Bad Times for the Republic

YATA, Afghanistan edition: In U.S. Report, Brutal Details of 2 Afghan Inmates' Deaths.

They didn't even think the guy was guilty, and they tortured him to death.

How many 'bad apples' in how many places does it take to make a pattern and practice? How many deaths by torture in how many different places does it take to get top military and civilian commanders to admit responsibility for negligence if not commission? Surely there is some number of deaths (not to mention other barbarisms) at which point we hold, say, Rumsfeld responsible? One? Ten? A hundred? Can we agree a number now, so that when we get there, we can impeach the guy? And then, I think, prosecute him.

This is not a good moment for the Republic. Ordinarily, the public is to blame if it doesn't get outraged over atrocities committed in its name. Can we justly blame the public if it is getting its news from Fox? A steady diet of lies makes it hard to see the truth.

Meanwhile, on the floor of the Senate, Senator Santorum compares Democrats to Nazis … because they filibuster judges. Don't expect to see the people who bayed at the moon about Howard Dean screaming get the least bit anxious about this one. You certainly won't see it repeated on the news several hundred times in one week, even though it is much more serious.

In this context of what people can be expected to know, it's quite significant that the GOP now wishes to fully neuter the already partly neutered staff at PBS and NPR, thus making the only non-conglomerate major broadcast media sound like the ones bought and paid for.

And, oh yes, the people who want to pack the courts with anti-consumer and (by and large) anti-civil-liberties judges…also want to unleash the FBI from judicial oversight. The draft update of the 'Patriot' Act would let the FBI subpoena records without permission from a judge or grand jury.

Yes, that's the same FBI that, it appears, has been investigating protesters on the grounds that protest is a suspicious activity.

Meanwhile, while the Senate fights about procedure, the economy is approaching a precipice.

All it would take to be fully Roman is well organized corruption (more), and orgies.

Oh. Wait.

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8 Responses to Bad Times for the Republic

  1. RealWorld says:

    On “prisoner abuse,” Daniel Pearl, Paul Johnson, Nicholas Berg, Fabrizio Quattrochi, and Lyubomir Kostov could not be reached for comment.

  2. otto says:

    In re the “bad apple” argument and the culpability of Rumsfeld,

    To suggest that the low-ranking “bad apples” acted on their own without the knowledge of superiors – who, if torture was against the rules, should have stopped the behavior – is nonsense. To suggest that low-ranking enlisted/NCOs would go to a company or battalion commanding officer and say, “Sir (or Ma’am), I don’t think what we are doing here is right,” is nonsense. The least they could expect is the ass-chewing of a lifetime. As much as we would like to believe otherwise and proclaim the virtues of individuality and moral certainty, rank and authority simply don’t work that way in the military.

    If everyone hasn’t already, you might like to read the correspondence between Department of Justice and the White House, and between Gitmo, SouthCom, and Rumsfeld. A thumbnail sketch goes something like this: During 2002 the Dept. of Justice and WH legal counsel decide the Geneva Conventions do not apply in the GWOT and elevated the definition of what constitutes torture. In the fall of that year, Gitmo’s commander, Maj. Gen. Dunlavey, with the help of his Staff Judge Advocate, ask SouthCom if they can up the torture because, by God, these folks aren’t telling us what we want to hear. Gen. Hill, SouthCom commander, sends the Gitmo request up the chain of command with his support except for a caveat that he is not sure of the legality of the more extreme “counter-resistance” (i.e. torture) techniques. Pentagon General Counsel Haynes sends the Gitmo and SouthCom request to Rumsfeld advising “a standard of interrogation that reflects a tradition of restraint.” In January of 2003, Rumsfeld tells SouthCom to hold the phone on interrogation techniques and asks Haynes to create a working group to assess the legal and operational issues at stake. By early April, the working group issues a report permitting the use of the harsh techniques (Category III) Dunlavey requested to crack the hard cases. The group advises this because, according to their review of relevant laws and previous cases, no international or domestic laws expressly protect detainees – largely because the president said so (remember the Geneva Convention business a year earlier: the administration is endeavoring to create an extra-legal category for detainees so that no laws are applicable to their treatment). Also, as long as “unlawful combatants” (a term the interested parties made up and then demonstrate how existing laws do not cover this category – surprise!) are tortured outside the US, no international or domestic laws apply. The group’s report further advises that in order for a technique to constitute torture, the interrogator “must have expressly intended to achieve the forbidden act” (no intent, no torture), and its got to really, really hurt (since in the relevant statue they cite, what constitutes “severe” pain is not defined, there is room for them to push it to an extreme). Lastly, since the uncivilized savages in question started the whole affair, we need to respond in kind (I’m not kidding, read page 3 of the group’s report). However, the report sounds a word of warning:

