Posted tagged ‘torture’

Dick Cheney – Is He For Real?

December 15, 2014

Former Vice President Dick Cheney appeared on “Meet The Press” yesterday and repeated with apparent pleasure his defense of “enhanced interrogation methods” including water boarding. “I would do it again in a minute”, he said. Hmmm.

Cheney’s justification seems to be that the CIA EIT targets were “bad people”. Other defenders, including Cheney, claimed important and useful information was obtained. Still others said the “lawyers” said it was ok.

Cheney put the exclamation point on it by saying President Bush was fully briefed and kept informed on a regular basis. Hmmm.

The collective defense seems to be that al Qaeda (and anyone the CIA thought was connected) were such bad people that no civil rules applied. They deserved this type of treatment. And, the Cheney-types add, these techniques prevented any further 9/11 type attacks.

I wonder where the “lawyers” were when the Bush White House was reminded that the US was a signatory to the UN Torture Treaty (signed in 1988). Within the treaty lies a definition for what acts constitute torture.

Any act by which severe pain or suffering, whether physical or mental, is intentionally inflicted on a person for such purposes as obtaining from him or a third person, information or a confession, punishing him for an act he or a third person has committed or is suspected of having committed, or intimidating or coercing him or a third person, or for any reason based on discrimination of any kind, when such pain or suffering is inflicted by or at the instigation of or with the consent or acquiescence of a public official or other person acting in an official capacity. It does not include pain or suffering arising only from, inherent in or incidental to lawful sanctions.
— Convention Against Torture, Article 1.1

I wonder what part of “severe pain or suffering” was not clear?

The Bush White House, we must remember, sought out lawyers who were amenable to their enhanced interrogation views. They struck gold (maybe I should say muck) when they hired Jonathan Yoo who wrote the infamous torture opinion (pain equivalent to organ failure was Yoo’s standard).

Regardless of what Cheney and others felt (like the risk the US was exposed to), they knowingly chose to rig the system in order to convince CIA agents to torture, Congress to look the other way, and do it in such a way that there would be deniability for senior officials including themselves.

Cheney’s actions at this time could be an attempt to rewrite history. His outburst are far more likely aimed at minimizing any chance of prosecution by the Justice Department.

There is nothing in this issue that is Democrat or Republican, or Progressive or Conservative in nature. This is more about Libertarianism versus Authoritarianism. This is about clever leaders rigging the system so they could flaunt what ever rules they pleased, for what ever reasons they had.

Dick Cheney belongs to the Dr Strangelove era where the world was divided into white hats and black hats.

What is even more disheartening is a quote attributed to Supreme Court Justice Anton Scalia. He said he did not read anything in the Constitution which prevented “coercion”.

Hmmm, what a polite way to refer to torture.

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When Does Something Not New, Make News?

December 10, 2014

Yesterday’s Senate Intelligence Committee’s release of CIA interrogation abuses has provided the 7/24 news cycle with an early Christmas present. This story combines the best of everything. There is a platform for partisanship, another for pseudo patriotism, one for rewriting history, and the most important, an opportunity to reflect upon how the Government can secretly go wrong for what appear to be the right reasons. Hmmm.

Democrats want Americans to know clearly what happened under Republican President George W Bush and his Republican friends. Republicans want Americans to know that valuable information was obtained in a war time setting and that criticizing the CIA is almost treasonous.

Dick Cheney proudly put forward the words that the CIA was doing dirty work in a dirty world in their efforts to protect Americans from another 9/11. For some who have been exposed with their fingers in the cookie jar, it is a chance to “correct” the record by claiming they were acting under orders from the top.

And, those who had already known of these abuses but could not speak or write with certainty (since everything was classified), there is now a chance to explain step by step how an Administration which believed the ends justify the means could hijack the Country’s moral and ethical core.

President Bush’s naive “do what it takes” message was paid back with his subordinates not detailing what the CIA was actually doing to the President until 2006.  This was clearly an attempt at protecting the President with plausible deniability.

It was the Bush Administration who hired and then fired Justice Department counsel until they found ones who believed that extreme measures (maybe short of drawing and quartering) was legal. It was the Office of the Vice President who relentlessly pushed the CIA, NSA, and others to get results.  These “legal opinions” and subsequent classification that served as the cover to keep these programs secret and fully operational.

The Senate Intelligence Committee release of abusive CIA programs is really about much more.

In the business world, executives sometimes find also themselves in precarious situations.   Business failure endangers both shareholders and employees. Sometimes these leaders decide that instead of running harder in their assigned lane around the track, they could cut across the infield and rejoin the track way ahead of competition. In other words, these executives believe they can suspend rules of fair (and legal) play because they “need” to protect employees or shareholders.

Beginning with the likes of Dick Cheney this attitude of justifying any means if they believed the ends were important was the start of the fast track lane to failure.

Anyone is capable of this type of leadership. Only a few are capable of leading successfully while playing by the rules.

