Posted tagged ‘torture’

Funny/Tragic

June 17, 2014

This is so on-point it hurts:

iggy pop amnesty

 

Iggy’s confessing that  “Justin Bieber is the future of rock ‘n’ roll”  — and the caption reads “Torture a man and he’ll tell you anything.  Torture isn’t just inhumane, it’s ineffective.  Stop it.”

This comes from the brilliant folks at or working with the Belgian operation of Amnesty International

Here’s another one:

Dalai Amnesty

Same caption to the Dalai Lama admitting that “A man who doesn’t have a Rolex at fifty is a failure.”

It’s worth remembering that the claque who clamored us into war more than a decade ago and are trying to do so again include many of the same people who told us torture would keep us safe.

There is no limit to the wrongness of these people — and as our Belgian friends reminds us, their dishonesty is both a moral and a practical failure.

And by the way — thanks to Iggy Pop and the Dalai Lama for their willingness to take part in this campaign.

In Our Names

July 8, 2013

Titian_-_The_Scourging_of_Christ_-_WGA22826

Driving back from dropping my son off at his first day of summer camp, I turned on the radio in the middle of our local broadcast of the BBC’s World Service.  Almost the first thing up was an interview with director Asif Kapadia, talking about his latest project, a short film starring Yasiim Bey’s (Mos Def).

Bey’s subject: what it is actually like to be force fed, as is now being experienced by detainees at the US indefinite detention camp at Guantanamo Bay.  Bey’s supporting cast included two doctors, volunteering for the roles.  In the camp the procedure is performed by US personnel, working towards the stated purpose of securing the freedom and liberty of the citizens and residents of the United States.

Bey’s video is propaganda in the purest sense. That does not mean it can’t show us something that we should know.

Warning — and pay attention to me here, kids:  This short film is hard to watch — very much so — which is its point.  Don’t hit play if you have a hard time putting images of cruelty or violence out of your mind.  I’m putting it below the fold so that you don’t click on it by accident.

(more…)

A Thought I Wish I Could Get Out Of My Head

November 12, 2011

I read in TPM that Herman Cain said this in the debate tonight:

“I do not agree with torture, period,” Cain said to start the exchange. “However, I will trust the judgment of our military leaders to determine what is torture and what is not torture. That is the critical consideration.”

Asked specifically about waterboarding, Cain tipped his hand. “I don’t see it as torture,” he said. “I see it as an enhanced interrogation technique.”

 

I hear that, and I find mindself performing a thought experiment that leaves my stomach in knots.  What if someone in State College had said something like this:

“I don’t see it as molestation….I see it as an enhanced interrogation technique.”

The moral catastrophe speaks for itself, right?

That’s the problem with the failure to call things by their right name.  No one in the Penn State scandal has tried to term what happened there as anything other than the misery it was, child rape and a fundamental betrayal.  We aren’t that far gone yet.

But the repeated use — and the authorization at the highest level — of acts we hanged people for after World War II?  Those are just “enhanced techniques.”  To this day even the liberal New York Times can’t bring itself to say that inconvenient word “torture.”

That Herman Cain is no fit president is hardly news.  I just wish this particular pathology were confined to him.  It’s not.

Image:  Dieric Bouts, The Martyrdom of St. Hippolytus,1470-1475.

Did Anyone Actually See David Broder’s Body?

May 4, 2011

[This is a cross post from Balloon Juice, where it prompted quite a discussion and, this morning, this response from mistermix.  I’m going to tag back later in the day, (promises, promises) but for now, here’s where all this started.  (P.S.  Sorry for not getting this up here at the same time as over at BJ, as is my usual custom.  As happenes, work intervened.]

David Broder is dead, or so they say.

I’m telling you he’s undead, and like the Jack the Ripper figure in that Star Trek episode, seems to be infecting the previously sane.

Exhibit A:

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Here’s Josh Marshall, Josh Freaking Marshall, earlier today:

As a more general matter it’s important to recognize that torture could easily have produced the key information. It just seems not to have in this case. You can be doctrinaire in opposing torture without being doctrinaire in assuming that it can’t produce any good intelligence, which would be foolish.

Here’s Senator Feinstein, speaking to the particular, as reported in Josh’s own Talking Points Memo:

“To the best of our knowledge, based on a look, none of it came as a result of harsh interrogation practices,” said Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-CA), chair of the Senate Intelligence Committee in a wide-ranging press conference.

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Moreover, Feinstein added, nothing about the sequence of events that culminated in Sunday’s raid vindicates the Bush-era techniques, nor their use of black sites — secret prisons, operated by the CIA.

“Absolutely not, I do not,” Feinstein said. “I happen to know a good deal about how those interrogations were conducted, and in my view nothing justifies the kind of procedures that were used.”

