Saturday, June 11, 2005



To my horror, the NYT, the official organ, the Pravda of the depraved ruling class, pops up an article giving a glossy little explanation about why we torture and it wonders why Americans don't care about this except for "the usual people" (nuns, peaceniks, universal advesaries, etc).

In order to get to the nub of the question of what we as citizens really expect and require of American interrogators facing supposed terrorists -- how far we're prepared to allow those asking the questions to venture into the dark realm of brutalization and coercion -- let's for argument's sake put aside the most horrific, shameful cases, those of detainees who died under interrogation: that of Manadel al-Jamadi, for instance, whose body was wrapped in plastic and packed in ice when it was carried out of an Abu Ghraib prison shower room a year and a half ago, where he'd been handcuffed to a wall; or Abed Hamed Mowhoush, who, elsewhere in Iraq, appears to have been thrust headfirst into a sleeping bag, manhandled there and then, finally, suffocated. By anyone's definition of torture -- even that of the Bush administration, which originally propounded (and later withdrew) a strikingly narrow definition holding that torture occurs only when the pain is ''of an intensity akin to that which accompanies serious physical injury such as death or organ failure'' -- these cases answer the question of whether torture has been committed by our side in what's called the global war on terror.No one steps forward to condone what's plainly illegal under United States and international law. And although we've seen no indication that blame will attach to any official or command officer at any level for these killings, there are small signs that conclusions have been drawn somewhere between the Pentagon and White House, signs of an overdue housecleaning, or maybe just a tidying up.
Excuse me, many have stepped forward to say torture is OK. Starting with Gonzales, our cruel Attorney General. The pious plea that we torture to save people and bring freedom and democracy doesn't wash the stain of blood off our brutal hands.
Also, the Pentagon has let it be known that it's preparing a new manual for interrogators that prohibits physical and psychological humiliation of detainees. What interrogation techniques it does allow are listed in a classified annex as, presumably, are any hints of what can happen when those techniques fail to produce the desired results. Can the detainee then be handed over to another agency, like the Central Intelligence Agency, that may not be constrained by the new directives? Or to units of a foreign government like the counterterrorism units now being financed and coordinated in Iraq by the United States?
So, we have a "Mein Torture" manual that classifies what tortures will be used...who are we hiding this from?

Oh, yes, those pesky "Ultimate Advesaries" like the meanies in Amnesty International! You know, the Spanish Inquisition went to great lengths to keep their victims from dying. It would have put their own souls in jeopardy! So they carefully honed their torture techniques until they could cause maximum pain with the least terminal distress. They could break every bone in your body and keep you alive. The Chinese created things like the dripping water pain there, no? Gads.
For all the genuine outrage in predictable places over what was soon being called a ''torture scandal'' -- in legal forums, editorial pages, letters columns -- the usual democratic cleansing cycle never really got going. However strong the outcry, it wasn't enough to yield political results in the form of a determined Congressional investigation, let alone an independent commission of inquiry; the Pentagon's own inquiries, which exonerated its civilian and political leadership, told us a good deal more than most Americans, so it would appear, felt they needed to know. Members of Congress say they receive a negligible number of letters and calls about the revelations that keep coming. ''You asked whether they want it clear or want it blurry,'' Senator Susan Collins, a Maine Republican, said to me about the reaction of her constituents to the torture allegations that alarm her. ''I think they want it blurry.''
This makes me sick. In WWII, my father was an OSS officer plowing through the horror of Nazi Germany. When he drove up to the gates of Dachau, he was flabbergasted. The future Pope lived nearby. He and all his people, all those "good" Germans, pretended they know nothing. "I could smell it from far away!" my father said in disbelief.

The Americans were so outraged, they forced the townpeople to visit the camp and clean up the dead bodies.

Gag the prisoners so we can't hear them scream! Hide them in distant parts like...Siberia, eh? Make a quiet gulag? Those "letters" the Congress isn't getting (note they don't say e-mails!) means it is OK to be brutal, to murder, steal? Do we have to flood them with letters? How about mailing them this editorial of mine!

When the Nazis were put on trial for doing what we are doing, they didn't say, "No one wrote us letters," it was not allowed as an excuse they could use at the trials. It would have been laughed out of court. We don't need letters begging us to stop, we know this is all 100% wrong 100% of the time. Forever. In the news today was the shocking reality about our terror trials:
An analysis of the Justice Department's list of terrorism prosecutions by The Washington Post shows that 39 people -- not 200 -- have been convicted of crimes related to terrorism or national security.

Most of the others were convicted of relatively minor crimes such as making false statements and violating immigration law -- and had nothing to do with terrorism, the analysis shows. Overall, the median sentence was just 11 months.

Taken as a whole, the data indicate that identifying terrorists in the United States has been less successful than the government has often suggested. The statistics provide little support for the suggestion that authorities have discovered and prosecuted hundreds of terrorists. Except for a small number of well-known cases -- such as truck driver Iyman Faris, who sought to take down the Brooklyn Bridge -- few appear to have been involved in active plots against the United States.
Maybe we shouldn't have American trials! Oh, wait, there is Padillo, a man who is being kept deliberately out of our legal system so he can be abused.

