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Christmas week is possibly a good time to reflect on what kind of nation we have become. Americans are much given to think of themselves as exceptional, so much so that “exceptionalism” as a national attribute has entered the political vocabulary. Americans also like to think of themselves as generous, fair minded to a fault, and willing to help foreigners who are less fortunate than they. Unfortunately, Americans can also be ignorant, bigoted, small minded and brutal. They tend to ignore the fact that every nation crafts itself around a national myth that incorporates its own unique virtues, believing instead that only the Uncle Sam version is for real. Isolated and protected by two broad oceans Americans frequently have difficulty in realizing that virtues and vices are pretty much evenly distributed among most countries, including the United States.

Most Americans rightly love both family and country. The birth of the United States as a new nation incorporating moral principles in both its Declaration and Independence and Constitution gave it a unique quality which was subsequently copied worldwide. That was something to be proud of. The American way of doing things referred to as “ingenuity” and the freedom afforded both by custom and a resource rich environment has historically benefited most citizens, giving them a level of personal liberty and prosperity that for a long time could not be matched anywhere in the world.

But when we have had so much and have enjoyed such liberties why do we persist in ruining it? The Greeks would call it hubris. Most Americans would probably agree that when real enemies actually do threaten the citizen has a right to resist by force if necessary to preserve and protect. But where are the enemies that justify Congress spending nearly as much as the rest of the world combined on weapons and soldiers?

And loving and defending one’s country does not mean that Washington should be constantly going out looking for new dragons to slay, which has been the norm since 1945. Nor should every international crisis be politically hyped to make it appear to be morally equivalent to possible national annihilation. And no threat currently confronting the United States can possibly justify doing the unthinkable by engaging in abominable practices like torture.

Torture is not generally regarded as an American value unless one’s name is Dick Cheney but it is a symptom of a government that is largely out of control. The unindicted war criminals in the Bush Administration who established and managed the torture regime are products of a certain institutional mindset, which my good friend Major Todd Pierce has described as “authoritarian psychology.” Pierce cites how neocon guru Leo Strauss explained that believers in the concept appreciate that “Authority is the possibility of an agent acting upon others without these others reacting against him, despite being capable to do so, and without making any compromises. Any discussion is already a compromise.” It is a description of how a largely self-appointed cadre of elitists uses clever control of the narrative to create a sense of fear and uncertainty that permits the continuous shearing of the sheeple.

At the heart of the matter in its political manifestation there is the “unitary executive doctrine,” a proposition that the government chief executive’s authority is virtually unlimited, particularly in time of national emergency. Those who support the doctrine accept that declaring a national emergency is itself conveniently the responsibility of the chief executive, meaning that he can de facto grant himself unrestricted authority. The doctrine was developed by jurists in Germany in the 1930s where it was described as the Führer Prinzip or leader principle in English. It essentially means that the government can do no wrong and cannot be held accountable precisely because it is the government. Those who cite the principle do so to override what might be referred to as constitutionalism, which limits the authority of the leader.

This anti-constitutional formulation whereby there are no controls over the leadership has long been hidden in the United States though the most recent Republican and Democratic administrations have allowed it to emerge to justify their unilateral decision making. The high levels of largely hidden political corruption and cronyism that go hand in hand with executive rule had been hitherto masked by a pervasive general belief in the national myth that the system for all its faults somehow serves “the people.”

But sometimes the mask falls off. The debate over torture ignited by the recent Senate report should be rightly seen as an indictment of a large part of the United States government. Recall for a moment that torture was not only carried out in black site prisons. It was also systemic in places like Abu Ghraib and at Bagram, which were run by the military. The Senators now making the accusation are to a certain extent scapegoating because they were themselves either complicit in the actions taken or willfully looking the other way. The White House knew what was occurring and gave its formal approval. Dick Cheney insists that if given the opportunity he would do it all over again.

One political party, the Republicans, has by-and-large disputed the substantial body of evidence that the United States government has engaged in torture, presumably because it occurred under a GOP administration. But it is clearly a practice that is a violation of both federal statutes and the United Nations Convention against Torture. The Convention was ratified by the US Senate in 1994 and is legally binding in the United States. The body of existing law condemning the practice means that no American president, White House lawyer or legislative body can declare torture to be “legal.”

Many leading Republicans promote variations on a statement issued by perennial presidential wannabe Mike Huckabee, the former Arkansas governor, labeling the report as “a highly partisan attack on the previous administration” which “puts Americans at grave risk as it fuels propaganda efforts of radical Islamic terror groups and sympathizers already trying to destroy our nation.”

So per Huckabee, a very outspokenly religious Christian, torture itself makes us safer while revealing the crime is both divisive and empowers one’s enemies who are trying to destroy us. Have even “unconventional” Republicans including Rand Paul spoken out forcibly on what is a national disgrace? No, Rand only commented that “We should not have torture” while adding that the release of the report might be “inflammatory.” And both parties plus the White House and judiciary have chosen to ignore the troublesome details contained in the UN Convention whereby signatories agree to automatically try and punish both those who order and carry out torture.

But politics and politicians aside as they are nearly all liars and knaves, the coup de grace comes from the American people themselves. A recent Washington Post/NBC News poll indicates that a clear majority of the public supports Dick Cheney and believe that it is acceptable to use torture on terrorist suspects. Among self-described Republicans the approval rate is over 70%. Why? Because it makes us safer, or so some would have us believe. So “We, the People” are part of the problem, possibly the biggest part, and it would perhaps not be inappropriate to suggest that the “safer” doctrine means that any new terrorist action directed against the United States will be met with more torture and no one will have the courage to say “enough.” And it might not be out of line to suggest further that throwing away the rule book when it comes to staying safe might well also increasingly apply to domestic policing, which many have noted is become more militarized as the country accustoms itself to a national program of unending warfare both at home and abroad.

Why is this important? It is important because the United States is now regarded by most of the world as a hypocritical rogue regime where torture is allowed and then covered up. As the South Africans discovered, a Truth Commission or something like it is needed not necessarily to punish but to establish what exactly happened so everyone can reflect on the errors and move on. Read the summary of the Senate report if you have any doubts that the US government engaged in systematic torture. What took place was heinous, leading one to ask seriously whether Dick Cheney and the “leaders” like him were psychotic in the same way that Hitler, Stalin and Pol Pot had their own forms of madness. A nation built on a legal system that does not respect its own laws is no better than a dictatorship, particularly in the post-9/11 world where all the movement has been towards unconstitutional police-state authority placed in the hands of the executive branch and its various attached agencies. Over Christmas, Americans should contemplate just what we have become. It is not pretty but there is a way out and that consists of unqualified acceptance of the truth and an unshakable resolve that no such horrors shall ever occur again.

• Category: Foreign Policy, Ideology • Tags: Dick Cheney, Torture 
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  1. TomB says:

    My problems with Phil’s piece involve the questions of what’s really really new here, and what perspective that lends:


    Phil writes:

    Over Christmas, Americans should contemplate just what we have become.

    An a-historical or indeed anti-historical proposition can lead to serious misconceptions and reactions, and I think this qualifies.

