Tuesday, December 16, 2014

All We Like Sheep

Then one fog-of-war Christmas Eve, pollsters came to say: Americans with all their might, Proclaim that torture is all right.

Well, what else could we expect? If people are fine with presidential drone assassinations, what's a little waterboarding and rectal rape-feeding and sleep deprivation? From the Washington Post:
A majority of Americans believe that the harsh interrogation techniques used on terrorism suspects after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks were justified, even as about half the public says the treatment amounted to torture, according to a new Washington Post-ABC News poll.
 By an almost 2-1 margin, or 59-to-31 percent, those interviewed support the CIA’s brutal methods, with the vast majority of supporters saying they produced valuable intelligence.In general, 58 percent say the torture of suspected terrorists can be justified “often” or “sometimes.”
The pollsters didn't ask, however, whether torture would be justified if practiced by our government upon white American citizens suspected of plotting homegrown domestic terrorism. Nor did they inquire whether respondents consider Muslim victims of torture to even be members of the human race. They didn't bother ascertaining whether supporters of torture had actually read the Senate report, whether they had watched Creepy Veepy Cheney defend his psychopathic self on the Sunday shows, whether they were fans of  "Zero Dark Thirty" and "24," and if so, if they believed the propaganda fell into the category of documentary film, reality TV, aspirational fiction, or porn.

They should have also asked the people who believe that torture is justified and useful whether they think that child abuse and cruelty to animals is also sometimes justified and effective. I'm willing to wager that most of the self-proclaimed pro-torture crowd would swear they'd give their last nickel to save an abused dog from being euthanized at the kill shelter down the street.

Whatever. This poll, like so many skewed others, is sure to be misinterpreted by focus group-conscious politicians as a bona fide plebiscite. It's just the P.R. ticket for Obama, the CIA, and the small j justice department to sweep the war crimes under the rug and move on, look ahead, and wave the flag. Because The Randomly Selected People Have Spoken.

The fact that pollsters made sure to inquire of the respondents' political party affiliations, and then found that acceptance of torture is essentially bipartisan. is sure to strike Christmas joy into the heart of the Consensus Builder-in-Chief. It's not a red torture-loving America, it's not a blue torture-loving America, it's the United American Torture Lovers of America. (Pay no attention to those purist extremist outliers on the left.)
Views on the CIA’s tactics break down sharply along ideological lines. Liberal Democrats are most disgusted with the agency’s actions, while conservative Republicans are most likely to defend it.
 Democrats who identify as moderate or conservative are more supportive of the program, joining majorities of independents and Republicans who say it was justified. (my bold) For example, 38 percent of liberal Democrats say the CIA’s actions were justified compared with 82 percent of conservative Republicans who say so.
 In a CBS poll released Monday, nearly seven in 10 considered waterboarding torture, but about half said the technique and others are, at times, justified. Fifty-seven percent said harsh interrogation techniques can provide information that can prevent terrorist attacks.
That a third of self-described liberals feel that torture was justified kind of gives a whole new meaning to the word "liberalism," huh? (I am tolerant of anal rape if it keeps me safe.) So does the finding that a majority think that the actual release of the report endangers national security. They apparently believe that the torture victims -- not to mention the friends, families and countrymen of the torture victims --  had no earthly idea of the abominations they suffered until they read about them in the papers or watched the coverage on TV.

So bring out the chips, dips, chains and whips. Sing tidings of comfort and joy, and drink of the groggy grog. Exceptional America has gone astray, and each of us has turned to our own way.


Bert Gold, Frederick Maryland said...

Really scary. I had to take a nap today and this was the last thought I had before drifting off to sleep: 'Torture is OK in Oklahoma'.

Overall, I now feel like the same misfit I knew myself to be when protesting the Vietnam war. But, then, I was in the company of some of those now occupying high positions in this administration. My question is whether they changes or did I?

No matter, America remains a wasteland of imbeciles who approve the very beliefs and activities that are worst for America's future.

I agree with many of the framers: The common man is not ready to vote and the US is not ready for democracy.

Good luck to all of us; every one.

Zee said...

“...America remains a wasteland of imbeciles who approve the very beliefs and activities that are worst for America's future.

I agree with many of the framers: The common man is not ready to vote and the US is not ready for democracy.”
—Bert Gold

And so, Mr. Gold—or, Bert, if I may be so familiar—given the opportunity to implement it, you have a formula or methodology by which to cull from amongst us “common [people]” those lucky, brilliant few who are fit to govern America? And an idea of the [implicitly] non-democratic form of governance will be necessary until the rest of us “imbeciles” are finally “ready for democracy?” If ever, of course?

I'm all ears.

But those of us who probably don't figure into your elitist vision for America—which kinda sounds like what we've already got going today under our “managed democracy”—might just object a teeny-weeny bit to being left out.

stranger in a strange land said...