And as for the general claim, that “torture could easily have produced the key information,” here’s the lede to that very story, written by Brian Beutler:

More and more evidence suggests a key piece of intelligence — the first link in the chain of information that led U.S. intelligence officials to Osama bin Laden — wasn’t tortured out of its source. And, indeed, that torture actually failed to produce it.

If Marshall wants to argue that torture is a valuable tool for intelligence gather, let him make the case.  I don’t actually think he does, of course.  But his bland suggestion that it might be so reeks of both-sides-now-ism.

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Combine that with the hippy-bashing use of the word “doctrinaire” — as in hide-bound, close-minded, and inflexible — to describe the properties of opposition to torture, and you have a bit of even handed applause for the right’s conventional wisdom that Mr. Broder himself would have admired.

Marshall is better than this bit of overly fast punditry…but in some sense that’s the point.  It shows how easy it is to slip into Broderism, into the habits of sloppy thinking, or simple refusal to think, even for people who’ve made a career of bullshit detection.

Eternal vigilance, peeps.

Image:  Pierre-Paul Prud’hon, Justice and Divine Vengeance Pursuing Crime, 1808

None Dare Say Its Name: “Even the Liberal New York Times” edition.

May 3, 2011

One reason the Bush got Bin Laden meme is in with a chance is the growing chorus claiming that “enhanced interrogation” was the key to cracking the case.  (Warning:  wingnuttia at that link)

This is nonsense, of course, on at least two levels. One, well documented by lots of folks, including, repeatedly, commenters here, is that the mind-crumbling treatment of detainees being touted as the key to the case is both unnecessary for properly trained interrogators and counterproductive as well.  Oh and people, like Khalid Sheik Muhammed, the man that Cheney’s acolytes allege gave up the nickname of the courier who led US intelligence to Bin Laden’s compound, have already admitted lying to end the pain (hoocoodanode?)

The other reason this claim is nonsense is that the accumulating record of this case demonstrates that a lot of old fashioned intelligence work — and some basic policing, in fact — and not torture produced the leads that ultimately brought a Seal team to Abbottabad.  The New York Times has written a mostly impressive account of the case that reads in part like a procedural thriller.  In it, the reporters describe how the courier was first tagged:

Prisoners in American custody told stories of a trusted courier. When the Americans ran the man’s pseudonym past two top-level detainees — the chief planner of the Sept. 11 attacks, Khalid Shaikh Mohammed; and Al Qaeda’s operational chief, Abu Faraj al-Libi — the men claimed never to have heard his name. That raised suspicions among interrogators that the two detainees were lying and that the courier probably was an important figure.

So KSM did not reveal the secret under torture.  Rather, he held his tongue…and this is how US intelligence closed the gap:

By 2005, many inside the C.I.A. had reached the conclusion that the Bin Laden hunt had grown cold, and the agency’s top clandestine officer ordered an overhaul of the agency’s counterterrorism operations. The result was Operation Cannonball, a bureaucratic reshuffling that placed more C.I.A. case officers on the ground in Pakistan and Afghanistan.

With more agents in the field, the C.I.A. finally got the courier’s family name. With that, they turned to one of their greatest investigative tools — the National Security Agency began intercepting telephone calls and e-mail messages between the man’s family and anyone inside Pakistan. From there they got his full name.

Boots on the ground, intercepts, the slow, boring sifting through data.  Cop work.  Spy work — the real kind, not the deluded fantasies of those who think Jack Bauer actually works for the US government.

All good so far:  the usual suspects of or enamored with the Bush-Cheney crime family are wrong, lying and gaining at least a bit of traction, but mainstream media accounts are out there that give them the lie.

So what’s my beef?

This, from the same article:

As the hunt for Bin Laden continued, the spy agency was being buffeted on other fronts: the botched intelligence assessments about weapons of mass destruction leading up to the Iraq War, and the intense criticism for using waterboarding and other extreme interrogation methods that critics said amounted to torture. [Italics added]

No.

It’s not that “critics say” waterboarding is torture.

As everybody likely to read this already knows, many times over, waterboarding is torture, as defined by international law and has repeatedly been recognized as such by the U.S. in the prosecution of other nations’ war criminals.  It is also recognized as such by everyone who has experienced it.  See, e.g. Christopher Hitchens.

This has gone on too long.  I’m sick of it.  Killing Bin Laden is a significant milestone in the pursuit of the criminals who murdered US citizens in 2001 (and many others before and after, of course).  We know now that the success of that mission turned on classic approaches to investigation and the pursuit of fugitives.  That the US government tortured people for years produced one of the key victories won by  Osama Bin Laden, as discussed in John’s thread earlier today.

The inability of the newspaper of record to simply state that torture is torture helps preserve that victory.  They should know better.  Hell, they do know better.  But in that one weasely little “critics said,” the New York Times gives aid and comfort to the worst — and least competent — among us.

