May 252009
 

I continue to be baffled by the arguments in favor of torture, and the justifications that are made for America’s use of torture. Darth Cheney claims that it “kept us safe” by providing actionable intelligence allowing the U.S. to subvert terrorists plots. We know this to be untrue…in some cases, it had just the opposite effect.

Newt Gingrich is claiming it was all OK because Nancy Pelosi was briefed on it. Well, there is no provision in the Constitution that says a law can be circumvented by briefing someone in Congress.

The subversion of the Constitution and the rule of law should be troubling to every American, but I think I am most disturbed by our behavior from my moral and Christian perspective.

When we get people who are more concerned about reading the rights to an Al Qaida terrorist than they are with protecting the United States against people who are absolutely committed to do anything they can to kill Americans, then I worry…. These are evil people. And we’re not going to win this fight by turning the other cheek. –Former Vice President Dick Cheney, February 4, 2009

But I tell you who hear me: Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you. If someone strikes you on one cheek, turn to him the other also. If someone takes your cloak, do not stop him from taking your tunic. Give to everyone who asks you, and if anyone takes what belongs to you, do not demand it back. Do to others as you would have them do to you. –Jesus, Luke 6:27-31.

These two opposing statements by former Vice-President Dick Cheney and Jesus Christ bring into sharp focus the contradictions of being a country that simultaneously lays claim to Judeo Christian values while going to any lengths to protect and preserve the American empire – including torture. What does the practice of torture by our government say about those of us who are American Christians?

The great biblical evangelists Paul and Steven were tortured, but continued to profess what they believe. They never used violence or coercion to spread the faith; rather people came to Jesus in part because of the non-violent Christian witness of the early members.

And lest we forget, it was Jesus who was himself tortured and killed. Early Christians espoused love in the face of hate, generosity in the face of theft, blessings for curses, and turning the cheek in the face of violence. They did this not out of weakness, but out of strength.

George Bush and other professing Christians succumbed to the temptation of perceived expediency to employ torture in order to try to create the non-existent link between Iraq and Al Qaeda. Dick Cheney says “these are evil people” as a way to justify torture. But Christians have dealt with evil people before and Jesus taught us explicitly that evil is never overcome by evil; it is over come by Good. Plus, Jesus’ words in Luke 6 – Do unto others as you would have them do unto you – have a chilling resonance when it comes to torture.

Torture PhotoA recent Pew Center survey indicates that the more a person attends church, the more supportive they tend to be of torture as practiced by the U.S. Government.1 This raises a very serious crisis of faith within my soul, and it makes me fear for the very soul of my country. I fear what is to become of us and our Republic.

Over two years ago I spent time begging the Methodist Episcopacy to condemn American torture. Only five Bishops cared enough to call on Bush to halt the practice of torture.2345 The more one attends church, the greater should be the outrage when one reads comments like Cheney’s. Loyalty to a political cause should not triumph belief in human rights.

Sadly the new century seems to have changed our belief that we should be that “shining city on a hill” Regean talked about. We now consider the Constitution and the Geneva Conventions to be quaint and outdated. Defending the abuses by party leaders like Bush, Cheney and their henchmen have become more important that defending the basic human rights we claim to live by. And the media’s lack of calling people out for their hypocrisy has made the situation even worse. Continue reading »


  1. Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life, April 29, 2009: More than half of people who attend services at least once a week — 54 percent — said the use of torture against suspected terrorists is “often” or “sometimes” justified. 

  2. John Masters, “Resolutions By The United Methodist Council of Bishops,” Deep Sand, May 13, 2005 

  3. John Masters, “Another Letter to the U.M. Bishops on Torture,” Deep Sand, June 13, 2005 

  4. John Masters, “Here I Go Again,” Deep Sand, June 16, 2005 

  5. John Masters, “Once Again A Call to Methodist Bishops to Denounce Torture,” Deep Sand, Sept. 28, 2005. 

Tortured Logic on Torture

 Crime, Featured, Politics, Presidency, Society  Comments Off on Tortured Logic on Torture
Apr 262009
 

Wooden_stocks.jpgSen. John McCain was on Face the Nation Sunday morning, and the contortions he went through to let the previous administration off the hook for their illegal torturing was astounding.

