Category Archives: torture

News Dump or News Pump?

I see now why the Administration has been sitting on the CIA Inspector General’s report regarding torture enhanced interrogations.  It’s a big shiny object to dangle in front of lefties when they start getting too uppity about all the backsliding on healthcare reform.  Newsweek reports that the report will finally be released next week:

Nashiri’s interrogators brandished the gun in an effort to convince him that he was going to be shot. Interrogators also turned on a power drill and held it near him. “The purpose was to scare him into giving [information] up,” said one of the sources. A federal law banning the use of torture expressly forbids threatening a detainee with “imminent death.”

The report also says, according to the sources, that a mock execution was staged in a room next to a detainee, during which a gunshot was fired in an effort to make the suspect believe that another prisoner had been killed. The inspector general’s report alludes to more than one mock execution.

This is the report from May 2004 whose release was ordered earlier this year due to a Freedom of Information Act request by the ACLU.  They’ve been putting it off since June, supposedly to double-check the redactions of all that super-sensitive information.  More likely, the Administration decided the report was a political liability no matter what, so better to wait for a moment when it could do them some good, i.e. suck the oxygen from an uncomfortable political debate.  Or am I just being cynical?

Chuck Todd: Back-Pedaling Douche Bag…

…and Hypocrite. Maybe I’m being too harsh here but these mainstream guys who ignore the real issues are more dangerous than the fringe psychos like Beck and Coulter. People see Chuck Todd on a major news outlet and assume he has credibility, as maybe they should, since he is the Chief White House Correspondent and NBC News Political Director. Here Coach Todd draws up a nice gameplan for the Obama Administration…….

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Maybe his two titles are contradictory or at the very least I think his political role overshadows his role as a journalist and correspondent. I mean, I don’t want the guy who reports on strategy and repeats political spin to be the guy that asks the tough questions of the administration. And Todd obviously opted for the lazy route and prefers to follow party politics and political strategy rather than doing the critical thinking and reporting about what issues matter to our country.

The only important thing the president has to focus on is getting the public’s trust on the economy. Cheney, the CIA, and in some respects Sotomayor are cable catnip.

Torture is not a distraction. He needs to remind us about the atrocities carried out under the Bush and Cheney Administration and ask the Obama Administration why they don’t want prosecutions. Yes healthcare and the economy are important too but the viewing audience deserves in depth coverage of all these issues. While that may require some critical reporting on three different matters, I think he can handle it, after all he is the freaking Senior White House Correspondent and NBC News Political Director. Hell, if you want to do gameplanning, become an ESPN analyst.

Well, Glenn Greenwald has Todd on for an interview and really takes him to task for trying divert our attention from prosecuting torture and reducing torture to a matter that will only cause cable news anchors become hyper and swing their paws wildly in the air. In the interview he argues against prosecutions because they will become political theater. WELL LET THEM! If politicians or pundits want to argue against prosecuting torturers, let them! Put it on the tee vee for all to see. First and foremost we need transparency and accoutability and then let the politics fall where they may.

Todd also has the audacity to suggest that losing an election is enough punishment for crimes of torture! What is this insane logic? That means Gore suffered the same punishment as Bush because Bush allowed torture and Gore won an election???? But besides that, Bush already served two terms and could not run for reelection! I mean, there are candidates who lose elections who have never actually been president. I think Greenwald explains it best:

When, generally, if I go out and rob a bank tomorrow, what happens to me is not that I lose an election. What happens is to me is that I go to prison. So, what do you think should happen when presidents get caught committing crimes in office? What do you think ought to happen?

Then Greenwald astutely points out a second reason why Obama or any president may want to avoid prosecuting a previous president…

It’s not surprising, is it, that current presidents would like to keep in place this prohibition that we have against presidents and high government officials being prosecuted for crimes. That would make sense, right? I mean, if I were a White House official, I would love that rule, that White House officials don’t get prosecuted for crimes that…

And then Todd hypocritically feigns regret about the political side because he knows that the politics is why he gets a paycheck (If you can decipher his incoherent rambling).

And the problem is, there is a department, and you can’t, whether this, you can sit here and say, you know what, that’s exactly what’s wrong with the Beltway. But there has been this fatigue about it because the use of prosecutions has been too politicized, to the point where I think it has made it where it’s just unfortunately too easy to dismiss an investigation.

