A Man with a Flashlight

Small war, big fear

Two former Reagan appointees notice an odd difference between today’s Permanent Emergency (popularly labeled the War on Terror) and World War Two and Vietnam:

To date in the war on terrorism, including the victims of the Sept. 11 attacks and all U.S. military personnel killed in action in Afghanistan and Iraq, America’s losses total about 2 percent of the forces we lost in World War II and less than 7 percent of those killed in Vietnam. Yet we did not find it necessary to compromise our honor or abandon our commitment to the rule of law to defeat Nazi Germany or imperial Japan, or to resist communist aggression in Indochina. On the contrary, in Vietnam — where we both proudly served twice — America voluntarily extended the protections of the full Geneva Convention on prisoners of war to Viet Cong guerrillas who, like al-Qaeda, did not even arguably qualify for such protections.

I have seen remarkably little discussion of how this happened. In fact I cannot, at the moment, recall reading a single explanation of why, after shouldering the bitter weight of World War Two with such aplomb, and maintaining our principles, if not our winning streak, in Vietnam – what caused us to lose our nerve now, and to condone such desperate, doomed solutions from our President?

Are we simply spoiled? Has sixty years of wealth and comfort made us so desperate to avoid a fight that we will give up honor, if only we can buy a little more time, and be saved from death?

That is Bush’s bargain: betray the principles of our fathers, and I will give you safety from death. Let those take it who will, but forgive me if I don’t have the stomach for it.

“His great virtue and his weakness”
June 30, 2007, 9:07 am
Filed under: Hell, Let's Call it Torture, Politics, The War on Terror

I just finished part 2 of the Washington Post’s Cheney profile. Read it if you have any interest in understanding the mindset of an American who comes to embrace torture – and understand it we must, if we are resolved to begin the long and hard work of removing this stain from our honor.

It is striking to me that the torture crowd paints themselves as the realists in this debate. I submit that the entire foundation of their argument rests on a singular fantasy – the fantasy that if we just try hard enough, and compromise enough of our core values, we can ensure that Americans will be safe from another terrorist attack. If you believe this then all else follows. It means our historical disdain (and proud disdain) for torture is meaningless. It means the public interest in privacy and protection from government scrutiny is a bygone. And it may come to mean many other things, to our lasting regret. This fantasy – this dangerous fantasy – can justify anything, and it will, until we give it up for good.

My opposition to torture is not idealistic, it is realistic. I know – though of course I wish it were otherwise – that any government’s promise of security is hollow. When politicians bring us their sweet offers of safety – think Rudy Giuliani – I see the shrewd self-interest that lies beneath their reassuring strength. When has a politican ever won office by telling people what they do not want to admit? We are being targeted by killers, and they are bent on murder, and we can not stop all of them. That is the truth, and we can “double Guantanamo,” as Mitt Romney bravely suggests, and it will make no difference.

This is not defeatism; I believe we can defeat the jihadists, and we must. But show me the terrorist movement or insurgency that was defeated by torturing those who were captured. Show me one. You will find no examples of this, only examples of the opposite; movements which were fueled by oppression, and strengthened by it, and given the one thing we should find most repugnant to give them: a sense of justification.

We can never hope to erase the risk of attack, but it is completely within our power to uphold the traditions of democracy. Bush and Cheney notwithstanding, limits to the power of kings are an enduring monument of our civilization. That achievement probably took more toil than erecting the pyramids. Unlike the pyramids, it passes on a sweet benefit to every new generation, for as long as we can find the strength to honor and defend it. Also unlike the pyramids, it is being dismantled.

Susan Aldous interview, part 3
June 2, 2007, 2:32 pm
Filed under: Hell, Let's Call it Torture, The East, Undiscovered writers

The last round of questions with our favorite Thai prison activist. Read Part 1 and Part 2. And check out Susan’s new book. It’s an eye-opening look at prison life in Thailand and the redemptive power of helping others.

