Saturday, August 2, 2014

A President Bares His Teeth

"We tortured some folks," President Obama casually remarked as a kind of afterthought at the end of his Friday afternoon press conference

Obama Lightens Up on Torture (Aug. 1 Press Con)

Let those brutally cavalier words be chiseled deep into the door of his soon-to-be-built shrine to himself so that visitors can be warned to "Abandon hope, all ye who enter here."

"Folks" should also be advised to bring their own barf bags, because they probably won't be on sale in the gift shop alongside Barack's (TM) golf bags.... and the sweatshop-produced Bo and Sunny plushies and Michelle's overpriced "Drink Up! (TM) plastic bottles of designer tap water.

Seriously. I didn't think that the Drone President could possibly do or say anything else to make me queasier than I normally feel whenever I look at him on TV. So I really do have to hand it to him. He totally outdid himself in the sociopathy department on Friday.

Even normally staunch Obama supporters like Charles Pierce are disgusted. (" ... If the president thinks he can use the (torture) word and then just walk away from its profound implication in a cloud of banalities, he's been out on the golf course without a hat too long. Yeesh.")

The only thing worse than Obama's folksy sangfroid was that he admitted the torture and promised protection for the torturers all by himself, with no prodding whatsoever from the feeble White House press corps. They were more interested in the theatrical lawsuit being brought by Republicans, and of course, the kidnapped Israeli soldier who is so much more important to their corporate sponsors than 1400 slaughtered Palestinian civilians.

When Obama shockingly confessed to torture and the enabling of torture, there was not one single follow-up question from the scribbling stenographers in the audience. 

But they fell all over themselves wishing him a happy birthday before he strutted out of the room, cool as a GMO cucumber. The silence of the lambs was deafening. If one of them so much as bleats, their future access to the White House can so easily be denied. But it was nice to imagine the righteous hectoring ghost of Helen Thomas in the front row anyway.

Nauseating as they were, the president's remarks are still worth quoting, and parsing, if only for posterity.
On Brennan and the CIA, the RDI report has been transmitted, the declassified version that will be released at the pleasure of the Senate committee.
Not so fast, Barry!  Dianne Feinstein just got handed your bowdlerized report, and it's been redacted into such a condensed piece of Readers Digest pulp that she is delaying release to the public "until further notice." She is not pleasured! She is holding it back (or pretending to, for Kabuki purposes) in its current heavily censored form, at least until another make-up/make-out session can be arranged. possibly in a secret room off the Oval Office.
     I have full confidence in John Brennan.  I think he has acknowledged and directly apologized to Senator Feinstein that CIA personnel did not properly handle an investigation as to how certain documents that were not authorized to be released to the Senate staff got somehow into the hands of the Senate staff.  And it’s clear from the IG report that some very poor judgment was shown in terms of how that was handled.  Keep in mind, though, that John Brennan was the person who called for the IG report, and he’s already stood up a task force to make sure that lessons are learned and mistakes are resolved.
Actually, John Brennan has full confidence in the continuing loyalty of Obama, who Brennan personally  brought over to the dark side for intensive tutoring in extra-judicial kill skills. These two miscreants are full and equal partners in the drone assassination program, which by some estimates has killed upward of 5,000 "folks." And anyway, Brennan is such a great spy that he was even able to investigate his own agency as well as spy on the Senate. A felony crime and an outrageous insult to the separation of government powers has thusly been reduced to "some very poor judgment."  Mistakes were made, lessons learned, and political tongues are held very firmly in cheek.
     With respect to the larger point of the RDI report itself, even before I came into office I was very clear that in the immediate aftermath of 9/11 we did some things that were wrong.  We did a whole lot of things that were right, but we tortured some folks.  We did some things that were contrary to our values. 
Yeah, so "we" tortured some folks, but Obama has decreed that serial criminal assault (and in some cases, premeditated murder) will be reduced to temporary lapses in judgment and morality. Referring to CIA victims as "folks" instantly demeans them. I've written before about Obama's chronic over-use of this word. As Noam Chomsky warns, "When a politician uses the word 'folks,' we should brace ourselves for the deceit or worse that is coming." 
     I understand why it happened.  I think it’s important when we look back to recall how afraid people were after the Twin Towers fell and the Pentagon had been hit and the plane in Pennsylvania had fallen, and people did not know whether more attacks were imminent, and there was enormous pressure on our law enforcement and our national security teams to try to deal with this.  And it’s important for us not to feel too sanctimonious in retrospect about the tough job that those folks had.  And a lot of those folks were working hard under enormous pressure and are real patriots. 
Get ready for a brand-new criminal defense: Fear. Obama just gave tacit approval to George Zimmerman's fear defense in the shooting of Trayvon Martin. 

