Tuesday, April 16, 2013

The Beatings Will Continue.....

There's only one thing wrong with today's New York Times headline, "U.S. Engaged in Torture After 9/11, Report Shows." It's written in the past tense. It insinuates that the war crimes have stopped under the Obama Administration.

 If anything, they have only gotten worse. Torture is still ongoing at Guantanamo, as evidenced by yesterday's powerful oral history of an editorial dictated by a hunger-striking unindicted inmate chained to a bed and undergoing forced feeding. It's still being outsourced to so-called black site prisons. Worst of all, waterboarding and other "harsh interrogation techniques" have largely been supplanted by the ultimate torture. Euphemistically known as the Disposition Matrix, it is effectively The Final Solution, Obama-style. This is the Terror Tuesday Kill List, the ongoing program of  "signature" drone strike executions, conducted simply on the basis of age, ethnicity, and location, location, location.

Not only is the Obama Administration continuing the Bush-era war crimes, it is going out of its way to punish whistleblowers coming forward to report on them. It has just issued yet another blanket gag order on all federal agencies in the convenient name of "national security," hoping to ensure that the chilling effect on journalism solidifies into a monolithic glacier of unprecedented opacity.

Of course, with yesterday's terror attack in Boston, the last thing to enter the minds of the leadership class will be anything remotely resembling regretful self-reflection. They have officially never heard of Blowback, or chickens coming home to roost. Instead, they'll double down, stand their ground, burst into an off-key cacophany of America the Beautiful.  They'll ratchet up the price of admission to National Security Theater, a grotesque show of authoritarianism in which we once again become both the actors and the audience.

They are all George Bush now. They're comfortable with what they did, they're comfortable with what they'll keep on doing. They're too big to fail and too big to jail. The government of the United States maintains its function as a monstrous protection racket for the rich and the powerful. 

You'd think that Grand Compromiser and Consensus Builder Obama would praise the bipartisan nature of the torture report released today by the Constitution Project.  Don't hold your breath. After all, it does criticize Obama for his own abject failure to investigate the Bush era abuses, even as it stops just short of indicting him for his own ongoing reign of terror. But it at least suggests that Obama himself is guilty of war crimes for failing to hold his predecessor accountable. It also criticizes him  for his "excessive secrecy." 

With more and more people expressing revulsion at everything from the slashing of the safety net, to inhumane treatment of people both here and abroad, to the relentless kowtowing to private interests at public expense, the very legitimacy of this administration is becoming rapidly eroded. The scales are falling off, the blinders of the populace are coming off.


James F Traynor said...

I hope you are correct in that last sentence. And, even if so, there are the rose colored glasses.

Pearl said...


Karen's referral to the N.Y.Times editorial of the oral history of a Gitmo prisoner's confinement during a hunger strike had a large number of enlightened comments following. Many were obvious liberal democrats who had plenty to say about Obama's role in this and other unacceptable political decisions. I don't remember such strong reactions from N.Y.Times readers in any previous articles to date. I do think that more reports coming out about what is happening under his reign are beginning to open eyes. We need to encourage this kind of reporting from the paper.

Tommy Bones said...

Karen, I quit reading your blog quite awhile ago because I thought you were being unduly hard on Obama. Now it looks like you had his number from the beginning. It was the Social Security thing which really forced me to open my eyes. I think I indulged in hopeful/wishful thinking far too long.

James F Traynor said...

So many are looking to Hilary to save them. Imagine 2016, a choice between Jeb, Rubio vs. Hilary, and Whoever.

Pearl said...

It is interesting that the N.Y.Times often removes articles (usually the
controversial ones) into the search areas and unless you remember the exact name of the article is very hard to locate. I sent a complaint to the editor about this practice and specifically about the important editorial "Gitmo Is Killing Me' that Karen referred to. As a result many interesting articles may be missed by readers - deliberately?

Denis Neville said...

Beatings of the nuns will continue.

Pope Francis has reaffirmed the reprimand of American nuns issued by his predecessor, Pope Benedict XVI, and endorsed the plan to have three bishops supervise an overhaul of the nation’s largest umbrella group of American nuns.

Popes, cardinals and bishops stand with the oligarchs, while nuns are allies of and minister to the poor.