    The fact is, just as is the probable truth with all other countries that have found themselves in serious, extended conflict with others, the U.S. is no stranger to having its agents, soldiers and etc. practicing torture. As far back as our occupation of the Philippines we were waterboarding. And in our other wars there are instances piled on instances of other tortures—usually committed by members of our armed forces—revealed in times when so revealing them was very much against the grain so meaning that one knows that the use of torture by us in the past just cannot be called rare.

    What *is* new and different today was the attempt to justify/legalize it, largely because of the U.N. Convention we signed that Phil cited and our own laws following upon same.

    So, in assessing where we are today I think this ought to be kept in mind. It is *not* as if, prior to Dick Cheney, we were virgins here, and it might even be said that whereas before we were so unconcerned about torture that it never even *rose* to the level of official concern, at least now we have done so.

    After all, on the one hand Phil himself strives to make clear we are not all *that* an exceptional country, and like I said probably most countries roughly in our positions in the past have practiced torture to some significant degree.

    Now, in no way does this detract from the arguments that we violated the UN Convention and/or our own laws in our recent days. Or the condemnation of us as hypocrites for doing so. But at least we are no longer just bald-faced liars pretending we never did it.

    And thus it seems to me in trying to get the right perspective on where we are the concentration is on that UN Convention and our laws, and or recent breakage of same.


    What strikes me as also genuinely new—or at least “new enough, to the degree we now see”—is the rise of mass terrorism.

    And I believe in terms of getting the right perspective on things this too has to be grappled with.

    Understand, I’m not saying that the rise of this justifies torture in the least. But what I am saying is … who knows if enough of this relatively new thing—long enough or bad enough—is not *indeed* going to come to be seen as justification of same? Perhaps just simply because other ways of dealing with it don’t work?

    Or, in other words, what I’m just pointing to is the modesty we should have about knowing for sure what we can’t know, which is the moral/ethical views that are going to prevail in the future.

    Yesterday, for example (figuratively speaking), guerrilla warfare was seen as an abomination. And then the American Revolutionists sort of made it okay. And then we went back to decrying it, until now we recognize, however sadly, that it *is* just another way people make war.

    Just like one day no doubt we are all going to be condemned as barbarians for the way we regard and treat animals today.

    What if, for example, after another few years of ramped up terrorism—say the kind of “Allahu Akbar” 911 attacks we had and city bombings like the IRA perpetrated—we also get some terrorism involving weapons of mass destruction? Half a city rendered a charnel house? Millions upon millions dead ?

    Anyone here bold enough to say that there is no way this is going to happen? That there aren’t enough violently disgruntled people in the world to produce groups who want to perpetrate same? That technology and inter-continental travel and etc. isn’t going to facilitate this?

    I know and am well aware that all this can seem irrelevant in a way: That is, that we can sit here now and flap our lips all we want and … so what if we are wrong and in the future some tortures come to be considered A-okay? We’re just wrong, that’s all.

    So all I’m saying just goes to the idea of … trying not to be wrong and having a little intellectual modesty about things. There *are* new things that the world throws up, and many many things that we don’t even think about today were considered barbarities until just rather recently. (And vice-versa for sure as well.)

    Again, just trying to get the right perspective on where we are.


    Moreover, and somewhat in the vein of illustrating the relevance of what I’ve said (or at least trying to), I note that the actual text of the UN Convention Against Torture may well provide just the sort of … dislocation(s) or problems that make this issue much more difficult than just assuming that the Convention is going to solve everything.

    That is, not only do we indeed see that torture has long been though to have its merits, and not only do we have something new in terms of mass sustained terrorism (in an era of weapons of mass destruction), but look too at the very definition of torture that is contained in that also new feature the UN Convention.

    I.e., in its Article I:

    Any act by which severe pain or suffering, whether physical or mental, is intentionally inflicted on a person for such purposes as …

    (Emphasis supplied.)

    At the very least, it seems to me at least, this is going to cause some conflicts. And perhaps the simplest way to illustrate that is to note that clearly even sleep deprivation inflicts severe mental suffering, and yet *that* is being banned by the Convention too?

    (And even if one were to say that this *isn’t* torture—itself a statement ripe for indictment of being frivolous—the Convention also bans just “cruel” conduct as well, in its Article 16.)

    If then we do see some prolonged bout of mass and/or weapons of mass destruction terrorism, it seems to me that this alone is going to be seen as presenting a problem.

    Thus it appears to me that the Convention itself is not free from all reasonable criticism, unless one wants to risk just swimming in hypocrisy by saying it’s okay to ban something but see it go on anyway.

    In brief then it just strikes me that its a bit early to be drawing overly conclusive judgments about where we are with this whole issue. This is not for a moment to criticize those—like Phil—who want to take an absolutist, categorical moral/ethical position on same. But only to note that, with remarkable ease, that position might well turn out to be resoundingly rejected even around the entire world given how mass terrorism today seems to be rather regularly extending its practice and tentacles.

  2. Hubbub says:

    All well and good if we lived in “The best of all possible worlds.” But, we don’t.

  3. Don Nash says: • Website

    War crimes tribunal. Empowered to get to the bottom of the Bushco treasons and hold those responsible to account. That might be a pretty good start.

  4. @TomB

    Tom, that looks to me like 500 words of “apologistic” nonsense. Weaseling, basically.

    There is no issue of “perspective”. That is hogwash. Torture is illegal and immoral. We have a government that is illegal, immoral, and grotesquely corrupt.

    End of story. “Perspective” … sheesh.

  5. How does one justify harming another? How do we, Americans, justify mass killing of “others”? The place to start is with the full unredacted release of the torture report. In my life I always screw up when I function without good information and this information is critical to our ability to finding our way to the notion of being good people.
    To be willingly blind is where this nation is exceptional. To being removed from the “others” suffering and lacking any sense of compassion is where our leaders have led us to. I for one reject the darkness and practices of war, torture and starving children. We each have to stand up and demand that those practices stop…….yesterday. We have to prosecute those responsible. Not in the Hague but in D.C.

  6. Realist says:

    Cheney: A true American asshole!

  7. Priss Factor [AKA "Andrea Ostrov Letania"] says:

    Lincoln and Roosevelt. Two most dictatorial presidents.

    And US used extensive torture during and right after WWII.

  8. If you want Arab Muslim enrichment back home, you better be prepared to do some ugly things abroad. Don’t get squishy on me here, Phillip.

    • Replies: @Anonymous
  9. vinteuil says:

    What’s the point of bundling steve sailer with this sort of useless drivel?

  10. geokat62 says:

    @ John Jeremiah Smith

    Spot on!

  11. Those willing to see it know the road to torture. Anybody who doesn’t see it now can’t be made to see it.

    We need now to see a road back. That is not clear, not at all.

  12. Anonymous • Disclaimer says:

    “But only to note that, with remarkable ease, that position might well turn out to be resoundingly rejected even around the entire world given how mass terrorism today seems to be rather regularly extending its practice and tentacles.”

    Terrorism is but a small pinprick of violence on the planet. Organized warfare by States constitute the lion’s share of violence on earth.. The math doesn’t lie.

    • Replies: @Anonymous
  13. TomB says:

    @ John Jeremiah Smith:

    No question about it, moral certainty is attractive.
    (As is avoiding tough issues, such as I raised and think exists with, for example, the apparent UN Convention ban on sleep deprivation even.)

