Once upon a time, there was a President named Bill Clinton, who was, by most historical standards, a typical Centrist Republican, although by a fluke of geography and circumstances he ran for public office with a “(D)” after his name.
Under his Administration, many Conservative ideas which had long gathered dust on the shelf — ideas such as welfare reform, a balanced budget, debt reduction, a strict “Pay as You Go” fiscal regime, a boom in technology jobs, budget surpluses, NAFTA, GATT, official bans on gay marriage, etc. — were finally realized.
And for all of his good work on behalf of their ideology, Conservatives spent eight, long years treating Bill Clinton — a Southern, White, Christian man — as if he were a case of flesh eating nuclear syphilis.
Because he did not run for office with an “(R)” after his name.
And because he did not run for office with an “(R)” after his name, according to the leading voices in the Republican Party and the Conservative Movement, Bill Clinton was, in no particular order, Hitler, a Socialist, a rapist, a warmonger, a serial murderer, and a drug dealer, whose Presidency was somehow vaguely illegitimate.
And counterpointing the 24/7 slime campaign, there were those endless, endless hearings. Whitewater. Travel office. Christmas Card lists. Lincoln bedroom. Etc ad nauseum.
Or don’t you remember?
He was “Not my President!” (Ollie North: War criminal, terrorist arms dealer, GOP Senate Candidate  and FoxNews Contributor.)
He was warned “not to set foot in my state.” (Jesse Helms: Professional Bigot, Confederate Senator, 1820-2003)
His picture was used for target practice by G. Gordon Liddy, the Watergate felon, would-be assassin, radio personality and Republican hero.
From “The American Prospect”:
…it’s worth remembering just how virulent the opposition to Clinton’s presidency was. Republicans began plotting to impeach Clinton long before anyone had ever heard the name “Lewinsky,” and many on the right simply refused to accept that he legitimately occupied the office he held. Then-House Majority Leader Dick Armey, when talking to Democrats, used to refer to Clinton as “your president.”
It was a warped, hysterical campaign funded by wealthy Right Wing thugs like Richard Mellon Scaife
and propagated by wealthy Right Wing thugs like Rupert Murdoch who made sure the lies were jack-hammered into the headlines day after day, year after year.
And judging by its objectives, it was also a very successful campaign: it legitimized and metastasized Hate Radio; killed the credibility of the “objective” media once and for all; made the overt mass-slander of political opposition by the Right acceptable; moved radicals, militia nuts, bigots, Creationists and Limbaugh zombies to the center of the Republican Party; accelerated the exodus of reasonable moderates the hell out of the Republican Party; destroyed the possibility of public discourse; and kicked the door open to the use of Congressional hearings as instruments of political vendetta.
But as successful as it was, it was also an incredibly high-risk strategy, because of a thing called the “public record”.
The public record meant that each and every time a Republican stood up to, say, slam the Democrat Commander-in-Chief during a time of war (from The Poor Man Institute:)
“You can support the troops but not the president”
-Representative Tom Delay (R-TX)
“President…is once again releasing American military might on a foreign country with an ill-defined objective and no exit strategy. He has yet to tell the Congress how much this operation will cost. And he has not informed our nation’s armed forces about how long they will be away from home. These strikes do not make for a sound foreign policy.”
-Senator Rick Santorum (R-PA)
“American foreign policy is now one huge big mystery. Simply put, the administration is trying to lead the world with a feel-good foreign policy.”
-Representative Tom Delay (R-TX)
“If we are going to commit American troops, we must be certain they have a clear mission, an achievable goal and an exit strategy.”
-Karen Hughes, speaking on behalf of George W. Bush
“I had doubts about the bombing campaign from the beginning…I didn’t think we had done enough in the diplomatic area.”
-Senator Trent Lott (R-MS)
“Well, I just think it’s a bad idea. What’s going to happen is they’re going to be over there for 10, 15, maybe 20 years”
-Joe Scarborough (R-FL)
“I cannot support a failed foreign policy. History teaches us that it is often easier to make war than peace. This administration is just learning that lesson right now. The President began this mission with very vague objectives and lots of unanswered questions. A month later, these questions are still unanswered. There are no clarified rules of engagement. There is no timetable. There is no legitimate definition of victory. There is no contingency plan for mission creep. There is no clear funding program. There is no agenda to bolster our overextended military. There is no explanation defining what vital national interests are at stake. There was no strategic plan for war when the President started this thing, and there still is no plan today”
-Representative Tom Delay (R-TX)
“Explain to the mothers and fathers of American servicemen that may come home in body bags why their son or daughter have to give up their life?”
