Tag Archives: abu ghraib

words sometimes fail

Army Pfc. Lynndie England cnn 5/2:

“I had a choice, but I chose to do what my friends wanted me to,” she said. … “They did it for their own amusement.”

Abu Ghraib was only the tip of the iceberg in terms of US human rights abuses. Investigations of numerous deaths while in US custody in Iraq and Afghanistan demonstrate forcefully that Abu Ghraib was not “exceptional” and that Lynndie England was not merely a “bad apple.” This level of abuse, torture, and death is a pattern.

Where is the accountability from this administration? What have they done? A very few show trials of the smallest number of people that could be blamed for participation in the most widely publicized incident; busting down Army Reserve Brig. Gen. Janis Karpinski to Colonel; and laying a few reprimands & “unspecified administrative punishment” on five other officers. [cbs 5/5] Again, all focused only on Abu Ghraib, and, frankly, only on the most widely publicized incidents at Abu Ghraib. [And among other sorry aspects to this case I am forced to note the sexism in the media coverage of this case, which has turned England into the public face of the Abu Ghraib scandal.]

If this administration took seriously the concept of an “ownership” society it would have taken ownership and responsibility for the war crimes committed on its watch. But in the Bush administration the buck only goes as high as the most conveniently disciplined flunky.

voting for bush is voting for torture

Michael Froomkin breaks it down: voting for Bush is voting for torture. [Linking to obsidian wings post on the new Republican plan that enables torture.]

I said it before: repudiating the Bush administration policies on terror and treatment of prisoners and civilians is my most compelling reason for voting for Kerry. The Bush administration is morally bankrupt and to condone in any way these policies is a national shame. The Bush administration, frankly, should have resigned en masse after Abu Ghraib. They have not done so, and it is thus our responsibility to fire them.

Torture: Kaplan thinks Hersh evades the question–but Kaplan misses the point

Fred Kaplan in slate.com ostensibly reviews Sy Hersh’s new work on torture & Abu Ghraib in Does Torture Work? – Seymour Hersh evades the question. By Fred Kaplan. In reality he sets out once again, just in case anyone missed it the first 10,000 times that torture apologists made it, the argument we’ve all heard by now: torture is/may be effective sometimes, and if so, shouldn’t we use it?

Torture to produce a confession (“Yes, I am a terrorist”) almost certainly is useless; at some point of pain, many people would confess to anything. But torture to elicit specific information (Who told you to do this? Where did the meeting take place? Who else is in your cell? What are they planning to blow up tomorrow?) sometimes will do—clearly, has done—the job. If it hasn’t, many times over the centuries, then why do so many regimes engage in it? Some no doubt do it for the kicks, but they’re not all purely sadists.

Kaplan suggests that we need to begin answering this fundamental question: Is torture effective in some instances? for instance, torturing high-level operatives who reasonably seem likely to have information.

Kaplan thinks Hersh evades the question in his new book, but Kaplan is actually missing the point. The rules against torture are not based on the lack of efficacy of torture. We rarely forbid the government to do the inefficient. [This point could be heavily footnoted by history and law.] The rules against torture are based on the knowledge that torture is most effective as a tool for terrorizing the populace, and that as such, this tool is too dangerous to be permitted.

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voting for kerry

i’m an anarchist, and i’m voting, and more than that, i’m voting for kerry.* here’s why:

war on iraq:
Will Kerry solve the iraq situation? Will he make it better? Folks might suggest that Kerry will not, or can not. Other folks might reasonably point out that the Democrats are not really better on iraq: What about Clinton who let ~500,000 children die in iraq of malnutrition (and the occasional bombing)? It’s very simple: I have no idea whether Kerry will solve our problems in iraq or whether they’re solvable or how. (I do know that the Bush Administration won’t solve the problems.) So I’m not voting for Kerry because, prospectively, he’ll “fix” iraq. I’m voting for Kerry because i believe he won’t keep us on this path, pushing us into other wars based on an unrealistic view of the world. I do not believe that Kerry would have gotten us into iraq. A Bush administration is very likely to continue to lead us into ill-advised military adventures.

the environment
Really there is nothing that one can say here. Kerry is merely a Democrat and is thus beholden to certain interests. But he is unquestionably better than Bush on environmental issues. Kerry has one of the better records in the senate on the environment, and Bush is like the tasmanian devil — well, just as destructive; not so cute.

civil liberties
There is no question that the Bush administration will continue to appoint extremely conservative judges to the bench, judges who do not respect civil liberties. The Bush administration will also retain Ashcroft as a primary violator of civil liberties.

civil liberties in specific: reproductive rights
Kerry will get rid of the Mexico City policy. Kerry will get rid of the gag rules. Kerry will respect the right of a woman to choose an abortion or a pregnancy — not the right of his administration or a judge to choose for her.

civil liberties in specific: sexual autonomy
Kerry will respect my right to make my own choices about my family life — and Bush won’t. Kerry will endeavor not to discriminate against my family choices legally and financially.

self-respect & shame
Most significantly, I am ashamed of the u.s. government for its unilateral invasion of iraq & its treatment of civilians and prisoners (in abu ghraib and elsewhere). To any extent that I have power over this government–and it’s a very limited extent–I am morally obligated to use that power to try to change the government. Even if voting is largely a symbolic act (or as SS wrote on a list a while back, a religious act), it is nevertheless incumbent on us all to to repudiate those atrocities—that includes the formal act of voting, symbolic or no.