    @ Lucky Bust:

    “Organized warfare by States [may well] constitute the lion’s share of violence on earth,” but consider just how much of such warfare today has been occasioned by terrorism.

    I.e., yet another phenomenon that might cause a re-evaluation of what tactics are permissible in the use against the latter.

    All’s I’m saying—vis a vis any permanent or quasi-permanent accepted moral/ethical judgment about terrorism —is that there is something new in the world in the form of lots of mass terrorism, which comes in the age of weapons of mass destruction no less, so that as regards any such wide and deep judgment … it’s early yet.

    • Replies: @David
  14. chris says:

    Gee, if torture is such a good idea, how could we have been so stupid in the past, not to have made use of it, in all our previous wars ? (I have to believe that this is what all the enthusiastic respondents to all these polls must be asking themselves) That’s progress for you!

  15. @TomB

    B.) What strikes me as also genuinely new—or at least “new enough, to the degree we now see”—is the rise of mass terrorism.
    And I believe in terms of getting the right perspective on things this too has to be grappled with.”

    Indeed, we must grapple with the phenomenon of “mass terrorism.”

    First, it should be defined, and its etiology traced. I submit that Benzion and Benjamin Netanyahu “defined” this era’s terrorism and drafted the blueprint of the GWOT in a July 1979 conference in Jerusalem. (International Terrorism: Challenge and Response — ) The terrorists du jour were Arafat and the PLO. Arafat has been dealt with/eliminated and the PLO marginalized and new bogey men identified to take their places — Hamas, Hezbollah, Iran, al Qaeda, bin Laden, Assad, Saddam, Ahmadinejad, Rouhani, Khomeini, Khamieni, ISIS, anti-ISIS, Putin — all have been labeled “terrorists” by the architects of the GWOT.

    What they have in common is their resistance to the violent occupation of land not their own by — the architects of the GWOT.
    I would argue that the disaffection that gave rise to, initially, simmering resentment, then increasingly overt acts of resistance by these identified terrorists can be traced to Woodrow Wilson’s betrayal of the promise of self-determination for the states and peoples of the (former) Ottoman empire. Those promises were betrayed in favor of establishment of a Jewish state in Palestine.

    If we trace the problem to its source, we can better propose solutions.
    That has not been permitted to happen. Instead, the entities who are at the core of the offense has taken control of the definitions and, indeed, of the history; has denied its own causal agency while “blaming the victim” and branding them as “terrorists.”

    TomB, “mass terrorism” is only as “genuinely new” as is mass lying.
    When we start to tell the truth — not the Zelikow, “public mythology” version of history but the fact-based who-did-what-to-whom version of reality, then we will have a better handle on who the “genuine” mass terrorists are and what to do about them.


    . . .

    “Or, in other words, what I’m just pointing to is the modesty we should have about knowing for sure what we can’t know, which is the moral/ethical views that are going to prevail in the future.”

    The Golden Rule has made it through millennia, but comes the revolution of “genuinely new … mass terrorism” (and the lies that define and surround it) and voila, “new moral/ethical views” will have to be developed.

    Black will be redefined.
    So will white.


    “What if, for example, after another few years of ramped up terrorism—say the kind of “Allahu Akbar” 911 attacks we had . . .”

    The news reports I just reviewed showed Mossad agents cheering the way that two planes destroyed three towers at WTC; Yassir Arafat was shown expressing profound dismay and sympathy; Ehud Barak did not bother with sentiment — within minutes of the toppling of the first tower, he said the US must lead a “war on terror” targeting Iran, Libya, Syria, etc. I didn’t hear any “Allahu Akbar;” Barak, however, speaks with a strong Hebrew accent.


    “—we also get some terrorism involving weapons of mass destruction? Half a city rendered a charnel house? Millions upon millions dead ?”

    Ask the hundreds of thousands of Iraqis who have been attacked with USA-launched weapons of mass destruction and whose cities, homes, lives have been reduced to “charnel houses;” or the people of Gaza who have been attacked with proscribed weapons — of mass destruction, and their cities “rendered a charnel house.”

    Millions upon millions dead?

    What — several hundred thousand dead Iraqis and Palestinians don’t count? Are they not dead enough for you, TomB?


    “Anyone here bold enough to say that there is no way this is going to happen? That there aren’t enough violently disgruntled people in the world to produce groups who want to perpetrate same? That technology and inter-continental travel and etc. isn’t going to facilitate this?”

    Perhaps we can prevent it from happening if we identify enemies as enemies, not “special relations,” and stop demonizing those who resist depredation and plunder.


    . . .

    ” There *are* new things that the world throws up, and many many things that we don’t even think about today were considered barbarities until just rather recently. (And vice-versa for sure as well.)

    Again, just trying to get the right perspective on where we are.”

    Perhaps if you adjust your perspectometer in the direction of truth-telling your ability to plan for — and work for — a better future might be enhanced.

  16. David says:

    Your comment at the top is a stain on the page. Not only is it nonsense but it’s stupidly long. Your experience of skyrocketing mass terrorism is a phenomenon of vocabulary if it isn’t one of ignorance. America commits orders of magnitude more “terror,” ie killing and maiming of innocents for ideological reasons, than any country (or gang of depraved dead-enders) in the world. Mr Giraldi is trying to turn that around.

  17. Anonymous • Disclaimer says:

    “Organized warfare by States constitute the lion’s share of violence on earth.. The math doesn’t lie.”

    Actually, warfare (both state and non-state) is responsible for only 1 in 10 violent deaths, according to Steven Pinker and studies by the Human Security Report Project,

  18. George says:

    “An a-historical or indeed anti-historical proposition can lead to serious misconceptions and reactions, and I think this qualifies.” By “this,’ does TomB mean his own inane lengthy comment? So to A: There was a Congressional investigation of what was going on in the Philippines and there were repercussions. But take notice, that was about 1900, even before the Hague Regulations of 1907, let alone the Geneva Conventions and the CAT. So what might have been prohibited only under G.O. No. 100, the governing regulation, is now illegal under the Geneva Conventions. In fact, per the Geneva Conventions, they are war crimes, grave breaches of the Geneva Conventions. These same acts when committed by German and Japanese resulted in war crime convictions following World War II. B: This just sounds like something a Japanese Officer might have said to criticism after the Bataan Death March, and as the son of a Bataan Death March survivor, it makes me ashamed that an American (if that is the case here) could be such a relativist to justify such war crimes, ours today or those back then. C; Sleep deprivation – Solzhenitzyn said this was the worst of the tortures that the Soviet used. TomB would not seem to have a problem by his Soviet logic with torturing a public enemy such as Solzhenitzyn.

  19. TomB says:

    Remarkable. Every single statement I made was just simply directed not at my own moral or ethical judgments concerning torture but instead at what I at least see as the interesting question of where mass opinion just might end up concerning same. And, immediately, every negative assumption imaginable is jumped to not only about my own personal opinions regarding torture, but then also upon my reading of some of the history involving same. No matter that in fact and in the main where my own personal opinions on such things don’t match those of the assumption-jumpers, they don’t much vary from them at all.

    Makes me tempted invoke Marshall McLuhan’s gibe that “moral indignation is a technique used to endow an idiot with dignity,” but I realize how rightfully charged this issue is.

