Living the Bi Life

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Max the Communist

Max the Communist
Chicago, Illinois, USA
January 17
"Her beauty served a mob of terror whose one mission is to destroy." Yeah, that's me alright. I am a writer, actor, activist. That means I've worked in the hospitality and retail industries. Before you ask for fries with that, prepare yourself for political, economic, social, and sexual liberation. Not a total commie. I just marvel at the inflammatory red-baiting language--so much like queer-baiting, it's scaaary. I will be your downfall yet, America. Until then, I go for universal healthcare and making friends with anarchists, hippies, fellow-travelers, philosophers, actors, and other troublemakers. And, of course, da queers. So I'm pinko. Does that make me more Canadian than anything else? How queer are they in Canukistan? And can they put me up for the night--you know, just in case? In other words, just your typical OS blogger.

APRIL 28, 2009 5:59AM

John Burge and the Prosecution of Torture

Rate: 8 Flag

There is nothing new about torture in America or American governments exporting or carrying out torture on foreign shores.  This article by Naomi Klein gives some idea of American torture dating back to the fifties.  It puts me in mind of a conversation my cousin surprised me with last year, when he opened up as never before about his time served in Army Intelligence in Germany right after World War II.  

"We didn't do any waterboarding, but there was something of a 'cowboy' atmosphere about interrogation--on their side as well as ours.  Have you ever seen The Third Man?  People being taken up in helicopters and dangled out the side.  That kind of thing."




I believe this is the scene my cousin associates with US Army Intelligence interrogation practices of the period.   

 We don't have to stop at WWII. We can go back further, to the beating and punishment of slaves, the lynching of African Americans after Reconstruction, count as torture.  What else does one call the forced march during the ethnic cleansing of the Cherokee from Georgia, the Trail of Tears, except torture with the intent to commit genocide?

Perhaps you would like to impeach and then prosecute Barack Obama for backtracking on his promises to end torturestop extraordinary rendition, and restore the rule of law.  If so, you will find no end of assistance from the right, who have been ready since before the election to help you in your quest.  Be prepared to hear about birth certificates and Tony Rezko as cause for impeachment, not necessarily outrage over torture.  Although, you might be able to sway the conversation toward torture by reminding them that their beloved Ronald Reagan prosecuted a Texas sheriff and his deputies for waterboarding

My own experience with the issue of prosecuting torturers stems from the case of John Burge, a Chicago police officer and torturer from 1970 to 1993.  I was involved organizing an anti-gay-bashing campaign in 1992 and, working in coalition with other anti-violence organizations, was introduced to the case by The Task Force to Confront Police Violence.  They promoted their cause with a little documentary called, The End of the Nightstick.  The title comes from a quotation of a 19th century NYC police captain, "There is more justice at the end of my nightstick than there are in all the courts in the land."  

John Burge has evaded prosecution for torture.  The statute of limitations ran out in his case, so he has been indicted for lying under oath about it.  That is the best that US Attorney Patrick Fitzgerald can do; after 200+ people being tortured by Burge and his men during his 20 year career, innocent people serving time for crimes they were forced to confess to, Burge will only be punished for lying about it--if Fitzgerald succeeds. 

Here is the thing:  Burge is not a "somebody", certainly not a somebody in the eyes of the neo-cons that ran our country into the cesspit.  He will never be invited to go hunting with Dick Cheney or to one of Condi's piano recitals.  He does not have exorbitant wealth.  His police pension, which he still receives, is probably just $30,000 a year.  He has had to put up his home in Apollo Beach, Florida as security for his $250,000 bond.   Yet, this torturer of modest origins and means has managed to evade the law on his most heinous crimes.  

What Burge does have is the police code of silence and the delays and evasions of Mayor Richie Daley.  The pursuit of Burge has taken around 30 years and perhaps $17 million dollars and he has still to be put squarely in jail.   

This is where the rubber hits the road.  If freedom isn't free, then prosecuting people for taking away our freedoms really isn't free, in time or money.  It takes the wiry, tenacious moral outrage of a Simon Wiesenthal, Holocaust survivor, to see it through.  But more than that, Americans need to see their culture as one in which torture permeates and has a certain acceptance at every level.  What you need for that to happen is a sea change; for the abolition of torture, the entire country needs to be pulled to the left.

Will it be pulled to the left if the left fails on the economy?  We shall know very soon.  This economy is not done pitching and rolling; 2010 mid-term elections are just around the corner, 2012 right around the next one.  

One more thing:  never assert that it's no good going after the small fries, when you can never get the big fish whose orders they were following.   Burge is a small fry who learned his torture techniques in Vietnam.  Small fries come home.  Small fries can do a lot of damage in the little ponds they inhabit. 





