Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Musings: Howling

The wind was blowing, scuttling trash, which startled Koko, when we went walking on dark streets under dark skies this morning. A band of light separated two masses of black clouds, making me wonder if it would rain, but we decided to chance ‘em, and it didn’t.

Dawn neared and the space between the cloud banks increased until Venus was exposed, shining among swirling apricot-colored puffs as a strip of dusky pink smoldered on the horizon. An ambulance came up the street, siren wailing, and Koko sat on her haunches and added her own small, husky voice to the chorus of howling dogs.

One can only imagine how detainees must have howled as they were being tortured by CIA interrogators in cells and secret prisons around the world. But one need only check the news to learn how former Cheney is howling in indignation now that the CIA Inspector General's long-secret report on torture has been released and Attorney General Eric Holder has finally appointed special prosecutor John Durham to investigate the agency’s sordid interrogation practices.

According to an article in Reuters:

Former U.S. Vice President Dick Cheney criticized Obama's ability to handle national security after the special prosecutor was appointed.

Cheney, who has emerged as a vocal defender of Bush administration policies since leaving the White House, said the intelligence obtained from harsh interrogation techniques had saved lives.

"The people involved deserve our gratitude. They do not deserve to be the targets of political investigations or prosecutions," he said in a statement.

Really? Are you inclined to say mahalo nui loa to the guys who, according to the CIA’s own report, engaged in such barbaric practices as waterboarding, slamming people against the wall 20 to 30 times consecutively, threatening to kill and sexually assault detainees’ families, staging mock executions, depriving detainees of sleep for days on end, dragging naked people along concrete corridors and beating a man to death with a metal flashlight?

Are you willing to say, hey, great job, no questions asked, and we’ll just trust you won’t keep doing this kinda stuff in your next assignment? And where are these guys now? Some, according to a New Yorker article I read a while back, have left the Agency. They could be working for independent military contractors, the U.S. prison system or law enforcement agencies. One, who several times struck a teacher in the torso with the butt of his rifle because the man “smiled inappropriately” during questioning, “was counseled and given a domestic assignment.” Oh, great. Others are still with the CIA, and have even been promoted.

Is it OK with you to just let this whole thing slide, without ever knowing exactly who authorized what practices or what lies behind the black marks that cover entire page of the heavily-redacted CIA report or how pervasive these policies were — and perhaps still are?

As attorney and Salon blogger Glenn Greenwald noted in a Democracy Now! interview today:

This is yet another report that details that the abuses that took place were pervasive and systematic … involving hundreds of people, perhaps thousands, that they involved people who even the CIA report said there was no incredible intelligence to believe that they were involved in terrorism of any kind, meaning that they were completely innocent of any wrongdoing. These were the people to whom we subjected these abuses.

And I think, beyond that, the kinds of techniques, the kinds of tactics that were used … are incredibly brutal and barbaric, exactly the kinds of methods that we’ve long condemned and called for war crimes prosecutions when engaged in by other countries.

That’s what’s got Cheney wildly on the offensive in this whole thing. As The New American observes, Cheney’s primary concern is not protecting the public, or even the sadistically patriotic perps, but his own ass:

It's understandable that Cheney would publicly condemn the investigation, since the chain of responsibility points primarily to him personally on this issue. Cheney's own hide could — and should — be on the line in any meaningful investigation of torture. The last thing the nation needs is a series of fall guys within the CIA to take the blame for law-breaking politicians who would be immunized from their crimes.

Unfortunately, that’s what the investigation, as it’s now structured, is set up to do. As the New York Times noted in an editorial yesterday:

… Mr. Obama and his political advisers continue to shrink from the broad investigation of the full range of his predecessor’s trampling on human rights, civil liberties and judicial safeguards that would allow this country to make sure this sordid history is behind it for good.

…It will require a fearless airing of how the orders were issued to those men, and who gave them. Only by making public officials accountable under the law can Americans be confident that future presidents will not feel free to break it the way Mr. Bush did.

Will we, the people, start howling for that “fearless airing?” Or will we just let it all get swept under the carpet once again?

As Greenwald noted:

And so, my point really is that if Americans want to endorse the idea that torture is permissible as a means of combating terrorism and that that’s something that the United States is now going to do and that the people who did it, even though it’s clearly a felony and a war crime, should be immunized from prosecution, at the very least they should be made to understand what it is that they’re defending. They’re not merely defending the use of waterboarding; they’re defending the most brutal and horrific tactics that result in severe injury to helpless captives and even death.

And if, at the end of the day, America wants to defend and justify that, then at least they will do it with full knowledge and will be making a clearer statement about what the country has become.


Anonymous said...

is this the part were we note that these kinds of black ops have gone on to some extent for a long time? to me, it just seems like it was ramped up as of late, thats all

this guy was a pretty effective case officer:,8599,1910670,00.html

worth a look if interested in the subject (or value the view of a front line operator, vs a university academic criticizing from a safe distance and without responsibility)


Anonymous said...

The American people have polled in on this issue of reopening this issue:

Yes 6% (6881 votes)
No 94% (114274 votes)
I'm not sure <1% (335 votes)
Total Votes: 121490

It will go nowhere significant. A "show".

Anonymous said...

Another poll from another source:

Did Attorney General Eric Holder make the right call by opening a probe into allegations of prisoner abuse?

Yes 8%

No 92%

Total Voters:4418

Joan Conrow said...

If you're going to quote polls, please reveal the source so those who are interested can determine their validity.

Anonymous said...

I've not seen anything indicating any significant popular support for pursuing this.

Dawson said...

It might have been Vietnam; perhaps it was earlier. But somewhere on the path, we slipped and got scared.

As a result, we've turned mean -- to the point where decrying American torture is declared un-American.

To the point where even asking ourselves, "should we ask ourselves if we did it?" is denounced as comforting our enemies and threatening our citizens.

Sad, sad times.

Anonymous said...

Everyone wants us to be free of "terrorists" in the USA but don't want to spill the blood to do it. They laugh at us "softies."

OK, make two lines at the airport for two flights: One line is thru TSA and the metal detector, etc. The other line has no one and no controls at all. Which flight you want to take??