Tag Archives: Torture

Bagram: Obama’s Gitmo, only worse

27 Jun

There has been plenty of justified praise for President Obama as he slowly but surely closes the Gitmo Gulag. It is by well known that the Bush Regime used this prison, as well as others, to torture men who committed the “crimes” of resisting the American desert-killing fields in Mesopotamia and having Arab names. We later learned out from Blitzkrieg Rumsfeld that these “terrorists” were actually beaten, starved, deprived of sleep, and tortured with insects in an attempt to produce a false 9/11-Iraqi link.

But what about the lesser known, and even crueler, military prison in Bagram, Afghanistan? What goes on at Bagram makes Gitmo look like a day-care camp. According to a 2,000 page U.S. Army report, two prisoners were chained to the ceiling and then beaten to death. Autopsies later revealed extreme trauma to both of their legs, describing it as similar to being run over by a bus. The International Red Cross Report reported massive overcrowding, harsh conditions, threats of HIV-infection and sodomy, weeks of complete isolation, routine beatings, and stress positions (a favorite at Abu Ghraib).

It went nearly unnoticed, but Obama’s “Justice” Department stated that it agreed with the previous Administration that the over 600 detainees at Bagram Airfield cannot use U.S. Courts to challenge their detention, and it only took two sentences. That’s it. No investigations, no hearings, no discussions. Bush’s Military Commissions Act of 2006, one of the scariest pieces of legislation I’ve ever seen, was used to justify these indefinite imprisonments, and Obama’s silence on Bagram can only mean he condones this Caesar-esque power.

Why is Obama closing one U.S. Gulag but keeping open another? Well, Gitmo is 90 miles off the shore of Florida, so its stain hits closer to home, and it’s a way of throwing a bone to his anti-war base while he pulls new war levers like a debt-ridden gambler at a casino. You might not know it from any of the Pharoah-fanning media, but Obama is doing his best Alexander the Great Slaughterer impression in Afghanistan as his 21,000 troop “surge” is beginning to arrive. In fact, the bombing of Afghanistan has increased every single month Obama has been in office. There’s going to be a lot more detainees headed Bagram’s way thanks to O-bomber (and his equally bloodthirsty Sec. of State Hillary the Hawk) as he spends $200 million dollars a day bombing the Afghan countryside.

I bring up Obama’s torture two-face because tomorrow, June 26, is the International Day of Support for Victims of Torture. The CIA, FBI, and the Pentagram Pentagon might be up for weeks if they thought about all of their victims of torture, as well as the other rarely-discussed victims: the 5th and 8th Amendments of the Bill of Rights. The 8th protects against “cruel and unusual punishment,” and the 5th declares that no one “shall be compelled to be a witness against himself.” Obama, like Bush before him, is willing to use tortured confessions to prosecute detainees, and Obama’s civil liberties axe is just as sharp as Bush’s.

On Torture Day, Obama’s White House will continue to be haunted by the ghosts of Bagram.

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Obama attempts to block new Abu Ghraib photos, “for the troops” of course

27 Jun

When President Obama reversed the Bush-era ban on showing photographs of the coffins of U.S. soldiers, his supporters cheered, claiming that this was a tiny but incremental step in fixing the errors of the previous administration. It was the right move, but I wasn’t impressed; after all, allowing the press to take pictures of flag-draped coffins means little when Obama’s Afghanistan/Pakistan “surge” is making sure there will be plenty more coming home that way. Obama’s latest act of dictatorial thuggery is just more proof that his slick anti-war campaign rhetoric was all a big lie. Obama is attempting to block the release of new torture photos from Abu Ghraib:

Just weeks after announcing he would make the images public, administration officials said the president had told his legal advisers that releasing the photos would endanger troops.

The change of heart is thought to have come after senior military officials gave warning the release could cause a backlash against troops.

And what exactly do the photos show? Thanks to William N. Grigg’s indispensable blog, he provides an eyewitness account from Abu Ghraib inmate Kasim Mehaddi Hilas on what went really went on in the Baghdad Gulag:

Numerous episodes of sexual abuse by U.S. interrogators, including rape, homosexual rape, sexual assaults with objects including a truncheon and a phosphorescent tube, and other forms of sexual abuse and humiliation of detainees.

The debate over torture just got a little more interesting. The Pentagram Pentagon has sanctioned waterboarding, sleep deprivation, stress positions, routine beatings, and pulling off of fingernails, so it’s not too tough to imagine the addition of rape to the imperial repertoire.