Given the political partisan nature of the US today, it is very unlikely that prosecutions will follow. And if the prosecutions were limited to the “few bad apples” as in the Abu Greive debacle, then I would not want to see the lower operatives punished and their chain of command retire in luxury.

I wonder how long this report will last in the 7/24 news cycle?

Democratic Delusions

June 19, 2009

When the subject is passing spending authorizations, or potentially reigning in the health care cash cow, the full attention of both parties is stage front and center. And why not, each Congressmen will need the monetary favor of those who will either benefit from or be penalized by these pieces of legislation. It is therefore even more disheartening to see Congress, lead by Democrats, looking the other way on efforts to close Guantanamo Detention Facility sooner rather than later.

It is disturbing to think that any Congress person could not see the extreme damage Gauntanamo has inflicted upon the good name of America. It is even stranger to think that any Congress persons believe there is any connection between the release of any of those prisoners and the security of the United States. This is a false choice and Congress should recognize that.

There is today no shortage of suicide bombers or insurgents fighting in Pakistan or Afghanistan or Somalia, or a bunch more places that feed off religious extremists. There are a few detainees that probably have committed crimes worthy of extended jail sentences under International Law and these people should be tried and jailed. The rest should be returned to some other country and released. A recent Government estimate puts the number of trails probably around 50. So let’s separate issues.

The first issue is to close the book on illegal detention and extreme interrogation. Americans need to make peace with that ugly chapter. The second issue is to provide justice to those who are believed to have committed serious crimes (we need no political trials like bumbling third world dictatorships like).

Congress’s refusal to fund the closure of Guantanamo and placing restrictive language concerning potential actions by the Obama Administration into legislation is very difficult to understand. Deftly the Democratic lead Congress is giving credibility to George W Bush policies that have blackened the reputation of America. What are they thinking?

What Is It About Due Process People Don’t Understand?

May 22, 2009

Imagine in World War II (the last time the US was in a Constitutionally declared war), German or Japanese soldiers were captured on the battle field. The prisoners were sent to secure holding areas, processed for name, rank and serial number (and whatever other information that could be gotten without torture) and then placed in makeshift prisons. At the end of the declared war, they were released,  End of story.

There were no hearings or special charges and court trials. These were prisoners, captured on the battle field and held as enemy combatants. There were others, Germans, Japanese, and other nationalities, who were also detained on the suspicion that these individuals were engaged in espionage. Following interrogation these people were brought before appropriate courts and tried under crimes already defined in law.

Fast forward to the present. The US is holding about 200 detainees in Guantanamo and has held these individuals there for over 6 years, most without any charges. The Military Commissions which were created to try them resembles the court system of third rate dictatorships where hearsay, withheld information, and denial of adequate defense measures are the defining elements. The Government defense for all this is that terrorists are not your usual enemy.

The logic of this sad situation is completely lacking. There is no Declaration of War and there have been no defined boarders upon which any military action is taking place. Detainees have been gathered by many sources in addition to those captured by the US. Without a doubt among the detainees are individuals who have plotted, conspired, or carried out crimes against the US home land. For many others, who may hate the US or be willing to follow the instructions of their religious leaders blindly (including doing harm to Americans and American interests), they were simply in the wrong place at the wrong time. How fragile our Countries values and judicial system must be if we are too worried about sorting out those who deserve prison time form those who don’t.

Yesterday we were treated to a theater of the absurd. President Barack Obama gave a mostly positive and spirited defense of changes his Administration has made to the Gauntanamo situation. At the point when you were almost ready to stand, applaud, and cheer for a return to our Countries historic values, President Obama reiterated the Government’s right to hold people without charges. You can’t be half pregnant.

While we were being encouraged and disappointed listening to the President, former Vice President Dick Cheney gave the Country the perfect example of why due process is so important. Standing before cameras and a live audience, Cheney proceeded to reassert the Government’s right to both hold people without charge (suspicion was sufficient) and on top of that to torture in an effort to obtain information. Cheney rested his case on the foundation that all these transgressions of the Constitution were done to protect Americans. (Cheney, of course saw no transgressions and claimed all of these actions were in the prerogative of the President.)

The Greeks, centuries ago, boasted the world first Democracy in Athens. When Athenians were threatened by the Persian and the Spartans, they freely empowered their leader with extraordinary powers. They reasoned that in those difficult times they would be better off if their leader stood beyond their assemblies and were free to decide all matters. They called this person with new powers a Tyrant. Over time we have come to learn that Tyrants are not temporary and freedom is not returned to the people freely. Tyrants develop blind spots about the rights of others and ultimately see the world as for or against them personally. Dick Cheney showed us yesterday what a modern day Tyrant looks and sounds like.


Nancy Forget-cy

May 17, 2009

The present drama surrounding what the CIA did say to Nancy Pelosi in 2002 briefings with respect to newly introduced “enhanced interrogation” techniques is a sad event to watch. It is not sad because the Speaker of the House might, at best, be confused or, at the worst, simply lying. Speaker Pelosi denies having been told that the CIA was authorized and was using waterboarding in the early days after 9/11 and just before the invasion and occupation of Iraq. The CIA says she was.  The sadness arises from the realization that Speaker Pelosi was not the only person who received these briefings and no one said anything to oppose the Government’s program.

