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A Sinister Midget With A Bucket and a Mop Where the Blood Goes Down the Drain

April 25, 2009

After the recent release of the torture memos it has become abundantly clear exactly who the architects of these policies were and that the rot goes to the highest levels of government. And all this on top of the fact that former Vice President and Grey Eminence Dick Cheney has admitted as much already on national TV.

And yet in a country that is supposed to be ruled by Laws and not men, nobody seems to be able to come to a consensus as to what should be done about it, even though it is perfectly clear that torture is illegal and those who engage in it should be tried, convicted, and punished to the fullest extent of those pesky Laws which are far too often ignored when it’s inconvenient to enforce them. Peggy Noonan, that ever so sweet and motherly figure of the punditocracy, thinks it best that some things remain “mysterious” and that we just “just keep walking” in a statement reminiscent of the battleaxe who Noonan has served so well for years, Barbara Bush. Babs if you recall doesn’t want to spoil her “beautiful mind” thinking about the misfortunes of others that were caused by the policies of her own nasty little spawn.

Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi tries to claim that she knew nothing about what was going on even though it’s pretty clear that she’s lying through her chemically whitened teeth. As Jeremy Scahill mentions at RebelReports:

House Minority Leader John Boehner (R-OH) added to this mix by saying that he had seen a partial list of Congressmembers “who were briefed on these interrogation methods and not a word was raised at the time, not one word.”

Among those on the House Intelligence Committee at the time was current House Speaker Nancy Pelosi. She has said, “we were not, I repeat, we were not told that waterboarding or other enhanced methods were used.”

“What they did tell us is that they had some legislative counsel … but not that they would. And that further, further the point was that if and when they would be used they would brief Congress at that time.”

So we’re supposed to believe that even though she admits to knowing damn well what techniques were being suggested, she simply believed the promises of the Rumsfelds and Cheneys that they’d play nice? Scahill continues:

But contrary to Pelosi’s assertion, The Washington Post reported that Pelosi and other Democrats were “given a virtual tour of the CIA’s overseas detention sites and the harsh techniques interrogators had devised to try to make their prisoners talk:”

Among the techniques described, said two officials present, was waterboarding, a practice that years later would be condemned as torture by Democrats and some Republicans on Capitol Hill. But on that day, no objections were raised. Instead, at least two lawmakers in the room asked the CIA to push harder, two U.S. officials said.

“The briefer was specifically asked if the methods were tough enough,” said a U.S. official who witnessed the exchange.

[…]

“Among those being briefed, there was a pretty full understanding of what the CIA was doing,” said [Porter] Goss, who chaired the House intelligence committee from 1997 to 2004 and then served as CIA director from 2004 to 2006. “And the reaction in the room was not just approval, but encouragement.”

Our new president who promised that things would be different with him in charge has been flopping around like a squid at a sushi house and said that he doesn’t think underlings should be prosecuted for engaging in torture, then that those who ordered it shouldn’t be touched, then that maybe it was up to the Justice Department to decide and now is saying along with Harry Reid that he opposes appointing an independent prosecutor and would rather the Senate Intelligence Committee get a crack at it first, where presumably they could begin the whitewash just like they did with the 9/11 Commission. The excuses being bandied about are once again that holding anybody accountable would interfere with the other very important legislative priorities that Obama and the Democrats in Congress have for us, the same excuse they trotted out after the 2006 elections before the Congress proceeded to do pretty much nothing of importance for two years because, well there was an election coming up and that was a bad time to rock the boat. Of course judging by recent developments in the financial world, the priority for the President and Congress now seems to be handing over trillions of dollars to the pigs at the trough who ought to be in the pokey themselves rather than flying around in private planes if the Laws were followed, as William Black mentioned recently.

Former prosecutor Elizabeth de la Varga doesn’t think we should have a special prosecutor investigate at all, or at least not yet, because that may simply turn out to be a whitewash too:

From the perspective of anyone who wants Bush and Cheney and their top aides to be held accountable for their crimes, the designation of some sort of independent prosecutor right now would be the worst possible eventuality. It’s a move that has so many downsides – and holds so few real benefits – that I would be more inclined to question President Obama’s motives if he appointed a special prosecutor than if he did not. There is a reason why former prosecutor Arlen Specter – a Republican senator from Pennsylvania – has voiced support for a special prosecutor, while former prosecutors Patrick Leahy and Sheldon Whitehouse – Democratic senators from Vermont and Rhode Island, respectively – would prefer a public inquiry.