Obama claims that releasing these photos will cause “backlash against the troops,” and this myth needs to be properly debunked (didn’t Donald “blitzkrieg shock-and-awe” Rumsfeld warn us that releasing the 2003 Abu Ghraib photos would have the same effect?). Here’s Grigg again exposing this lie:

Though it seem callous of me to point out as much, we should recognize that people who enlist in the military are paid, trained, and equipped to confront danger. We should also recognize that we do the cause of liberty no favors if we make it easier to invade and occupy foreign countries; indeed, we ought to do everything we can to accentuate the difficulty of carrying out criminal enterprises of that sort.

Exactly. There is, of course, some chance that releasing the photos could lead to dangerous and potentially deadly complications for our soldiers. But if protecting our soldiers were the real motivation, wouldn’t it make more sense to not send them halfway across the world in grandiose delusions of imperial glory?

I have a feeling Obama and his minions don’t want these photos released because it might make people question what it is we’re actually doing over there. Well, it’s just a good ol-fashioned occupation, and with Obama at the war levers, the bombing of Afghanistan has increased each month he’s been in office. Plus, his top generals are telling him that we’re going to have to stay in Iraq for ten more years, with 50,000 troops. It’s only been four months, and Obama’s war plans are already continuing and expanding Bush’s.

It’s going to be a long four years.

New York Times: torture is torture, except when the U.S. does it

27 Jun

The New York Times has once again shown why it is losing readers, money, and relevancy in last Friday’s obituary of Harold E. Fischer, Jr., a brave Air Force captain who was held captive by the Chinese in the early 1950s:

“Col. Harold E. Fischer Jr., an American fighter pilot who was routinely tortured in a Chinese prison during and after the Korean War, becoming — along with three other American airmen held at the same prison — a symbol and victim of cold war tension, died in Las Vegas on April 30. He was 83 and lived in Las Vegas.

From April 1953 through May 1955, Colonel Fischer — then an Air Force captain — was held at a prison outside Mukden, Manchuria. For most of that time, he was kept in a dark, damp cell with no bed and no opening except a slot in the door through which a bowl of food could be pushed. Much of the time he was handcuffed. Hour after hour, a high-frequency whistle pierced the air…. under duress, Captain Fischer had falsely confessed to participating in germ warfare.”

Wait a second…I’m confused. The NYT didn’t put quotations around the word torture? They didn’t call it “enhanced interrogation” or use some other type of Orwellian wordplay to describe what the Chinese did to Fischer; why, those Commie Reds tortured him!

What the Chinese government did to Fischer was immoral and despicable, but the NYT can’t have it both ways. When the Chinese “interrogated” their captives, it’s automatically torture, yet when the U.S. does far worse to its captives*, it somehow isn’t.

The indispensable Glenn Greenwald clears up this paradox over at Salon.com, exposing the NYT’s hypocrisy:

Why are the much less brutal methods used by the Chinese on Fischer called torture by the NYT, whereas much harsher methods used by Americans do not merit that term?  Here we find what is clearly the single most predominant fact shaping our political and media discourse:  everything is different, and better, when we do it.  In fact, it is that exact mentality that was and continues to be the primary justification for our torture regime and so much else that we do.”

Greenwald, who has been an excellent critic of what he calls our “torture regime” for years, makes a revealing point about the NYT. Contrary to popular belief, the NYT is not a “liberal” newspaper, it is a Statist one, and there isn’t a government program it doesn’t swoon over. If there is a war brewing, you can count on the NYT to cheer it on, to spew disinformation and phony intelligence, and to smear any war critics that dare defy its perch on its ivory tower. War, torture, government spending and counterfeiting, spying on Americans, restrictions of civil liberties; this is what the NYT stands for and continually defends, regardless of who sits on the Imperial Throne.

And speaking of torture, my disgraceful, incompetent, and criminal representative Madame Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) knew about Bush’s torture crimes all the way back in 2002. The CIA briefed her on the use of torture and she said and did nothing about it, apparently being too preoccupied with gaining power than legitimately punishing those who have abused it.

There is some talk about a serious investigation into Bush’s torture obsession, but there is much reason to believe that this will never actually happen, and if it does, it’ll find nothing and punish nobody (Warren Commission? Iran-Contra? 9/11 Commission?).

An honest investigation is direly needed into this massive abuse of power and of the rule of law. It won’t happen, of course, due to  the NYT’s and the Democrats’ complacency.

*The U.S. prosecuted Japanese military leaders post WW-2 for war crimes because they waterboarded American POWs. Ever since then, waterboarding has been banned in nearly all resemblances of international law, and has only been revived in the last few years by the U.S.

Let’s waterboard Sean Hannity in Poland

27 Jun

“For as in absolute governments the king is law, so in free countries the law ought to be king; and there ought to be no other.”
-Thomas Paine, Common Sense

The CIA has been in the torturing business for decades, so it was no surprise to hear that Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, the 9/11 “mastermind,” was taken to a secret U.S. military base in northeastern Poland and was tortured exactly 183 times in March 2003 alone.

