CIA’s changing role in U.S. imperialism’s expanding war

copyright © 2010 Michael Prysner.   Party for Socialism and Liberation

Originally Published on Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Attack highlights increased military operations of brutal secret agency

CIA agents in Afghanistan in 2001.

In eastern Afghanistan, near the Pakistani border, a member of the resistance infiltrated a CIA compound and detonated an explosive belt, killing seven CIA operatives and wounding six others.  

The CIA promptly vowed revenge for the attack.  Some agents spoke candidly on the day of the bombing, chest-thumping that they were in this fight for the long haul.  “There is no pullout [in 2011],” said one agent anonymously, “there is no withdrawal or anything like that planned.”

In a statement released by the CIA after the attack, the agency stated, referring to the casualties, that “we pledge to them and their families that we will never cease fighting for the cause to which they dedicated their lives-a safer America.”

This “noble cause” that the CIA and its agents are vowing to fight until the end did not begin in Afghanistan in response to the Sept. 11 attacks.  CIA operations in the country began in the late 1970s.  

Washington’s public rationale for why the U.S. government must fight in Afghanistan-lack of women’s rights, Islamic law, lack of education, and so on-have not always existed in Afghanistan.  There is, in fact, a period during which Afghanistan was on a progressive path.  In 1978, under the People’s Democratic Party of Afghanistan, women’s rights and anti-sexist laws were enacted for the first time in Afghanistan’s history.  Schools began opening throughout the country and a literacy campaign was initiated.  The government functioned on a secular, democratic platform, after a long feudal era.

As Afghanistan was building equality, increasing literacy and education, and building a new progressive society, Washington was worried about one thing.  The new government wanted independence and would not allow itself to be made a puppet serving the interests of U.S. capitalism.  The CIA was promptly dispatched, not for a “safer America,” but for a safer region for U.S. companies to exert their dominance.  

The CIA’s history in Afghanistan begins like this: spending billions of dollars to crush the only progressive period in the country’s history.  

How did they do this? By heavily funding and fighting alongside the most reactionary religious organizations, who began killing and maiming women not observing the most fundamentalist interpretations of Islamic law, destroying schools and murdering scores of civilians throughout the country.  Those CIA-backed forces then took state power, and ruled the country-while still receiving millions of dollars from the CIA.  Then, they were overthrown by the CIA in 2001.  

The CIA orchestrated the overthrow of the Taliban government in 2001, commanding the war with its operatives on the ground.  One of those agents who masterminded the U.S. takeover in 2001, Henry Crumpton, recently spoke out about the CIA tactics used.  He and his agents would visit tribal leaders, and offer them this ultimatum: “If you do not cooperate, the chances of your survival are greatly diminished.” 

If that particular tribal leader refused to assist the invading foreign forces in his country, Crumpton and his team would openly murder him.  Crumpton admitted, “And the next day, we’d talk to the tribal leader that was next door.  … Given the incentive that we had set the previous day, he was much more amenable to negotiations in our favor.”

The terrorist tactics used by the CIA in Afghanistan make it obvious why their base was targeted.

The CIA has long commanded military operations, from its death squads in Latin America to bloody military coups in Africa, the Middle East, and Asia.  But there has been a fundamental change in the CIA’s military role since 2001.  

Now, the CIA is on the front lines in Afghanistan more so than in any other mission.  Previously, the CIA primarily commanded U.S. military special operations troops, as well as local militias.  The CIA’s own paramilitary branch, known as the Special Activities Division, was small and rarely used in lieu of U.S. and foreign troops.  

After the Sept. 11 attacks, the Bush administration began the process of militarizing the CIA, which continues today.  The Special Activities Division was increased in size and funding.  They were given greater authority to clandestinely conduct military operations in Pakistan, Somalia, Yemen and other countries where U.S.  troops are not legally allowed.  

Now, instead of commanding U.S. or foreign military units and local reactionary militias, the CIA is increasingly conducting military operations with their own agents.  They even operate out of their own firebases scattered all over Afghanistan and Iraq.  This constitutes a major change in the structure of the CIA.  

The growing trend of privatizing the military can be seen as the CIA militarizes.  In addition to increasing their own number of troops, the CIA has also absorbed sectors of the notorious mercenary company known as Blackwater (now known as Xe).  

It was recently revealed that the CEO of Blackwater, right-wing evangelical billionaire Eric Prince, works directly for the CIA.  Blackwater troops became CIA troops, and have been conducting assassination campaigns and military operations in Pakistan and other countries.  

But the CIA’s militarization spans beyond commanding their own troops.  The CIA established a vast network of secret prisons, where suspects endure vicious illegal torture and absolutely no legal rights.

In addition, the CIA now has its own personal air force, commanding and piloting drones that are now being regularly used all over the world, conducting bombing missions in Afghanistan, Pakistan, Iraq, Yemen and elsewhere.  The Obama administration recently approved even more funds to increase the CIA’s drone capabilities, putting bombs and missiles at their fingertips.  

The CIA is playing a more direct role in U.S. wars than ever before.  The U.S. ruling class wants the so-called “war on terror” to be shifted into the shadows.  

The anti-war movement exploded in late 2002, drawing the largest anti-war demonstrations in history against the invasion of Iraq.  The anti-war movement during the Vietnam War grew to a point where the U.S. government was forced to abandon its colonial aims in Vietnam.  Now, the United States is involved in what is already the longest war in U.S. history, which is growing more unpopular everyday.  The occupation of Iraq still has no end in sight.  The Pentagon brass has made it clear that we should brace for a long and bloody fight in Afghanistan.  Additionally, U.S. imperialism has goals elsewhere in the region.  

Capitalism has developed into a global economic system.  The United States and a handful of countries in Western Europe have competed with each other to dominate the markets and resources of the rest of the world for the past century.  They have also cooperated together in their joint struggle against socialism or against independent non-socialist governments in the developing world.

This has led to the bloodiest century in human history and shows no signs of abating.  

