Sunday, June 22, 2008

The Torture State: Innocents Suffer; Villains Walk; Media: "Next!"

In an excellent piece posted Friday, Chris Floyd provides an overview of the week's revelations regarding the Bush administration's deliberate and illegal efforts to institutionalize torture.

It's the most despicable tale, yet I urge you to read as much of it as you can stand. We simply need to know what's being done -- to our country, to our world, to our future, and in our name -- if we are to have any hope of dealing with it properly (or at all).

Floyd provides copious links, to the recent McClatchy series on the subject and much else; as he says, it really has been a remarkable week -- yet another totally disgusting, nauseating week for those who care about truth, and justice, and what used to be called "the American way".

There's no longer any way to deny the plain fact that Bush, Cheney, and their circle of spinners deliberately concocted a false "justification" for the horrendous acts which they were determined to commit. And yet, as Floyd points out, no consequences appear to be forthcoming -- soon or ever.

Why not?

Floyd suggests the answer can be found between the lines of a piece from Tim Rutten of the Los Angeles Times.

Rutten has also compiled a damning account of the administration's embrace of torture, but he argues that there shouldn't be any criminal or legal responsibility attached to this gruesome record, because in America we solve problems like this through the electoral system.

In other words, according to Rutten, if you can get yourself elected, no matter what you do while in office, the worst that should happen to you is that you might lose your job.

Floyd quotes Rutten:
The Bush administration has been wretchedly mistaken in its conception of executive power, deceitful in its push for war with Iraq and appalling in its scheming to make torture an instrument of state power. But a healthy democracy punishes policy mistakes, however egregious, and seeks redress for its societal wounds, however deep, at the ballot box and not in the prisoner's dock.
And Floyd comments:
The cognitive dissonance of this conclusion was so painful and severe that I had to read it several times to fully take in that it meant exactly what it said: Rutten believes with all his heart that the official practice of deliberate, systematic torture – a clear and unambiguous war crime which he himself has just outlined in careful detail – is ultimately nothing more than a “wretched mistake,” a “policy difference” that should not be “criminalized.” And how can this be? The answer is obvious, if unspoken: because it was done by the United States government – and nothing the United States government ever does can possibly be criminal, or evil. It can only be, at most, a mistake, a conceptual error, an ill-considered policy, a botched attempt at carrying out a noble intention.

If any other country had a policy “to make torture an instrument of state power, " Rutten would undoubtedly condemn it as a vicious evil.

But it appears that Rutten's outrage at injustice has its limits. It does not extend to actually punishing those responsible for torture and murder – if those responsible are the leaders of the American government. They are to be allowed to finish their terms, then live out their lives in wealth, privilege, comfort and safety. To do otherwise, says Rutten – to insist that no one is above the law – "risks the stability of our own electoral politics."
There's a lot more from Chris Floyd and I suggest you read it all. But there's also more to the story.

Arun, musing, suggests the hidden subtext of Rutten's column may be somewhat different. In Arun's words,
it could simply be that the politicians consider themselves to be a special breed of human being to whom the laws that apply to the rest of the United States do not apply.
I don't see these observations as mutually exclusive. In my view, these are two poisonous forces working together: America can do no wrong, and elected officials are above the law.

I won't quibble with Chris Floyd regarding Tim Rutten's sincerity, or his status as a "respected" "liberal" "journalist". A less generous writer might suggest that Rutten's status, given his context, reveals something about the nature of propaganda.

Rutten's suggestion that America's troubles can be sorted out through the electoral process -- and that the most "justice" a politician can suffer is the loss of his job -- would be thoroughly worthless, as Floyd points out, even if we had a functional electoral process. But we don't.

The torturers and war criminals we're talking about here were never legitimately elected -- a fact that has magically vanished as far as the national media are concerned -- and every day that major newspapers carry on as if they were elected [twice!] constitutes nothing less than a crime against humanity.

They have no right to the offices in which they do their evil work. They longed for a crisis, then they precipitated one; they started "the long war", and then they used the war to "justify" the extraordinary powers claimed by the unelected president. Everything this administration has done has been illegitimate -- every single act of war, every single draconian bill passed, every single "extra-judicial" killing, every single act of rendition, every single act of torture.

All of it -- the stolen elections, the self-inflicted terror, the regime of torture, the wars of aggression, the secret laws -- all of it -- was quite evidently planned in advance and predicated on the notion that the national "news" media would go along with it. Which they have.

What we're looking at here is a situation in which no major newspaper will call for charges against men who are obviously -- and admittedly -- guilty of treason, war crimes, and horrendous crimes against humanity.

So let's get this straight: There is no possible punishment which could even begin to approach "justice" in this case. None.

The dogs of war -- Bush, Cheney, Rumsfeld, Gates, Rice, Powell, Wolfowitz, Feith, Perle, Grossman, Woolsey, and all the rest -- have done so much damage to the entire world that no punishment could possibly be sufficient. Nothing could even come close.

Imagine the most horrible sort of punishment being inflicted on one of these people. Picture him (or her) under the worst conditions of torture you can contemplate. See his home and belongings destroyed; listen to his children weeping. Imagine that all his descendants were doomed to inhabit a land in which every single thing was contaminated with radioactive waste. Think of all his friends and relatives scattered to foreign countries where they aren't welcome, or living among death and fear and foreign troops and foreign mercenaries and all the other debris of modern war.

