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Member since: Sat May 15, 2010, 04:48 PM
Number of posts: 6,566

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The implications of the WAPO Poll on Torture

(NOTE: I originally posted this as a comment to an article at Salon.com.)

have been mulling over the Washington Post poll for several days now, asking myself what it says about us, as a society, that nearly two-thirds of us seem to think there are circumstances under which torture is justified. They cling to this belief no matter how often you point out to them: (1) that the CIA did things that we executed Japanese soldiers for at the end of WWII; (2) that we are signatories to, and were largely the authors of, the Geneva Conventions which specifically state that there are NO extenuating circumstances under which torture may be justified; (3) that our own laws, as well as international law, prohibit torture; (4) that nearly 1 in 5 of the detainees whose torture is outlined in the Senate report were innocent people whom the CIA had improperly detained; (5) that our use of torture increases the likelihood that our own soldiers will face a similar fate in future wars; and that, besides all of the foregoing, (5) torture doesn't (and didn't in this case) yield reliable information (it produces information, but not necessarily, or even likely, good information),

There seems to be a rather widespread notion that the events of 9-11 represented an attack so uniquely horrific in the history of civilization as compared to anything that had ever befallen any other country in history, that this country, in its response, was alleviated of any and all moral constraint -- including the constraint of confining whatever response we might make to those who were actually responsible. 9-11 was certainly horrific -- living in New York at the time (and still today), I witnessed it up close and personal. But the idea that any civilized nation is ever free of moral burden or constraint in its response to ANY challenge should horrify us all.

As I think about it, though, I guess I shouldn't be surprised. This lust for torture is, I believe, of a piece with the widespread support in this country for capital punishment, which continues long after most of the rest of the civilized world has recognized it as the barbaric practice it is, despite ample evidence that it has little, if any, deterrent effect and that on occasion innocent people are put to death.

This torture lust is consistent, too, I believe, with a country in which there is a widely shared appetite for punishing those who have the misfortune to be poor by taking away many of the very support systems that might enable them to rise out of their poverty, thereby virtually guaranteeing that they will remain poor, and will continue to be punished for it.

Finally, there is the glaring hypocrisy of the fact that so many of the same folks who defend lawless conduct by the CIA are also those who, just a week or two ago, were lecturing African American communities about the need to educate their children about "respect for the law" and "respecting police officers." If we, as a nation, refuse to hold our government accountable for unlawful behavior and permit our own government to show utter contempt and disrespect for our own, as well as international laws, how can we -- indeed, how dare we -- expect any such respect on the part of our own citizenry?
Posted by markpkessinger | Fri Dec 19, 2014, 12:02 AM (5 replies)

Cuomo to Ban Fracking in New York State, Citing Health Risks

I am nor much of a fan of Gov. Cuomo, but this is a pleasant and welcome surprise -- the second one of the day (along with the news about Cuba)!!

Cuomo to Ban Fracking in New York State, Citing Health Risks

ALBANY — The Cuomo administration announced Wednesday that it would ban hydraulic fracturing in New York State, ending years of uncertainty by concluding that the controversial method of extracting gas from deep underground could contaminate the state’s air and water and pose inestimable public-health risks.

“I cannot support high volume hydraulic fracturing in the great state of New York,” said Howard Zucker, the acting commissioner of health.

That conclusion was delivered publicly during a year-end cabinet meeting called by Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo in Albany. It came amid increased calls by environmentalists to ban fracking, which uses water and chemicals to release natural gas trapped in deeply buried shale deposits.

The state has had a de facto ban on the procedure for more than five years, predating Mr. Cuomo’s first term. The decision also came as oil and gas prices continued to fall, in part because of surging American oil production, as fracking boosted output.

, . . . . >

Dozens of towns and cities across New York have passed moratoriums and bans on fracking, and in June, the state’s highest court, the Court of Appeals, ruled that towns could use zoning ordinances to ban fracking. Opponents have also consistently protested at the governor’s public events and during his successful re-election campaign, where his Republican opponent, Rob Astorino, called for legalizing fracking.
Posted by markpkessinger | Wed Dec 17, 2014, 01:33 PM (1 replies)

Mike Lukovich: America's History Makeover

Posted by markpkessinger | Sun Dec 14, 2014, 09:42 AM (5 replies)

All of these conservatives making excuses for, even cheerleading, torture -- . . .