We are rapidly becoming Nazi Germany. Nazi Germany turned themselves into what they became themselves. So it is with us. We are responsible for ourselves and Congress and the rulers don't need me to warn them that they themselves must be moral and upright, they can't blame others! Even if Americans beg them to torture people, THE ANSWER IS ALWAYS NO.
(Refering to Israel's neo Nazi use of torture)Nowadays no interrogator can resort to physical means without approval from on high. Theoretically, this comes only in ''ticking bomb'' situations, in which there's a chance of forestalling an actual plot. If it comes, the permissible duration for the application of the designated coercive technique will be clearly indicated; time logs are then kept, hour by dreary hour, and regularly reviewed. ''It's frightening the way everything is done and reported,'' said Lea Tsemel, a Jewish defense lawyer who specializes in Palestinian political cases. ''It's very professional now.''

Did it ever occur to the Israelis and the Americans that turning into a Nazi has a downside? My sympathy for Israel is rock bottom at this point and it is not much higher for America, either.

Ask the world, few people outside of Israel and America feel much of any sympathy for us at this point.
Viewed through an Israeli prism, the United States still has a lot to learn about the uses and consequences of coercive force, of torture lite, in interrogations. A lot to learn as practitioners: Israeli security specialists are amazed by the multiplicity of commands engaged in the American interrogation scramble, by the short tours of duty and high turnover of interrogators, by the reliance on interpreters and outsourcing to contractors and foreign governments. ''Unprofessional'' is the mildest word they use.

And a lot to learn on the judicial side where, it might be said, we're a decade or more behind the Israeli experience. Cases that may lead our courts to confront the issue and decide whether they have jurisdiction are still only in preparation. If eventually some federal court asserts its authority, the government can be expected to appeal. It could be years before such a case made its way to our Supreme Court. Israel, by contrast, upholds a clear legal standard, which it makes some effort to observe, at least more than it did in the past. Is this really a difference? Perhaps only to the degree that the Israeli service is now looking over its shoulder at the court, knowing that recourse to the judges is readily available.
Well learned from the masters! The Nazis made certain everything was "legal". They passed laws and enforced them and wrote all sorts of protocols and proceedures and stamped everything and filed everything. When my father was preparing for the Nuremburg trials, he and his fellow interrogators had an easy time of it, there were so many records to use.

As for the "unprofessional" snort of derision from the Israelis?

The Spanish Inquisition was professional. Himmler was damn professional. Breaking news in England is that his "suicide" has now been proven to be a murder, ordered by Churchill so he wouldn't spill any beans at the Nuremburg Trials.
(What did I learn, muses the reporter) It taught me that democracies are more than likely to evade the basic question of whether torture lite can ever truly be justified for as long as they feel threatened. So they shrink from authorizing it by law, as Professor Heymann's Harvard group proposed that Congress do and as the Supreme Court in Israel invited the Knesset to do. Democracies' self-regard as communities that are supposed to be on the side of human rights inhibits the candor such statutes would require. Even if the intent is actually to limit the use of coercive techniques, what government wants to be the first since the Enlightenment to proclaim such a draconian code? And what politician wants to shed his carefully maintained ''deniability'' in order to secure the antagonistic value of accountability? By definition, that could be personally costly.
Um, what was the penalty at Nuremburg Trials?

Wasn't it hung by the neck until dead?
I found myself bouncing back and forth between the two positions -- the unattainable ideal that brooked no compromise of the law and the unattainable compromise. Since both were unattainable, it didn't seem to matter where I came out. I preferred the ideal, but if coercive force was inevitable under both regimes, I had to admit, not being a lawyer, to a sneaking regard for the one that acknowledged as much. But, of course, the position that rules doesn't get hung up on intellectual tests. It says we'll do what we have to do: don't ask, don't tell. Even when clear evidence of the effectiveness of torture lite is hard to come by, democracies threatened by terrorism shrink from laying down the weapon. Should the threat ever pass, we can be expected to repress any memory of its use as we now try to do in daily life while it persists. Then we'll discover how much gratitude or resentment has accrued to us in the places where we've operated, among the descendants of those we've detained.
Democracies "shrink" from laying down the torture tools? This writer is such a ninny he can't write. You shrink from using something. You don't shrink from laying it aside. "He shrank from the gun, refusing to use it" is the opposite of "he grasped the gun and shot it." See? Where are those pesky editors at the NYT? The dainty care of the writer of this piece is amazing. Sounds like Barbara Bush Sr and "why trouble my beautiful mind with these thoughts?"

This "unattainable ideal" of not using any torture at all is very easy to obtain: you don't do it. If one is reduced to using torture then one is an evil doer. What is heaven? A place of peace. What is hell?

A torture chamber. And the torturers are devils. Here are the e-mail addresses of Congress