    “Should information regarding the more aggressive interrogation techniques than have been used traditionally by U.S. force become public, it is likely to be exaggerated or distorted in the U.S. and international media accounts, and may produce an adverse effect on support for the war on terrorism.” (page 69)

    Less than two weeks after the publication of the report, Rumsfeld sends a memo to SouthCom’s commander where he says, in effect, “Bases covered, boys. You got any questions, you bring them to me, otherwise proceed with your request – but for God’s sake cover you asses!”

    Not only, then, is the “bad apple” argument a tissue of horseshit, but the available hard data reveals that the buck started and stopped with Rumsfeld, Ashcroft, and Gonzales. Classifying people as legally unprotected non-entities will get you some torture, my friend.

    Now, bring on the orgies!

    [All the documents cited here are available at George Washington University’s “The National Security Archive” website. Click “Documents” at the top of the main page, which will bring you to “Electronic Briefing Books.” Scroll down to and click “The Interrogation Documents” under U.S. Intelligence Community.”]

  3. pike says:

    I’m surprised Bricklayer hasn’t been by to defend the techniques of torturing those believed innocent on the basis that it’s a normal and expected thing in a time of war to torture those believed innocent and perhaps useful in some way and to point out that you would bother to bring this to our intention only as another expression of your myopic irrational hatred of all things Bush. After all, you have never condemned the deaths of innocent Americans from tortures by the ‘Islamofacsists’ who have spent $320 billion in invading our country on a mendacious pretense and who instructed their military agents and private contract agents to uncover at all costs our taxi drivers’ connections to international terrorism that they so hope we’ll believe are real. Maybe he’s filling his finals essays with drivel instead?

  4. Patrick (G) says:

    Thank you for that moment of moral clarification:
    If Brigands can commit atrocious crimes against Americans with impunity, then the American boys and girls that we trust with our nation’s weapons should also be able to commit atrocious crimes with impunity.

    Just the sort of moral leadership we need in order to convince the people of these countries to turn away from anarchic violence and to trust in the rule of law.

    There is a difference between vigorously defending persons accused of crimes for the sake of justice and a fair trial and defending the crimes themselves.

    Just think about what the latter says about you.

  5. michael says:

    Mr. Pike — Civility is a two-way street. Please consult the comments policy. Thank you.

  6. otto says:

    Patrick (G),

    In re your comment:

    “If Brigands can commit atrocious crimes against Americans with impunity, then the American boys and girls that we trust with our nation’s weapons should also be able to commit atrocious crimes with impunity.”

    This is essentially the very argument made in the April 2003 “Working Group Report” mentioned above. I was surprised to find such a justification along with the accompanying language. Here are a couple of excerpts:

    “This assessment comes in the context of a major threat to the security of the United States by terrorist forces who have demonstrated a ruthless disregard for even minimal standards of civilized behavior, with a focused intent to inflict maximum casualties on the United States and its people, including its civilian population.”

    “Due to the unique nature of the war on terrorism in which the enemy covertly attacks innocent civilian populations without warning, and further due to the critical nature of the information believed to be known by certain of the Al-Qaida and Taliban detainees regarding future terrorist attacks, it may be appropriate for the appropriate authority to authorize as a military necessity the interrogation of such unlawful combatants in a manner beyond that which may be applied to a prisoner of war who is subject to the protections of the Geneva Conventions.”

    Interestingly, the view that since the uncivilized barbarians attacked us first and so savagely our only chance to prevail against them is to respond in an equally savage manner has been part of our national narrative that goes all the way back to King Philips War over 300 years ago.

  7. As brutal and horrifying as the torture of these two men are, it is not their deaths that really disturb me, but the conscious, two-and-a-half year effort to cover up the murders by Bush regime. The only reason an investigation was undertaken was because a New York Times reporter located the family of one of the victims, and was shown the death certificate by the parents who couldn’t read english and didn’t know what it said. Only seven out of 27 people have been charged with these crimes—-and those charges were only recently (and apparently, secretly) filed.

    Under these circumstances, can anyone truly believe that these were in any way isolated incidents?

  8. paperwight says:

    Just a quick note to the proprietor: The initial comment by RealWorld is a cut-and-paste job that he’s jammed into as many liberal blogs as I can find (you’re the fourth I’ve noticed so far). Do what you like about that.

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