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 . . .

The Wolf Barack Obama Feeds



Pt 1 – National Cathedral Message – Story of The Two Wolves

copyright © 2009 Betsy L. Angert.  BeThink.org

It was 11:22 Ante Meridian, on January 21, 2009.  I did as I rarely do.  I stood silently and watched television.  As one who listens to what is aired, and does so from another room, this was an unusual occurrence.  However, the Cherokee wisdom of wolves, an illustration that represents the internal strife within every human being beckoned me.  

Then, at the very same hour on the very next day, again I was compelled to do what is odd for me.  I did not say a word as I glared at humanitarian actions took place on the screen.  President Barack Obama proclaimed, by Executive Order, the United States would not torture.  Nor would we, as a nation, detain presumed “combatants” without a just trial.  On each occasion, I was in awe as I gazed upon what I had not imagined would come to pass.  Upon reflection, the two events seem to be related.

On Wednesday, the voice of the speaker was unfamiliar to me.  The narrative, she share was extremely familiar.  Perchance that is why I was drawn into the calm drama as it unfolded before me.  Reverend Doctor Sharon E. Watkins, in her candid manner, in the Inaugural Prayer, brought the Chief Executive of the United States to task.  With knowledge of The Obama Administration’s agenda, a plan to escalate the war in Afghanistan, Doctor   Reverend Sharon E. Watkins shared a allegory and directly addressed the analogy.  The President of the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) spoke to the President of the United States with intent.  Her prayer was meant to be more than a homily, easily left in the home of the Lord.  The passionate cleric conceded, the circumstances that exist today are dire.

What you are entering now, Mr. President and Mr. Vice President, will tend to draw you away from your ethical center.  But we, the nation that you serve, need you to hold the ground of your deepest values, of our deepest values.

Beyond this moment of high hopes, we need you to stay focused on our shared hopes, so that

we can continue to hope, too.

We will follow your lead.

There is a story attributed to Cherokee wisdom:

One evening a grandfather was teaching his young grandson about the internal battle that each person faces.

“There are two wolves struggling inside each of us,” the old man said.

“One wolf is vengefulness, anger, resentment, self?pity, fear . . .

“The other wolf is compassion, faithfulness, hope, truth, love . . .”

The grandson sat, thinking, then asked: “Which wolf wins, Grandfather?”

His grandfather replied, “The one you feed.”

The congregation was spellbound.  The camera showed a meditative Barack Obama.  The President, with his head in his hand, seemed to consider the parable.  He looked as if he might ponder the parallel.  Minister Watkins continued.

The frank Theologian furthered the thought when she said, “There are crises banging on the door right now, pawing at us, trying to draw us off our ethical center – crises that tempt us to feed the wolf of vengefulness and fear.”  

President Obama, from his facial expressions, understood.  He knew the weight placed on his shoulders.  As he oft expressed, the decision to serve the public was his, and he would do so to the best of abilities.  Yet, Barack Obama often proclaimed, he could not do the nation’s work alone.  Indeed, he would need help from the public.  The Reverend was ready to lend a hand to the Commander-In-Chief.  In service to her country, and perchance, more significantly to the Almighty and the people, planet-wide Sharon E. Watkins submitted.

We need you, Mr. President, to hold your ground.  We need you, leaders of this nation, to stay centered on the values that have guided us in the past; values that empowered to move us through the perils of earlier times and can guide us now into a future of renewed promise.

We need you to feed the good wolf within you, to listen to the better angels of your nature, and by your example encourage us to do the same.

In the hours before the erudite religious leader spoke, much laid in the balance.  Doctor Watkins likely heard the whispers; President Obama might not close Guantanamo Bay Prison as quickly as he had promised.  When asked of the possible release of detainees Barack Obama was hesitant.  He discussed what logistically would be difficult.  

Doctor Sharon E. Watkins seemed to inquire as an ABC News interviewer had not.  Mister President; which path will you choose?  How will ethical principles shape your policies President Obama?  

