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Thursday, June 19, 2008

And the problem is, Americans just don't care
Posted by Jill | 6:13 AM
In an ideal world, John McCain's latest tirades about Barack Obama having "a September 10 mindset" and his trotting out of the now-hopefully-discredited Rudy Giuliani would be greeted with hoots, catcalls, and the tossing of metaphorical salmonella-tainted tomatoes. And the now-unassailable evidence that whatever George W. Bush says, what the U.S. has inflicted upon its "prisoners" -- in many cases guys they just swept off the street -- is, in fact torture, and that torture has been unacceptable in civilized societies for generations, would be met with horror and calls not just for the impeachment of everyone involved, but prosecution at the World Court, conviction, and punishment.

The problem is that all too many Americans still see people from the Middle East as "them" -- latent terrorists whom we can treat as we wish. And skyrocketing fuel prices don't help. After all, Americans have been told for the last eight years that our profligate, gas-guzzling lifestyle is somehow blessed by God, and it's an easy leap to "these people" interfering with that lifestyle.

So I don't know how much impact the assertion by a two-star general that this administration has, in fact, committed war crimes, is going to have.

In his 2004 report on Abu Ghraib, then-Major General Anthony Taguba concluded that "numerous incidents of sadistic, blatant, and wanton criminal abuses were inflicted on several detainees." He called the abuse "systemic and illegal." And, as Seymour M. Hersh reported in the New Yorker, he was rewarded for his honesty by being forced into retirement.

Now, in a preface to a Physicians for Human Rights report based on medical examinations of former detainees, Taguba adds an epilogue to his own investigation.

The new report, he writes, "tells the largely untold human story of what happened to detainees in our custody when the Commander-in-Chief and those under him authorized a systematic regime of torture. This story is not only written in words: It is scrawled for the rest of these individual's lives on their bodies and minds. Our national honor is stained by the indignity and inhumane treatment these men received from their captors.

"The profiles of these eleven former detainees, none of whom were ever charged with a crime or told why they were detained, are tragic and brutal rebuttals to those who claim that torture is ever justified. Through the experiences of these men in Iraq, Afghanistan, and Guantanamo Bay, we can see the full-scope of the damage this illegal and unsound policy has inflicted --both on America's institutions and our nation's founding values, which the military, intelligence services, and our justice system are duty-bound to defend.

"In order for these individuals to suffer the wanton cruelty to which they were subjected, a government policy was promulgated to the field whereby the Geneva Conventions and the Uniform Code of Military Justice were disregarded. The UN Convention Against Torture was indiscriminately ignored. . . .

In the piece quoted above, Dan Froomkin refers to this series of investigative reports by McClatchy newspapers -- a series that you must take the time to read. It is a devastating indictment of not just the Administration that perpetrated these crimes against humanity, but also of all of us. It's an indictment of a cowardly legislative branch that refuses to exercise its oversight role because its members are afraid of what a media that worships the bellicose hypermacho of the Bush Administration would say. It's an indictment of a frightened American population, too many of whom have applauded the torture in the name of retribution for 9/11. And it's an indictment of thosse of us who have been decrying torture since the beginning -- because we've been so spectacularly ineffective in somehow getting those whose job it is to put the brakes on this bunch of psychopaths that not looking the other way at these crimes is the right thing to do -- no matter what Chris Matthews says.

It should have people congregating outside the White House demanding the arrest of everyone in the West Wing, but it won't.

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Anonymous Anonymous said...
.. and now Americans "won't care more"..
ExxonMobil to the rescue. The return of $3.95 gas!

Who cares how many of those brown guys we torture. As long as we can have our SUVs back!
Not that the money won't go into the pocket of a few well placed CEOs and politicians.


"Four Western oil companies are in the final stages of negotiations this month on contracts that will return them to Iraq, 36 years after losing their oil concession to nationalization as Saddam Hussein rose to power.

"Exxon Mobil, Shell, Total and BP — the original partners in the Iraq Petroleum Company — along with Chevron and a number of smaller oil companies, are in talks with Iraq's Oil Ministry for no-bid contracts...."