Posted tagged ‘War Crimes’

In the Matter of the US vs. Bush…

June 9, 2010

not yet indicted for confessed war crimes, I give you an amicus brief from Ambrose Bierce:

PARDON, v.  To remit a penalty and restore to the life of crime.  To add to the lure of crime the temptation of ingratitude.  (From The Devil’s Dictionary)

That second definition applies particularly well to the accused’s partner in such crimes, the also not-yet-indicted Richard Cheney.

That “not-yet” should most likely read “never” is merely a reflection of a my suffering the lapse of mind Samuel Johnson described in defining a second marriage: “The triumph of hope over experience.”

Image:  William Hogarth, “The Bench,” 1758.

Torture…an unnecessary post (part 1)

May 15, 2009

I haven’t blogged about the latest round of torture talk — not the question of prosecution (I vote yes, starting now, or better,  yesterday); nor on truth commissions (yes); nor the fatuous “arguments” and deeply malign attempts to shift the terms of the debate that the GOP and  its water-carriers have advanced; nor the CIA’s attempt — aided by  lazy or evil media complicity to pre-empt the debate by asserting falsely (h/t Fallows) that Democrats as well as Republicans supported commiting war crimes/crimes against humanity;  nor the fact that any claim to American moral exceptionalism is dead, drowned out by the screams  of those tortured and murdered by American soldiers and intelligence officers, acting under orders issued by monsters in the highest places, desperate to conceal the lie at the heart of the war fought on false premises.

So many others are speaking on this across the blogosphere that it seemed unnecessary to say “me too” to posts like this, or this and dozens, really hundreds more.  It is obvious that torture is wrong, a line that nations claiming legitimacy as well as interest do not cross.  Isn’t it?

(That moral interests align with tactical goals in contemning torture as an exercise of state power will be the subject of part 2 of this post).

It is clear that murdering prisoners in custody is unacceptable, and that both those that commit such murders, and those who order and organize the practices that enable such murders are criminals, subject to investigation, trial and punishment on conviction.  Isn’t it?

It is simply a measure of a society that wishes to be understood as civilized that those who advocate, order, facilitate, encourage and/or commit acts that would make an inquisitor vomit are shunned (to invoke the memory of that terrifying religious sanction) by all those who count themselves morally responsible men and women. Isn’t it?

And yet John Yoo opines.  Jay Bybee adjudicates.  Dick Cheney waits for make-up.  George Bush, the embodiment of an unindicted — no, make that unconscious — co-conspirator, putters about his fine house in a high-rent district of Dallas.

More than a year ago I wrote of my despair at the thought of telling my son that his country tortured.  Tonight, after watching story after story percolate out of the Bush-Cheney swamp to confirm that the American torture regime was worse than I ever dreamed (those 98 –and likely more — killed in custody; a “ticking time bomb” waterboarded 183 times, in a test-to-destruction exercise that ended with a broken mind and one more datum for the torturers bible; a POW (are you listening, John McCain?) hammered to extract a false confession to support an American president’s false justification for war), I find myself wondering how I can tell my son, just turned nine, that America allows the people who committed this crime and dishonored all Americans — him, me, my wife, my goddam cat, evernyone of us — to walk in the sun, to wallow in privilege, to speak and to be listened to as if they were serious, responsible men.

We have been led by thugs enabled by weak and cowardly followers for too long.  We’ve forgotten what civil societies do; Bush and Cheney and Yoo and all the others have not been indicted.  They are, to date, innocent as far as the law extends; and we do indeed live under the Catch 22 that the rule of law is something we need desperately to uphold in the wake of these same men’s evisceration of the idea.  But there is no restriction under law to keep us from shaming those who have so deeply shamed their country.

This is why, in the end, Pelosi’s troubles may serve us all well.  She has called for an investigation — of the claims on what she knew when and everything else to do with the making of America’s torture empire.  Let’s bring it on….after all, if they’re innocent, they have nothing to fear, right?

Image:  Plate 37 from Francisco Goya’s  Los Desatres de la Guerra c. 1810.

Sunday Stuff 1: Cosmology meets New Age Nonesense — Karadzic edition

July 27, 2008

Sean Carroll finds perverse pleasure — which I share in war criminal/face of evil* Radovan Karadzic’s reinvention of himself as a new-age healer.

Sean notes the quantum connection that Karadzic tried to make in his spiel — and this appropriation of a remarkably hard-headed body of science is an unfortunate byproduct of the fact that the language in which quantum theory is often popularized lends itself to all kinds of folly.

But I was struck by what seemed to me a new wrinkle in nonsense. Sean rightly snorts at the parody of quantification in this passage:

“It is widely believed our senses and mind can recognise only 1% of whatever exists around us. Three per cent we understand with our hearts. All that remains is shrouded in secrecy, out of the reach of our five senses; however, it is within our reach in the extra-sensory manner,” he [Karadzic] wrote in one article.

This is familiar enough — one of the standard moves used when purveying such stuff is to cloak it in trappings that suggest a science-like precision. But Sean missed a more specific potential source for the “numbers” (sic) in Karadzic’s “analysis” (sic-er) — one that now joins quantum theory as the unintential wellspring for silly-season stuff in our culture.

It’s all cosmology’s fault, of course. WMAP’s, in particular.

One of the most reported findings from the first round of analysis of the WMAP plot of the CMB was that the particular details of the hot and cold spots on that map permit a calculation of the composition of the universe — how much of the mass-energy it contains came in particular forms. It turned out that, rounding off as the early press did, 73 percent came in the form of dark energy; 23 percent or so as dark matter, and the remainder, roughly 4 percent, is ordinary matter.

You can see where this is going, can’t you?

Karadzic allows human capacity — senses and heart, to perceive four percent of reality. The rest is beyond our direct observation, and must be accessed by magic.

I can understand why Sean, a cosmologist, would shy away from this hideous conclusion: but what if modern cosmology, an extraordinary intellectual and technological achievement, making measurements at a precision that a generation or two ago would have been pure fantasy, producing observations about nature with exceptional rigor (which cannot be said of every branch of physics, at least not yet)…what if all this great work is just so much fodder for murderous quacks.

More to do on public engagement with science I would say…but then I would say that, wouldn’t I?

*Karadzic may be the face of evil. According to American negotiator Richard Holbrook, evil itself comes personified in the form of Ratko Mladic, Karadzic’s partner in crimes against humanity.

Mladic is still at large.

Image: WMAP Five Year Microwave Sky.