Archive for the ‘police state’ Category

Every now and then we hear some unvarnished truth from the national embarrassment that the Republican party has become.  Take, for example, yesterday’s words from Senator John Ensign (R-NV) regarding the political prisoners detainees currently being held at Guantanamo Bay:

They get better health care than the average American citizen does.

And if that don’t say it all, nothing does.  We are an international disgrace.

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Who knew the candidate who campaigned on a promise of change would turn out to be such a spineless wimp?

I speak of the week’s news that President Obama has decided not to hold the Bush Administration and its coven of lawyers – Yoo, Bybee, Addington, Bradbury, Rizzo, Gonzales – will not, in fact, be held accountable for the crimes against humanity they committed during the so-called “war on terror”.

In a statement on Thursday, the President made this incomprehensible statement regarding accountability:

“This is a time for reflection, not retribution… nothing will be gained by spending our time and energy laying blame for the past.”

This is not about retribution.  It’s about justice.  When we fail to hold those in positions of leadership accountable for their actions, we lose our moral legitemacy in the world.  If we fail to prosecute Bush et al. for actions that Obama’s own justice department has acknowledged are, in fact, criminal in nature, then we are no better than the worst of our enemies.

In order to “more forward”, we must revisit the sins of the past and excise them.  Now that we know more of the crimes committed by Bush, Cheney, Gonzales and their cronies, we must act swiftly and deliberately to hold them accountable.

Anything less is unacceptable.  This is not about retribution.  It’s about justice.  They committed crimes; they MUST be held accountable.

Should we have “looked forward” after World War II and NOT held the Nazis accountable for their actions?

Should the Cambodians “look forward” and ignore the crimes committed by the Khmer Rouge?

Should suffering Zimbabweans, if they ever pull out of the tyranny of Mugabe and ZANU-PF, “look forward” and not demand justice?

Should the long-suffering people of North Korea “look forward” and not demand justice if they ever emerge from their decades-long nightmare?

The souls of the dead cry out for justice, Mr. President.  The tortured demand it in their screams.  If you do not cleanse the stain of the Bush Administration from our national soul, then you are as guilty as they are.  And worse, you will enable future tyrants and dictators here and abroad to “get away with it”.

Justice, Mr. President.  That’s all we ask.  Justice.  It must be done, no matter how painful, difficult or embarrassing.

What a difference six months makes.

During the run-up to the election, then-Senator Obama argued repeatedly against the Bush Administration’s illegal and unethical warrantless wiretapping program and lamented the same administration’s repeated use of the so-called “state’s secrets” privelege.  From barackobama.com:

Secrecy Dominates Government Actions: The Bush administration has ignored public disclosure rules and has invoked a legal tool known as the “state secrets” privilege more than any other previous administration to get cases thrown out of civil court.

But that was then, and this, as they say, is now.  President Obama apparently now thinks the same “state’s secrets” privelege invoked by the Bush crowd actually is kind of useful after all.  President Obama’s own Department of Justice recently issued a motion to dismiss a lawsuit filed against the NSA by the Electronic Frontier Foundation, claiming that allowing the case to continue would “cause exceptionally grave harm to national security”.

This is exactly the position that the Bush crowd took regarding wiretapping.  Unfortunately, the Obama administration takes it a step further, alleging that the government can be held immune from lawsuits relating to warrantless wiretapping.  It’s something called “sovereign immunity”; in other words, you can’t sue the king for violations of his own laws.

This is shocking and saddening to see.  I expected better from President Obama than this mindless continuation of Bush’s worst mistakes.

A report from the International Committee for the Red Cross on CIA detentions and torture, recently released to the public, has shed the white light of truth on the previous administration’s darkest secrets.

It reads like something from the Nuremberg Trials or the Vietnam era.  It describes the ordeals of fourteen “high value detainees” who were subjected to some of the worst treatment the CIA “interrogators” gave to their prisoners.  In one example, detainee Abu Zubaydah described a fairly standard transfer flight:

“The detainee would be made to wear a diaper and dressed in a tracksuit.  Earphones would be placed over his ears, through which music would sometimes be played.  He would be blindfolded with at least a cloth tied around the head and black goggles. … He does not know how long the transfer took but, prior to the transfer, he reported being told by his detaining authorities that he would be going on a journey that would last twenty-four to thirty hours.

“The detainee … would usually be transported in a reclined sitting position with his hands shackled in front. …The detainee was not allowed to go to the toilet and if necessary was obliged to urinate and defecate into the diaper.” (ICRC Report, page 7)

Lovely.  I’ve always said that the acid test for whether a given action is torture or not is if we’d put someone on trial for doing it to our people.  This stuff sounds like the worst of the stories from forced-labor camps in Soviet Russia.  And as usual, it’s not the worst.  No, what’s worse is the way the CIA, under the direction of the Bush administration, corrupted the function of doctors in support of its heinous crimes.

“During the course of their detention, detainees described three principal roles for health personnel whom they encountered.  Firstly, there was a direct role in monitoring the ongoing ill-treatment which, in some circumstances, involved the health personnel directly participating while certain methods were used.  Secondly, there was a role in performing a medical check just prior to, and just after, each transfer.  Finally, there was the provision of healthcare, to treat both the direct consequences of ill-treatment detailed in previous sections, and to treat any natural ailments that arose during the prolonged periods of detention.

