Tuesday, February 9, 2010

A Culture of Torture

 I'm still holding out the hope that this story, which started making the rounds of the Net yesterday, will turn out to be a hoax after all:


  Ok, the alleged "waterboarder" obviously has serious emotional problems, no doubt exacerbated by a tour of duty in a war zone. But for me, this sad story serves as the last bit of evidence that we've collectively gone off the deep end.

  Consider also the revelation that "fifty-eight percent (58%) of U.S. voters say waterboarding and other aggressive interrogation techniques should be used to gain information from the terrorist who attempted to bomb an airliner on Christmas Day." See the Rasmussen Report. As well as the protestations over plans to try Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab in a civilian court instead of a military court.

  I think that we as a nation need to come out and just admit that we are frustrated by this new enemy, an enemy that constantly morphs, mysteriously emerges from different countries, and constantly changes tactics; an enemy so different from those that our military might has been able to defeat in the past. Maybe then we could all take a breath and call upon what's left of our sanity instead of pushing the collective panic button.

Unfortunately, certain public personalities seem determined to make the mass hysteria index go off the charts. The real problem, they say, is that we do not have a strong commander-in-chief to keep our country strong, strong, strong.  But what does "strong" mean in terms of this new type of enemy?

Since all the hardware and nuclear warheads our bloated defense budget can buy have not been effective against terrorists who practice global guerrilla warfare, no one has been able to give a concrete description of how to keep our country "strong."  Not even after seven years of "fighting them over there so they wouldn't come over here."  "Keeping our country strong" is simply an expression that makes the speaker (whether a man or a woman) sound admirably patriotic and macho, especially in contrast to...well, the current commander-in-chief, for instance.

The fact is that, in lieu of any defensive measures worthy of a country whose Constitution once served as a model for that of other republics, being "strong" has insidiously devolved into a pervasive new ethic, namely the tacit approval of the use of unbridled cruelty against prisoners in violation of their legal and human rights. In other words, a culture of torture.

It may not defeat the enemy, but it sure makes us feel better...and stronger.

When I pause long enough to take that breath, I hear the words of Dorothy Day and of others reminding us of our source of real strength;
 In the name of Jesus, who is God, who is Love, we will not obey this order to hate, to punish, to torture. We will not be drilled into fear. We do not have faith in God if we depend upon waterboarding."
(Obviously I've paraphrased a bit here...but I think Dorothy would understand.)

2/10 - Addendum -  The newspapers were a bit sensationalist in using the term "waterboarding" to describe the abuse perpetrated by the soldier on his little girl.  Here's a more accurate account of what happened, from a local newspaper.

8 comments:

  1. Oh? The newspapers were a tad "sensational," were they? And your constant attempts to describe the detention and interrogation of Muslim terrorists-- who are, incidentally, the real war criminals in any discussion about modern war crimes-- is what, if not "sensational"?

    A friend pointed out your blog to me. We both thought initially that you were a brilliant satirist who mockingly captured the pretentious nonsense peddled by the left. Then we gradually came to the realization that this twaddle is not satire, but just.. well, twaddle.

    I've also noticed that protesta against America's wars in Iraq and Afghanistan have all but ended. Might this just possibly have something to do with the fact of the election of a Democratic president, A president who is, moreover, a black man. What? Did the "war crimes" and "illegal and immoral" war suddenly become transformed with the election of Barack Obama? Are prisoners no longer detained at Gitmo and other American bases? Or, is it perchance less fun to demonstrate against the "war crimes" of a black, Democratic president?

    You people are a bunch of pretentious hypocrites. You are well beneath my contempt, but be assured that you have it nevertheless.

    Bill

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  2. Makes no never-mind to me who's conducting the wars, Bill, and I am still a member in good standing of two local peace groups. Sorry to disappoint you, but we're alive and well.

    By now, anyone who has taken the trouble to become informed knows that of the over 700 persons who have passed through Guantanamo, only a handful have credible charges against them.

    Maybe you think that indefinite detention and torture are OK.

    I don't.

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  3. You're entitled to your unsupported and mistaken opinions, Liberata, but you are not, as the saying goes, entitled to your own set of facts. Just last week we heard an admission from Mr. Brennan of the Obama administration that there is a 20% recidivism rate among the terrorists released from Guantanamo. Analysts across the political spectrum agree that this estimate is probably low given that it is somewhat dated and it's obviously difficult to always verify a return to terrorist activity. That 20% figure by itself gives the lie to your asinine assertions about the innocence of the prisoners held at Guantanamo.

    If you wish to continue to make such obviously incorrect statements about these prisoners, you might also explain why when attempting to expatriate these poor innocent lambs to their countries of origin, the Obama administration got absolutely no takers. Not one. The reason, of course, is that these peole are stone cold dangerous killers. Their own countries do not want them. So why not stop repeating lies and making things up out of whole cloth and stick to the facts?

    Since you're so concerned with torture and unjustified detention, you and your sanctimonious band of pacifist hypocrites might want to address yourselves and your moral outrage to the 99% of the island of Cuba which is not under American control. There you will find real political prisoners and a real torture state.

    I am not unfamiliar with the left and its silly conformo-radical protest culture, so don't tell me that your anti-war protests have continued unabated since the elction of Barack Obama. It's simply nowhere near as much fun and nowhere near as emotionally gratifying for you conformo-radicals to protest against a black Democrat rather than against a Republican meanie such as George W. Bush.