    On the other hand also reminds me of Gary Trudeau’s comment that in this country the refusal to advertise oneself is widely considered arrogant.

    • Replies: @solontoCroesus
  20. geokat62 says:

    Anyone here bold enough to say that there is no way this is going to happen? That there aren’t enough violently disgruntled people in the world to produce groups who want to perpetrate same?

    If the US continues with its war on Islam, blowback is a near certainty. If you impose sanctions that result in the deaths of 500,000 children, I think there is a good chance you’re going to end up with “enough violently disgruntled people.”

    I suspect that TomB would have a different “perspective” on torture if he was on the receiving end of rectal penetration….or was it re-hydration? Why do you think mad dog McCain has a different “perspective” on this issue?

  21. As torture is immoral and inhuman, so are sanctions. Remember the millions of babies we killed in Iraq as a result of our sanctions.

  22. Augustbrhm says: • Website

    From day one each and every Yankee leader committed war crimes/torture go back to Washington et al to today and on and on that is the nature of the beast.A case in point: “US soldiers stationed on the island of Trinidad&Tobago in 1945 would ram glass coke in the vaginaof local prostitues

  23. Anonymous • Disclaimer says:

    The macho people has torture-tactics as happening statistics in new galactics. Animal curtain likely. The practices isolated the modern people from Lennon’s perspective of Peace. Imagine.

  24. What do you think of Michael Scheuer’s position on the issue:

    Also the supposed deputy chief of Alec Station is being blamed for how the CIA went about interrogating Salafist:

    I think instead of trying to torture people (a practice that will find its way home) it would be better to figure out a way to get the military industrial complex something more productive to do than to sow chaos and then pretend to try and fix it. I’m just curious why there are people who should know better defending this practice. It is like fighting ants with poison in the kitchen when all you have to do is remove the incentive.

    Merry Christmas

  25. Phil, while ‘truth commissions’ might be a good thing, there can be no pardons or forgoing prosecutions for war crimes under international law. Just thought that should be crystal clear.

    It’s accurate to see the inference comparing American leadership to Nazis, and bringing up Hitler, Stalin and Pol Pot (you could have thrown in Mao) to compare our leadership to, that is not at all far-fetched; considering how many have died in Iraq as direct consequence-aftermath of the USA’s actions there … and too many more in too many locales to mention in a short comment. And it couldn’t hurt to point to the National Security Act of 1947, the law that sent our republic off the rails.

    In regards to this last, it has been the body of de facto law springing from the consequent ‘national security state’ which has allowed for the supplanting of constitutional principles with a rule by corporate oligarchy .. wherein Raytheon, Chevron, et al, have a greater influence over institutions of government than the constitutional principles ‘for, of and by the people.’ In other words, we no longer live under a rule of law, rather by dictat under ‘color of law’ where patently unconstitutional laws are in force by process of legislative, executive and judicial fiat.

    And then there is the social psychology factor; wherein the people attracted to careers in the ‘national security state’ are too often mentally deranged by narcissism to a point of stupidity. This can be determined with simple math; the 1st example would be the number of ‘civilian’ (under cover) renditions aircraft and flights during the acknowledged renditions program (over ten thousand) versus the number of ‘black site’ (under cover) prisoners. But there is an even better example; there are more known ‘renditions’ aircraft than there are acknowledged ‘black site’ prisoners (123 aircraft versus 119 prisoners.) Much investigation remains to be done to determine why there are such glaring apparent discrepancies prima facie. And where is the accounting for any women renditioned to ‘black sites’ ? Are we to assume there were none? (that would be foolish.)

    But the math gets even worse when it comes to having used information extracted by torture having caused an official (wild goose chase) investigation into ‘Black Muslim al-Qaida cells’ in Montana. Montana has 0.6% Black population in a total population of one million. Of 45 million American Blacks, it is estimated 632,500 are Muslim. If so much as 5% of those had al-Qaida sympathies (not likely) the chance of finding one of those in Montana is statistically sub-zero.

    Y’know Phil, even if I were on the side of the CIA on the issues of our so-called ‘national security’ as presently pursued, I’d have a problem with the people running a program that behave as stupidly as they have at the Counter Terrorism Center

  26. Thank you, commenter #17, for getting us to the heart of the matter.

    What is “genuinely new” (in the sense of being rarely discussed or even acknowledged in public settings) is that the Total Spectrum Dominance of the U.S.-led empire includes the weapon of terrorism. It is an effective tactic in wielding power, and as the empire insists on total tactical dominance, the empire must be a terrorist too.

    Which is why commenter #1’s musings are so dangerous. He continues to operate in the fairyland where the terrorists are other people. A realistic view of the contemporary world assumes that one-half of the terrorism (how would we ever tell if it is more or less?) is activity planned by the empire’s various agents.

    In short, our own government is playing both sides of this evil game. And we have no way of knowing or finding out when it is protecting us and when it is attacking us.

  27. Anonymous • Disclaimer says: • Website

    Nothing new it has been going on since 1776

  28. TomB says:

    Just a week or so ago Robert Merry over at The National Interest blog seemed to me to hit on just about the deepest piece of wisdom on the issue that I’ve read where he said “Any governmental activity that generates such intense and emotional political conflict should be avoided if its utility is questionable.”


    Once again though, speaking not of my own opinions but those of a some broad societal consensus on the issue and how that may change, I don’t sense our present general consensus against torture is all that strong.

    Once again that is, give terrorism enough sustained successes, (such as the IRA city bombings) or some WMD success, and my betting would be that the opposition to at least some forms of torture would be swept aside for a time at least. Including especially sleep deprivation, despite (as I have also said) its clear meeting not only of the U.N. definition of torture, but of any reasonable definition of same.

    Anyway and as often is the case Mr. Merry seemed to me to add no little amount of thoughtfulness to the discussion and I thus mention it for those who might be interested.

  29. When it comes to torture and American exceptionalism, the following quotes come to mind:

    “The only things exceptional about America is it’s exceptionally ignorant population, it’s exceptionally large national debt, it’s exceptionally decadent and hedonistic culture, it’s exceptionally corrupt federal government, and the exceptional lack of compassion that its citizens have for each other, or for the rest of the world.” Commenter Antodav

    “It is extremely dangerous to encourage people to see themselves as exceptional. There are big countries and small countries, rich and poor. … We are all different, but when we ask for the Lord’s blessings, we must not forget that God created us equal.” Vladimir Putin 9-11-14

  30. @TomB

    I tried to point out that key underlying assumptions in your “interesting question” are flawed.

    No, not flawed; they are based on lies, lies that have been deliberately propagandized relentlessly.

    Before the upper lever of your interesting questions can be addressed, TomB, the foundation they rest on must be examined and brought to a state of plumb, square and level.

    Those assumptions are that “terrorism is a genuinely new thing;” and that Muslims were the major actors in 9/11.

    • Replies: @TomB
  31. Getting Cheney for Torture is like getting Al Capone for tax evasion. Torture is but only one major crime of a long long list and many people believe to be nowhere near the top of the list.

  32. TomB says:


    I tried to point out that key underlying assumptions in your “interesting question” are flawed.
    No, not flawed; they are based on lies, lies that…

    Settle down, Dude; settle down. You’re reading and extrapolating so fast you’re even making yourself a little silly.