“… In some cases it was alleged that, based on their assessments, health personnel gave instructions to interrogators to continue, to adjust or to stop particular methods.” (ICRC report, pp. 21-22)

In one case a detainee was told by a doctor, “I look after your body only because we need you for information.”

And you thought Cheney and Bush couldn’t sink any lower.  This almost precisely mirrors the way medical personnel were used by the North Vietnamese on our soldiers.

Don’t give me any shit about “they were trying to kill us” or “those people are the worst of the worst”.  Nothing justifies this – NOTHING.  It offends me as a veteran, and it should offend the honor and morality of every American citizen.  Bush and Cheney led us down the path of immorality, and they need to pay for it.

We should bring them up on charges of war crimes and torture, before someone else does, just to show the world that WE DON’T TOLERATE THIS.

Read the full report here.

Senator Joe McCarthy is not dead, it seems.

Though the late unlamented right-wing nutcase died over 50 years ago, his spirit lives on in the hallowed halls of Congress, searching for a new host to possess and a new voice to continue his destructive, anti-American reign of terror.  Every now and then it finds a willing conservative, and this year it seems to be Rep. Michele Bachman (R-MN).

Rep. Bachman recently made headlines when she suggested that we need a commission to determine which members of Congress are “pro-America” and which are “anti-America”. Thus spake the “honorable” lady:

“I wish the American media would take a great look at the views of the people in Congress and find out, are they pro-America or anti-America. I would love to see an exposé like that.”

Folks, we’ve been down this road before.  In 1950, Senator McCarthy began waging a crusade of anti-communism, attacking and accusing nearly anyone who disagreed with him and his extreme views.  His reign of terror culminated with his worst mistake in 1953 when he went after the U.S. Army in his misguided attempt to root out “traitors” and “infiltrators”.  He failed, despite increasingly desperate mining and shitslinging.  The end of his career began during one contentious hearing with Joseph Nye Welch, Army legal counsel, who famously said

“Until this moment, Senator, I think I never gauged your cruelty or your recklessness[…]” When McCarthy resumed his attack, Welch interrupted him: “Let us not assassinate this lad further, Senator. You’ve done enough. Have you no sense of decency, sir, at long last? Have you left no sense of decency?”

McCarthy was later censured by the Senate and died in 1957 of alcoholism, a fitting end for a crass and unworthy politician.

And now Ms. Bachmann wants to begin anew the attitude, if not the age, of McCarthyism.  Channeling the spirit of Tailgunner Joe, Rep. Bachmann has called for a new season of “anti-American” witch hunting.  Fortunately, the rest of the GOP appears to remember the damage McCarthy did to its reputation 50 years ago and is pulling its support for Ms. Bachmann.

Her fall may be swift and short.  And, if she truly wants to root out “anti-American” attitudes in Congress she needs only to look in her own mirror.  There’s nothing more anti-American than denying others the right to speak freely.

Recent news indicates North Korean dictator and chief scumbag Kim Jong Il may have suffered a serious health problem.  As reported by the Associated Press:

WASHINGTON – North Korean dictator Kim Jong Il may be gravely ill, perhaps the victim of a stroke, U.S. and other Western officials said Tuesday after he failed to appear for a major national parade. If so, it could jeopardize the already troubled international effort to get his nation to abandon nuclear weapons.

Kim’s absence from a military parade for the country’s 60th anniversary lent credence to reports that the man North Koreans call the “Dear Leader” had been incapacitated during the past few weeks.

Hopefully the rumors are true and the North Korean people will soon be relieved of the primary source of their suffering.

In the midst of all the brouhaha about bridge players and voting, and discussions about which Republican candidate is the most anti-immigrant, pro-war, authoritarian jackass, a bill was introduced in the Senate. It’s official number and title were S. 1959, A bill to establish the National Commission on the Prevention of Violent Radicalization and Homegrown Terrorism, and for other purposes. Read the full text here.

Fortunately, this camel’s-nose-under-the-tent of unconstitutional government surveillance hasn’t completely gone unnoticed. Several bloggers, most notably here, here and here, have begun a grassroots campaign to pressure Congress into blocking it.

The bill has been locked in Committee since its introduction in August of this year. Before being passed to the Senate, however, it was approved by 404 House members who clearly had neither read nor thought about the power the bill gives the Federal government.

A “National Commission” within the Executive Branch to study “domestic terrorism” would naturally lead to surveillance of any individual or group whose actions are deemed “suspicious”. First we had illegal wiretapping, now they’ve found a way to make it legal.

Some have said this bill won’t affect American citizens, because it’s intended to be directed against only violent groups or groups intending violence. I say that’s what it means today. Who knows what a future President might do with a rubber-stamp Congress, especially if one of the post-911 authoritarian paranoiacs like Giuliani, Romney or Tancredo gets elected? This bill, combined with the unconstitutional and toxic so-called “USA PATRIOT Act”, is another dangerous step down the slippery slope to a surveillance society.

This bill is dangerous, unnecessary, unconstitutional and deeply unAmerican. Call or write your Senator and urge him or her to vote against it. Exercise your freedoms while you still have them.