American Monsters

We at harikari.com have been ranting about our country’s illegal policies for detention and torture since the blog was launched in 2005.  Continuing investigations have uncovered evidence supporting claims that many of the several hundreds of prisoners incarcerated at Guantanamo Bay and who knows where else have been tortured, beaten, and even killed by agents of the U.S. Government.  Subsequent releases of hundreds of detainees that were held without the right to habeus corpus proved that the overwhelming majority of prisoners were not in fact “the worst of the worst.” 

This week’s edition of This Modern World puts it all in perspective. 

Be sure to click on the image for a link to the whole comic.

America has sold its soul to the devil, and won’t even bother to stop and take a look at what it has become.

Monsters indeed…

Yes, Waterboarding is Torture, so says Erich “Mancow” Muller

Everybody who doesn’t know already wants to know if waterboarding is torture.  They simply aren’t satisfied with what our own courts have decided or what Jesse Ventura said on the Larry King show not long ago:

Larry King: You were a Navy S.E.A.L.

Jesse Ventura: Yes, and I was waterboarded [in training] so I know…It is torture…I’ll put it to you this way: You give me a waterboard, Dick Cheney and one hour, and I’ll have him confess to the Sharon Tate murders.

Nope.  They have to figure it out for themselves.

Today was Mancow’s turn.  He agreed to subject himself to waterboarding thinking he could tell all his listeners that it’s really no big deal.  Some water on the face… a little up the nose… no big deal.  Well, here’s how it went down:

Listeners had the chance to decide whether Mancow himself or his co-host, Chicago radio personality Pat Cassidy, would undergo the interrogation method during the broadcast.  The voters ultimately decided Mancow would be the one donning the soaked towel and shackles, and at about 8:40 a.m., he entered a small storage room next to his studio that was compared to a “dungeon” by Cassidy.

“The average person can take this for 14 seconds,” Marine Sergeant Clay South answered, adding, ”  He’s going to wiggle, he’s going to scream, he’s going to wish he never did this.”
 
With a Chicago Fire Department paramedic on hand,  Mancow was placed on a 7-foot long table, his legs were elevated, and his feet were tied up.  
 
Turns out the stunt wasn’t so funny. Witnesses said Muller thrashed on the table, and even instantly threw the toy cow he was holding as his emergency tool to signify when he wanted the experiment to stop.  He only lasted 6 or 7 seconds.
 
“It is way worse than I thought it would be, and that’s no joke,” Mancow said, likening it to a time when he nearly drowned as a child.  “It is such an odd feeling to have water poured down your nose with your head back…It was instantaneous…and I don’t want to say this: absolutely torture.

Okay then… another convert.  WATERBOARDING IS TORTURE! 

Oh but they say it’s not if it’s not for very long.  How long is that?  Six or seven seconds and Mancow saw the light.  Watch the video on The Huffington Post.

Next up?  I nominate Rush Limbaugh, Glenn Beck, George W. Bush, Dick Cheney (although he is not human, so it would not affect him like it did Mancow), Donald Rumsfeld, John Yoo, and Stephen Bradbury.  Line them up in their orange jumpsuits.  There’s plenty of water to go around and there are Marine seargents ready and waiting to torture the assholes that authorized it.

Abu Ghraib Torture Photos Five Year Anniversary

On April 28, 2004 we first saw this photograph taken by a member of the U.S. Military stationed at Abu Ghraib prison in Baghdad, Iraq.

Thank you George W. Bush.
Thank you Dick Cheney.
Thank you Donald Rumsfeld.
Thank you Jay Bybee.
Thank you John Yoo.
Thank you Stephen Bradbury.

Thank you.  Thank you all for this sensational icon of American insolence.

Torture is Immoral and Illegal and Torturers Must be Prosecuted

Today’s New York Times reports on the Torture Memos that the A.C.L.U. was able to obtain through a successful lawsuit against the U. S. Government.  The NYT story confirms what we knew all along:  “Torture” was defined in memos written by lawyers in Bush’s Justice Department and signed by Jay S. Bybee, Steven G. Bradbury, and John Yoo.  The Bush Administration relied on the legal opinions expressed in the memos to authorize torture, or what they called “enhanced interrogation techniques.”

Excerpts from the article:

The Justice Department on Thursday made public detailed memos describing brutal interrogation techniques used by the Central Intelligence Agency, as President Obama sought to reassure the agency that the C.I.A. operatives involved would not be prosecuted.

