Thursday, April 16, 2009

Torture



The release today of the Office of Legal Counsel memos from 2002-2005, which provided "legal" justification (i.e cover) for the "alternative interrogation techniques" implemented during the Bush Adminsitration's War on Terror, will leave you speechless. Take ten minutes and read this legalistic morass from Judge Jay Bybee. It's chilling. You'll read about how waterboarding doesn't technically meet the suffering criteria of torture, but rather it is merely a "controlled acute episode". What the hell is that? Was George Orwell exhumed so he could write 2184? I'm embarassed. This was our government, our country which authorized the torture of other human beings (bad people, granted). But we tortured people and hired lawyers to re-interpret the Geneva Convention and international law and the universal unwritten statute of decent moral conduct in such a way to justify it. We tortured these people. And medical personnel/doctors were present to monitor vitals and oxygen saturations, to make sure the operatives didn't "go too far". The whole thing makes me sick.

Yesterday I ranted about high taxes and back-up quarterbacks making millions. It seems so petty and small now. Even the cecal volvulus post seems a tad frivolous. We tortured people under a Presidential directive. Things have changed. This is the world we live in now; one where our national conscience is heavy with a collective guilt. It stains us all. The only way out, from this point forward, is a policy of absolute accountability and transparency. Let the atonement begin now....

34 comments:

Cathy said...

I don't know Buckeye. Can you fight a war, any war, with no type violence? What is the true definition of torture anyway?

I don't know where acceptable behavior (against our enemies)stop and torture begins, but I'm absolutely certain that decapitation falls under the torture heading.

Frank Drackman said...

Buckeye, Buckeye, Buckeye... almost had to check the calendar to see if it was April 1st...Here's some more Orwell for ya...
"We sleep safe in our beds only because rough men stand ready in the night to visit violence on those who would do us harm"

You call it torture, I call it "Advanced Interrogation Techniques", and nobodies gettin their genitals shocked or blow torched... so a few bad guys got slapped around, lost some sleep, had a little water thrown in their faces... Heck, Barney Frank probly does that stuff for fun... don't wanta end up in Git-mo on the sharp side of a Doberman? Don't hang around terrorists... and you're naive if you think its not goin on as I type this, it'll just be in Kuwait, or Guam, away from sensitive eyes, and probably no medical attendants to make sure Abdulla doesn't get hypoxic...

Frank

Anonymous said...

Buckeye,

You post shows a great deal of honesty and humility and I respect that.

If only there were more people (Americans?) in the world like you!

Cathy and Frank, really? Your attitude towards this is shocking and I truly hope it is not representative.

From where I come from (another western country) anyone I have ever talked to about this situation thinks it is a disgusting and reprehensible piece of history that the world (the western world in particular) ought to be ashamed of.

This saddens me.

Regards,
James - Medical Student

Anonymous said...

Also Cathy,

The definition of torture as defined by the United Nations Convention Against Against Torture (to which the United States is a signatory) can be seen here:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/United_Nations_Convention_Against_Torture#Definition_of_torture

James

Cathy said...

Anon, I'm sorry if I offended you. I really don't understand all the issues of war and torture.

A few things I do understand is that it's barbaric to slam a few planes into a few buildings and kill 2996 innocent people for no reason. That's a definition of torture. If you think not, go ask their family members about it. What do you think those people jumping out of those buildings to avoid being burned to death thought about it?

I understand chopping off someone's head for the hell of it is likewise barbaric and true torture.

I also don't think for a minute we can win wars without any violence. Do you have the answer as to how we can do that? What do you think happens to our own men and women when they become POWs of our enemies?

I also think it unreasonable to believe this is the first war where this type thing has happened. It has been happening in every war that's ever been fought.

Anonymous said...

Cathy,

Thanks for your reply. I am not offended, but I am surprised by attitudes towards this.

I understand, and I am not trying to belittle the events of 9/11 and since - if I have done so I apologise.

However torture is outlawed and banned internationally for several reasons, some of them being the difficulty in proving guilt or making use of other evidence when confessions were made under duress, the inhumanity of such actions and the obvious ethical and moral conflicts.

Because an enemy (or enemies) of the United States may use tactics and constitute torture against the US does not excuse its use by the US.

Consider the numerous innocent people who have been released from "Guantanamo", etc. who have not been charged.

The use (and justification) of torture by a country which tries to act as a leader and "model citizen" in the world is terrifying.

James

Andy S said...

"bad people, granted"

Really? I don't remember the trial where that was proved.

Bianca Castafiore said...

Moral relativity -- and tenuous reasoning -- the lies -- it's sickening. Literally.

