Welcome back to The One About...'s The Twelve Days Of Blogmas. On day four I'm running a bit late, due to being without 'net service all day.
Today's article comes from April 7th of 2009. It is by far my least favorite article ever. Not because it's poorly written. But because it covers a subject that honestly I did not ever want to write about. I wrote it after learning that the torture of prisoners had been going on, and that it was essentially authorized by Bushco. My shock, disgust, and outrage is as strong today as it was then. I felt a bit less alone however after seeing Fox News anchor Shepherd Smith display the same outrage I did, even using similar language.
As with previous reposts I have added a lead off picture and added links, but if you want to see the article in its original form you can click here.
I've never been the type to cling to illusions. The nostalgic feeling that some people have for a time when they believed in things that they have since learned aren't so, is not one that's shared by me. I prefer to know the shape of the world and deal with things as they are. However, there are still a select few things that I believe, or have believed that when something happens to destroy that belief, I not only regret it but I am made sick, sad, and angry by it. Today, that has happened.
I'm not by the rather narrow definition of some people a “Patriot”. I have no interest in either killing, nor dying for my country. While I think there is much that it good about America, there is a lot that is utter crap, and really much what we do amounts to, “Well it seems to work okay for us.” I have not for a very, very long time invested any energy in the myths of America.
Except for one. One thing that was legendary about this country, that I would have stood up and not just proclaimed, but proudly proclaimed. It's best expressed in the form of a story, it may not be factual but I once took it as true.
During the waning days of World War Two, German soldiers were surrendering in record numbers. They were largely unarmed, unfed, and dispirited. Knowing how their military treated prisoners of war they did not expect anything other than more privation, and abuse, but at least they'd have a roof over their heads to wait out the end of the war. When they got to the camps set up for German prisoners of war, the first thing that happened was they were sent through the standard, delousing process. Once cleaned up they were clothed. Now while none of this was a pleasant process, it was at the same time not as brutal and humiliating as it would have been, had they been American soldiers in German custody. Next came meal time. They expected to be given rations that were just barely edible. Instead they were given platefuls of hot stew, not gourmet perhaps but certainly not the worst thing they'd ever eaten. But the capper, the true shocker was that after the meal was over, each man was given a small square of chocolate. Now for anyone who didn't live through this time, or at least have living relatives who did I don't know if I can convey how amazing this was. During war time, any sweets but especially chocolate was only slightly less valuable than gold, and only because while gold could buy chocolate the reverse was not true. So, for something so precious to be given to The “Enemy” was astounding to these soldiers. When one of the POW's who spoke decent English, had been in the camp for a few days and felt comfortable he asked one of his guards about the chocolate. He allowed that not only would American prisoners not have been given chocolate, they would have been given food that was barely fit to eat, and only as much as the Geneva Convention required. The man looked at him and said simply, “We're Americans. We just don't do things that way.”
Fast forward by several decades to the first Gulf War. By this time it's become well known that America both her government and her people have been involved in a lot of morally questionable and just wrong things. The last major sustained combat was Vietnam, which as pretty much everyone knows did not go so well. Now you have combat in another foreign land, and this time it is covered on television from start to finish.
One of the things that the camera caught was American soldiers trying to get captured Iraqi soldiers to eat the MRE's that they had offered them. The Iraqi's refused, they acted distrustful and afraid. Finally one of the American's figured it out. Their Iraqi counterparts assumed that the food was poisoned. So, the American's made a big show of taking bites out of the MRE's to show that it was safe to eat. Later an Iraqi was interviewed and by translator he confirmed what was suspected. “If an American had been captured there would be no guarentee that he would be given food that was not poison.” And as I watched I said to myself with great pride. “We're American's. We don't do things that way.”
And now we come to the 21st century. We are attacked by a terrorist organization. The President and his advisers convince everyone that the next likely threat would come from Iraq, as allegedly Saddam Hussein had “Weapons Of Mass Destruction.” So we invaded, And meanwhile we detained people who were suspected terrorists. And we held them essentially without any due process. Held them in a place where some allegedly misguided American soldiers subjected some of them to cruel and abusive treatment. Which of course everyone admitted was wrong. But the important thing was that this was the action of a few at the bottom rungs. This was still America, and we still had standards. We did not embrace the tactics of our enemies even when it might be quicker and easier. Except we did.
Because now it's come to light that Bushco. Authorized everything from warrantless wiretapping (which we already knew about) to all manner of actions towards prisoners that are to put it bluntly torture. Suddenly all those things that we “don't do” became things we did.
Finally Bush and his cabal left office, and really rather rapidly the light of fact was shone on what they had been up to. Starting with memo's authorizing (rationalizing more like) torture, and a whole host of other sordid crap. Then the push for full investigation and disclosure started. The push to find out and reveal everything they had been up to and to make those who had done wrong take the consequences of their actions.
Except now it looks like that won't be happening.
If the president releases the Bush torture memos, Republicans are promising to “go nuclear” and filibuster his legal appointments. Scott Horton reports on a serious threat to Obama’s transparency.