Dear Susan,

Very sorry to take so long with the last set of questions, it’s been a hectic week or two. I know you’re very busy right now with the launch and your work, so please answer at your leisure and I’ll throw it up on the website. Thanks so much for taking the time to have this conversation, I’ve quite enjoyed it, and I hope my five readers have as well. Here we go:

Hi there Jonathan,

Yes, I know the feeling—hectic past few weeks that is—anyway here we are again, you, me and the gang of five, how fun and I too have really enjoyed chatting! One of my favorite pastimes!

You were inspired to give your life to service when you converted to Christianity, and you write that at times you hear a voice that guides you. Is it God? An inner voice? Or what? And how much do you rely on that voice?

The inner voice is definitely a God thing. Sometimes the voice is angels or spirit helpers and at other times it’s Jesus and the big Guy Himself. Sometimes it’s a combination of all those along with the gift of women’s intuition and discernment that comes from tuning into God’s voice and life’s experiences. God broadcasts all the time, it’s just up to us to set our receiver to the right channel.

I rely on the direction-giving, life-changing and miracle-producing radio broadcasts as if they were my lifesaver in the sea of madness. Cannot do any of what I do without the transmissions …

The only credit I take for any other inner voices are the dark, let’s-not-go-there thoughts, which I do have to battle as most of us do daily. You know the self-defeating type of dialogues that we have with ourselves telling us that we should not attempt the impossible etc. I have to shut this kind of communication down by retuning to the Love Channel.

Human rights abuse is a problem all over the world. As an American I am angry that my own government is now practicing torture and worsening the problem. However, from a viewpoint of human rights, many Asian countries don’t compare well with the west. Burma, North Korea, and China are the famous examples, but even in Japan – a developed country with a large middle class – the police have broad powers, suspects do not have the right to an attorney, and the conviction rate per crime committed is over 90%, which makes one wonder if all those convictions are accurate.

Speaking from your experience in Thailand, does Asia have a particular problem in the area of human rights, and if so, why do you think that is?

Definitely a huge problem! In my opinion, the causes are many.

Life is cheap; a disregard for life can be a common mindset. For example, your Karma got you into it so you’re going to have to get yourself out by suffering through and hopefully you can change your destiny to something better. If you were crippled, mentally retarded, orphaned or a criminal you were in the same basket say 20 years ago in Thailand. You were suffering because you were in some sort of pay back mode for past bad actions. This is slowly changing thankfully and I see compassion starting to win out over indifference. Perhaps folk are being a bit more proactive in trying to create good Karma by showing mercy to those in need. Westernization is also responsible and Amnesty reports, books written by former inmates etc too. The changes in institutions have been huge and that is a credit to the Thais as well—I am always amazed when I see the differences in places I visited or worked at years ago compared to how they are at present.

Prisons have improved a great deal, but they are still closed affairs and there is a huge way to go. Additionally, there is much farther to go when it comes to the legal system, especially the court system and lack of concern for the individual. As with Japan, most likely, the big guy is ALWAYS right.

Corruption and greed is rife in Thailand and the west does not set a good example nor do they demand changes as usually our countries want only economic returns. So life may be cheap for us too…

If you are a lowly paid government officer, corruption is easy to succumb to even at the expense of someone else’s life. But, what is our excuse as so called “enlightened” western societies, the supposed bastions of democracy and equality? We are worse because we know better.

I find it interesting that religion played such a large role in your life, yet you write that going to church doesn’t interest you. Do you feel that organized religion falls short of the ideals of Christianity?

My faith is my foundation for my life and all I do, but that does not come from an organized form of religion…sort of a more Jesus, live-the-love-life-style of worship. Walk your talk, live it, do it, don’t preach it. It’s very intimate, passionate and it’s extremely motivating.

My kind of Jesus, if He were in human form on earth today, would take me for a whirl on His Harley and we’d go for long moon lit walks on the beach as we discussed how to better the lives of those that I am put in touch with, plus He’d take time to answer my deepest questions etc. Sort of how it is right now, minus the Harley actually…ha!

Believe me, I respect whatever form of worship folk chose to take, but for me the big money-making hypocritical form of go to church on Sunday to be ‘seen’ doesn’t light my fire. Sometimes I feel closer to God sitting on the floors of some filthy holding cell with open toilets, violent criminals and withdrawing addicts.