I don't know what is more disturbing, the legalistic work of justification by the likes of John Yoo, or the thoughtless drivel from ordinarily sharp people, sharp ordinary people, that is nothing but a repetition of the lies/distortions whispered in their ears for so long.

You know, like how any U.S. military operation has at its foundation the preservation of the "American way of life." Fighting for freedom, fighting to ensure that "a man can stand up." (A hopelessly obscure reference to Johnny Tremain! Coffee, where is the coffee?) Oh, the bullshit.

I thought I had already dealt with and processed this "issue," but the NYT article ignited everything again -- when I close my eyes, I see The Bush Swagger, The Cowboy Posturing, The Cheney Sneer -- just the public face of it. Now I know for sure that the private face is more terrifying. The jokes, the sarcasm, the complete *comfort* with being agents of torture.

I absolutely would support prosecution... "a time for reflection"? We're capable of multitasking. I promise to reflect if the Justice Dept. will investigate, and prosecute. The Justice Dept. is certainly welcome to reflect, as well, of course. One hopes that's already happened -- as these four memos are not news to them.

U.S. citizens have been treated as idiots, not just by an onslaught of facile lies, but by having policy and situations presented in a highly dumbed-down way -- in cruel ways that play upon innate goodness, patriotism, faith in leadership, and realistic fears of terrorism.

Causal relationships -- probably the dirtiest of the dumbing-down deal. Planes into the twin towers makes torture okay -- and explain why we need to start a war with a country uninvolved with the events of 9/11. WMDs, yadda yadda. Yellow cake, yadda yadda. Bin Laden goes uncaptured, Afghanistan is so completely misunderstood that our efforts there are really just now beginning (a do-over). We buddy up to Pakistan and really, in our mindlessness, author several political assasinations.

Our natural moral superiority makes torture okay. Because "they" are different, those freaking ragheads, torture is okay. Is it happening right now? Yes. Well, then, damn, it must be okay. Wait... you mean it is also happening *to* us? Hell no, that ain't right...

There is no moral ambiguity here. Rather, the childish desire for wrongs to add up to rights is what is in play -- malignant childish thinking.

The singular thing that this new administration is offering, I think, is the chance to once again be treated as capable contributing adults. Please note that my naiveté does not extend to the belief that we will all agree. Thank goodness.

And members of my household, as tired of me as you probably are, are lecturing me on the ill-advisibility of incoming administrations prosecuting/investigating the outgoing ones. "It's bad form," I am told. That's why Ford pardoned Nixon.

Please know that I cannot imagine the pressures and responsibilities that Bush et al dealt with following 11 September, and I would do again what I did then -- honor the decisions of my leaders, trusting that they know better, and have intelligence driving their decisions. In the immediacy, I think we are all the same. Given time to reflect, I think we are charged to honor our differences.

joegrind said...

Buckeye,
Thanks for posting this and see...I don't only respond to your tax posts.
Cathy and Frank...are you honestly trying to justify these actions? You almost sound like someone trying to justify slavery. fyi..wars can be fought without violece (psyops). Your posts remind me of the fear the majority of this country was in when Powell told us about the yellow cake, or when Bush said...imminent threat of WMDs...or even the fear they used to re-elect Bush in 2004. Are we living in an episode of 24?
Frank, you allude to these "Advanced Interrogation Techniques" as no big deal. Come over this weekend and let's see how much you enjoy it.
We were all saddened after 9/11...shit I was in the Marine Corps then and we all trained a little more intensely, breaking alot more sweat as we knew that our training was going to be put to use. This doesn't mean that we abandon all our values, disregard our morals. I've done SERE training...Frank...let's play pretend drowning sometime. Now tell me, did these techniques accomplish anything? Did we get Osama? No...but we've lost 4500 troops fighting another so called justifiable war.

Though I want to see the people that AUTHORIZED these techniques to be used to be prosecuted..Pres. Obama is doing the smart thing. He knows he has a fight with the rest of his agenda (Healthcare, immigration, entitlements). I believe he will spend political capital then.

Anonymous said...

I expect that those who have chosen to devote their lives to service of their country to be smart enough to find a way to legally, morally, ethically protect it.

Advanced Interrogation Techniques strike me as the lazy man's way, put in place by individuals who wouldn't take the time and intellect to find another way.

I will, I'm sure, be called naive. I choose to think of myself as optimistic. Optimistic that American ingenuity and intellect is capable of finding a way to protect itself AND be true to its laws, it's ideals and its heritage.

Someone said, I do not know the reference:

Be careful who you choose as your enemies because you will become like them.