One way that the militarization of the CIA benefits the ruling class is that it allows the U.S. government to substitute other forces for those the U.S. military would have deployed.  U.S. military operations are much more subject to publicity and scrutiny, but clandestine CIA operations are ambiguous.  Working in the shadows allows the government to deny its own role in secret bombings, targeted assassinations and economic sabotage in other countries.  The history of the CIA includes the most blatantly criminal military operations, using the most brutal and murderous tactics to overthrow popular, democratically elected governments who do not submit to U.S. corporations, and installing the most reactionary and repressive dictators, from Guatemala, to Iran, to Haiti, to the Congo, and countless others.  If U.S. troops deployed to conduct these operations, there would have been even greater public outcry.  But they are instead conducted in the shadows, to mask the true nature of the system we live under.

Outright military invasion is often a last resort for the ruling class, when their other methods have failed to achieve their goals of economic domination.  With the changing role of the CIA, the extent of the capabilities of conducting covert operations has been stretched to new boundaries.  The CIA can now deploy its own soldiers, pilot its own bombing missions and manage its own prison apparatus.

In eastern Afghanistan, near the Pakistani border, a member of the resistance infiltrated a CIA compound and detonated an explosive belt, killing seven CIA operatives and wounding six others.  

The CIA promptly vowed revenge for the attack.  Some agents spoke candidly on the day of the bombing, chest-thumping that they were in this fight for the long haul.  “There is no pullout [in 2011],” said one agent anonymously, “there is no withdrawal or anything like that planned.”

In a statement released by the CIA after the attack, the agency stated, referring to the casualties, that “we pledge to them and their families that we will never cease fighting for the cause to which they dedicated their lives-a safer America.”

This “noble cause” that the CIA and its agents are vowing to fight until the end did not begin in Afghanistan in response to the Sept.  11 attacks.  CIA operations in the country began in the late 1970s.  

Washington’s public rationale for why the U.S. government must fight in Afghanistan-lack of women’s rights, Islamic law, lack of education, and so on-have not always existed in Afghanistan.  There is, in fact, a period during which Afghanistan was on a progressive path.  In 1978, under the People’s Democratic Party of Afghanistan, women’s rights and anti-sexist laws were enacted for the first time in Afghanistan’s history.  Schools began opening throughout the country and a literacy campaign was initiated.  The government functioned on a secular, democratic platform, after a long feudal era.

As Afghanistan was building equality, increasing literacy and education, and building a new progressive society, Washington was worried about one thing.  The new government wanted independence and would not allow itself to be made a puppet serving the interests of U.S. capitalism.  The CIA was promptly dispatched, not for a “safer America,” but for a safer region for U.S. companies to exert their dominance.  

The CIA’s history in Afghanistan begins like this: spending billions of dollars to crush the only progressive period in the country’s history.  

How did they do this? By heavily funding and fighting alongside the most reactionary religious organizations, who began killing and maiming women not observing the most fundamentalist interpretations of Islamic law, destroying schools and murdering scores of civilians throughout the country.  Those CIA-backed forces then took state power, and ruled the country-while still receiving millions of dollars from the CIA.  Then, they were overthrown by the CIA in 2001.  

The CIA orchestrated the overthrow of the Taliban government in 2001, commanding the war with its operatives on the ground.  One of those agents who masterminded the U.S. takeover in 2001, Henry Crumpton, recently spoke out about the CIA tactics used.  He and his agents would visit tribal leaders, and offer them this ultimatum: “If you do not cooperate, the chances of your survival are greatly diminished.” 

If that particular tribal leader refused to assist the invading foreign forces in his country, Crumpton and his team would openly murder him.  Crumpton admitted, “And the next day, we’d talk to the tribal leader that was next door.  … Given the incentive that we had set the previous day, he was much more amenable to negotiations in our favor.”

The terrorist tactics used by the CIA in Afghanistan make it obvious why their base was targeted.

The CIA has long commanded military operations, from its death squads in Latin America to bloody military coups in Africa, the Middle East, and Asia.  But there has been a fundamental change in the CIA’s military role since 2001.  

Now, the CIA is on the front lines in Afghanistan more so than in any other mission.  Previously, the CIA primarily commanded U.S. military special operations troops, as well as local militias.  The CIA’s own paramilitary branch, known as the Special Activities Division, was small and rarely used in lieu of U.S. and foreign troops.  

After the Sept. 11 attacks, the Bush administration began the process of militarizing the CIA, which continues today.  The Special Activities Division was increased in size and funding.  They were given greater authority to clandestinely conduct military operations in Pakistan, Somalia, Yemen and other countries where U.S. troops are not legally allowed.  

Now, instead of commanding U.S. or foreign military units and local reactionary militias, the CIA is increasingly conducting military operations with their own agents.  They even operate out of their own firebases scattered all over Afghanistan and Iraq.  This constitutes a major change in the structure of the CIA.  

The growing trend of privatizing the military can be seen as the CIA militarizes.  In addition to increasing their own number of troops, the CIA has also absorbed sectors of the notorious mercenary company known as Blackwater (now known as Xe).  

It was recently revealed that the CEO of Blackwater, right-wing evangelical billionaire Eric Prince, works directly for the CIA.  Blackwater troops became CIA troops, and have been conducting assassination campaigns and military operations in Pakistan and other countries.  

But the CIA’s militarization spans beyond commanding their own troops.  The CIA established a vast network of secret prisons, where suspects endure vicious illegal torture and absolutely no legal rights.

In addition, the CIA now has its own personal air force, commanding and piloting drones that are now being regularly used all over the world, conducting bombing missions in Afghanistan, Pakistan, Iraq, Yemen and elsewhere.  The Obama administration recently approved even more funds to increase the CIA’s drone capabilities, putting bombs and missiles at their fingertips.  

The CIA is playing a more direct role in U.S. wars than ever before.  The U.S. ruling class wants the so-called “war on terror” to be shifted into the shadows.  