So much evil has been committed in the name of God, which I believe to be political power plays rather than true religion. Anne Lamont said in one of her books when referring to some horrid situation, ‘it’s enough to make Jesus want to drink straight gin out of a cat bowl!’ Sometimes when I see man’s inhumanity to man, I am tempted to ask Him to sit down and share the cat bowl with me, and make it a double…

If I did not have faith, could not pray and did not believe that there is a God of Love, I could not bare the things that I constantly see. One day it’ll all come out good in the wash though!

Where would you be today if you hadn’t come to Thailand?

Geesh, that’s a tough one!

Can’t really say, because what was meant to be fell into place as I was swept along in destinies current. However, if I was given a carte blanche, go wherever you want, do whatever you want, no holds barred, no expenses spared, I’d probably use Thailand as a base and hit the road and do the world big time. Perhaps when my daughter is older, settled and if I still feel the same way, I most likely will let my inner gypsy child take over.

Must say though, I feel with my work, constancy of purpose is what makes it effective, so would keep the base here, keep on with the work and then make short forays into other countries and do projects. Somewhat similar to the things I have done in the past in the surrounding countries, but further abroad and a bit more exotic and with greater impact.

If for some reason, I cannot remain in Thailand, I would love to move to Latin America. In many ways I feel more suited to the Latin way of life, but this is the plot I have been given to work with for now. One day at a time, this takes me to the next question…

What goals do you have that remain unfinished? What is ahead for you?

On the personal front: I want to see my daughter grow up and find her niche in life. She is incredibly talented and writes amazingly well, so maybe that’s her thing. Who knows, but we are on one amazing journey to find out.

Take a real holiday.

I love to study, so most likely will do some more of that when the right doors open.

Take a real holiday.

I would like to establish a more stable financial base.

Take a real holiday.

Dare I say it? Perhaps even fall in love again.

Take a real holiday…it’d be nice to even be able to conceptualize what a real holiday looks like at least.

Take a real holiday! Did I already say that?

Improve my Thai and perhaps even learn how to spell in English. The first, being a more achievable goal and then take a holiday.

Work wise: I want to continue working towards seeing the death penalty abolished and working standardized prisoner exchange treaties globally in place. Also, fair treatment for the incarcerated, mentally ill and whoever suffers due to lack of love and justice!

Yeah, yeah, I know I sound like Miss Congeniality’s Sandra Bullock’s antithesis. And with such goals in mind, there goes the holiday! Better to wear out than rust out at least.

Currently, I am having a part in creating two new books. One is giving a voice to Thailand’s Ladyboys and the second is the story of a male sex worker, which all play into some of my outreach programs. This has been extremely interesting and a real learning curve for me, more to come I am sure.

I just want to keep on doing what I am doing, and keep on loving it as much as I do and I am very open to whatever form it all may take as time moves along.

I am satisfied enough to be content and dissatisfied enough to keep on reaching out to accomplish more.

Something that I really love about my life is that no matter what horrid things, difficulties or obstacles happen, I can always eventually reframe them and use them to empathize with those who are in need of encouragement or answers.

I look forward to the future with great hope and expectancy.

Thanks and best wishes,


Thank you too Jonathan, all the best!

Shine bright!


Hugs and kisses to you and the Famous FIVE…

“Dusty” Susan Dustin
P.O. Box 33 Suanyai Post Office
Nonthaburi Thailand 11003

Many thanks to Susan. I wish you luck both in love and in abolishing the death penalty. Keep up the lovely work. Cheers!

Two U.S. laws
May 19, 2007, 12:28 pm
Filed under: Hell, Let's Call it Torture, Politics

that the President might want to consider his own exposure to.

TITLE 18 > PART I > CHAPTER 113C > § 2340A

§ 2340A. Torture

(a) Offense.— Whoever outside the United States commits or attempts to commit torture shall be fined under this title or imprisoned not more than 20 years, or both, and if death results to any person from conduct prohibited by this subsection, shall be punished by death or imprisoned for any term of years or for life.
(b) Jurisdiction.— There is jurisdiction over the activity prohibited in subsection (a) if—
(1) the alleged offender is a national of the United States; or
(2) the alleged offender is present in the United States, irrespective of the nationality of the victim or alleged offender.
(c) Conspiracy.— A person who conspires to commit an offense under this section shall be subject to the same penalties (other than the penalty of death) as the penalties prescribed for the offense, the commission of which was the object of the conspiracy.