Frank Drackman said...

Would TICKLING be OK??? Mom could always make me talk when she'd..umm probably said a little too much there...The interrogators are professionals...they wouldn't be using these techniques if they weren't useful... Its like anything..heck even a Vasectomy sounds bad if you just hear the technical details..(You're gonna do WHAT with that clamp!?!?!) but the end results good...
Sorry can't take you up on your offer Joe, don't swing that way...

Frank

joegrind said...

Frank...too tired from all your teabagging huh?
Please list the "...the end results good..."
Professional? I'm sure Hitler may be considered a professional too.
Hear comes the fear tactics again from Fox news of course...I think the non-teabaggers realized how badly they were duped and won't let the GOP do it again. Looks like the GOP will be a permanent minority. Go ahead, Palin/2012.

Cathy said...

Frank, is it as unsettling to you as it is to me to see our two names linked together in not one but 2 comments? Like we are buddies. Or partners in crime. If they only knew, huh?

I have to stop trying to explain my point of view of this topic. people just twist and turn what you say to make it into what they want to believe you are saying anyway. That way it gives them reason to attack.

No, I DO NOT personally believe in physical violence. Yes, I believe our military has a job to do. AND I SUPPORT OUR MILITARY! And I will leave it at that.

Felix Kasza said...

To those who consider waterboarding torture (it is coercion, not torture): Sit down, with your back against a wall, legs extended in front of you. Take a ten-pound hammer and smash your knee into splinters. There, now you know what actual torture feels like.

Alternatively, I invite you to drive bamboo splinters -- or even just a few pins -- under the nails and into the distal joint of the finger. There, that also is torture.

Dropping a wall on a gay? Not torture, apparently -- because it's not Americans doing that, so it's a "cultural issue" or something.

As far as I am concerned, somebody caught shooting at our guys -- or even waving a gun in their direction -- in order to defend his god-given right to be a misogynist and a homophobe has no reason to whine. And neither do the leftist whingers.

Cheers,
Felix.

Anonymous said...

I wonder what people would call my Navy Seal training? Torture, perhaps? My training has without a doubt kept America safe and strong. I am not ashamed of protecting America's borders and taking the fight to the enemy. If I am captured I do not expect to see a doctor or even have food. Ask the US reporter in Iran who is being tried in a kangaroo court about freedom and torture. In a similar case in 2003, a reporter was killed by torture in the exact same prison. Ask Afghani women who are used as sex slaves for the men of their village about freedom and torture. It is way too effete for urban Americans with their chai lattes and cozy lives to comment on what they do not know. Armchair quarterbacking is for Mondays.
For the record, the US Military does not torture.

joegrind said...

I just wanted to post this link as it seems that some have not actually READ the OLC memos. One of the most intriguing lines is "OLC specified that it was acceptable to apply physical pain to a detainee so long as it was less than the sort of pain emerging from “organ failure, impairment of bodily functions, or even death."
I think many are also missing the point, I think the good old USA, for which I have worn the uniform for, went to war THREE times for, is held to a higher moral standard...and rightly so, being the leader of the free world. Terrorists flying planes into buildings is horrific, sick and done by barbarians....does this mean we should behave like barbarians?
Yes, the US military does not torture...there are rules....rules of engagement, Geneva conventions etc. Rules which we signed as a nation.
We have all heard of the horrific treatment Americans have been under when detained as POWs, does that mean that we should do it too? Sen. McCain never forgot his MORAL values for all those years he was locked up. After 9/11, yes we had every right to be angry, however, the racial profiling that ensued was wrong, just like detaining all Asians after Pearl Harbor was also wrong.

Buckeye Surgeon said...

This is torture. Stop the semantic arguments. This country agreed to abide by the guidelines established by the Geneva Convention. We have condemned other countries for the promulgation of torture. Why is there a different standard just because we're Americans? Does 9/11 justify everything? These are important questions, people. This is an important moment in our country's history. It should not be allowed to disappear from our collective conscience when the news cycle ends. It's the biggest story in 30 years and I'm scanning my local newspaper and there's nary a word of it..

Cathy-
This wasn't war. This was torture of prisoners of war. These were people who were completely subjugated and removed from the field of battle.

Bottom line-
The bureaucratized, institutionalized nature of this American torture policy is what is so dismaying. This isn't some Jack Bauer ticking time bomb scenario where someone "did what he had to do to save lives". These policies were contemplated, debated, codified, and cloaked in shady legalese. Torture was given due process. It was rationalized. And that's the essence of totalitarianism; irrational barbarism presented as an historical inevitability.