Zee said...

I see that in the wake of the Boston Marathon bombings, Rep. Peter King (R; New York City) has declared that we just need more cameras on the streets to prevent such future attacks, or, at least, to catch the perpertrators after the fact:


At every turn, in the face of whatever type of horrific, criminal action, our politicians and our fellow citizens—of all political stripes—are eager to “...give up essential liberty to obtain a little temporary safety...”*

“Big Brother, we welcome and embrace you! Please just keep us safe !”

*“They that can give up essential liberty to obtain a little temporary safety, deserve neither liberty nor safety.”—Benjamin Franklin.


PS: In this instance, I kinda agree with @reader from an earlier thread. “When public policy is formed by situation-driven emotion, and not ultimate facts, we loose [sic].”

Zee said...

And I see that America's great Nanny Mayor, Michael Bloomberg, is concerned that "'special interests' [are] shaping the city’s [NYC's] security policies in a way 'that the terrorists are waiting for.'"


Presumably, those "special interests" are me, the ACLU, and, maybe even YOU, who don't care to have our images remotely captured, analyzed, and stored for later use against us at every turn.

Oh, well.

I've seen NYC a few times. I don't ever need to go back. And there are many other camera-infested cities that I never need to see again, either.

Good luck to those of you who HAVE to live there.

Denis Neville said...

The most important finding of the Constitution Project Task Force is that it is indisputable that the United States engaged in the practice of torture. The second notable conclusion of the Task Force is that the nation’s highest officials bear some responsibility for allowing and contributing to the spread of torture. http://detaineetaskforce.org/

Why is the Obama administration not upholding the rule of law? Why have they embraced so many of the Bush/Cheney policies in terrorism and civil liberties?

Compare the above moral failings to Helmuth von Moltke, the German jurist who opposed Hitler and the Nazis and the environment in which the law was constantly subverted to political expedience.

Read Scott Horton’s “When Lawyers Are War Criminals” marking the anniversary of the Nuremberg Tribunals:

“I come to the example of Moltke…namely that he very properly puts the emphasis not on the simple soldiers who invariably operate the weaponry of war, but on those who make the policies that drive their conduct. And in that process, his stern gaze falls first on the lawyers. In a proper society, the lawyers are the guardians of law, and in times of war, their role becomes solemn. Moltke challenges us to test the conduct of the lawyers. Do they show fidelity to the law? Do they recognize that the law of armed conflict, with its protections for disarmed combatants, for civilians and for detainees, reflects a particularly powerful type of law - as Jackson said “the basic building blocks of civilization”? Do they appreciate that in this area of law, above all others, the usual lawyerly tricks of dicing and splicing, of sophist subversion, cannot be tolerated? These are questions Moltke asked. They are questions that the US-led prosecution team in Nuremberg asked. They are questions that Americans should be asking today about the conduct of government lawyers who have seriously wounded, if not destroyed, the Geneva system.”

Instead we have the whitewash by the Obama administration. Shameful!

“Should any American soldier be so base and infamous as to injure any prisoner. . . I do most earnestly enjoin you to bring him to such severe and exemplary punishment as the enormity of the crime may require. Should it extend to death itself, it will not be disproportional to its guilt at such a time and in such a cause… for by such conduct they bring shame, disgrace and ruin to themselves and their country.” - George Washington, charge to the Northern Expeditionary Force, Sept. 14, 1775

Will Obama the Constitutional lawyer please stand up? Not today. Not the lawyers. Not Obama.

Denis Neville said...

"Small wonder that confidence languishes, for it thrives only on honesty, on honor, on the sacredness of obligations, on faithful protection, on unselfish performance; without them it cannot live." - Franklin D. Roosevelt, First Inaugural Address

In his State of the Union Address, President Obama laid out a blueprint for an economy where everyone gets a fair shot, everyone does their fair share, and everyone plays by the same set of rules, including those who have been elected to serve the American people. “Send me a bill that bans insider trading by members of Congress; I will sign it tomorrow.” - President Obama, State of the Union, January 24, 2012

On April 4, 2012, President Obama signed into law the Stop Trading on Congressional Knowledge Act [STOCK Act] that prevents Members of Congress from trading stocks based on nonpublic information they gleaned on Capitol Hill. “While this is a good first step, the President will continue to work with Congress to do even more to help fight the destructive influence of money in politics and rebuild the trust between Washington and the American people.” - The White House, Office of the Press Secretary

