Archive for the ‘torture’ category

Guantanamo Again?

October 10, 2014

President Obama is reported to have asked for another plan to close the Guantanamo Detention Center. Is this another Don Quixote event or will something actually take place? Hmmm.

Congress enacted legislation which effectively prevents the President from moving detainees to US prisons. Congress also requires notification of any planned transfer of detainees to another Country. Many Congress members want Guantanamo to remain open indefinitely and see nothing wrong with holding prisoners without charges or the benefit of a trial. I wonder how these Senators and Representatives did on their high school civics exams?

On every basis, this Congressional position is short sighted and internal inconsistent. Most obviously, US maximum security prisons are more than adequate to house safely anyone currently detained at Guantanamo.

Second, Guantanamo stands for the world to see how hypocritical the US can be about its Constitution, its views on human rights, and other honored historic values.

And, third, Guantanamo represents a crowning accomplishment for American Executive Authority gone wrong. The remaining 145 or so detainees are composed of “the worst of the worst” with some pretty dangerous but far short of the “worst of the worst” detainees.

So what’s wrong with Congress wanting to keep these detainees indefinitely?

One must ask a question first. Why are these specific detainees in custody? Why not others?  Are all the other radicals and extremists we read and hear about in Pakistan, Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya, Yemen, and Syria (not to mention much of Africa) less dangerous than the ones we are holding at Guantanamo? Hmmm.

Supporters of indefinite detention claim if the Guantanamo detainees were released they would immediately take up arms against the US where ever they could. Hmmm. That is likely a true statement since I think I would be very angry if I had been held captive as long as these detainees have.

But the point here is much more obvious. The 145 or so detainees are a drop in the bucket versus all the other young potential recruits waiting to join the “jihad”. Logic would lead one quickly to cutting ones losses and sending the detainees back to their country of origin or simply put these detainees on trial. So why hasn’t it happened?

Military commissions or civil courts all present the same hurdle. What is admissible evidence? Enhanced interrogation, short hand for water boarding and torture, apparently taints most of the important evidence. Civil courts would most likely recognize a writ of habeas corpus and would not accept evidence gained by torture. Hello… these are values which each of us would want were we detained.

The Congressional objection to closing Guantanamo results from first and foremost a desire to not litigate enhanced interrogation. For sure there are Congress Members who think they are singing to the choir by taking a tough public position on not closing Guantanamo. Any logical public discussion, however, would reveal a faulty and self serving argument.

Its time to close Guantanamo.

Three Blind Mice

September 19, 2009

Former CIA leaders, Porter Goss, Michael Hayden, and George Tenet have sent a letter to President Obama asking him to reverse Attorney General Eric Holder’s decision to investigate interrogation abuses allegedly committed by CIA personnel. (Joining these three were also former Directors John Deutch, James Woolsey, William Webster, and James Schlesinger.) These seven have expressed concern that the investigation will discourage CIA operatives from doing their job in the future. So I guess torture is ok if you are simply trying to do your job.

From an organizational morale perspective, these former CIA Directors have a legitimate point. Their subordinates are intentional put in the difficult position of gathering intelligence where the rules of the road are not always clear or at a minimum, vary greatly from what US law allows. In these post 9/11 suspected abuses, the CIA had, to its credit, consistently sought clarification from the Administration on what they could legally do. Thanks to patriotic chicken hawks like Dick Cheney, John Ashcroft, and Jonathan Yoo, the CIA got the nod to stray way over the line. So there is a certain logic to the genesis of this letter.

Pursuing CIA operatives who may have tortured is pursuing the symptoms and not the disease. The investigation and prosecution should focus upon Goss, Tenet, and Hayden, and those who requested, formulated, or promoted enhanced interrogation. Waterboarding and violations of the Geneva Convention can not be justified as legal by any Executive Branch directive, and Goss, Tenet, and Hayden should have been expected to know this.

So for Goss, Tenet, and Hayden to sign this letter and claim the basis as hurting morale, we are seeing disingenuous words at their best, These three blind mice are really concerned about any investigation and the possibility of being included in the sweep themselves.

News Bites

March 24, 2008

Dick Cheney, our de facto President is still traveling in the Middle East and has not authorized George W Bush to say anything while the Veep is out of the country.  This is did not prevent Cheney from attending church services on Easter Sunday.  I am sure he is a better man for this.  Here are three news bites.

1. Vice President Cheney speaking to a group of Fattah Palestinians said that Hamas was set on ruining the current negotiations with Israel.  Cheney went further to say that Syria and Iran were backing Hamas with arms and money.  This was really breaking news and one can only ask, “what’s your point?”  Hamas won the most recent “democratic” vote in the Palestinian territories fair and square.  Cheney lead an American (read Israeli) drive to isolate Hamas and cut them off at the knees by denying them international aid and customs revenue that was theirs.  And Cheney lead the efforts to ignore both Syria and Iran and not speak to them either.

For sure the Hamas wing is not using tactics that would want you to have  them living next door.  But the Israeli-Palestinian situation is undecipherable.  There has been so much tit for tat that who shot who is irrelevent.  The only route to a solution will involve bringing in all parties and revisiting all issues including boundries and rights of return.  We do not get this type of leadership from our man at the top.