She too may have marveled at the statement a pious man offered just prior to the inauguration.  On “This Week” with George Stephanopoulos, Barack Obama stated, homeland security is his top priority.  The “need” to fight back when terrorists threaten would be prominent features in an Obama Administration.  “We are going to have to stay vigilant, and that’s something that doesn’t change from administration to administration,” the then President Elect said.

Hence, in her homily Sharon E. Watkins invited the newly installed President Obama to obey the sacred principles he had oft professed to believe.

On Thursday, perhaps he did honor the ethical traditions.  As I again, listened to the television from afar, the baritone sounds that echoed in the next room were recognizable.  Barack Obama addressed a small audience of onlookers, each anxious to see him sign three Executive Orders.  Indeed, Commander-In-Chief Obama decreed that this country act on the “some” of the ethical standards the Minister spoke of only twenty-four hours earlier.

President Obama signed directives that authorize a Review and Disposition of Individuals Detained at the Guantanamo Bay Naval Base and Closure of Detention Facilities.  A Review of Detention Policy Options, and he approved an order that would Ensure Lawful Interrogations.

However, what the President has yet to act on the poignant matters that affect every American, in truth all human beings every day.  War.  As I situated myself before the screen to watch the invocation, I saw a pensive man.  Barack Obama, unlike most in the National Cathedral congregation seemed to study Reverend Doctor Sharon E. Watkins’ every word.  

The Commander-In-Chief appeared to recognize the depth of the sermon Reverend Watkins delivered. Indeed, that is what captured my attention.  While Doctor Watkins had command of her language, she commanded the person who is perhaps, the most powerful human being in the world.  This articulate Minister stood before the President, and eloquently presented parables and scriptures that spoke to the less than honorable and moral issue of vengeance.  

This uncommon; yet commoner, cleric addressed a reverent Barack Obama.  She welcomed reflections on stark realities in a manner that few might.  Doctor Reverend Sharon E. Watkins essentially confronted the new Commander and asked him to evaluate his ethics.  

Solemnly she said, “In international hard times, our instinct is to fight – to pick up the sword, to seek out enemies, to build walls against the other and why not?  They just might be out to get us.  We’ve got plenty of evidence to that effect.  Someone has to keep watch and be ready to defend, and Mr. President – Tag!  You’re it!”

The congregation laughed.  The air for them was light.  However, for Doctor Sharon E. Watkins, there was no humor in her words.  

G-d’s representative spoke of the change she, and I could, believe in.

While most Americans delighted in the news of today’s Executive Orders, I wonder if Reverend Doctor Watkins worried as I do.  Later, on Thursday afternoon, at 3:10 Post Meridian, when once again, I stood frozen in front of the “tube.”  I felt the futility of fight would be America’s fate.

The baritone, Barack Obama boomed, as if defiant of the deities.  “The world needs to understand that America will be unyielding in its protection of its security and relentless in its pursuit of those who would carry out terrorism or threaten the United States.”

I wondered.  Had Reverend Doctor Watkins heard the statement?  Does she now know as I do, which wolf Barack Obama will feed.

Update . . .

Two U.S. missile strikes kill 17 in Pakistan, sources say,

ISLAMABAD, Pakistan (CNN) — Seventeen people were killed Friday evening in two U.S. missile strikes in Pakistan’s tribal region, said one government and two military officials.

They are the first such strikes since President Obama took office Tuesday.

Both hits were near the Afghan border, said local political official Nasim Dawar. The Pakistani military sources asked not to be named because they are not authorized to release such information.

The first strike, which killed 10 people, occurred about 5:15 p.m. (7:15 a.m. ET) in a village near Mir Ali in North Waziristan, the officials said. Seven people died in the second hit at 7:30 p.m. (9:30 a.m. ET) near Wana, the major town in South Waziristan, 17 miles (27 kilometers) from Afghanistan, they said.

References for realities, real, and those imagined by vengeful, fearful, humans . . .

“American Values”




To view the original art, please travel to “American Values”

copyright © 2008.  Andrew Wahl.  Off The Wahl Perspective

A new toon, a new outlet and a limited-edition portfolio

Three bits of business to take care of this week:

1. This week’s new toon, “American Values,” brings attention to our national shame at Guantánamo Bay. It’s back in the news this week, and I still find it shocking and sad that Americans have largely turned a blind eye to this human-rights blemish, year after year.