The anti-war movement exploded in late 2002, drawing the largest anti-war demonstrations in history against the invasion of Iraq.  The anti-war movement during the Vietnam War grew to a point where the U.S. government was forced to abandon its colonial aims in Vietnam.  Now, the United States is involved in what is already the longest war in U.S. history, which is growing more unpopular everyday.  The occupation of Iraq still has no end in sight.  The Pentagon brass has made it clear that we should brace for a long and bloody fight in Afghanistan.  Additionally, U.S. imperialism has goals elsewhere in the region.  

Capitalism has developed into a global economic system.  The United States and a handful of countries in Western Europe have competed with each other to dominate the markets and resources of the rest of the world for the past century.  They have also cooperated together in their joint struggle against socialism or against independent non-socialist governments in the developing world.

This has led to the bloodiest century in human history and shows no signs of abating.  

One way that the militarization of the CIA benefits the ruling class is that it allows the U.S. government to substitute other forces for those the U.S. military would have deployed.  U.S. military operations are much more subject to publicity and scrutiny, but clandestine CIA operations are ambiguous.  Working in the shadows allows the government to deny its own role in secret bombings, targeted assassinations and economic sabotage in other countries.  The history of the CIA includes the most blatantly criminal military operations, using the most brutal and murderous tactics to overthrow popular, democratically elected governments who do not submit to U.S. corporations, and installing the most reactionary and repressive dictators, from Guatemala, to Iran, to Haiti, to the Congo, and countless others.  If U.S. troops deployed to conduct these operations, there would have been even greater public outcry.  But they are instead conducted in the shadows, to mask the true nature of the system we live under.

Outright military invasion is often a last resort for the ruling class, when their other methods have failed to achieve their goals of economic domination.  With the changing role of the CIA, the extent of the capabilities of conducting covert operations has been stretched to new boundaries.  The CIA can now deploy its own soldiers, pilot its own bombing missions and manage its own prison apparatus.

Tortured

copyright © 2009 Betsy L. Angert.  BeThink.org

Never for a moment in my life have I been “in love.”  I do not believe in the notion.  Fireworks have not filled my heart.  Flames of a fiery passion do not burn within me.  Indeed, my soul has not been ablaze.  Thoughts of a hot-blooded devotion seem illogical to me.  Such sentiments always have.  Fondness too fertile is but torture for me.  I admire many, and adore none.  For me, the affection I feel for another is born out of sincere and profound appreciation.  To like another means more to me than to love or be loved.  Excitement, an emotional reaction to another, rises up within me when I experience an empathetic exchange with someone who has glorious gray matter.

Today, it happened.  I felt an a twinge that startled me.  I stood still as he entered the room.  I expected nothing out of the ordinary, or at least nothing other than what has become his recently adopted, more avoidant, routine.  Although long ago, I had become accustomed to his face, his voice, and his demeanor, for I have known the man for more than a few years.  In the last few weeks, while essentially he is who he always was, some of his stances have changed.  Possibly, Barry has felt a need to compromise his positions, but I wonder; what of his principles.

Early on, I knew that he and I differed in some respects.  While we each loathe drama, I was never certain if he felt as I do; love need not be a tortuous trauma.  Barry spoke of the need to work together.  Yet, not necessarily in aspect of life.  At times, he advocated aggressive actions I could not consider.  This, for me, caused much confusion.  Nonetheless, I liked the man I saw before me.

I recall the day we first met, face-to-face.  We shook hands.  He smiled.  Barry was polite, not pushy.  Amiable is the way I would describe him.  Then, the second time we saw each other, we had a more extensive conversation.  He took my hand in his.  We each spoke with greater sincerity.  As Barry and I chatted, he looked me straight in the eye.  He listened to my personal tale.  Visibly, he pondered the story I shared.  Barry responded so genuinely to my inquiry, albeit an unconventional concern, I was surprised.  Indeed, I was impressed, although less than I was when I read what he had written.

His books moved me.  The more autobiographical tome endeared him to me.  His notes on hope did not lack the spirit to inspire me.  As one who “loves” to learn, which differs from the impulsive idea that I might be “in love,” a person that can kindle my earnest thirst for knowledge truly electrifies me.  I recall the moment I read the text that, all these years later, still resonates within me.  Barry humbly offered, in a discussion of empathy . . .

It is at the heart of my moral code, and it is how I understand the Golden Rule – not simply as a call to sympathy or charity, but as something more demanding, a call to stand in somebody else’s shoes and see through their eyes.

Barry told tales of his mother, his grandfather, and how through his interactions with each he realized there is reason to think “about the struggles and disappointments” others have seen in their lives.  Reflection helped the younger Barry understand, every individual is not solely right or wrong.  If he were to insist that, his way was the only approach that worked, “without regard to his [or her] feelings or needs, I was in some way diminishing myself.”  Such awareness, such a superior soul; Barry showed what I believe to be a human’s greatest strength, vulnerability.  Were I to have a heart to win, the words of this gentle-man could have surely swept me off my feet.

Even his calm demeanor is as I desire and live.  Those close to me wonder of my own emotional tranquility.  From his manner and manuscript, it would seem Barry believes as I do.  Empathy elicits equilibrium.  Today, he seemed to embrace this notion once again.  We can choose to love our neighbors.  We need not torture “those who are different from us.”

Near noon, on April 23, 2009, at the Holocaust days of Remembrance Ceremony, Barry, the now President of the United States, Barack Obama spoke of this belief again.  Once more, I felt a pang for the person who oft-expressed a profound connection to the feelings of another.  The sweet soul who can bring me to tears, did so once again.  On this historic occasion, Barry shared a profound realization through a personal story.  The subject; the Holocaust and the torture our forebears felt or beheld.