On April 15, 2013, President Barack Obama signed into law a partial repeal of the STOCK Act, gutting the transparency provisions of the insider trading law:

S. 716, which eliminates the requirement in the STOCK Act to make available on official websites the financial disclosure forms of employees of the executive and legislative branches other than the President, the Vice President, Members of and candidates for Congress, and several specified Presidentially nominated and Senate-confirmed officers; and delays until January 1, 2014, the date by which systems must be developed that enable public access to financial disclosure forms of covered individuals.

The White House cited national security concerns in canceling a planned online database of investment information of top congressional staffers and administration employees.

“Without the provisions, the STOCK act is made toothless. Insider trading by members of Congress and federal employees is still prohibited, but the ability of watchdog groups to verify that Congress is following its own rules is severely limited because these records could still be filed on paper — an unacceptably outdated practice that limits the public’s access." - Center for Responsive Politics http://www.opensecrets.org/news/2013/04/action-alert-stock-act-reversal-signed.html

Today from Yves Smith at Naked Capitalism, “More Washington Sleaze: Lobbyist Tip Stoked Health Care Stock Jump.” http://www.nakedcapitalism.com/2013/04/more-washington-sleaze-lobbyist-tip-stoked-health-care-stock-jump.html

Smith also recommends Norm Scheiber’s must-read article in The New Republic, “Get Rich or Deny Trying: How to make millions off Obama,” http://www.newrepublic.com/article/112906/where-obama-staff-veterans-are-working-2013#

As Smith says, “This story makes the outrage over the Clintons’ selling the Lincoln bedroom seems so…quaint. For every anecdote Scheiber presents, it’s certain there are a dozen more like it. No wonder people like Gene Sperling, director of the National Economic Council, use the phrase “middle class” as if it was an alien phenomenon. The people in the Beltway money bubble don’t need to care about ordinary Americans, and so they don’t.”

Karen Garcia said...

Maureen Dowd has finally addressed Obama's drone killings (at least I believe this is the first time she's done so). Pearl's comment:

Many years ago when Golda Meir left office she made a statement that electrified the world. "We have become a nation of killers". And so our country has also become a killer nation.

Watching the horrors of the Boston Marathon attacks and the horrific tragedy of people's bodies being torn apart reminds me of what the effects of drones, unjust wars have done to the minds and bodies of people in other parts of the world. The casualties of children is unbelievably high from these attacks and as we weep for the victims of violence in our country, let us begin to understand how others are suffering as a result of our hawkish policies.

Regardless of whom created the chaos in Boston or why, one thing is certain, violence begets violence. It is vital that we learn to resolve our problems in a less combative manner and inspire others to join us at a universal peace table. We are running out of time, money, body counts and intelligent choices.

Maureen, you have outdone yourself in your honest and courageous column.


And here's my response:

I wonder how the innocent civilians terrorized by the constant buzzing of remote control drones over their heads must have felt if they heard President Obama in the wake of the Boston Marathon bombing:

"This was a heinous and cowardly act.... Any time bombs are used to target innocent civilians it is an act of terror. What we don’t yet know, however, is who carried out this attack, or why; whether it was planned and executed by a terrorist organization, foreign or domestic, or was the act of a malevolent individual."

Does he even get the hypocrisy of that statement? Or has he become as drunk on power and malevolent hubris as Bush & Co? Bush, as free and proud as a very placid peacock, is all set to honor himself at his new library next week. He told the Dallas Morning News: "I'm comfortable with what I did. I'm comfortable with who I am."

So much for accountability. Obama has embraced the Bush legacy. In its report on torture, the Constitution Project not only accuses the Obama administration of complicity, it rightly notes the "excessive secrecy" surrounding his Orwellian, Brennan-CIA inspired Disposition Matrix (aka, Kill List) and the tortured legal logic that turns the Magna Carta on its 800-year-old ear.

