both are about the violent abuse of power.


Michael Winship is senior writer of the weekly public affairs program, Bill Moyers Journal, which airs Friday night on PBS. Check local airtimes or comment at The Moyers Blog at http:www.pbs.org/moyers.

7/11/08

Secular Rule Benefits the Faithful, Too


I've often pointed out to my friends at Lucianne.com that in many ways secular values for governance is quite in tune with the teachings of Jesus Christ.
While the Mainstream Media, the Republican Party and the Nation has been under the delusion that being "Christian" somehow mandates Theocratic authoritarian governance, the truth is quite the opposite.

While there are many problems with the notion of Theocracy for a Liberal Democracy like America, our Evangelical, Fundamentalist, Dominionist Theocrats that form the extreme-right Republican "base" are in fact most un-Christian in indeological approach to government...... it is a manifest and insidious form of bigotry and intolerance they practice, and which they want to enshrine in law...... they want a particular type of christianity to prevail over all the other Christianities...... they want to succeed by law and governmental domination where they have failed in religious attraction.

These authoritarian Theocrats have dove-tailed well with the corporate authoritarians of the Republican Party to the degree that the modern Republican political ideology would culminate in a Corporate Plutocracy with heavy Theological overtones.

This is un-American and un-Christian...... the point is that the notion of Secular governance is a fruit of, rather than the anthithesis of Christianity.

Interestingly, most of the historic social advances in American society and government have been advocated by, and sometimes solely instigated by the "other" non-Republican forms of Christianity..... you know..... the real ones.

But think about it...... how one practice the Chritian value of tolerance and love for your neighbor....... all the varieties of Christianity, all the other religions and the non-religious, even atheistic citizens, unless the government itself establishes no laws regarding the impostion of a particular religion, or imposing on the individual's practice of religion? Why wouldn't secular government be accepted as a Christian-advocated value?

Here is an interesting article discussing that:


Published on Monday, July 7, 2008 by The Boston Globe

Last week, Barack Obama made front-page news by announcing he would expand so-called faith-based initiatives, channeling federal money into social services through religiously affiliated institutions. The move was seen as a wily appeal to conservative Christians. Liberals were skeptical. Under President Bush, “faith-based” is a fig-leaf for the naked removal of government from its role as social service provider. Bush has crassly exploited religion for partisan political purposes, even while drafting religion into the Republican war against “big government.” Was this Obama’s push-back?

A former community organizer, the Illinois senator and Democratic presidential candidate declared that struggles against poverty and disease require “all hands on deck,” as if acknowledging the limits of government. He may not be old enough to have enlisted in President Lyndon B. Johnson’s War on Poverty, but he surely knows that religiously affiliated institutions were one of its fronts. As anyone who remembers, say, Martin Luther King Jr.’s Poor People’s Campaign, knows, “faith-based” can be code as much for progressive social change as for conservative reaction. Many of Obama’s predecessor community organizers were paid through congregations with grants from Johnson’s Great Society.

But the discussion of faith-based initiatives suggests that Obama’s religion problem goes deeper, even, than rumors about his being Muslim or the Jeremiah Wright controversy. The social liberalism that defines much of the Democratic Party, and, apparently, Obama, upholds an ideal of tolerance that transcends religious identity. It refuses to brand the irreligious, or even the antireligious, as somehow less human than those who worship God. Indeed, liberalism regards the openly secular character of the political realm to be an essential note of democracy — not a necessary evil, but a positive good. “Secular” is not a pejorative. Its tolerance tolerates even religious conservatives who are intolerant.

Such tolerance is a political virtue, but it can be a deeply religious virtue as well. Religion is mostly discussed, in the US political context, as if the main argument is between believers and nonbelievers. But the most important disagreement is between religious people who value the secular character of American politics and religious people who regard it as impious. The Republicans have benefited from this dispute because Democrats who are religious have failed to defend the liberal ideal of public religious neutrality as necessary not only for politics, but for authentic religion. It is not only atheists who need to be protected from the intrusions of a faith-defined government. So do the faithful.

The much-celebrated freedom that is the ground of the American consensus is, above all, freedom of mind and heart; freedom to think and believe as one chooses; freedom of conscience. Without that, there is no genuine democracy. But, more to our point, without that, there is no genuine religion. The only possible guarantor of such freedom, as the Founders understood, is a magistrate who acts with absolute religious neutrality. Religious people, that is, need the separation of church and state as much as atheists do. That separation, in fact, is why religion thrives in America.

But in recent years, as US politics was yoked to brands of conservative religion that wanted to blur the line between church and state, those religious believers for whom the secularity of liberal democracy is a value have been mute. In the public sphere, questions of religion have been treated as the province of the right wing, presided over by “values voters.” Thus “faith-based initiatives” have been put forward — and opposed — as if church basements have not been incubators of progressive social reform for generations. But religious liberals have feared that to make the argument for the expressly religious value of secularity in a democratic society is to offend nonreligious voters by even speaking of religion, and religious voters by affirming secularity. Lose, lose.

Obama seems ready to offend. He does not shy from the label “liberal.” He talks openly of religion’s meaning in his life. He has credentials as one who has long embraced faith-based social activism, even while affirming government’s central role as provider of services. Whether he will convincingly recast the shallow discussion of religion and politics that has defined the last American generation remains to be seen. But in this, as in much else, we can only wish him well.

7/2/08

Arte y pico

i've never won a blog award before for anything...... thank you Utah Savage for awarding me this prestigious award, and congratulations to the other awardees.......this will give me practice in following instructions......

the rules:
1) pick five (5) blogs that you consider deserve this award for their creativity, design, interesting material, and also for contributing to the blogging community, no matter what language.
2) each award has to have the name of the author and also a link to his or her blog to be visited by everyone.
3) each award winner has to show the award and put the name and link to the blog that has given her or him the award itself.
4) award-winner and the one who has given the prize have to show the link of “Arte y Pico” blog, so everyone will know the origin of this award which is here:
Arte y Pico.

i bestow the award on the following blogs:

1) Dancing With Daisy (Daisy is very nice, posts nice things and very nice photographs)

2) texas oasis (Blueberry's Blog is oddly mesmerizing)

3) Saoirse Daily (Excellent Pictures...... always good pictures and she writes well too)

4) Zenography (Just Check It Out.... you'll see what i mean)

5) Blue Gal (Is my favorite Liberal Quaker..... big contributor on the political scene)

6) After the Bridge (Sherry does Poetry in Pittsburgh and has a very high quality blog......)

i have a lot of other favorites too deserving the award, however i deliberately stayed away from the Blogs that had already received one or more Arte y Pico's...... didn't want to get too incestuous...... maybe point out a new one or two that people didn't know about......