-Sean Hannity, Fox News, 4/6/99
“Victory means exit strategy, and it’s important for the President to explain to us what the exit strategy is.”
-Governor George W. Bush (R-TX)
“This is President Clinton’s war, and when he falls flat on his face, that’s his problem.”
-Senator Richard Lugar (R-IN)
“Bombing a sovereign nation for ill-defined reasons with vague objectives undermines the American stature in the world. The international respect and trust for America has diminished every time we casually let the bombs fly.”
-Representative Tom Delay (R-TX)
they left a documentary trail wide and bright enough to be visible from space.
Or from the next election cycle.
The public record meant that every frivolous Republican witch hunt and every syllable of hate and demagoguery gleefully poured out through public megaphones and megachurch pulpits to malign and demonize the Left could potentially represent a thick bar on the cage of any future Republican president’s imperial ambitions.
Because, after all, should the tables ever turn — should there ever be a Republican President whose election really was suspect, or who really did lie to the American public and flagrantly abuse his office, and did it in ways that cost the nation trillions of dollars and thousands of lives — after spending eight years establishing a public record in such clear and unambiguous language what the Hell could the Right possibly say?
After conspiring to bring about two of the most destructive events in modern American history — the impeachment of a US President over trivia, and the probable theft of the subsequent Presidential election — to what God could Republicans possibly pray that their eight years of insanity, venom and violence “might be wholly blotted out?”
On 09/11/01, their dark miracle came winging its way out of a clear, blue sky.
All of us, all together across all political, cultural and religious spectra watched the worst thing many of us had ever seen.
But in what now seems like less time than it took to wipe away our tears, the same depraved thugs who sponsored eight years of “Clinton Murdered Vince Foster!” hysteria began hijacking of our pain and patriotism to serve their partisan interests right before our eyes.
The minute the Bush Administration began trying to stretch the war they got into an excuse for the war they wanted, 9/11 stopped being merely a national tragedy and started being the Bush Administration’s bottomless political ATM machine.
The minute the Party of Personal Responsibility began using the mantra “9/11 changed everything” as the political equivalent of the Blood of Christ — as a means to absolve themselves of their personal responsibility for eight years of malice and derangement — for them September 11, 2001 stopped being a moment of shared, national anguish and started being a suit of cultural body-armor which magically deflected any criticism of their lies and their and hypocrisy.
An impervious sniper’s nest from which they could cynically escalate their war on the Left.
Or don’t you remember the day the Right robbed the graves of all those who perished on 9/11 to turn this
And the thing is, it worked.
By selling 9/11 for a mess of wingnut pottage, the Right bought itself an anti-Liberal free-fire zone and two Presidential terms-worth of blank checks. Two terms of an alternately supportive and supine media. Two terms of catastrophe, corruption and treason protected from scrutiny by an ablative shield made out of solid “Why do you hate America?”, and a promise that they could go on bareback fucking diseased monsters in the alley all night long, every night, forever and wake up each morning miraculously clean, virginal and still beloved in the eyes of God.
But they forgot that tempus just keeps fugiting along. And as time passed, the Right got so accustomed to butt-scooting their depravity all over the public square and never being called on it they simply stopped noticing that they were amassing a whole new post-9/11 public record so despicable and overflowing with Conservative atrocities that it positively dwarfed their antics during the Clinton Years.
And that brutal, meth-addict level of dependence on never being brought to book for anything they say or do left the Right completely unprepared for the one thing their leaders promised would never happen again.
And losing has driven them a special kind of crazy; that screaming-incoherently-and-lashing-out-in-every-direction kind of cold-turkey junkie withdrawal crazy.
In the few, short months since they lost, they have emptied out their entire store of raving invective and delusion.
Losing has left them insisting that that the legally elected President of the United States somehow isn’t really the President. That he is a secret enemy. A Communist. A Hitler. A Muslim sleeper cell. A Chicago gangster.
Has left them swearing that “their country” has been stolen and that somewhere hidden in secret code in a 1,000 health care bill is a plan to murder senior citizens.
To understand how deep and relentless their addiction goes, you need only consider the recent example of Mrs. Katy Abram, who leaped into microcelebrity and the wingnut pantheon a month ago with her Clown Hall rant of “I don’t want my county to become Russia!” speech.
Mrs. Katy Abram wants the world to believe that, like a wingnut Sleeping Beauty, she somehow slept through 9/11.
Slept through two wars and the two trillion dollar bill they racked up.