Those New York City cops who killed a man with a choke-hold last month? They were simply afraid. The plump asthmatic guy selling loosies on the street might have been imminently getting ready to attack a whole phalanx of scared militarized police with his unarmed flesh. 

In this terror-filled world created by unfettered capitalism and the state-sponsored terror that perpetuates it, if you torture or kill somebody you can even call yourself a patriot. Obama totally gets you, because he is one killer patriot himself.

Harmless "folks" can get so pressured that sometimes they just snap. So if we dare criticize poor beleaguered heroes like Dick Cheney, we're just being sanctimonious. This hearkens back to Obama calling people who complained about his extension of the Bush tax cuts for the rich "sanctimonious purists".  It's the dread sanctimony slur again!  But, at least he didn't call us "sanctimonious folks." I would have died after throwing up.
     But having said all that, we did some things that were wrong.  And that's what that report reflects.  And that's the reason why, after I took office, one of the first things I did was to ban some (my bold) of the extraordinary interrogation techniques that are the subject of that report.
Obama just pulled one of his verbal fast ones. He said he banned "some" of the extraordinary interrogation techniques. (Notice how quickly Obama again softens torture in the Age of Obama into "interrogation techniques"?) There is plenty of evidence that his administration still outsources torture to other countries. And the United Nations has also deemed his continued force-feeding of Guantanamo detainees to be torture. Plus, Obama has recently approved the torture of marine animals through underwater sound-blasting to detect gas and oil.
     And my hope is, is that this report reminds us once again that the character of our country has to be measured in part not by what we do when things are easy, but what we do when things are hard.  And when we engaged in some of these enhanced interrogation techniques, techniques that I believe and I think any fair-minded person would believe were torture, we crossed a line.  And that needs to be -- that needs to be understood and accepted.  And we have to, as a country, take responsibility for that so that, hopefully, we don't do it again in the future.
Since Obama has already guaranteed that no torturers will ever be prosecuted in a court of law, "hope" that it won't be repeated is pretty much all we've got. Waterboarding of American POWs by the Japanese during World War II was punishable by death. Waterboarding of nameless "folks" in the manufactured War on Terror is punishable by being called a patriot by the Commander in Chief.

George Tenet, who oversaw torture during the Bush administration, was awarded the Medal of Freedom. Brennan can probably look forward to getting the same honor from his boss.

After one of the White House press corpses asked a question about how terrified we all should be with a bunch of African folks coming to D.C. for a summit on how Mister Market can best profit in the Dark Continent, Obama assured the nation that visitors will be thoroughly screened for Ebola before being allowed to get anywhere near healthy American folks. 

And then he allowed One Final Question. (I was holding my breath in faint hope.)
Q    Happy Birthday, Mr. President.

THE PRESIDENT:  There you go, April.  (Laughter.)  That’s what I was talking about -- somebody finally wished me happy birthday -- although it isn’t until Monday, you’re right. 

Thank you so much.
With handpicked corporate journos like that, Obama does indeed have so very much to be thankful for.

He's right about the Ebola virus, though. If that plague comes anywhere near the cesspit of corruption known as Washington, DC, it will probably keel right over and die of fright.


annenigma said...

White House Press Corpse! I love it Karen.

My comment to the last thread really belongs here. I'm going to paste it and just add that President Shifty Eyes is really making my skin crawl these days. You can actually see the evil in his eyes.

Yup, Mr. Folksy admits "We" tortured some folks. Apparently he couldn't just say the CIA tortured because they weren't the only ones, not by a long shot. There's the military, private contractors, agents of foreign countries like Poland and Saudi Arabia assisting us, etc. He mustn't allow that Pandora's box to be opened.

Anyway, President Peace Prize said "Hopefully" it never happens again. Hopefully? Ah shucks, I hope he's right. Frankly, I don't believe it's even stopped. It's more likely just been secretly and legally redefined and more deeply classified. (Don't forget, even Snowden couldn't get to the most highly classified stuff).