Read the International Committee of the Red Cross report. Read the OLC memos. Read http://www.cbsnews.com/stories/2005/03/16/terror/main680658.shtml. American exceptionalism indeed.....

Frank Drackman said...

Thats the great thing about the US of A... elections every few years... the kinder gentler approach will get a chance to show its stuff... hope it works out better than Auburns Spread Offense did last year... might want to update that Anthrax vacination, pick up a few Atropine auto injectors down at the Army Surplus, and stay away from tall buildings the next few years...

Anonymous said...

Adding to this, Physicians for Human Rights has long been looking at the issue of torture by the US in places such as Guantanamo Bay.

They are campaigning for a commission to investigate US Torture.

http://physiciansforhumanrights.org/torture/

Most distressing is the involvement of physicians in facilitation of the psychological and physical torture of captives.

More on this, including several reports can be found at the link above.

James

Frank Drackman said...

OK Buckeye...its clear you're an old softie so let me try and appeal to your practical side...
Torture (I still prefer "AIT") is much more cost effective than lettin the bad guys "lawyer up"... let em become citizens if they want a taxpayer funded Johnny Cochran when they get caught...and those sucessful big attacks are poison for the market... probly have to increase the tax rates 5% across the board just to break even...

Bianca Castafiore said...

Herr Drackman,

I think your most serious argument came in the form of lauding the "professionalism" of the CIA interrogators (Arguing naievté is kinda boring... and strenuously done, for naught but naieveté!).

Yes, here it is: "The interrogators are professionals.. they wouldn't be using these techniques if they weren't useful..."

These particular professionals? They did have a professionally informed opinion but were overruled by the beltway: "The first use of waterboarding and other rough treatment against a prisoner from Al Qaeda was ordered by senior Central Intelligence Agency officials despite the belief of interrogators that the prisoner had already told them all he knew.... Abu Zubaydah had provided much valuable information under less severe treatment, and the harsher handling produced no breakthroughs, according to one former intelligence official with direct knowledge of the case.... Quoting a 2004 report on the interrogation program by the C.I.A. inspector general, the footnote says that “although the on-scene interrogation team judged Zubaydah to be compliant, elements within C.I.A. headquarters still believed he was withholding information.”
http://www.nytimes.com/2009/04/18/world/middleeast/18zubaydah.html?hp

Apparently, there was quite an overestimation of Abu Zubaydah's worth and depth of knowledge. At least, that's what the *professionals* on scene thought...

Frank Drackman said...

Allright...and here's my Checkmate move on Y'all Pacifists...

Even if I agree to stop torturing...umm Agressively Interogating Terrorists...you shouldn't tell the whole effin world you're gonna stop...They should always have that fear in the back of their towel covered little heads... this is basic poker 101,, guess y'all don't play that up Nawth...

Frank

Bongi said...

i'm so proud not to be american.

Anonymous said...

Bongi...and I'm so proud that you're not.

Of the techniques that were actually used, which ones rise to the definition of "torture" as out-lined in the GC? Not which ones seem appalling or ghastly. Not which ones are personally sickening to you...which techniques were employed that meet the actual definition of "torture" in the GC?

While some will quickly retort that I'm playing a game of semantics, the allegations that are being made are based on international law, not what sounds good to Keith Olbermann or send shiver us Chris Matthews legs.

And if these actions are clearly "torture"...as in any reasonable person would consider them torture, then why aren't we prosecuting them? If the acts are per se crimminal how can the President simply walk away from his responsibility as the chief EXECUTIVE (as in the person responsible for executing the law)and mumble something about "moving forward"? Isn't that more damning to our reputation in the world than the actual acts themselves? "Ya..we looked into and we did torture some folks. But, in the spirit of moving forward we aren't going to actually hold anybody accountable." That's how we re-establish moral authority? Re-claim the high ground return? Return to the America the world loves? Under the previous administration 12 service memebers were tried and convicted under the UCMJ for their actions at the AG prison. Some attempted to defend their repulsive conduct by claiming they were "just following orders" and their leaders knew what was going on. Didn't work - which was the right decision. Under the current adminstration NOBODY is going to be held accountable for what the current administration claims is a violation of numerous US and international laws.

How's that for Change you can believe in?

joegrind said...