Slept through tax cuts for the wealthy that added another few trillion to our debt.
Slept through Katrina.
Slept through Terri Schiavo.
Slept through the screams of the Constitution as Bush Administration fed it an inch at a time through the wood chipper (the same Constitution she is now so deeply concerned about that she has somehow become, virtually overnight, an “original intent” quote-spewing expert) only to be awakened in a sudden, patriotic fury by the sound of a Black Democrat taking the oath of office.
I’m sure in Mrs. Abram’s mind – and in the tiny little minds of tens of millions of Americans just like her – she sees absolutely no contradiction between explaining that she never paid any attention to a single fucking thing prior to January of 2009….and saying that she started paying attention in 1991 “when we first went to the Gulf War” and that she has debated politics with friends at the opposite end of the political spectrum “a million times over”.
It is, in fact, a sign of the depth and effectiveness of their brainwashing that people like Mrs. Abram see no conflict between saying in one breath “I have never been interested in politics” and “I always seem to have faith in the government“ in the next.
Because during the Bush years, people like Mrs. Abram never saw their love of their Dear Leader and their fealty to his Administration as something “political”. They saw it normal. As the Universe being at its proper, wingnut default setting: White, male, fundamentalist Christian, Conservative, flight-suit clad and killing scary brown people. And as long as that remained true, all was right with the world and people like Mrs. Abram were absolved by their “Don’t Worry, Go Shopping” leaders of any responsibility for paying attention to anything their government was actually doing.
And once the Dear Leader’s reign ended, as far as people like Mrs. Abram were concerned, the natural order of mindless obedience in exchange for a smug and blissful ignorance collapsed. “Their country” was suddenly broke and fucked up for reasons that they dared not think about too much. “Their country” was suddenly awash in dirty fucking hippies, who for some reason were no longer satisfied with being cultural punching bags. “Their country”suddenly had politicians and activists who said mean things about the Dear Leader and the Republican Party…and got away with it!
And worst of all, “their country” suddenly had a Scary Black Man living in their Dear Leader’s pretty White House, probably having dirty, Muslim sex in the Dear Leader’s sacred, Christian bed and putting his filthy, Kenyan hands all over “their county’s” pure, white Constitution.
So, for example, when you hear the same people who fanatically supported President George W. Bush when he famously told Iraq war critics to fuck off –
“Well, we had an accountability moment, and that’s called the 2004 election.”
“…scrap the current grandiose plans and to start over.”
or when you see the mobs on the Right being whipped by talk of secession or revolution or spilling the “blood of tyrants” into a nearly-pornographic frenzy, understand that what you are witnessing are the echoes of political decisions made in the wake of September 11, 2001.
Political decisions that trained the Right to believe, on a visceral level, that a sufficiently bloody and horrifying disruption to the life of the country can — if properly exploited — wash away their eight otherwise-unforgivable years of sin and restore “their country” to its proper, wingnut default setting.
That if the right sacrifices are made to the right Gods in just the right way, then they can be virgins again.
I recently watched a chunk of so-called cable “news”. A tiff between Sarah Palin and David Letterman monopolized all three hours.
Meanwhile, not one word was uttered about a Kuwaiti man named Fayiz al-Kandari who has been “detained” (read: tortured) in three different prisons for nearly 8 years.
I’ve had the good fortune to talk with Al-Kandari’s lawyer. I’d link to his op-eds, but I can’t, because, despite commitments from major newspapers, they were never published. I’ll provide substantial quotes from him, instead.
With that, allow me to introduce you to Barry Wingard and Fayiz al-Kandari:
Major Barry D. Wingard, Jr.: Judge Advocate General (JAG), Public Defender (Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania), Office of General Counsel, Guantanamo Bay, Defense Attorney, and so much more. His stellar resume gleams with awards and decorations as a result of 25 years of service in the U.S. military. He has prosecuted more than 100 cases in Baghdad, and has also investigated crimes in Bosnia.
[H]e signed on to handle detainee cases expecting to encounter the “worst of the worst.” … [B]ut the justice system at Guantanamo, not the detainees, represented that worst. [...] [He] expected to work within a military justice system similar to the ones in which [he'd] spent [his] career. Instead, [he] said, [he] found a chaotic environment in which cases were tainted by questionable interrogation techniques and evidence was scattered, missing, of questionable origin or simply unavailable. For the … experienced JAG officer, working in a system that [he] considered to be so lacking in proper legal procedures was frustrating and disturbing. [He is] among a handful of military attorneys who have chosen to risk their careers by publicly voicing criticisms of the Military Commissions, which face an uncertain future.