Did President Obama actually say that torture itself was wrong? I have a hard time listening to him, so if he did, I missed it. Anyway, does anyone still believe anything he says?

The deeply disturbing part was his excuse for it - folks were scared. Afraid. So when fear is involved, there's no need for further investigation, charges, or trial. The Magic Word list has expanded from just 'National Security' to 'Fear' Next he'll add 'The Devil Made Me Do It' That one maybe I could believe.

I bet those being tortured and bombed are plenty scared too! Does he even consider what they must be feeling and planning? Nobel Peace Prize. Make me gag. Why his excuse bothers me so much is that it provides cover for any number of past and future atrocities - and for Israel's massacre of Palestinian children and our role in it.

So let's get this straight. When fear is involved, it's understandable, forgivable, and forgettable - as long as it's our side doing it. Is that the real appeal of religion? You can do anything because everything is forgiven. Saint Obama, standing in for God, hands out Absolution/Forgiveness cards like a Christian ATM machine. No need to even confess.

August 2, 2014 at 8:53 AM

Jay–Ottawa said...

I'll follow annenigma's lead and move my last comment up from the previous post, although it was prompted by lines from Denis in the old thread.

Behold the persistent call to justice, raised like a monstrance above our heads ––

“But it does matter! It's about fidelity to the values on which this country was founded. It is about the rule of law and accountability. No man is above the law!”

The fundamental ideas behind these beautiful lines from the American catechism were preached to us in elementary school, in high school, in college, and whenever something big was unfolding involving justice. America was different. Good laws, not corrupt officials, ruled. More than other countries, America did the right thing, and it did so with élan. We faithful citizens, and many others around the world who lived in hope of joining the fold, believed in those lines. When people in power strayed from the creed, they were scolded, shamed, forced to retreat, drummed out of office and even imprisoned. That was the American creed and its practice –– well, just barely enough to keep people believing.

We certainly have our proud atheists here on Sardonicky. Count me in as a new atheist insofar as the old American political creed is concerned. Of course, the rule of law was never absolute, but it wasn’t discounted so systematically, so utterly, as it is today. The old ideals have been turned inside out by lies from the top, which provide cover for injustice in the forms of theft, corruption, torture and murder. The only thing exceptional about America is the scale of its disregard for the law, both national and international. The old religion is a joke.

Sadly, we must engage a new term to describe the American political process. It is a word long in use by citizens of republics south of the border where for so long there have been no consequences for officials reveling in crime. That word is impunity. Obama, Cheney, Brennan, Clapper, Blankfein, Holder act with impunity as they openly ignore the law with increasing élan. They carry on with impunity because there are no consequences nowadays for ignoring the law. God is dead. The rule of law is dead.

Karen Garcia said...

Thanks Anne and Jay for moving your comments up to this thread. Our posts crossed in the blogosphere. As Lily Tomlin said, "No matter how cynical you are, it's never enough to keep up."

Reminder: those of you wishing to continue the discussion specifically on Israel and Gaza, please post your comments in the still-open thread on this topic ("Everywhere Is War") Thanks.

annenigma said...

Karen, you had the title right the first time. I still think of him as President Bundy.

Karen Garcia said...

Fyi readers, my original title was "A President Reveals His Inner Psychopath." Never fear, I will be sure to re-purpose it for another edition in this continuing series.

Baring one's teeth in a wolfish grin displays both the inner psychopath and the outer psychopath. So many layers of evil piled up lies piled upon aw-shucks folksiness.

annenigma said...

Obama should immediately pardon John Kiriakou, former CIA analyst/case officer and whistle blower about the CIA's torture program who's currently serving prison time. The fact that Obama isn't pardoning him shows he actually approves of torture, especially when it stays hidden. That was Kiriakou's big crime after all, and being a sanctimonious purist.

annenigma said...

Yay, Karen!

The wolfish grin also enables him to narrow/squint his eyes without making it too obvious that he's trying to hide his inner evil. The eyes are the windows of the soul and he's trying to put up some blackout curtains! It's especially noticeable when he's lying about an evil deed, which far too often lately. He's truly revolting.

Denis Neville said...