What is it? Well, for starters, there is – under currently available US law – no such thing as a truly independent prosecutor. There has not been since 1999, when the independent counsel statute expired. Accordingly, regardless of the title given this individual – and whether she were tapped from inside or outside the Justice Department – this appointee would, at a minimum, be required to follow internal DOJ policies and her delegated authority could be revoked at any time. (The regulations that authorize appointing a non-DOJ attorney as “special counsel” – found at 28 C.F.R. Part 600 et. seq – actually make possible substantially more attorney general oversight into prosecutorial decisions.)

Under existing federal law, in other words, the notion of a special prosecutor who would be entirely free from political and institutional influence is illusory. Given that fact – and that it is ordinarily an extremely dumb, not to mention unethical, idea to announce investigations – when an administration does announce that it is naming a “special counsel” of any sort, it is largely a public-relations maneuver. The president thereby appears to be committed to the rule of law, but is, in fact, parking an extremely inconvenient problem in a remote and inaccessible lot.

So how exactly are these people to be brought to justice if any attempt to do so is likely to be a PR stunt designed to brush everything under the rug? Damned if you do and damned if you don’t and all I know is there are a hell of a lot of people who deserve damnation.

Meanwhile, as the Beltway fiddles, the rest of the world continues to go up in flames over the troubles their policies have wrought. In Iraq suicide bombers continue to blow people to bits and there are reports that militias are killing homosexuals with anal glue. In Pakistan, the predator drone attacks which continue unabated, killing dozens of innocents with no confirmation that any “terrorists” have been taken out, have not managed to keep the Pakistani government from being on the brink of falling to insurgents.

And supposedly the US was going to close down Guantanamo but it isn’t closed and neither is Bagram or who knows what other secret dungeons the US has in operation. Despite the fact that Obama has claimed the torture will end, reports continue to trickle out about harsh treatment of people who are being held illegally in the first place. Many of these in captivity were put there because some amoral warlord was handed a truckload of cash by the US to turn over “suspicious” persons and decided to settle some old personal scores. And anybody who thinks the US has stopped the torture policies of the Bush regime needs to ask why The School of the Americas, which has been training tinpot Torquemadas for decades now, is still in operation.

While the Powers That Be continue to blather and dither and drone about What to do? What to do? I sincerely doubt that the torturers have gone from putting bugs in detainees’ boxes to putting mints on their pillows.

There is no Justice. And the torture never stops.

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4 Comments leave one →
  1. Stemella permalink*
    April 25, 2009 12:56 pm

    Ok first off, that video was amazing. I love art animations and the accompaniment was too perfect to describe. I wish I knew who did the artwork, as the vid only talks about the band. That spiderish creature near the end looks just like Cheney.

    Great essay too. I can’t help but agree with your final assessment. The only way there will be justice is if people en masse demand it. It seems unlikely with the onset of spring/summer and so many other worries. Nevertheless, the torture story seems to be growing stronger legs as more people pour through the reports and memos, finding revelations and inconsistencies. Emptywheel has been hot on the trail and here are two good ones to look at below. She has several other related posts at her blog on FireDogLake.

    Pelosi: Of Hidden Memos and Covert Ops Hidden in Supplementals

    The Torture Document Dump Timeline

    Point two: Never refer to anyone flopping around like a squid in a sushi house again! hah! I’ll have to repost that youtube of a samurai dude gorging on octopi if you do. ;)

    As to Harry Reid, well, it’s probably bad to say, but I wish his dry powder had ignited a long time ago. I’m sure he serves a purpose to Obama, otherwise why the hell is he still Majority Leader? He and Rahmbo are the gatekeepers, making sure justice never gets done so the flow of money flows where they want it to unhindered. Again, see Emptywheel’s piece on how that money has flowed into torture ops through the supplementals.

    We won’t get justice that’s needed for a real turnaround in the near term, not with the people currently at the helm, but just maybe we can tear off a few layers of the onion to let some of the stench escape. Maybe a few pairs of eyes, maybe a lot of pairs of eyes, could be made to water from the acrid toxicity of what has been buried. It won’t be enough to make a difference most likely, but it might be a start to relieve a little pressure. It might be enough to be a catalyst for something bigger further down the road.

