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The most compelling argument for investigations into Bush-era torture policies is to ensure something like this never happens again, and it is usually couched in language that implies this hadn't happened before.  But it has, and our nation's track record on confronting torture as official policy is not sterling.  Ask Sister Dianna Ortiz or the thousands of others tortured by people trained at the U.S. Army's School of the Americas, or Linda Macdonald and the thousands of Canadians who were tortured as part of Dr. Ewen Cameron's CIA-funded experiments.

If President Obama is to put a full stop to U.S. torture and ensure it never happens again, he'll have to take on the most powerful branch of our government, one whose history of recognizing the rule of law - even our own - is mixed at best.

More below the fold....

American Exceptionalism - "Never Again."

This week Morning Feature looks at torture through the prism of American Exceptionalism.  Wednesday we explored how this supposed "city on a hill" was "founded on original sin," genocide against one race and the enslavement of another, both involving torture.  Yesterday we explored the culture of torture in the Philadelphia police department during the tenure of Mayor Frank Rizzo, and how the investigations there offer a better blueprint than the Nürnberg trials.  Tomorrow we'll conclude by considering what we should tell our overseas friends, and our children, about our nation's history of torture.

Guatemala is a beautiful land with a horrific recent history.  I recall riding a bus past a home where a man was sitting cross-legged in front of his home, sharpening his machete.  An American woman on the bus shuddered and wondered aloud if he were planning some crime, seemingly oblivious the possibility that for this man, as for many Guatemalans, a machete is a household tool no different than most Americans owning a hammer or a hand saw.  Maybe it was simple racism, or maybe her impressions were skewed by the massive police presence we saw everywhere we went.

Sister Dianna Ortiz might have shuddered, not at the man with his machete but at the police.  An American nun, she went to Guatemala to work with the local people.  She was abducted and tortured by Guatemalan security police, and her testimony is chilling and graphic.  The building where she was tortured stands next to the U.S. Embassy, and many Guatemalans feel that is no coincidence.  Our involvement in Guatemala and elsewhere in Central America, training army and police forces at the School of the Americas, has been shameful.  Sister Dianna was "rescued" by an American, in the sense that he interrupted the torture and got her out of the country.  But that rescue came with a warning, as she relates in her testimony:

The American, Alejandro, put me into his jeep and drove off, and during the ride he told me to forgive my torturers, telling me that they were all just trying to fight communism; if I didn’t, that there would be consequences. He reminded me that my torturers had made videotapes and had taken photographs of the part of the torture that I was most ashamed of. In perfect American English, Alejandro told me that if I didn’t forgive my torturers, he would have no other choice than to release the videotapes and the photos to the press. He also told me he was going to take me to see a friend at the U.S. Embassy. And at this point, the jeep stopped in traffic, and I jumped out and ran.

There was no rescue for Linda Macdonald or hundreds like her.  Suffering from depression in 1963, her family suggested she visit the clinic of Dr. Ewen Cameron in Montreal.  Neither she nor her family realized she had been put into a CIA-funded experiment testing theories of mind control.  She was diagnosed an acute schizophrenic and put in the "sleep room," where she was kept in a medical coma for 86 days.  Cameron's idea was to erase her mind and build a new one.  It worked only half-way:

I was -- had to be toilet trained. I was a vegetable. I had no identity, I had no memory; I had never existed in the world before. Like a baby. Just like a baby that has to be toilet trained.

[Showing a photo to her interviewer, she continues:]

This is -- this is one of the twins, in 62 before I went to [Cameron's clinic], and this is the same one I think. I just look at the pictures and I know that is who they are, but I don't remember them as my children at all. I mean, I know that they came from my body -- um -- but, there's no -- that's all. I don't know, and that's because I was told that. So, these are my children.

As best I can determine, apart from the Iran-Contra scandal in the late 1980s, no U.S. government official has been charged with a crime related to our support of torture in Central America, nor were any U.S. charges brought when the horrors of Cameron's work were made public in 1977.

It's Okay If You're An American?

Cameron served on the Nürnberg Medical Tribunal - the Doctors' Trial - punishing Nazi-era psychologists for the same sorts of experiments he would later commit himself.  He served as president of the World Psychological Association, as well as president of American Psychological Association (APA) and the Canadian equivalent.  Small wonder that the APA's stance on torture has been muddled at best.

As has been the CIA's stance on democracy.  From Mossadeq in Iran to Arbenz-Guzman in Guatemala to Allende in Chile and elsewhere, the CIA took a dim view of democracy if election results did not favor U.S. interests.  Indeed the history of the CIA is a case study in unconstitutional government.  Before the Iraq War, George Bush cited as justification that Saddam Hussein had refused to comply with U.N. resolutions.  What Bush never mentioned is that the U.S. never paid the $17 billion ordered by the World Court in 1986 in reparations for our support of the Contras in Nicaragua.  In fact, the principal architect of that terrorism and torture policy, John Negroponte, later became our first Director of National Intelligence.

Iran-Contra and the Fourth Branch

The officials implicated, indicted, and convicted in the Iran-Contra scandal were not charged with fomenting terrorism or torture.  They were charged with crimes relating to the Boland Amendment, a series of three laws passed between 1982 and 1984 to block U.S. funding to the Contra rebels in Nicaragua.  President Reagan signed the bills, and those who believe in the three-branch organizational chart of U.S. government we learned in high school would expect that to be the end of the matter.

But there has grown since World War II a fourth branch of government, one that does not appear on that high school civics organizational chart because it is not authorized in the U.S. Constitution.  It's the National Security Branch, and it consists primarily of the Department of Defense, the National Security Agency, the CIA, and elements of the FBI, along with some other government (and some non-government) actors.  To call it the National Security Council grossly understates its often near-autonomous ambitions and influence.

That influence was highlighted by the Iran-Contra scandal.  Put most simply, the National Security Branch decided that Congress was wrong to pass the Boland Amendment, and the President was wrong to sign it.  So they decided to subvert it, selling weapons to Iran in exchange for Iran influencing the Shia group Hezbollah to release U.S. hostages seized in Lebanon.  The money from the arms sales was funneled though Honduras to the Contra rebels in Nicaragua.

The scandal broke in November, 1986, and later that month President Reagan appointed a special commission headed by former Senator John Tower of Texas.  The Tower Commission interviewed more than 80 witnesses, and its 200-page report found that President Reagan had only limited knowledge of the actions of the National Security Branch, and specifically did not know - though the report said he should have - that money from arms sales to Iran had been funneled to Nicaragua.

Ultimately 14 government officials were charged with crimes and 11 were convicted.  Several convictions were reversed, as the prosecution had used evidence gathered by the Tower Commission under grants of immunity.  President and former CIA director George H.W. Bush pardoned most of the rest in 1992 before he left office.

The National Security Branch had won, and several of those implicated in Iran-Contra were later appointed to positions in the George W. Bush administration.

A powerful, implacable adversary:

Those calling for President Obama to immediately cleanse the stain of the Bush-era torture policies are overlooking the considerable power held by the National Security Branch.  Though most are executive agencies and thus theoretically answerable to the President as Chief Executive, in fact they've been more than willing to play Congress and the President against each other.  The Congressional committees created after Watergate to provide oversight have too often confused "oversee" with "overlook."  And when Congress and the President agreed to end some program, such as through the Boland Amendment, the National Security Branch have often just gone around them.

So the calls for investigations to ensure the Bush-era abuses are never repeated seem to miss some lessons of history.  There were investigations after Iran-Contra, and prosecutions, and convictions.  The next president pardoned those whose convictions had not already been overturned, and the National Security Branch flexed its unconstitutional muscles yet again.  Merely winning a few convictions will not guarantee "Never again," just as merely winning an election does not guarantee National Security Branch loyalty to a U.S. president.

The investigations are necessary, yes.  But they are not enough.  Tomorrow we'll conclude this series by examining the deeper issue of how to defeat the National Security Branch, that clenched fist of American Exceptionalism.  It's a battle I believe President Obama is willing to fight, but to win it he'll need a lot of support in Congress, the courts, and from the American people.

Until and unless we win that battle, we cannot guarantee there will never again be a Sister Dianna Ortiz, a Linda Macdonald, or an Abu Ghraib.


Given the nature of this week's series, I chose not to include Kossascopes today.  They will return next week.

Happy Friday!