But he can’t get to square one with American newspapers. Moving on… Introducing:
Fayiz al-Kandari: Kuwaiti detainee at Gitmo. He studied law in the United Arab Emirates and is from a well-to-do family, has a long history of doing charity work, and was in the wrong place at the wrong time. He has consistently maintained his innocence (he was on a charity mission and was sold into custody, not nabbed on the battlefield).
Now. Why am I (as opposed to say, the New York Times) the one putting this story out? Allow me to quote Major Wingard:
“I’ve given up on American media.”
While he does just fine by Al Jazeera and AFP overseas, here in the good ol’ U. S. of A., he can’t, for lack of better words, get arrested. The media is much too busy with Palin, Miss California, Palin, and Jon & Kate Plus 8. And Palin. Looks like Brian Williams and Newsweek are getting scooped by Middle Easterners and the French. Et moi.
Now back to our story, already in progress:
Al-Kandari went to Afghanistan in 2001 to provide humanitarian aid. But oops, his bounty hunters made some quick cash at his expense:
The evidence that has kept Fayiz locked up without charges for more than seven years is razor thin and questionable at best. Despite being subjected to harsh treatment and enhanced interrogation techniques, Fayiz’s story has remained consistent.
Let’s recap: Some guy made a couple of afghanis by selling Fayiz to our guys so that the thug-infested Bush administration could justify their fraudulent little war and all its torture-y perks.
And what did Fayiz get? This:
While in U.S. custody in Kabul in December 2001, Al-Kandari was shackled in various stress positions for as long as 36 hours at a time. He was beaten with a chain and water hose. Photographs documenting his condition have not been released. In early 2002, Al-Kandari was transferred to Bagram and held in a roofed tent with no sides where overnight temperatures typically reached below freezing. Photographs again documented his condition, but they have never been released. […] He was transferred to Kandahar in early 2002, … [where] his entire body was shaved (except for a cross on his chest, which was later shaved off) and he was initially kept awake in solitary confinement for five straight days. The abuse continued and resulted in broken ribs and severe bruising documented by medical exams performed months later.
Before being placed on the plane out of Kandahar, his sound-proof headgear was lifted and a female voice whispered, “You are going to hell in GTMO.” At the time, he was also drugged, sandbagged, and placed into a head harness for the 24 hour trip.
At Guantanamo, he was again shackled into stress positions for extended periods of time. He was also urinated on and subjected to sleep deprivation, strobe lights, ear piercing music, cell extractions, and extreme heat and cold conditions in his cell via temperature controls. All told, Al-Kandari has been interrogated approximately 400 times and abused throughout the time he was in U.S. custody.
Wait, sidebar: I smell a reason for releasing those pesky torture photos everyone’s talking about… evidence. Sidebar over.
So… all that torture must have worked, right? I mean, who could withstand that kind of abuse and not spill what’s left of their guts, because, you know, “some” say torture works and– What’s that? Sorry, something’s coming through my imaginary earpiece:
A Department of Defense legal review of Al-Kandari’s case found the evidence against him “is made up almost entirely of hearsay evidence recorded by unidentified individuals with no first hand knowledge of the events they describe.”
In short, the U.S. learned nothing of value from its abusive treatment of Al-Kandari and in all likelihood exculpatory materials confirming Al-Kandari’s whereabouts and accounts of abuse will be classified and withheld from public view.
So what options are available to Fayiz and those like him? Not many. It all boils down to those infamous military commissions, Wingard’s skills, and a judge who will believe Fayiz’s testimony, because with the word “classified” popping up everywhere, that’s all detainees like him have.
Sidebar #2: Per Barry Wingard, “the military is not behind the commissions.” Sidebar #2 over.
However, Major Wingard did share one silver lining with me: He could get a sympathetic judge. Maybe. If he’s lucky. But—and there’s always a pesky but– delays and more delays are kicking that silver-lined opportunity down the road, and Fayiz is still in prison.
But at least he has one hell of a caring, persistent, ethical lawyer.
Vice-President Cheney insists that enhanced interrogations were only used on “hardened terrorists” after other efforts failed, that such efforts prevented the deaths of thousands, and that the U.S. never lost its moral bearings in its treatment of detainees. Al-Kandari is living proof he is wrong on all counts.
Sadly, being right just isn’t enough.
To your knowledge, did any private contractors interrogate Fayiz? Who exactly did?
