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Monday, May 17, 2010

And we thought Cheney was bad
Posted by Jill | 7:09 PM
One of the reasons why the story of Henry VIII resonates as much as it does to this day is that it combines sex with almost unimaginable cruelty. We watch telling after telling of the story, which reaches its gruesome apex with the horrific executions in 1452 of the barely-twenty-year-old Queen, Katherine Howard, along with her lover Thomas Culpeper, and her former lover Francis Dereham from well before her marriage to the King. The series The Tudors on Showtime plays fast and loose in many ways with history, but its graphic depiction of the torture and executions of Culpeper and Dereham are straight out of history (Warning: highly graphic video):

The Spanish Ambassador at the time, Eustace Chapuys, wrote an account of Katherine's fall and the executions of Dereham and Culpeper:
This year on 13 November Sir Thomas Wriothesley, secretary to the king, came to Hampton Court to the queen, and called all the ladies and gentlewomen and her servants into the great chamber, and there openly before them declared certain offenses she had committed in misusing her body with certain persons before the king's time, because of which he there discharged all her household; and the morning after she was taken to Sion, with my Lady Bainton and two other gentlewomen and certain of her servants to wait on her there until the king's further pleasure. And various people were taken to the Tower of London, such as my Lady Rochford, Master Culpepper, one of the king's privy chamber, and others.

On 1 December Thomas Culpepper, one of the gentlemen of the king's privy chamber, and Francis Dorand, gentleman, were arraigned at the Guildhall in London, for high treason against the king's majesty, in misdemeanor with the queen, as appeared by their indictment which they confessed to, and they were sentenced to be drawn, hanged, and quartered, the lord mayor sitting there as chief, the lord chancellor on his right hand, and the duke of Norfolk on his left hand, the duke of Suffolk, the lord privy seal, the earls of Sussex, of Hertford, and various others of the king's council sitting with all the judges also in commission that day.

And on 10 December the said Culpepper and Dorand were drawn from the Tower of London to Tyburn, and there Culpepper, after exhorting the people to pray for him, stood on the ground by the gallows, knelt down and had his head struck off; and then Dorand was hanged, dismembered, disemboweled, beheaded and quartered. Culpepper's body was buried at St Sepulchre's church near Newgate, and their heads were set on London Bridge.

For some reason, we fail to draw parallels between the tortures meted out by corrupt European royals during long-ago history and what is being done to human beings in our name in our own time. We like to think we're somehow more enlightened.

Except that we're not, as Sebastian Doggart horrifyingly reveals over at Down With Tyranny:
War criminal? Torturer? Condi Rice?!

I had the same response while making my investigative documentary on Rice, American Faust: From Condi to Neo-Condi. Over the course of researching and producing it, I have come to share Professor Gilbert’s view that the gravity of Rice’s crimes and misdemeanors, still largely unknown to the American people, outweigh the benefits of President Obama’s view that “we need to look forward as opposed to looking backwards.”

The conviction that we need to read the page of history before we can turn it underpins American Faust. Through the form of a biographical documentary, we tell a Faustian story of a woman whose hubris tempted her into a pursuit of power that destroyed her core values, and hurtled America into a perilous new direction. It’s a portrait of a woman who has changed the world but about whom most people know very little. It overturns the popular misconception of Rice as a yes-woman to Bush and reveals her as his chief confidante-- with deeper and more enduring influence than even Dick Cheney, Donald Rumsfeld, or Karl Rove-- and thus responsible for much of the Bush legacy.


it was Condoleezza Rice who is primarily responsible for the Bush Administration’s torture program. It was she who ordered the CIA to use torture techniques including genital mutilation, fingernail extraction and electrocution in countries across the world. The CIA agents who carried out these interrogations were acting under orders which came directly from the chairwoman of the Group of Principals: Condoleezza Rice. The role of the Principals-- a group that included Vice President Dick Cheney, Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld and Attorney Generals John Ashcroft and Alberto Gonzales-- was to select and authorize ‘enhanced interrogation methods’ proposed by CIA Director George Tenet.

According to Christopher Anders, attorney for the ACLU: “The CIA would come in and give a presentation of what they wanted to do, to the point where, where they were choreographing interrogations and the torture from the basement of the White House itself.”

Pulitzer Prize winning journalist Glenn Kessler says: “These ‘enhanced interrogation methods’ included water-boarding, fingernail extraction, and sleep deprivation. Condi signed off on the orders to the CIA with the words, ‘This is your Baby, go do it!’” Richard Clarke, US chief counter-terrorism adviser between 1992-2003 concurs: “Rice decided what torture to use on what person.”

American Faust reveals that the techniques that Rice approved went far beyond the mock executions and water-boarding already made public. Our film has first-hand accounts of torture techniques that make stress positions look like a slap on the wrist. Binyam Mohamed had his penis cut, and acid poured into the wounds. Khalid el Masri was drugged, sodomized and imprisoned without charges. Abu Omar was tied to a wet mattress and electrocuted. Mamdouh Habib had his fingernails torn out.

Even John Ashcroft, known for a nutty rendition of his song Let the Eagle Soar but not for his leniency to Moslem prisoners, objected to the torture meetings that Rice chaired: "Why are we talking about this in the White House?” he asked. “History will not judge this kindly."

But perhaps they will make a Showtime series about it. And our descendants will, just as we do, think they are more enlightened than that.

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Anonymous mandt said...
Condoleezza Rice: the Else Koch of Stanford. Way to go Stanford, that gives you a go up from Berkeley's John Yu, the torture guy.

Blogger casey said...
Hello Jill,

If and possibly when she dies hell will be too good of a final destination.