To stand by after those atrocities and evil actions, and to not make the formal statement–as well as all the activist, formal statements I can–against those behaviors would be reprehensible. If voting is power, then I must exercise it, even if it is only a tiny bit of power. If voting is merely symbolism, then it is nevertheless important to be on the record, symbolically, as opposing this administration.

10/23 update: Shrillblog just pointed me to this entry at abu aardvark. A picture’s worth a thousand words. But the words are worth a lot too:

The world is watching. The world wants to know which America is the real America: the one which offers a vision of a better world, a more liberal and free world, a safer and more just world… or the one in this picture, a world brought to you by George Bush and his administration and for which no-one of any consequence has been held accountable.


* Okay, not necessarily. The fact is that I live in california & will vote in california. And even if I were able to move in time for the election i’m moving to Massachussetts. In neither of these states will a vote for Kerry make any difference. And so unless I think there’s any chance that Kerry might lose the electoral votes in California or Mass., then i’m voting green.

update: actually i ended up voting for kerry on the theory that the overall vote total — while irrelevant to who “wins” the election — demonstrates the strength of the voices against Bush and Abu Ghraib.

Good commentary on torture memo justifications from fafblog!

From Fafblog! the whole worlds only source for Fafblog., Saturday 12-June-2004:

Torture: A last recourse we may require sooner and sooner

The Medium Lobster has been disquieted of late at by the latest round of Iraq torture scandal news. There has been much uproar – among that irritating minority which have not been studiously scrutinizing the week’s top story, the beatification of Ronald Reagan, at least – regarding the powers of the president and the incompatibility of torture with a liberal democracy. In the midst of all this, the Medium Lobster would like to offer those with cooler heads some perspective as to the merits of harsh interrogation.

Imagine there is some weapon of mass destruction planted by terrorists in the heart of a city, ready to go off – a “ticking bomb,” if you will. Would it be wrong to torture a terrorist to find the location of such a device and save the millions of lives at risk? Hardly. Now, what if instead of torturing a terrorist, interrogators had to torture a confederate of that terrorist – some associate who would know where the terrorist was so they could locate that ticking bomb? Is that dirtying of our hands such a high price to ask in the goal to protect millions? I think not. Now, what if instead of a terrorist’s comrade, interrogators have a terrorist’s relative or neighbor? Is it still justified to go as far to save innocent lives? I should hope so! And what if that terrorist has a lot of relatives and neighbors – hundreds, even? Would it be wrong to grant blanket authority to torture hundreds of prisoners knowing full well that any of them could have the crucial information required to save a city? Certainly not! And what if the threat we’re faced with is not a bomb at all but an even more pernicious threat – a rogue nation with the potential capability to someday construct that bomb? Would it not be America’s right – no, her duty – to invade that country, occupy it, and set up a system of torture-like interrogations to rid that country of terrorists and weapons of mass destruction once and for all? Absolutely!

Indeed, the most unsettling question being raised by these latest news items is not the issue of torture itself, but the question of whether America will be strong enough to use that torture to defeat the enemies of life and liberty. The Medium Lobster can only hope that this great nation will retain its nerve.

Bush claims we’re a nation of laws …

From a Bush press conference last week:

Q: Mr. President, I wanted to return to the question of torture. What we’ve learned from these memos this week is that the Department of Justice lawyers and the Pentagon lawyers have essentially worked out a way that U.S. officials can torture detainees without running afoul of the law. So when you say that you want the U.S. to adhere to international and U.S. laws, that’s not very comforting. This is a moral question: Is torture ever justified?

BUSH: Look, I’m going to say it one more time. Maybe I can be more clear. The instructions went out to our people to adhere to law. That ought to comfort you. We’re a nation of law. We adhere to laws. We have laws on the books. You might look at these laws. And that might provide comfort for you. And those were the instructions from me to the government.

… I’d just like to add that, as ever, it’s much more instructive to read or hear Bush speak without the artful ellipses so often inserted in pullquotes …

More blowback …

More reporting from Seymour Hersh in The New Yorker (2004-05-24 issue, posted 2004-05-15). This one begins by noting:

The roots of the Abu Ghraib prison scandal lie not in the criminal inclinations of a few Army reservists but in a decision, approved last year by Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld, to expand a highly secret operation, which had been focussed on the hunt for Al Qaeda, to the interrogation of prisoners in Iraq. Rumsfeld’s decision embittered the American intelligence community, damaged the effectiveness of élite combat units, and hurt America’s prospects in the war on terror.

And concludes with this quote from Kenneth Roth, the executive director of Human Rights Watch:

“In an odd way,” Kenneth Roth, the executive director of Human Rights Watch, said, “the sexual abuses at Abu Ghraib have become a diversion for the prisoner abuse and the violation of the Geneva Conventions that is authorized.” Since September 11th, Roth added, the military has systematically used third-degree techniques around the world on detainees. “Some jags hate this and are horrified that the tolerance of mistreatment will come back and haunt us in the next war,” Roth told me. “We’re giving the world a ready-made excuse to ignore the Geneva Conventions. Rumsfeld has lowered the bar.”