Saturday, March 13, 2010

Pride and Prejudice

   If you want something done right, you just have to do it yourself.  Today the Philadelphia Inquirer printed an amputated version of my letter.  The topic? Karl Rove, who says he's "proud" that the CIA waterboarded Khalid Sheikh Mohammed ...that waterboarding is not torture...and that we obtained oh so much information that way.  

  Note the circular justification: 1) Waterboarding is not torture, and 2) even if it is, it got us info. That former government officials can brazenly admit to torture, justify it, and claim that it has benefits (uh...not for the victim, of course), and all with absolute impunity, is symptomatic of what Hannah Arendt called "the banality of evil."

  Well, since the Inquirer let me down, here's my letter in its original form, supplemented with pertinent links:

Karl Rove has just declared in an interview on the BBC that he is “proud we used techniques that broke the will of terrorists” and says that waterboarding is not torture.  Perhaps he will go on to tell us why waterboarding was considered torture when the Japanese used it, or why it won’t be considered torture when it is used some day on our own captured service personnel.  But most of all, I would like to hear Mr. Rove’s explanation of how our country came to sink so low.


  Waterboarding and all the other so-called "enhanced interrogation techniques" approved for use by the CIA and chillingly described in memos released in April of last year  are illegal, immoral, and indefensible acts. However, like one hand washing the other, Mr. Rove and Mr. Cheney take every possible opportunity to defend the indefensible, giving cover to John Yoo and Jay Bybee in payback for the spurious legal cover they so compliantly provided the Torture Team back in 2002.
  Waterboarding is torture, Mr. Rove, and it is nothing to be proud of.    

   I mean, even the Inspector General of the CIA complained in his report that "the use and frequency of one EIT [enhanced interrogation technique], the waterboard, went beyond the projected use of the technique as originally described to DoJ."  (p.5) This in reference to the fact that "Khalid Shaykh Muhammad received 183 applications of the waterboard in March 2003" (p. 91) 

   183 applications...must be habit forming.

   If anyone would have told me back in 2001 that my government would even be considering the use of torture, I'd have said they were crazy. Then when I started reading serious discussions about it in the newspapers and magazines, I sent contributions to Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch for the first time.

   The National Religious Campaign Against Torture says it best in their Statement of Conscience:

Torture violates the basic dignity of the human person that all religions, in their highest ideals, hold dear. It degrades everyone involved -- policy-makers, perpetrators and victims. It contradicts our nation's most cherished ideals. Any policies that permit torture and inhumane treatment are shocking and morally intolerable.

Nothing less is at stake in the torture abuse crisis than the soul of our nation. What does it signify if torture is condemned in word but allowed in deed? Let America abolish torture now -- without exceptions.

  Show Mr. Rove that torture is nothing to be proud of. Sign NRCAT's Statement of Conscience now.

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Happy birthday, Samuel Barber!

March 9, 1910 – January 23, 1981

I pass his childhood home quite often when I drive through West Chester (here in PA). Who hasn't heard his Adagio for Strings?


Here's an excerpt from a letter he wrote when he was only 9 years old, breaking the news to his mom that he wanted to be a composer and not an athlete:

Dear Mother: I have written to tell you my worrying secret. Now don’t cry when you read it because it is neither yours nor my fault. I suppose I will have to tell it now, without any nonsense. To begin with I was not meant to be an athlete. I was meant to be a composer, and will be I’m sure. I’ll ask you one more thing .—Don’t ask me to try to forget this unpleasant thing and go play football.—Please—Sometimes I’ve been worrying about this so much that it makes me mad (not very). http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Samuel_Barber

I'm sure his mom ended up being very proud of him!


Beethoven says happy birthday, too!

Sunday, March 7, 2010

Tweet me out

Stopped following my son's twitter. Decided I really don't need to know what goes on in the 19-yr-old male mind.

This is a test


This is a test using Word 2007 to generate a blog entry. This is only a test. If it had been a real blog post, you would be reading some actual content or at least some serious twaddle. This test has been brought to you by Microsoft Word.

Monday, March 1, 2010

But doc, torture really makes me sick...

 There's an excellent op-ed. in today's New York Times on the complicity of medical doctors and psychologists in torture at Guantánamo Bay and the lack of accountability for their unethical assistance. How did we sink so low?

 [The CIA's Office of Medical Services] said detainees could be exposed to cold air or hosed down with cold water for up to two-thirds of the time it takes for hypothermia to set in. And it advised that placing a detainee in handcuffs attached by a chain to a ceiling, then forcing him to stand with his feet shackled to a bolt in the floor [blogger's note: this was called strappado back in the good ol' days of the Inquisition], “does not result in significant pain for the subject.”
 Really? Well, I hope our government takes as benign a view of these "enhanced interrogation techniques" when they're used on our captured service personnel someday.  BTW, that's a very interesting use of the term "medical services."

  How about chaining prisoners to the floor and leaving them lie in their excrement for hours, even days, as reported by FBI personnel who visited Gitmo? Sound like a standard interrogation method to you?

  Oh, and the medical studies cited in support of the CIA's  innovative interrogation techniques?   a "wilderness medical manual."

   Well, here's one voice crying in the wilderness for a thorough investigation.