In the face of horrors that defy comprehension, the impulse to silence is understandable.  My own great uncle returned from his service in World War II in a state of shock, saying little, alone with painful memories that would not leave his head.  He went up into the attic, according to the stories that I’ve heard, and wouldn’t come down for six months.  He was one of the liberators — someone who at a very tender age had seen the unimaginable.  And so some of the liberators who are here today honor us with their presence — all of whom we honor for their extraordinary service.  My great uncle was part of the 89th Infantry Division — the first Americans to reach a Nazi concentration camp.  And they liberated Ohrdruf, part of Buchenwald, where tens of thousands had perished.

Stunned, by the saga, and the words that preceded the legend, I began to believe again.  Perhaps the Barry I admire had a change of heart.  Policies he never fully embraced, might not seem reasonable to him now.

During the campaign, Barry, Senator Barack Obama only promised to investigate, not to prosecute.  Many months ago, before the August 2008 declaration, and thereafter, I had thought his stance reflected his vast ability to empathize.  Yet, in the light of the ample evidence, most if not all of which affirms the Bush Administration engaged in extreme methods of interrogation, President Obama still supports or chooses to sustain a position that negates empathy for the victims.  I shudder to think of how the Seventh Generation might be affected.

Hence, I am left to question what I thought was truth.  Was the empathy I envisioned not as sincere as I hoped it to be?  Perchance that is why, for me, love is as torture.  I have faith no one has the power to disappoint me.  Only my choices can be a source of much concern.  For as long as I can recall, I have observed, once infatuation fades, we learn as I had before Barry entered the Oval Office.  He is but another human.  He embraces and then forgets, the power of empathy and the force of our past?

When, in homage to Holocaust victims, and survivors of a heinous hostility that forever stains world history, I sensed he knew.  As I looked on, I forgot the setting.  Intent on the torrent of news on torture techniques I read and heard throughout the day, I made an erroneous connection.  As Barry, President Obama spoke of the deeds done in decades past, and those crimes committed by the previous Administration, I imagined the man I thought I knew meant to express empathy for those who suffered at the hands of Americans.  The Chief Executive, on behalf of the United States avowed.

Their legacy is our inheritance.  And the question is, how do we honor and preserve it?  How do we ensure that “never again” isn’t an empty slogan, or merely an aspiration, but also a call to action?

I believe we start by doing what we are doing today — by bearing witness, by fighting the silence that is evil’s greatest co-conspirator.

In the face of horrors that defy comprehension, the impulse to silence is understandable.

I cried.  Tremendously thankful for the oratory, indeed, I must say, for a second, I was elated.  I wondered.  Had the person many think beloved, the individual I at least treasure, decided to rescind his prior position?

Might he have rejected the thought offered recently; “nothing will be gained by our time and energy laying blame for the past,”  

Could it be the Holocaust Remembrance Ceremony helped the President to renew his faith in his earlier expression;  “(H)istory returns “with a vengeance . . . “(A)s Faulkner reminds us, the past is never dead and buried — it isn’t even past.”  I hoped.

Perchance, he had worked through a struggle I too experience.  As one who has no desire to hurt others, even those who have physically and psychologically harmed individuals, and our country’s image, how might I think prosecution is just?  

I truly embrace such an honorable ability to seek no retribution.  Indeed, I may not fall “in love”; nonetheless, I would hope to live love.  

I feel harsh reprisals are never wise.  I also accept the enduring wisdom of a finer balance.  I have experienced the need to empathize and the conflict of what I might do if one I treasure intentionally injures another.  I have come to discover, if deleterious deeds are allowed to stand, sooner or later the other, I, and perchance, society will be subjected to adulterations that individuals or a culture cannot endure.

Awful actions we accept, avoid, or merely do not acknowledge become a foundation for the future.  Humans inure.  Lest we forget the Milgram shock experiment of decades ago, or the knowledge that when repeated in the present, proves again, as a Psychologist, Thomas Blass, espoused in  “The Man Who Shocked the World.” Milgram extrapolated, to larger events like the Holocaust, or Abu Ghraib.  “people can act destructively without coercion.”  “In things like interrogations, we don’t know the complexities involved.  People are under enormous pressure to produce results.”  

I wonder how many Americans came to accept violence as a necessity on September 11, 2001.  On that dreadful day, a date that now lives in infamy, all Americans were placed in a precarious position.  With the threat of terror etched into our every cell, each of us had to ask, what were we to do.  In the 2004 edition of Dreams From My Father, the Barry, who I trusted to be so thoughtful whispered his woe for what might occur once the “world fractured.” He penned . . .

This collective history, this past, directly touches my own . . .

I know, I have seen, the desperation and disorder of the powerless: how it twists the lives of children on the streets of Jakarta or Nairobi in much the same way as it does the lives of children on Chicago’s South Side, how narrow the path is for them between humiliation and untrammeled fury, how easily they slip into violence and despair.  I know that the response of the powerful to this disorder — alternating as it does between a dull complacency and, when the disorder spills out of its proscribed confines, a steady, unthinking application of force, of longer prison sentences and more sophisticated military hardware — is inadequate to the task.  I know that the hardening of lines, the embrace of fundamentalism and tribe, dooms us all.

Those are the words of the Barry I was inspired to meet, the person I was reminded of when he stood with an audience of individuals who never forget the agony of torture.  Today, as that empathetic soul, the President referred to the future, the generations to come, he stated, “We find cause for hope” when “people of every age and faith and background and race (are) united in common cause with suffering brothers and sisters halfway around the world.”  I thought of the detainees at Guantánamo Bay prison, and the prisoners at Abu Ghraib and the need to empathize with victims of “extreme duress.”

Oblivious to the purpose of this particular speech, in my moment of stupor, I surmised Mister Obama had not only accepted the association, but perhaps had realized what could occur if the transgressions of the previous Administration were allowed to stand as if all was in the past.

“Barry,” Barack, the Commander-In-Chief, further elucidated; “Those [persons] can be our future . . . (D)uring this season when we celebrate liberation, resurrection, and the possibility of redemption, may each of us renew our resolve to do what must be done. And may we strive each day, both individually and as a nation, to be among the righteous.