Originally posted to NCrissieB on Fri Apr 24, 2009 at 04:27 AM PDT.

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Comment Preferences

    •  Thank you for these series of diaries! (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      esquimaux, NCrissieB

      I have been thinking the same all week.  The two most salient points for me, is that we do and have tortured citizens.  Second, Al Quaida has won!  What will be revealed will effectively show terrorists in a more sympathetic light.  

      •  I disagree on your last point. (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:

        As more of this comes to light and the investigations proceed, I think you'll find there's a huge point of difference between the U.S. and Al Qaeda.  I doubt you will see anyone from Al Qaeda publicly calling for their organization to bring to justice those among them who committed horrific acts.  That's one huge reason we need to have investigations and end the reign of secrecy by the National Security Branch.

        Good morning! ::hugggggggggs::

        •  I was being lazy... (1+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:

          I was too excited rushing to read your other diaries.  I believe Al Qaeda has won.  We have been forced to lay bare the hypocrisy that is American exceptionalism for the world to see.  We have sunk to the depths of torture.  In this sense, AQ and bin Laden have won this battle but maybe not the war.  Once everything has unfolded, I don't know if we will have any moral authority on the world stage for years to come.  Couple this with the financial melt-down and I believe we will be outcasts on the world stage.  Is this not a goal of AQ?

          The water is muddied.  In the past, we could hide our duplicity in aggression which has made us a target for terrorists.  Not so much any more.  Do you think that if we were attacked again, given the torture we have committed, we will receive the support of others.  As has been mentioned, who will want to turn over suspected terrorists to torturers?  

          This is in part speculation on my part, but we are myopic in a sense that we haven't been focused on what is being said about this outside of the US.  But there have been rumblings from the UN of prosecutions.  I think personally that may be the best route.  It is no longer partisan but again back to exceptionalism, will we allow our elected officials to be scrutinized by the world?  I doubt it but it would go a long way in combatting our ugly perception in the world.

          Thanks for writing about Rizzo and Philly, my home town.  I admit, I have been neutral on the topic of torture.  It is hard for me to gin up the righteous indignation for the reasons you have pointed out in your wonderful diaries.  I guess I have grown immuned which is one of the big problems in condoning torture because I see torture every day in different ways committed against minorities and the poor.  

          •  It's a difficult topic. (1+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:

            I understand why we Americans needed to rally around some notion of exceptionalism.  As I noted Wednesday, unlike most nations we are not a "people of a place," and we needed some substitute for the unifying force that comes with being that.  We substituted a "people of an ideal," though those were ideals we've all too often honored only in the breach.  Torture violates our basic ideals - it's prohibited by the Eighth Amendment - and yet it has long been practiced as official policy in our country.

            If the Bush-era torture policy forces us to examine that larger context and come to grips with the idea that we Americans simply are not exceptional enough that we can ever trust our government to act honorably when it can act in secret, then perhaps some good can come of this, and perhaps we can take one more step toward being "a more perfect Union."

            Good morning! ::huggggggggggs::

  •  Investigation won't stop it from (16+ / 0-)

    happening again .... or, at least, there is little evidence that anything will stop this from happening again.

    Punishment and fear of punishment do not seem to act as very good deterrents to any form of crime.

  •  Most Under-Used Term of Past 60 Years: (24+ / 0-)


    Constitutional government has pretty obviously had at most a partnership function in empire, both in intelligence and in armed force.

    It's not the American Empire. It's an empire that also took over America.

    We are called to speak for the weak, for the voiceless, for victims of our nation and for those it calls enemy.... --ML King "Beyond Vietnam"

    by Gooserock on Fri Apr 24, 2009 at 04:42:14 AM PDT

  •  These characters probably made off with a (10+ / 0-)

    huge portion of the missing billions of shrink-wrapped $100 bills flown to Iraq, to fund their subversive activities for a looong time.

    Don't forget that their Republican enablers have been stacking the courts with their cronies, who manage to acquit or overturn convictions on appeal, on dubious, contorted grounds.

    Don't forget that JFK attempted to nip their power in the bud, following Ike's warning.

    Obama seems on track to repeat Clinton's record of 'looking ahead' and not going after the traitors still lurking as 'stay-behinds' throughout the Executive Branch agencies.

  •  Not a happy diary today (14+ / 0-)

    and difficult to read.  You are right, this isn't going to be easy.  There's no quick fix and no guarantee that there ever will be a complete fix.  But we have to try.  We can't accept that "that's the way it's always been."

    Hugs to you for taking on this difficult subject.  Have a great weekend, everyone.  I'll check in on Monday to read the diaries I'll be missing.  We're going camping, woo hoo!!  What could go wrong............(I'll let you know).

  •  It is human nature to approach a (18+ / 0-)

    problem and "fix it" and to assume that once it is "fixed" it stays that way.

    Never Again--is a good anthem, but the history of humanity reveals that its more of a plea than a declaration. If we don't constantly watch and regulate power, greed and fear it will always happen again.

    You may find yourself in a beautiful house with a beautiful wife and you may ask yourself, "How did I get here?"

    by FrankCornish on Fri Apr 24, 2009 at 04:43:24 AM PDT

  •  Good Morning Crissie and Krew! (11+ / 0-)

    Very informative diary today Crissie. I need to catch a few more winks, as I haven't been feeling well. I'll be back a little later. Meanwhile, huuuuuuugs to all!

  •  Sadism (16+ / 0-)

    It is simply unfathomable to me how people can partake or even watch another person or animal being tortured. However, I love to go the track and watch and bet on horse races, which the PETA folks consider torture, so it must be perceived on many levels.  I consider religionists who have methods to straighten out gays to be torturers, as I also regard some of the 'camps' for wayward youth to be torture camps.

    In the end, I suppose it is a matter of control.  Some people seem to feel the need to have complete control over others and one of the preferable methods used involves sadism. Sadism, mind and body control, is the easy way out.  

    •  It Becomes Increasingly Urgent That People Know (18+ / 0-)

      that sociopathy exists and is common, the more advanced and complex a society becomes.

      This is a foundational weakness of the American system, being premised on both an extremely simple primitive world where nobody had the capability of inflicting very much harm on anybody at any speed, and on all the power blocks in society sharing the same basic interests and therefore the same basically honorable intentions.

      Both premises end with the passing of simple agrarian economies and the rise of industrialism, with its giant corporations which create immense private powers with inescapable reach at unavoidable speeds across society and the world.

      To throw such a world at a gentleman farmer's system of government is to release a tiger into a schoolyard.

      We are called to speak for the weak, for the voiceless, for victims of our nation and for those it calls enemy.... --ML King "Beyond Vietnam"

      by Gooserock on Fri Apr 24, 2009 at 04:55:31 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

    •  Sadism indeed. (12+ / 0-)

      I've tried this week to discuss a wider range of sadism than just what happened at Guantanamo and the "black site" prisons since 9/11.  My intent is not to excuse the recent abuses as "well it happens all the time," but rather to put them in a context of how and why abuses of power flourish.  They flourish when we allow government to keep secrets, and investigations - while essential - are not enough.

      Good morning! ::huggggggggggs::

    •  Sadism is a growing trend (10+ / 0-)

      Witness ultimate fighting.

      The most popular movie in America this week will likely be "Fighting", an ennoblement of bone-crushing violence young American men can't get enough of.

      if we can't accept change, things will never be the same again

      by le sequoit on Fri Apr 24, 2009 at 05:21:35 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  This conversation (5+ / 0-)

        really begins to get at the cultural underpinnings of all of this. And it reminds me of a book I read last year that jolted my reality...big time. It's The Culture of Make Believe. The author, Derrick Jensen takes us on a historical look at the US's seeming addiction to violence and mixes in some stream-of-consciousness thought on trying to understand it. His conclusion is that its all about objectification. Here's an opening conversation he has with a friend who has just posited how much hate groups and corporations have in common.

        He said, "They're cousins."

        I just listened.

        "Nobody talks about this," he said, "but they're branches from the same tree,different forms of the same cultural imperative..."

        "Which is?"

        "To rob the world of its subjectivity."

        "Wait..." I said.

        "Or to put this another way," he continued, "to turn everyone and everything into objects."