He starts off reiterating that he and his (ahem) friend Lindsey Graham talked to Al-Qaeda operatives who said that U.S. torture was a main recruiting tool they used. He goes on to try claim that it was all just the result of some bad legal advice…despite being sure he took credit for passing a law prohibiting torture. So, it was important for him to get the bill passed, but not important for the Bush regime’s lawyers to read it?

They are still trying to get traction with the canard about it being all about settling political scores, and how we just move on and take care of the two wars we are in. Again, what score does Obama have to settle. He didn’t even serve a full term in the Senate, and he wasn’t running against Bush. And McCain has the gall, after the campaign he ran, to say, “We need a united nation, not a divided one.”

Early in the interview McCain makes the claim that he believes no other Administration will ever make the same mistake (of using bad legal advice…I guess), and torture again. But then he tries to use the Ford pardon of Nixon as a justification to move on. Obviously, not pardoning Nixon allowed the Bush administration to believe, as Nixon said, “if the President does it, it’s not illegal.” This is incredibly twisted logic.

But here’s the real kicker to it all. While McCain is arguing that there should be no retribution against the legal hacks of the Bush/Cheney Regime, he says (after admitting we violated the Geneva Conventions), “and by the way, those who say our enemies won’t abide by the Geneva Conventions…uh they will if they know there’s going to be retribution for their violation.”

Continue reading »

Lessons That Came At Too Painful A Cost

 Constitution, Crime, Featured, Politics, Presidency, Society, War  Comments Off on Lessons That Came At Too Painful A Cost
Feb 272009
 

The Youtube clip includes a statement from Senator Leahy about his proposal to have a commission look into the possible crimes of the Bush Administration. It continues with a statement by Senator Whitehouse. Whitehouse, as a member of both the Intelligence and Judiciary Committees is in a position to have some idea of what has gone on in regards to our torture and rendition activities. In light of a stern and direct warning that when the details of what Amerikkah did under the Bush Administration comes out, it’s not going to be pretty, I am set back on my heels.

It must have been bad, and Whitehouse says that we are going to be contrite and embarrassed. Many people on the right and in the Republican party would rather that we ignore the war crimes of those years. Even Obama has talked about only “looking forward,” but as Senator Leahy says, if we don’t confront these things, the past can be a prologue for the future. I hope that is unacceptable to you all.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QTzJf7m2NL0

Only Looking Forward Is Not An Option

 Constitution, Corruption, Crime, Featured, Politics, Presidency, Society  Comments Off on Only Looking Forward Is Not An Option
Feb 062009
 

No less than former President Richard Nixon’s White House Counsel says that we must consider investigating (and if appropriate) prosecuting members of the Bush 43 Administration for torture and crimes against humanity. I would suggest reading the complete article, but here’s an excerpt:

My question is how can the Obama Administration not investigate, and, if appropriate, prosecute given the world is watching, because if they do not, other may do so? How could there be “change we can believe in” if the new administration harbors war criminals – which is the way that Philippe Sands and the rest of the world, familiar with the facts which have surfaced even without an investigation, view those who facilitated or engaged in torture?

One would think that people like Cheney, Rumsfeld, Addington, Gonzales, Yoo, Haynes and others, who claim to have done nothing wrong, would call for investigations to clear themselves if they really believed that to be the case. Only they, however, seem to believe in their innocence – the entire gutless and cowardly group of them, who have shamed themselves and the nation by committing crimes against humanity in the name of the United States.

We must all hope that the Obama Administration does the right thing, rather than forcing another country to clean up the mess and seek to erase the dangerous precedent these people have created for our country.

The testimony by Phillip Sands, Law Professor, to which he refers is here:

The evidence is remarkably clear, and I fail to see how anyone can turn a blind eye to this most egregious blot on America’s place in the world.

I hear the arguments that we must look forward and not back, but those who do not learn from history are bound to repeat it. We must, as a country, learn our lesson. We must take the appropriate rebuke from ourselves, and ensure that a clear message is sent to those in America who have come to believe that torture is OK if supporting it gets them votes. We most show the rest of the world that America gives no quarter to torturers, be they foreign or domestic.

It will not be a pleasant time in our history, but neither have the past eight years been pleasant. Our moral authority in the world has collapsed and is non-existent. Often we stood alone as the honest broker for what is right, but today we stand only as hypocrites.

I believe that the new Attorney General must appoint a Special Prosecutor, and an investigation must be conducted into the conduct of the Bush Administration in regards to torture, rendition and false imprisonment. These are all things explicitly detailed in America’s original Declaration of Independence as being unacceptable behavior by then King George. Our King George did no better, and just as America’s Founding Fathers called him to task for his transgressions, modern Patriots can do no less.