Fayiz was interrogated over four hundred times, sometimes by military, civilians, and combinations thereof. What is interesting is that hundreds of photos were taken of him along with medical records in various stages of being broken physically. Unfortunately all the information above has been classified as top secret for “your protection,” it has nothing to do with the exculpatory nature of the evidence.
I’d love some quotes from Fayiz. Can you give me any?
“Everybody has convinced themselves that GTMO is over and we can now move on to other, more pleasant topics, well I’m still here with not a single thing to show for it. This really would be much less frustrating if only I had done something to deserve the past seven and a half years being taken.”
How is he being treated now?
Current treatment [Major Wingard provided the link; I am providing the excerpts]:
Guantanamo suicide exposes detainees’ despair under Obama
(AFP) 5 June 2009 WASHINGTON – A Guantanamo prison detainee’s suicide earlier this week highlights the mental state of those locked up for seven years without trial and aggravated by disillusionment born from President Barack Obama, defense lawyers say. ‘Suicide is a humane response to intolerable conditions. Especially where there is no end in sight and that’s the case here,’ David Remes, a lawyer for 15 Yemeni detainees, told AFP. After the new US president announced he would close the detention camp at the remote US naval base in southeast Cuba by 2010, ‘everybody expected Obama to move more swiftly’ to release inmates or at least improve conditions, Remes said. […] Most Guantanamo detainees are still being held in isolation, in cells crudely furnished with a bunk, sometimes with no windows, under the perpetual glare of neon lights. The new US administration, which has promised to abide by the Geneva Conventions on prisoners, has provided some improvements in the detainees’ lives, however.[…] Most of the detainees, however, despite Obama’s overtures on closing the facility, remain depressed and desperate, said Remes. Only two out of the remaining 240 detainees have been able to leave the camp since January. ‘These isolated improvements cannot offset the misery of solitary confinement, especially the conditions of solitary confinement that these men must endure,’ maintained Remes. ‘And they can’t offset the continued harassment by the guards, and the brutality of the guards.’ A majority of the detainees ‘are more discouraged because Obama seemed to bring new hope and that hope proved to be false, a false hope,’ he added. [Human Rights Watch’s Stacy] Sullivan said many of the detainees are suffering severe psychological problems. [...] ‘Obama ‘tried to improve the conditions, based on years of reporting of journalists, human rights groups … He made a good effort to respond to this criticism. It’s just not enough.’ Major Barry Wingard, a military lawyer representing Kuwaiti detainee Fayiz Al Kandari, reported that his client said he knew that under former US president George W. Bush ‘we would never get justice, we knew we would never get out.’ According to Al Kandari, with Obama’s election, the prison population ‘held up the possibility that things were going to get better,’ Wingard said, adding that ‘they began to think like (they were) a human being again,’ Wingard said. Continued harassment by guards, notably physically tough ‘cell extractions,’ are still taking their toll, said Wingard. Al Kandari reported to his lawyer that ‘guys go and bring you out of your cell for any small infraction, such as a towel being hung in the wrong location.’ Such action has been increasing, said Wingard. When detainees are extracted, ‘someone accidentally steps on your hand, rips your head at the pressure points … and you might be pepper sprayed in your face.’ Uncertainty itself, about not knowing when freedom will come, ‘is a form of abuse that does not heal like a bruise or broken bone,’ said Wingard. ‘But still, they’re still waiting, still no justice. Four months delay here, six months delay there, another eight months…’
Please tell me again how often you get to see Fayiz? Any idea if other detainees have a similar amount of access to their attorneys?
I see Fayiz every month for multiple visits. I have established a level of trust with him that is difficult to do considering I wear the same uniform as his jailers. Overall, 70% of the detainees outright reject their lawyers, 30% are lukewarm etc… Remember there are military/criminal lawyers and civilian/civil (Habeas lawyers).
As a lawyer, you have to be pretty objective in order to come up with arguments, etc. But how do you feel about all this, and how does that affect you as you work?
Objectivity: The government refuses to speak in specifics to prevent specific questions being asked. Currently I am heartened that the government acknowledges that it lacks the evidence to gain a conviction in a “regular court” (Federal District Court) but I am equally concerned that they are designing a system to assist the Prosecution. There are many ways to game a system based on precedence that is starting on day one when it begins such as rules of evidence, classification of exculpatory evidence, resources for witnesses, etc..
In your bio, you call the horrific treatment Fayiz got, “enhanced interrogation techniques”… Why don’t you refer to them as “torture”?
Torture is a legal term decided in a court of law and not among talking heads on cable news shows. If breaking a mans ribs with fists or beating him with a chain is “enhanced interrogation” then so be it.