Looking forward, one line of reasoning is that Ms Pelosi’s memory lapses can only be clarified with a Truth and Reconciliation Commission. With a commission, all sorts of inquiries can be made and a more accurate picture of the workings of the Bush/Cheney White House could be set before America. Republicans are dead set against any “truth” commissions and are having a field day pointing out the inconsistancies in Pelosi’s statements. It is simply amazing that the media continues to watch the wrong ball.

The issue should not be whether Ms Pelosi was or not told, or whether she objected when told or not. The real issue is that no one (and Republicans were the majority at that time) objected, especially when there was time to effect the future. Congress failed all Americans, and most of the media were complicit with them in their silence.

The historic success of the US Government has been the values it was built upon and the balance of power that worked to correct any trends that moved the balance of power to one branch versus the others.  Speaker Pelosi’s forgetfulness is a shame but it is a widely held shame.

Human Care or Health Rights?

May 16, 2009

Consider me simple. I see water boarding or any other form of torture as not consistant with the values I understand America was founded upon. At the same time, I can not understand how it is ok to look the other way when 40 million Americans go without healthcare coverage and the Government says that Medicare will go bust within 20 years. So with the prevailing view that Congress can not process both issues at the same time, what should we be for, Human rights or Healthcare reform, and why not both?

The Obama Administration seems very much committed to changing the dial on both healthcare and human rights. This commitment appears genuine and sincere, and not driven by external political pressure. Strangely, I think Obama’s position on human rights abuses, like waterboarding, is also a firm commitment of conscience. The problem is, can the Obama Administration fit both through the eye of the (congressional) needle at the same time?

Without a more responsible Republican minority, there is no chance to accomplish both at the same time. Normally one would think that Republicans would repel against healthcare reform. But the opposing need (renounciation of the interrogation extremes) appears too difficult for the Republicans to handle and Obama going easy on those who espoused extreme interrogation methods might result in a bit more support for a healthcare revamp.

Any Obama led Government investigation into abuses of the executive branch, and specifically into exaggerated the interrogation methods, will raise all sorts of partisan defenses. Instead of a healthy and purifying investigation of whether the executive had gone to far, the political winds will blow in the direction of looking the other way. But Obama has the political backing and intelligence to overcome this and make a positive step back towards the balanced form of Governement we all recall from our history books. Never the less one is left with the belief that Obama is so committed to health care reform that anything and everything can take second place.

For sure politics is a game of timing. Heros and heroic action are persons or deeds who/that result from trying to do the right thing regardless of the political winds. In the real world, it seems, one must give up one in order to make progress on the other. The current indicators suggest that President Obama will try his best to forego any investigation of the George W Bush Administration’s “enhanced interrogation” and even more important, how the decisions that lead to the invasion and occupation of Iraq took place.

For my two cents, these are two issues that should be pursued forcefully. The weeks ahead will indicate whether President Obama will sacrifice human rights for ability to focus on health care.


He Doth Protest Too Much…

May 11, 2009

Former Vice President Dick Cheney spoke out again on national TV this weekend and continued his theme defending the Bush Administration’s use of torture and the indefinite use of the Guantanamo detention facility. One is tempted to assign a motive to Cheney’s repeat of things he has said before but many caution that no one can really know someone else’s motives.  Here’s what he said:

  • Cheney strongly recommended against transferring Guantanamo detainees to the US (mainland) because it would expand their legal rights. If there was any question about Cheney’s views on the humanity of the detainees, that mystery should be completely erased. One can certainly deplore the behaviors and actions of those detained, and they may in fact deserve some form of punishment, but no place in civilized history is denying a person his humanity a just retribution.
  • Cheney feels that disclosing the torture memos, and more importantly forbidding its use, has made the US more vulnerable to terrorist. In addition to US law that forbids torture, the US is also a signer of the Geneva Convention that explicitly outlaws its use. If torture suddenly is ok, why not germ warfare or killing the relatives of a detainee if the purpose is to obtain intelligence and protect America?
  • Cheney said his speaking out was to provide balance to news reports and provide someone who was telling the truth. This is by far the most puzzling of Cheney’s statements. Detaining people 6+ years without any charges and providing no open and recognizable trial process are tactics we normally expect from authoritarian countries like Russia, North Korea, Iran, and Syria. In those countries, people simply disappear.

Through out this entire sad time, Cheney has lead the Bush Administration chorus in a song titled, “the ends justify the means” with a special verse that adds, “especially if the President says it is ok”. For the sake of our Democracy and rule of laws, we must stomp out this modern day tyrant. We should insist our Congressmen deny President Obama these prerogatives and the best way to do that is to indict Vice President Cheney for violating US law.