The Price Paid for Power

 Election, Featured, Politics, Presidency, Religion, Right Wingnuts  Comments Off on The Price Paid for Power
Aug 212008
 

John McCain’s military service deserves the thanks and respect of the American people, especially given his time spent as a POW in Vietnam. However, the over-use of this status for political gain becomes laughable after a while, and erodes the respect with which it should be treated. It seems to be used by his surrogates to explain everything.

The other day McCain was asked about how many houses he owns (I plan to write more about this later), and he stumbled, and could not remember. As it turns out, it’s either seven or eight…no one else seems quite sure either.  It took less than 24 hours for for a McCain spokesperson to invoke the POW status to explain away the housing gaffe. Brian Rogers told the Washington Post, “This is a guy who lived in one house for five and a half years — in prison.”

Recently at the Saddleback interviews (where McCain received Rick Warren’s questions in advance), McCain told a story about his time as a POW when a guard came to him at Christmas time and quietly used his sandal to draw a cross on the dirt floor. It was certainly a moving story, but what exactly it says about McCain I can’t quite figure out. It seems to me to say more about that guard…but the krazy kristian kooks love it. Anyway, like some of Dick Cheney’s story, it might have been borrowed.

Let’s look at the timeline. McCain came back from Vietnam in 1973, and shortly after that wrote a 12,000 word story published in U.S. News and World Report, but never mentions this incident. In 1999, McCain writes about it as his story in his book, Faith of Our Fathers. But in 2000 he talks about the story, but says it was another prisoner.

OK, so just strike it up to his age (or his previous status as a POW). Except that story appeared in the book, The Gulag Archipelago, by recently deceased Alexandrja Solzhenitsyn and published in the west in 1973. Did the same thing happen to McCain? Certainly could have, but it could have also come from a distant memory in a ghost writer’s brain…especially since McCain attributed it to someone else himself.  Continue reading »

The Tears Continue for Our Once Great Nation

 Congress, Crime, Politics, Presidency, Society, War  Comments Off on The Tears Continue for Our Once Great Nation
Jul 022008
 

The New York Times is reporting that military trainers who came to Guantanamo Bay in December 2002 based an interrogation class on a chart showing various “coercive” techniques for use on prisoners. What the trainers did not reveal, and may not have known, was that their chart had been copied an Air Force study of Chinese Communist techniques used during the Korean War to obtain false confessions from American prisoners.

The 1957 article from which the chart was copied was entitled “Communist Attempts to Elicit False Confessions From Air Force Prisoners of War” and written by Albert D. Biderman, a sociologist then working for the Air Force, who died in 2003. Mr. Biderman had interviewed American prisoners returning from North Korea, some of whom had been filmed by their Chinese interrogators confessing to germ warfare and other atrocities.

Senator Carl Levin, head of the Senate Armed Services Committee said, “What makes this document doubly stunning is that these were techniques to get false confessions. People say we need intelligence, and we do. But we don’t need false intelligence.” (Duhh)

Of course, when has the Bush administration really cared about getting intelligence. They just make up what they need. But picture this, George, Condi, and Dick sitting around the Oval Office having coffee laughing and having a good ole time coming up with ways that prisoners can be tortured for their fun and amusement. Who wants to bet me that Dick Cheney has watched videos of some of the “interrogations.” (Maybe even alone at home in the dark doing the dirty.)

How sad we have become, but of course the right-wing will insist that, “It’s not torture…it was when the commies did it to our soldiers, but it’s not now when we do it to Arabs, that’s different.”

Dec 112007
 

I sincerely hope that no one is falling for this “false flag” (I believe it’s called in intelligence parlance) of the CIA Agent suddenly coming forward to condemn waterboarding as torture, but then saying it saved thousand of lives when used to interrogate Abu Zubaydah. It is just too convenient that this “former” agent, John Kiriakou, suddenly gets permission to come forward and openly discuss this operation on the national news circuit. Does anyone still fall for this shit from this Administration?

Let’s play this all out. First off, Wikipedia defines “False Flag” as, “covert operations conducted by governments, corporations, or other organizations, which are designed to appear as if they are being carried out by other entities.” These sorts of operations are not unknown to the CIA, and are a standard part of operations within intelligence organizations.