TITLE 18 > PART I > CHAPTER 118 > § 2441

§ 2441. War crimes

(a) Offense.— Whoever, whether inside or outside the United States, commits a war crime, in any of the circumstances described in subsection (b), shall be fined under this title or imprisoned for life or any term of years, or both, and if death results to the victim, shall also be subject to the penalty of death.
(b) Circumstances.— The circumstances referred to in subsection (a) are that the person committing such war crime or the victim of such war crime is a member of the Armed Forces of the United States or a national of the United States (as defined in section 101 of the Immigration and Nationality Act).
(c) Definition.— As used in this section the term “war crime” means any conduct—
(1) defined as a grave breach in any of the international conventions signed at Geneva 12 August 1949, or any protocol to such convention to which the United States is a party;
(2) prohibited by Article 23, 25, 27, or 28 of the Annex to the Hague Convention IV, Respecting the Laws and Customs of War on Land, signed 18 October 1907;
(3) which constitutes a violation of common Article 3 of the international conventions signed at Geneva, 12 August 1949, or any protocol to such convention to which the United States is a party and which deals with non-international armed conflict; or
(4) of a person who, in relation to an armed conflict and contrary to the provisions of the Protocol on Prohibitions or Restrictions on the Use of Mines, Booby-Traps and Other Devices as amended at Geneva on 3 May 1996 (Protocol II as amended on 3 May 1996), when the United States is a party to such Protocol, willfully kills or causes serious injury to civilians.

Obama: close Guantanamo and restore Habeas Corpus
May 12, 2007, 10:36 am
Filed under: Hell, Let's Call it Torture, Politics

“We need to bring to a close this sad chapter in American history, and begin a chapter that passes the might of our military to the freedom of our diplomacy and the power of our alliances. And while we are at it, we can close down Guantanamo and we can restore habeas corpus and we can lead with our ideas and our values.”
Barack Obama, Richmond, VA, May 8th

Yes, yes, yes
May 11, 2007, 12:20 am
Filed under: Hell, Let's Call it Torture, Politics

So how about it Senators Clinton and Obama? You too John Edwards. It’s not your vote yet, but you could sure tell us where you stand on what should be the least controversial topic of our time: respect for habeas corpus (a well established principle in the Western tradition since…the freakin’ Magna Carta!). If you can’t spine up about that, what good are you.

-Eric Martin of American Footprints.

Not much good at all, if they can’t. Frankly, and I am speaking as a liberal, on this subject I have more faith in John McCain’s credentials (remember it was McCain who passed the bill forbidding the military to torture) than any democrat running. I would be happy to learn otherwise.

Who is Ron Paul?
May 5, 2007, 2:23 am
Filed under: Hell, Let's Call it Torture, Politics, The War on Terror

I had never heard of this guy until the Republican primary debate the other night. Not that I watched that (it wasn’t broadcast in Okinawa that I know of).

A wikipedia search later, I was reading his June 2002 speech in the House of Representatives. Impressive, I must say. Nine months after the hijackings, not many people were worrying about habeas corpus, warrantless surveillance, and the exchange of freedom for security.

If I were a Republican primary voter, I might want to pay a little more attention to a man who said these things in 2002 (italics are his):

As evidence mounts that we have achieved little in reducing the terrorist threat, more diversionary tactics will be used. The big one will be to blame Saddam Hussein for everything and initiate a major war against Iraq, which will only generate even more hatred toward America from the Muslim world.

It may be true that the average American does not feel intimidated by the encroachment of the police state. I’m sure our citizens are more tolerant of what they see as mere nuisances because they have been deluded into believing all this government supervision is necessary and helpful- and besides they are living quite comfortably, material wise. However the reaction will be different once all this new legislation we’re passing comes into full force, and the material comforts that soften our concerns for government regulations are decreased. This attitude then will change dramatically, but the trend toward the authoritarian state will be difficult to reverse.