This is followed by some blatant kissing of Greenwald’s ass. So until Todd removes his lips and starts listening to Greenwald and others with the same concerns, I propose a new title. Chuck Todd: Chief White House Puppet and NBC News Gameday Analyst.

Pinko Update

The great irony in the punishment by losing and election is that McCain, the tortured POW, was the one who suffered the punishment for Bush and Cheney’s crimes of torture. Not that the torture issue was the primary reason McCain lost, but it further emphasizes how arbitrary and irrelevant Todd’s idea was.

This Vast and Worthless Area

Soon after Robert Kennedy announced his candidacy in 1968, he spoke at Kansas University. I encourage you to read the entire speech…required reading..

As I caught up on the ATH tonight, I couldn’t help thinking about RFK’s heart breaking and tragic run for the presidency. Before you read this quote, if you don’t know William Allen White, as I didn’t, please click the link so you’ll get the sarcasm.

I’m glad to come here to the home of the man who publicly wrote: “If our colleges and universities do not breed men who riot, who rebel, who attack life with all the youthful vision and vigor, then there is something wrong with our colleges. The more riots that come out of our college campuses, the better the world for tomorrow.” And despite all the accusations against me, those words were not written by me, they were written by that notorious seditionist, William Allen White. And I know what great affection this university has for him. He is an honored man today, here on your campus and around the rest of the nation. But when he lived and wrote, he was reviled as an extremist and worse. For he spoke, he spoke as he believed. He did not conceal his concern in comforting words. He did not delude his readers or himself with false hopes and with illusions. This spirit of honest confrontation is what America needs today. It has been missing all too often in the recent years and it is one of the reasons that I run for President of the United States.

For we as a people, we as a people, are strong enough, we are brave enough to be told the truth of where we stand. This country needs honesty and candor in its political life and from the President of the United States. But I don’t want to run for the presidency – I don’t want America to make the critical choice of direction and leadership this year without confronting that truth. I don’t want to win support of votes by hiding the American condition in false hopes or illusions. I want us to find out the promise of the future, what we can accomplish here in the United States, what this country does stand for and what is expected of us in the years ahead. And I also want us to know and examine where we’ve gone wrong. And I want all of us, young and old, to have a chance to build a better country and change the direction of the United States of America.

This morning I spoke about the war in Vietnam, and I will speak briefly about it in a few moments. But there is much more to this critical election year than the war in Vietnam.

It appears today that partisan politics and running the constant campaign is more important than literally everything.

The title of this post also comes from that RFK speech in Kansas (see previous link). In 1824, Daniel Webster opposed expanding the United States further into the Great Plains. Today I think the vast and worthless area is called the Democratic Party.

The Grand Inquisitor (a parable for our times)

Excerpt from THE BROTHERS KARAMAZOV
By Fyodor Mikhailovich Dostoevsky
Translated by Constance Garnett

No signs from heaven come to-day
To add to what the heart doth say.

“There was nothing left but faith in what the heart doth say. It is true there were many miracles in those days. There were saints who performed miraculous cures; some holy people, according to their biographies, were visited by the Queen of Heaven herself. But the devil did not slumber, and doubts were already arising among men of the truth of these miracles. And just then there appeared in the north of Germany a terrible new heresy. ‘A huge star like to a torch’ (that is, to a church) ‘fell on the sources of the waters and they became bitter.’ These heretics began blasphemously denying miracles. But those who remained faithful were all the more ardent in their faith. The tears of humanity rose up to Him as before, awaited His coming, loved Him, hoped for Him, yearned to suffer and die for Him as before. And so many ages mankind had prayed with faith and fervour, ‘O Lord our God, hasten Thy coming'; so many ages called upon Him, that in His infinite mercy He deigned to come down to His servants. Before that day He had come down, He had visited some holy men, martyrs, and hermits, as is written in their lives. Among us, Tyutchev, with absolute faith in the truth of his words, bore witness that

Bearing the Cross, in slavish dress, Weary and worn, the Heavenly King
Our mother, Russia, came to bless, And through our land went wandering.

“And that certainly was so, I assure you.

