Bush/Cheney/Obama radicalism

So that’s where the American consensus now lies.  The practices used by Britain, Spain, India and Indonesia (and the Reagan administration) of treating Terrorists as criminals and convicting them in normal courts — with due process — is too fringe Leftist for the United States, which has spent decades sermonizing to the rest of the world about the need for due process and the evils of arbitrary detention.  Instead, our political and media establishment demands that we replicate the policies of Libya and Saudi Arabia:  simply hold accused Terrorists without trials or, at most, invent special due-process-abridging military tribunals to ensure they are convicted.

George Bush and Dick Cheney ended up as two of the most despised political leaders of the last century, so our establishment had to pretend that they, too, found their policies to be distasteful and extreme.  But that was clearly a pretense.  In those very rare instances where Obama and his Attorney General try to deviate, they’re accused (including by leading members of their own party) of accommodating “the Far Left” and being “Soft on Terror.”

The undeniable truth is that our establishment craves Bush/Cheney policies because it is as radical as they are.  That one is automatically accused of being too Leftist merely by literally reciting Reagan administration policy on Terrorists (in words if not deeds)  — and that one can be “centrist” only by standing with the due-process-denying practices of Libya and Saudi Arabia — reflects just how far the American spectrum has regressed.

Glenn Greenwald | Salon

The Post: U.S. must demand accountability for due process and torture abuses — in Iran

So we’re supposed to roll into these negotiations righteously complaining about Iran’s “obvious lack of due process.”

For the last eight years and counting, we’ve been imprisoning tens of thousands of Muslims around the world with no charges of any kind.  Keeping people who have never been charged with any crime shackled in orange jumpsuits and locked in cages for years on a Cuban island has become our national symbol.  Just yesterday, the Obama administration demanded that a court rule it has the power to abduct people anywhere in the world, ship them to Afghanistan, and keep them indefinitely imprisoned there with no trial of any kind — which is exactly what we’ve been doing for years and still are (in a dank and nasty prison which happens to be right over Iran’s Eastern border).

Our current President just recently advocated and is currently devising a scheme of so-called “preventive detention” whereby he’d be empowered to lock up people indefinitely for crimes they might commit in the future.  We continue to abduct people from all over the world and ship them to third-party countries for interrogation and detention (“renditions”) without any pretense of due process.  And right over Iran’s own Western border, we not only continue to occupy Iraq, but maintain prisons in which thousands of people are imprisoned by our military without any charges of any kind — including an Iraqi journalist who works for Reuters who was ordered released by an Iraqi court yet continues to languish in an American prison in Iraq, merely one of numerous foreign journalists we imprisoned for years, in Iraq and elsewhere, with no charges at all.

But The Washington Post thinks the U.S. should vigorously object to Iran’s “obvious lack of due process” as a central part of these negotiations.  What would be the purpose of doing that?  Creating a jovial mood for the negotiations at the outset by provoking a massive group laughing fit?

Glenn Greenwald | Salon.com

What every American should be made to learn about Torture

The fact that we are not really bothered any more by taking helpless detainees in our custody and a) threatening to blow their brains out, torture them with drills, rape their mothers, and murder their children; b) choking them until they pass out; c) pouring water down their throats to drown them; d) hanging them by their arms until their shoulders are dislocated; e) blowing smoke in their face until they vomit; f) putting them in diapers, dousing them with cold water, and leaving them on a concrete floor to induce hypothermia; and g) beating them with the butt of a rifle — all things that we have always condemend as “torture” and which our laws explicitly criminalize as felonies “torture means. . . the threat of imminent death; or the threat that another person will imminently be subjected to death, severe physical pain or suffering . . .” — reveals better than all the words in the world could how degraded, barbaric and depraved a society becomes when it lifts the taboo on torturing captives.

Glenn Greenwald | Salon.com

Obama Emulates and Surpasses Bush

[E]ven if the accusations against Jawad were true — and a federal judge just ruled there was little or no credible evidence that they are — it would mean that he did nothing more than throw a grenade at two soldiers who were part of a foreign army that had invaded his country.  Not even the Bush administration ever claimed he had anything to do with Al Qaeda, or was a high-level member of the Taliban, or had anything to do with any Terrorist plots.  Independent of whether the American invasion of Afghanistan was or was not justified, how could an act like that — an attack by a native citizen against soldiers of an invading army — possibly make someone a Terrorist or a war criminal, let alone justify shipping them thousands of miles away to a camp for Terrorists (or, more bizarrely still, trying them in an American criminal court under American criminal law)?