Detainees and defense attorneys are not allowed to see any information related to interrogations, and according to the administration, US Courts can’t see information about interrogations and interrogation techniques even during these bogus detainee hearings at Guantanamo. Kiriakou said things on national TV that could not be discussed at one these detainee tribunals according to the Administration.

Now according to Kiriakou he was only at Zubaydah’s initial interrogation when captured, but the guy was captured while in the process of making a bomb, and had the plans for a school laid out on the same table. How convenient. He provides some detail of the operations that were uncovered during the Zubaydah interrogations, but admits he wasn’t there when Zubaydah caved after only about 35 seconds of being waterboarded…however, the guy couldn’t be broken any other way.

Kiriakou says that he didn’t know about the existence of the tapes until just the day before his appearance, yet he was able to get the appropriate clearances for these appearances from a gigantic bureaucracy in less than 24 hours. While this is the season of miracles, I’m not buying it.

 Mr. Kiriakou is “retired” from the CIA. He looks about 32, so I guess he went to work there at about age 10. Boy, they start them young. You can see part of his ABC interview at Crooks and Liars. Kiriakou is perfect for the job. He’s no longer with the agency…wasn’t there when the waterboarding was actually done…didn’t even take “the training,” but did submit to a little demonstration waterboarding.

The guy is handsome, well spoken, and well rehearsed. On a couple of the interviews, it even appears the questions are as rehearsed as the answers. He offers up the softest of descriptions of waterboarding (nothing like the the one offered by the Military Officer testifying under oath before Congress). Steve Benen at Carpet Bagger Report sums it up well:

As a matter of crass politics, Kiriakou’s assessment seems to offer a little something for everyone. For the right, Kiriakou is saying that torture produced intelligence that saved lives and thwarted possible attacks. For the left, Kiriakou is conceding that the Bush administration authorized and utilized torture (i.e., committed a felony), and he now believes the U.S. should stop using these “enhanced interrogation techniques.”

There is, however, one angle that warrants a closer look: whether torturing Zubaydah actually produced actionable intelligence. The answer is far from clear.

You see, it turns out that some time back it was reported that CIA and FBI agents had determined that Zubaydah, at most a low-level logistics guy arranging for some travel for families, and was most likely certifiably crazy. Ron Suskind reported some time back in the Washington Post:

Abu Zubaydah, his captors discovered, turned out to be mentally ill and nothing like the pivotal figure they supposed him to be. CIA and FBI analysts, poring over a diary he kept for more than a decade, found entries “in the voice of three people: Hani 1, Hani 2, and Hani 3″ – a boy, a young man and a middle-aged alter ego. All three recorded in numbing detail “what people ate, or wore, or trifling things they said.” Dan Coleman, then the FBI’s top al-Qaeda analyst, told a senior bureau official, “This guy is insane, certifiable, split personality.”

I am just not buying it. This is an attempt to lessen the impact of even more attention to the administration’s illegal activities, and to try to start the dialog as being something that was valuable at the time because it supposedly saved lives, but we shouldn’t be doing it now…so let’s just drop it, and all go back to our respective corners.

Kiriakou says he thinks there should be a national debate about torture. BULLSHIT. There should be no discussion about torture. What has become of the values of this Republic and we as a people when we have to have a debate about torture?

Liberal Media Ignoring Al Qaeda Torture Manuals?

 Crime, Politics, Society, War  Comments Off on Liberal Media Ignoring Al Qaeda Torture Manuals?
Jun 022007
 

Last week the U.S. Military reported finding Al Qaeda torture manuals in a “safe house” in Iraq. The pro-torture wingnuts are all atwitter with the news, as they get out there to say, “they do it too.” As if that’s all the license the U.S. needs to condone torture.

Bush followers are now issuing statements about how the “liberal” media is silent on the issue of the discovery of these torture manuals (or at least putting the stories on back pages). There is a reason for this disparity in reporting, and in a column at Salon.com, Glenn Greenwald says it best:

The reason that it is news that the U.S. tortures, but not news that Al Qaeda does, is because Al Qaeda is a barbaric and savage terrorist group which operates with no limits, whereas the U.S. is supposed to be something different than that. Isn’t it amazing that one even needs to point that out?

Of course, the Bush wingnuts and the Neocons just don’t get the difference. It remains a very sad commentary on how low the values of this country have dropped.

