Wednesday, September 20, 2006

On torture

Is George Bush president of the United States or is he the general secretary of the Soviet Union?

I never thought I would ask such a question about a president in our lifetime. Hell, in 2000, I thought at worst we'd deal with some demagoguery, but it wouldn't be too bad, because the Democrats had steadily gained back power in Congress, and more split government would ensue as battles over tax cuts, education, and religion in public places.

Then 9/11 happened, and life as I knew it hasn't been the same since.

We launched the first preemptive war in American history (which I regret supporting now). We're slowly giving up rights, violating the adages of our Founders. And worst of all, we're having a (somewhat) civil discussion about the most uncivil of acts: torture.

Euphemisms are just cute ways of evading saying that ugly word. But it is clear that the President of these United States, along with certain enablers in his party, supports the use of torture on terrorism "suspects." People we simply "suspect" are involved in terror. As reporting has shown, most people given up into custody were done so out of revenge or for money. Hardly a reliable way to judge someone's complicity.

And then there's the story from Afghanistan, almost dead on to what went on at Abu Ghraib, and Guantanamo for that matter. A few bad apples? More like somebody poisoned the whole apple cart.

So what's a President to do? Well, he feigns concern over Abu Ghraib, doesn't punish anyone higher up the chain who had responsibility for that prison and the soldiers stationed there, like Gen. Ricardo Sanchez. Then he goes and asks for authority from Congress to continue his torturing, and threatens our lives if he doesn't get our way. Let's repeat this. He explicitly said our lives will be in danger if we don't torture people.

The big problem with the Decider's™ arguement is, first of all, torture doesn't work. FBI agents have publicly said this. They would know, as they are experienced interrogators. Instead of experienced people, though, we have 21-year-old kids running these things, they're all hyped up, and they're going overboard because they're getting orders to go nuts with the people they're interrogating. They're torturing and either getting bad information, or they're getting nothing because they have innocent people, like the two guys killed at Bagram.

Secondly, we have ceded the moral high ground already. We've chased away our allies. We've shown our enemies we're willing to stoop to their levels (and, please, don't give me that beheading shit. What we've done is enough to lose our credibility.) Oh, yeah, we've put all of our operatives, our soldiers, all of them in harm's way for future wars. We've told the world we're willing to torture, and that our torture is permissible under the rewriting of Geneva that Jester McBusherson is screaming to have passed, so they now have free reign to go rewrite Geneva. This is the same damn way Bush sunk the ABM treaty with Russia, as if we really had a desperate need to scrap THAT.

Since the president seems to be completely fucking ignorant when it comes to the Constitution he swore to uphold, let alone common sense, here's some quick refreshing.

The Constitution says that treaties as signed are the law of the land. A treaty is language that all signatories agree to, including its interpretation. You, Mr. President, don't get to change it because you don't like it. Furthermore, have you thought about the consequences? I'm guessing not, because you never think ahead, and it gets you in trouble all the time.

I'm disturbed by the amount of people who still support you. I'm stunned that reasonable, rational people that I know are all in favor of your "Terrorist Surveillance Program," or your "enhanced interrogations." I'm sickened that you think this is what's best for your nation, after watching your father do the right thing, by and large, for years. You've seemed determined to do everything opposite of him. He sought combat, you evaded it. He built coalitions, you smashed alliances. He did what was best for his nation, you've done what's best for yourself. Mr. President, how do you look at your father, let alone look in the mirror at night?

We keep going down a dark road in this nation because not enough people stand up and say no. I don't care what the hell someone has done, to stoop to their level takes away our right to stand on the high ground. Torture is not justified, no matter what the level of crime involved. When we torture, we create martyrs, and the world believes they have a free pass to do the same to our soldiers and our agents. Why should they believe differently? If America, the bastion of democracy, tortures people, why shouldn't they?

The best way to handle a terrorist is to not treat him as such. We're going through all these unique ways of handling terrorists, and so they gain stature. They gain attention. They create terror. When this happens, we lose. We need to put them on trial whenever possible, charge them as mass murderers, and not mention the word terrorism. There are ways of taking power away from people, and killing them all isn't a successful strategy. We have to hit them on an intellectual level, because when we take away the martyrdom and glamour of terrorism, the terrorists have nothing left to fall back on, and their ideology starts to crumble.

It took time, patience, and a combination of strategies, but we defeated the greatest threats to mankind in the past. Those presidents thought about the consequences. They built alliances. They negotiated, and in the case of the Cold War, Reagan used a threatening posture, along with psychological warfare, to bring the Soviets to their knees.

Torture gets us nowhere. It's degrading. It puts us on the level of Third World nations. It is everything America is not, and our leader is ruining our reputation by standing behind a podium and screaming that we need to give him the right to torture so he can supposedly keep us safe from the bogeymen out there. He has yet to understand that what he is doing is making us less safe, but since he is a man who never takes responsibility for his actions, why should he care?

I have only one response: He swore an oath to God, and if he's a man of God as he claims, he's broken the oath, and he owes the American people the act of repairing his breaches.

Sunday, September 17, 2006

"Who knows the definition of humiliating treatment?"

Gee, National Security Adviser Stephen Hadley, since you are apparently one of the few people in the real world who doesn't know that answer (along with the rest of the Administration) let's look at some of these wonderful revelations from Gitmo.

Shackling a detainee so long he soiled himself, using his hair to mop the mess up, and then making him sit like that with no way to clean himself for three days. Hmmm.... pretty humiliating.

Having female soldiers strip your clothes off, put you in a human pyramid, taking pictures next to that pile that will end up on international television, that's humiliating.

Being forced to masturbate in front of a crowd of people....check.

Locked in cages smaller than people's walk-in closets, which happen to be outside, so therefore exposed to the elements....double check.

Getting your ass kicked just to show others not to get out of line....check again.

I could go on and on, but I think the point's been made. It's like when the band kid gets beat up and thrown into a trashcan in front of the whole school by the jocks from the football team. Every damn one of those people knows that kid was humiliated. I'm willing to even say it may be some of those band kids who are getting their revenge and using detainees to do it with. At least, they are certainly demonstrating the mindset.

How people who publicly proclaim their love of Jesus Christ over and over again can go up there and defend violating his central tenets as protecting us is beyond me. All I know is, hearing these people demonstrate this ugliest of hypocrisies makes me want to vomit on a regular basis.

They like to say us progressives are "godless," "hate religion," and are "secularists," but who is really demonstrating the tenets of the faith that Jesus taught us? Those who start needless wars and advocate torture, or those of us who fight for human rights, decency, and the rule of law?

It's kinda like Hadley's question. Everyone knows the answer, but not everyone admits it.