Now multiply by a million.

This is what these people deserve. But no opinion columnist (liberal or otherwise) for any establishment newspaper (left coast or elsewhere) could ever get such an opinion published -- and if he wants to keep his job, he'd best not submit such a thing to an editor, either.

Justice is as justice does. Derrick Shareef is in prison, probably for the rest of his life. His crime? He fell under the influence of an FBI agent posing as a wannabe terrorist, who gave him a place to live, strung him along by the nose, and arranged an "arms deal" in which Shareef gave another undercover agent a pair of stereo speakers for four nonfunctional grenades.

Shareef's motives may have been despicable, but he never hurt anybody. He's in prison for what he agreed to do, for complying with the suggestions of an entrapment expert who was sent to get him. And he's one of many angry (or stupid) young Muslims who have been entrapped by "counter-terrorists" working for the federal or local governments.

At the other end of the spectrum we find George Bush and his criminal cronies, who openly conspired not only to break the law but to get it changed so that it would no longer constrain them, so that they could claim legal cover for acts and policies which no sane American could possibly countenance. And they're scot-free.

Meanwhile, nobody who writes for an establishment publication can call 'em like they see 'em. Not a one. Not anymore -- unless he sees 'em crooked.

Tim Rutten is playing a game we've discussed here more than once. He's connecting the dots with a false narrative. He's leaving out essential bits of context, and leaping to conclusions that are not warranted by any facts or any logical reasoning, although they may well be essential for the continued comfort of Tim Rutten and his family.

And it's one of the most important ways, in my observation, that the establishment "news" outlets protect the criminal regime they serve.

In previous situations where I've observed this game being played, I have suspected that the journalist in question was doing -- or thought he was doing -- the best he could under the circumstances. He was getting factual information into the public record, and even though it was wrapped in manure, his path to print may have seemed like a better option than the path followed by, let us say, William Glaberson.

Glaberson writes for the New York Times and the International Herald Tribune (the Eastern liberal "elite" and their European connections) and recently he's thrown all his skill and craft into a spectacular hit piece against William Kuebler. Kuebler, as we've seen, represents Omar Khadr, the young Canadian held at Gitmo, whom the Americans want to try for war crimes for something he may or may not have done when he was fourteen years old.

Kuebler has been claiming that the evidence against his client has been fabricated; the prosecution doesn't deny it. Kuebler has been saying that his client has been tortured; the prosecution doesn't deny that either. Kuebler has been saying there's no way Omar Khadr should be on trial based on the so-called evidence, and that there's no way he could get a fair trial even if there were evidence against him, because the military tribunal process is inherently flawed.

Glaberson's take on it: Kuebler is a crank. He should shut up about the process already and get on with it -- start going through the motions of pretending to offer a defense while an illegitimate and thoroughly corrupt government gets on with the ruination of the young man's life -- and that of the whole world.

Khadr is accused of throwing a hand grenade that killed an American soldier in Afghanistan in 2002.

Think about that for a second.

If we can bomb, invade and occupy a country we've been destroying by proxy for more than twenty years, all based on one false pretext after another, and anyone who opposes the invading army can be captured and incarcerated for six years and branded a terrorist and tried for war crimes...

... in a "legal" setting where where torture is OK, where confessions extracted under torture -- and under conditions no one wants to read about -- are considered sufficient, where so-called "respected liberal journalists" discuss such practices without seeking to redress them, and where other "journalists" feed their faces by ridiculing the honest people ...

... then where are we?

Here. And now. And sinking fast.


Explore some links, if you will:

Seton Hall University: Guantanamo Reports

Tom Lasseter for McClatchy: America's prison for terrorists often held the wrong men

U.S. abuse of detainees was routine at Afghanistan bases

Militants found recruits among Guantanamo's wrongly detained

Easing of laws that led to detainee abuse hatched in secret

Taliban ambassador wielded power within Guantanamo

Documents undercut Pentagon's denial of routine abuse

Ex-detainees allege that U.S. troops abused Quran

U.S. hasn't apologized to or compensated ex-detainees

Deck stacked against detainees in legal proceedings

Warren P. Strobel for McClatchy: General who probed Abu Ghraib says Bush officials committed war crimes

Strobel quotes Maj. Gen. Antonio Taguba, US Army (retired), who "led the investigation into prisoner abuse at Iraq's Abu Ghraib prison":
After years of disclosures by government investigations, media accounts and reports from human rights organizations, there is no longer any doubt as to whether the current administration has committed war crimes [...] The only question that remains to be answered is whether those who ordered the use of torture will be held to account.
More from Warren Strobel: Documents confirm U.S. hid detainees from Red Cross

Andy Worthington at AntiWar dot Com: John McCain, Torture Puppet

Juan Cole at Informed Comment: The Great Torture Scandal

Dana Milbank at the Washington Post: Abu Ghraib? Doesn't Ring a Bell.

Think Progress: Ex-State Dept. official: Hundreds of detainees died in U.S. custody, at least 25 murdered.

Tim Rutten of the Los Angeles Times: Torture began at the top

William Glaberson: An unlikely antagonist in the detainees' corner

Chris Floyd at Empire Burlesque: Torturegate: Truth, But No Consequences

Arun (Musing): Now I understand