DECEMBER 18, 2012 7:23PM

To Torture or Not to Torture? WTF???

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Why is this question even being honored in America?  

Apparently it will be posed seductively soon in a theater near you.  

Torture is wrong.  It is evil.

I offer:

“Two wrongs don’t make a right.”

The Golden Rule.

The Geneva Conventions.

Basic human decency.

A while back when I read Jacob Weisberg’s book, The Bush Tragedy, I learned that the main ego-armature for George W. Bush during his Yale University years was his participation in the fraternity culture. 

Weisberg discloses that when “W” finally became head of a fraternity he “ruled” that lowly pledges be branded with real, Texas branding irons as part of their hazing.

When the Yale Daily News got wind of Bush’s sadistic and zealous intention, it disclosed it to the entire college community.  The Yale patriarchs immediately huddled together to deal with the negative p.r.  

Their solution?  Rein in Mr. Bush whose sociopathy they irresponsibly minimized as impish, “boys will be boys”-ness.  With a proverbial wink and nod they insisted young Mr. Bush forego the branding irons and instead make use of hot metal coat hangers or lit cigarettes to burn freshman flesh.

The green-lighting of that supposedly more modest means of torture speaks volumes of a troubling, profoundly unempathetic -- I’d call it sociopathic -- macho-mindset within the deepest, most influential halls of America’s supposed intellectual and ruling class elite and mentors of said elite.  They amorally passed off torture -- delivering or receiving it -- as a normal rite of male passage.  

The Yale incident foreshadowed and helped foster the ultimate creation of the secret torture program by Bush and his regime.  

Andy Worthington, prime advocate of victimized prisoners of Gitmo, disclosed that in 2007, it was Senator Obama who declared:  “In the dark halls of Abu Ghraib and the detention cells of Guantánamo, we have compromised our most precious values. What could have been a call to a generation has become an excuse for unchecked presidential power.”

President Obama postured as a person with character very well.  It got him the White House.  Twice.

Obama has taken no responsibility for his breathtaking, 180 degree reversals to golden promises of anti-Bush reform pre-election.  

The most obvious and necessarily immediate reforms were the restoration of habeas corpus rights and the prosecution of the clandestine institutionalizers of the military torture program, who had exploited the post-9/11 fear, outrage and vengeance sensibility of many of the citizenry.  

Obama's policies include deadly drone warfare, assassination kill lists, unlimited due-process-less detention, military tribunals, countless corporate wars and U.S. military corporate-opportunistic garrisoning.

Obama steps away from Bush’s shadowy M.O. to become more of an in-your-face but always rhetorically amiable and faux-reasonable Roman emperor with thumb’s up or down power over life and death.  

Obama, who earnestly campaigned for transparency, exploits state secrecy and executive privilege even more than Bush did to perpetrate and/or cover up outrageous war crimes.

This legacy of Bush’s and surreality of Obama’s are bigger than hypocrisy. They are heart-of-darkness territory.

Obama has chosen to become an enabler of violators of human rights and a violator of them himself. 

To add to the horror, Obama is being enabled by the media, the vast majority of Congress, and the vast majority of citizens.

Does the cult of celebrity in America overwhelm basic human decency?  Cronied moral relativism must prevail?  Whatever Team Dem does, in the present Obama surreality, is beyond reproach with “lesser evil”, “ends justifies the means” rationalizations?

Do leaders like Bush and Obama and amoral political cronies and media only need to repeat the word "terror" enough times to have most of America fall into a "do with us, our money, or anyone else whatever depraved anti-humanity behavior you want" kind of swoon?

Apparently.  

That “to torture or not to torture” is even a question for national discussion, and as fodder for jingoistic and sensationalizing movie and tv producers, creators, critics, etc. fills me with despair.  

Bradley Manning brought down upon his conscience-possessing head the wrath of an administration, Congress,  corporate media, and massive number of citizens by allegedly leaking (among evidence of many, many, many, many, many other war crimes) a video showing U.S. troops firing on an unarmed party of Iraqis in 2007, including two journalists, and then soon after firing on those who attempted to rescue them – including two children. 

As ugly and horrifying as this video of the killing of 12 Iraqis was, the video-game-callous sociopathic chatter recorded within that helicopter cockpit during the killing was even more monstrous. 

It is Manning who has been punished for reporting war criminality and will be further punished.  

The Pentagon leveled no charges against the murdering soldiers.  The media and consequently the public ignored their criminality as well.

Loyalty to the troops and blind trust in national administrative and military authority should not override war criminality.  American “exceptionalism” should not override war criminality.  

We are in heart of darkness territory. 

It is hard to wrap one's mind and heart around the torture issue as well as countless other anti-humanitarian policies perpetrated in the past and currently.  