2. I’ve started posting my work on toonpool.com, a European-based social-networking site for cartoonists. One of my toons, “Checking the Gauge,” was selected as their “Cartoon of the Day” earlier this week. There’s some pretty cool stuff over there, so check it out.

3. My second semester of grad school is just around the corner and I’ve decided to put out a limited-edition portfolio to help raise money for my books. The portfolio features reproductions of five of my recent favorites – Archives Nos. 0530, 0536, 0617, 0718 and 0725 – professionally printed on 8×10 photo stock with a lustre finish, suitable for framing. In addition, each portfolio will include an ORIGINAL pen sketch of one of my favorite foils, George W. Bush, drawn on 60 lb. card stock. This portfolio will be strictly limited to 20 sets. If interested, you can pick one up now on eBay, or save $2 in shipping by buying directly from the OtWP Store.

Please Peruse the Full Portfolio Below . . .




To view the original art, please travel to “I Woke Up in a Crusade …” [Archive No. 0530]




To view the original art, please travel to “See the Problem?” [Archive No. 0536]”




To view the original art, please travel to “Checking the Gauge” [Archive No. 0617]




To view the original art, please travel to “Help Me, I’m Dying” (color version) [Archive No. 0718]




To view the original art, please travel to “Culture of Fear” [Archive No. 0725]

Back in seven . . .

Andrew

toon@offthewahl.com

A Day in the Life of a Guantanamo Detainee

copyright © 2008. Jerry Northington.  campaign website or on the campaign blog.

Imagine for a few moments how your life would change if you were suddenly charged as an enemy combatant and sent to Guantanamo Bay as a detainee.

You’d be transported under conditions of sensory deprivation to maximize your disorientation.





Brooke Anderson, Flickr, Creative Commons (reenactment)



Carlos Ferrer, Flickr, Creative Commons   (reenactment)



Carlos Ferrer, Flickr, Creative Commons   (reenactment)

If you were really unlucky you’d end in Camp Delta.





Lorri 37, Flickr, Creative Commons

In any event there would be guard towers all around the place.





USMarine0311, Flickr, Creative Commons

You might be allowed to exercise, or maybe be gathered as a group in an enclosed pen.





ManilaRyce, Flickr, Creative Commons

Your day would not begin or end with regularity.  From the LA Times the story continues:

It’s a dreary winter afternoon, but the scene could be any time of the day or night. The hour for rec time is one of the few unpredictable features in a day in the life of a detainee.

Reveille is at 5 a.m., when guards collect the single bedsheet allotted to each detainee. That precaution has been in effect since June 2006, when three prisoners were found dead, hanging from nooses fashioned from their bedding.

When they do leave their cells, prisoners are shackled and escorted — to and from showers, recreation pens, interrogation interviews, and a meeting or two each year with their lawyers. They leave their cells in the “hard facilities” of Camps 5, 6 and the new 7 for no other reason, unless they are found to need medical or dental treatment when corpsmen make periodic rounds.

Once a man has refused nine consecutive meals, he is considered a hunger striker and brought to the detention medical center. His head, arms and legs are strapped to a “restraint chair” while a tube is threaded through his nose and throat into the stomach. A doctor-recommended quantity of Ensure is administered.

Under those circumstances forced feeding is one more nice way of saying “torture.”  Put yourself in the prisoner’s place and imagine the pain and distress of being strapped down and having a tube forced into your body.

A schoolroom was added to the predominantly Afghan camp last year to teach basic written Pashtu and Urdu to the illiterate.

Leather-and-steel shackles protrude from the floor beneath each desk where prisoners’ ankles are tethered during classes.





mushroomandrooster, Flickr, Creative Commons  (reenactment)

Lights are kept on in the cells 24/7 for what military jailers said were security reasons.