Image:  José Ribera, Ixion, 1632.

Chronicles of the Gutless, or When Did the GOP Become Such Cowards? Scott Brown edition

January 11, 2010

Just listened to the last debate in the MA Senate race and caught the exchanges between Scott Brown (R-Soundbite) and Martha Coakley (D).

Lots of stuff to notice — mostly that if I were a committed anti-abortion voter, I would  have no one to vote for in this election, as Scott Brown was for, against, and unsure of what he thought on the issue, especially around his proposal a couple of years back to permit hospital workers to refuse to inform rape victims of the existence of a morning-after contraceptive.  He sponsored the idea, then voted in favor of a bill requiring such information, and finally said he was for Roe v. Wade…or sort of.

I have no idea what he really thinks (and how he would vote), and I’m not sure he does either, but I do know that neither supporters nor opponents of women’s right to make their own medical decisions should have any warm and fuzzy feelings about the man right now.

I also liked the zinger that third party guy Joe Kennedy (obligatory no relation reference here) got off on Brown, noting how he’s against taxes now, but declined to support an anti-income tax measure in the run up to the last election.  I actually think that his was the right position at the time, but he sure is running as if he hopes no one remembers that moment of GOP apostasy now.

But all of that is just the secret sauce on top of what makes me think that Brown is truly in tune with the gutless heart of modern Republican “thought” (sic — ed).

That would be his stance on trying accused terrorists in civilian courts, as opposed to maintaining our version of a no-exit gulag beyond the reach of law.

He said, repeatedly, that he opposed trying such suspects in civilian court at — as he said over and over again — “taxpayer expense.”

The witlessness of that got me, of course:  these dudes aren’t a drain on the American public purse now, Mr. Brown?  You think that all those water bills and their three squares, Guantanamo style, come free?

But more deeply, when did the macho-er-than-thou “Mission Accomplished” GOP become so terrified of a handful of violent men (not to mention all those lumped in with the baddest guys who ended up there by accident, but that’s another story) that the mere thought that the rule of law might apply to their cases would send allegedly grown men and women reaching for their blankies?

That’s the rub, for me.  It has always seemed a fundamental mistake to dignify those who aim to blow up random children, women and men with the epithet “enemy” or “combatant.”

Our adversaries — at least  those who use overstuffed jockstraps as weapons — are not warriors. They are not soldiers to be dignified by any hint of equivalence with the men and women we have sent in harm’s way.  They are mere thugs, and they should be treated as such.

This isn’t mere semantics.

We have done nothing to serve the interests of al Qaeda or its kin as to acknowledge them to the world as enemies capable of inspiring fear.  What a recruiting tool, to enable some persuasive person to proclaim to young men that the world’s only superpower fears its “enemy combatants!”

Add to that the help we have given them as our leaders cowered and then masked their fear in the false bravado of torture.  Abu Ghraib was understood to be what it was: not an aberration, but an expression of the policy of the US government — driven by the fear evoked by the specter of global terror.

And now Scott Brown, with all the deep grasp of the issue that only service to Wrentham and posturing in the rump minority of the legislature of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts can bring, comes along and tells us that torture, and indefinite detention, and the suspension of habeas corpus and all the rest remains the only way to deal with the existential threat posed by this bunch of thugs.

Maybe — if we were truly weak, if we were a  fragile, illegitimate rump state, dependent on every last dirty trick of security-apparats to push off  the throes of disintegration.

But we are not.  We are the United States of America, and if that means anything anymore, after all the broken faith of the Bush years, then it means we are capable of using the law to protect and to punish those who have earned the penalty.

Scott Brown doesn’t think so.  His 30 years of military service seem not to have endowed him with spine, or much of a sense of the Constitution he has sworn to protect.  He’d rather cower, and leave those he fears in the cells forever.

Gutless.

We need better in a Senator.  We need someone who is not afraid of shadows, one who understands that the equal application of the law is a defense against those who threaten the idea of America — and not now, nor ever, our weakness.

My Massachusetts readers:  don’t forget to vote come Tuesday, 19 January 2010.

Image:  Georgios Iakovidis, “Cold Shower,” 1898

I know it’s a serious subject, but…

October 22, 2009

This line cracks me up for all the wrong reasons:

“Music should never be used as torture,” said [Roseanne] Cash. “It’s beyond the pale. It’s hard to even think about.”

Now I like Roseanne Cash’s music, and her dad is a god to me…

…but really, if the music business does not wish to get entangled in torture, we’d never hear stuff like this. (funny bad — maybe the Geneva Conventions don’t apply)

Or this. (really, really, awful.  Warm up the courtroom at the Hague.)

Or, especially and always, this. (You know what’s on the other side of that link. Don’t go there. Just don’t.)