    Bill

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  4. This comment has been removed by the author.

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  5. You might also explain why when attempting to expatriate these poor innocent lambs to their countries of origin, the Obama administration got absolutely no takers. Not one.

    I deleted a previous comment and revised it, adding more information, in case you're interested.


    You can find a chronology of Guantanamo prisoners and their eventual fate at Global Security:

    http://www.globalsecurity.org/military/facility/guantanamo-bay_detainees.htm

    You can also find names and dispositions at the New York Times:

    http://projects.nytimes.com/guantanamo


    Most of the 779 were cleared during the Bush administration by the Combat Status Review Tribunals (CSRT) and returned to their homelands. The complete transcripts of the CSRT are available online:

    http://www.dod.gov/pubs/foi/detainees/csrt_arb/index.html


    The current administration has been trying to find places of asylum for those among the remaining prisoners (fewer than 200) who have been cleared but who cannot be returned to their homelands because they face (additional) torture, such as the Chinese Uighurs (whom we joined with our "friends" China in declaring terrorists, although they have been cleared by our own CSRT -- and under the previous administration).

    So far the following countries have volunteered (with number of detainees accepted, title of news source and date of story):


    Spain just offered to accept 5 (Associated Press, 2/16/2010)

    Latvia - 1 ( Associated Press, 2/2/2010)

    1/26/2010 Slovakia - 3 (JUSTICE DEPARTMENT PRESS RELEASES, 1/25/2010)

    Switzerland - 1 (Associated Press Online, 2/3/2010)

    Algeria - 2 ( JUSTICE DEPARTMENT PRESS RELEASES, 1/21/2010)

    Hungary - 1 ( States News Serivce, Washington, D.C., 12/1/2009)

    Afghanistan, Yemen, Somaliland - 12 ( States News Service, 12/20/2009)

    Kuwait - 1 ( (States News Serivce, 12/9/2009)

    Italy - 2 (and has offered to take more) (Associated PRess, 12/1/2009)

    Belgium - 1 (Associated Press, 9/4/2009)

    Palau - 6 (in lots of newspapers 11/2009)

    Ireland 2 (Associated Press, 7/29/2009)

    Albania -5 Chinese Uighurs and 3 other Gitmo detainees in 2006, and is ready to receive more (Associated Press 12/9/2009)


    There are also fewer than 20 high value detainees who will be tried in court (military or civilian, whenever that argument is over) and, unfortunately, about 50 that the current administration has decided to imprison indefinitely, in violation of universally recognized human rights standards. And yes, along with others I have protested these violations by the current administration, just as I protested those of the previous administration.

    If you're interested, here's a study that was done on the alleged 20% recidivism:

    http://law.shu.edu/ProgramsCenters/PublicIntGovServ/CSJ/upload/GTMO_Final_Final_Recidivist_6-5-09-3.pdf

    (You'll probably judge the authors too conformo-radical, however, and that is your right, of course.)

    As for activities of peace groups, I can only speak for myself. First of all, I do not do it for fun. I was opposed to the invasion of Iraq and am opposed to the current escalation of the war in Afghanistan and have publicly demonstrated against both.

    Respectfully,
    Liberata

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  6. One last bit of twaddle:

    Six prisoners (that we know of) have died while in detention, four of whom, it was ruled, hanged themselves. However, recent reports cast some doubt on three of the suicides:

    http://law.shu.edu/programscenters/publicintgovserv/policyresearch/upload/gtmo_death_camp_delta.pdf

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  7. Yes, I'm sure your "sources"-- and the word definitely belongs in quotes when discussing where you get your information-- would "cast some doubt" on the suicides. No doubt they were murdered by our war criminals in uniform. Or maybe GWB or Cheney slipped down one dark and stormy night and hung them just for kicks.

    And a handful of these 'innocents" have been accepted by other countries despite massive efforts by the Obama administration. The fact that a overwhelmingly large majority have not does exactly support your position that they are innocents swept up by our murderous torturers in uniform. In turning down the effort of the Obamites to repatriate them, the nations of the world have pretty effectively weighed in on your silly argument and refuted it.

    You and your merry gang of morally superior "activists"-- what a fashionable hobby, that is-- choose to ignore horrible atrocities committed on a regular basis by a variety of totalitarian regimes to focus on a handful of alleged instances of "torture" committed by American forces. You regularly blur the lines between lawful methods of interrogation and torture, which is rightfully considered a war crime. You ignore the fact that the war in Iraq liberated millions of people from a true rather than a make-believe torture regime. You also ignore the undisputed fact that the war in Afghanistan is being fought against the Taliban and their al Qaida allies, other systematic and continual abusers of human rights of every sort. And you fools want to prosecute and investigate Americans prosecuting a war against monstrous tyrannies. The term "useful idiots" doesn't even touch your willful moral obtuseness. You're right-- your writings aren't "twaddle." They are much much worse.

    Bill

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  8. Well, Bill, I think we're just going to disagree.

    Please notice that, for all my moral obtuseness, I have never called you names or insulted you. I'm sorry that you are unable to extend the same courtesy to me. And you accuse me of self-righteousness?

    Anyway, have a good day.
    --Liberata

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