2. Yesterday marked the 4000th death of American service men and women in Iraq.  The Bush/Cheney Administration is soley responsible for the exposure of American soldiers to a war they did not need to fight, for a victory that will not come, and at a cost that is shaking our Country to its roots.  Surprisingly, there was no statement from either George “I am not flying if means going to Vietnam” Bush and Dick “5 deferments” Cheney our two super chicken hawks.

3. The oddest news bite comes to us courtesy of the Wall Street Journal again.  This time John Yoo has written a piece called The Democrats’ Super Disaster.
Yoo writes about the Democratic Party’s use of something called “super delegates” in their primary process.  In his piece, he points out that the Constitution did not have this method in mind for picking a President or Congressional members.  There are two points to ponder.  (1) The Democratic primary is a device for those who belong to the Democratic Party to select their standard bearer and there are no standards set out in the Constitution.  Not so long ago the nominee often was selected after many rounds of delegate voting when party bosses made deals with each other.  If the super delegate method is flawed (and it may be), it is only the Democrats who will lose.  (There is not a tissue paper of difference between Obama and Clinton when put in perspective of the candidacy of John McCain.)  And (2), John Yoo served in the Bush Administration’s Justice Department, and in 2002 issued an opinion that gaining intelligence information warrented strong measures and that extraordinary means were ok since “torture” was akin to pain experienced in organ failure.  Yoo’s opinion opened the door for the “ends justify the means” gang (whose leader is Darth Vader Cheney) to bring us rendition and enhanced interrogation including water boarding.  Yoo would do a lot of good to do some remedial work on values before trying to ply his trade as a Constitutional expert.

Torture or Cruel Treatment?

March 4, 2008

It takes a strong stomach and clothes pin on your nose to say out loud, “I am proud to be an American with a President like George W Bush”.  With over 300 prisoners housed at Guantanamo and no prospect on what their fates will be, George and his boss, Dick Cheney, are getting ready to leave a gift for the next Administration that will keep on giving.

1. There is no precedent in American history for detaining prisoners this long without charges and without some type of review process.  American history has a foundation of due process and habeas corpus, but maybe C+ students at Yale do not learn that.

2. The War Crimes trials that followed WWII were open and the evidence was presented for all to see.  Prisoners were accorded the full protection of the Geneva Convention (the 1929 version).  The Guantanamo prisoners have been denied representation and any evidence the Military (read Bush Administration) choses to call classified.  The Military Commissions are a shame and unworthy of America. 

3. The nation’s top Chicken Hawks, George W Bush and Dick Cheney are wonderful examples of personal bravery.  Bush joined the National Guard and when it looked like his unit might be deployed to Vietnam, he suddenly refused to take his flight physical and was not able to deploy with his unit.  Cheney used 5 separate deferments to avoid military service and any exposure to Vietnam.  But both of these tough guys think waterboarding and other forms of extreme interrogation are appropriate and desirable.

President Bush has said “the US does not torture”.  It seems this pledge hangs on the definition of torture.  Early in the Bush Administration, torture was defined as pain akin to organ failure.  This was later repudiated by the Justice Department.  But our “ends justify the means” President is not easily deterred.  He is ok with “cruel treatment” that stops short of torture (without defining).  Is this the America you are proud of?

Instead of giving out pardons at the end of his term (like to Scooter Libby and other patriots), Bush should free all the Guantanamo prisoners.  If that is not acceptable or considered too high a risk, then they should be moved to the US and brought before US Courts.  All evidence should be in the open and those who are really the bad of the bad, should be dealt appropriate punishment.  For those where charges can not be brought or where the Court throws out the charges, they should be sent back to their home countries.  Once accomplished, a new day will dawn in America and we can once again say we are a land of laws and respect for the dignity of others.

Strict Constructionist Warning

February 13, 2008

If the debacle that is called the George W Bush Presidency is not enough to convince you that “ABR” (anyone but a Republican) will rule the next election, then conside what Supreme Court Justice Anthony Scalia said recently.  He said that there was no basis for ruling out techniques like waterboarding to be found in the Constitution.  He said he had research it carefully.

According to Scalia, the term “cruel and unusual punishment” refers only to sentences imposed upon individuals.  In the case of intelligence gathering (a worthy purpose), Scalia saw no Constitutional limits.  I guess the Middle Ages are in vogue again.

Did Justice Scalia think that

1. To some people his words are a license to torture?

2. That other Countries would conclude that if this standard is ok for the US, then they should not feel bound by the Geneva Convention or any bounds of human decency?

3. That it is unreasonable to think that our Founding Fathers would have condoned torture?

4. That this type of thinking is the beginning of a slippery slope and if torture for intelligence is ok, then why not to gather evidence for a heinous crime like murder or rape?  And from there it is only steps to root out political thought that the party in power does not like.

There are many other common sense reasons to renounce torture.  Experts all say that torture is unreliable.  I would also ask our right wing conservative evangelical and fundamentalist religious groups, in this situation WWJD?