Archive for category Abu Ghraib
Ed Kilgore has a good rant on Bush’s Toxic Legacy:
The mess in Iraq right now, along with the remarkably limited options for any constructive U.S. action to avoid humanitarian and political disaster, and the hostility of American public opinion to doing anything at all, provide fresh reminders that Barack Obama will leave office as he entered it: dealing with the unfinished business and toxic legacy of the George W. Bush administration. From Iraq, to Gitmo, to the NSA, to the housing sector, to the banking sector, to a completely fouled up non-system of campaign finance, to an out-of-control fossil fuel industry, to a long-range structural budget deficit, to a politicized judiciary, and to a radicalized Republican Party: the trouble never ends, and all created by a swaggering crew that inherited peace and prosperity and a budget surplus after the most dubious ascension to power in American history.
It’s worth pondering isn’t it?
Posted by Firmage Ed in 9/11, Abu Ghraib, Afghanistan, Biological Weapons, Bush Administration, Bush Failures, CIA, Civil liberties Infringement, Conservative, Crimes, Democracy, Democrats, Dick Cheney, Drone Strikes, George W. Bush, Guantanamo, Hezbollah, Human Rights, Iran, Iraq, Israel, John McCain, Liberal, Libertarianism, Mahdi Army, Mormon LDS, National Politics, nazis, Neocons, NSA Surveillance, Nuclear Weapons, Oliver North, Pakistan, Proof Bush Lied, Rumsfeld, Syria, Syria, Terrorism, This Blog, War Crimes on June 5, 2014
I’m so sorry to write this missive as a lead article (for 15 minutes) but I don’t remember how to find the comments and respond to them. The lonely little side-bar response to my article I’ve not seen, except for half a sentence. It seemed to be saying that the old days are gone now, and so we need NATO and the JN. I agree. With NATO, it is the trip-wire provision that we go to war, automatically if any NATO nation is attacked, regardless of who the attacker is. This takes not only the United States Congress, but the president, as Commander in Chief, from the decision to go to war. I support both the UN and, if handled correctly, NATO. But President J. Reuben Clark and I oppose the automatic going to war. Just like the fools, the ancient general staffs of all sides in WW I. No one wanted that war. There was no Adolph Hitler in that war that destroyed the entire 20th century. Better to have shot the general staffs, who came to deserve exactly that. What President Clark called for, and I, are what the United States has always done, before NATO. That is, to have treaties of peace and friendship with our allies and then, should hostilities commence, such treaties would call for all parties to go to war, or not, as their constitutions provide. In this way, we don’t declare war against a nation, and surely all the people, have not yet been born. How, pray tell, do we justify going to war against, and for, people not, or no longer, live on earth. With a few caveats, ditto for the UN. No provision of law allows the UN to overreach Congress in the decision for war or peace. For anyone interested, read my book with the late Francis Wormuth, To Cain the Dog of War. It is by odds the best book ever written on the way we go to war. Every single war we’ve ever fought, including our wars against the Indian tribes, is there analyzed. Francis did not live to see this book in print. I worked two years after his death to finish it. And I updated it 4 or 5 times, alone. I still put my dear friend’s name first, because I am honored to be linked, now, forever. Something like Mormon marriage through time and eternity. ed firmage xoxo
Glenn Greenwald has a detailed account of how the Obama administration has moved incrementally to make sure that no one is prosecuted for violations of laws against torture and even torture-related homicide.
Thursday, Attorney General Eric Holder announced the closing without charges of the only two cases under investigation relating to the US torture program: one that resulted in the 2002 death of an Afghan detainee at a secret CIA prison near Kabul, and the other the 2003 death of an Iraqi citizen while in CIA custody at Abu Ghraib. This decision, says the New York Times Friday, “eliminat[es] the last possibility that any criminal charges will be brought as a result of the brutal interrogations carried out by the CIA”.
Note: more than 100 detainees were reported to have died in custody, many after being tortured. Only two cases were investigated by the Obama DOJ.
Meanwhile, President Obama’s highly original “look forward not backward” approach to law enforcement does not apply to whistle-blowers. As Friday’s Times article on Holder’s announcement pointedly notes:
“While no one has been prosecuted for the harsh interrogations, a former CIA officer who helped hunt members of al-Qaida in Pakistan and later spoke publicly about waterboarding, John C Kiriakou, is awaiting trial on criminal charges that he disclosed to journalists the identity of other CIA officers who participated in the interrogations.”
While everyone is rightly focused on the lackluster economy recovery, the DOJ’s announcement that torturers now have immunity from prosecution (at least in the U.S.) represents another major failure of the Obama administration.
The fact that people are seriously arguing that the US can torture prisoners is deeply troubling. It occurred to me that we can look at our own history – sending Japanese Americans to internment camps during World War Two, centuries of stealing Native American’s their land and sending them off to reservations and stealing their children and sending them to “Indian Schools” – and identify actions which are unambiguous historical and national crimes, but we can also identify far more ambiguous examples of a difficult, even horrific, moral calculus.
By 1945, it was clear that Japan was not going to emerge victorious from the war – there were simply too many factors working against them. However, it was also clear that a victory would come only after long and difficult battles. Harry Truman, thrust into the presidency unexpectedly and frankly unprepared (FDR never much cared for Truman but accepted him as VP to maintain party unity) was faced with horrible options.
