Showing posts with label Geneva Conventions. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Geneva Conventions. Show all posts

Thursday, April 03, 2008

Ye shall know them by their T-shirts

con·ser·va·tism \kən-ˈsər-və-ˌti-zəm\ n (1832) 1 capitalized a: the principles and policies of a Conservative party b: the Conservative party

2a: disposition in politics to preserve what is established b: a political philosophy based on tradition and social stability, stressing established institutions, and preferring gradual development to abrupt change; specifically : such a philosophy calling for lower taxes, limited government regulation of business and investing, a strong national defense, and individual financial responsibility for personal needs (as retirement income or health-care coverage)

3: the tendency to prefer an existing or traditional situation to change

SUPPOSE A SPACE ALIEN landed somewhere in these United States tomorrow and began studying our culture, our media and our politics.

Considering what passes for "conservative thought" at the beginning of these new Dark Ages -- and assuming the existence of an English-to-Zorkonian version of the Merriam-Webster dictionary -- our visitor might end up making some very wrong assumptions about what America has been all about these past 232 years.

And he'd probably report back to the home planet that there's this embattled fellow in Chicago, name of the Rev. Jeremiah Wright, who is a prophet sent from God and suffering much the same fate as his Old Testament namesake from this earthling spiritual guidebook -- "The Bible," it is called.

He would relay that "conservatives" are a fierce and violent lot who apparently hate everyone and everything, seek to kill as many real or imagined "enemies" as possible and are prone to being tendentious braggarts. Also, the Zorkonians would learn -- to their utter horror -- that conservatives' artistic and cultural output resembles Klingon opera as much as anything

And these "conservatives" even may harbor a taste for gagh, not to mention bloodwine.

Likewise, the scout from Zorkon would report that the United States' "conservative" goverment apparently is dedicated to ceaseless war and employs torture against enemy prisoners, a practice widely celebrated by American conservatives.

Great. These earthling ideologues seem to harbor all the worst traits of the Klingons and the Cardassians.

Preliminary recommendation: A mandatory quarantine of Earth, with no outside contact permitted. Also, continue close observation; reserve the right to launch tactical photon-torpedo strikes against the "United States" region if the Americans develop warp-propulsion technology.

IF A SPACE ALIEN came down from the heavens tomorrow, could we -- would we -- blame him for thinking such about our country seven years into the Shameful Administration? Could the last two or three thoughtful conservatives blame a total outsider for equating their political philosophy with intellectual softness, rhetorical inconsistency and rank barbarism?

Can a movement whose proud members are apt to decry legal abortion while defending waterboarding while wearing a "Rope. Tree. Journalist" T-shirt be taken seriously . . . even a little bit?

I don't think so. Not unless one is a political and cultural anthropologist conducting a study on how modern conservatism got from William F. Buckley to Benito Mussolini (with a dash of Mao Zedong-style cultism thrown in) in 50 short years.

at this point, I could launch into multiple pull quotes from multiple outrageous columns by Ann Coulter, Michelle Malkin, Jonah Goldberg or any number of lesser lights from the farm teams of "conservative" punditry.

Oh, what the hell. How about just a couple from WorldNetDaily's Joseph Farah, who doesn't just tolerate waterboarding -- he hearts it:

It was used successfully to learn about terrorist operations planned by two of al-Qaida's top operatives – Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, involved in the planning of the 9/11 attack, and Abu Zubaida, another leader of the terrorist organization.

Apparently both of these mass killers endured many hours of coercive interrogations without talking. But they sung like canaries after a few seconds of waterboarding.

In both cases, there is reason to believe planned terrorist attacks were foiled as a result of this technique.

Nevertheless, there is a growing chorus of opposition against any further use of waterboarding in similar or even more dire scenarios.

Let's use our heads for a minute.

Imagine American law enforcement or military authorities have captured a terrorist mastermind who has knowledge about an imminent nuclear detonation in an unknown American city. He knows the time, the location and the details about the warhead.

The bomb could be going off at any minute. It could kill hundreds of thousands of innocent people.