        •  I agree with you. (3+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          NLinStPaul, DBunn, FarWestGirl

          And that's why, despite the queasiness I've sometimes felt - and I'm sure some readers have as well - I've tried to make sure this series recognizes the real suffering of real human beings.  I believe in the rule of law, but the rule of law is an abstraction, an idealized notion of the world.  To make that more than a romantic fantasy, we must acknowledge Steve, those who were brutalized in Philadelphia under Frank Rizzo, Sister Dianna Ortiz and Linda Macdonald, and the stories I'll share tomorrow.  We have to see and acknowledge the real suffering of real human beings, or we become unwitting accomplices in objectifying their suffering.

          Good morning! ::huggggggggs::

        •  Derrick Jensen (2+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          NLinStPaul, NCrissieB

          An amazing writer, deep and original thinker, committed healer, striving to transcend his wounds.

    •  If it's any comfort (8+ / 0-)

      I know most people object to dog racing, and I would never have considered going to see dogs race.  Then we adopted a rescued greyhound and when I see the sheer joy when she runs, I understand it differently.  She'll yip at me to come outside and then race around the yard, coming as close to flying as any dog is likely to get.  I cheer for her and she races even faster.  Then she stops, flops down and basks in the sun.  I would guess that horses love to race as much as Tilly does.  It's what they've been bred to do for eons.

      •  Thoroughbred horses (4+ / 0-)

        My dad had one that put his nose on the starting gate to get an edge over the other horse who ran on the bell out of the gates.  Another one was in a Fourth of July parade and placed at the back of the floats, etc.  A great commotion arose and the lovely lady, refusing to be last, out maneuvered her rider and took her rightful place at the head of the parade.  

        •  That's a funny story! (4+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          bustacap, JFinNe, NCrissieB, FarWestGirl

          I can just picture it.  

        •  OK, call me simple minded or stupid, but... (6+ / 0-)

          I read this diary, and others like it, on Daily KOS, and I think they all do a great service to concerned readers.

          Maybe the worst part, for me, of the Bush MisAdministration, is that SO MUCH has been done, SO MUCH evil perpetrated, that my head is about ready to explode. And, yes, I sign petitions to Obama and others re: prosecution for war crimes, the urgent need for affordable health care and all the myriad other issues we face.

          BUT, I can only do so much, at the end of the day, and it is so frutrating. My adult son has told me that I brood on these issues and I think he is right. I really feel so helpless. What I found to be a comfort, because I do not get a direct payback on the above activities, is to be the most wonderful horse and dog owner I can be. I ensure they have the best care and want for nothing, and if they are suffering and in pain with no solution in sight, I have had them put down and grieved for the loss.

          I do what I can do, which seems pretty insignificant at times, but my attitude is that I CAN make life significantly, or maybe just a LITTLE better for those animals that I am honored to have.

          People? I went to Walmart (in my neck of the woods only place to go), grocery shopping and saw a very poorly dressed, older man, wandering the store without a cart, carefully inspecting items in the meat section and the freezer sections. OK; he must be homeless with little cash, so I found him in a minor aisle and offered to buy groceries. After his surprise, he laughed and said his cart was at the front of the store and he had just come back for some last minute items. I felt STUPID, but my heart was in the right place.

          Guess what I am trying to say is that we can only really affect what is in our existence, personally, and it does no good to drive oneself nuts over these many horrible situations we have. Am I crazy or lazy? Maybe, but I hope there is a hereafter where justice is meted out and my animals that have passed on will vouch for my good intentions.

          That is all I can do or hope for.

          •  We're not as helpless as that. (1+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:

            I know it can feel like we are, but we're not as helpless at the whim of The Powers That Be as they would like us to feel.  Tomorrow I'll offer some action options we all can take, including donating to the American Civil Liberties Union, the International Red Cross, and Amnesty International.  There are also probably local legal aid societies to which you could contribute, as well as local charities for which you can volunteer.  There's almost certainly a local jail or hospital where you could go visit the imprisoned or the sick, just to let them know the world has not abandoned them.

            Every step of kindness we take is a step against the brutality.

            Good morning! ::huggggggggggs::

            •  You are probably right. (1+ / 0-)
              Recommended by:

              You're probably right. I am, however, kind of a solitary-personality soul, and right now I am dealing with the tragedy of my very active, very fit husband being stricken with Parkinson's with all the loss of mobility and independence that entails, so emotionally, I don't know how effective I would be with dealing with other people's problems on a one on one basis. We are worried for his future, as well as mine. I am in a very dark place right now, not to mention my husband's state of mind.

              Please understand: I am not emotionally selfish, but I have an emotional limit that is pretty full up by now. We have had such a hard winter here - environmentally, long, and emotional losses - and I DID think of doing "hands on" help or assistance, but we are very lucky in that our retirement resources lets us contribute significant $$$ to local no-kill shelters and other worthy causes. I have a problem donating to the Red Cross, but you know, Salvation Army is a viable alternative.Is that enough? I don't know. I hope so.

              I like your comment: Every step of kindness we take is a step against the brutality. Comforts my soul. Thank you for that glimmer of light.

              •  I mentioned the International Red Cross ... (0+ / 0-)

                ... because they investigate and monitor human rights in prisons and prisoner or war camps worldwide, as does Amnesty International.  Too often their work is underfunded and publicly maligned.  They are our first line of defense against abuses of power.

              •  Here's two things that keep me going. (3+ / 0-)
                Recommended by:
                myrealname, JaxDem, NCrissieB

                Almost everything you do will seem insignificant, but it is important that you do it.

                Mahatma Gandhi  


                To laugh often and much;
                to win the respect of intelligent people
                   and the affection of children;
                to earn the appreciation of honest critics
                   and endure the betrayal of false friends;
                to appreciate beauty; to find the best in others;
                to leave the world a bit better,
                   whether by a healthy child,
                   a garden patch
                   or a redeemed social condition;
                to know even one life has breathed easier
                   because you have lived.
                This is to have succeeded.

                Ralph Waldo Emerson

      •  Some of them have a very strong 'will to win', (4+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        myrealname, JFinNe, JaxDem, NCrissieB

        which has also been bred for. Those will work very hard to keep a nose out in front of the others. Some couldn't care less, so they end up with other jobs to earn their keep. The ability to run fast, and the will to want to are the whole point of the breeders.

        Information is abundant, wisdom is scarce. The Druid

        by FarWestGirl on Fri Apr 24, 2009 at 06:23:01 AM PDT

        [ Parent ]

  •  Today is (11+ / 0-)

    Genocide Remembrance Day commemorating the victims of the Genocide the befell the Armenians during the government of the Young Turks, from 1915 to 1923 in the Ottoman Empire.

    I know from many friends and family that the pain from this singular act of cruelty lingers till today.

    Let us make sure that nothing like that happens again and that cruelty, torture, genocide is not justified under any circumstances.    

    •  So many abuses ... (6+ / 0-)

      ... and yes, the genocide of the Armenian Turks ranks prominently on the list.  Ultimately, if we are to be able to say "never again," we must be able to say "no more secrets."  We're not there yet, sadly.

      Good morning! ::huggggggggggs::

      •  A good starting point is digesting (3+ / 0-)

        and ingesting

        "A Problem from Hell": America and the Age of Genocide by Samantha Power.

        "As president I will recognize the Armenian genocide." Barack Obama

        by palestinian professor on Fri Apr 24, 2009 at 05:21:38 AM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  But, President Obama has avoided using the term (2+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          NCrissieB, palestinian professor

          genocide with respect to the Armenians.

          Candidate Obama indeed was a bit different.

          Look at these people! They suck each other! They eat each other's saliva and dirt! -- Tsonga people of southern Africa on Europeans kissing.

          by upstate NY on Fri Apr 24, 2009 at 05:12:18 PM PDT

          [ Parent ]

          •  Yes its upsetting (1+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:

            but I haven't figured out the realpolitik of him using "atrocities" to describe the genocide.

            I understand that the government of Turkey is very concerned about labeling the genocide. However, the natural compromise is to blame the fading Ottoman empire.    

            "As president I will recognize the Armenian genocide." Barack Obama

            by palestinian professor on Fri Apr 24, 2009 at 09:44:12 PM PDT

            [ Parent ]

            •  You can't blame the fading Ottomans (2+ / 0-)
              Recommended by:
              NCrissieB, palestinian professor

              when it was the Young Turks who did it, the same Young Turks who comprised the leadership of the new country. One of the chief perpetrators was Turkey's president in the 1950s.