    After all here you are—one who obviously is in violent opposition to torture—getting all volcanic over my mere opining that the mass opposition to torture might, depending on circumstances, not prove all that solid.

    But why the volcanism at *all* if indeed you know to such an existential certainty that my pessimism is mistaken? Shouldn’t you who have just denounced that pessimism just at best find it amusingly in error and be happy?

    But no, instead there you are going all postal on me.

    Sorta silly, but given the substance of your further comments I’ll nevertheless address your reasonable points concerning the foundation of my thinking.

    First off, you’re just wrong to accuse me of saying that terrorism is a new thing. Again, you’re reading faster than you are absorbing, and thus I’ll just quote word for word what I originally said I thought was indeed a new thing:

    What strikes me as also genuinely new—or at least “new enough, to the degree we now see”—is the rise of mass terrorism.

    Get it? New *enough,* because of the *degree* to which we are seeing it.

    I am fully aware that terrorism might be considered age-old, and that of all people Lenin’s brother was in same way the hell back in the age of the Tsars even. And as someone else has noted that it received a significant boost in our modern times by the Irgun and Stern Gangs.

    But, nevertheless, my clearly stated mere opinion is that the even more modern terrorism that we have seen, such as with the IRA and what Palestinian and Islamic terrorism has occurred and with Lockerbie and 911 and etc., etc., does indeed constitute something “new enough” to possibly effect a change in the mass opinion about terrorism if same continues on long enough, bad enough.

    Now … you may disagree with this. That’s fine. And you might be right. But it’s just opinion and just a possible prediction and so again if you are right it’s difficult to see how same makes you mad at all in the least, much less qualify much less lead you to calling me a “liar.”

    So as to reiterate: No, of course terrorism isn’t new. But quantity has a quality of its own, and I think that if we get enough of it, for long enough, that will have its new effects. Including, I suspect, on people’s tolerance for torture.

    Just my opinion though Dude. No reason to go postal. You don’t think 911 had a big effect on public opinion, that’s up to you.

    Lastly then you accuse me of lying for saying that Muslims were the major actors in 9/11.

    In point of fact I didn’t and never said that, but will admit to believing it.

    Although, on the other hand and again to the point, I will readily admit it is just an opinion of mine that I don’t, for certain, and personally know to be true.

    So please back off the “lying” business and, I suppose, go trying to persuade that muslims were not the major actors of 911. Just as is the case with moi, you are entitled to your opinions too of course.

    And, lastly, Merry Christmas or Happy Holidays otherwise.

    • Replies: @Carroll Price
  33. @TomB

    Since it’s quite obvious you number among the 60% of Americans who approve of torture, why not just admit it and quite beating-around-the-bush? Resorting to false eloquence to defend torture is nothing short of pathetic.

    • Replies: @TomB
  34. TomB says:
    @Carroll Price

    Well Carroll, I think that like any number here you’ve extrapolated wildly and are substantially wrong on this, but you decide:

    That is I haven’t approved of a single use of it to date in all this kerfuffle and as I said I approve of Robert Merry’s statement as regards same. (And indeed approved of it way back before this piece by Mr. Geraldi appeared.)

    On the other hand I don’t think I’m willing to be an absolutist on every aspect of the issue. That is, if the need were to ever prove more acute (indeed, *much* more acute), and the results less questionable, I don’t think I would regard the use of some sleep deprivation as a great evil.

    For instance, if used upon an in-custody admitted adult kidnapper of a child who refuses to disclose the location of the child where the child may suffer great injury or death by not being found with relative alacrity.

    So, if that makes me an “approver” of torture, then so be it, although I suspect that I’d find far more than 60% of Americans (and indeed human beings) accompanying me as regards same.

    I just have a hard time seeing how there are no necessary evils in the world, nor why that would be the case with torture too. After all defensive war invariably involves the commission of great evil; indeed numerous if not constant great great evils, and yet…

    So either persuade me that, for instance, the Christian take on life is correct whereby we can forego fighting evil with evil because some later justice will be imposed, or persuade me why torture is different than, say, defensive war and I’ll be an absolutist. Short of that though I can’t in all candor say that I am one.

  35. PeterB says:

    The announcement that we torture those deemed to be enemies isn’t based on a rational assesement of it being needed to gain information unavailable by any other means. Rather, it’s meant to terrorize anyone thinking of displeasing the US government just as impalements, crucifixions, drawing-and-quartering were used in the past to send a message of what can happen. No matter how grotesque, there’s no shortage of people who’ll come rushing to defend things like this as being necessary. It’s also unsettling to ponder how many willing executioners there are among us. Where does one go to hire people willing to put in a day at the office torturing prisoners? No regime in history, no matter how tyrannical, seems to have run short of goons, sadists, executioners, torturers, snitches and others willing to commit any crime in return for a paycheck and a pat on the back.

  36. geokat62 says:

    For instance, if used upon an in-custody admitted adult kidnapper of a child who refuses to disclose the location of the child where the child may suffer great injury or death by not being found with relative alacrity.

    This scenario is very similar to the ones introduced by Professor Michael Sandel in his introductory lecture on Justice: What’s the right thing to do? The moral side of murder.

    As Professor Sander points out at about 9 minutes into the video, “Moral and political philosophy is a story. You don’t know where the story will lead, but what you do know is that the story is about you.”

    What is clear about these sorts of questions is that they are not mathematical in nature. There is no “right” or “wrong” answer. It all comes down to the kind of moral reasoning you subscribe to:

    consequential (or better know as “the ends justify the means”)
    categorical imperative (or better know as “absolutist”)

    And the moral reasoning you subscribe to is a window into what kind of human being you are. It provides knowledge of one’s self.

    In the case of torture, it appears that TomB is a consequentialist. All this tells us is that he believes the ends justify the means, even in the case of torture. All I would say is that are you prepared to live in a world in which everything is guided by this principle? As I pointed out earlier, I don’t believe John McCain is. So, are you really sure you are?

  37. TomB says:

    geokat 62 asked me:

    are you prepared to live in a world in which everything is guided by this [“ends justify the means”] principle? … are you really sure you are [a consequentialist]?

    Nothing lower than a guy asking tough but reasonable questions…

    But I guess my answers would have to be … no, and, to a degree, yes.

    In the first place and admittedly in the abstract where is it written in stone that one has to find the answers to living a virtuous life so consistent that the principle(s) they find the most virtuous in one situation has to guide “everything”? (Sort of an absolutist position in another way, right?)

    Not that I think I do that, but once again candor and modesty compel me to say that it’s probably likely I do so to at least some degree.

    I.e., doesn’t it seem *likely* in fact that if we even *could* all individually pull out and inventory our various beliefs and opinions on things that we’d find not just one or two inconsistencies but a veritable riot of them?

    I mean … life’s a veritable riot of complexity itself, isn’t it? So, to take one very small slice of it that I’ve run into let’s take an even very very very small slice of same: Say … how you feel the Constitution ought be interpreted? Strictly, as it was originally intended as best as can be determined? Or as what is called a “living document,” interpreted in light of *modern* sensibilities?

    Eventually, after struggling with that dilemma (reduced to this simplicity just for illustration purposes) I at least came to the same conclusion that Chief Justice Roberts did which is that he has eschewed holding any one theory. And I think this is what most people do in reality (and which judge says or acts on only one theory all the time?) simply because while one theory leads fine in lots of instances, it also leads to crazy when addressing other questions. (E.g., is paper money really unconstitutional?)

