Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Remember Them

I hope everyone had a chance to see the PBS documentary narrated by Peter Coyote, “Torturing Democracy,” a good follow-up to Academy Award winning “Taxi to the Dark Side.” As Joe Klein column said in his column in TIME, 19 January 2009, if there is to be a Bush Memorial in Washington it should feature “a statue of the hooded Abu Ghraib prisoner in cruciform stress position – the real Bush legacy. … On Feb. 7, 2002, [George W. Bush] signed a memorandum stating that the Third Geneva Convention – the one regarding the treatment of enemy prisoners taken in wartime – did not apply to members of al-Qaeda or the Taliban. That signature led directly to the abuses at Abu Ghraib and Guantanamo Bay. It was his single most callous and despicable act. It stands at the heart of the national embarrassment that was his presidency.“

Many will avoid seeing film of the tortures or reading accounts of them, but I hope that no-one will forgot those who made it possible – because in the years to come, these people will show up again, all white-washed, and many will forget who they are, as they have with past villains. They will grow rich, of course, with memoirs and delivering lectures, etc., and will look like perfectly respectable human beings. But remember their names.

Remember that the August 2002 Justice Department “torture memo,” requested by the then White House Counsel, Alberto Gonzales, was written by John Yoo, a Justice Department lawyer, and Jay Bybee. The memo argued that as commander in chief, the president could order torture without fear of criminal liability, and that in any event the torture statute did not prohibit threats of death, as long as the threatened death was not imminent….” Involved all along were Douglas Feith, “a leading neoconservative and undersecretary of defense for policy;" William Haynes, Dept. of Defense General Counsel; David Addington (Dick Cheney’s legal counsel at the time); and Donald Rumsfeld.

As reported in David Cole’s “What to Do About the Torturers?” The New York Review of Books, 15 January 2009, “The tactics used by the CIA in its interrogations of Khalid Sheikh Mohammed and other ‘high-level’ detainess, including waterboarding, were specifically approved in the White House situation room by Vice President Dick Cheney, Director of Central Intelligence George Tenet, Attorney General John Ashcroft, National Security Adviser Condolezza Rice, and Secretary of State Colin Powell. Ashcroft is reported to have remarked that ‘history will not judge us kindly,’ …”

Remember the names of these villains, as later they will be presented as innocents.

As described in the Joe Klein article and in the documentary, “Torturing Democracy,” the program “called Survival Evasion Resistance and Escape (SERE), in which various forms of torture are simulated to prepare U.S. special-ops personnel for the sorts of treatment they might receive if they’re taken prisoner” was instead used as instruction on how to torture. “The Bush Administration decided to have SERE trainees instruct its interrogation teams on how to torture prisoners. … Prisoners held by the U.S. were tortured – first at Guantanamo Bay and later in Afghanistan and Iraq. The Armed Services Committee reported details of the techniques used on one prisoner”: Over fifty-four days, beginning in late 2002, Mohammed al-Qahtani [al-Khatani] was interrogated for eighteen to twenty hours each day, denied anything more than four hours sleep per night, threatened by military dogs, stripped naked, hooded, forced to wear women’s underwear on his head, humiliated sexually by female interrogators, made to wear a leash and perform dog tricks, subjected to extreme heat and cold and loud music and loud noises, doused with cold water, and injected with intravenous fluid and not allowed to go the bathroom so that he urinated on himself. And yet this does not convey the nature of the tortures nearly so well as the images shown in “Torturing Democracy.”

Let any make amends in any way they can, but do not forget the history of these citizens (Please add in a Comment the names of any I may have neglected to list):

George W. Bush, Alberto Gonzales, John Yoo, Jay Bybee, Douglas Feith, William Haynes, David Addington, Donald Rumsfeld, Dick Cheney, George Tenet, John Ashcroft, Condolezza Rice, Colin Powell. They will all show up on your television as if reputable people – you know, like the villains of the Nixon and Reagan regimes.

[The sight of people wearing signboards, or costumes -- living advertisements -- is so reminiscent of the Great Depression, and looks like "slavery continued." But as this man said, "I need to help my children."]

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