Would you really want waterboarding to be banned under all circumstances? What alternatives would you suggest for quick results? Should we call in top negotiators from the State Department? Should we play loud rap music? Should we force the prisoner to listen to Hillary Rodham Clinton speeches?

While I also find those experiences unpleasant, I don't think they would produce the needed results in time to defuse the bomb.

Let's not tie the hands of future Jack Bauers who will need to do what they have to do to save lives.

I personally think Mohammed and Zubaida got off way too easy with waterboarding.

I would personally have performed far more unpleasant procedures on them without a twinge of guilt in my conscience. Real torture techniques would have been appropriate in both cases.
BUT ABORTION, on the other hand, is icky and an abrogation of God-given rights:
Tell me, where is due process for those unborn children sentenced to death while still in the womb?

Some abortion advocates have tried to suggest that Roe v. Wade – an arbitrary and capricious attempt by the Supreme Court to exceed its constitutional limitations and legislate – is itself the due process for unborn babies.

Once again, however, the Constitution trumps that poor excuse for an argument.

"Amendment VI: In all criminal prosecutions, the accused shall enjoy the right to a speedy and public trial, by an impartial jury of the state and district wherein the crime shall have been committed; which district shall have been previously ascertained by law, and to be informed of the nature and cause of the accusation; to be confronted with the witnesses against him; to have compulsory process for obtaining witnesses in his favor, and to have the assistance of counsel for his defense."

Roe v. Wade is, thus, a sham – a house of cards. It was an artificial attempt to make abortion a right by citing a "right of privacy" that is itself nowhere to be found in the Constitution. Roe v. Wade created rights where none existed and abrogated those that were enshrined as unalienable.

I rest my case.

But I will not rest entirely until this nation is awakened to abortion as both a national tragedy as well as a constitutional threat to all of our God-given rights – as well as an endangerment to the lives and liberties of our posterity.
OBVIOUSLY, Joseph Farah is just making this s*** up as he goes.

By what stretch of what dictionary-conservative (as opposed to "Do what thou wilt" fascistic "conservatism") definition does someone reason that God-given rights apply more to cute little fetuses than scum-sucking Islamic terrorists?

If the rights asserted in the Declaration of Independence and codified in the U.S. Constitution emanated from a Creator -- as went the Founders' contention -- by what authority do today's addle-minded right-wingers proclaim that God-given rights and God-bestowed dignity is the birthright of unborn baby and me, but maybe not thee?

They proclaim it by their own authority, that's how. Run like hell when you see folks with hate in their eyes and blood on their hands trying to wrap the Almighty in an American flag.

Run, because there's no unbridgable difference between them and European fascists of old. Run, for while they love to decry hip-hop culture and ghetto thuggery, they emblazon a Caucasian version of "tha gangsta life" on their "conservative" apparel and try to rebrand a Mad Dog philosophy as Chardonnay and canapés.

Mordor and mammon: They go together like fire and brimstone. What a conservative concept.

HAT TIP: Catholic and Enjoying It

Tuesday, February 05, 2008

Godwin's Law goes way of Geneva Conventions

You know, it's impossible to abide by Godwin's Law -- the unofficial law of argument that he who calls someone a Nazi automatically loses -- when so many people in this country are acting like Nazis.

First in the ranks of goosestepping disciples of evil would be
the government of the United States of America. Specifically the Bush Administration and the Central Intelligence Agency.

Consider, for example, this testimony before Congress by CIA Director Michael Hayden, as reported by MSNBC:
Congress is considering a bill that would restrict the CIA to only those methods authorized by the Army's field manual for interrogation. Hayden said that would make no sense. The Army's interrogators are young people with limited training, while the CIA's interrogators are highly trained, he said.

The Army interrogates a broad range of people, while the CIA's program is tailored to a specific group of terrorists. It would make no more sense to apply the Army's interrogation manual to the CIA than it would to apply the Army's grooming standards or its rules on sexual orientation, Hayden said.
YES, THE CIA has goons quite skilled in the black art of torture. They can do this, because they are highly trained for it.

Just like the SS.

Monday, January 07, 2008

An old warrior does his political duty

Agree with George McGovern or not, the man belongs to the old school of politics -- one that recognizes that the ideals of service and duty are indispensable in carrying out the people's business.

