Tag Archives: torture

When We Stop Being Honest, We Stop Being American

21 Apr

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There is something happening in America today and it’s troubling, even for a cynical bastard like me.  We’re not willing to even be truthful anymore.  Once upon a time in this nation, there was an objective truth and then there was partisan interpretations of that truth doled out in the battle lines of politics.  Now?  Objective truth is hard to find as the partisan rhetoric and point scoring has clouded what is true and what is false.

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On the issue of torture, I find the right wing pundits and politicians to be willfully ignorant and deliberately dishonest about the tactics used, the legalities and whether any crimes were committed.  This is not a political game, this is our national moral compass…a moment for us to measure whether we are the country we say we are.  Instead, torture is just another partisan talking point.

Aside from listening to torture defenders on talk radio and reading blog entries scoffing at those of us interested in the rule of law, this video pretty much sent me over the edge.

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Waterboarding is a method of torture.  There is no debate on this issue.  None.

Aside from the Khmer Rouge and various despotic regimes through the course of human history, no legal authority has declared it to be a moral and humane way to treat prisoners.

You know what else is torture?  Extended periods of sleep and sensory deprivation, beatings, sexual humiliation and stress positions used for extended periods of time.  To treat these methods as fodder for morning show jokes is insulting to the human condition and is a marker on this country’s pursuit to join the barbaric while seemingly celebrating the journey in a fit of cognitive dissonance.

Many of you who read this site know that I am a proud veteran of the US Military.  I’m a patriot who loves the ideals upon which this country was founded and I take immense pride that I had the privilege to serve under those who held those ideals as a sacred trust.

Our nation has always been an honorable one.  Leading the nations of the world when it comes to the dignified treatment of combatants, detainees, and prisoners of war.  It has now become crystal clear to this veteran that we are no longer a nation of honor.  We are now a nation that is willing to ignore the international agreements and treaties our forebearers signed.  A nation that is willing to sell out the very values I once swore a duty to protect.

I went through SERE Training and was trained as an intelligence analyst.  During my training these “enhanced interrogation methods” were described to us as torture.  Things that would be done to us in the event of capture by a ruthless and evil enemy.  These were not tactics that would be employed by members of the United States military or affiliated intelligence agencies who worked alongside of us.  Our interrogation methods were non-negotiable and were laid out clearly in the US Army Field Manual on Interrogation (FM 34-52).  If we engaged in torture, we would be prosecuted and held accountable for our actions.

FM 34-52 standardizes interrogation techniques upon those approved by the Geneva Conventions of 1949, particularly, the third convention relative to the Treatment of Prisoners of War.

In times war, we as Americans hold the moral high ground, such as it is in war.  Lowering ourselves to the level of our enemy breeds contempt, inflames opposition, and reduces our ability to rally the world around a flag of righteousness. Torturing those whom we have detained lowers us to the level of the enemy.  Once we cede the moral high ground in battle, we begin down a slippery slope of moral ambiguity that clouds our purpose and allows our enemy to define our standards for us.

We no longer hold that moral high ground and our unwillingness to confront the actions of the previous administration is an affront to those who have honorably served this great nation.  It is a betrayal of this country’s citizens who entrusted us to fight in their name and serve with integrity.

Think of how we would react if it was discovered that an American soldier was waterboarded 183 times in one month.  Would we snicker and make snarky comments about that treatment?

These memos are not a dark chapter of our history which we can simply choose to close as a matter of political convenience, they are a festering wound on the soul of a nation.  We need to stop with the jokes and the offhanded remarks about how these methods are necessary to win the war on terror, they aren’t.

We need to be honest about what has been done in our name, else we cease to be American.

Obama Admin Releases Bush OLC Torture Memos

20 Apr

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There was a lot of angst in left wing circles as to whether President Obama would pass a major test of transparency when it came to releasing Bush Administration memos authorizing torture and describing the tactics in full.

Today is the most significant test yet determining the sincerity of Barack Obama’s commitment to restore the Constitution, transparency and the rule of law.  After seeking and obtaining multiple extensions of the deadline, today is the final deadline for the Obama DOJ to respond to the ACLU’s FOIA demand for the release of four key Bush DOJ memos which authorized specific torture techniques that have long been punished (including by the U.S.) as war crimes.  Today, Obama will either (a) disclose these documents to the public or (b) continue to suppress them — either by claiming the right to keep them concealed entirely or, more likely, redacting the most significant parts before releasing them.

Today, Obama passed this test.  He authorized the release of these documents in full (with minimal redactions) to the public.  I haven’t read through all of them as of yet, but it appears that the only redactions were the names of CIA officials and contractors who were mentioned in the report and were operating under the legal guidance of the White House.  The reason for the redactions was outlined in a statement from President Obama.

In releasing these memos, it is our intention to assure those who carried out their duties relying in good faith upon legal advice from the Department of Justice that they will not be subject to prosecution. The men and women of our intelligence community serve courageously on the front lines of a dangerous world. Their accomplishments are unsung and their names unknown, but because of their sacrifices, every single American is safer. We must protect their identities as vigilantly as they protect our security, and we must provide them with the confidence that they can do their jobs.

Immediately after Obama released his statement, Attorney General Eric Holder also released a statement:

Holder also stressed that intelligence community officials who acted reasonably and relied in good faith on authoritative legal advice from the Justice Department that their conduct was lawful, and conformed their conduct to that advice, would not face federal prosecutions for that conduct.