Are you optimistic that we can get back to upholding the ideals of justice as it should be? And that this kind of treatment, bounty hunting, etc. has ended/will end under Obama?
Obama: Obama has perhaps broken the spirit of the detainees in a way the former administration could never.
Fayiz: “when they used to short shackle me to the floor for 36 hours at a time, I knew not to eat or drink the day before and I kept my eyes shut because just seeing them come in the middle of the night with the dogs in a strobe lit room was terrifying to me. I learned to cope and could deal with it. When the new administration offered hope, that was something placed inside my soul, something that cannot be expelled or prepared for.”
How can the U.S. justify holding all these people for years without trials? Comment?
The US cannot justify holding the detainees without some form of an Article 5 hearing which should have been done in 2002 or 2003.
Is there anything you or anyone, including Fayiz, can do to lessen the resentment, fear, etc. that’s so prevalent?
As long as the US government continues to use justice like a magician uses a rabbit in his show, then no, I have little faith. Currently the government is preparing to create a system “not designed to help me” Fayiz says.
To date, the government has not produced a single tangible piece of evidence against Fayiz, just like Boumedian who was released last week after 7 ½ years. Amazingly Fayiz wants to be released and go home and start a business and a family.
They have not been able to break Fayiz in over 400 interrogations which scares the shit out of them and obviously proves “he is super Al Queda” according to his Annual Review Board (ARB) allegations.
He also attempts to help others read and exercises in his cell. Honestly he could care less about the US.
Fayiz: “If the US believed they really had the worst of the worst, they had an opportunity to convert every detainee with education and understanding. Unfortunately, the US chose the wrong course and has released 2/3 (550) of everyone ever held here. Education can counter ignorance from both countries, the people in the US who hate Muslims are the same as the Muslims who hate the US. Ignorance is what feeds intolerance and vice versa.”
Here’s one more question, but it is not directed at either Barry Wingard or Fayiz al-Kandari: Why are these atrocities allowed to continue in the name of the United States of America?
After November 4, 2008, I thought I’d have the answer to that one. I was mistaken.
Major Wingard and I agree that both Democrats and Republicans share some blame here. Many Democrats should have spoken up, and they didn’t. To this day, only a handful have. It boggles the mind.
So, kudos to any in the military (especially lawyers), Democrats and Republicans who opposed the former administration. To emphasize that point, allow me to quote Major Wingard, from a recent e-mail:
Soldiers are taught early on that you will abide by the Geneva Convention; so it comes as no surprise to me that the military as a whole and more particularly officer’s, especially senior ones oppose mistreating captives. The idea of torturing detainees is beyond belief. Remember, the act of surrender involves a leap of faith that captors will not treat those captured in a barbaric way ever, period. As military officers, we strongly encourage surrender without incidence in every circumstance.
The DOJ are the masterminds who came with idea of beating people results in good information. The DOJ also designed the Commissions process; it really should be called the “Department of Justice Commissions” and premised on their “torture memo” principals. I guess if you believe beating individual’s results in good intelligence, then it only follows that hearsay evidence is “presumptively” reliable and “Santa is making a list and checking it twice.” Things play out a little differently when wearing body armor in 130 degree war zones then they appear in air-conditioned office buildings in DC.
Note: I am extremely proud of our military, our kids are some of the bravest and most selfless citizens I have ever me. You can point to specific instances where junior officers and soldiers lost their nerve and succumbed, but divided by the number of daily interactions, abuse was extremely rare and minimal.
I am especially proud of the senior military JAG attorneys who held tightly to their independent judgment and refused to buckle under the former administration and their desire for quick convictions. America maintains the most chivalrous officer corps in the world.
The US military kicks serious ass when used as it is designed: We break things and kill people, period.
I do love the military, and would never disrespect it. It’s just a shame we are so damn obedient to the smooth faced lawyers and politicians.
I think to draw lines like democrat/liberal good and republican/bad allows Fayiz to be imprisoned while “the teams change sides.” Call it what you will, blame whomever you want to blame, make yourself feel as good as you can, but let’s end this in whatever combination of peoples and policies we can. I would say invite everybody to the show and alienate as few as possible, at least initially.
Major Wingard, I salute you.
This is one of many familiar stories that you’ve undoubtedly heard before. Let’s get this one some attention. Having “private” sympathy for someone in this horrific situation isn’t enough. Please take the time you’d spend being frustrated or feeling compassion for Fayiz, and invest it in a phone call or e-mail to your local paper and/or Congressperson. Make a difference. Please.