    Or, as Martin Amis puts it, “All ideologies are essentially bovine.”

    Of course by eschewing consistency one is opening oneself up to the greatest criticism of having no real principles at all and I don’t know how to escape that. Maybe indeed it’s the reality. But then maybe the problem is that just because we can come up with a word carrying a clear abstract definition (“principles”), that doesn’t mean that same is attainable in reality. Coining words is easy. Living a virtuous life ain’t. Nor, as seen, is Constitutional interpretation even.

    This seems to me to have some validity because the same problem afflicts the absolutist side of the coin people too, doesn’t it? I.e., are they *really* prepared to live in a world in which everything is guided by their non-consequentialist principles?

    Now I know there might be some fancy rhetorical attempts to define their principle(s) so as to slip this knot, but its pretty clear that here, with torture, the absolutist position has to come down somewhere along the lines of saying that one ought never inflict extreme pain or distress on one simply to save another (or however many) from extreme pain or distress or death even, right?

    Well okay, but I don’t see then how that principle, applied consistently, doesn’t require a pretty complete pacifism ideology. *Especially* when it comes to refusing even the right of self-defense because in that case your *own* self-interest is “merely” at stake and you can’t even be said to be defending others.

    So are such non-consequentialist, absolutists *really* prepared to live in a world in which everything is guided by that principle?

    Seems to me what that means in practice is a world in which, long ago, you’d *have* no more pacifists because they’d all have been eaten by those not so taken with the theory.

    Thus I suspect that as much as any consequentialists can be validly charged with inconsistency, so can the absolutists because I really don’t think very many people would really be willing to say they are absolute pacifists.


    Getting beyond the inconsistency issue though—that is, *trying* to be as consistent as possible, I think that yeah, to a fair degree I *would* be willing to live in a world in which a fair deal is guided by a consequentialist theory—*provided that the ends and means are as carefully and dutifully weighed as possible.*

    And while I know this sound horrible, I think there’s an at least fair illustration why I think most people would too, and that is a 9-11 derived scenario:

    You’ve had one hijacked plane already fly into one of the World Trade Towers. You have another plane that appears to be hijacked and is heading towards New York City. Do you shoot down that plane and certainly kill its 200+ humans—the vast majority of course being entirely innocent even?

    Or do you abstain and very *very* possibly see not only those 200+ incinerated, but another 2000-5000 obliterated as well?

    Obviously everyone knows that our government was indeed prepared to shoot down likely hijacked planes on that date, and is prepared to do so in the future. And just as obviously that’s pretty much been accepted as being okay. A necessary evil. One in which the ends/means calculus used is just as obvious as obvious can be, right? To save 2000-5000 (or even just *possibly* save them), you kill 200+, with the vast majority of *them* even being entire innocents.

    Thus at least in my reluctant acceptance of being a consequentialist I think I’m at least not bereft of company, to put it mildly.

    (And isn’t there something to be said about … having a decent respect for the opinions of (other) mankind? So that why one might be an absolutist, isn’t there at least *some* respect that has to be paid to what is clearly a hugely majority opinion?)

    Again though, I think that making sure the ends and means are very carefully weighed as best as possible is as saving a grace to such a view as possible. (Accepting that there’s not totally saving grace for it.)

    E.g., you better be *real* sure that the plane you are shooting down is hijacked. And you ought to not shoot it down until as late as possible to ensure you aren’t making a mistake. And no, if you know that some hijacked plane is going to merely be directed at some private home so as to kill one person and will not kill lots more than the 200+ on board you don’t go shooting it down at all. And etc., and so forth.

    Now and again … I know this sounds horrible, but, and again limiting ourselves to the only consistent alternative, what do the entirely consistent absolutist, non-consequentialist pacifist say about the 9-11 scenario?

    Really, that is? It would be better to see 2000-5000 (or more) people consumed in a fireball and else wise than it would be to shoot down that plane beforehand?

    I just don’t see that as somehow being more moral or virtuous, although that’s not to say I’m closed to any arguments otherwise or that I don’t have any respect for it intellectually speaking.

    One final point, spurred by your comment about how these things are much “about you” which I endorse.

    Yes, that is, when consequentialists make their judgments unavoidably they are imposing their own judgments about lots of things, such as the … costs of the ends and the benefits of the means.

    But how do non-consequentialists escape that even moreso? In the 9-11 circumstance, that is, aren’t they passing all kinds of judgment on the worth of the lives of those 2000-5000?

    And then there’s the question of “hypocrisy,” not meant pejoratively. That is, how many absolutists would really *really* quail at sleep-depriving some guy who is hiding their own kidnapped child in possible circumstances of death or great harm?

    Not many, I don’t think. And thus I said before it seems to me that while not absolutely determinative once again a decent respect for the opinions of mankind shows there’s at least *some* validity when the great majority of one’s fellow mankind hold to some clear opinion about something.

    As in … the correctness of shooting down that hijacked plane before it reaches New York City. Or sleep-depriving some guy holding one’s child in peril.

    As I said before, it just seems to me that the complexities of life does throw up such things as necessary evils, and I while I’d like to be persuaded differently I don’t see why that isn’t true when it comes to some of the issues involved in torture.

  38. geokat62 says:

    I.e., doesn’t it seem *likely* in fact that if we even *could* all individually pull out and inventory our various beliefs and opinions on things that we’d find not just one or two inconsistencies but a veritable riot of them?

    I think it was David Hume who once said:

    “What is man but a heap of contradictions.”

    To which I always hasten to add:

    “True, but some heaps are bigger than others!”

    • Replies: @TomB
  39. TomB says:


    (Even if you mean my heap.)

  40. Anonymous • Disclaimer says:
    @The Anti-Gnostic

    Does really matter how ugly you get as you get older,you never stop loving yourself. Fascism breeds same comfort and assurances . Dick Cheney isn’t sounding paranoid . The arrogance is the last refuge of the mass murderer . His last mask.

  41. KA says:

    James Traficant, a Democratic congressman from Pennsylvania, said that for years Congress had poured billions of dollars of largely unscrutinised funding into America’s intelligence services, “yet we learnt of every one of these tragedies from Fox News and CNN”- two television channels. Senator Richard Shelby, a Republican member of the Senate intelligence committee, said it was “a failure of great dimension”.

    Per this article -Mossad told CIA and FBI in August 2001″They had no specific information about what was being planned but linked the plot to Osama bin Laden and told the Americans that there were strong grounds for suspecting Iraqi involvement,” said a senior Israeli security official.”

    Americans learn from Fox and CNN. If they paid attention including the congressman they would have asked Brit Hume and Carl Cameron to explain why Fox stopped broadcasting the 4 part series on Israeli involvement . Congressman can also let his constituency know why he did not pursue any further that piece of information the Fox News provided in 2001 in first 2 of the four part series . Or was that it could have been fatally toxic for him to survive as a politician if he did .