Political propagandizing is used to get all of us to toe the line and be good “patriots,” supporting every measure suggested by the administration. We are told that preemptive strikes, torture, military tribunals, suspension of habeas corpus, executive orders to wage war, and sacrificing privacy with a weakened 4th Amendment are the minimum required to save our country from the threat of terrorism.

Who’s winning this war anyway?

Of course, I guess if I were a Republican primary voter, perhaps I wouldn’t be concerned about habeas corpus, warrantless surveillance, and the exchange of freedom for security.

Paul must feel vindicated by the events of the last five years, and he should.

I wonder, though, if there’s room for him in the Republican party. Even after six years of Bush, the police state movement within the Republicans is in rude health. Witness Rudy Giuliani.

And the Democrats? They give these issues lip service, but I wonder what they will deliver. Take the example of Guantanamo: John McCain and Robert Gates, the defense secretary, have both supported closing it, an obvious and largely symbolic step. Clinton, Obama, and Edwards haven’t yet, as far as I know. So let me take it back: they don’t even give lip service to some of these issues.

There is so much to be repaired, and so far, none of the big-time candidates for president seem to have an appetite to begin the healing process. How many years will it take to roll back the damage of the Bush administration?

The right vs. the left on terror
May 4, 2007, 1:38 pm
Filed under: Hell, Let's Call it Torture, The War on Terror

Andrew Sullivan on the Republican presidential debate:

Conservatism now means simply projecting something called “strength” rather than articulating something called strategy. On the question of thinking through the lessons of Iraq, they seemed frozen. On the question of Iran, they never seemed to include any understanding of what constraints Iraq has placed on us. Just bomb them and kill them and we’ll “win”.

All this is true, but the Republican position on the War on Terror would still be superior to the Democratic position, if not for one thing: torture. Torture could lead to us losing the struggle, and it is about the only thing which could.

Yes, for the moment America’s military and industrial strength has no rival, and that is a necessary component of the leadership position in the world we have enjoyed since the great war. But it was never sufficient by itself. It was essential that we had won the admiration of the world, quite rightly, by standing for freedom, first against Hitler and then against the Soviet Union.

Too many Americans these days see our military strength, and our global stature, and think that one flows necessarily from the other. They forget that America became the leader of the free world by the free world’s consent, indeed its demand.

Dismiss it as touchy-feely, liberal mysticism. But the fact remains that our strength flows from our ideas; we lead the world because we inspired it. Are we inspiring it today? And will we lead tomorrow?

Dana Rohrabacher (R-CA): We do torture
May 2, 2007, 2:36 am
Filed under: Hell, Let's Call it Torture, Politics, The War on Terror

It may make you pinch yourself and wonder if you’re dreaming, but yes, this is a Republican congressman admitting that America tortures, and defending the same. On record, at a hearing, in the Capitol.

Unlike George Bush, Dick Cheney, and George Tenet, Rohrabacher has the respect for himself to defend the position he actually holds, instead of a twisted fiction.

Frankly, his arguments are weighty. I don’t see any way to rebut him, unless you are willing to say that in a free society, sometimes we must place freedom above individual security. And that is my position.

“Come on, George.”

George Tenet is asked about “enhanced interrogation.” Nod to Andrew Sullivan.

“The image that’s been portrayed is, we sat around the campfire and said, ‘Oh, boy, now we go get to torture people.’ Well, we don’t torture people. Let me say that again to you. We don’t torture people. Okay?” Tenet says.

“Come on, George,” Pelley says.

“We don’t torture people,” Tenet maintains.

“Khalid Sheikh Mohammad?” Pelley asks.

“We don’t torture people,” Tenet says.

“Water boarding?” Pelley asks.

“We do not – I don’t talk about techniques,” Tenet replies.

“It’s torture,” Pelley says.

“And we don’t torture people. Now, listen to me. Now, listen to me. I want you to listen to me,” Tenet says. “The context is it’s post-9/11. I’ve got reports of nuclear weapons in New York City, apartment buildings that are gonna be blown up, planes that are gonna fly into airports all over again. Plot lines that I don’t know – I don’t know what’s going on inside the United States. And I’m struggling to find out where the next disaster is going to occur. Everybody forgets one central context of what we lived through. The palpable fear that we felt on the basis of the fact that there was so much we did not know.”