              Frankly, I think the attitude toward Turkey is a bit racist. "The Turks will be angry," that's the excuse typically. Next time the pols should just come out and say it: Turkish people have a tough time coming to grips with reality. It's the same kind of coddling that people give over the Danish cartoons. "Oh, Muslims are incapable of understanding how freedom of speech works. We shouldn't upset them."

              Look at these people! They suck each other! They eat each other's saliva and dirt! -- Tsonga people of southern Africa on Europeans kissing.

              by upstate NY on Sat Apr 25, 2009 at 05:59:07 AM PDT

              [ Parent ]

              •  You may have noticed that I didn't (1+ / 0-)
                Recommended by:
                upstate NY

                refer to the Turkish people but to the Turkish government.

                It is the Turkish government's sensibilities that Obama is guarding. They have defined a national interest in
                denying the Armenian genocide.

                No one in his right mind thinks "The Turkish people will get angry so let's not call it Genocide."

                Turkey is pivotal in facilitating US imperialism in the Middle East. So it's government is thrown a bone.

                Similarly the Mohammad cartoons were used by the Saudi Government to divert attention from the atrocities in Iraq and their collaboration with US policy in the Middle East. The whole Islamic and Arab intelligentsia was disgusted and perplexed at the time, not by the cartoons but by the behavior by the various regimes at the time. No one actually cared about the cartoons.

                So I don't get what your point is apart from the fact that afternoon drinks among liberals at the pub sometimes don't make sense.


                "As president I will recognize the Armenian genocide." Barack Obama

                by palestinian professor on Sat Apr 25, 2009 at 03:15:14 PM PDT

                [ Parent ]

                •  Last week Turkey threatened to veto (1+ / 0-)
                  Recommended by:
                  palestinian professor

                  the new head of NATO, former PM Rasmussen from Denmark, unless he shut down Kurdish radio stations and made moves to prevent a recurrence of the cartoons.

                  I really don't understand the distinction you're making between the government and the people, since genocide denial is prevalent across the entire country.

                  And if people aren't thinking "We can't call it genocide without angering the Turks," then why are they saying it?

                  As for the last part, wha?

                  Look at these people! They suck each other! They eat each other's saliva and dirt! -- Tsonga people of southern Africa on Europeans kissing.

                  by upstate NY on Sat Apr 25, 2009 at 08:32:03 PM PDT

                  [ Parent ]

                •  I just realized my post was easily misinterpreted (1+ / 0-)
                  Recommended by:
                  palestinian professor

                  because of poor wording and I apologize.

                  I was not directing my comments toward you but to those who form our policy on this issue.

                  Look at these people! They suck each other! They eat each other's saliva and dirt! -- Tsonga people of southern Africa on Europeans kissing.

                  by upstate NY on Sat Apr 25, 2009 at 08:33:33 PM PDT

                  [ Parent ]

  •  G'morning, and speechless (14+ / 0-)

    that's it. prof. analytical linguistics w./o. language.
    on purpose.
    I am at the point where it seems that we will only learn more and with each more, there will more outrage and the need for more words.
    So if I am saving my breath or fingers, it is because I want to have some words left
    for the future when my words will be supporting action not expressing outrage to the already outraged

    so when the topics are :
    Prosecute, doubtless.
    Prosecute, under what statute/laws, in what tribunal?
    Prosecute certainly, but start where?
    What precedents for punishing one's own torturers?

    and the means by which we get the public to support this or that precise prosecution.

    What if, instead of this rivalry among us for being the most outraged on the newest ground in the name of the most principled authority, whatif every diarist on torture could send a dollar to the ACLU whose suit forced the release of the memos or put in call and thank the Senators on the AS Committee, starting with Carl Levin,

    then words will show their value.

    269 Russell Office Building
    U.S. Senate
    Washington, DC 20510-2202

    Phone (202) 224-6221
    Fax (202) 224-1388
    TTY (202) 224-2816
    8:30 a.m. - 6:00 p.m.

  •  Good Morning to all (14+ / 0-)

    Chrissie, this is such a great diary.  All we have to do is look back to Chile and Allende to see what the CIA wrought in our name.  Those thugs were a part and parcel of what was done during the Reagan years and came to full fruition in the Bush 43 years.  IMO so much of the problem is the secretive and shadowy nature of the national security apparatus that has mushroomed since WWII.  Since secrecy was a necessity during the war, and subsequently with nuclear secrets, we have given the quarter and they have taken the mile.  We now have no effective oversight and no whistle blower protections.  

  •  Sunlight, as you've said many times (14+ / 0-)

    is the best disinfectant. The idea that some government business must be conducted behind closed doors, the documents classified and the participants placed under an order of silence gives rise to these abuses.

    And what, ultimately, did we get for all this secret fomenting of torture, dictators and repression? Cheap bananas. Cheap oil. Cheap beef. A dying planet.

    Unfortunately, the things that the National Security Branch gets for us in secret, are things that we do not want, do not need, and are contrary to our best interests in the long run, and often in the short run as well.

    In the most recent example: what have we gained from the Iraq war? Basically, just a testing ground for the most absurd galtist right-wing economic fantasies. Any sensible look at these policies would show that they had no possible way of working to create a stable political system, that these measures would not be accepted except by force, that without our support they will collapse.

    So, if our true national security interest is in a politically stable Iraq, that can defend its borders and won't be a terrorist haven, we've gone about it backwards. We have done in secret meetings that which we do not want and have no use for.

    In open debate, these ideas would lose. I connect the dots with our monied aristocracy, who likewise would lose in open debate. This is the true face of class warfare.

    ::hugggggggggggggs:: and good morning to the Kula Krew. :)

    "You can't get something for nothing...It's time to stop being stupid." Bob Herbert

    by Orinoco on Fri Apr 24, 2009 at 05:03:32 AM PDT

  •  I think the thing that is most jarring (13+ / 0-)

    is how regular these things seem to be occurring...

    We LIKE to believe that we, the United States of America, exist on a completely different moral plane then the rest of the world and we don't do such things. What we believe and what actually happens are unfortunately two different things.

    (0.12, -3.33) ONE America! Yes! We really are ONE America!

    by terrypinder on Fri Apr 24, 2009 at 05:04:55 AM PDT

    •  Chris Hayes had this to say (11+ / 0-)

      when talking about Repubs denial of American torture:

      It actually gets to something really deep in the conservative mindset which is that the United States is definitionally pure and any action it takes is therefore pure and there is a complete unwillingness to look at what actually went on.

      He said that on Countdown last night.

      Through all your faults and all my complaints, I still love you.

      by jayden on Fri Apr 24, 2009 at 05:16:23 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

    •  That's been one point of this series. (6+ / 0-)

      I wanted to explode the notion that what happened during the Bush era was something that had never happened before, an anomaly sprung from one bad group of people.  It's been happening all along, in our prisons, our mental hospitals, on our streets and in police interrogation rooms, and at our direction in countries around the world.  To end it, we must first recognize how commonplace it has been, and recognize that we Americans are simply not exceptional enough to have a government running on secrecy.

      Good morning! ::huggggggggggggs::

      •  There must be secrets kept (4+ / 0-)

        by administrations.  It would be chaotic if there were totally open ended masses of information freely given on a daily basis.  Information overload and most of us wouldn't understand the context with which to read the information given to us.  

        However, Obama's vision of a transparent government telling us why doing this or that is a good or not so good thing without revealing the nitty gritty, is quite different than the Bush's secrecy position.  It is unrealistic to expect that Obama and his cabinet will not have secrets, but I trust they will not have the political magnitude of those kept by the Bushies.

        •  Secrets have a very short shelf life. (7+ / 0-)

          With the exception of engineering details for building nuclear, chemical, and biological weapons, I can't imagine any secrets whose national security implications last longer than a few years.  What I'll propose tomorrow is to drastically shorten the time span of classification, and to release all White House and administration documents 10 years after the president leaves office.  Knowing everything you've done will be public - in not very many years - is the best deterrent against the abuse of power.

          •  And they know it, look how hard Cheeney and (2+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            NLinStPaul, NCrissieB

            Rove, et al, worked at destroying records and covering their tracks to keep information out of the public eye.  One of the few humorous things I've found recently is how Obama's maneuvered Cheeney into calling for declassification of some of his papers. Let the unraveling begin!

