Posted tagged ‘water boarding’

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?

Feinstein’s Last Hurrah

December 9, 2014

Senator Diane Feinstein, Chair Person of the Senate Intelligence Committee, is set to release a committee report on alleged CIA abuses committed in the years following 9/11. The report is said to contain incidents involving water boarding as well as other “enhanced interrogation” methods. Hmmm.

Evidence obtained by these methods is considered suspect by most interrogators and is inadmissible in both the Military Commissions and US civilian courts. Hmmm.

Why release the report and why now?

Who knows what Feinstein’s real reasons are. Pragmatically, her term as committee chair ends with this Congress in December. Since the GOP is dead against the report’s release, it is now or never.

There will be certainly nothing in the report that has not been practiced by hundreds of nations before. For some it might be comforting to know that these enhanced interrogation methods will put the US in the same company as the Catholic Church’s inquisitions, Hitler’s Gestapo, and North Korea’s brain washing techniques. Of course no one will acknowledge that association. Instead we will hear about being a patriot and protecting our country.

If the world was fair, there would have been human rights and/or war crime trials following the revelation of these enhanced interrogation methods. The buck stopped with former President George W Bush but the coterie that promulgated the ideas of ends justify means was Vice President Dick Cheney and his circle of neoconservatives. While this group always spoke of protecting America, there were in fact undermining the Constitution and the many treaties adopted over the years aimed at curbing inhumane actions by governments.

In all probability, had the Bush Administration followed the Army Code of Conduct, the Iraq invasion and occupation probably would not have taken place. Once, however, an Administration sees itself as above the Constitution, existing treaties, or simple human decency, the Government ceases to operate within the traditional checks and balances. Bad things can and usually do happen.

It is very questionable whether anything new will be revealed today. Leaks have already outlined the scope of past CIA transgressions. The inability to bring to trial the likes of Khalid Sheikh Mohammed speaks volumes about the short sightedness of the policy. Bringing it back to the public’s attention in a partisan manner may not serve the higher purpose the information could have brought.

The Bush era “neoconservative crowd” remains hidden in the shadows even today. These righteous Americans see the needs of the country from a personal best interest perspective. They are bright and intelligent, and very driven people.

The cleverly imperfect American system of government, however, allows for the change of leadership every four years and limits the President to a maximum of 8 years. Bush and Cheney were done in 2008. America is still cleaning up their mess and unfortunately will for years to come.

I am not sure whether this report will help but it is difficult to see how it will hurt.

Extraordinary Means For Extraordinary Times?

February 5, 2013

The White House released the Justice Department’s justification for drone assassination strikes.  Protecting Americans against asymmetrical terrorism tactics, the argument for drone strikes at seems reasonable.  But is this all there is to it?

Assassination is a tricky word in democratic countries.  How can a state which claims to be civilized and guided by the rule of law, undertake public executions without trial or conviction?  So most countries have a check and balance system where the executive provides evidence (normally in secret) and courts pass judgement (often secretly) allowing the operation to move forward.  Checks and balances may not get it right ever time, but they produce far fewer mistakes than what results from the absence of any review.

This is, however, precisely the problem with the Justice Department’s defense of drone assassinations.  The review process lies within the Executive branch.  Hmmm. The foxes watching the foxes.

I feel comfortable that the Obama Administration means well.  I’m sure they see drones as endangering fewer Americans and potential preventing some horrendous terrorist acts.  But President Obama and his extended executive branch colleagues are just humans like the rest of us.  Ends do not justify means.

The George W Bush administration brought us national disgrace by abrogating the Geneva Convention and employing indefinite detention and water boarding as a well regarded interrogation methods.  Detention without charges and  water boarding were wrong then and drone assassinations without specific and detailed standards confirmed by judicial review is wrong now.


The Incredible Question

May 4, 2011

The dust has not settled yet.  Osama bin Laden’s body is hardly cold.  Never the less, some cannot wait to assert that enhanced interrogation methods played a key factor in his detection and ultimate death.  What are these people thinking?  What do these people see when they look in a mirror?

Enhanced interrogation methods covers a wide range of dehumanizing techniques chosen to extract intelligence information from unwilling detainees.  In comparison to the horror of 9/11, one could feel that extreme measures seem justified.  These “terrorists” have little regard for life, why should we?

Techniques designed to inflict pain or break the detainee’s psyche carry indelible marks of who we are as a nation.  Every country has citizens who would willingly inflict pain, suffering, and even death on a captive.  All this in the name of some national purpose.  What separates some countries from others is national values and norms.  These values and norms are incorporated into law and sometimes treaties.