The obvious option was an invasion of Japan. Despite heavy bombing, the Japanese mainland had been left relatively functional (for instance food continued to be shipped internally). In preparing for an invasion, the Allies would have stepped up attacks on transportation systems in the Japanese islands. Breaking the back of Japan’s national transportation infrastructure, would have plunged the Japanese population into mass starvation (as it was, there was widespread famine in Japan in 1946). Japan’s governing junta was prepared to put citizens on the frontlines of an invasion. An invasion of the Japanese homeland could easily have cost a million Allied soldiers and millions of Japanese citizens (I’ve read one article that estimated as much as 10% of Japan’s civilian population killed in battle – not counting those killed by starvation and bombing raids). In addition, an invasion of Japan would have almost certainly have resulted in the deaths of all POWs being held by the Japanese. Even faced with such a scenario, Japan’s leaders were convinced they could win a negotiated settlement that would leave them in power.
Truman could have informed the Japanes the US possessed atomic weapons and arranged a demonstration; I’ve never fully understood the reasons for not choosing this option but I also understand that such an option might easily have spurred the Japanese to develop nuclear weapons and then deploy them against the US (IIRC, Japan had two separate efforts to develop atomic weapons but they were hampered by bureacratic infighting).
Truman was concerned about the Soviet Union’s military and territorial ambitions in both Europe and Asia. A quick end to the war with Japan would present opportunities on that front.
Truman opted for the one scenario that seemed most likely to save the most lives: drop atomic bombs on a Japanese city. I once read a description of all the strategic reasons for choosing Hiroshima and Nagasaki but I’m not sure they matter at this point. Truman authorized the use of the atomic bomb against a Japanese city, with plans to drop a second bomb a few days later if the Japanese did not surrender.
As I undersatnd it, Japan’s leaders didn’t fully realize what they were facing; initially they suspected the city had been subjected to an attack using incediary devices or some new bombing strategy and discounted reports that a single bomb could have inflicted the damage the city suffered (their belief concerning the incendiary attack made sense given the massive conflagration that consumed much of Hiroshima). After Nagasaki, Japan’s leaders realized that continued war meant not just military loss but national suicide. Internal Japanese politics – including an attempted military coup – delayed Japan’s surrender a few days. (I never really known but I suspect that the Allies were largley ignorant of Japan’s internal political struggles and circumstance.)
It’s entirely possible that Truman’s choice to use atomic weapons is not morally defensible. The generally accepted explanation seems to hold – and I agree – that the use of such weapons saved millions of lives on both sides by ending the war more quickly. The moral value is that the lost of two hundred thousand lives is preferable to the loss of millions.
The morality of using atomic weapons (and that’s not a phrase you ever expect to write) can only be established within a very specific historical context – the context of a war that had already lasted for years, that promised to last for years more and cost millions of lives and many more casualties.
I’ve chosen this scenario because it really happened and it comes as close to any real world “ticking time bomb” scenario that defenders of torture like to offer. Literally, Japan and the US were aiming guns at each other. The suffering inflicted on the citizens of Hiroshima and Nagasaki was every bit as bad as the suffering torture would inflict on an individual. Certainly, if hurting one person is bad, then hurting a hundred thousand is worse.
Torture’s proponents tell us that the use of torture would be limited to circumstances in which it would get information to save lives. Truman’s use of the atomic bomb saved lives.
So, then, you might ask, am I defending the use of torture? Not at all. Even a basic examination of the two situations reveal deep and very differences. The basic moral arguments concerning the two circumstances are radically different. Read the rest of this entry »
Via his roommate at BYU, this morning’s Washington Post reports that Torture Memo author Judge Jay Bybee is tortured by self-pity.
“Jay would be the sort of lawyer who would say, ‘Look, I’ll give you the legal advice, but it’s up to someone else to make the policy decision whether you implement it,’ ” said Randall Guynn, who roomed with Bybee at Brigham Young University and remains close.
In other words, “Its not my fault those evil men used my advice to justify torture.” Is Bybee then standing by his legal opinion?
Neither Guynn nor his brother, Steve, who also roomed with Bybee, recalled the judge distancing himself from the memos. But in the years since the first memo became public, Bybee left that sense with some.
Where is the personal responsibility? Where is the moral compass?
Since moving to Utah years ago, I am frequently reminded that without religion there is no morality.
If morality – the sense of right vs wrong — is derived exclusivily from religion, and Bybee’s religious training is straight from the bosum of The LDS Church… Is it possible the training at BYU Law School is at odds with religious doctrine? Or is Bybee a weak-kneed, ambitious, self-serving schmuck with a pretty face?
Bybee’s friends said he never sought the job at the Office of Legal Counsel. The reason he went back to Washington, Guynn said, was to interview with then-White House counsel Alberto R. Gonzales for a slot that would be opening on the 9th Circuit when a judge retired. The opening was not yet there, however, so Gonzales asked, “Would you be willing to take a position at the OLC first?” Guynn said.
I can only imagine what must be going on in Bybee’s head. “Dang. I got caught.”
Bybee should take this opportunity to become a ‘man.’ Otherwise, he’s going to face the fasted impeachment in history. Three Senators have already called for his resignation.
What is he waiting for?
Because no matter what we do, closing detention centers, electing new blood, or whatever else, we should always remember the times that we failed to do what we knew was right. Those who forget history…
Read the rest of this entry »