Senate Republicans are now privately threatening to derail the confirmation of key Obama administration nominees for top legal positions by linking the votes to suppressing critical torture memos from the Bush era. A reliable Justice Department source advises me that Senate Republicans are planning to “go nuclear” over the nominations of Dawn Johnsen as chief of the Office of Legal Counsel (OLC) in the Department of Justice and Yale Law School Dean Harold Koh as State Department legal counsel if the torture documents are made public. The source says these threats are the principal reason for the Obama administration’s abrupt pull back last week from a commitment to release some of the documents. A Republican Senate source confirms the strategy. It now appears that Republicans are seeking an Obama commitment to safeguard the Bush administration’s darkest secrets in exchange for letting these nominations go forward.
Barack Obama entered Washington with a promise of transparency. One of his first acts was a presidential directive requiring that the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA), a near dead letter during the Bush years, was to be enforced according to its terms. He specifically criticized the Bush administration’s practice of preparing secret memos that determined legal policy and promised to review and publish them after taking office.
But in the past week questions about Obama’s commitment to transparency have mounted. On Thursday, April 2, the Justice Department was expected to make public a set of four memoranda prepared by the Justice Department’s Office of Legal Counsel, long sought by the American Civil Liberties Union and other advocacy organizations in a pending FOIA litigation. The memos, authored by then administration officials and now University of California law professor John Yoo, federal appellate judge Jay Bybee and former Justice Department lawyer Stephen Bradbury apparently grant authority for the brutal treatment of prisoners, including waterboarding, isolated confinement in coffin-like containers, and “head smacking.” The stakes over release of the papers are increasingly high. Yoo and Bybee are both targets of a criminal investigation in a Spanish court probing the torture of five Spanish citizens formerly held in Guantánamo; also named in the Spanish case are former Attorney General Alberto Gonzales and three other Bush lawyers. Legal observers in Spain consider the Bush administration lawyers at serious risk of indictment, and the memos, once released, could be entered as evidence in connection with their prosecution. Unlike the torture memos that are already public, these memos directly approve specific torture techniques and therefore present a far graver problem for their authors.
The release of the memos that the Senate Republicans want to suppress was cleared by Attorney General Holder and White House counsel Greg Craig, and then was stopped when “all hell broke loose” inside the Obama administration, according to an article by Newsweek reporter Michael Isikoff. Newsweek attributes internal opposition to disclosure of the Bush era torture memos to White House counterterrorism advisor and former CIA official John O. Brennan, who has raised arguments that exposure of the memoranda would run afoul of policies protecting the secrecy of agency techniques and has also argued that the memos would embarrass nations like Morocco, Jordan, Pakistan, Tunisia and Egypt, which have cooperated closely with the CIA in its extraordinary renditions program. Few informed independent observers, however, find much to credit in the Brennan objections because the techniques are now well known, as is the role of the cooperating foreign intelligence services—any references to which would in any event likely be redacted before the memoranda are released. Moreover, the argument that the confidence of those engaged in torture—serious criminal conduct under international and domestic law—should be kept because they would be “embarrassed” if it were to come out borders on comic.
The Justice Department source confirms to me that Brennan has consistently opposed making public the torture memos—and any other details about the operations of the extraordinary renditions program— but this source suggests that concern about the G.O.P.’s roadblock in the confirmation process is the principle reason that the memos were not released. Republican senators have expressed strong reservations about their promised exposure, expressing alarm that a critique of the memos by Justice’s ethics office (Office of Professional Responsibility) will also be released. “There was no ‘direct’ threat,” said the source, “but the message was communicated clearly—if the OLC and OPR memoranda are released to the public, there will be war.” This is understood as a threat to filibuster the nominations of Johnsen and Koh. Not only are they among the most prominent academic critics of the torture memoranda, but are also viewed as the strongest advocates for release of the torture memos on Obama’s legal policy team.
This is extremely disheartening. Not only the idea that it was done but more troubling the idea that Republicans are using what little political clout they have left to protect a failed administration. And even more troubling still that President Obama and his administration may be going to act in the interest of politics rather than the interest of what is right, and humane and decent. That they are going to allow the truth to be covered back over just to appease a wrong thinking few, to protect those who do not deserve it.
This is wrong and sickening and angering. Do you people in power not get it? Once upon a time many of us believed in this country as one who treated with our enemies fairly and humanely. Who did not torture captured enemies, did not feed them tainted food, and act to humiliate and demean them. And when it did happen, it was by people who were sick and wrong, and it was stopped. There were no memo's, no secret policies, no endless prevarications and justifications. Why?
BECAUSE WE ARE AMERICANS AND WE JUST DON'T FUCKING DO THINGS THAT WAY!!!
So here I am, living in a country that at this point I don't see a whole lot of reason to take much “pride” in. Do I hate it here? No. It's a good country in a lot of ways. But it used to have at least a few things that really did make it stand out from all the rest. Most if not all of those things are gone. But I wish they would come back.
I want Obama to do the right thing. To pursue the truth no matter what the cost. To take us back to being a nation that can say honestly, “We're American's. We lost our way for a little while until we remembered that we just don't do things that way.”
But at this point I'm not holding my breath.
Sadly Obama has proven himself gutless on this front. But while he's "looking forward", some of us will be looking back, to make sure we never forget the worst this nation and its leaders are capable of, and to try to make sure that it never happens again. At least not without a fight.
Check back tomorrow for an article from May in which I talk about my manhood. The metaphorical kind. What kind did you think I was talking about? Perverts. ;-)
Keep The Faith My Brothers And Sisters!
Crimea is a peninsula on the northern coast of the Black Sea. The Autonomous Republic of Crimea occupies most of the peninsula, while the City of Sevastopol occupies the rest.