“And behold, He deigned to appear for a moment to the people, to the tortured, suffering people, sunk in iniquity, but loving Him like children. My story is laid in Spain, in Seville, in the most terrible time of the Inquisition, when fires were lighted every day to the glory of God, and ‘in the splendid auto da fe the wicked heretics were burnt.’ Oh, of course, this was not the coming in which He will appear, according to His promise, at the end of time in all His heavenly glory, and which will be sudden ‘as lightning flashing from east to west.’ No, He visited His children only for a moment, and there where the flames were crackling round the heretics. In His infinite mercy He came once more among men in that human shape in which He walked among men for thirty-three years fifteen centuries ago. He came down to the ‘hot pavements’ of the southern town in which on the day before almost a hundred heretics had, ad majorem gloriam Dei, been burnt by the cardinal, the Grand Inquisitor, in a magnificent auto da fe, in the presence of the king, the court, the knights, the cardinals, the most charming ladies of the court, and the whole population of Seville.

Continue reading

Polling euphemisms

Gallup came out with a poll yesterday that was – I thought – supposed to take the country’s temperature on torture investigations and related matters.  Here are the signature poll results:

That’s a rather pathetic showing.  And yet, I can’t help wondering… WTF is a “harsh interrogation technique”?  Is it when excitable teevee cop slams the pervert up against a wall until he gives up tells where the little girl’s body is?  Or is it when CIA spooks drown a clinically insane man 83 times in one month in order to establish a (patently false) link between Iraq and Al Qaida?  From the Washington Post review of Ron Suskind’s The One Percent Doctrine:

Abu Zubaydah, his captors discovered, turned out to be mentally ill and nothing like the pivotal figure they supposed him to be. CIA and FBI analysts, poring over a diary he kept for more than a decade, found entries “in the voice of three people: Hani 1, Hani 2, and Hani 3″ — a boy, a young man and a middle-aged alter ego. All three recorded in numbing detail “what people ate, or wore, or trifling things they said.” Dan Coleman, then the FBI’s top al-Qaeda analyst, told a senior bureau official, “This guy is insane, certifiable, split personality.”

Abu Zubaydah also appeared to know nothing about terrorist operations; rather, he was al-Qaeda’s go-to guy for minor logistics — travel for wives and children and the like. That judgment was “echoed at the top of CIA and was, of course, briefed to the President and Vice President,” Suskind writes. And yet somehow, in a speech delivered two weeks later, President Bush portrayed Abu Zubaydah as “one of the top operatives plotting and planning death and destruction on the United States.” And over the months to come, under White House and Justice Department direction, the CIA would make him its first test subject for harsh interrogation techniques.

In conclusion: Get real, Gallup.  Asking the public about “harsh interrogation techniques” is not the same as asking about “torture”.  Quit polling the talking points.

P.S.  How’s this for a Freudian slip?

Banana Republicans

Take it easy, Champ. Why don’t you sit this next one out, stop talking for a while…

Just for fun, here is Wikipedia’s definition of a Banana Republic:

In modern usage the term has come to be used to describe a generally unstable or “backward” dictatorial regime, especially one where elections are often fraudulent and corruption is rife. By extension, the word is occasionally applied to governments where a strong leader hands out appointments and advantages to friends and supporters, without much consideration for the law. A banana republic can also be used to describe a country where a large part of its economy and politics are controlled by foreign powers or even corporations.

I’m too lazy to make all the requisite links to the Bush Administration, so I’ll let you draw your own conclusions. Still, it’s sad to see McCain continue to whore himself out like this. You don’t owe those pigs anything, Johnny, cut ‘em loose!

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Update:  Sure enough, the “banana republic” line is a GOP talking point.  Politics is such a pathetic game, it would be laughable if these people weren’t responsible for so much human misery.  Jamison Foser has more.

We Retort, You Decide

Look, it’s a major news anchor with a soul!

Sadly, the state of our public discourse on torture is so morally bankrupt, that I had to watch this twice to make sure Smith’s outburst was one of disgust for all the moral equivalence at his table, and not because he was in deep denial about the revelations. Nicely done, Shep!

Could this be a “Nixon goes to China” moment, when all the gasbags take stock of themselves and quit parroting the Cheney defense with a straight face?  Or is this the beginning of the end for Shep? All we know for sure is that the torture investigation ball is rolling down hill now and picking up steam. 

Josh Marshall makes the observation that the GOP has become a “Junta Party” in the aftermath of a democratic revolution, whose sole purpose is to defend the previous regime’s barbarous activities. Their latest tactic – to argue that the intelligence obtained from torture was good – is a stunning admission of guilt, and worlds away from Bush’s gutless assertion that “we don’t torture”.