The full story has many more details than my excerpts.  You should read the entire article.  And put yourself in the  place and time as you read.  Then remember this is our nation at work.  We, the citizens of the United States are represented by the actions of every day in Guantanamo.  We cannot let this continue.





jemstaht, Flickr, Creative Commons

The United States needs to close the prison at Guantanamo Bay as soon as possible.  All detainees deserve the right to a fair trial or release.  We cannot continue to hold human beings in the conditions of Guantanamo if we as a nation hope to hold any measure of moral high ground.

Peace.

103

copyright © 2008. Jerry Northington.  campaign website or on the campaign blog.

In the first 90 days of 2008 the United States reports 103 troop deaths in Iraq.  Since the invasion we have commemorated the 5th anniversary we have commemorated 5 years and more than 4000 soldiers lost.  Today we hear of costs near $12 billion per month and estimates of $3 trillion overall before all is said and done.  

Meanwhile our mainstream media continues to play down the ongoing failure with barely a mention any more of the deaths let alone stories of the families and friends left behind.  The death count also fails to reflect the numbers of US contractors killed in country.  No mention is made of the many thousands of life altering injuries such as limbs or eyes lost.  Nor do we hear much of the many minds broken beyond repair.  Suicides related to service time are also not counted and often not mentioned.  Coalition losses are not counted in the total.  The Iraqi losses count many thousands more, yet those are dismissed often without a thought.  Every death rends the fabric of humanity a bit more.





activefree, Flickr, Creative Commons



Recent news of increasing violence in Basra is characterized by President Bush as a “defining moment” for the Iraqi forces.  The time is defining alright, but not in the way Bush meant.  US and British troops are being put back into the fray once again.  There are increasing reports of US air attacks in which civilians are killed.  Bombing a populated area always results in casualties among the innocent.

While the ground war continues day by day and our losses mount, the insanity of Guantanamo Bay continues.  Several hundred detainees remain confined in legal limbo.  While the military would have us believe the prisoners are held in relative comfort





US Navy, public domain

we know better.  Reports of abuse may be found most any day.  Justice is a fleeting hope for the detainees as the only court on the horizon is a military proceeding in which the rules of evidence favor the prosecution.  We know the prisoners spend their days in shackles.





US Navy, public domain

Even transport for medical reasons or for exercise may result in the shackling of a detainee.





US Navy, public domain



US Navy, public domain

Razor wire surrounds the compound.





US Navy, public domain

Pictures of Camp Delta suggest conditions far removed from the reality we know exists today.





www.bloomberg.com



US Navy, public domain

In 1970 I came home right off the helicopter pads of Vietnam only a few days out of the field.  I came home a changed person.  In 1967 I enlisted in the US Army filled with the patriotic vigor only the young seem to possess.  I came home well aware of the terrible tragedy war represents.  I saw first hand how war affects the people on both sides as well as the havoc wreaked across the land.  Since those days I have stood firm in my opposition to war for almost all reasons.  Today I stand opposed to the ongoing occupation of Iraq with every fiber of my physical and moral being.  The costs are far too high in both dollars and blood.  We as a nation can ill afford to continue one more day let alone the years predicted by most in the administration.

Today the reaction of the public in our nation reminds me of a line from a song

a nation blinded by its disgrace

Today I am ashamed of my country’s actions.  Recent years have seen a drift in this nation our Founders would never have imagined.  We have watched the atrocities of Abu Ghraib along with the aforementioned Guantanamo Bay and all the damage done in Iraq.  And yet we as a nation continue to survive.





CID image

Is there any hope for us?  Of course there is.  So long as good people stand to fight the good fight our nation will survive this trauma the same way we have survived so many past times of trial and tribulation.

How are we to resolve the morass?  We must withdraw ALL our troops from Iraq.  The Iraqi people do not wish our presence to continue.  The international community does not support our continued occupation.  The time has come to end the occupation and let diplomatic maneuvers replace military force.  We must act to bring stability to the entire region through the cooperation of all nations around the globe.  We stand to be much more successful if we use the carrot rather than the stick approach.

If we withdraw will there be blood shed in Iraq?  Of course.  Will the situation be made worse than the one we see today?  Maybe or maybe not.  Who can predict that future?  The one indisputable fact remains the longer we continue as an occupying force the higher the cost to our nation.