            Great diary, Crissie! Democracy isn't always comfortable.

            Good morning! :::Huuuugggsss:::

            Information is abundant, wisdom is scarce. The Druid

            by FarWestGirl on Fri Apr 24, 2009 at 06:49:53 AM PDT

            [ Parent ]

            •  I knew we were in serious trouble ... (3+ / 0-)
              Recommended by:
              NLinStPaul, Joffan, FarWestGirl

              ... when in the first month of Bush's first term, then Attorney General John Ashcroft announced that the new policy toward the Freedom of Information Act would be to defend any and every refusal to disclose requested documents, regardless of the reasons given.

              That should have been a screaming, flashing, sirens-and-lights alarm for the American people.  I suppose it was more shocking because I'd worked as a reporter and knew how important FOIA was.  Regardless, it was exactly the harbinger I feared: clearing the decks for an administration bent on acting in secrecy.  That story never has a happy ending.

              Good morning! ::huggggggggs::

              •  Reading back through this gave me a thought, (2+ / 0-)
                Recommended by:
                NLinStPaul, NCrissieB

                In democracy we can earn comfort or borrow it. If we do the uncomfortable, responsible work up front, we earn the comfort that results. If we borrow the comfort up front by avoiding the work, we're living on borrowed comfort at an uncertain and probably usurous interest rate. Metaphorically speaking, of course.

                Gotta run, have a great day!

                Information is abundant, wisdom is scarce. The Druid

                by FarWestGirl on Fri Apr 24, 2009 at 07:13:56 AM PDT

                [ Parent ]

              •  It raised my hackles right off, too. First (1+ / 0-)
                Recommended by:

                response to someone advocating secrecy is, 'What are they hiding?' Or planning to. And now we finally begin to know. ::sigh::

                Information is abundant, wisdom is scarce. The Druid

                by FarWestGirl on Fri Apr 24, 2009 at 07:17:30 AM PDT

                [ Parent ]

              •  Not to mention the symbolism (1+ / 0-)
                Recommended by:

                of a curtain over The Statue of the "Spirit of Justice" at the "Justice" department.

                In the spirit of truth in advertising, they should have renamed the DOD back to the Department of War as well, so as not to have to use quotes around the name...

                "red hair and black leather, my favorite colour scheme" - Richard Thompson

                by blindcynic on Fri Apr 24, 2009 at 09:34:22 AM PDT

                [ Parent ]

  •  This was not a first, and unless those (5+ / 0-)

    who wrote up and passed down the policy are in a prison cell, it will happen again. You could even go as far back as WWII and look into the techniques used by the US on those suspectedto have taken part in the Malmedy incident: crushed testicles, isolation for weeks, extremes of hot and cold, mock trials, faked hangings where the prisoners wore hoods and MPs lifted them off the ground.

    We have been there and done that, and all that came out of that particular series of incidents at Schwaebischer Hall was an apology by Clay, but no one was sent to any prison.

    Unless these shit stains from the last Admin go to jail, there will be other leaders in the future who will try to make two wrongs into a right. I hope Holder has the sense to see the big picture.

    "Gentlemen, you can't fight in here! This is the War Room!" President Merkin Muffley

    by gereiztkind on Fri Apr 24, 2009 at 05:13:45 AM PDT

    •  Sending them to prison isn't enough. (7+ / 0-)

      Assuming investigations develop evidence sufficient to warrant prosecution - and I think that's likely - merely sending the perpetrators to prison will be only a necessary first step.  The process can't end there, or it will happen again as we saw in the wake of Iran-Contra.  We Americans have to recognize that we are not "exceptional" enough to have a government that can operate in secrecy ... period.

      Good morning! ::hugggggggggs::

    •  It is a revolutionary thought to imagine (3+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      NCrissieB, kktlaw, FarWestGirl

      someone(s) in the government would examine the basic issue of torture and question why or how or even if our country should abandon its use. To even question the methodology of torture and its value is too huge to consider and too many forces/Darth Vaders would cloak the battle in secret to keep the status quo.

      It would be a topsy turvey world for those who assume we have to do it to 'them' before 'they' do it to us.

    •  I think (4+ / 0-)

      that there will always be "shit stains" who will attempt to do this kind of thing. For me, the real question is "will we let them have the power to do it."

      •  "will we let them have the power to do it?" (4+ / 0-)

        Exactly!  How shocking was it to find that many of the bank(er)s that received bail outs were fudging the books?  Are we surprised that NSA tapped Jane Harman's phone?  I don't know exactly what the results will be that we, the people, are learning about these events for the people doing these things, but finally we are getting glimpses through the transparency.

  •  A thought-provoking diary (5+ / 0-)

    Thanks for putting this together. It's a great read, and very useful. Cheers!

    "We cannot meet 21st Century challenges with a 20th Century bureaucracy." - Barack Obama, 8/28/08

    by Hybridity on Fri Apr 24, 2009 at 05:17:51 AM PDT

  •  torture just one tentacle; it's abuse of the law (11+ / 0-)

    that's the point.

    this isn't just about torture. it is our ability to uphold our own fucking laws. and treaties and international law.

    this is seminal. because without the commitment to hold the rich, powerful, and the political accountable in every sense of the word, then what's the point? because these people need to BELIEVE they will be held responsible and investigated, prosecuted, and jailed when found guilty.

    that's where we need to get. because they will riddle with holes and corrupt any initiatives for health care or environmental law, for example, because NOBODY will stop them.

    Unless we bunch of complaining whining citizens keep yelling, signing petitions, calling congress, writing letters to the editor and everything else we do to agitate and right this seemingly rudderless country.

    "Well we don't rent pigs and I figure it's better to say it right out front because a man that does like to rent pigs is... he's hard to stop" Gus McCrae

    by pfiore8 on Fri Apr 24, 2009 at 05:20:27 AM PDT

  •  There's a tension in US society (7+ / 0-)

    that may have always been here.  On the one hand, there's the long tradition of violent mistreatment of others, as you've been documenting, Crissie, this week -- of Native Americans, of African and African-American slaves, of immigrants by nativist mobs, of the urban underclass by out-of-control cops, the lynching movement at the end of the nineteenth and beginning of the twentieth centuries.  It's an indelible part of our culture, leading one historian friend of mine to remark that American men, by nature, are solitary killers.

    On the other hand, you've got a competing historical tradition that leads even a conservative commentator like Shep Smith to shout on tv: "This is America!  We don't fucking torture!"  That tradition goes back to the independence movement itself, the egalitarian movement among urban artisans and rural farmers spurred by the Declaration of Independence and the Bill of Rights that eventually led to the emancipation of women first from coverture in the nineteenth century and eventually from enforced domesticity in the twentieth, that led to the abolition of slavery, that turned "America" into a beacon of freedom -- not just economic prosperity, but freedom -- for generations of immigrants from Germany, from Ireland, from China, from Italy, from Eastern Europe, and today from India, Pakistan, sub-Saharan Africa, and Latin America.

    Emma Lazarus summed up that competing tradition well in the words inscribed on the Statue of Liberty:

    Give me your tired, your poor,
    Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,
    The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.
    Send these, the homeless, tempest-tost to me,
    I lift my lamp beside the golden door!

    This tradition of America as the soul of freedom not only inspired Edouard de Laboulaye to sculpt the Statue of Liberty, it also led to the republican imagery in Emmanuel Leutze's Washington Crossing the Delaware and even inspired Karl Marx to speculate, utopianly, that the United States might even be the place where capitalism could transition into communism without a violent revolution.

    •  If we are to be that beacon ... (4+ / 0-)

      ... we must remove the shrouds of secrecy that allow our many and manifest abuses of our ideals.  I agree that there are some exceptional ideals around which we have rallied as a nation.  But we have rarely been true to those ideals, and in the few times we have been, it's been because the curtains were drawn back and Americans saw the horrors we've committed.

      Good morning! ::huggggggggggs::

  •  Information and time. (4+ / 0-)

    Let Congress force declassification of data
    Let Weinstein make her report
    Let USAs be nominated and approved
    Let DoJ be staffed with supervisors who will make the dead enders* want to leave while there are still law firms hiring Republicans
    Let Holder get the  IG report
    Let CIA director discover who the Moles Cheney left behind are in DoD and CIA
    And put an RSS feed on Sheldon Whitehouse. They guy's good for our side.
    And then wait for a one.two whammo.indictments will rain down.