. . . it's hard to know what to make of it. I mean, I remember a time when conservatives used to lecture everybody else about the evils of moral relativism and 'situational ethics!'
Posted by markpkessinger | Sun Dec 14, 2014, 01:05 AM (1 replies)

Doctors: Rectal Rehydration Is Not A Medical Procedure (but we mustn't be sanctimonious, right?)

But hey, don't anyone get all sanctimonious now!

Doctors: Rectal Rehydration Is Not A Medical Procedure

Contrary to Michael Hayden's Very Serious Claim, doctors say the digestive system is a one-way street.

< . . . >

IB Times:

Two of the most brutal CIA interrogation tactics revealed in the Senate’s report on torture are little-known techniques called “rectal feeding” and “rectal hydration.” The backlash to the exposure of the techniques was swift, but former CIA Director Gen. Michael Hayden defended them Thursday as “medical procedures” necessary to get fluids into dehydrated detainees and were not used as “a method of interrogation.”

Doctors and psychiatrists, however, said they have zero medical application and are nothing more than full-bore torture methods that no medical professional should ever be a party to. More than that, they are well-documented forms of painful, humiliating torture that have been used since the Middle Ages and the Inquisition, doctors said.

“This is a variation on a medieval form of torture in which the intestines were swollen up with fluid in order to cause pain," said Dr. Steven Miles, a professor of medicine at the University of Minnesota Medical School and board member of the Center for Victims of Torture, both of which are in Minneapolis. "You can’t feed somebody this way. And so, for the U.S. government to claim that this is some sort of feeding technique, that’s just totally bizarre,” he said. “Because there is no physiological way for any nutrients to be absorbed in the colon, any medical participation in this rectal feeding procedure is medical participation in torture.”

< . . . . >
Posted by markpkessinger | Sat Dec 13, 2014, 01:05 PM (115 replies)

Michael Hayden Defends 'Rectal Rehydration' as a 'medical procedure'

Just how fucking sick ARE these people? (video at link)

Posted by markpkessinger | Sat Dec 13, 2014, 10:58 AM (22 replies)

From Washingtoon's charge to the Northern Expeditionary Force, Sept. 14, 1775

"Should any American soldier be so base and infamous as to injure any . . . I do most earnestly enjoin you to bring him to such severe and exemplary punishment as the enormity of the crime may require. Should it extend to death itself, it will not be disproportional to its guilt at such a time and in such a cause… for by such conduct they bring shame, disgrace and ruin to themselves and their country.”

- George Washington, charge to the Northern Expeditionary Force, Sept. 14, 1775
Posted by markpkessinger | Sat Dec 13, 2014, 10:34 AM (1 replies)

An analysis of the FULL text of the President's 8/1/14 statement about the torture report

All this discussion of taking the President's words out of context led me to go to whitehouse.gov to get the full text of his Aug. 1 remarks on the subject Lest anyone accuse me of omitting critical context, I've even included the banter that occurred before his statement. I have taken the liberty of numbering the paragraphs of the president's statement from the point at which he begins his uninterrupted statement for the purpose of referencing those paragraphs in my discussion below:

Q What about John Brennan?

Q Africa summit?

THE PRESIDENT: I will address two points. I’ll address --

Q And Flight 17?

THE PRESIDENT: Hold on, guys. Come on. There’s just --

Q And Africa.

THE PRESIDENT: (1) You're not that pent up. I’ve been giving you questions lately.

(2) On Brennan and the CIA, the RDI report has been transmitted, the declassified version that will be released at the pleasure of the Senate committee.

(3) I have full confidence in John Brennan. I think he has acknowledged and directly apologized to Senator Feinstein that CIA personnel did not properly handle an investigation as to how certain documents that were not authorized to be released to the Senate staff got somehow into the hands of the Senate staff. And it’s clear from the IG report that some very poor judgment was shown in terms of how that was handled. Keep in mind, though, that John Brennan was the person who called for the IG report, and he’s already stood up a task force to make sure that lessons are learned and mistakes are resolved.