Gen. Petraeus joined FOX News and Martha MacCallum today and gave a blockbuster interview, but probably not the one Fox expected. Once again, he called for the responsible closure of the military prison at Guantanamo Bay. He also said that mistakes were made after 9/11 and that the Army Field Manual is all that we need to use to interrogate prisoners. In addition, he said that we have to have faith in our judicial system and we should try the Khalid Sheikh Muhammads in a court of law.
Martha tried to give him the ticking time bomb scenario to justify torture and he really didn’t bite. He did say maybe an Executive Order could be appropriate, but that it really wasn’t necessary. Petraeus repudiated pretty much most of what Limbaugh Republicans and the Rove/Newt/Cheney Party have been saying.
MacCallum: Where do you think those people should go?
Gen. Petraeus: Well, it’s not for a soldier to say. What I do support is what has been termed the responsible closure of Gitmo. Gitmo has caused us problems, there’s no question about it. I oversee a region in which the existence of Gitmo has been used by the enemy against us. We have not been without missteps or mistakes in our activity since 9/11 and again Gitmo is a lingering reminder for the use of some in that regard.
MacCallum: What about the concern that a Khalid Sheikh Muhammad or anybody of that ilk might be tried here in a US court and the possibility that some of the treatments that were used on them that they could go free.
Gen. Petraeus: Well, first of all, I don’t think we should be afraid of our values we’re fighting for, what we stand for. And so indeed we need to embrace them and we need to operationalize them in how we carry out what it is we’re doing on the battlefield and everywhere else. So one has to have some faith, I think, in the legal system. One has to have a degree of confidence that individuals that have conducted such extremist activity would indeed be found guilty in our courts of law.
MacCallum: So you’re confident that they will never go free.
Gen. Petraeus: I hope that’s the case.
MacCallum: (Ticking time bomb scenario)
Gen. Petraeus: ….T here might be an exception and that would require extraordinary but very rapid approval to deal with, but for the vast majority of the cases, our experience downrange if you will, is that the techniques that are in the Army Field Manual that lays out how we treat detainees, how we interrogate them — those techniques work, that’s our experience in this business.
MacCallum: So is sending this signal that we’re not going to use these kind of techniques anymore, what kind of impact does this have on people who do us harm in the field that you operate in?
Gen. Petraeus: Well, actually what I would ask is, does that not take away from our enemies a tool which again have beaten us around the head and shoulders in the court of public opinion? When we have taken steps that have violated the Geneva Conventions, we rightly have been criticized, so as we move forward I think it’s important to again live our values, to live the agreements that we have made in the international justice arena and to practice those.
Wow, there was a lot in that interview. I couldn’t transcribe it all. He admits that we violated the Geneva Convention. Is he saying that the Bush/Cheney administration failed our “value system” in their leadership in the two wars and how America responded to the 9/11 attacks?
He obviously is against torture. He is also saying to let the chips fall where they may in prosecuting these detainees and use our legal system to try terror suspects. Martha didn’t go into the military commissions, but if they come here, just let them stand trial. All the conservatives and Republicans anointed Gen. Petraeus as the true leader of the wars when George Bush decided he didn’t want to take the heat on the war any longer.
Remember when to question him was sacrilegious? Will they now disavow what he is telling them today?
After the interview, the other Fox host predictably tried to intimate that Petraeus was working for Obama now so, ya know, he’s in the tank for him. Whatever happened to listening to the generals on the ground being critical to our “victory” in Iraq? He said that our values as a country do change in a time of war — a scary notion — so Bush is just all right. Don’t they ever give up with their Bush-hero worshiping?
How long will it take Rush Limbaugh to lash out at the General? What about Newt and Rove?
The president’s revelation of the remainder of this nightmare of Bush Administration torture memos.
This President has gone where few before him, dared. The dirty laundry — illegal, un-American, self-defeating, self-destroying — is out for all to see.
Mr. Obama deserves our praise and our thanks for that. And yet he has gone but half-way. And, in this case, in far too many respects, half the distance is worse than standing still. Today, Mr. President, in acknowledging these science-fiction-like documents, you said that:
“This is a time for reflection, not retribution. I respect the strong views and emotions that these issues evoke.”
“We have been through a dark and painful chapter in our history.
“But at a time of great challenges and disturbing disunity, nothing will be gained by spending our time and energy laying blame for the past.
Mr. President, you are wrong. What you describe would be not “spent energy” but catharsis.