In dozens of pages of dispassionate legal prose, the methods approved by the Bush administration for extracting information from senior operatives of Al Qaeda are spelled out in careful detail — like keeping detainees awake for up to 11 straight days, placing them in a dark, cramped box or putting insects into the box to exploit their fears.

The interrogation methods were authorized beginning in 2002, and some were used as late as 2005 in the C.I.A.’s secret overseas prisons. The techniques were among the Bush administration’s most closely guarded secrets, and the documents released Thursday afternoon were the most comprehensive public accounting to date of the program.

Some senior Obama administration officials, including Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr., have labeled one of the 14 approved techniques, waterboarding, illegal torture. The United States prosecuted some Japanese interrogators at war crimes trials after World War II for waterboarding and other methods detailed in the memos.

Passages describing forced nudity, the slamming of detainees into walls, prolonged sleep deprivation and the dousing of detainees with water as cold as 41 degrees alternate with elaborate legal arguments concerning the international Convention Against Torture.

The documents were released with minimal redactions, indicating that President Obama sided against current and former C.I.A. officials who for weeks had pressed the White House to withhold details about specific interrogation techniques.

Mr. Obama condemned what he called a “dark and painful chapter in our history” and said that the interrogation techniques would never be used again. But he also repeated his opposition to a lengthy inquiry into the program, saying that “nothing will be gained by spending our time and energy laying blame for the past.”

Mr. Obama said that C.I.A. officers who were acting on the Justice Department’s legal advice would not be prosecuted, but he left open the possibility that anyone who acted without legal authorization could still face criminal penalties. He did not address whether lawyers who authorized the use of the interrogation techniques should face some kind of penalty.

The A.C.L.U. said the memos clearly describe criminal conduct and underscore the need to appoint a special prosecutor to investigate who authorized and carried out torture.

This article very clearly places blame not on “a few bad apples” but on high ranking government officials in  the Bush Administration.  In order to put this nasty episode behind us, we must “spend our time and energy” to identify those who are to blame.  And we must prosecute them even if they turn out to be the former President and Vice President of the United States of America.

So I say President Obama is wrong and the A.C.L.U. is right.  If we don’t hold those responsible for the “dark and painful chapter in our history,” what is to stop anyone in the future from doing the same thing?

Krugman on the Need to Investigate Bush

Today’s column by Paul Krugman exactly mirrors my thoughts about how government officials must be held accountable for their wrongdoings in order to deter their successors from doing the same things.  Without checks on our elected officials, especially in the Executive Branch, we cannot preserve our democracy.

From the column:

By my count, at least six important government agencies experienced major scandals over the past eight years — in most cases, scandals that were never properly investigated. And then there was the biggest scandal of all: Does anyone seriously doubt that the Bush administration deliberately misled the nation into invading Iraq?

Why, then, shouldn’t we have an official inquiry into abuses during the Bush years?

One answer you hear is that pursuing the truth would be divisive, that it would exacerbate partisanship. But if partisanship is so terrible, shouldn’t there be some penalty for the Bush administration’s politicization of every aspect of government?

During the Reagan years, the Iran-contra conspirators violated the Constitution in the name of national security. But the first President Bush pardoned the major malefactors, and when the White House finally changed hands the political and media establishment gave Bill Clinton the same advice it’s giving Mr. Obama: let sleeping scandals lie. Sure enough, the second Bush administration picked up right where the Iran-contra conspirators left off — which isn’t too surprising when you bear in mind that Mr. Bush actually hired some of those conspirators.

Meanwhile, about Mr. Obama: while it’s probably in his short-term political interests to forgive and forget, next week he’s going to swear to “preserve, protect, and defend the Constitution of the United States.” That’s not a conditional oath to be honored only when it’s convenient.

And to protect and defend the Constitution, a president must do more than obey the Constitution himself; he must hold those who violate the Constitution accountable. So Mr. Obama should reconsider his apparent decision to let the previous administration get away with crime. Consequences aside, that’s not a decision he has the right to make.

I’d planned on writing some more of my own thoughts about this, but I ended up in an email exchange with  N.J. Barnes (another harikari editor) about it, so I’m just going to post the emails and call it an open forum. 

N.J. Barnes:  I’d love to see an investigation but it has to avoid any suggestion of partisanship. Independent commission(s) empowered to examine the whole issue of torture decisions and illegal wiretapping and all the rest (and recommend whether laws were actually broken) should be established headed by a respected retired federal judge.