We who believe the war is wrong headed must stand steadfast in our opposition.  The blind stubbornness of the administration will ruin our nation forever if we fail to fight.  We cannot afford to lose this one.  There is no room for failure.

Out the door, people.  Hit the streets.  Talk to every person you encounter.  Tell everyone you can corner the truth.  Show them the images of war and of Guantanamo.  Let them see the facts for a change.  It is only by our continued action and ongoing protest that we stand to win in the end.  

Peace to one and all.

Please remember I am running for Congress, DE-AL.  Please check out the website and consider a contribution  Your help is needed for the effort to succeed.  Contributions of all sorts, both moral and monetary are most appreciated.

Rumsfeld and Mukasey, Tortured Times and Trials


Mukasey: Waterboarding is Torture if It’s Torture

copyright © 2007 Betsy L. Angert

It has been tried before.  Efforts failed.  Nonetheless, I remain hopeful.  I have always believed, “Never, never give up!”  Thankfully, several Human Rights organizations in the United States and Europe trust in the same principle.  They persevere.  On Thursday, October 25, 2007, the International Federation for Human Rights, the French League for Human Rights, and the Center for Constitutional Rights in New York, filed a formal grievance in a Paris court.  The complaint stated former Secretary of Defense, Donald H. Rumsfeld authorized torture at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba, and at the Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq,  The writ states, Rumsfeld violated the 1987 Convention Against Torture Act.

While Rumsfeld wrestled with his past, on the floor of United States Senate Judge Michael B. Mukasey pondered his future.  This Bush appointee was asked if “enemy combatants” were tormented, would he, as the Attorney General deem himself accountable.  Senators questioned Michael B. Mukasey extensively, albeit civilly.  They inquired, if he were approved for the Attorney General position would he accept responsibility for reprehensible actions, or did he not think torture wrong.  The nominee hedged and hummed just as Rumsfeld had in the past.

Mukasey blurred the lines that define the methods used to inflict physical pain on people.  In a trial of sorts, Judge Mukasey told the Senate he might be the mirror image of his predecessor, Alberto Gonzales.  Today, the times are tough for those that think detainees deserve to be subjected to waterboarding.

We recall, the infamous former Attorney General, Alberto Gonzales.  Gonzales was the man behind the Justice Department curtain.  He clarified the terms and authorized severe means for obtaining actionable intelligence from detainees.  Henchman for Vice President Dick Cheney, and of course, friend of the President, Attorney General Gonzales sanctioned measures that allow soldiers to ‘crush a captives will to resist.’

Gonzales, who served as Counsel to the President, was part of a powerful team of lawyers.  Legal eagles for the Administration helped to redefine Executive Privilege.  White House Attorneys expanded Presidential powers.  Thus, cruel and unusual punishment for enemies of the State was made possible.  It is for this reason, today, Senators seek to understand Mukasey.  Those in Congress hope to avoid another debate over the legality, Constitutionality, of inhumane treatment inflicted on those suspected of being terrorist.  A bit of ancient history might help to explain the caution we witnessed this week.

The vice president’s lawyer advocated what was considered the memo’s most radical claim: that the president may authorize any interrogation method, even if it crosses the line into torture.  U.S. and treaty laws forbidding any person to “commit torture,” that passage stated, “do not apply” to the commander in chief, because Congress “may no more regulate the President’s ability to detain and interrogate enemy combatants than it may regulate his ability to direct troop movements on the battlefield.”

That same day, Aug. 1, 2002, Yoo [John Choon Yoo, best known for his work from 2001 to 2003 in the United States Justice Department Office of Legal Counsel] signed off on a second secret opinion, the contents of which have never been made public.  According to a source with direct knowledge, that opinion approved as lawful a long list of interrogation techniques proposed by the CIA — including waterboarding, a form of near-drowning that the U.S. government has prosecuted as a war crime since at least 1901.  The opinion drew the line against one request: threatening to bury a prisoner alive.