“I know that this program has saved lives. I know we’ve disrupted plots,” Tenet says.

“But what you’re essentially saying is some people need to be tortured,” Pelley remarks.

“No, I did not say that. I did not say that,” Tenet says.

“You’re telling me that… the enhanced interrogation…” Pelley says.

“I did not say that. I did not say that. We do not tor…. Listen to me. You’re, you’re making…,” Tenet says.

“You call it in the book, ‘enhanced interrogation,'” Pelley remarks.

“…an assumption. Well, that’s what we call it,” Tenet says.

“And that’s a euphemism,” Pelley says.

“I’m not having a semantic debate with you. I’m telling you what I believe,” Tenet says.

Asked if anyone ever died in the interrogation program, Tenet says, “No.”

Asked if he’s sure of that, the former director tells Pelley, “Yeah. In this program that you and I are talking about? No.”

“Have you ever seen any of these interrogations done?” Pelley asks.

“No,” Tenet replies.

“Didn’t you feel like it was your responsibility to know what’s going on?” Pelley asks.

“I understood. I’m not a voyeur. I understand what I was signing off on,” Tenet says.

Asked if he lost any sleep over it, Tenet tells Pelley, “Yeah, of course you do! Of course you lose sleep over it. You’re on new territory. But that’s not the point! What’s this tension? The tension is, ‘I’ve just lived through 3,000 people dying. This is not a clinical exercise.’ Maybe for you guys it’s a clinical exercise. Not for me! 3,000 people died. Friends died. Now I’m gonna sit back, and then everybody says, ‘You idiots don’t know how to connect the dots. You don’t have imagination. You were unwilling to take risk to protect this country,'” Tenet says.

America is torturing people, as Tenet knows. If he thinks that’s right, why not come out and say it?

Tenet, the President, and the Vice-president know, and they are lying. It’s overwhelmingly obvious that their lies are well-prepared, not an ad hoc response. They know the question will be asked. They clearly have a rationalization of why they are allowed to speak falsely, and it is probably the same one: My lie serves the country.

And of course, being intelligent people, they have another voice inside, telling them: If I speak the truth, I may be held accountable for what I have done.

Notice the similarity between the President’s language and Tenet’s: “We do not torture,” and “We don’t torture people.” Unequivocal, bold, and obviously intended to decieve. It is as though they hope the very boldness of the lie will sow confusion.

Isn’t the point of America that no lie can serve it? Aren’t we the followers of a way of life which speaks for itself, which needs no deceit to defend it? No, in the opinion of our President, and our Vice-President, we are not. We are a regime just like any other, which must torture, lie, and go to any length to perpetuate its own control.

Precedents exist for prosecuting former heads of state for crimes committed during tenure. And a law without enforcement is no law at all.

The Age of Torture
April 17, 2007, 1:33 am
Filed under: Hell, Let's Call it Torture, The War on Terror

Now we have the first two transcripts, and the results are exactly that. The torture is cut out. The case of al-Nashiri is particularly striking:

PRESIDENT (of the tribunal): Please describe the methods that were used.

DETAINEE: (CENSORED) What else do I want to say? (CENSORED) There were doing so many things. What else did they did? (CENSORED) After that another method of torture began. (CENSORED) They used to ask me questions and the investigator after that used to laugh. And, I used to answer the answer that I knew. And if I didn’t replay what I heard, he used to (CENSORED).

Now let’s consider—would there be any need to censor the allegations unless they are true? No. Indeed, the fact that they are censored should be taken as an admission.

-Scott Horton, in an NYU speech you owe it to yourself to read. (Nod to Andrew Sullivan.) As Horton points out, we have a responsibility in this time to preserve evidence. Someday, God willing not far off, it will be valuable.

Gonzales’ response to Leahy
April 14, 2007, 11:09 am
Filed under: Hell, Let's Call it Torture, The Imperial President

Also from the same hearing.