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This is very well-written. I think that it is absolutely true that military torture techniques are passed on back home.
You should br proud of the work you have done.
I think it's great that you have brought out some of the history of America's use of torture. You are quite right that this goes back a very long ways. The difference under Bush and Cheney was that they turned it into a wholesale practice and explicit policy.

I agree with you about everything except your stance on Obama. You raise a bit of a straw man by stating the case that those who want to prosecute those who articulated and carried out torture also want Obama's impeachment. No one on the left that I know of has called for that. It would not be the proper way to proceed.
Max, this is brilliant. To echo Delia, I hope you are proud of your research and work here.

First things first. Before I continue in this discourse with anyone, I need to say that I did not vote in the Presidential election. When I signed my name at the polls, I wrote 'conscientious objector of the presidential election' underneath. I voted locally.

And that's where you have the key to my heart with this one, Max! Little ponds can breed some big mean fish. I plan to throw my hat in the ring in this little town in the next election. Change it down in the grass, at the seed level.

On the subject of impeachment. With all due respect to you and Professor Loo, I am calling for that. Maybe that's easy for me, because I didn't participate Obama's election in the first place. However, I need to go back to the old drawing board and read more and think more about my own attitude on this.

Thank you, dear friend, for waking me up this morning with good sound thinking, well delivered.
"War will exist until the distant day when the conscientious objector enjoys the same reputation and prestige as the warrior does today."

– John F. Kennedy (1917-1963), the thirty-fifth President of the United States, letter to a Navy friend
Thank you both for your positive feedback to this post.

@Delia--you should be proud of the work that you have done. Anyone who hasn't seen DeliaBlack's "Torture, Blackmail, Executions, and the Death of My Father" must go now and read it.

@Dennis--I think you are a Simon Wiesenthal.

It's an open secret that the police, who are supposed to enforced the law, act like they are above it, every damn day in America. In one story about increased torture at Gitmo, I read that the guards are removing their identity number badges or switching them with each other so that no one can identify them for the torture crimes they are committing. That's an old police trick--in Chicago, anyway.

The suggestion to impeach Obama is tongue-in-cheek. Perhaps I didn't dial up the satire high enough. No, when you can't get at someone directly you have to try other means. I think shaming Obama, shaming him loudly and publicly, like with the Ronald Reagan story--although don't stop there if you can find others. As a politician, he still has to watch out about how he looks in front of other people.
@Robin--thank you, thank you. Damn, heading into the fray, huh? What office are you running for?
Ugh! There goes my crappy spelling: "enforce the law", not "enforced the law".
House of Representatives. 4th Congressional District. University town. I won't win, but I'll get to talk some.
Of course, I'll have to start a new blog. One that doesn't include love affairs with Trolls.
Get Freaky to wear pearls and a Chanel suit and the people will fall all over her. Good luck and keep us in-the-know about your campaign.

Hmmm . . . I think I had "better know" your district.
Ha! She'd be elected before me, any day. This 'campaign' will be run on a couple of old untied shoelaces, my brother's angel wings he used to fly off a roof when he was little, and some offbeat prayers.
I'll offer another prayer for ya Robin.
So, Max, when are you running?
Your a very inciteful person. John
@julie--I love being an activist. I meet so many more interesting people that way. Running for office is a major commitment, if you intend to win and hope to make a difference from within. I think I would rather make a commitment with writing, drama, art, and screaming in people's faces.

@John--thank you. I've had a lot of help.
@Robin--by the way, check out jimgalt's latest post, "Interview and Privacy" for possible mutually shared concerns.
You say "sadly amusing", I say cultural meme embedded in our presumption of American exceptionalism. "It doesn't happen here." Denial is not a river in Egypt, it runs right through the center of the American heart.

Gore Vidal, one of my favorite bisexuals, calls it Ameramnesia.
People say 'the past eight years,' but you are quite right. There were no good old days when we didn't do this sort of thing, or worse. But I oppose it, all the same, wherever I can get a hearing. I wrote letters for Amnesty.

That is why it is called Progressive. It is a political force aimed at a better future.
@David--thank you. No nostalgia for a past that wasn't there.
Max: just came back to check the rest of the comments. I'm glad you were being tongue in cheek about Obama and impeachment. I'm honored by your comparison to Simon.
@Dennis--I am reminded of the Irish blessing my mom used to tell us:
May the wind always be at your back.
May the sun shine warm upon your face.
May the road rise up to meet you,
and may you be in heaven half an hour
before the devil knows you're dead.