I imagined the reference was to empathy, to the paradigms I too embrace. Punishment offers no benefits for people.  Yet, there is a need to prosecute the culpable, to ensure that people are answerable for the most atrocious aggressions.  It is vital, if we wish to prevent the numbness that humans so easily adopt, we must bring torture to the full light of day.  Torment executed in our names, I think Barry would agree, hurts us.  Surely, General and President Eisenhower did.  Mister Obama acknowledged this only hours ago .

Eisenhower understood the danger of silence.  He understood that if no one knew what had happened, that would be yet another atrocity — and it would be the perpetrators’ ultimate triumph.

What Eisenhower did to record these crimes for history is what we are doing here today.  That’s what Elie Wiesel and the survivors we honor here do by fighting to make their memories part of our collective memory.  That’s what the Holocaust Museum does every day on our National Mall, the place where we display for the world our triumphs and failures and the lessons we’ve learned from our history.  It’s the very opposite of silence.

But we must also remember that bearing witness is not the end of our obligation — it’s just the beginning.  We know that evil has yet to run its course on Earth.  We’ve seen it in this century in the mass graves and the ashes of villages burned to the ground, and children used as soldiers and rape used as a weapon of war.

Barry knows what President Obama. spoke of in his address at the Holocaust Day of Remembrance Ceremony  Love needed not be tortured.  Expressions of fondness are found in empathy, not extreme duress.

President Eisenhower understood as I had hoped, on this day, Barry Obama had.  What occurs far from view is never truly unseen.  Nor can avoidance erase the scars left on a heart. While as a country, or as individuals we may prefer to retreat to the attic as President Obama’s great uncle did, in truth, it is impossible to forget.

People who participated know this to be so. A belatedly brave Federal Bureau of Investigation agent, Ali Soufan, tell his tales of sorrowful love in My Tortured Decision.  The mediator recalls how for seven years he has remained silent about the false claims magnifying the effectiveness of the so-called enhanced interrogation techniques like waterboarding.  Mister Soufan, as General Eisenhower did before him saw the need to “shed light on the story, and on some of the lessons to be learned.”

I inquire; what will Barry do, and what of President Obama.  Will the man who once held my hand and professed a need to be empathetic do as he declares his commitment? “(W)e have an opportunity, as well as an obligation, to confront these scourges.”  Might he instead do as he hopes we will not, “wrap ourselves in the false comfort that others’ sufferings are not our own,”

I can only hope Barry will encourage the President to heed his own call. “(W)e have the opportunity to make a habit of empathy; to recognize ourselves in each other; to commit ourselves to resisting injustice and intolerance and indifference in whatever forms they may take — whether confronting those who tell lies about history, or doing everything we can to prevent and end atrocities like those that took place . . .”

Let us never forget Guantanamo Bay prison, Abu Ghraib, or any America penitentiary camp, need not be our holocaust.   Tales of tortured love need not be an American truth.

References for tortured love . . .

Tea Parties; Taxes and Torture Served

TxTrtr

copyright © 2009 Betsy L. Angert.  BeThink.org

I am a discontent and distressed taxpayer!  “Disgruntled” is a word that might describe my deep dissatisfaction with how my tax dollars are spent.  Yet, on April 15, 2009, typically thought of as “Tax Day,” I felt no need to join my fellow citizens in protest.  I did not attend a “Tea Party”.  I too believe, in this country, “taxation without representation” is a problem.  One only need ponder the profits of lobbyists to understand the premise.  Corporate supplicants amass a 22,000 percent rate of return on their investments.  The average American is happy to realize a two-digit increase.  Nonetheless, as much as I too may argue the point, assessments are paid without accountability, what concerns me more is my duty dollars did not support what I think ethical projects.

My cash funded the unconscionable and the President stated “nothing will be gained by spending our time and energy laying blame for the past.”  

Had outrage for criminal intent and actions been voiced, I too might have rallied round bays and buildings with buckets of brewed leaves in hand.  Yet, it seemed amongst the tea teetotalers, no one was incensed by the illegal, and what I believe to be immoral practices.

Tea Tossed

The “Teatime” participants I heard did not mention the myriad of misery Americans inflicted on adversaries.  Fury for the previous Administration’s torturous policies did not appear in the papers, or, at least, I did not read these statements.  Talk of the recently released memorandums (pdf) did not evoke much discussion.  The current crop of “grassroots” demonstrators spoke of how the Obama budget might burden their personal lives.  Angry activists vocalized a preference not to pay levees.  Few, if any, reflected on the benefits received.  

While our grievances may differ, we share a conviction.  I too am troubled by what the Obama Administration, which I helped to elect, thinks correct.

Taxes Paid

However, unlike the anxious Americans who voiced their dissent for levees paid, I am happy to give my tax dollars to the government.  For me, funds that help supply public services are vital.  I welcome the opportunity to better ensure there will be police, firemen, and women. I take comfort in the knowledge children and adults may use libraries to peruse quality books. I embrace legislation intended to better instruction.  In my life the importance of education cannot be understated.  Bridges built and maintained, roads paved, traffic signs and signals, functional sanitary sewer systems, and diseases controlled and prevented . . . As a concerned citizen, I am glad I can contribute to these ventures.

I object to what I think unlawful and debauched.  I cannot condone interrogations authorized and acted upon, in my name.  My angst is exacerbated by the current Administration assertion; these crimes are not punishable by law.  Those who tortured only did as was commanded.  At the time, the Department of Justice declares, “superiors” stated such harsh techniques were legal.