The Daily Show With Jon Stewart M – Th 11p / 10c
We Don’t Torture
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It’s hard not be disgusted by Peggy Noonan’s wistfull desire to “just keep walking”.  When I see/hear vapid commentary like that, here is how I feel:

To get back to Cheney’s recent claim that there are super-secret unreleased memos that vindicate their actions, this is obfuscation at its finest.  Here’s a great rebuttal from a former FBI interrogator in yesterday’s NYTimes. (I would quote it, but the whole thing deserves to be read. Bottom line – Cheney lies.)

Seems to me the torture apologists are trying to turn this into a debate along the lines of the bombing of Hiroshima – “horrible thing, that – but just had to be done you know…”  Given how atrocious nuclear bombs are in comparison to the torture of a few brown-skin foreigners, and how little collective regret we have as a society over dropping not one, but TWO on Japanese civilian populations, I fear it is an argument that some silver-tongued scum can make.  For now, we all have to be more like Lawrence O’Donnell and call out these Richie Cunningham maggots every chance we get:

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P.S. Where have all my fellow Hypocrites gone? Did we break the Publish button? The news has been rife with hypocrisy lately, I almost can’t even begin to tackle it!

John King strokes his Dick

Hey, look who’s out of his wheelchair!

I’m sorry we don’t have Dick’s response in that clip. I believe he said, “when it comes to brazenly deceiving the American public, Barack Obama is a fucking amateur!”

Where the hell is my pitchfork and torch?? Here is Seymour Hersh last week discussing Dick Cheney’s “executive assassination ring” (via Scott Horton):

After 9/11, I haven’t written about this yet, but the Central Intelligence Agency was very deeply involved in domestic activities against people they thought to be enemies of the state. Without any legal authority for it. They haven’t been called on it yet. That does happen. Right now, today, there was a story in the New York Times that if you read it carefully mentioned something known as the Joint Special Operations Command — JSOC it’s called. It is a special wing of our special operations community that is set up independently. They do not report to anybody, except in the Bush-Cheney days, they reported directly to the Cheney office. They did not report to the chairman of the joint chiefs of staff or to Mr. [Robert] Gates, the secretary of defense. They reported directly to him. …

Congress has no oversight of it. It’s an executive assassination ring essentially, and it’s been going on and on and on. Just today in the Times there was a story that its leaders, a three star admiral named [William H.] McRaven, ordered a stop to it because there were so many collateral deaths. Under President Bush’s authority, they’ve been going into countries, not talking to the ambassador or the CIA station chief, and finding people on a list and executing them and leaving. That’s been going on, in the name of all of us. It’s complicated because the guys doing it are not murderers, and yet they are committing what we would normally call murder. It’s a very complicated issue. Because they are young men that went into the Special Forces. The Delta Forces you’ve heard about. Navy Seal teams. Highly specialized. In many cases, they were the best and the brightest. Really, no exaggerations. Really fine guys that went in to do the kind of necessary jobs that they think you need to do to protect America. And then they find themselves torturing people.

I’ve had people say to me — five years ago, I had one say: ‘What do you call it when you interrogate somebody and you leave them bleeding and they don’t get any medical committee and two days later he dies. Is that murder? What happens if I get before a committee?’ But they’re not gonna get before a committee.

A firing squad would be too good for Cheney.  Is it too much to ask that he be barred from engaging in public discourse?  He wouldn’t talk to the press when he was in office, who gives a fuck what he thinks now?

John King is officially on notice.

The Tears of a Father Disgraced

Even though he still goes on FOX news and schills for his oil buddies, George H.W. Bush has his own feelings about the war that was started in Iraq for no reason other than a childish neocon fantasy dream, the fabrications about WMD and mushroom clouds, followed by the slaughter of civilians, the bombing of cities, the rounding up of civilians and the random tortures, including bizarre naked butt piles, the decapitation of the former leader, the aftermath of spent uranium bombs, the failure to find any WMDs, the cover-ups being exposed time after time…

But the way he would put it is more like. “back in my day we didn’t need to torture prisoners…or take over countries…in fact we were relatively sane…at the very least, we treated our prisoners with dignity, and we didn’t act out in aggression without a real working coalition….sob…sob…sob.”

Gotta feel a bit sorry, for all of us I suppose, when you see his disgraceful little chimp son still defending himself…I guess he has no choice, or maybe he will be the one behind bars…

Enough!