One enhanced technique, water boarding, has a long history of use.  It also has a long history of condemnation.  It is against US law and the Geneva Convention (of which we are a signatory).  While water boarding has many critics who doubt its efficacy, its use also denies the US moral high ground.

Enhanced interrogation should not be a Republican or Democratic issue.  I would have thought it would be against religious beliefs.  Unfortunately, the biblical “eye for an eye, tooth for a tooth” message, provides a viewpoint for some where you can drive a truck through.

Instead the use of water boarding is about ones moral and ethical make up as well as a common sense issue.    In a world of 7 billion people where the US has 300 million, we had better be advocating a globe that follows the rule of law and respects the dignity of others.  You need only look at the 20th century to see the destruction and death that has resulted from nations who disregarded human rights and the rule of law.

Those who are voicing today the virtues of enhanced interrogation are not deep thinkers.  They are those who purposely put their hands in the cookie jar, ordered or performed water boarding, and now are trying to justify their behavior.  They broke the law, no matter their intent, and should be held accountable.

Who Decides?

February 7, 2011

The political debate these days masks the real fear of conservatives and libertarians.  The debate uses a mix of patriotic sounding rhetoric.  It tells some they are the victims of the poor.  It tells others that there is no goal out of reach, providing if they could get government off their backs.  And quietly it winks at others with some wealth and asks, “do you want more wealth, or at least the ability to keep what you have, listen to me?”

The poor take your money through taxes, they say.  Government doles out one regressive regulation after another so it should be no surprise wages are low and opportunities are scarce.  The top 2% simply see no wrong in their personal values and know that if others worked as hard they too could become wealthier.

These stories are part of the grand American myth.  They over simplify or misstate the actual situation.  Most of all they do not prepare the America public for the great questions lying ahead.

The path that lead to American wealth,especially with the middle class, has ended.  The path has become so narrow that only a very few can pick their way along it.  It is not that America or Americans have necessarily done anything wrong, rather it is that we live in a more equal world.

Some would have you believe that if we do this or that, the great old days will come back.  The truth is more that if we do not do this or that, we will fall further behind.  How can taken advantage of the poor, or the sick, or the immigrant lead to a better future?  How can a better future emerge without the full support of all those living in America?

The ugly truth hidden in this rhetoric is that the wealthiest 1% are trying to convince the middle class that their lives will be better if they support protection for this same top 1% request for various tax protections.  Give me a brake.

It will be the top 1% who decide unless all Americans come to understand the world around us…  There is no free lunch and there is no pot of gold at the end of the rainbow.  Yet we are told there is.  Why?

The answer is painfully simple.  With us hoping, the top 1% will be sucking in the gravy and getting rich.

Just remember, it is the average person who decides.  Just be careful in what you believe from what you hear.  Quality of living should rise to the top.  Our current life standards are quite enjoyable.  Choosing options that help sustain this life style are more attractive than those that preach a Teddy Roosevelt rough rider approach.

Trust me, he approved water boarding.


Cheney’s Presidency

December 16, 2008

As historians sit poised to begin the detailed accounting of the Bush 43 years as President of the United States, they will find the real history in recounting who was the real power and who’s words, thoughts, and deeds were the moving force behind the Office of the President.  It would be none other than Dick Cheney.

A lot of people would have given credit to Karl Rove if the real power were not that of George W Bush himself.  To some extent Rove was a power, but his power was reserved for the gutter and the political favor business.  All important matters of State including security were the domain of Dick Cheney.  His shadow “White House” had its own intelligence effort and routed all important decision through the Office of the Vice President before letting them go on to “W”.  While Karl was waiting to trip you in the gutter, Dick waited in the dark alley way.

In recent interviews with ABC news, Cheney confirmed that he remained dead set against closing Guantanamo and had been (and still was) supportive of the enhanced interrogation techniques (read water boarding and disregard for the Geneva Convention) used by the CIA.  On the other hand, “W”, the man with no strong opinions, has recently expressed regret about Guantanamo and said he would like to see it closed.

Chaney is a modern day Captain Queeg who will stick to his beliefs until the end.  Were his beliefs a little more enlightened, that quality would be a mark of distinction and not a mark of shame.  The Cheney doctrine (the all powerful executive branch) has been shown to be both misguided and dangerous when left to real humans.  Maybe it would work with a benevolent (and wise) dictator but Dick Cheney was neither of those and “W” was too busy with jogging, biking, and having his picture taken to do the work to actually be the President.

As historians write, I hope there will be a special commission (later followed by a special prosecutor) working along side the historians.  Then history can record that a former President and his Vice President were charged and convicted of crimes against humanity and other specific crimes against the laws of the United States.