It’s as though we’ve interpreted the laws of war so that it’s perfectly legal for the U.S. to invade, occupy and bomb other countries, but it’s illegal and criminal — it turns someone into a Terrorist — if any of the citizens of those countries fight back against our army.  When one adds to all of that Jawad’s very young age at the time of his detention, the fact that he was repeatedly tortured, and the fact that he’s now been kept in a cage for seven years, thousands of miles from his country, without any charges at all, his ongoing detention should horrify any decent person.

Glenn Greenwald | Salon.com

Sodomized to Protect Our Freedoms

What’s so sick about it is that the sexual nature of the torture seems so unnecessary. I mean, even if we were going to torture them, we could have stuck to waterboarding, pulling some fingernails or just beating the shit out of them. But menstrual blood smeared on their faces? Rape? What kind of people do that? What possible purpose does that serve that outweighs becoming known as the country that ass-rapes people? We couldn’t get enough answers, or false confessions, or whatever we were looking for, from regular brutality? We had to go all BDSM on these people?

The upshot is this: America is the country that rapes its prisoners. We’re sex criminals. That’s our thing now. And Obama’s refusal to “look back,” i.e. prosecute these incredibly serious crimes, ensures that it’s our permanent legacy. No national reputation can survive this simply by shrugging it off.

We used to be seen as a bastion of freedom and decency around the world. That shit is over, folks. Now we’re like the Soviet Union, with better movies. When we talk about human rights, we are an international joke.

And when we talk about torture, we stick to waterboarding, because nobody, not even the “liberals,” are willing to face what we’ve done.

What’s so sick about it is that the sexual nature of the torture seems so unnecessary. I mean, even if we were going to torture them, we could have stuck to waterboarding, pulling some fingernails or just beating the shit out of them. But menstrual blood smeared on their faces? Rape? What kind of people do that? What possible purpose does that serve that outweighs becoming known as the country that ass-rapes people? We couldn’t get enough answers, or false confessions, or whatever we were looking for, from regular brutality? We had to go all BDSM on these people?

The upshot is this: America is the country that rapes its prisoners. We’re sex criminals. That’s our thing now. And Obama’s refusal to “look back,” i.e. prosecute these incredibly serious crimes, ensures that it’s our permanent legacy. No national reputation can survive this simply by shrugging it off.

We used to be seen as a bastion of freedom and decency around the world. That shit is over, folks. Now we’re like the Soviet Union, with better movies. When we talk about human rights, we are an international joke.

And when we talk about torture, we stick to waterboarding, because nobody, not even the “liberals,” are willing to face what we’ve done.

Allan Uthman | Alternet

How civilized, law-abiding countries imprison terrorists

Numerous countries that arent the U.S. — including those targeted by Terrorist threats at least as serious as those faced by the U.S. — have routinely and repeatedly given what are called “trials” and “due process” to those it accuses not merely of harboring terrorist wishes, but also actually having carried out atrocious terrorist attacks.  During the Bush era, even the U.S. — when we were moved to do so — successfully did the same.

Giving real trials to people whom the state wants to imprison — even accused Terrorists — is what civilized, law-respecting countries do, by definition.  By contrast, lawless and tyrannical states — also by definition — invent theories and warped justifications for indefinite detention with no trials.  Before the U.S. starts talking again about “re-claiming” its so-called leadership role in the world, it probably should work first on catching up to the multiple countries far ahead of it when it comes to the most basic precepts of Western justice — beginning with what ought to be the most uncontroversial proposition that it will first give due process and trials to those it wants to imprison.  Shouldnt the claim that the U.S. cannot and need not try Terrorist suspects be rather unconvincing when numerous other countries from various parts of the world — including those previously devastated by and currently targeted with terrorist attacks — have been doing exactly that quite successfully?

Glenn Greenwald | Salon.com

Another Club Gitmo guest kills himself

Putting people in cages for life with no charges — thousands of miles from their homes — is inherently torturous.  While Salih acknowledged fighting for the Taliban against the Northern Alliance, there is no evidence that he ever engaged in or planned to engage in terrorist acts or acts of violence of any kind against the U.S.  Apparently, though, hes one of the Worst of the Worst we keep hearing about – Too Dangerous To Release even if we cant charge him with any crime.