In fact, former Sen. McGovern, one could argue, belongs to a dying breed of politicians . . . those who actually believe the governance of the United States really is the people's business. So, here we have the old Democratic warrior -- the long-retired senator from South Dakota who flew bombers during World War II -- emerging from retirement at age 85 to tell his Congressional successors to do their duty.

No matter how much they don't want to.

That duty?
That the House should impeach President Bush and Vice-President Cheney, and that the Senate ought to find more than enough grounds to convict. An excerpt from McGovern's Washington Post op-ed column Sunday:

Impeachment is unlikely, of course. But we must still urge Congress to act. Impeachment, quite simply, is the procedure written into the Constitution to deal with presidents who violate the Constitution and the laws of the land. It is also a way to signal to the American people and the world that some of us feel strongly enough about the present drift of our country to support the impeachment of the false prophets who have led us astray. This, I believe, is the rightful course for an American patriot.

As former representative Elizabeth Holtzman, who played a key role in the Nixon impeachment proceedings, wrote two years ago, "it wasn't until the most recent revelations that President Bush directed the wiretapping of hundreds, possibly thousands, of Americans, in violation of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) -- and argued that, as Commander in Chief, he had the right in the interests of national security to override our country's laws -- that I felt the same sinking feeling in my stomach as I did during Watergate. . . . A President, any President, who maintains that he is above the law -- and repeatedly violates the law -- thereby commits high crimes and misdemeanors."

I believe we have a chance to heal the wounds the nation has suffered in the opening decade of the 21st century. This recovery may take a generation and will depend on the election of a series of rational presidents and Congresses. At age 85, I won't be around to witness the completion of the difficult rebuilding of our sorely damaged country, but I'd like to hold on long enough to see the healing begin.

Amen to that.

Friday, October 05, 2007

War criminals by any standard

Perhaps it's time to start referring to the Republican Party as The Party, as in Nazi party . . . or Communist party . . . or Party apparatchik . . . or Party functionary . . . or Party orthodoxy.

You know, Party purge, Party power struggle and Party members.

As this New York Times report damningly reveals, there's not so much difference anymore between our Party chief in America and previous Party chiefs who constitute ugly stains on human history, particularly in the bloody 20th century. In fact some infamous Party types got themselves hung, shot or thrown in Allied prisons for life for the self-same things our Supreme Leader, Party chief George W. Bush and his vice premier, Dick Cheney, are most assuredly guilty of.

Here's what the Times reported Thursday:

When the Justice Department publicly declared torture “abhorrent” in a legal opinion in December 2004, the Bush administration appeared to have abandoned its assertion of nearly unlimited presidential authority to order brutal interrogations.

But soon after Alberto R. Gonzales’s arrival as attorney general in February 2005, the Justice Department issued another opinion, this one in secret. It was a very different document, according to officials briefed on it, an expansive endorsement of the harshest interrogation techniques ever used by the Central Intelligence Agency.

The new opinion, the officials said, for the first time provided explicit authorization to barrage terror suspects with a combination of painful physical and psychological tactics, including head-slapping, simulated drowning and frigid temperatures.

Mr. Gonzales approved the legal memorandum on “combined effects” over the objections of James B. Comey, the deputy attorney general, who was leaving his job after bruising clashes with the White House. Disagreeing with what he viewed as the opinion’s overreaching legal reasoning, Mr. Comey told colleagues at the department that they would all be “ashamed” when the world eventually learned of it.

Later that year, as Congress moved toward outlawing “cruel, inhuman and degrading” treatment, the Justice Department issued another secret opinion, one most lawmakers did not know existed, current and former officials said. The Justice Department document declared that none of the C.I.A. interrogation methods violated that standard.

The classified opinions, never previously disclosed, are a hidden legacy of President Bush’s second term and Mr. Gonzales’s tenure at the Justice Department, where he moved quickly to align it with the White House after a 2004 rebellion by staff lawyers that had thrown policies on surveillance and detention into turmoil.