I should add that we just had an example of how difficult it is to bring charges. The Bush Justice Dept hack who blatantly lied to Congress under oath by saying he didn’t let ideology or politics influence his hiring practices. Now the Justice IG has said he clearly did. Yet federal prosecutors refrain from prosecuting for reasons that are not clear to me.  When it’s that blatant and they won’t do anything, what chance is there on issues where the line between law-breaking and executive prerogatives is blurred?

Brad:  They are untouchables. 
 
George Washington, in his farewell address, warned about these types of assholes and the damage they would do to our democracy.
 
Judges have already ruled that the wiretaps were illegal and that members of our military and/or intelligence agencies did in fact TORTURE people.  Again, laws broken both national and international.
 
perhaps we must wait for international courts to step in.
 
not likely

N.J. Barnes:  With all due respect, the courts have mostly deferred to the Bush administration on this issue and so has Congress, to its everlasting shame. And this is not an issue that gets most Americans excited either. Most of them would say they’d rather be safe than free of government intrusion. That’s even worse news.

Brad:  It all started with the politicization of the Justice Department.  Politicizing it is against the law.  That’s where this all began, and that is where the investigations, if there are to be any, must begin. 
 
Obama appointed Dawn Johnsen as head of the Office of Legal Counsel, and she has been a consistent critic of Bush’s Justice Department and a staunch defender of The Constitution.  After she’s taken over and had some time to review what her predecessors had been doing, she may find things that Obama cannot ignore.  And lets remember, he too has been a harsh critic and is a constitutional lawyer.  Maybe, just maybe… some of this will see the light of day.
 
As for checks and balances, they are built in to our system of government.  The problem falls mainly on Congress  – a Republican Congress that was in control for six of the worst eight years our country has ever seen.  They were the initial problem.  They followed King George’s orders and never “checked” him even though some of them KNEW he was breaking laws and had grabbed too much power.    That power grab started with Cheney and his remaking of the VP office that had executive control over the Justice Dept (no longer independent) through his ideological appointments.
 
R’s in Congress kept their mouths shut for fear of political reprisal:  They would be taken off committees, lose funding for state projects, and lose of campaign funds, etc. 
 
All in all it was a despicable period in our nation’s history that nobody in Congress can be proud of. 
 
I salute those who did open their mouths once and while.  Too bad their voices weren’t heard by a public cowed into fearing for their lives by the false rhetoric of Bush/Cheney/Rumsfeld/et. al. and echoed by a compliant press corps.

N.J. Barnes:  All that may be true but in the end it comes to the same thing: when the people who are supposed to do the people’s business whether its lawyers in the Justice Dept or senators in the US Congress fail in their duty to protect and uphold the Constitution  by fettering a rogue, ideology and power-driven executive branch, there is little or no accountability. 
 
It will all be defended as “we did what we thought was right to defend the American people from attack after 9/11″ and that misleading and deceptive phrase will protect them from legal sanction. The best we can hope for is that they will be shamed by independently constituted examinations of what occurred – although I doubt even that is possible.
 
I totally agree that the wrong doing spread across every facet of government, not least in environmental policy.
 
Let’s hope we can avoid another nightmare like this one.

Hey you other harikari editors, join in the discussion!

It’s open to readers too.  Leave some comments… let us know you are out there.

Nice Rant Professor Green

Here is a part of a rant by David Michael Green posted on CommonDreams.org that you really should read:

Regressives like to call people like me Bush-haters, and so it is important to address that claim before proceeding, because the entire intent of hurling that label at the president’s critics is to undermine their credibility. If you simply hate the man, they imply, you’re not rational, and your critiques can be dismissed. But it isn’t that simple – not by a long shot. First, it should be noted that the regressive right is far wider a phenomenon than just one person. It currently includes an entire executive branch administration, almost (and, just a year ago, more than) half of Congress, a majority of the Supreme Court and probably a majority of the lower federal courts, a biased-to-the-point-of-being-a-joke mainstream media, and tons of lobbyists, think tanks and profitable industries.

But as to George W. Bush, himself, I suspect it’s quite fair to say that most Americans and even most progressives did not originally despise or loathe him. I didn’t. I certainly didn’t admire the guy, nor did I think he was remotely prepared to be president of the United States. (Nor, by the way, was I particularly impressed with Al Gore in 2000.) Bush campaigned as a center-right pragmatist (a “compassionate conservative”, in his words), much as his father had been, and I expected that’s how he would govern if elected. You know, more embarrassing most of the time than truly destructive.