Along those lines, Sen. Russ Feingold will hold a hearing a week from today, at 10:00 a.m., on Obamas proposal for indefinite “preventive detention,” entitled “The Legal, Moral, and National Security Consequences of ‘Prolonged Detention” Feingolds letter excoriating Obamas proposal is here.  Other Democrats, such as Rep. Jerry Nadler, have already announced they will oppose Obamas detention policy.  Closing Guantanamo obviously does nothing to solve these problems if the same system of indefinite detention without charges is simply transported to a new location.  As todays NYT article put it:  “detainees lawyers, including those representing other Yemeni detainees, have been saying that many prisoners are desperate and that many are suicidal because they see no end to their detention.”  Its the system of indefinite detention with no trials, not the locale of the cage, that is so oppressive and destructive.

Glenn Greenwald | Salon.com

In the shadow of Cheney

A few fanatical jihadis hiding in caves cannot fatally damage the United States: Only the United States can fatally damage the United States. Under the fearful reign of Bush and Cheney, America went a long way toward becoming a country its own citizens would not recognize. As his May 21 speech showed, Obama clearly realizes that many of the policies pursued by his predecessors are irrational, inhumane, unjust and self-defeating. But he has not repudiated their fundamental error, their misapprehension of the actual threat posed by Islamist terrorists.

Which is why Obamas left hand has consistently undone what his right hand has done. He is by nature a difference-splitter, a position that has its virtues. But some differences cannot be split. Either we are locked in an endless, self-defeating war on terror or we are not. Either our laws, traditions and freedoms are more important than an infantile dream of perfect, eternal safety, or they are not. Either we are clear-sighted enough to realize that different kinds of enemies require different responses and that treating a handful of jihadis as if they were the second coming of Nazi Germany is foolish, or we are not. Either we live in the land of the free or we do not.

Gary Kamiya | Salon

Torture Nation

There is still much debate about whether torture has been effective in eliciting information — the assumption being, apparently, that if it is effective, then it may be justified. By the same argument, when Nicaragua captured U.S. pilot Eugene Hasenfuss in 1986, after shooting down his plane delivering aid to U.S.-supported Contra forces, they should not have tried him, found him guilty, and then sent him back to the U.S., as they did. Instead, they should have applied the CIA torture paradigm to try to extract information about other terrorist atrocities being planned and implemented in Washington, no small matter for a tiny, impoverished country under terrorist attack by the global superpower.

By the same standards, if the Nicaraguans had been able to capture the chief terrorism coordinator, John Negroponte, then U.S. ambassador in Honduras (later appointed as the first Director of National Intelligence, essentially counterterrorism czar, without eliciting a murmur), they should have done the same. Cuba would have been justified in acting similarly, had the Castro government been able to lay hands on the Kennedy brothers. There is no need to bring up what their victims should have done to Henry Kissinger, Ronald Reagan, and other leading terrorist commanders, whose exploits leave al-Qaeda in the dust, and who doubtless had ample information that could have prevented further “ticking bomb” attacks.

Such considerations never seem to arise in public discussion.

Noam Chomsky | CommonDreams.org

Master of Pain

The more telling news last week was yet another suggestion about Cheney’s reverse-engineering the Iraq war. Robert Windrem, a former NBC News investigative producer, reported on The Daily Beast that in April 2003, after the invasion of Baghdad, the U.S. arrested a top officer in Saddam’s security force. Even though this man was an old-fashioned P.O.W., someone in Vice’s orbit reportedly suggested that the interrogations were too gentle and that waterboarding might elicit information about the fantasized connection between Osama and Saddam.

In The Washington Note, a political and foreign policy blog, Col. Lawrence Wilkerson, Colin Powell’s former chief of staff at State, wrote that the “harsh interrogation in April and May of 2002 … was not aimed at pre-empting another terrorist attack on the U.S. but discovering a smoking gun linking Iraq and Al Qaeda.”

More and more the timeline is raising the question of why, if the torture was to prevent terrorist attacks, it seemed to happen mainly during the period when the Bush crowd was looking for what was essentially political information to justify the invasion of Iraq.

I used to agree with President Obama, that it was better to keep moving and focus on our myriad problems than wallow in the darkness of the past. But now I want a full accounting. I want to know every awful act committed in the name of self-defense and patriotism. Even if it only makes one ambitious congresswoman pay more attention in some future briefing about some future secret technique that is “uniquely” designed to protect us, it will be worth it.

Maureen Dowd | NYTimes.com