  42. KA says:

    One thing missing in the discussion is the purpose of the interrogation. Interrogation was enhanced by Cheney and Wolfowitz gang not to flesh out the connection to Osama to 911 but to establish connection between 911 and Saddam .
    Cheney was a recent convert to anti Saddam gang but Wolfowitz was the godfather of the gang from 1979 ( Sunshine Warrior – NY Times ) and he took vows agains nd again to finish Iraqi society ( Wesley Clark- Ex Supreme NATO commander and Presidential hopeful)
    So defending torture in the thread is like defending torturing Parisian Nazi sympathizers in order to get them confess in a way that they would point finger at the French Resistance movement of De Gaulle of planning to take over British island anytime in nextv45 minutes with a big spectacle. That’s what the tortureres did and did it knowingly ..

  43. …here’s what I think we need….

    1. – The formation of a new National Memorial Project. A project with several different, though related goals or objectives. Primary among these objectives is fund-raising designed to support the legitimate short-term, tangible objectives of The National Monument Project….as well as to finance the future investigative, media and legal necessities of The National Monument Project.

    2. – The new national monument will be called the National Gallows for American Values. The National Gallows should be located at the site of the 911 treason.

    3. – The National Gallows should be built with thermite-tainted steel, such as that from the treasonous implosions of those …(3)…three buildings on 911. The National Gallows should rise 47 stories into the NYC skyline,…as a relatively singular pole…with horizontal extensions to be extended for the purpose of mass-hangings of convicted traitors.

    4. – The National Gallows for American Values should flow with red-hot, liquid steel…with steam rising from the site 24/7 for eternity.

    5. – The National Gallows project will seek to finance the acquisition of property, design and construction of The National Gallows for American Values…as well as financing the development of public relations and media campaigns designed to bring out about a political demand for Truth Commissions / Grand Jury Investigations into the 911 treason and cover up.

    6. – Additionally…The National Gallows Project will seek to finance Grand Jury Investigations into the entire Bush / Clinton / Bush / Clinton / Obama War-Crimes/Torturer/Treason Family…as well as their entire coalition of corruption that has damaged The United States for the last 40-50 years. This “truth commission”….via the Grand Jury will have the power to investigate Waco, Ruby Ridge, OK City…Sandy Hook, etc. etc. The Grand Jury will be authorize to investigate any and all corrupt activities of the Federal Government….(and help finance state/local commissions)…and to both report on historic corruption, as well as officially charging those officials who are still living for murder, treason and corruption.

    7. – Upon conviction, each traitor will be given one appeal, to be completed within 30 calendar days. After consideration of appeal, if found “still guilty”…all family assets of the traitor will be seized, and the traitor will be hanged naked within 24 hours…and in full view of millions of Americans who will be allowed to throw rotten fruit, garbage and feces at the treasonous pigs. If found necessary, investigation into “family activities” of the convicted person’s family members, their finances and potential illegal activity will take place under the Citizen Grand Jury Process.

    8. – That should allow them to feel what “liberty” really feels like for the first time in their treasonous, pathetic life.

    RJ O’Guillory

  44. KA says:

    The question is why the US decided not to focus on AlQuida? What did they already know about them? What did US anticipate from the AlQuida ! What was the level of mutual understanding between the two? The cooperation between the two goes back to 1979 and it continues today. So who they torture and why? Was it to get them confess something that was false! Was it to get them involved more heinous crimes? Was it to make them create the situations unfolding in Syria , Libya,and use them as pawn against Iran or Russia ?
    Some morons claim that it kept America safe !

  45. Anonymous • Disclaimer says:

    It seems to me that torture by Americans has worked well. It has allowed the U.S. to get information from people who were totally innocent of the 9/11 attacks, and use it to kill even
    more people who were totally innocent of the 9/11 attacks. Who cares if the information was
    given just to stop the torture, it made the victims look like the perpetrators and wasn’t that the
    whole point?

    • Replies: @TomB
  46. TomB says:

    Obviously you view me as some sort of torture fan and so let me try to add to what I’ve said disputing that:

    Firstly, I am not sure that what you say about the torture we employed as regards 911 or indeed as regards any of our Mideast mess is true. (I.e., that it was just employed on entire innocents, obtaining information that was solely used to kill other entire innocents.)

    Indeed I doubt that this is true, or even very true. But, I have openly said here (and elsewhere) that I do not believe any of this torture was justified, and indeed I did so even assuming it was not true.

    But, in addition to whatever truth there is to your assertions there’s another ugly thing lurking in the background of the torture that we employed here that contributed to my distrust of it but which I never saw discussed until just now in a piece by Patrick Coburn that Mr. Unz has very keenly spotted and published here. (At

    That additional ugly possibility that I wondered about involved the true motive for the torture we inflicted, and sure enough Mr. Cockburn’s piece goes pretty far in my opinion in demonstrating that same was indeed corrupt too—i.e., in an ex post facto way to try to gin up an ex post facto link between al queda and 911 and Saddam Hussein so as to justify the Iraqi invasion.

    Needless to say one going about torture purely and simply to try to either justify some past conduct or to just make such a justification up out of whole cloth is just about the worse thing imaginable and it seems to me strips such torture of any veneer of justification or virtue whatsoever.

    Might as well be doing it for sadistic reasons as for mere politically helpful ones.

    Thus, upon reading Mr. Cockburn’s piece, not only did it confirm again in my mind the correctness of my negative judgment about the rightness of the torture that we used, but it seemed to me to possibly reverse yet another opinion I had held which was a negative view about prosecuting Mssrs. Bush and Cheney for this torture business.

    That is, beforehand I was strongly against same, not least for the immense civic division and uproar it would occasion.

    If however you could prove that those two started the torture ball rolling purely or even just in substantial measure out of a mere attempt to try to cover their Iraq invasion asses it seems to me impeachment and prosecution *would* be the right thing to do. Authorizing torture at that point would seem to me to have absolutely no redemptive facet to it whatsoever.

    Now I have to say that what Cockburn wrote alone didn’t convince me: I’d like to know more and especially see a very detailed and precise timeline of the events and decisions involved before I’d favor prosecution. (Not that my opinion matters a whit.)

    But at the same time what Cockburn did write and note seems to me to be far more than just merely suggestive in that direction. A good bit more. Seems to me the issue deserves one helluva lot of attention and investigation.

  47. TomB, saying that torture is permissible under certain circumstances is one thing but still shouldn’t the people who made the decision to torture take responsibility for it instead of turning morality on its head? Shouldn’t they suffer the consequences for their actions? Shouldn’t the personal cost be high when it comes to murder and torture?

    • Replies: @TomB
  48. KA says:

    Government works with the corporate run media to create the permanent war psychology. 911 is always there-” they attacked us . We don’t want another 911″ . This narrative would have not been kept alive but for the complicity of the American people in accepting it as valid ,legal moral,and ethical.
    Stupid American will say no to ( sometimes or after losing lot pf soldiers) war but will not stop the process that has always led to wars .

    Most people in this country are unclear about the distinctions between Arabs, Iranians and Turks (the three major ethic groups in the Middle East), much less distinctions within the Arab nations. So when a “War on Terror” was declared, and targets as in fact dissimilar as al-Qaeda, Iraq, Yassir Arafat, Hamas, Hizbollah, Iran, Syria, a tiny faction of Iraqi Kurds, etc. lumped together and labeled “terrorist,” the way was paved, psychologically and ideologically, for ongoing war against anyone in the Middle East. GIs in Iraq decorated their barracks with posters showing images of bin Laden alongside images with Saddam, linking them both to 9/11, urging the troops to see their occupation of Iraq as somehow retaliation for those attacks.