“It’s funny that when torture was all the fault of poor, ugly hillbillies of the sort David Brooks writes about in his Adventure Stories for Young Aristocrats, we had to throw the book at the evil-doers. [i.e., the “bad apples” made scapegoats for Abu Ghraib; military prosecution of those who staged the Abu Ghraib photographs; responsibility for those crimes fell almost entirely on the lower ranks]

“Now that important figures in Washington have admitted to directly ordering more and worse, however, the question of even investigating whether some sort of crime may perhaps have taken place is fraught with all sort of beard-tugging brain-twisters which no man can untangle, even with the help of modern computer technology.” - “Sympathy for the bad apples,” The Editors at The Poor Man Institute

Mutual complicity…

Does the Senate Torture Report implicate both John Brennan and Obama in outright crimes?

Is the evidence, showing that the CIA lied to the White House, a cover for things the White House ordered CIA to do?

Does the CIA implicate Obama deeply enough so as to ensure that he’ll protect the CIA for the crimes he asked it to commit?

Perhaps that’s why Obama, who supposedly urged the release of the report, was okay with Brennan holding up its release.

Obama’s claimed opposition to torture and abolition of it doesn’t wash because immediately after his inauguration, the CIA was killing civilians via drone strikes under his authorization in clear violation of international law. Brennan witnessed all these Obama approved drone strikes.

We’ve got what amounts to the reverse Nuremberg defense: "I was only giving orders." We can't prosecute them since they gave the orders.

Nothing says "great leadership" like the reverse-Nuremberg defense. This is the way our “democracy” works now.

James F Traynor said...

I wish he were a psychopath, even the lesser sociopath, but I'm beginning to arrive at a different evaluation, one much more dangerous than either. I honestly think this guy is a jerk - a JERK.

Jerks kill a lot of people every year mainly because people think their harmless, hapless, even cute. But I can think of two cases where jerks almost got me killed. I'm very wary of jerks.

Obama is president, educated, intelligent. It's difficult being a jerk with such vitae, but he's managed to achieve it. 'W' was neither educated (though much effort was exerted to remedy this) nor intelligent so it was not as difficult for him to attain jerkhood, which he did to a remarkable degree - and look how much damage he did. He was a serious jerk.

What was the first solid evidence that convinced me that Obama was a jerk?It was when he said, "I'm a good killer." No self-respecting psychopath or sociopath would say such a thing, but it's typical of the jerk. No, I'm terribly afraid 'O' is a jerk, more dangerous than even 'W'.

Denis Neville said...

“Russia doesn't make anything.” - President Obama

Sophisticated Russian rocket technology allegedly took down Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 over Ukraine.

We rely on Russia’s advanced rocket engine technologies.

“The Russian rocket engines are the best in the world. RD-180 provides the most efficient and least expensive means of getting our national security payloads into space.” - Royce Dalby, space systems expert and managing director of Avascent, an aerospace and defense consulting firm

Without Russian technology US and EU space missions to the ISS could no longer go into space.

GPS systems in cars and cellphones, systems that allow ATMs to function, and weather satellites all function thanks to Russian-powered rockets putting them into space.

“We are very concerned about continuing to develop high-tech projects with such an unreliable partner as the United States, which politicizes everything,” Dmitry Rogozin, Russia's Deputy Prime Minister

The stupidity of imperial arrogance - American exceptionalism’s most significant export - by our Emperor of Chaos.

#BlamePutin is now trending for mocking Obama and the EU.

“I am convinced that the most essential partner for the American national security in all of these areas from Iran to Syria, Afghanistan and beyond is the Kremlin, currently occupied by Putin. And the way the United States has treated Putin – I would call it a betrayal of American national interest.” - Stephen Cohen

What the hell is wrong with Obama?

“I have heard – whether it’s true or not I don’t know – that President Obama has declined to meet privately with Henry Kissinger, who sees Putin twice a year. Kissinger probably knows Putin better than any American statesmen alive today and who has been consulted by so many presidents. Think what we might about Kissinger’s past, but he has already declared his criticism of American policy towards Russia. And Obama wouldn’t want to spend an hour with him, asking ‘Are we doing something wrong? Are we misperceiving the situation?’” - Stephen Cohen

How qualified is Obama to decide on policy issues with regard to Russia? #BlamePutin. “Russia doesn't make anything.” - President Obama