Who cares about glib assurances that Obama would never kill anyone on American soil? The Constitution actually doesn't even distinguish between the rights of Us and Them. We're all human beings. We're all Bostonians. We're all Yemenis, Afghans, Pakistanis.
Link to column:


Judging from the responses so far from "the choir", the public approval rating for presidential murder is plummeting, though there are still a few die-hards willing to meet him half-way if he is open and honest about whom he kills. Yikes.

Kat said...

Close Gitmo, Close black sites and we'll still have our "tiger cages"-- do some advising and then take a "hands off" approach. Voila! The US does not torture.

Kat said...

Oh hell, you can't keep Tommy down:
And while we are at it, let’s schedule another Boston Marathon as soon as possible. Cave dwelling is for terrorists. Americans? We run in the open on our streets — men and women, young and old, new immigrants and foreigners, in shorts not armor, with abandon and never fear, eyes always on the prize, never on all those “suspicious” bundles on the curb. In today’s world, sometimes we pay for that quintessentially American naïveté, but the benefits — living in an open society — always outweigh the costs.
He's bringing out all the hits: cave dwellers, open society, 'quintessentially American naivete". I think Modo touched on this naivete, but I don't think the she meant the same thing as TF.

Zee said...

“Fortunately, we don’t frighten easily anymore. You could feel it in the country on Tuesday morning. We’ve been through 9/11. We probably overreacted then, but never again.” —Tom Friedman


Really. We don't frighten easily anymore? We probably overreacted after 9/11, but never again?

Friedman is even more quintessentially naïve than the average citizen on the street.

Since 9/11 we have given up many—if not most—of our civil liberties and, post-Boston Marathon, we'll happily give up even more, because clearly, we have not given up enough of our right to privacy if that bombing could still have happened.

By “Tuesday morning” the politicians were salivating over the possibility of installing surveillance cameras on every street corner, and probably at every mid-point in between. Too much “coverage” can never be enough, after all!

“We run in the open on our streets — men and women, young and old, new immigrants and foreigners, in shorts not armor, with abandon and never fear, eyes always on the prize, never on all those “suspicious” bundles on the curb.” —Tom Friedman

Does anyone really believe that will ever be the case again, when they run the next marathons in Las Vegas, Salt Lake City, Nashville or Oklahoma City? All to be held this month?


“See something, say something!”

With that phrase in mind, ALL the runners' eyes will be on the curbs, or looking at the bomb-sniffing dogs and police vans lining the way. And, probably, they will also be looking for all the newly-installed surveillance cameras that are supposedly keeping them safe, or which, at least, will allow the police to reconstruct any such untoward events as may happen despite all the preventative measures.

Friedman is not only naïve, but stupid to boot. Things were never the same with the surveillance state after 9/11, and they will be even more changed—and not for the better—post-Boston Marathon.

We don't frighten easily any more? I'd say we're more frightened than ever.

Pearl said...

A Column by David Sirota had the following heading:

"Let's hope the Boston Marathon bomber is a white American"

This echoes some of the concerns of commenters about retaliation worries should the bomber(s) be foreigners.
Which country could now be invaded or droned?

Kat said...

I'm with your there-- naive and stupid to boot.
Actually, Ross Douthat of all people had a better response to the bombings-- he talked about carrying on normally sans the obnoxious blustering: http://douthat.blogs.nytimes.com/2013/04/15/keep-calm-and-carry-on/?ref=rossdouthat

Only two commments-- guess nobody reads him. I rarely do.

Zee said...


Thanks for calling my attention to the Douthat op/ed piece.

His is, indeed, the better response to the Boston Marathon bombings.

No "American exceptionalism" bluster, only observations about the way he hopes it will not turn out--though I suspect that, like me, he worries that this is exactly the way it will happen--at least in the near future.

I especially liked his reference to "security theater," for that is what it really is.

Although he/I hopes otherwise, in the short-term we will likely see

"...layers of extra stops and searches and checkpoints, wider and wider rings of closed streets, the kind of portable metal detectors that journalists remember unfondly from political conventions, more of the concrete barriers that Washingtonians have become accustomed to around our public buildings … more of everything that organized officialdom does to reassure us, and itself, that soft targets can somehow be eliminated entirely, and that everything anyone can think of is being done to keep the unthinkable at bay."

And it will work for a while, until the next "unthinkable" occurs.

And then the noose will draw even tighter on civil liberties.