Wednesday, December 10, 2014

A Nation of Laws

Dick Cheney was a frightened man.  Deeply shaken when the twin towers fell. His fear fed his own  harsh proclivities, it clouded his mind, as fear always does, and too easily lured his heart's own longing for the dark side.

Dick Cheney was not alone.  Too many Americans shared his mind frame. The only difference was that Cheney was the Vice President of the most powerful nation on earth.  He was also the inside man, the man with full access to the CIA, the man who got things done, the fixer, the enforcer.  And standing in his way was a nation that prided itself on being a nation of laws, laws that required that we "keep the gloves on" at all times, because that's who we think we are.  For Dick, however, gloves were always an unwanted impediment to his powerful sense of realpolitik.  His fear and 9/11 was the perfect excuse he needed to take them off.

From that, all else followed.     

And so, here we are.  What was known-but-not-known is now beyond denial, except for those whose jobs and reputations and legacies depend on their continuing The Big Lie. It's a tactic that will work because it always does.  Which is why the most discouraging thing about the recently released report on the CIA and Torture is that we can all be sure that nothing will be done.  There will be no accountability, no consequences, no perp-walks, no war-crime trials, no Truth and Reconciliation hearings,  no nothing.  Just a massive report which will be denied by those who administered the program, then put on a shelf.  Then . . . nothing.

Except we will once again start piously declaring to ourselves and the world about how America is a nation of laws.The rest of the world will snigger up their sleeves.  They know better.

America tortures.  America commits war crimes.  Just like a lot of other Thug Nations that America publicly decries.  But America gets away with its murders because Power and Expediency, not Law, not Justice, is what America is a nation of. 

So we regularly go through this sad dance of faux "Accountability," throw a few low-level folks under the bus, declare ourselves My Bad, write, then shelve a big thick report, and then The Great Forgetting will set in . Until next time.

I have no doubt that some very angry jihadists will use this report to engage in some war crimes of their own.  Murder always calls out for more murder.  And already the foxes are defending their chicken coops while a whole gaggle of politicians are diving under their desks in a fit of forgetting as to what they knew and when they knew it. This will play out in the 24/7 news media, and partisan politicians are already starting to change the narrative: The 9/11 "mood" of the country made us do it.  After all, everyone knows that torture works and war crimes are O.K. . . . . if you're angry.

In no time, that narrative will prevail and we'll be back cocooned inside our comforting belief that we are exceptional and so did no wrong because we are, after all, America -- a Nation of Laws.


Patrick O'Hannigan said...

Good column, but Dick Cheney was not the first or the last to subvert the whole "nation of laws" idea (and that's not a defense; it's an observation). Our current president does not even have the "9/11 mood" excuse for his own lawlessness.

Sewertoons AKA Lynette Tornatzky said...

Oh please, can we not make this about Obama? Equating amnesty with torture is ridiculous.

Let's listen to the ACLU guy and do the pardon thing, as was done for Nixon and Reagan. It's the best we will get I think.

mom said...

too quick to beat up on obama, you guys. you are committing the sin of scrupulousness. remember, obama was the one who declared torture was over. and it was a really, REALLY gutsy move.

and yes, he also let the culprits go. but obama knows that the world will deal with those bastards. as a matter of fact, the whole world is watching right now, which is why we're talking about it today.

i used to be a purist but i have come to realize we will never get a perfect president (or anything else) and that you GOTTA pick a team and work for the good, if not the perfect. i voted for eldridge cleaver for god's sake. and my daughter voted for ralph nader, and we got nixon and bush.


thanking you in advance, i am

faithfully yours,


mom said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
bunchadogs said...

I would love to see accountability, consequences, perp-walks, and war-crime trials re: torture, but....if that is not to be, I would mostly love to see the torture stopped.
but will we again just ship out our prisoners to be rendered in some other country.

Sandra Gore said...

What I abhor most about torture is what it does to the mind of the torturer and the kind of sadists we must use (or develop) to do the evil. Everyone is a loser - the ones suffering, the ones inflicting pain and most of all, our society as the monsters we've created live among us.

Sewertoons AKA Lynette Tornatzky said...