Torture Tolerated

What I would call cruel and unusual punishment, the prior President, his Vice, and Cabinet thought proper.  Each Executive stated these torturous measures were necessary to protect Americans.  The people heard proclamations that what “we” did was justified.  It was effective.  Only months ago, Vice President Dick Cheney explained; “The professionals involved in that [so-called torture] program were very, very cautious, very careful — wouldn’t do anything without making certain it was authorized and that it was legal. . .  (I)t’s been a remarkably successful effort. . . .  I think those who allege that we’ve been involved in torture, or that somehow we violated the Constitution or laws with the terrorist surveillance program, simply don’t know what they’re talking about.”  (Memos aside.  Please peruse Torture Memorandums. )

Dick Cheney and his compatriots seem to distinguish between citizens of this country and those who might be identified as “foreigners.”  To further elucidate the spokesperson for the Bush White House stated; “These are not American citizens.  They are not subject, nor do they have the same rights that an American citizen does vis-à-vis the government.”

The newer Administration may concur; civil rights afforded to our countrymen may not be offered to individuals classified as combatants.  While I disagree with that contention, I do believe as the Obama White House  does.  International Law states, all living creatures have an inalienable right to be treated humanely.  

Thankfully, President Obama and his Cabinet condemn tortuous practices.  Yet, the current Administration announced there is no need to prosecute.  Mister Obama affirmed, “(A)t a time of great challenges and disturbing disunity, nothing will be gained by spending our time and energy laying blame for the past.”

I must ask; does this declaration ensure history will be repeated?  Individuals such as I accept that tribunals will not transform what was.  Punishment may not convince those who engaged in criminal behaviors to change.  I seek no retribution.  Yet, I do think there is a need to prosecute the culpable.  Humanitarian principles lead taxpayers such as I to declare, torture, by any definition cannot be tolerated.  As a society, we have seen how people are easily numbed by what peers think, say, and do.  Studies show the prevalence of video violence has an influence on what we later think is acceptable.  

In America, ideally, not ideologically, we understand profound principles unite us.  The greater good, the commonweal, take precedence over individualism.  As is inscribed in the Preamble of the Constitution “in Order to form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defence, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity do ordain and establish” in this country, we care.  Our fellow citizens, and future generations matter to us.  

Perhaps this profundity explains why concerned citizens, those who happily contribute to tolls are distressed by the Obama Administration’s declaration, there will be no prosecution.

Persons such as I, who are troubled by torture, understand the past permeates the present and will be the future, if what is worrisome is avoided, accepted, or is left unattended.  We, the peaceful people who are proud to pay levees of love, are not comforted by an act of contrition.  Nor does the knowledge that President Obama released the memorandums as required by law reassure us.

If intentionally inflicted physical and psychological harm can be characterized as just, and some Conservatives, such as the former Vice President, Dick Cheney, thinks it does, then it makes sense to tax payers who supported the previous President to sanction the acts outlined in recently released memorandums as sound.

Many Conservatives share this sentiment, although not all.  Lest we forget former Presidential candidate John McCain’s succinct statement on one the techniques the Bush Administration authorized.  “They should know what it [waterboarding] is. It is not a complicated procedure. It is torture.” A  man who lives with the memory of being a Prisoner of War, the Arizona Senator emphatically stated, torture is ineffective.  That is until Presidential politics altered his position.

Could it be that candidate McCain did as the current President has done, bow to a constituency that does not demand prosecution for what the United States has defined as criminal since its inception.

Opposition to torture was verbalized before the United States became a nation.  The Declaration of Independence reminds residents of this territory, “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.”

In 1863, in the midst of the brutalities of the Civil War, President Lincoln forbade his forces from acts of cruelty, including torture.  After the barbarities of World War II, America led an emergent community of United Nations to adopt in 1948 the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, with its provision that “No one shall be subjected to torture or to cruel, inhuman, or degrading treatment or punishment (Art.  5).”

In 1975, the United States aided in the United Nations adoption of a separate Declaration on the Protection of All Persons from Being Subjected to Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment.  In 1988 President Reagan signed and in 1994 the United States ratified the United Nations Convention Against Torture, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment, the most comprehensive legally binding international treaty prohibiting the use of torture.  The U.N. Convention’s prohibition against torture is absolute, without exceptions.

It was only during the 2006 Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment (pdf) that the United States turned a blind eye on its history.  Perchance the topic of terror, or the threat envisioned as the Twin Towers fell turned Americans against principled actions.  

Tax and Terror Codes; Reviled, Renewed, or Rejected?

No one can know with certainty what caused a country or countless within the continent to reject the prescribed canon that is the United States Constitution.  Nonetheless, it is clear, the American people do not insist political power be checked.  Collectively, cynicism was and is adopted.  With that acquisition, the country accepted deplorable directives.  The American populace chose to forego authentic representation.  Hence, the electorate allowed for the more heinous atrocities that followed.  Today, only personal financial concerns bring people to their feet and out onto the streets.

The transition was subtle.  Distrustful of government, the public grew to expect the worse.  Now we receive it.  We pay for torture and are pleased  when a President proclaims of “a dark and painful chapter in our history,” this too shall pass.  Personally, I fear it will not.  My fellow citizens did not address my angst when they dumped dried evergreen shrubs on lawns or in a bay.  The President’s decision to disregard what he too called interrogation techniques outlined in the official communication that “undermine our moral authority and do not make us safer” does not bring me joy.

While I did gladly pay my financial assessments, and I did not voice my dissent for torture with tea, I remain a discontent and distressed taxpayer.

References for a dire reality . . .

The Faith; Legal Torture Need Not Be “Reasonable”



The Word – Honest Belief

copyright © 2008 Betsy L. Angert

Of this, I believe.  I believe in honesty and empathy.  I trust in reports that reveal in 2002, the Department of Justice assured the Central Intelligence Agency interrogators who violated anti-torture laws they would be safe from prosecution. Emissaries only need a sincere “faith they caused no “prolonged mental harm.”  I believe that neither branch of government cares for what I hold dear.

I trust that official organizations, allow for what are so innocently referred to as “Enhanced Techniques.”  Reasons for my view was revealed very recently.  On July 24, 2008, Americans were presented with papers that affirm suspected terrorists are treated with disdain.  Methods for inquisition are less than humane.  Now, with certainty, I avow a belief, that for the United states government torture need not be “reasonable” to be ratified.  Indeed, documentation verifies what I think to be true.  