(4) With respect to the larger point of the RDI report itself, even before I came into office I was very clear that in the immediate aftermath of 9/11 we did some things that were wrong. We did a whole lot of things that were right, but we tortured some folks. We did some things that were contrary to our values.

(5) I understand why it happened. I think it’s important when we look back to recall how afraid people were after the Twin Towers fell and the Pentagon had been hit and the plane in Pennsylvania had fallen, and people did not know whether more attacks were imminent, and there was enormous pressure on our law enforcement and our national security teams to try to deal with this. And it’s important for us not to feel too sanctimonious in retrospect about the tough job that those folks had. And a lot of those folks were working hard under enormous pressure and are real patriots.

(6) But having said all that, we did some things that were wrong. And that's what that report reflects. And that's the reason why, after I took office, one of the first things I did was to ban some of the extraordinary interrogation techniques that are the subject of that report.

(7) And my hope is, is that this report reminds us once again that the character of our country has to be measured in part not by what we do when things are easy, but what we do when things are hard. And when we engaged in some of these enhanced interrogation techniques, techniques that I believe and I think any fair-minded person would believe were torture, we crossed a line. And that needs to be -- that needs to be understood and accepted. And we have to, as a country, take responsibility for that so that, hopefully, we don't do it again in the future.

So, let's examine this a bit, shall we?

First, he states his full confidence in John Brennan, after Brennan had outright lied to the Senate and CIA personnel attempted to interfere with the Senate Intelligence Committee's investigation. That expression of full confidence is, by itself, hard enough to wrap one's head around. The suggestion that Brennan's acknowledgement that things were "improperly handled" and his personal apology to Feinstein were an adequate response after the agency he heads was caught attempting to thwart Senate oversight is simply breathtaking.

The first clause of the first sentence of the fourth paragraph sets the context for what follows ("With respect to the larger point of the RDI report itself"). He then reminds people of his prior statements, before he took office, that we did some things that were wrong in the wake of 9-11. Fair enough. Then he adds, "We did a whole lot of things that were right, but we tortured some folks," as if the things we did that were right should somehow offset the things we did wrong -- the crimes that were committed. He then describes those things we did wrong not as the crimes they were, but as things that were "contrary to our values."

Then comes the 5th paragraph. He starts by saying he "understand(s) why it happened." Really? Then he proceeds to lay out a list of what he apparently believes should be seen as extenuating circumstances, and admonishing us not to be "too sanctimonious" about the "tough job" the CIA had and the "enormous pressure" that was on law enforcement and security teams. But neither of these points was in dispute, and nobody was taking issue with anyone who hadn't participated in the torture program. So what he's really doing here is implying that harsh criticism of the torture program was tantamount to criticism of the entire CIA and of all security teams. But it was not and is not, and by conflating the two and telling us all not to be "too sanctimonious," he was clearly trying to soft-pedal what the CIA did, as well as to justify his own refusal to prosecute those actions for the crimes they were.

In paragraphs 6 and 7, he reminds us that he ended the program. Great. Does he want a medal for ending illegal conduct? He then states that the country as a whole must take responsibility. Again, fine, but how exactly do we do that if we refuse to prosecute those responsible? And finally, he expresses his "hope" that the country will never do it again. His 'hope?' How about some genuine accountability to ENSURE it never happens again!

So, without even considering the phrase "some folks," and without even getting into the question of whether or not the word "patriots" applied to the torturers, the statement as a whole cannot reasonably be construed to be anything other than an attempt to soft-pedal the CIA's actions and to rationalize his own refusal to hold criminally accountable those who were responsible. The overall thrust and intent of the statement is very clear.

Posted by markpkessinger | Fri Dec 12, 2014, 07:30 PM (40 replies)

Veterans, in particular, should be outraged over the Senate Report

In light of the torture report, I should think every veteran would be outraged at the fact that when the abuses at Abu Graib came to light, the Bush administration was permitted to foist total responsibility onto a few low-ranking Army grunts, while administration officials were permitted to deny any culpability whatsoever.
Posted by markpkessinger | Thu Dec 11, 2014, 03:37 PM (6 replies)

"We tortured some folks" is right up there with . . .

. . . the infamous, "Mistakes were made," as a rhetorical distancing device.
Posted by markpkessinger | Thu Dec 11, 2014, 03:26 PM (71 replies)
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