A Straight Shot of Politics

A blog from a gentleman of the Liberal political persuasion dedicated to right reason, clear thinking, cogent argument, and the public good.

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Location: Columbus, Ohio, United States

I have returned from darkness and quiet. I used to style myself as "Joe Claus", Santa Claus’ younger brother because that is what I still look like. I wrote my heart out about liberal politics until June of 2006, when all that could be said had been said. I wrote until I could write no more and I wrote what I best liked to read when I was young and hopeful: the short familiar essays in Engish and American periodicals of 50 to 100 years ago. The archetype of them were those of G.K. Chesterton, written in newspapers and gathered into numerous small books. I am ready to write them again. I am ready to write about life as seen by the impoverished, by the mentally ill, by the thirty years and more of American Buddhist converts, and by the sharp eyed people [so few now in number] with the watcher's disease, the people who watch and watch and watch. I am all of these.

Thursday, May 26, 2005

The Torture and Murder Files

"That Was In Another Country: and Besides the Wench is Dead." --Christopher Marlowe, The Jew of Malta

Politics is an ephemeral matter, so I have seen no reason to gaggle most of my posts into categories for future reference. What I have to say is either so fundamental in principle that it must be routinely repeated in any new argument, or so specific to the issue that it evaporates in the heated rush of events.

I have made an exception in the case of Buddhism, and I am making one here:

In 1973 Amnesty International published its first report on torture. It found that: "torture thrives on secrecy and impunity. Torture rears its head when the legal barriers against it are barred. Torture feeds on discrimination and fear. Torture gains ground when official condemnation of it is less than absolute." The pictures of detainees in US custody in Abu Ghraib, Iraq, show that what was true 30 years ago remains true today.

Despite the near-universal outrage generated by the photographs coming out of Abu Ghraib, and the evidence suggesting that such practices are being applied to other prisoners held by the USA in Afghanistan, Guantanamo and elsewhere, neither the US administration nor the US Congress has called for a full and independent investigation.

Instead, the US government has gone to great lengths to restrict the application of the Geneva Conventions and to "re-define" torture. It has sought to justify the use of coercive interrogation techniques, the practice of holding "ghost detainees" (people in unacknowledged incommunicado detention) and the "rendering" or handing over of prisoners to third countries that practise torture. The detention facility at Guantanamo Bay has become the gulag of our times, entrenching the practice of arbitrary and indefinite detention in violation of international law. Trials by military commissions have made a mockery of justice and due process.

The USA, as the unrivalled political, military and economic hyper-power, sets the tone for governmental behaviour worldwide. When the most powerful country in the world thumbs its nose at the rule of law and human rights, it grants a licence to others to commit abuse with impunity and audacity. From Israel to Uzbekistan, Egypt to Nepal, governments have openly defied human rights and international humanitarian law in the name of national security and "counter-terrorism". --Irene Khan, Secretary General, Amnesty International

Our country has extended the mere making of war into torture and murder. Some of it has been done under quasi-official sanction, and more of it has clearly been done under quasi-official sanction than the quasi-officials of our quasi-Government will admit.

An honest and moral man must stand against this and an American citizen must demand an accounting for it. I am both and I do both.

This is so even though I don't really expect an accounting any time soon. We will get an accounting only if enough of us unite and insist on it. I doubt that will happen in what is left of my life.

We subsist in a panicked and paranoid atmosphere where there are many apologists for torture and murder, many controversialist for them, and many causuitrists for them. The most degrading thing about this atmosphere is how many people are actually enjoying the parnanoia and panic, because it allows them to justify torture and turn a blind eye to murder. And, by the way, I mean murder and not fighting enemies who are shooting back.

The mongers of torture live in a fantasy, recycled over and over, of the need to torture a hypothetical "somebody" to prevent to prevent another hypothetical large terrorist attack. But since anybody might be that "somebody" without our knowing it, torture of "anybody" is automaticly justified by the same argument. And since "anybody" is, by definition, part of the everybody who we have happened to round up and incarcerate after they surrender, after they are kidnapped, or after they are arrested--the torture of everybody is justified, too.

The defining characteristic of all the American armchair interrogators who justify torture is that they are always somewhere else when the real screams of a genuine human being--with a name, a face, and a family--begin. They probably wouldn't have the stomach to stand them, however much they see the need of torture to protect us at all costs. That's somebody else's job. Unfortunately "somebody else" also has a name, a face, and a family, and "somebody else's" job has a moral impact on their personal future. Do my fine armchair interrogators think about that when they excuse torture?

The one genuine interrogator I have found who has been willing to speak up is perfectly well acquainted with what torture does to the torturer, which is one thing the armchair generals who draw such fine moral lines to justify torture completely ignore.

Nothing, apparently, can bring the makers of this argument for torture to their senses about how it justifies torture as a permanent and enduring American institution, and justifies making a large number of young Americans into a permanent cadre of professional torturers.

Will this happen? Maybe. Will all opposition to it be suppressed? Maybe. Certainly with a permanent cadre of professional torturers, suppressing it will be a whole lot easier than without them.

But until it is, or until a genuine accounting is finally made because enough Americans have the intellectual clarity and moral courage to stand up and demand it be made, and are not buffaloed by the lovers of panic and paranoia to justify hate, I will keep an historical record here of the opposition to torture and murder of myself and others.

We are not quasi-Americans and we will not let the quasi-officials of a quasi-Government speak to the world justifying torture in our name.

The Guantanamo Gulag

Another Principled American Speaks Out

"Don't fool yourself - there is a part of you that will say, 'This is fun.' ''

Twenty-Seven Men Were Murdered By American Soldiers

We All Must Keep Bringing It Up Again and Again

Yes, Virginia, Torture is Wrong

Meanwhile, Back in 1984

Yet Another Systematic UN-American Outrage


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