An inquisitionist cannot be charged with a crime if  he, or she, is confident that they did not intentionally inflict pain on a detainee.  Convinced that waterboarding is righteous, a representative of the Government can employ such a ‘superior  standard’ to obtain information from alleged radical activists.

In an eighteen (18)-page document, ten pages of which are redacted, American Civil Liberties lawyers learned that American Intelligence agents were authorized to torment prisoners in custody.  The August 1, 2002 memorandum just as the other papers delivered under duress to the American Civil Liberties Union, revealed “The Justice Department twisted the law, and in some cases ignored it altogether, in order to permit interrogators to use barbaric methods that the U.S. once prosecuted as war crimes,” said Jameel Jaffer, Director of the ACLU National Security Project.  

The 2002 communiqué, written by then Assistant Attorney General Jay Bybee offers some insight into the “principles” that guided the Intelligence Agency.

Bybee outlined the definition of torture in Section 2340A of the United States code, focusing in part on its caveat that an act be “specifically intended to inflict severe physical or mental pain or suffering.”  Elaborating on his definition of the “specific intent” provision, Bybee narrows the definition to the point where it become functionally meaningless.

All that is required to avoid prosecution is a CIA agent’s “good faith belief” that his actions will not cause torturous pain and suffering.  Such a belief “need not be reasonable,” Bybee writes.

Other files may offer greater perspective.  A specific discussion of waterboarding was perhaps, scrubbed from the 2002 correspondence.  Clues are void.  On most every page, paragraphs appear as opaque black boxes.  Nonetheless, a hint of light affirms a long held belief.  Torture was not only to be tolerated amongst agents.  The authorities endorsed it.  Through the Freedom of Information Act the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) was able to acquire a 2004 memo from the CIA.  This more recent record refers to  . . .

The “classified August 2002 Department of Justice (DoJ) opinion stating that [redacted] interrogation techniques including the waterboard, do not violate the Torture Statute.”

Oh joy, oh bliss; my beliefs are verified.  Inhumane violence of any sort is sanctioned by government agencies meant to represent me.  Of this, I believe.  There is no Justice in the Justice Department and no Intelligence in the Central Intelligence agency.  I have faith that fairness and astuteness are reflected in honesty and empathy.

Much to my sorrow, my country, presumed candid and compassionate, cares not for the rules of the Geneva Convention.  Contrary to my most basic beliefs, cruelty is condoned in a country that prides itself on the principle that “all men are created equal,” that is of course unless the man, woman, or child can be classified as an enemy combatant.  Of this, I believe.  There is reason for greater concern.  

In another file, a 2003 communication  from the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) to the Justice Department, offers further clarification.  In this letter, my conviction is yet again confirmed.  “Enhanced Techniques” are acceptable according to CIA headquarters.  The memorandum speaks to the possibility of “even more coercive techniques.” Apparently, less “timid” methods for torment could be “approved by Headquarters.”  While nigh on, all of the four-page dispatch is redacted, a reader can discover a touch of concern, although not for the detainee left to languish at the hands of an overly avid and aggressive interrogator.  The angst expressed is for documentation.  Regulations require that when Enhanced Techniques are employed . . .

“a contemporaneous record shall be created setting forth the nature and duration of each technique employed.”

Although the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA), all but a year earlier, destroyed at least two videotapes of enhanced interrogations the Justice Department has begun to take measures.  An investigation, a criminal inquiry into the destruction of informative audiovisual accounts is underway.  Yet, my belief in the depth and sincerity of the probe is tested.  As I ponder the past and acknowledge, the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) first requested the papers released on Thursday, July 24, 2008 in a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) lawsuit filed in 2004 my belief in the system wanes.

While the documents provide some more evidence of torture during George W. Bush’s presidency, the ACLU says his administration continues to do all it can to avoid full scrutiny.

“While the documents released today do provide more information about the development and implementation of the Bush administration’s torture policies, even a cursory glance at the documents shows that the administration continues to use ‘national security’ as a shield to protect government officials from embarrassment, criticism and possible criminal prosecution,” Jaffer (Jameel Jaffer, Director of the ACLU National Security Project) said. “Far too much information is still being withheld.”

Of this, I believe.  Honesty and a love for humanity are not evident in the documentation the Central Intelligence Agency provided.  Nor are compassionate qualities realized in Enhanced Techniques.  The country, whose Constitution claims to honor the construct of equality exemplifies the contrary.  ,I believe  truthfulness and empathy must be embraced in more than papers if mankind is ever to achieve peace.  

As I assess the recent disclosures, my faith in a shared desire for global tranquility becomes more fragile.  Belief becomes hope.  I hope that in a supposed inclusive society, Americans will not accept a belief in brutality.  I yearn for a day when I can again state, “I believe in honesty and empathy,” and trust that my government does too.

Torturous Terms  . . .

General Hayden Nominated. Hope Reigns For Rumsfeld Resignation? ©

As do many, I have numerous objections to Presidential nominee, Air Force General Michael V. Hayden.  This military elitist was selected to head the Central Intelligence Agency.  Only a week ago, Porter Goss, a longtime friend, and associate of John D. Negroponte, Director of National Intelligence, held this position.  However, Goss is gone and King George II wants Hayden to reign.

Will the General work well with his associates?  One can never know.  The past cannot always be a predictor, though this time I hope it is.

Negroponte, the man that watches over the nation’s 15 intelligence agencies, and Goss, former Director of the Central Intelligence agency, were friends for decades.  They were even fraternity brothers at Yale.  However, in recent months, they have become adversaries.

A year into his tenure, Porter Goss was forced to relinquish some of his powers to Director Negroponte.  CIA Director Goss would no longer oversee the president’s daily intelligence briefings.  Negroponte would.  Negroponte would bring CIA personnel under his wing; analytical functions of the agency were also turned over to his burgeoning control.  Directors Negroponte and Goss began to fight regularly; the screams echoed loudly throughout the Capital.  Morale was low.  Ultimately, Goss resigned his post, but not in accordance with the President’s plan.  The President preferred a smoother transition.