Confronting evil is daunting.  Confronting mass and institutionalized evil all the more so.  Sickening.  Spiritually exhausting.  It even has been said to biologically weaken something called our thymus glands (under the breast bone). 

It is vital to save our collective soul. Those of us still morally awake must speak up.  Take a stand.

We must acknowledge the war criminality of Obama and the rest of the amoral administrative and military matrix, all the way down the chains of their commands. 

We must detach from seductive “cronyism” and encourage others to do so.  Encourage them to see beyond the amiable persona of people like Obama -- enablers and perpetrators of evil, willing to institutionalize and normalize depraved behaviors.  We must all face down reality. We must fight for human decency.

We must explore the details of what is going on in our citizen name, with our tax dollars and with our vulnerable patriotic young who become tragically induced to perpetrate evil policies.

What happened to the Geneva Conventions? Bush and Obama disrespected them as much as they did the U.S. Constitution. Does the rest of our American society disrespect them so profoundly as well?  It seems so. 

I’ll end this blog by citing some accounts from Andy Worthington about clear, present and past dangerous war criminality.  

For example, Worthington reports a citizen of Yemen, a student named Odaini, had been seized at the age of 18 by mistake after staying the night with friends in a university guest house in Faisalabad, Pakistan. The house was raided by Pakistani and US operatives. 

Shortly after Odaini’s arrival at Guantánamo in June 2002, an interrogator recommended his repatriation. Five “interviews” proved he had no links with Al Qaeda or mid or high level Taliban. 

He was not released. 

In June 2005 it was conceded officially his capture was a mistake. 

He is still incarcerated, 8 years and counting. He also won on May 26, 2010 his habeas corpus case by the United States District Court for the District of Columbia. In his 36-page opinion Judge Henry H. Kennedy concluded:

“Respondents have kept a young man from Yemen in detention in Cuba from age eighteen to age twenty-six. They have prevented him from seeing his family and denied him the opportunity to complete his studies and embark on a career. The evidence before the Court shows that holding Odaini in custody at such great cost to him has done nothing to make the United States more secure. There is no evidence that Odaini has any connection to al Qaeda. Consequently, his detention is not authorized by the AUMF [Authorization of the Use of Military Force]. The Court therefore emphatically concludes that Odaini's motion must be granted.”

8+ years of an innocent young man’s incarceration at Gitmo, isolation from his family and his homeland? What degree of psychological torture would a remotely sensitive human being attribute to that? Especially when the U.S. legal system and lower levels of intelligence officials have declared the detainee a non-threat, mistakenly arrested, and still he has to wait for or maybe never be granted release?

Andy Worthington writes of a January 2010 final report of a four year internal investigation into the Justice Department lawyers who wrote the “torture memos” in 2002 and 2003 to redefine torture so that it could be practiced by the CIA and US military. 

A senior Justice Department official over-rode the report’s damning conclusions, declaring that there be no disciplinary measures for “professional misconduct” but that John Yoo and Jay S. Bybee had only “exercised poor judgment.” 

Yoo enjoys his professorship at Berkeley and Bybee his judgeship on the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals.

That same report Worthington cites levels heavy accusations against two psychologists who devised the horrifying experimental torture program first used on Abu Zubaydah in 2002. 

Worthington discloses that Zubaydah is still in Gitmo and writes: 

“... the Obama administration has no idea what to do with Abu Zubaydah, the 'guinea pig' for the torture program, who, after his horrendous treatment, was revealed not as a significant al-Qaeda leader, but as a mentally-damaged training camp facilitator, whose relationship with al-Qaeda was, at most, minimal.”

snip

“[Mitchell] ordered that Zubaydah be chained to a chair for weeks on end; that he be whipped by the neck into concrete walls; that he be stuffed into a small, black box and left for hours; that he be hung naked from the ceiling; that he be kept awake for 11 consecutive days, and sprayed with cold water if he dozed. But the torture designed by Dr. Mitchell was about to pass to another level. It was time to implement the final stage of Dr. Mitchell’s program.

“Abu Zubaydah lay strapped to a gurney specially designed to maximize his suffering. His feet were above his head, just as Dr. Mitchell had ordered. His hands, arms, legs, chest, and head were restrained by heavy leather straps. As Zubaydah lay helpless, Mitchell and his subordinates placed a black cloth over his face and began to pour water onto the cloth. Rivers of water ran up Zubaydah’s nose and down his throat. He could not breathe. Panic gripped him as he began to drown. And when Mitchell sensed that Zubaydah dangled on the precipice between life and death, he ordered that the board be raised. Zubaydah expelled the water in a violent, racking spasm of coughing, gurgling and gasping. But before Zubaydah could catch his breath, Dr. Mitchell repeated the experiment. Then he did it again. And again. According to the United States Government, Abu Zubaydah was waterboarded 83 times in August 2002 alone.”

