We Tortured to Justify War

The single most pertinent question that Dick Cheney is never asked — at least not by the admiring interviewers he has encountered so far — is whether he, Donald Rumsfeld and George W. Bush used torture to justify the illegal invasion of Iraq. As he tours television studios, radio stations and conservative think tanks, the former vice-president hopes to persuade America that only waterboarding kept us safe for seven years.

Yet evidence is mounting that under Cheney’s direction, “enhanced interrogation” was not used exclusively to prevent imminent acts of terror or collect actionable intelligence — the aims that he constantly emphasizes — but to invent evidence that would link al-Qaida with Saddam Hussein and connect the late Iraqi dictator to the 9/11 attacks.

Joe Conason via CommonDreams.org.

Guantánamos Across America

As the Congress makes a lot of noise but no sense on the immigration issue, the New York Times documents “the boom in immigration detention — the nation’s fastest-growing form of incarceration“:

Sandra M. Kenley, a legal permanent resident who had high blood pressure and a bleeding uterus, died in a rural Virginia jail after not receiving her medication. Returning home from a trip to Barbados she was locked up because of two old misdemeanor drug convictions. Abdoulai Sall, an auto mechanic, had no criminal record, but was still seized during an immigration interview. He had a severe kidney ailment and he, too, complained about not getting his medicine. He got sicker and died in another Virginia jail last December.

Sixty-two immigrants have died since 2004 while being held in a secretive detention system, a patchwork of federal centers, private prisons and local jails. Advocacy groups and lawyers say that the system not only denies detainees the most basic rights but also lacks the oversight and regulations that apply to federal prisons. Instead of fixing this broken system, the Senate bill that is lumbering toward final passage — after surviving a crucial procedural vote yesterday — is overloaded with provisions that will make it even harsher and more unfair.

One of the worst amendments comes from Senator Lindsey Graham, Republican of South Carolina. It would impose mandatory detention of all people who overstay their visas. It’s a huge overreach that threatens to swamp the detention system, filling already-strapped prisons at great expense and inevitably leading to more abuses and deaths. And because it takes away the power of officials to decide who poses a genuine threat and who doesn’t, it would undermine efforts to catch and deport the truly dangerous.

So, as with the incarceration of pot smokers, we are converting hundreds of thousands of otherwise decent people into criminals, at an annual cost of billions. But hey, the prison business is booming.

Michael Sky

A Culture of Atrocity

Even since the publication of War is a Force that Gives Us Meaning, Chris Hedges has been one of our clearest voices on the dangerous logic of war-think. Here’s everything that’s gone wrong in Iraq  summed up in one paragraph:

This constant fear and stress leads troops to view everyone around them as the enemy.  The hostility is compounded when the enemy, as in Iraq, is elusive, shadowy and hard to find.  The rage that soldiers feel after a roadside bomb explodes, killing or maiming their comrades, is one that is easily directed over time to innocent civilians who are seen as supporting the insurgents.  It is a short psychological leap, but a massive moral one.  It is a leap from killing—the shooting of someone who has the capacity to do you harm—to murder—the deadly assault against someone who cannot harm you.  The war in Iraq is now primarily about murder.  There is very little killing. American Marines and soldiers have become, after four years of war, acclimated to atrocity.

This is the reality that legislators and their constituents must accept as inevitable when they give their approval to any war. However urgent the “threat,” and however high-minded the hoped-for outcome, war always reduces to a series of ever-worsening crimes against humanity.

Michael Sky

In for a “good cause,” in for the soul-sapping atrocities.

Of Actions and Consequences, Torture and Troop

It isn’t theoretical anymore. Three American soldiers are hostages today, and God help them if their captors decide to play by our rules.

Will these three soldiers be taken by their captors to another country, to some faraway facility filled with the infrastructure of applied agony? Will they be handed over to men who know precisely how to make a nerve ending shriek, who extract screams from flesh like miners of misery? There is precedent if this happens; our government has been doing it for years. Bush’s people send prisoners to far-flung nations, where they are tortured without mercy, because that theoretical debate made this an acceptable practice.

Will these three soldiers be beaten, raped, electrocuted and murdered? Will their religious faith be used as a weapon of humiliation against them? There is precedent if this happens; our government cleared a path for the atrocities of Abu Ghraib, for the murder and rape and torture and humiliation which took place there, and it was that theoretical debate which made this an acceptable practice.

William Rivers Pitt | t r u t h o u t