I was not beating up on Obama. But I suggest that as other Presidents have done he should follow: (Ford and Bush 1), they pardoned the acts (Watergate and Iran Contra), thereby acknowledging that there was an error (by Nixon and by Reagan). Letting everyone off with no punishment is just wrong.

(And Obama didn't grant actual "amnesty," just allowed families to stay together. If doing that is illegal, what was Watergate and Iran Contra? Obama was out in public announcing what was labeled above as "lawlessness.")

Churadogs said...

Sandra brings up a good point. Torture harms the inflicter and the inflictee. It rots totally and creates a sick silence that poisons everything.

And if Republicans can spend a bazillion months on Benghazi, surely we can at least have full public hearings on this, complete with supoenas and oaths, and get everyone on the record, including the Bush administration and congress people. As in Watergate, the question is, What did they know and when did they know it?

And, Donna, yes, there are no perfect politicians. But we voters really need to do a better job at electing people who actually want to govern. And govern on things that will benefit the most people, not narrow interests. It really is up to all of us to make better choices here.

Bunchadogs, yeah, I'd love to see some perp walks, but sadly I know any who get walked will be the little fish.

Patrick, for me, one of the most interesting aspects of 9/11 was the question, Would things have been different if we didn't have a administration of fake macho "cowboys" and "chickenhawks," who got scared. Lord knows, Americans in general had a collective nervous breakdown and so were prey to the manipulation by NeoCon fearmongers who set so much of this catastrophe into motion.

And as for Cheney, recent interview has him not having a problem with any of this torture. Not even "rectal hydration." Seriously? Well, that speaks volumes, doesn't it? Rectal hydration. Just some of that old "dark side" stuff Cheney loves.

There is an old saying that fish rots from the head down. That's what interests me about any 9/11 speculative musings. What if.. . .

Sewertoons AKA Lynette Tornatzky said...

The problem with voters is getting them to look beyond the soundbites. We often elect the familiar. If the budget bill passes, included in the 1,000 pages is a provision to allow individual donors to triple the limit they can spend now on political campaigns. That, coupled with dark money, means we little guys need to ramp up our political giving hugely to even have a voice at all in the cacophony.

As for Cheney, would he call rectal hydration torture if this technique were applied to an American? If ANY of these techniques were applied to Americans, wouldn't anyone giving these techniques a pass right now call them torture?

Bob from San Luis said...

So far, the very best solution I have heard proposed is for President Obama to grant pardons for George W. Bush, Dick Cheney and the entire cadre of cheerleaders for torture. This act would accomplish a couple of things; it would label all of those who are granted a pardon as having actually been responsible for the actions they have been accused of, and a Presidential pardon is something that cannot be taken back or ignored. Every single person in the Bush Administration that had a hand in designing, implementing, executing and attempting to hide the use of torture will have the pardon permanently attached to their resume would no longer be eligible to work in the US government, and possibly even as a contractor or adviser to any company that has a government contract.
And of course, this puts the whole mess of blacklist prisons, rendition, torture and everything associated with the program in the forefront of the news cycle in a way that the American public will not be able to ignore.
I'm all for everyone having a bumper sticker such as "Pardon Bush and Cheney for Torture". The supporters of the right will flip out ...

Sewertoons AKA Lynette Tornatzky said...

Most troubling in the Right's dissing of the report is the accompanying tacit dissing of John McCain, former Republican Presidential candidate, war hero and torture victim himself, who supports the report! Amazing who Cheney and others will run over to justify their actions.

Bob from San Luis said...

Funny that Lynnette: The guy who tried to sing "Bomb bomb bomb, bomb bomb Iran, ..." is now being painted as some sort of bleeding heart or RINO ...

I do wonder how history will record this moment in time; given how much chest-beating went on during the 2004 presidential election about "staying the course" and the supposed over-whelming support for Bush, it is funny that you can hardly find anyone who admits to voting for Bush back then ...

Sewertoons AKA Lynette Tornatzky said...

I guess it doesn't matter who you are, if your party determines you don't fit the modern brand, off you go. (Bush barely comes out to state much of anything these days, he is busy being an artist.)

Bob from San Luis said...

Kind of ironic that George W. Bush fancies himself an artist; perhaps he thinks he has a "tortured soul" ?575

Churadogs said...