    My prediction:
    it will start with the contractors.

    (p.s. Deadenders reading his blog,Ashcroft just opened an office this week in Boston. and our ex USA joined in within a week of quitting. The exit is over there. the shuttle leaves on the hour. But don't tell the cabbie where you worked. The Sox are red here but the hearts are blue. Safer if you tell him you are a Yankee fan. Some of us don't brake for Yankee Fans but, you'll be in a taxi already.

  •  The power of spooks has always been there (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    from time immemorial. The ruling elite have always depended on them to do their dirty works and help them retain that ruling power. All countries, with no exception, defer to their spooks because of basic insecurity of the ruling elite. So, it is wishful thinking that the actions of the spooks will ever be put out for the benefit of the plebes, imo.

    From Alabama to Obama - You've come a long way baby.

    by amk for obama on Fri Apr 24, 2009 at 05:46:03 AM PDT

    •  Not always, everywhere, or inevitable. (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      bustacap, FarWestGirl

      The rule of secrecy - "the power of spooks" - is not always, everywhere, or inevitable.  It can be tamed, but we'll have to arouse the political courage to do that taming.  The National Security Branch will not cede power willingly, and certainly not because of a mere election result.  We'll have to mobilize the support to enable President Obama and Congress to tackle that beast, or our democracy exists in name only.

      Good morning! ::hugggggggggs::

  •  Good diary with all the pertinent facts! (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    NCrissieB, FarWestGirl

    Shit, this has so got to STOP!

  •  Tomdispatch (5+ / 0-)

    has an excellent diary up today. He writes about an Afghan military commander (he's on our side, so to speak) who just had his family wiped out by -- us. Another unmanned drone job.

    Tom laments the routaineity of these mistake bombings and the formulaic response provided by our military: 1) intelligence said there were bad guys there, 2) We'll investigate, 3) Sorry, here's some makeup money for you.

    Is anyone shocked that the Taliban are 60 miles from Islamabad.

    Tom asks: what is our safety worth?

    Great diary, Chrissis.

    •  Yes, that's such a tragic waste. (4+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      DBunn, Neon Mama, LI Mike, FarWestGirl

      It's a waste of human lives, first.  It's a waste of trust, second.  How can we hope to be partners in creating a functioning government in Afghanistan if we act in ways that are unquestionably evil?  While I've diaried that there are no good solutions in that country, one big part of the solution - as we'll explore tomorrow - is for we Americans to stop doing evil things and hoping for good outcomes.

      Good morning! ::huggggggggggggs::

  •  Standard Operating Procedure, (7+ / 0-)

    in many ways, isn't it? At Sand Creek our soldiers hacked the labia off of Indian women, and pinned them to their hats. In the Phillipines we pushed them into pits and killed them with our new machine guns. In Haiti we hacked off miscreant peasants' hands to make examples of them. We helped Savak, the Shah's terrifying secret police. Reagan kept close tabs on the Iran-Iraq war, helped Saddam to lots of weapons, and sometimes called him with tips (according to the magisterial, almost unreadable The War for Civilization). Let's not forget the burning of Tokyo, perhaps the single most horrific night in human history, or two atom bombs, or all of our hundreds of mesmerizing bombing campaigns that--whoops--tens of thousands die in, easily as (I know friends in Grenada who were permanently damaged from just being in the vicinity of our bombing of the insane asylum there; think about people submitted to this daily.) The Contras killed 30,000 people.

    But Krugman in today's Times will have us believe this is a once in a lifetime outrage; that will be the liberal meme. It's only if Obama actually reforms the military that this will change; I don't see that happening. On the other hand, there are limits to our power, and the high days of US pre-eminence may be past us.  

    Thanks for your diary, Chrissie.  

    Why are we on this side so much like the other side when it comes to tribe loyalty? Nada Lemming

    by Matthew Detroit on Fri Apr 24, 2009 at 06:15:25 AM PDT

  •  Goooood Morning all! Great diary NCB! I just feel (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    DBunn, Neon Mama, NCrissieB

    it is necessary to fill in a very important blank.

    And here is where those who are interested in commenting on the subject-matter choices of your humble commenter may feel the need to question whether I am a "one-issue voter." I am certainly not, though of course it wouldn't matter if I was, would it? But this case once again starkly illustrates how drug policy is so deeply intertwined with so many of the other important functions our government seeks to accomplish.

    A, if not THE, definitive documentary on the Iran-Contra scandal is called "Coverup - Behind The Iran Contra Affair." [Tried to put a link in, but the SYSTEM didn't like it... hummmm] It is a truly great watch, jam-packed with serious information! And what is often left out of the re-telling of the facts is that inaddition to subverting Congress' will by funding and materially supporting the Contra rebels, and in addition to illegally selling arms to the very people holding our 400+ Americans HOSTAGE AT THE TIME, the operation relied on bringing planeloads of cocaine INTO OUR COUNTRY and distributing it to raise money to help fund all the other illegal sh*t they were doing! But the drug aspect is rarely discussed, much less investigated in any thorough way.

    And it has been the same in most, if not all, of the cases where the "intelligence" community has brought our nation into military adventures all over the world. In Vietnam it was heroin. In South America, cocaine. Afghanistan? Heroin again. It is not a coincidence that desirable drugs are "controlled," and it is not because they are potentially dangerous to those who seek to use them. It is because the policy give great, and often covert power to those doing the "controlling."

    Yet the simple, sensible act of decriminalizing personal, private consciousness-altering substance taking would almost instantly eliminate the source of power that bad actors, really BAD actors have and hold over innocent people... in America, and all throughout the world.

    It seems shocking that this understanding -- that removing criminal penalties for using "recreational" drugs hurts and should kill the black market, and should make the functioning of government, including the functioning of our necessary intelligence agencies easier, cheaper and of a much higher quality.

    It should be a summery, beautiful day here in the Midwest! Enjoy!


    •  They are coincident issues, yes. (5+ / 0-)

      I don't ascribe to the notion - and you didn't say this but others have - that U.S. foreign policy since World War II has been about controlling sources of psychoactive drugs.  They are coincident issues, but I think it's a mistake to argue the drug war is "the reason" for all of the others.  The better argument is that the good of the American people is at best a tangential issue for the National Security Branch, and they will import or manufacture and distribute psychoactive drugs - and have done - as necessary if it fits their plans.  They just don't want anyone else doing it....

      Good morning! ::huggggggggggs::

    •  Sorry, rushing to get ready for work today... (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Neon Mama, NCrissieB

      Didn't finish the last paragraph: It seems shocking that this understanding -- that removing criminal penalties for using "recreational" drugs hurts and should kill the black market, and should make the functioning of government, including the functioning of our necessary intelligence agencies easier, cheaper and of a much higher quality... It seems shocking that this would not be well understood by a man as intelligent as President Obama!

      He must act to strengthen Justice! He must act to end the so-called "drug war."

  •  Sister Dianna (5+ / 0-)

    It's hard to talk about torture, but in these times it's important for Americans to understand all aspects of it.  We need to in order to reduce it in the world, restore credibility to American calls for human rights, and redeem our country's soul.

    Do you remember how Don Rumsfeld trivialized torture by comparing his activity during the day to someone who is required to stand on the same exact spot for 8-10 hours  and unable to shift position?  Also see the bottom of this.

    I highly recommend Sister Dianna's account of her experience.  Torture is too common of a reality all over the world and it's not going to stop until more of us have deep understanding about what it does.

    •  It is difficult to discuss. (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      NLinStPaul, Neon Mama

      And yes, the ways Rumsfeld and others have trivialized that brutality - Limbaugh likened it to "fraternity hazing" - is truly sickening.  To read the graphic details of what has been done in our name is to be revolted by the barbarity of some among us.  To not read those details is to ignore how often that barbarity has been done.

      Good morning! ::huggggggggggggs::

  •  Apparently "American exceptionalism" to the right (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    NLinStPaul, NCrissieB

    ...means "we're exceptionally better than everyone else, so we can do whatever the hell we want to."

    Hence, their vitriolic and increasingly shrill defense of torture.