With the policy in place, Secretary of Defense Rumsfeld did as he thought best.  He sanctioned cruelty against combatants.  Extracting information by any means, no matter how extreme seemed reasonable to those bent on battle.  Donald Rumsfeld, blessed by Bush and Cheney and their interpretation of the constitution enforced, endorsed, the use of methods such as waterboarding.  Then, he, and the White House claimed, “We do not torture.” 

Concurrently, the man that now seeks to head the Justice Department, Michael B. Mukasey mulled over Presidential powers.  Mukasey questioned the punitive measures the Bush Administration adopted.  Then, Judge Mukasey, a Reagan appointee served as the Chief Judge for the Southern District of New York.  He presided over the José Padilla case.  Padilla was a prisoner held in Guantánamo Bay detainee camp in Cuba.

After Padilla was first detained in April 2002 and declared an “enemy combatant,” he was held incommunicado, denied all access to the outside the world, including counsel, and the Bush administration refused to charge him with any crimes. A lawsuit was filed on Padilla’s behalf by a New York criminal defense lawyer, Donna Newman, demanding that Padilla be accorded the right to petition for habeas corpus and that, first, he be allowed access to a lawyer. That lawsuit was assigned to Judge Mukasey, which almost certainly made the Bush DOJ happy.

But any such happiness proved to be unwarranted. Judge Mukasey repeatedly defied the demands of the Bush administration, ruled against them, excoriated them on multiple occasions for failing to comply with his legally issued orders, and ruled that Padilla was entitled to contest the factual claims of the government and to have access to lawyers. He issued these rulings in 2002 and 2003, when virtually nobody was defying the Bush administration on anything, let alone on assertions of executive power to combat the Terrorists. And he made these rulings in the face of what was became the standard Bush claim that unless there was complete acquiescence to all claimed powers by the President, a Terrorist attack would occur and the blood would be on the hands of those who impeded the President.

Now, as we bathe in blood abroad, and fear the carnage will follow us home, we realize that Michael B. Mukasey was not as he initially appeared.  When pressed, nominee Mukasey does not condemn the Administration.  He does not argue with the White House on all counts, and perhaps, forcing those presumed to be enemies is apt.  Indeed, fair hearing for foes of the State are not necessary, or so says Judge  Michael B. Mukasey.

[Mukasey] He argued that the prosecution of Jose Padilla -which Mukasey handled until his retirement from the bench last year-demonstrates that federal courts should not try terrorists. Never mind that after the government jerked Padilla in and out of the federal system and reportedly subjected him to serious abuse, he was convicted by a jury on charges that bore little relation to the allegations that former Attorney General John Ashcroft originally-and so publicly-made against him.

According to Mukasey, Padilla’s case does not stand for the victory of security concerns over civil liberties in federal court, but rather shows why “current institutions and statutes are not well suited” to terrorism cases. The rules for ordinary criminal defendants-that is, regular old constitutional law-should not apply to bad guys “who have cosmic goals that they are intent on achieving by cataclysmic means.”

Mukasey derides terrorism prosecutions in federal court for putting “our secrets at risk” and discouraging our allies from sharing information with us. He warns of dire results if the Supreme Court rules this upcoming term that Guantanamo detainees have a right to bring their claims in federal court. An alleged terrorist could insist to his interrogators that he wanted to see a lawyer, as Khalid Sheikh Mohammed supposedly did, and “this bold joke could become a reality.”

Mukasey doesn’t offer his own fix but floats two proposals that have been offered by others: “[t]he creation of a separate national security court” with life-tenured judges and the use of civil commitment standards for the mentally ill for other “dangerous people.” Most surprisingly, Mukasey suggests that Congress might need “to modify the Supreme Court’s appellate jurisdiction.”

What is justice for those assumed innocent would not be applied to persons deemed guilty by the world’s superpower, the leaders of the United States.  In times of war, terrorists must be dealt with severely.  Yet, I wonder, how do we determine who the insurgents might be.  Who will define the line drawn between a person fighting for the sovereignty of their homeland, and one that transgresses against another nation.

For me, war is an offense against mankind.  Those that command others to kill are criminals.  I understand that the vast majority of people think my belief is naïve.  I am dismissed as a peacenik.  Nonetheless, thankfully, worldwide, after centuries of strife, humans have come to question the sanity or humanity of torture.