Reading between the lines, the Attorney General is indemnifying officials who acted upon the guidance but have explicitly made no mention as to any legal protections afforded to those who wrote the opinions and/or asked for them to be written.  This is a win for the rule of law.  Those who authorized these tactics should be held accountable if further Congressional investigation reveals they are necessary.

Here are the links to the memos for your download and review.

An 18-page memo [PDF], dated August 1, 2002, from Jay Bybee, Assistant Attorney General, OLC, to John A. Rizzo, General Counsel CIA about torture techniques used on Abu Zubaydah.

A 46-page memo [PDF], dated May 10, 2005, from Steven Bradbury, Acting Assistant Attorney General, OLC, to John A. Rizzo, General Counsel CIA about waterboarding and other techniques.

A 20-page memo [PDF], dated May 10, 2005, from Steven Bradbury, Acting Assistant Attorney General, OLC, to John A. Rizzo, General Counsel CIA describing the techniques that could be used in combination with each other.

A 40-page memo [PDF], dated May 30, 2005, from Steven Bradbury, Acting Assistant Attorney General, OLC, to John A. Rizzo, General Counsel CIA.

America Tortures

16 Feb

On October 5th, 2007, President George W. Bush said, “This government does not torture people”.

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Well, the facts beg to differ.  The oft-maligned American Civil Liberites Union (ACLU) has issued thousands of Freedom of Information Act requests in regards to documentation and case details of Bush Administration authorization of torture and the results of those policies.  If you haven’t been following along, you should.  It’s an incredible list which documents American malfeasance and the expansion of executive branch authority.  Shocking, absolutely shocking.

The torture at BCP takes many forms, including beatings, sleep deprivation, being chained standing to a fixed object for periods exceeding 24 hours, allegations of sexual torture and humiliation, allegations of the use of dogs both to degrade and frighten the detainees, and degradation through the forced performance of emasculating and disgusting tasks, such as the forcing of a detainee to pick plastic bottle caps out of a latrine can filled with feces.

Consider the case of Binyam Mohammed.

Binyam Mohamed is a 30-year-old Ethiopian who was granted political asylum in Britain in 1994. In 2002, he was seized by Pakistani authorities and turned over to American intelligence officials in connection with the Bush Administration’s extraordinary renditions program. He was shuttled between CIA-operated facilities in Afghanistan, Pakistan and Morocco. During this period of American-sponsored detention, according to court papers, Binyam Mohamed was “routinely beaten, suffering broken bones and, on occasion, loss of consciousness. His clothes were cut off with a scalpel and the same scalpel was then used to make incisions on his body, including his penis. A hot stinging liquid was then poured into open wounds on his penis where he had been cut. He was frequently threatened with rape, electrocution, and death.” He is now reported to be close to death in a prison cell in Guantánamo.

With what evidence are they holding Mr. Mohammad?  As it turns out, not much.

Mind you, he was captured in Pakistan in April 2002. As of Jan. 27, 2009, he has been held at Guantánamo for four years four months. War crimes charges against Mr. Mohamed have been dismissed but may be refiled.

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These things were done in our name.  It’s time to hold President Bush accountable for these actions.

Hopefully Torture’s Epilogue

15 Jan

Torture is not just illegal. It’s not just immoral. It’s not just wrong. It’s not just something that ostensibly civilized democracies don’t engage in.

It produces unreliable information (the detainee just says whatever it takes to make it stop), and takes away the government’s right to prosecute. That means the detainee must either be released or held indefinitely without criminal charge.

The use of torture by the United States government in connection with the war(s) on terror is a national disgrace. The government bent over backwards to find some legal justification(s) for the use of torture, and they got it. That doesn’t make it right, and it doesn’t make it effective. It also doesn’t make it legal.

Bush is unapologetic. Cheney couldn’t care less.

9/11 killed our people and destroyed our property. It was a tragedy of epic proportions, and one that we had to respond to strongly. But it didn’t destroy America. If anything, it made us stronger as a country and an ideal.

The use of torture actually harmed America; its laws and its ideals. A stupid thing to do by a group of stupid ideologues.

Some will argue, “but al Qaeda tortures people”. Yes, al Qaeda does torture people. That’s because they are barbaric terrorists. America ought not torture people. We are not barbaric terrorists. I will never understand why the atrocities of our enemies act as a moral justification for our own atrocities. We are better than that. We are a nation of laws – we are not stateless guerrilla theoterrorists.

Wilson Torture Case

25 Aug

First I read this in yesterday’s Buffalo News:

Ongoing discussions with the prosecutor’s office also included considerations on how the cases will proceed if the teens and their attorneys reject the plea offers, Vona said.

“I don’t think it’s a situation where it’s appropriate for any of these kids to come out of this with a criminal record,” he said.

Then I read this:

Initial charges accused the players of forcing a foreign object into a private body opening. According to legal papers filed with the school district on behalf of the victims and their families, a possible precursor to a civil lawsuit, the players inserted a cell phone and “what felt like multiple fingers” into the victims’ rectums.

There seems to be an overwhelming amount of sympathy and good-feelings being spread around for the torturers and their enablers. So, let me be very clear:

The latter paragraph quoted above made me conclude that if there’s one thing the perpetrators need, if guilty, is a criminal. fucking. record.