We understand what our legal obligations are with respect to when someone is either removed, extradicted, or rendered to another country. We understand what our obligations are under the convention against torture. And we do take the steps to make sure that those obligations are being met.”

Like a bedpan left out all night, Gonzales manages to be both tepid and full of shit.

Yes, they do need to be told.
April 14, 2007, 11:03 am
Filed under: Hell, Let's Call it Torture, Politics

Leahy to Gonzales, from that hearing in the last post:

It is beneath the dignity of this country, a country which has always been a beacon for human rights, to send somebody to another country to be tortured.

We’re a country with a great tradition of protecting individual liberties and rights. You take an oath of office to do that. I take an oath of office to do that.

You really need to start with the ABCs when you talk to these people, don’t you?

It can be hard to know what to say in the torture debate. Not because the evidence of our country’s history and traditions doesn’t unequivocally reject it. But because this is so evident that being forced to say it is awkward and surreal.

Well, we are forced to say it. And they do need to be told. That’s our vision of America. Now let’s hear theirs.

How the democratic party won my vote
April 14, 2007, 10:11 am
Filed under: Hell, Let's Call it Torture

The Democrats are no bed of roses. They harbor a weird strain of third-world romanticism which leads them to foolish appraisals of Israel. They don’t really know where they want to go with foreign policy. Many of them believe in erecting barriers to trade. They have no backbone to tackle should-be high priorities like the failed war on drugs and our ridiculous policy on gays in the military. And they gave us political correctness, which is a crock of shit.

But apparently only a Democrat was capable of saying this. Until a Republican can, they have little chance of getting my vote.

How Alberto Gonzales finds the chutzpah to refuse to answer a senator’s questions is beyond me.

Did Bush order mock executions?
April 11, 2007, 10:00 am
Filed under: Hell, Let's Call it Torture, The Imperial President

And if so, is he criminally liable?

This article in the Wall Street Journal describes the Guantanamo treatment of Mohamedou Ould Slahi, suspected of aiding the 9/11 hijackers. (Nod to Andrew Sullivan)

The independently corroborated treatment of Mr. Slahi includes death threats:

…a masked interrogator told Mr. Slahi he had dreamed of watching detainees dig a grave… The interrogator said he saw “a plain, pine casket with [Mr. Slahi’s] identification number painted in orange lowered into the ground.

The threat to have his mother raped:

He gave the prisoner a forged memorandum indicating that Mr. Slahi’s mother was being shipped to Guantanamo, and that officials had concerns about her safety as the only woman amid hundreds of male prisoners…

And mock execution:

Two men took a shackled, blindfolded Mr. Slahi to a boat for a journey into the waters of Guantanamo Bay. The hour-long trip apparently led Mr. Slahi to think he was to be killed and, in fear, he urinated in his pants.

Mr. Slahi also claims he was beaten, sexually humiliated, and subjected to extreme temperatures. I wouldn’t necessarily credit everything he says, but one does note that these techniques have a familiar ring.

Who gave the orders? Lt. Col. V. Stuart Couch, assigned to prosecute Mr. Slahi, realized that he had been tortured and refused to proceed. The chief prosecutor, Army Col. Bob Swann, was indignant. Their debate mentioned the president:

An impassioned debate followed, the prosecutor recalls. Col. Swann said the Torture Convention didn’t apply to military commissions. Col. Couch asked his superior to cite legal precedent that would allow the president to disregard a treaty. The meeting ended when Col. Swann asked the prosecutor to turn over the Slahi files so the case could be reassigned, Col. Couch recalls.

It seems likely that someday, perhaps soon, we will know who was responsible for this. The truth will out. Torture cannot be allowed to stand. And we will have to decide what to do about it, legally speaking.

Oh yeah, one more thing…
April 7, 2007, 3:33 pm
Filed under: Hell, Let's Call it Torture, Politics

That article also says Giuliani “backs intense interrogation of suspects, though not torture.” And on Guantanamo, he says,

There is a Greek maxim: Moderation is the answer to everything, and any extreme is bad,” he said. “I haven’t been to Guantánamo. I can’t judge Guantánamo.”