In the last few years, fear has flourished.  Talk of terrorism fueled much fire.  Guns blazed.  Bombs dropped.  Enemy combatants were gathered together.  Prisons were filled and the rights of people were ignored.  Geneva Conventional wisdom was weakened.  The Bush Administration concluded the rules were quaint.  Torture passed for justice and habeas corpus was no more.

Perhaps, one day, justice for more than “just us, Americans” will again prevail.  That is the hope of Michael Ratner, the President of the Center for Constitutional Rights.  It is my wish as well.  I have faith that the families and friends of those that suffered, no matter their country of origin, also dream of better days.  For now, we only have the news and our dreams.

Groups Tie Rumsfeld to Torture in Complaint
By Doreen Carvajal
The New York Times

Paris, Oct. 26 – Several human rights organizations based in the United States and Europe have filed a complaint in a Paris court accusing former Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld of responsibility for torture.

The group, which includes the International Federation for Human Rights, the French League for Human Rights, and the Center for Constitutional Rights in New York, made the complaint late Thursday and unsuccessfully sought to confront Mr. Rumsfeld as he left a breakfast meeting in central Paris on Friday.

Jeanne Sulzer, one of the lawyers working on the issue for the human rights groups, said the complaint had been filed with a state prosecutor, Jean-Claude Marin, saying he would have the power to pursue the case because of Mr. Rumsfeld’s presence in France.

Similar legal complaints against Mr. Rumsfeld have been filed in other countries, including Sweden and Argentina. German prosecutors dismissed a case in April, saying it was up to the United States to investigate the accusations.

The French complaint accuses Mr. Rumsfeld of authorizing torture at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba, and at the Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq, and says it violated the Convention Against Torture, which came into force in 1987. . .

Michael Ratner, the president of the Center for Constitutional Rights, said in a statement that the aim of this latest legal complaint was to demonstrate “that we will not rest until those U.S. officials involved in the torture program are brought to justice. Rumsfeld must understand that he has no place to hide.”

Rumsfeld may have thought he worked his way through the havoc he created.  The former Secretary of Defense may have believed retirement would free him from responsibility for woes and wars he helped to create.  However, perhaps, the adage is true.  We cannot hide from our history.

Tides do turn.  This week the seas are turbulent.  Perchance, Rumsfeld can never fully resign.  Nor can he negate responsibility. Torture, may ultimately be seen as what it is, a serious transgression.  Those that support the premise, we must suppress the spirit of those that may possibly oppose us may realize their just reward.

Michael B. Mukasey may not sail through his Senate hearings.  Waterboarding may be the wave that does this Jurist in.  Democrats may develop the gumption to ride the rippling effect of outrage.  They too may denounce the deplorable practices that mark Americans as arrogant.  As I read the reports, hope is high among peaceniks [humanists] such as I.

Denounce Waterboarding, Democrats Tell Nominee
By Philip Shenon
The New York Times
October 27, 2007

Washington, Oct. 26 – The nomination of Michael B. Mukasey as attorney general encountered resistance on Friday, with Democratic senators suggesting for the first time that they might oppose Mr. Mukasey if he did not make clear that he opposed waterboarding and other harsh interrogation techniques that have been used against terrorism suspects.

The ranking Republican on the Senate Judiciary Committee, Arlen Specter of Pennsylvania, joined in the expressions of concern about Mr. Mukasey. Mr. Specter said in an interview Friday that the nomination could hinge on Mr. Mukasey’s written responses to questions posed to him this week about the Bush administration’s antiterrorism policies, including its use of interrogation techniques like waterboarding, which simulates drowning, and about his larger views on executive power.

At his Senate confirmation hearings last week, Mr. Mukasey, a retired federal judge from New York, declined to say whether he agreed with many lawmakers and human rights groups that waterboarding is a form of torture and is unconstitutional. He said he did not know the details of how waterboarding, which has been used by the C.I.A. against senior leaders of Al Qaeda, was conducted. In waterboarding, interrogators pour water onto cloth or cellophane that has been placed over the face of a suspect, creating the sensation of drowning.