I Need to Watch Boston Legal More Often

 Congress, Constitution, Culture, Politics, Television, War  Comments Off on I Need to Watch Boston Legal More Often
May 142007
 

The few time’s I’ve watched Boston Legal, I’ve thoroughly enjoyed it, but for some reason it’s never made my “must watch” list. After seeing this, I think I have to set the Tivo to record it. What a great statement.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DG-54fmn97c

Waterboard Rumsfeld?

 Constitution, Corruption, Crime, Politics, Presidency, Society, War  Comments Off on Waterboard Rumsfeld?
Nov 102006
 

If he has nothing to hide…

Just days after his resignation, Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld is about to face more repercussions for his involvement in the troubled wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. New legal documents, to be filed next week with Germany’s top prosecutor, will seek a criminal investigation and prosecution of Rumsfeld, along with Attorney General Alberto Gonzales, former CIA director George Tenet and other senior U.S. civilian and military officers, for their alleged roles in abuses committed at Iraq’s Abu Ghraib prison and at the U.S. detention facility at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.

Hey, maybe the Germans can try that cute little trick that Bush’s CIA did in Italy. Just swoop in and steal people off the street of a NATO ally, then ship them out of the country to be tortured. I mean, after all, America is the beacon of hope in the world and we set the standard for decency. Hell, we are decency country-ified. Anything we do is per se humane and legal. So why couldn’t the Germans use the same tactics on us? I understand war criminals don’t get the same rights as real people anyway – you know, like habeas corpus or the Geneva Conventions – so no harm no foul.

We are at war, you know.

And , Always, Always…Wrong

 Constitution, Politics, Presidency  Comments Off on And , Always, Always…Wrong
Oct 192006
 

Keith Olbermann, on his MSNBC show, has often offered some very insightful special comments at the end of his broadcast. Yesterday’s was especially poignant, so I wanted to share the transcript with you.

And lastly, as promised, a Special Comment tonight on the signing of the Military Commissions Act and the loss of Habeas Corpus.

We have lived as if in a trance. We have lived… as people in fear. And now – our rights and our freedoms in peril – we slowly awake to learn that we have been afraid… of the wrong thing.

Therefore, tonight, have we truly become, the inheritors of our American legacy. For, on this first full day that the Military Commissions Act is in force, we now face what our ancestors faced, at other times of exaggerated crisis and melodramatic fear-mongering:

A government more dangerous to our liberty, than is the enemy it claims to protect us from.

We have been here before – and we have been here before led here – by men better and wiser and nobler than George W. Bush.

We have been here when President John Adams insisted that the Alien and Sedition Acts were necessary to save American lives – only to watch him use those Acts to jail newspaper editors. American newspaper editors, in American jails, for things they wrote, about America.

We have been here, when President Woodrow Wilson insisted that the Espionage Act was necessary to save American lives – only to watch him use that Act to prosecute 2,000 Americans, especially those he disparaged as “Hyphenated Americans,” most of whom were guilty only of advocating peace in a time of war. American public speakers, in American jails, for things they said, about America.

And we have been here when President Franklin D. Roosevelt insisted that Executive Order 9-0-6-6 was necessary to save American lives – only to watch him use that Order to imprison and pauperize 110-thousand Americans…

While his man-in-charge…General DeWitt, told Congress: “It makes no difference whether he is an American citizen – he is still a Japanese.” American citizens, in American camps, for something they neither wrote nor said nor did – but for the choices they or their ancestors had made, about coming to America.

Each of these actions was undertaken for the most vital, the most urgent, the most inescapable of reasons. And each, was a betrayal of that for which the President who advocated them, claimed to be fighting.

Adams and his party were swept from office, and the Alien and Sedition Acts erased. Many of the very people Wilson silenced, survived him, and…one of them even ran to succeed him, and got 900-thousand votes… though his Presidential campaign was conducted entirely… from his jail cell.

And Roosevelt’s internment of the Japanese was not merely the worst blight on his record, but it would necessitate a formal apology from the government of the United States, to the citizens of the United States, whose lives it ruined.

The most vital… the most urgent… the most inescapable of reasons.

In times of fright, we have been only human. We have let Roosevelt’s “fear of fear itself” overtake us. We have listened to the little voice inside that has said “the wolf is at the door; this will be temporary; this will be precise; this too shall pass.” We have accepted, that the only way to stop the terrorists, is to let the government become just a little bit like the terrorists. Continue reading »