    End the gerrymandering; stand for fairness in Florida:

    by boofdah on Fri Apr 24, 2009 at 07:11:22 AM PDT

  •  Cleanse the National Security Branch (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Neon Mama, NCrissieB

    Those calling for President Obama to immediately cleanse the stain of the Bush-era torture policies are overlooking the considerable power held by the National Security Branch.

    I'm not overlooking it. Indeed, I call for Obama to immediately cleanse the Bush torture stains by cleansing the National Security Branch. Or rather I call for an immediate start to cleansing the branch by cleansing the torture stains. And an immediate start to cleansing those stains by immediately prosecuting the torturers themselves.

    The National Security Branch, AKA "the Shadow Government", has inexorably and inevitably produced a global chain of secret US torture camps. We must start with them and unravel the rest of the apparatus that produced them, and produced so much other un-Constitutional, anti-American abuse for so long. Rip out the unaccountable tyranny by its roots. Start by clipping its leaves, nipping its flowers in the bud, but dig up this evil weed and eradicate it from our amber fields of grain.

    Or watch it come back to haunt us once our attention has turned elsewhere.

    "When the going gets weird, the weird turn pro." - HST

    by DocGonzo on Fri Apr 24, 2009 at 07:13:09 AM PDT

    •  The problem is the word "immediate." (4+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      DocGonzo, NLinStPaul, DBunn, Neon Mama

      You don't go at the National Security Branch "immediately," as if merely having won some trivial national election entitles you to their loyalty.  Many of these people do not consider President Obama to be their legitimate Chief Executive, and will not unless and until he either submits to them or is able to force them to submit to him.  And they control the access to the records he'd need for the prosecutions you're demanding.

      To tackle a beast like that, you have to work carefully and largely from within, at least at first.  Consider how many people have come running out of the shadows in the last four days to say "But I objected all along!"  Those - and others we've not heard about - become key allies in peeling back the layers of secrecy that exist within our government, including secrets kept from the president himself.

      Good morning! ::hugggggggggggs::

      •  Mediacy (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:

        I think you and I differ only in some semantics. Because I think Obama's prompt ordering of torture stopped was an immediate start to rolling back these deep and ramified powers of the National Security apparatus. There is clearly going to be some mediation of any change in those powers and the agencies/offices that have them, because Obama isn't going to go around with a moving truck and handcuffs.

        There are people who think a president can just give an order and the world physically changes. I'm not one of them, and clearly you're not, either. But really what we all are talking about is too much mediation. Waiting more years for people to come forward, or a toothless "truth and 'reconciliation'" commission, is too much mediation. Allowing the National Security apparatus to investigate, reform and police itself is too much mediation, as proven by the Pentagon's many shams along those lines.

        I am for immediate actions by Obama (and the Congress, which Obama should instigate) that do make actual changes, like prosecuting torturers. Which go directly to starting the necessarily long process, with many required mediators along the way, that will finally bring our whole government back under the Constitution after a long recess for much of it.

        "When the going gets weird, the weird turn pro." - HST

        by DocGonzo on Fri Apr 24, 2009 at 07:34:58 AM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  I agree we're agreeing. :) (3+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          DocGonzo, NLinStPaul, Neon Mama

          President Obama jumped on this problem immediately, as you noted.  From the comments made by Attorney General Holder and others this week, it seems the DOJ and FBI have already begun investigating.

          The real reforms we need will need to come through Congress, as they relate to how information is classified and, more importantly, declassified and released.  Right now those rules are written by executive order, and while I trust President Obama to write good rules, I do not trust the presidency to be the guardian of those rules.  We must end the reign of secrecy if we're to end the reign of the National Security Branch, because they thrive on that secrecy.

          And that's where we'll conclude the series tomorrow.

          So I agree that we agree, and typing that was one of my first real occasions to smile this morning.  Thank you! ::hugggggggggggs::

      •  I keep imagining (2+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        DocGonzo, NCrissieB

        how all of his study of power relationships ala Saul Alinsky might inform Obama in this kind of challenge.

        I'm watching for signs that he's "onto" this and doing the analysis that is required to take on this kind of power.

        •  The signs seem obvious to me. (1+ / 0-)
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          I think President Obama has handled this very well.  He's put out the memos, not through leaks but as an official act.  He's made clear that he's not going to hunt down people who acted in good faith, but neither is he going to block the DOJ from investigating and prosecuting crimes.  He's enlisted Robert Gates to bring in and defend before Congress a DOD budget that is less than what Gates had proposed for Bush last year.  He now has folks like Zelikow, and FBI agents, coming out to say "We objected to this from the start," and there are probably others who are already cooperating with the DOJ.

          You don't go at the National Security Branch like John Wayne showing down some villain in a western.  You have to peel people off, so they'll reveal the information that's been concealed even from the president, and so they'll testify if needed.  The more you peel away, the more the public outcry for a full hearing builds.

          In that respect, it's classic Alinsky-style maneuvering, at least as I see it.

          •  That's how I'm seeing it too. (1+ / 0-)
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            I'm not sure we have any historical precedent for a President who operates in this way. I think its why some people find Obama so frustrating and/or confusing.

            But I'm just finding it fascinating to watch and learn.

            ...oh, and support as you say. This is an incredibly daunting challenge!!!

    •  too powerful (1+ / 0-)
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      they include powers such as those who support Israel's intelligance apparatus as shown in the Iran/Contra scandal. They include every Senator or Congressperson who has big defense contractors in their districts and states. It includes a network of top US industrialists and multinational corporations, contractors like Blackwater, Universities like Taxas A.&M., the entire Republican Party and about half of the Democratic Party. Those are only a few off the top of my head.

      Many of these are Obama allies and appointees who are very influential in his security decisions. I think this diary shows very well that only a decade long fight will even come close to thwarting the interlocking network the NSB has been able to develop in the USA. And it shows how futile earlier attempts to rein them in have been. Now they are stronger yet. I personally doubt it can be done, I think they are America and we're baying in the wind on this issue. I guess my life of activism fighting them with the American Indian Movement has led me to believe there are powerful interests in the USA bent on controling things and regular people can only nip around the edges.

      •  A decade-long fight indeed. (2+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        DocGonzo, Neon Mama

        This isn't one that will be resolved quickly.  It will take a concerted effort by President Obama, the Congress, and the Courts, pushed by the will of the American people.  I think it's a struggle that can be won.  Even if not, I think it's a struggle worth our efforts.  Otherwise we surrender our democracy with barely a whimper.

        Good morning! ::huggggggggs::

      •  Power and Hope (1+ / 0-)
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        I believe the presidency is more powerful than the military/intel industrial/government complex. It might take a long time, but it can be done.

        I could be wrong. But I'd rather be wrong to have hope than be wrong to be hopeless.

        "When the going gets weird, the weird turn pro." - HST

        by DocGonzo on Fri Apr 24, 2009 at 08:02:50 AM PDT

        [ Parent ]

  •  Required reading! (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    Of course, likely, this barely scratches the surface.

    The entirety of the fed gov needs a reboot - and it is not just the bush (fake) republican cabal- it is the dems too, who are instrumental in maintaining the the facade of a healthy, functioning 2 party system.

    The best way to control opposition is to lead it. Lenin

    by xrepublican on Fri Apr 24, 2009 at 07:21:01 AM PDT

  •  To read the accounts (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    of women being raped as torture makes life unbearable. And I'm just reading.

    Socialist. Fascist. Communist. Teabagging. It's gonna be a long four years.

    by niteskolar on Fri Apr 24, 2009 at 07:28:43 AM PDT

    •  I'm sorry. I know it's horrific. (0+ / 0-)

      This week's series has not been pleasant to write, and I'm sure it hasn't been pleasant to read.  I'm sorry for that, but I felt it important to put the Bush-era torture policy in the broader context of how our government has long used torture as official policy, from our prisons to our streets and police interview rooms, mental hospitals, and in other places and to other victims too few of us ever hear about.  We need to acknowledge that we Americans are simply not exceptional enough to let our government act in secret, and I could think of no other way to bring that point home.  But I do apologize, because I know it's horrific reading.

      Good morning! ::hugggggggggs::

  •  A blabber guest on tv the other nite (2+ / 0-)
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    DBunn, NCrissieB

    brought up the "Dutch dunking stool" as if it were a harmless tradition to "dunk" humans in water. It reminded me of IIRC Cheney? using term "dunking" as a traditional and "harmless" practice which we shouldn't get all worried about.