Andy Worthington also reported on the deaths of three prisoners at Guantanamo on June 9, 2006. According to the military Salah Ahmed al-Salami (also identified as Ali Abdullah Ahmed), a 37-year old Yemeni, Mani Shaman al-Utaybi, a 30-year old Saudi, and Yasser Talal al-Zahrani, a Saudi who was just 17 when he was seized in Afghanistan, died by hanging themselves, in what Guantánamo’s then-Commander, Rear Adm. Harry Harris, described as an act of “asymmetric warfare.” Another military officer referred to it as a kind of p.r. stunt. 

It clearly was homicide or depraved indifference at the very least not suicide but using this as their cover-up was as depraved and disgusting as the special forces unit digging military bullets out of the bodies of two pregnant women in Afghanistan whom they had murdered and trying to pass the murders off as honor killings by their own people.

The three Gitmo prisoners had purportedly endured “painful months of force-feeding as three of the prison’s most persistent hunger strikers, and by raising their fellow prisoners’ spirits as accomplished singers of nasheeds (Islamic songs).” 

There is incredible evidence that these men could not possibly have committed suicide due to ridiculously obvious circumstances (like how did they bind their own hands and feet?) as well as one brave whistleblower’s (Sgt. Hickman's) eventual testimony (who came forward when Obama was elected, ironically trusting that the Obama administration would seek out justice more than the Bush administration) proving that these prisoners were either deliberately killed or excessively tortured that night, having had rags stuffed down their throats from which they most likely suffocated.

Another man, Shaker Aamer, was brutally tortured that same evening but survived. He is still being held despite being cleared for release by a military review board in 2007. (According to Worthington, since the “Christmas bomber" tried to strike Obama has become even more reluctant out of political considerations to release detainees who have been cleared for release. Executive arbitrary and callous perogative? Worthington suggests in this case, though, it is that Aamer knows too much about military travesties against himself and others.) Shaker was also a leader among the prisoners. A statement by his lawyer about Shaker's torture that night:

“On June 9th, 2006, [Shaker Aamer] was beaten for two and a half hours straight. Seven naval military police participated in his beating. Mr. Aamer stated he had refused to provide a retina scan and fingerprints. He reported to me that he was strapped to a chair, fully restrained at the head, arms and legs. The MPs inflicted so much pain, Mr. Aamer said he thought he was going to die. The MPs pressed on pressure points all over his body: his temples, just under his jawline, in the hollow beneath his ears. They choked him. They bent his nose repeatedly so hard to the side he thought it would break. They pinched his thighs and feet constantly. They gouged his eyes. They held his eyes open and shined a mag-lite in them for minutes on end, generating intense heat. They bent his fingers until he screamed. When he screamed, they cut off his airway, then put a mask on him so he could not cry out.”

Horrifying (and horrifyingly authorized) conduct as cited above is NOT national self defense. 

It is sadism. 

It is anti-humanism. 

It is patriarchal psychopathology. 

It is against moral law. 

It is against international law. 

It is against, or rather should be against, U.S. law! 

If such crimes are not called out and then accounted for they will continue and escalate in number and nature.  Even more frightening, more and more and more and more “good” Americans will succumb to the normalization of torture.

“To torture or not to torture?”  Why is this even being treated as a legitimate question?

 

[cross-posted on correntewire] 

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Comments

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Thirty years ago this wouldn't have been a question that we would have discussed like it was a good idea; they were involved in atrocities back then too but at least they didn't try to pretend it was justifiable. Instead they tried to cover it up.

Not that that is any better.
Zachd, nice to see ya!!! Thanks for comment and I agree, though I think the brazenness of the war crimes does mean exponential increasing of suffering. best, libby

Here is a comment on Kathryn Bigelow's new movie re torture and bin Laden from Bill Van Auken at wsws:

http://www.wsws.org/en/articles/2012/12/20/dark-d20.html

"This ideology became cemented in class interests as Hollywood turned Bigelow into a multi-millionaire. She is representative of a whole social layer of ex-“lefts” and liberals who have accommodated themselves to imperialism, implicitly recognizing that their wealth and privilege are bound up with and dependent upon a strong state, capable of waging predatory wars abroad and suppressing social discontent at home.

"Some of them take comfort in the fact that the horrendous crimes carried out in the process can be ordered by a black president and implemented by female CIA operatives.

"These are the class dynamics and ugly political currents that give rise to a grotesque film like Zero Dark Thirty."