I’m going to go out on a limb here and say that Giuliani wants to torture prisoners but he knows Americans won’t vote for him if he calls it that. So it would seem he has put together a focus group and they liked the word intense instead. What is an “intense” interrogation method anyway? Is it like what an FBI agent observed at Guantanamo in 2002?

In another incident that month, interrogators wrapped a bearded prisoner’s head in duct tape “because he would not stop quoting the Koran,” according to an FBI agent, the documents show.

Hey, man, remember that time you wrapped my head in duct tape because I quoted the Koran? Yeah, man, that was intense.

Giuliani is a tragedy-miner, and he dodges the issue of Guantanamo. Hey, leadership material !

Democrats begin to redeem themselves…
March 31, 2007, 8:20 pm
Filed under: Hell, Let's Call it Torture, Politics

Somehow I missed this. There are currently two bills before congress which would make the executive accountable for unlawful detention and restore habeas corpus.

The Restoring the Constitution Act of 2007 would restore detainees’ right to habeas corpus, restrict the definition of ‘unlawful combatant’ to the 9/11 plotters and fighters actually on the battlefield, and, according to the ACLU’s summary here, forbid confessions under torture in proceedings against detainees and prevent the executive from rewriting torture laws.

The Habeas Corpus Restoration Act seems to be a sort of Restoring the Constitution Act Lite – it would simply repeal the provisions of the Military Commissions Act of 2006 which removed habeas corpus.

The bills were sponsored by Christopher Dodd (D-CT) and Arlen Specter (R-PA) in the Senate, and Jerrold Nadler (D-NY) in the house. Is it a New England thing?

Amend the law. Then close Guantanamo. It’s a democracy thing.

Closing Guantanamo – the case against
March 31, 2007, 7:12 pm
Filed under: Hell, Let's Call it Torture, Politics

If closed, will Guantanamo’s inmates simply be vanished? Lawyers for the detainees make the case. (A 2005 article, but the question remains open, I think.)

The Washington Post calls to close it, (also old – 2006) but points out that the government is more legally accountable for prisoners there than it is for prisoners held at military bases or disappeared by the CIA.

So closing Guantanamo might disperse the problem. Hard to stop the ball once it’s rolling, isn’t it?

Something rotten in the Democratic party
March 30, 2007, 10:51 am
Filed under: Hell, Let's Call it Torture, Politics

Finally in control of congress. Finally in a position to correct the horrible moral misjudgements of the Bush administration. Finally holding the power – should they choose to use it – to close the affront to the rule of law which is Guantanamo bay – an action the necessity of which is manifestly and grossly obvious.

A newly updated list of Republicans calling for the close of Guantanamo:

John McCain
Robert Gatescurrent Bush administration secretary of defense (nod to Andrew Sullivan)

On the Democratic side, silence. John Murtha alone has worked to close it. Hillary has stated she would not close it. Obama and Edwards are silent. Am I missing anyone?

Something is rotten in the Democratic party.

Hillary: Guantanamo “not the real problem”
March 24, 2007, 2:04 pm
Filed under: Hell, Let's Call it Torture, Politics

McCain would close it. John Murtha wants to as well. (Anyone know if he’s made progress since then?)
An interviewer asks Hillary point-blank if she would close it and gets a dodge. Specifically:

I’m not going to speculate on that now. I think that’s the kind of tactical decision that has to be considered depending on what the real facts are at the time. Obviously, I feel that the administration has misfired in the way that it has refused to expedite the treatment of the individuals down in Guantanamo. And, frankly, it has relied on unreliable, hearsay evidence and we need to clean up the processes.

Then we can get to the point of what will we do with the people once we have totally considered them on the basis of legitimate concrete steps to determine whether they should be held or released. Then we can deal with the actual facility [Guantanamo] issue. That’s not the real problem. The real problem is the processes we’ve used.

Is securing the rights of prisoners, rightly accused or wrongly accused, not a liberal position? Is sending a message that we reject torture not a liberal position? Or can she afford so little challenge to her hawkish credentials that she is unable to oppose torture? As so often with Hillary, I’m left simply befuddled as to what she really believes.