Not “blame laid,” but responsibility ascribed. You continued:
“Our national greatness is embedded in America’s ability to right its course in concert with our core values, and to move forward with confidence. That is why we must resist the forces that divide us, and instead come together on behalf of our common future.”
Indeed we must, Mr. President. And the forces of which you speak are the ones lingering — with pervasive stench — from the previous administration. Far more than a criminal stench, Sir. An immoral one. One we cannot let be re-created.
One, President Obama, it is your responsibility to make sure cannot be re-created. Forgive me for quoting from a Comment I offered the night before the inauguration. But this goes to the core of the President’s commendable, but wholly naive, intention. This country has never “moved forward with confidence”.without first cleansing itself of its mistaken past.
In point of fact, every effort to merely draw a line in the sand and declare the past dead has served only to keep the past alive and often to strengthen it. We “moved forward” with slavery in the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution. And four score and nine years later, we had buried 600,000 of our sons and brothers, in a Civil War.
After that war’s ending, we “moved forward” without the social restructuring — and protection of the rights of minorities — in the south. And a century later, we had not only not resolved anything, but black leaders were still being assassinated in our southern cities.
We “moved forward” with Germany in the reconstruction of Europe after the First World War.
Nobody even arrested the German Kaiser, let alone conducted war crimes trials then. And 19 years later, there was an indescribably more evil Germany and a more heart-rending Second World War.
We “moved forward” with the trusts of the early 1900s. And today, we are at the mercy of corporations too big to fail. We “moved forward” with the Palmer Raids and got McCarthyism.
And we “moved forward” with McCarthyism and got Watergate. We “moved forward” with Watergate and junior members of the Ford administration realized how little was ultimately at risk.
They grew up to be Paul Wolfowitz and Donald Rumsfeld and Dick Cheney. But, Mr. President, when you say we must “come together on behalf of our common future” you are entirely correct. We must focus on getting things right in the future, as opposed to looking at what we got wrong in the past.
That means prosecuting all those involved in the Bush administration’s torture of prisoners, even if the results are nominal punishments, or merely new laws. Your only other option is to let this set and fester indefinitely. Because, Sir, some day there will be another Republican president, or even a Democrat just as blind as Mr. Bush to ethics and this country’s moral force. And he will look back to what you did about Mr. Bush. Or what you did not do.
And he will see precedent. Or as Cheney saw, he will see how not to get caught next time. Prosecute, Mr. President. Even if you get not one conviction, you will still have accomplished good for generations unborn. Merely by acting, you will deny a further wrong — that this construction will enter the history books: Torture was legal. It worked. It saved the country.
The end. This must not be. “It is our intention,” you said today, “to assure those who carried out their duties relying in good faith upon legal advice from the Department of Justice that they will not be subject to prosecution.” Mr. President, you are making history’s easiest, most often made, most dangerous mistake — you are accepting the defense that somebody was “just following orders.” At the end of his first year in office, Mr. Lincoln tried to contextualize the Civil War for those who still wanted to compromise with evils of secession and slavery. “The struggle of today,” Lincoln wrote, “is not altogether for today. It is for a vast future also.”
Mr. President, you have now been handed the beginning of that future. Use it to protect our children and our distant descendants from anything like this ever happening again — by showing them that those who did this, were neither unfairly scapegoated nor absolved. It is good to say “we won’t do it again.” It is not, however…enough.
Gen. Jack Keane. Keane,
Tue Jan 27, 2009 at 05:20:05 PM PST
Despite the Right’s breathless efforts to keep Guantanamo open because it’s just too scary to close, efforts that smack of utter delusion and shameless fear-mongering, they get no assist from reality, or from Secretary Gates:
Sen. Saxby Chambliss (R-Ga.) asks Defense Secretary Bob Gates about Guantanamo. Finally.
Gates doesn’t really make an overt pushback, but he subtly points out that Guantanamo isn’t something to be afraid of. The total recidivism numbers “until recently” from Guantanamo have been on the order of “four or five percent, but there’s been an uptick in recent months.” Worst of the worst, huh? So much for the bogus 61 detainees back in the fight number–which, by my back-of-the-envelope calculations based on about 750 detainees having gone through Guantanamo in total, would be about eight percent, or double Gates’ total.
Of course, since those numbers are based on who knows what accounting, whether there’s been an actual uptick in recidivism or not is a matter of debate. What shouldn’t be up for debate is that a legitimate, systematic process needs to finally be put in place for dealing with these detainees. The whole system at Guantanamo of military commissions has been such a complete and utter farce that the only it’s been effective at is as a recruitment tool for al Qaeda.