    • cometman permalink*
      April 26, 2009 11:56 am

      The video was pretty cool. Most of the others for that song were just concert footage. I do like the original album version which has some nice screams in the background ;) The artwork reminded me of the stuff that Bruce Bickford did in Zappa’s movie Baby Snakes – very similar stuff with one image folding and blending into another. Not sure if that video is Bickford too or just somebody paying tribute with a similar style.

      Your assessment at the end is on the money IMO – I don’t think we’ll get any significant change in the short term at all. There are too may in positions of power who are responsible for allowing this to happen. But I think it’s important to speak the truth about this even if it’s just coming from bloggers like Glenn Greenwald who has been right on the money about this issue or coming from littler sites like this. Eventually the cumulative effect will seep into some part of the public consciousness.

  2. Stemella permalink*
    April 26, 2009 8:56 am

    I read a moving article about a British war correspondent, Peter Beaumont, this morning, How the horrors of war nearly destroyed me, a prelude to a book he’s written on his experience in Iraq. The book is titled: The Secret Life of War: Journeys Through Modern Conflict

    Beaumont talks about the psychology of killing in the theater of war, and how it changed them and changed him as an observer, a witness and correspondent. It defiles the humanity within everyone touched by it, ultimately.

    It seems to me it is the same as with torture, this defiling of humanity – of the tortured, the torturer, its enablers and its witnesses. Torture is a tactic. Terrorism is a tactic. They are all part of this larger thing called warfare, institutionalized dehumanization and murder, that renders all of us, participants and observers alike, changed and somewhat less humane depending on the proximity. We are all connected to it. We are all haunted by it, whether cognizant of that or not.

    That haunting manifests itself in the rampant sickness of our society at home. We all reek of it. All of us Americans are tainted by the torture just as the peoples of the Middle East, Arab and Israeli; the peoples of Africa and Asia are tainted by the torturers and terrorists among their own.

    Ultimately it is time that Americans finally accept that we are not exceptional. The Americans are ordinary inhumane sick fucking bastards, just like everyone else. We are no more or less civilized than any other brutal dictatorship, monarchy or authoritarian with brutality to enforce its will. That is why there are laws. Laws should not be conditional or only enforced on the poor. That is what separates the brutal from the civilized. What shall we be, Obama?

    At the end of the article Beaumont says,

    When, on the last day of what would be my final trip in 2007, a car bomb exploded in front of the vehicle that I was in, it didn’t seem to matter. It was, I rationalised at first, an ordinary event in the country that is in conflict. Except that it did matter, in ways I could not then imagine. I dreamed about explosions. I jumped at slamming doors. I experienced periods of recklessness and of stultifying dissatisfaction. Two months later I found myself explaining why I never wanted to go back to Iraq again. And later still, why I had had enough of travelling.

    The writing of The Secret Life of War was part of the crisis. In two-and-a-half years of working on it almost every day, I’d come to expect that when it was done, I would have written my last words about the conflict. But there was no sense of catharsis, no sense even of completion. Now at least I am happy with it for what it is, an attempt to deliver a personal, tentative and partial description of aspects of the experience of war.

    But I am travelling again. This time I made it to Heathrow and Sarajevo. In January I covered the violent aftermath of the conflict in Gaza, and plan to return to finish a long-term project. I am not certain I understand fully what has changed. But I am no longer the person who came back from Iraq. Less confident and more careful, I have, I hope, reconnected with the person I once was – a person who cared about the victims more than the rituals of war.

    I have realised too that everyone who is engulfed by war – willingly or not – loses something. For me that has been a connection to ordinary life, to my children and friends, and habits that, as I grow older, I have learned can never be repaired. In that knowledge, perhaps, there is a balance to be found.

    There will be no catharsis for what has been done in Gitmo, in the prisons and streets of Iraq and Afghanistan, in the secret centers of rendition, in the black ops of the black hearts of the powers that be. There will be no catharsis for such brutality and inhumanity. But maybe, if justice is sought and done, then maybe we can seek some kind of balance. …. “there is a balance to be found”

    • cometman permalink*
      April 26, 2009 4:34 pm

      Very good post and that was a great article by Beaumont too. It reminds me of some of what Chris Hedges has written about his time in war zones.

      To me the worst thing about war and torture and killing is that while some involved in it like Kurt Vonnegut or Howard Zinn become appalled by what they have experienced and spend a lifetime trying to make sure it doesn’t happen again, there are far too many others who realize they enjoy it.

      I’d like to live in a world where nobody has to ever find out whether they like it or not.

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