Nevertheless, Goss is gone.  Whether the reasons are mysterious or not and Hayden can now become his successor.  Oh joy, oh bliss, Bush believes, though there is much dissent.  I am among those with have misgivings; yet, I am elated, even encouraged.  Could this appointment originate theatre of the absurd?

I do not want the Director of Central Intelligence to be military strategist. A man with a mind for war does not seem the best choice for a country that claims to want peace.  The thought frightens me.  I disdain the idea of appointing a person that favors spying on the public.  This scares me more than his military expertise might.  That this General believes the best way to alleviate terrorism is to eliminate the right to privacy is, to me, unforgivable.  Hayden’s declarations and distrustful posture causes me to shiver; still I have hope.  You might wonder why that would be.

After all you know, as do I, in December 2005, Michael V. Hayden, the former Director of the National Security Agency and now Deputy to Director of National Intelligence John D. Negroponte, spoke in support of a contentious plan, one that violates the civil rights of citizens, and is, in fact, illegal.

General Hayden was among those that crafted and executed this controversial eavesdropping scheme.  He and his cohorts thought the mission worthy; therefore, they saw no need to obtain official warrants before breaching our rights.  They chose to indiscriminately intercept domestic phone calls and electronic mail messages without regard for the laws of this country.  Yet, I think there is anything good that might come from his appointment; never you say.

You might wish to remind me of what I do recall, Hayden and the White House claim if one of the parties is thought to have links to al Qaeda or related terrorist organizations then actions must be taken, no matter their legitimacy.  General Hayden declared these unlawful measures were apt, and even necessary.

Dear reader, are you now offering me these words of wisdom?  In January 2006, Air Force General Hayden stated openly at a National Press Club meeting, “It is not a driftnet over Dearborn or Lackawanna or Freemont grabbing conversations that we then sort out by these alleged keyword searches or data-mining tools or other devices that so-called experts keep talking about.  This is targeted and focused.”

Yes, I know and I too wonder, “Targeted and focused” on whom and with what certainty.  I can only ask and likely, I will receive no answer from the powers that be; however, ??Can we trust the intelligence of those that showed none prior to September 11, 2001, or after?’  I do not.  I am confident that you think believing in these bullies is unwarranted.  I do too.  Yet, I do not believe in these bandits, but in their ability to self-destruct.

As I expressed early on in this exposé, I fear this appointment.  However, I am still inclined to think this nomination might be best.

My hope may be fleeting for I recall, on December 11, 2000, the day before George W. Bush was selected President of the United States by Chief Justice William Rehnquist, I was reflecting upon the possibility.  I theorized if Bush were imposed on a reluctant public, and the rightful candidate, Albert A. Gore was refused his due process, “How bad could it be?”

At that time, I never imagined what Baby Bush could and would do.  I had no conception of what he would create or more accurately destroy.  Who knew the Constitution itself could be threatened and finally defeated? Then, I did not.  Now, I do and I regret that statement.

Currently, I realize reality can be far worse than any fiction or fable.  I acknowledge that I am likely to be repentant after I make this assertion; nevertheless, I will state it.  Hayden might be the catalyst for a Rumsfeld dismissal or resignation and that, I think, cannot be bad.  Granted this is a hope and probably not a possibility.  Yet, each time I hear a report discussing this nominee, there is discussion of how the two men disagree often.

There are those that tout the “natural leadership qualities” of Hayden and this causes me to dream.  Others surmise that since Hayden is technically an agent of the Defense Department, Rumsfeld will remain the stronger; he will have the upper hand.  Nevertheless, there are still others that speak of General Hayden’s strong will and outspokenness.

Many suggest he resign his commission; a large number say his military title will have no influence.  It is his demeanor that matters.  For me, I hope that he is de-meaner of the two and that his strong will and persuasive hand will out force out his foe.  A girl can dream.  I can hope that the Secretary of Defense will fall.  However, I must be prepared for what may follow.  I remember when I reflected and thought how bad could Bush be.

For your review . . .
Profile: Michael V Hayden BBC News, May 8, 2006
Top C.I.A. Pick Has Credentials and Skeptics, By Scott Shane and Mark Mazzetti. New York Times. May 6, 2006
• UPDATE! General Formally Named to Lead CIA, By Peter Baker and Charles Babington. Washington Post. Tuesday, May 9, 2006
White House Begins Push for C.I.A. Pick, By Elisabeth Bumiller and Carl Hulse, New York Times. May 9, 2006
Hayden May Replace Goss at CIA By Scott Simon and Mary Louise Kelly. National Public Radio
Goss Forced Out as CIA Director; Gen. Hayden Is Likely Successor, By Dafna Linzer and Walter Pincus. Washington Post. Saturday, May 6, 2006
The Next Head of the CIA? By Mike Allen AND Timothy J. Burger. Time Magazine. riday, May. 05, 2006
Bush Faces Fight in Nominating Hayden as CIA Head, Reuters. Monday 8 May 2006
George W. Bush, Petitioners v. ?Albert Gore, Jr., et al. Supreme Court of The United States
Eagleton Institute of Politics, Rutgers, The State University of New Jersey
GORE, Albert Arnold, Jr., [1948-]
Election 2000 Timeline
White House tries to allay concerns about Hayden, By Mark Silva and Stephen J. Hedges. KansasCity.com, originally published in The Chicago Tribune.  Monday, May.  08, 2006
Remarks By General Michael V. Hayden National Press Club. Monday, January 23, 2006
On May 8, 2006, the day of this writing, minds met unexpectedly.

Please peruse another editorial . . .

With thanks to ksh01 for sharing this link and the author, Steve Clemons.

Misreading Michael Hayden’s Role in the Intelligence Bureaucracy Wars: Negroponte Wants Hayden to Battle with — Not Help ?” Rumsfeld The Washington Note