183 times!? That’s nearly six waterboardings a day. Even the Japanese, who were prosecuted for war crimes after WW-2 for waterboarding American soldiers, were not as proficient.

FOX “News” talk-show host Sean Hannity has now offered to be “waterboarded for charity” since he believes that this form of “enhanced interrogation,”  is not torture. MSNBC anchor Keith Olbermann quickly responded by offering to personally waterboard Hannity for $1000 a second.

What has happened to the most American of ideas: the concept of the rule of law? Our country’s conception was unique because it threw off the chains of the rule of emperors and kings (a monarchy) and established the rule of laws (a republic).

John Adams, one of our smartest founding fathers, defended a hated British soldier in court, nearly risking his career for the defense of the rule of law.

Robert A. Taft, a conservative Republican Senator from Ohio in the 1940s and 50s, strongly criticized the post WW-2 Nuremberg Trials for being violations of the rule of law. The German trials:

“…violate the fundamental principle of American law that a man cannot be tried by an ex post facto statute [laws that did not exist when the crime was committed].”

Taft continues:

“Nuremberg was a blot on American constitutional history, and a serious departure from our Anglo-Saxon heritage of fair and equal treatment, a heritage which had rightly made this country respected throughout the world.”

Why should illegal and immoral mistreatment of prisoners in custody matter to us? After all, if the use of torture could help save American lives by preventing an attack, wouldn’t it be worth it?

This torture policy shreds not only the pride in our nation but also our security and liberties that are protected by the rule of law. Criticizing the use of torture is not “appeasement” or the defense of terrorists, but a defense of justice without vengeance, one of the pinnacles of insight and achievement of Western civilization.

The U.S. King President, no matter who it is, has the ability to strip away every constitutional right and authorize torture on anyone he deems to be an “enemy combatant”: is this what the founders fought, bled, and died for? To be ruled by the evil whims of cowards men?

Obama sanctions Bush’s war crimes

27 Jun

The United States is in the business of torture as this eye-opening memo that was recently leaked reveals. This memo admits that the CIA used insects to frighten and interrogate its captives. Just as disturbing is the fact the use of torture by the Bush Administration was known to Congress all the way back in 2002, but they didn’t mention anything to the American public until Abu Ghraib embarrassed them.

It is disappointing to hear that the Obama Administration was refusing to prosecute those involved, and we are told to just “move on” and ignore the crimes of our government. Obama is supposedly now “hinting” at prosecuting, but i’m not optimistic because it will expose not only the horrors of the Bush Administration but also  my (embarassing) representative Nancy Pelosi’s  compliance. The prosecution of these criminals would hurt the CIA’s ability to execute Obama’s private war in Pakistan, and might make people question his imperial authority to further  occupy Iraq and Afghanistan.

These “enchanced interrogation” methods are illegal under treaties signed by the United States (somewhere in Geneva, I think), and Japanese military leaders were prosecuted post-WW2 for waterboarding Americans. As much research shows, torture is ineffective at acquiring useful information, and even suspects detained after 9/11 by the CIA gave them false information, most likely to stop the pain.

Torture is a bipartisan sport in the U.S. Congress, except for a few, outspoken dissenters. These dissenters also share the view that when you defend war, torture must also inevitably be defended. The arguments concerning the morality or non-effectiveness of torture miss the larger point; a free and decent Republic would of course obey its international treaties, constitutional law, and defense of that beautiful, and bloodily fought for, right of habeas corpus. America is no longer the Republic of its infancy, however, and it has embraced empire, an empire that Napoleon, Stalin, or Bismarck would have salivated over.

America’s transition to world-policeman was not sudden and didn’t start when George W. Bush came into office, despite what some of his liberal critics think. Signs of this transition could be heard in the screams of 200,000 dead Philippines when we went to war with Spain in the early 20th cenutry, it grew louder in two world wars that left Europe and the Atlantic in ashes, and it was officially born in Hiroshima.

This leak, and the Obama Administration’s refusal to prosecute anybody, comes as no surprise. Torture? Of course the U.S. tortures, and it has for years. Torture is but a drop in the bucket of what the U.S. Empire has unleashed on the world: firebombing cities, coups, concentration internment camps, cruise-missile strikes, starvation sanctions, and mind control experimentation.

Besides these crimes that occurred away from our shores, there are domestic consequences to America’s slow transition into empire: deliberate lies and misinformation from our intelligence agencies, a vast expansion of presidential power, violations of habeas corpus, hawks screeching for war in both parties, the smearing of war critics,  invasions of privacy, sick and neglected veterans, and trillions of dollars.

Is empire worth this price?