I never thought I'd live to see the day when a doctor would have to write an op/ed piece for the L.A. Times explaining that there is no known "medical" reason for putting a man's lunch -- pasta, humus, raisins, nuts -- into a blender, inserting it into his rectum and then claim they're administering a "rectal feeding." As the good doctor had to remind the readers, the colon and rectum does not digest food. Digestion takes place in the mouth, stomach, small intestine, not the colon. The only reason anyone in the world would blend up someone's lunch and insert it into their butt is because they're trying to torture that person. Period.(I'm sure you've all noticed how much of the torture slides into the sexually perverse, all focused on anuses and genitals. This is sicko stuff. Our torturers have been watching too much porn and Liam Neesom/Jack Bauer movies.)

And now I'm not sure what is getting to be worse: Reading about this insanity or watching Pols standing there and refusing to use the word "torture" when talking about rectal feeding. To avoid that, they scrabble around for every euphemism in the book, oblivious to the fact that they're now looking like utter fools. Or abject liars. Or both.

Bob, I suspect you're right. Pardon the bastards and brand them criminals. Sadly, I doubt that will happen.

Jill'sjots said...

A wonderful column and many insightful responses. I naively believed that the horror of 9/11 would have created a united world against terrorist attacks. It certainly stalled the mindless acts of violence in the British Isles.

Churadogs said...

Jill, I think if the narrative had been framed by Bush differently, the world would have responded much better. The narrative of "war" creates honorable "warriors," and a sense of righteousness (God is on our side.)kicks in. Especially, given the history between West and Middle East. (Crusaders, Muslim victims, etc.)

The narrative of "criminal" creates good guys vs dirty, nasty, cowardly . . . "criminals."
The narrative of "criminal" creates the narrative of Law and Justice, and the justice rendered needs to be public, open, transparent so as to be seen to be done properly. (Open trials, not secret detention).

It's easy for nations who feel aggrieved to play the righteous victim when war is waged on them. But it's hard to maintain that defensive position when the issue becomes a criminal matter.

And, of course, Bush's invasion of Iraq just screwed the pooch totally and lost the world's support, for good reason. And for good reason. Most of the world smelled a rat in that deal. Americans didn't because they didn't care. They were out for revenge and any handy target would do. That kind of behavior made America the "criminal" rogue, not the wounded victim, and lost us vital support. A tragedy all 'round.

Bob from San Luis said...

Ann: As usual, you make sense; you have to remember though what the motivation was behind the "war" mentality being utilized by the Bush Administration. bin Laden was offered up to our country's leadership, IF he would be held for trial in another country, under international rules of law. Not only did Bush and company not want that deal, they proceeded to let him slip away at Tora Bora- most likely with the thought that they "needed" a bogyman out on the loose so they could justify further military expenditures.
Invading Iraq was an excuse on a couple of different fronts; Bush got to "avenge" his daddy, he used the war footing to appear to be a "strong" leader (to some, strong and wrong is better than not being strong (?)), and in the confusion of war, stealing is much easier to get away with. Where did the billions and billions of dollars that were shipped to Iraq in the form of shrink-wrapped pallets of cash go? How many no-bid contracts for military expenses went to buddies of Bush and Cheney?
Iraq was never about the security of the United States, there never was a "noble cause" - it was always about the money, with a convenient excuse for doling out torture as a side benefit for the sickos who authorized, approved, and made all the legal wrangling to justify it, period. Worst President Ever.

Churadogs said...

Bob; for sure. As I wrote years ago, it was all about the NeoCons' dream of turning Iraquis into Iowan Rotarians and giving a grand opening to American corporations to get a foothold in a "transformed" middle east. Among other things.

Turning Bin Laden over to another country would have been a non-starter. Symbolically, it was imperative that we be the ones to capture/try/kill him. But, it was the "war" narrative that was wrong from the start. Of course, the whole NeoCon scheme was the real driver of this thing so of course there was no way it could have gone right. and an awful lot of people paid a terrible price for this folly.

And Cheney is all over TV defending grind up lunch and inserting it into rectums and calling it "anal feeding." Fine with him, by crackey!