In an initial letter to the Judiciary Committee that was dated Wednesday and made public Friday, Mr. Mukasey repeated the assertion he had made at his confirmation hearings that torture was unconstitutional and a violation of American obligations under international treaties. But once again, he did not address the question of whether waterboarding was torture. In the letter, he also repeated his suggestion that the administration’s program of eavesdropping without warrants was legal despite criticism by lawmakers that it violated terms of federal surveillance laws.

Until this week, the nomination of Mr. Mukasey to replace Alberto R. Gonzales as attorney general appeared to be a sure thing. Many Democratic lawmakers say privately that he is still likely to be confirmed, given the need for leadership in the Justice Department after months of turmoil. Apart from Mr. Specter, no Republicans on the Judiciary Committee have raised public doubts about the nomination.

It is good to know that reservations are realized.  There is reason to dream.  Imagine, the impossible is achievable.  Naïve as I might be, the news of the day brings me joy.  It furthers my belief.  One day there will be peace planet wide.  Perhaps, world harmony will occur in my lifetime.

Never, Never, Never Give Up.  Will Justice Prevail . . .

  • Groups Tie Rumsfeld to Torture in Complaint By Doreen Carvajal.  The New York Times. October 27, 2007
  • pdf Groups Tie Rumsfeld to Torture in Complaint By Doreen Carvajal.  The New York Times. October 27, 2007
  • Convention Against Torture  and Other Cruel, Inhuman?or Degrading Treatment or Punishment.  Office of the High Commissioner  for Human Rights.
  • U.S. Releases Human Rights Report Delayed After Abuse Scandal, By Glenn Kessler.  Washington Post.Tuesday, May 18, 2004; Page A15
  • pdf U.S. Releases Human Rights Report Delayed After Abuse Scandal, By Glenn Kessler.  Washington Post. Tuesday, May 18, 2004; Page A15
  • Denounce Waterboarding, Democrats Tell Nominee. By Philip Shenon. The New York Times. October 27, 2007
  • pdf Denounce Waterboarding, Democrats Tell Nominee. By Philip Shenon. The New York Times. October 27, 2007
  • Pushing the Envelope on Presidential Power, By Barton Gellman and Jo Becker. Washington Post. Monday, June 25, 2007
  • pdf Pushing the Envelope on Presidential Power, By Barton Gellman and Jo Becker. Washington Post. Monday, June 25, 2007
  • Michael Mukasey’s role in the Jose Padilla case, By Glenn Greenwald.  Salon. September 16, 2007
  • Measuring Mukasey, By Emily Bazelon.  Slate. September 17, 2007
  • Rumsfeld Rejects Calls to Close Guantanamo. Reality is Perception.

    This is a second in a series.  I offer the quotes, and you decide.  Is this reality or perception?

    Rumsfeld Rejects Calls to Close Guantanamo

    On Tuesday, June 14, 2005, Secretary of Defense Rumsfeld and Representative Duncan Hunter, Chairman of the House Armed Services Committee, spoke to the press.  The two were addressing the issue of Guantanamo Bay Prison.  In recent days, many have insisted this camp must be closed.

    Representative Hunter [Republican, California] raised a plate of food.  He asked reporters to assess the quality of these provisions for themselves.  Hunter stated this serving is characteristic of the food detainees at Guantanamo receive.  The entree of lemon-baked fish and oven-fried chicken with rice was beautiful. Fruit and vegetables were also included.

    Duncan offered these delicacies as evidence.  Life for the interned is delightful; prisoners are being well cared for.  Circumstances are good.  Chairman Hunter declared, these items were “purchased for them [the prisoners] by American taxpayers.”  He added claims of mistreatment are in error.

    Representative Hunter continued, “They’ve [detainees have] never eaten better.  They’ve never been treated better.  We don’t beat them.  We don’t touch them.”  The latter portion of this statement contradicts numerous first-hand reports.

    Rumsfeld inserted, “the military spends more per meal for detainees to meet their religious dietary requirements than it spends per rations for U.S. troops.”

    Please share your thoughts.

    My own comment, “How wonderful we Americans are.”  Oh, really?