Anon. 8:11,
I share your sentiments regarding Bongi.
Regardless, allow me to respond to you directly. Now, I am sure anyone that knows how to use Google can find all the different accords and treaties regarding a definition of torture. If not, look hereWhile I won't play the semantics game with you, google a Time Line of the Geneva Conventions and you'll see how Pres. Dubya so deftly said in 2002 that the Geneva Conventions "they don't apply..heh heh.." (sorry I don't do a good W. impersonation)
To which in 2006, the Supreme Court (yes the same court that we put in their to INTERPRET the Constitution) said 'I beg your pardon, they do'.
As for your second 'retort' about Pres. Obama not willing to prosecute, I would love for him to prosecute, hold them accountable...even if it's just for retribution. However, as I said in a previous post, circa April 17, 11:35 AM; he is a politician, and has to pick his battles. I suspect, because of the HUGE mandate that he is pursuing, that he is saving the political capital he EARNED on November 4, 2008 for those battles...(Yes, We Can!).
Now your last sentence:
'How's that for Change you can believe in?'
The Change has begun, the status quo has been rocked...the teabaggers are evidence alone. Fox News and their hysteria is also sufficient evidence of the CHANGE.
Be it actually putting the two wars we are engaged in on the books, reversing the ban on embryonic stem cells, shaking Chavez's hand, or admitting the mistakes of the past.
As Sam Cooke sang... It's been a long time coming, but a Change gonna come'Oh, do your homework, else you get SCHOOLED again.

Frank Drackman said...

But you ARE an American Bongi, you ARE.... sure, your Passport might say "South Africa" but you're an American at heart...just look at the similarities... Defeated the British to get your independence, forged a nation out of the desolate wilderness, profited from the slave labor of illiterate Black Slaves....

High 5!!!

Frank

Buckeye Surgeon said...

Frank-
The OLC memos aren't revelatory in the sense of revealing that we tortured; the ICRC report already has documented our actions extensively. The point of unveiling the OLC memos is to acknowledge that torture wasn't just ticking time bomb, ad libbed "extreme interrogation" implemented by CIA agents under pressure in the field to gather intelligence, but that torture was OFFICIAL POLICY, sanctioned by POTUS and justifed by bad faith legalistic interpretations....It's a necessary first step in trying to repair our image in the eyes of the world....

Anonymous said...

joegrind....
I appreciate your capabilities with google, but your internet skills aren't in question. The salient issue is EXACTLY which one of the methods used violated the GC articles...as in prove the claim that the methods used rise to the definition of torture. If you, or anybody else, can't do it then simply admit that these techniques are lots of other things besides torture. Actions frequently fall short of crimminal as defined by the law, it doesn't make the right or acceptable. But once folks start bouncing on the legal trampolin of "violating international law" they're going to get called out.

As for the former POTUS saying that the GC doesn't apply to these detainees, what does that have to do with the current debate? The legality of the techniques outlined in the memo that we're discussing wasn't based on the detainees status under the GC. It was based on the OLC's opinion of what constitutes "torture".

So P. Obama isn't prosecuting crimminal activity because of politics? Ok, I'll agree with that.

Both wars have always "been on the books". P. Bush chose to fund the conflicts with stand alone legislation...something about transparency and not burying the cost of the wars in the omnibus budget. P. Obama has decided to include the war costs in the ominibus budget. He's the POTUS, it's his decision, but the war funding process under GWB was always "on the books".

As for some of the other actions, I support many of them; stem cells, energy policy, stevie wonder songs, NCAA picks...I'm just as proud as the next guy that we elected the first Kenyan-American in history.

Frank Drackman said...

You call that torture?? Heck that cells bigger than my Med School Dorm...and I had to pay for it...

Frank

platensimycin said...

Inquiry in interrogation abuses is underway (article)

For better or worse, American gov needs to regain its credibility both at home and abroad.

Anonymous said...

The worse part is how lawyers [under Bush's directive] amended existing laws to make torture legally feasible, if not morally palatable.

joegrind said...

Nuff saidWith all the panic being generated from Fox News (Beck and Hannity esp.) as well as Cheney & Limbaugh over our socialist/ fascist/ weak Comrade-in-Chief, Barack HUSSEIN Obama; now may be a good time to start stocking up on blood pressure medication as well as those guns. It's not even 100 days of his presidency. Are they going to be doing the scare tactics/ fear mongering for the next 3.5 years?

Anonymous said...

Fear Tactic is the hallmark of Cold War and post-9/11 politics. Current administration is working on REVERSING that mindset while maintaining national security, rather than simply following the inertia.

Perhaps it helps Nuff and people alike to simply refer to current POUS as "Berry" :D

Anonymous said...

Bush and his secretive Dream Team has lead our country to a dangerously shallow water over the past 8 YEARS. It will take more than just half a year to tug the 307-million-people-strong boat off the shallow shore and back to the deep sea, not counting the fact that our political system is peppered with lobbyists from all sorts of special interest groups.