Congress and the Supreme Court have intervened repeatedly in the last two years to impose limits on interrogations, and the administration has responded as a policy matter by dropping the most extreme techniques. But the 2005 Justice Department opinions remain in effect, and their legal conclusions have been confirmed by several more recent memorandums, officials said. They show how the White House has succeeded in preserving the broadest possible legal latitude for harsh tactics.

A White House spokesman, Tony Fratto, said Wednesday that he would not comment on any legal opinion related to interrogations. Mr. Fratto added, “We have gone to great lengths, including statutory efforts and the recent executive order, to make it clear that the intelligence community and our practices fall within U.S. law” and international agreements.

More than two dozen current and former officials involved in counterterrorism were interviewed over the past three months about the opinions and the deliberations on interrogation policy. Most officials would speak only on the condition of anonymity because of the secrecy of the documents and the C.I.A. detention operations they govern.

When he stepped down as attorney general in September after widespread criticism of the firing of federal prosecutors and withering attacks on his credibility, Mr. Gonzales talked proudly in a farewell speech of how his department was “a place of inspiration” that had balanced the necessary flexibility to conduct the war on terrorism with the need to uphold the law.

Associates at the Justice Department said Mr. Gonzales seldom resisted pressure from Vice President Dick Cheney and David S. Addington, Mr. Cheney’s counsel, to endorse policies that they saw as effective in safeguarding Americans, even though the practices brought the condemnation of other governments, human rights groups and Democrats in Congress. Critics say Mr. Gonzales turned his agency into an arm of the Bush White House, undermining the department’s independence.
The interrogation opinions were signed by Steven G. Bradbury, who since 2005 has headed the elite Office of Legal Counsel at the Justice Department. He has become a frequent public defender of the National Security Agency’s domestic surveillance program and detention policies at Congressional hearings and press briefings, a role that some legal scholars say is at odds with the office’s tradition of avoiding political advocacy.

Mr. Bradbury defended the work of his office as the government’s most authoritative interpreter of the law. “In my experience, the White House has not told me how an opinion should come out,” he said in an interview. “The White House has accepted and respected our opinions, even when they didn’t like the advice being given.”

The debate over how terrorist suspects should be held and questioned began shortly after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks, when the Bush administration adopted secret detention and coercive interrogation, both practices the United States had previously denounced when used by other countries. It adopted the new measures without public debate or Congressional vote, choosing to rely instead on the confidential legal advice of a handful of appointees.

The policies set off bruising internal battles, pitting administration moderates against hard-liners, military lawyers against Pentagon chiefs and, most surprising, a handful of conservative lawyers at the Justice Department against the White House in the stunning mutiny of 2004. But under Mr. Gonzales and Mr. Bradbury, the Justice Department was wrenched back into line with the White House.

After the Supreme Court ruled in 2006 that the Geneva Conventions applied to prisoners who belonged to Al Qaeda, President Bush for the first time acknowledged the C.I.A.’s secret jails and ordered their inmates moved to Guantánamo Bay, Cuba. The C.I.A. halted its use of waterboarding, or pouring water over a bound prisoner’s cloth-covered face to induce fear of suffocation.

But in July, after a monthlong debate inside the administration, President Bush signed a new executive order authorizing the use of what the administration calls “enhanced” interrogation techniques — the details remain secret — and officials say the C.I.A. again is holding prisoners in “black sites” overseas. The executive order was reviewed and approved by Mr. Bradbury and the Office of Legal Counsel.

Douglas W. Kmiec, who headed that office under President Ronald Reagan and the first President George Bush and wrote a book about it, said he believed the intense pressures of the campaign against terrorism have warped the office’s proper role.

“The office was designed to insulate against any need to be an advocate,” said Mr. Kmiec, now a conservative scholar at Pepperdine University law school. But at times in recent years, Mr. Kmiec said, the office, headed by William H. Rehnquist and Antonin Scalia before they served on the Supreme Court, “lost its ability to say no.”


Never in history had the United States authorized such tactics. While President Bush and C.I.A. officials would later insist that the harsh measures produced crucial intelligence, many veteran interrogators, psychologists and other experts say that less coercive methods are equally or more effective.