    Looks like they may be recycling the meme - so it helps to read up on actual history of "dunking." It never was the friendly coffee and donuts minor moment they try to make it sound like. And yes, some victims died. Link is just one account our debaters should read, and be ready to respond with.

    Torturing women was easier then as they were powerless property in need of stern measures against speaking their own mind, especially in public. Billed as needed for the public good.

    Our US history is indeed long in abuse. Knowledge is power. Ugly begins at home too often.

    De fund + de bunk = de EXIT--->>>>>

    by Neon Mama on Fri Apr 24, 2009 at 08:42:31 AM PDT

    •  Knowledge is power, indeed. (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Neon Mama

      I've been trying to ignore the debates among talking heads on TV because so much of it is exactly as you describe: blabber.  Most seems calculated to generate more heat than light.

      Knowledge is indeed power, which is precisely why the National Security Branch thrives on secrecy.  If they can act in secret, they can hide their horrors from the American people.  And we're really the only ones they try to hide from.  That ought to tell us a great deal about their estimate of our power, were we to be truly informed.

      Good morning! ::huggggggggggs::

  •  Outstanding work that you've put out (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    with this series Crissie.  I worry tho' about the toll it must be taking on you.  This week I haven't  detected the humor and spark that are among your trademarks so I know you're paying a price for living this horror all week.  This work has been enligtening, educational and thought provoking for your readers and I'm comfortable saying that we all appreciate it, however I will feel better when it is over and "our Crissie" is back.  Go for a walk, feel the sun on your face, smell the flowers and hear the birds singing just for you - feed your soul.  {{{{{{{{{{{{{{{{{{{{{Huuuuggggs for your being in a dark place this week and coming out the other side better for it. }}}}}}}}}}}}}}}}}}}}}}}}}}

    As we express our gratitude, we must never forget that the highest appreciation is not to utter words, but to live by them. -John F. Kennedy

    by JaxDem on Fri Apr 24, 2009 at 08:56:25 AM PDT

    •  Familiar terrain, personally and professionally. (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:

      Personally I grew up in an abusive home, and while it was nothing like the horrors that many have suffered, it was enough that I needed years of therapy to come to a place where I liked the woman in the mirror enough to make better relationship choices.

      Professionally I dealt with these issues some as a criminal defense attorney - I described some of that Wednesday - and again when I wrote a novel exploring modern day sex slavery.  Writing the novel was harder than has been writing this series.  It took a lot longer to write, and the nature of writing a novel is that you have to get inside the heads of all of your characters.  In this case that included the villains and the victims, neither of which was remotely pleasant to experience even vicariously.

      Thank you for your concern, sweetheart.  I'll be fine, but I'll be glad when this week's series is over. ::hugggggggggggggggs::

  •  The map vs. the landscape (1+ / 0-)
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    We all know the "map" of how our country is supposed to work. There's the constitution, the three branches of government with their various powers, the checks and balances, the body of existing law, elections, etc. If you want to get something done, you elect your people, pass some laws, make some appointments, execute some policies, and bingo! Mission accomplished.

    This diary is about some ways in which the landscape does not resemble the map. Where did that National Security branch come from? It's not on the map.

    When the map and the landscape don't agree, you have to put the map down for a minute, and go with the landscape. Well, you could just keep going by the map, but in the real world, that's a major cause of walking over cliff edges.

    There's also the option of working on the landscape to make it conform to the map. It's a limited option though. Moving mountains, filling in canyons, and causing forests to grow takes time and effort, which may reduce the progress we can make on any journey we may have wanted to take through that landscape and with the aid of the map.

    I do sometimes feel that some of our progressive brothers and sisters here on this site are determined to force the landscape to match the map, no exceptions, no compromises, starting right here, right now, with the very first irregular landscape feature that we encounter.

    I sure hope that works for us.

    PS Thanks for another great diay, Crissie!

    •  Outstanding metaphor! (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:

      It has long fascinated me how the "landscape" of governments almost never matches the "maps" of those governments.  In some ways, dictatorship tries to get past that by declaring one person the supreme ruler - or the "unitary executive" - but rarely has that ever been as effective as you'd estimate from thumbnail descriptions in history books.  Indeed most dictators are opportunists who get the appearance of supreme leadership (and survive) by pitting faction against faction, taking credit for anything that goes right and again pitting faction against faction over what goes wrong.

      In that respect we've been on a path toward the "unitary executive" ever since we began evaluating our history in terms of the presidency - who was in the White House when X, Y, or Z happened - rather than in terms of the varied contributions of the president and key cabinet members, key leaders in the House and Senate, the courts, as well as state, local, and civic leaders.

      If "President Obama" is to roll back the power of the National Security Branch, it will be a combined effort of all of those contributors.  And I agree that we progressives need to see more of that, more of the time.

      Thank you for the kind words! ::hugggggggggggs::

      •  Rolling back the power of the NSB (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:

        Those guys 'n' gals in the NSB do have a lot of power. The phrase "roll back" suggests a power confrontation, which we could try for, but it sounds a bit like fighting on their ground, with weapons of their choosing.

        When facing a powerful enemy, avoid a power confrontation. Don't immediately charge the center of his heavy infantry. Instead, draw him into a series of wearying marches into unfriendly territory, and harass his overstretched supply lines. Do not attack him in force until you know he has already been defeated.

        Alternatively, turn him from an enemy into a neutral force, or even an ally. Invite him to your 4th of July picnic. Persuade him to forge his wiretaps into plowshares, and join you in a community garden venture.

        OK, that was snark. But seriously, these power centers within our borders-- the NSB, Wall Street, the coal lobby, Big Pharma, Big Ag-- are like independent entities in some ways. We progressives understand that diplomacy is often required to deal with foreign entities, that our president may need to smile and joke with dictators, that we may need to tolerate the atrocities of other great powers, that we cannot intervene everywhere at once, and fix everything before Monday. These are necessary compromises that reflect power realities. But somehow none of these principles are understood to apply to independent power centers within our borders, even within our own government. For them, one election and a couple of executive orders are expected to settle the matter.

        Because that's what the map says, dammit!

        •  I agree to a point. (1+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:

          In general, I agree that avoiding immediate power fights with powerful factions is the wiser course.  But this is one confrontation that was built into President Obama's agenda from before he took office.  I wrote about it back in the late fall - it's near dinner time so I haven't time to search for the diary - but there were some in the National Security Branch determined to "put him in his place."  That's not a fight he can easily duck without looking submissive, and to his credit President Obama has not ducked it.

          But he's taken what I believe is a smarter strategy than those who want him to simply issue orders - such as to the DOJ - and expect people to hop.  To put the National Security Branch in their proper place, Obama needs information to which they control the access.  He's carefully worked with the information he has to peel away important defectors in the FBI, DOJ, DOD, and even some Bush-era advisers (like Zelikow).  I'm sure there are others who are talking to the FBI and DOJ, but are doing so privately.

          He'll need all of those, as well as important allies in Congress; remember the National Security Branch has contractors (read: jobs) in every state and district.  The key reforms that must happen, must happen legislatively.  They're reforms in our classification and declassification rules, including making those rules statutory rather than by executive order, so we stop being a nation that keeps secrets for decades merely to avoid political embarrassment and blowback.

          He'll also need help from the courts, to issue clear opinions that narrow the executive and state secrets privileges.  In that respect he has to do a difficult legal dance, because our federal courts can only rule on actual "cases and controversies."  The federal courts cannot issue advisory opinions.  If President Obama doesn't continue to litigate the Bush-era claims of privilege, he moots those issues and the courts can't rule on them.

          Finally, President Obama will need the support of state, local, and civic leaders, as well as that of the American people.  He'll need to be able to show the country is behind him in wanting an end to the reign of secrecy, at every level of government.  If this is framed in the larger context of transparent government to deter abuses of power, it's a whole lot harder to charge that it's a partisan issue.

          That is how we can "draw [the National Security Branch] into a series of wearying marches into unfriendly territory, and harass his overstretched supply lines."  It truly is a multi-faceted effort, and we need to recognize the complexity of both the problem and the solutions.

          And thank you, so very much, for your support and your insights all week long.  I'll be thanking all of the readers and commenters tomorrow.  This series would not have been possible without all of you. ::hugggggggggggs::

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