    What is more racist than that—the deliberate exploitation of irrational hatred of Arabs and basic ignorance and gullibility, to trick people into supporting a vicious, imperialist war that has killed perhaps a million Iraqis and destroyed that proud country? It’s the same exploitation of irrational hatred that results in 99% of people in the U.S. polled stating that they believe Iran’s military nuclear program is a threat to the U.S. (No matter that every responsible intelligence agency affirms that Iran does not have a military nuclear program!)

  49. KA says:

    Torture happens for the perpetrators are not punished when exposed . Even admission by Cheney didnot promote any new direction on the part of the justice department how to address these self styled and vain glorious pathetic psychopaths.

    Part of the reason is in the above link. Its an explanation offered by a congressman that suits the 1 st grade class ( excepting he profanities) not grown up . But that what counts and seen as deliberations and discussion to educate the public.

  50. TomB says:
    @Johnny F. Ive

    Hi Johnny:

    If I’m reading you correctly you are zinging me for inconsistency via saying on the one hand that I disapproved of the Bush/Cheney torturing and yet on the other hand was against trying to impeach and prosecute them, correct?

    Well I guess all I can say is that I don’t think I can plead innocent to that. It’s just that there are any number of factors that I think get implicated when talking about impeachment and then prosecution so that it can pretty easily resemble biting off one’s nose to spite one’s face.

    I.e., I am not a “let the heaven’s fall before letting one injustice go unpunished” kind of guy.

    Moreover, I would also somewhat fear getting proved wrong in my estimation of the wrongness of Bush and Cheney.

    That is, while it’s pretty clear the grounds for impeachment are *politically* determined by the Congress, it seems to me it would look awful bad to impeach a Prez/V-P, and then put them on trial and have them win there. And I think that would be a very distinct possibility on Constitutional grounds alone. No matter, that is, what law you threw up against them you know that their primary line of defense would be that such law unconstitutionally interferes with a President’s plenary powers as Commander In Chief, and that’s a very strong argument.

    But even beyond that, and despite, as you say, wrongful torture and murder being so wrong, I think it’s a mistake to essentially try to introduce impeachment talk into every discussion and Presidential term, which damned near happened after Nixon, didn’t it? Culminating in the business against Clinton.

    And indeed let’s take the Clinton business as an example: I was against trying to impeach him, even though I think it’s a serious serious thing to have a President committing felony perjury for one.

    So there I’m inconsistent. But to *be* consistent there, well, shouldn’t we also then be impeaching Mr. Obama for his *repeated* and clear whoppers about his health-care plan? I.e., “if you like your policy you can keep it”?

    As much as possible, I say, leave such things to the political arena, even if it’s as disgusting as you imply to have one arena in which conduct occurs without prosecution whereas if same occurred in other arenas (such as the one you and I live in) there damn well *would* be prosecutions.

    Again, I’m just not a “pursue justice till the heaven’s fall” kind of guy. As with most every other thing, damnably, the issue of justice also seems to me to be at least somewhat susceptible to a cost/benefit analysis that ought to be paid attention to.

  51. TomB, if not the biggest fish like the former president and vice president then how about their minions like the lawyers who formulated the policy? People who were in the inner circle at the top. Scooter Libby was punished for a crime that had negligible influence on our society while these guys run free. This is setting a dangerous precedence on what is acceptable behavior on part of the government. What if we had a Sedition Act of 2018 and we were all rounded up and tortured for opposing Uncle Sam’s war against Iran? If torture is so effective then wouldn’t they want to use it against a fifth column in the US who opposed the war, whined about the Military Industrial Complex, and the Israel lobby? There is no cost on their part.

    • Replies: @TomB
  52. TomB says:
    @Johnny F. Ive

    Hi again, Johnny.

    You know, it’s so hard disagreeing with you but—in addition to some other factors—just think of the monumental injustice in *not* pursuing the higher ups but gee, savagely punishing the smaller fish.

    It’s funny, Phil Geraldi and I once went around on this with my position then still being as it is today which is *if* you are going to go after any of the littler fish, well then hell you’ve just got to go after the bigger ones too and IIRC I managed to sway him. It’s just too screamingly unfair, and thus I think the rule ought to be that if are going to let the Big Boys slide for *whatever* damnable reasons, well then you gotta let the Lower-Downs slide too just as a matter of not being a cosmic hypocrite about things.

    Now, to address your other points, as I said if you could show that Bush and Cheney ordered the torture that they did in at least substantial part merely to try to justify in an ex post facto way their previous political claims so as to help their political asses, then you bet. I say impeach ’em, and try to try and convict ’em too, and those who knowingly went along with that as well. Every one of them.

    As I averred earlier though, while I think it’s clear that you can impeach for whatever reason so long as you have the votes for it (i.e., it’s a *politically* defined thing), I’m a little dubious about what criminal law that may exist on the books that you could then also criminally prosecute the Pres. and whoever else with.

    That is, so long as the Pres. was seen as exercising his war/Commander-in-Chief powers (either via repelling an attack and thus responding to an already existing state of war or acting via some prior Congressional authorization for war), boy, his CinC power is big and strong. And of course no mere regular legislation—even that passed pursuant to treaty—can stand if it is unconstitutional.

    And of course if a Prez. can cloak himself from prosecution with same, then any underling he ordered can say he is cloaked as well.

    So at any rate there’s been what I regard as a lot of loose talk about criminal prosecutions vis a vis all this torture business.

    Aside from that though I’ll just once again note that even right now when my personal opinion is that Bush and Cheney ought not have been impeached for their torture decisions, because of all the sound points you raised if the nation had decided otherwise I would not have regarded same as all that terrible a mistake.

    Just like the Clinton dilemma: I was against trying to impeach him. But if he had been removed from office I think there would have been virtues to that too. I have long felt that we ought to have far more robust criminal law against our politicians (who after all make it robust when it comes to covering us), and if you or I had been Clinton we would have surely been charged and convicted before some federal judge.

    So … we ain’t all that far apart really. And you know what I’d like to see which I think would greatly clear the underbrush and hypocrisy? A Congressional Resolution saying something along the following lines:

    “Until and unless specifically stated otherwise let it be known that it is the conclusion of this body that the Executive’s Commander-in-Chief and/or other powers of war and over foreign affairs under the Constitution do not extend to the authority to order torture as defined under the UN Convention concerning same, and that the ordering or abiding of same by an Executive amounts to a High Crime or Misdemeanor so justifying Impeachment, and that no order commanding any such torture is a lawful order thus immunizing any lesser official, soldier or other employee of the United States from prosecution if they obey or cooperate with any such order.”

    With same at least you’ve stopped the Congress from playing hypocritical little games with the issue, so let ’em debate that and see what happens. And if we get into some horrible little conflict in which they *do* want to authorize some torture—say, some sleep deprivation—then let ’em debate amending that Resolution to that effect.

    Otherwise, as is the case with so much else, what we’ve got is our ruling class playing all kinds of hypocritical games and keeping us dancing and divided amongst ourselves as to just what is right and wrong and what has been decided along those lines before and etc.

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