With virtually no experience in interrogations, the C.I.A. had constructed its program in a few harried months by consulting Egyptian and Saudi intelligence officials and copying Soviet interrogation methods long used in training American servicemen to withstand capture. The agency officers questioning prisoners constantly sought advice from lawyers thousands of miles away.

“We were getting asked about combinations — ‘Can we do this and this at the same time?’” recalled Paul C. Kelbaugh, a veteran intelligence lawyer who was deputy legal counsel at the C.I.A.’s Counterterrorist Center from 2001 to 2003.

Interrogators were worried that even approved techniques had such a painful, multiplying effect when combined that they might cross the legal line, Mr. Kelbaugh said. He recalled agency officers asking: “These approved techniques, say, withholding food, and 50-degree temperature — can they be combined?” Or “Do I have to do the less extreme before the more extreme?”


Mr. Bradbury soon emerged as the presumed favorite. But White House officials, still smarting from Mr. Goldsmith’s rebuffs, chose to delay his nomination. Harriet E. Miers, the new White House counsel, “decided to watch Bradbury for a month or two. He was sort of on trial,” one Justice Department official recalled.

Mr. Bradbury’s biography had a Horatio Alger element that appealed to a succession of bosses, including Justice Clarence Thomas of the Supreme Court and Mr. Gonzales, the son of poor immigrants. Mr. Bradbury’s father had died when he was an infant, and his mother took in laundry to support her children. The first in his family to go to college, he attended Stanford and the University of Michigan Law School. He joined the law firm of Kirkland & Ellis, where he came under the tutelage of Kenneth W. Starr, the Whitewater independent prosecutor.

Mr. Bradbury belonged to the same circle as his predecessors: young, conservative lawyers with sterling credentials, often with clerkships for prominent conservative judges and ties to the Federalist Society, a powerhouse of the legal right. Mr. Yoo, in fact, had proposed his old friend Mr. Goldsmith for the Office of Legal Counsel job; Mr. Goldsmith had hired Mr. Bradbury as his top deputy.

“We all grew up together,” said Viet D. Dinh, an assistant attorney general from 2001 to 2003 and very much a member of the club. “You start with a small universe of Supreme Court clerks, and you narrow it down from there.”

But what might have been subtle differences in quieter times now cleaved them into warring camps.

Justice Department colleagues say Mr. Gonzales was soon meeting frequently with Mr. Bradbury on national security issues, a White House priority. Admirers describe Mr. Bradbury as low-key but highly skilled, a conciliator who brought from 10 years of corporate practice a more pragmatic approach to the job than Mr. Yoo and Mr. Goldsmith, both from the academic world.

“As a practicing lawyer, you know how to address real problems,” said Noel J. Francisco, who worked at the Justice Department from 2003 to 2005. “At O.L.C., you’re not writing law review articles and you’re not theorizing. You’re giving a client practical advice on a real problem.”

As he had at the White House, Mr. Gonzales usually said little in meetings with other officials, often deferring to the hard-driving Mr. Addington. Mr. Bradbury also often appeared in accord with the vice president’s lawyer.

Mr. Bradbury appeared to be “fundamentally sympathetic to what the White House and the C.I.A. wanted to do,” recalled Philip Zelikow, a former top State Department official. At interagency meetings on detention and interrogation, Mr. Addington was at times “vituperative,” said Mr. Zelikow, but Mr. Bradbury, while taking similar positions, was “professional and collegial.”

While waiting to learn whether he would be nominated to head the Office of Legal Counsel, Mr. Bradbury was in an awkward position, knowing that a decision contrary to White House wishes could kill his chances.

Charles J. Cooper, who headed the Office of Legal Counsel under President Reagan, said he was “very troubled” at the notion of a probationary period.

“If the purpose of the delay was a tryout, I think they should have avoided it,” Mr. Cooper said. “You’re implying that the acting official is molding his or her legal analysis to win the job.”

WHAT WILL BE BUSH'S FATE, and that of his Party underlings? And what fate awaits we who voted him into power and tolerated his soiling of our most sacred principles as Christians, Jews, humanists and Americans . . . not to mention a political opposition who refused to oppose when conscience demanded resolute opposition?

This is going to get ugly. Mea culpa, mea culpa, mea maxima culpa.