I mention all this because it is important to note what has – and what has not – been responsible for my/our anger, and to make clear that attempts to dismiss that anger as some Bush-hating bias or predisposition are false, a ploy to destroy the messenger when one doesn’t care for the message he’s carrying. If Bush had governed like he campaigned I’m sure I would have disliked him, but neither hated him nor his policies, nor experienced the rage that I feel about what he’s done to the country and the world. Frankly, my feelings toward another center-right Bush presidency would have likely been largely the same as my feelings toward the center-right Clinton presidency which preceded it.

But he hasn’t governed anywhere near to how he campaigned, and he wasn’t even elected properly, and I do in fact feel huge anger at the damage done. Moreover, I cannot for the life of me imagine how anyone – even conservatives – could feel differently. Even the wealthy, to whose interests this presidency is so wholly devoted, have to sleep at night. Even they have children who will inherit a broken country existing in an environmentally and politically hostile world, though no doubt they figure that big enough fences, mean enough private armies, and loads of central air conditioning will insulate them from the damage.

Followed by a litany of nauseating offenses.  Read it all here.

What Did He Know and When Did He Know it?

Just as you suspected and knew all along, President Bush knew about the outing of Valerie Plame before it happened.

How did he know?  Because he planned it with Dick Cheney.

How do we know they did it?

Their former humble servant Scott McClellan says so:

In an excerpt from his forthcoming book, McClellan recounts the 2003 news conference in which he told reporters that aides Karl Rove and I. Lewis “Scooter” Libby were “not involved” in the leak involving operative Valerie Plame.

“The most powerful leader in the world had called upon me to speak on his behalf and help restore credibility he lost amid the failure to find weapons of mass destruction in Iraq. So I stood at the White house briefing room podium in front of the glare of the klieg lights for the better part of two weeks and publicly exonerated two of the senior-most aides in the White House: Karl Rove and Scooter Libby.”

“There was one problem. It was not true,” McClellan writes, according to a brief excerpt released Tuesday. “I had unknowingly passed along false information. And five of the highest-ranking officials in the administration were involved in my doing so: Rove, Libby, the vice president, the president’s chief of staff and the president himself.”

Who’s going to be the newest demon condemned by the Bush Administration and the media mouthpieces of the right?

Why Scottie of course.

And a question for you Ms. Pelosi:  Is impeachment still “off the table?”

Ascendancy of the Dark Lord

Tomorrow our glorious leader will take it up the ass instead of us.

President Bush will undergo a “routine” colonoscopy Saturday…

Snow told reporters Friday that Bush will have the procedure done at his Camp David, Md., mountaintop retreat.

The last time Bush had colon and rectal cancer surveillance was on June 29, 2002. Doctors then advised him to have another colonoscopy in five years.

Snow said that because president will be under the effects of anesthesia, he once again has elected to implement Section 3 of the 25th Amendment to the Constitution. Cheney will serve as acting president until Bush notifies authorities that he is ready to reassume his powers.

It’s not unusual for a man Bush’s age to undergo routine colonoscopy exams.  What’s unusual is that they are actually following the rules outlined in the Constitution.

So if you feel a sudden icy chill shoot up your spine early tomorrow morning, don’t be alarmed.  It’s just the Dark Lord assuming power for what we hope is a very brief period of time.

What harm could he possibly do in a couple of hours?  Oh… maybe start a war against Iran.  No big deal.

The Tyranny of King George

Selections from the Declaration of Independence:

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights, that among these are life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. That to secure these rights, governments are instituted among men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed. That whenever any form of government becomes destructive to these ends, it is the right of the people to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their safety and happiness.

The history of the present King of Great Britain is a history of repeated injuries and usurpations, all having in direct object the establishment of an absolute tyranny over these states. To prove this, let facts be submitted to a candid world.

He has refused his assent to laws, the most wholesome and necessary for the public good.

He has called together legislative bodies at places unusual, uncomfortable, and distant from the depository of their public records, for the sole purpose of fatiguing them into compliance with his measures.

He has dissolved representative houses repeatedly, for opposing with manly firmness his invasions on the rights of the people.

He has obstructed the administration of justice, by refusing his assent to laws for establishing judiciary powers.

He has made judges dependent on his will alone, for the tenure of their offices, and the amount and payment of their salaries.

For depriving us in many cases, of the benefits of trial by jury:

For transporting us beyond seas to be tried for pretended offenses:

In every stage of these oppressions we have petitioned for redress in the most humble terms: our repeated petitions have been answered only by repeated injury. A prince, whose character is thus marked by every act which may define a tyrant, is unfit to be the ruler of a free people.

This all sounds so familiar…

Unfit indeed.

Time to throw him and his lawless coconspirators out of office.