Wednesday, September 27, 2006

Demented and degenerate

From “House Approves Bill on Terror Detainees” (AP, Sept. 27, 2006):
“The House approved [HR 6166 today] giving the Bush administration authority to interrogate and prosecute terrorism detainees...”
This is utterly disingenuous. Of course the Bush administration already has the power to “interrogate and prosecute” — the problem is that without the new legislation, the suspected terrorists would be afforded some basic legal protections, such as being apprised of the evidence against them, rather a necessity in enabling one to mount an effective defense.
“While the bill would grant defendants more legal rights than they had under the administration’s old system, it nevertheless would eliminate rights usually granted in civilian and military courts.”
What exactly is “the administration’s old system”? In fact, it is NO system at all, but merely a declaration on the part of the Bush administration that they can do whatever they want to “suspected terrorists,” whenever and wherever they please, and for however long a time. That’s no “system,” but an abdication of our promise to abide by international agreements, in particular, the Geneva conventions.

And what a breezy dismissal of “rights usually granted in civilian and military courts” — any idea why those rights exist in those other courts? By eliminating them for a given class of suspects, we have turned our back on legal precedents dating back before the Magna Carta, and it won’t be long before the non-protected class grows to include others, say “dissidents” and war protesters… Because once we declare that these rights are not due to one group of innocent-until-proven-guilty suspects, it’s a very short leap to enlarge that group to include others. Those “rights usually granted” have until now been held in this country to be of great value in protecting us against governmental tyranny, but if we have forgotten that value, why would we defend it in other circumstances?
“ Bush broad authority to decide which other techniques U.S. interrogators can legally use.”
Why should Bush have this authority? Is it his job to interpret our laws and the contracts we have signed? I was taught that such authority rests with the Supreme Court, not Executive branch. Is Bush trained in military interrogation, or ethics, or law, or medicine, or psychiatry, or anything at all that would provide him with the background for making such judgments? NO! In short, he has absolutely no training for this task, but only the desire for extraordinary powers not granted by the Constitution, and we have a spineless Congress that for whatever reason, continues to give him everything he asks for.
“...provisions are intended to protect CIA interrogators from being prosecuted for war crimes.”
Here again, the writer of this “news release” is being breathtakingly disingenuous, and is ignoring the primary objective of the legislation, which is to protect Bush and others within his administration from being vulnerable to prosecution for war crimes already committed. That it will also protect CIA interrogators is considered a side benefit, but clearly it’s the retroactive protection of the Bush regime that is at issue here.
“House Democratic leader Nancy Pelosi said Democrats feared the House-passed measure could endanger U.S. soldiers by encouraging other countries to limit the rights of captured American troops.”
Well, DUH! This legislation will inevitably make the lives of all overseas military (and even the lives of overseas American tourists) far more dangerous. We have abandoned the moral high ground that we long maintained, and what’s good for the goose is good for the gander.

Even the CIA* in J. Edgar Hoover’s time understood that the “interrogation techniques” we have been using since 2001 (and Bush wants to continue using) meet the definition of outright TORTURE. Not “interrogation techniques,” not “alternative” methods of obtaining information, but TORTURE. [Thanks to ePluribus Media for document.] Why is this obvious fact so hard for us to understand today? We sure understood it when the Communists were the ones doing the dirty work, some 40-plus years ago. We also understood then that torture was ineffective at providing actionable intelligence, but quite honestly, such intelligence seems to be of secondary importance in the motivation behind Bush’s seeking of Congressional approval to practice these abominations upon human beings. It's all about the unfettered exercise of power.

Even more stunning than all of this idiocy is the fact that 34 Democrats voted for this legislation. I pretty much assume the Republicans are a lost cause, but 34 Democrats? Have they really considered what they are voting FOR, or the principles of their constituents? Who are they? Andrews, Barrow, Bean, Bishop (GA), Boren, Boswell, Boyd, Brown (OH), Chandler, Cramer, Cuellar, Davis (AL), Davis (TN), Edwards, Etheridge, Ford, Gordon, Herseth, Higgins, Holden, Marshall, Matheson, McIntyre, Melancon, Michaud, Moore (KS), Peterson (MN), Pomeroy, Ross, Salazar, Scott (GA), Spratt, Tanner, Taylor (MS) — and I hope that if any of them belong to you, you’ll comprehend that they are Democrats in name only. They do not share the principles of the Democrats, and they should be reminded of this in their next primaries.
“ ‘Until Congress passes this legislation, terrorists … cannot be tried for war crimes in the United States and the United States risks fighting a blind war without adequate intelligence,’ said Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist, R-Tenn.”
This is an out and out lie. Of course “terrorists can be tried for war crimes” without this legislation — Frist’s claim to the contrary is ludicrous. The problem is that if they’re tried under existing law, they will have the opportunity to discuss the torture they experienced (making the Bush administration liable for its war crimes), and defendants will have access to the evidence against them such that they can mount a defense. No, what Frist is really saying is that until this legislation is passed, we can’t try these suspected/alleged terrorists in the kangaroo-style courts that Frist and company would like. But it is most telling that he refers to them as “terrorists,” without the faintest nod to the fact that their guilt has not yet been determined. Perhaps that is because it actually has, in our new mode of guilty-until-you-prove-your-innocence.

This is a country I no longer recognize. The readiness with which the citizenry will disavow our principles and dedication to due process is nothing short of breathtaking. The terrorists have already won, if in our cowardice we are willing to give up everything we believed in, merely to feel (not be, but feel) a little safer. I thought we were better than that, braver than that, but apparently we are not.

Bring on the bread and circuses.

UPDATE (Oct. 5, 2006):

The link to the CIA (* above) “Brain Washing” memo has been scrubbed. The money quotes from the document:
Excerpted from “Brain Washing,” Case Number F-1982-00423, 4/25/1960, prepared by Central Intelligence Agency for J. Edgar Hoover, Director, FBI, previously but no longer available at:…0423©right=0&release_dec=RIFPUB&classification

“The effects of isolation, anxiety, fatigue, lack of sleep, uncomfortable temperature, and chronic hunger produce disturbances of mood, attitudes, and behavior in nearly all prisoners. The living organism cannot entirely withstand such assaults. The Communists do not look upon these assaults as “torture” […] But these methods do constitute torture and physical coercion and should never be considered otherwise.” (page 25)

“[Requiring] the prisoner to stand throughout the interrogation session or to maintain some other physical position … becomes painful. This … is a form of physical torture … Any fixed position which is maintained over a long period of time ultimately produces excruciating pain. Certain positions, of which the standing position is one, also produce impairment of the circulation … eventually renal shutdown occurs [… and ultimately] they usually develop a delirious state.” (pages 35-36)
(Images of the original document are available upon request in the "Comments" field.)


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