"If it be admitted that a man possessing absolute power may misuse that power by wronging his adversaries, why should not a majority be liable to the same reproach? Men do not change their characters by uniting with one another; nor does their patience in the presence of obstacles increase with their strength. For my own part, I cannot believe it; the power to do everything, which I should refuse to one of my equals, I will never grant to any number of them."

~ Alexis de Tocqueville, "Tyranny of the Majority"

Great reading on this subject here: http://www.democracyweb.org/majority/principles.php

The United States tortured/tortures. The United States targets individuals for assassination without due process, sometimes American citizens. It was/is wrong wrong wrong, and it ain't awesome, irrespective of the perverted legal justifications or bipartisan support by the brainwashed masses -- excepting of course "those purist extremist outliers on the left*."

*There must be at least a few purist extremist outliers on the right who also condemn such travesties, no?

Pearl said...

The wasteland of imbeciles are not the common man they are the ones ordering wars, running the giant wall street agenda, raking in profits for themselves and planning the best kind of torture possible.

Leadership has to come from the citizens who are concerned but don't know what to do or whom to vote for. Until finally the dam breaks and reality hits us in the face and then action takes place hopefully in the right direction.
The first order of business is to create educational institutions that teach young people how to run a country properly for the benefit of all the citizens and make rules and regulations for those who try and destroy it.
There are ways of beginning such a process and it may be starting now. Political and social intelligence has nothing to do with the size of one's brain but how it is democratically used.
This is all simplified, but I think the time is fast coming when awareness is overtaking ignorance finally which is a necessity to survive. And we are learning how to treat bullies now.

Bert Gold, Ph.D., FACMG, Frederick, Maryland said...

My comment on Andrew Sullivan's praise for John McCain via-a-vis torturer in chief, Dick Cheney in tonight's Times:

McCain was not courageous enough to marshall the resources necessary to stop Cheney and Bush at the outset. He was not courageous enough to demand indictments. I am not impressed with his courage. I appreciate the fact that he is ethical about this issue. But, he is not courageous, so his ethical stand has no practical effect. McCain will have to live with that.

Zee, the answer, as far as Washington is concerned, is Harvard. You see, for a very long time, as Ross Douthat taught us in his book, "Privilege: Harvard and the Education of the Ruling Class", the answer to how Jack Lew got to be there is Harvard. As for David Axelrod, he is an aberration, having only attended U. of Chicago. But, never mind, my point is thus:

We have an mammoth uneducated electorate that lefties like me call 'low information voters'. They are not ready to vote (intelligently). What is to be done? [That's my interpretation of your question].

I appealed numerous times to the Columbia-Harvard graduate in the Whitehouse to try fireside chats on economics, perhaps going even further, and making a few short educational films.

Nothing happened. Even after Krugman had a meal with him.

I'm still not sure he's taken a course in macro- or micro-

The problem is, you can't have the uninformed 99% voting for leaders who perhaps do not possess the wisdom required to lead, and expect to get a democracy out of it. It simply will not work.

That's what we've got now.

Better ideas? Yes, a real political party of workers and students, parliamentary reforms that permit congress to be dissolved and elections to be called, and an end to "state's right's" (the repeal of the tenth amendment), would go a long way.

In the absence of implementation of these better ideas, we will get what we've got: creeping fascism.

Bert Gold, Frederick, Maryland said...

I want to be clear:

Those in power now could educate the masses to be an educated, effective electorate. They just prefer fascism.

It's more comfortable and they get to be in control that way.

Pearl said...

Other Interpretations of the Hanukkah Story on Google

Some modern historians offer a radically different interpretation of the Hanukkah tale. In their view, Jerusalem under Antiochus IV had erupted into civil war between two camps of Jews: those who had assimilated into the dominant culture that surrounded them, adopting Greek and Syrian customs; and those who were determined to impose Jewish laws and traditions, even if by force. The traditionalists won out in the end, with the Hasmonean dynasty—led by Judah Maccabee’s brother and his descendants—wresting control of the Land of Israel from the Seleucids and maintaining an independent Jewish kingdom for more than a century.

The more things change the more they remain the same: and one learns something new every day.
non believer Pearl

Pearl said...

'Do No Harm': Doctors Blast Medical Professionals for Role In CIA Torture Regime - http://goo.gl/VD0tKW

Pearl said...

Three Members of Congress Just Reignited the Cold War While No One Was Looking - http://goo.gl/uQAvxA

Denis Neville said...

Torture policies are growing more popular according to pollsters?

Torture polling numbers?

What do these polling numbers mean for torture? Are we becoming socialized to an environment of torture? Just another means of justifying torture, conferring an aura of its legitimacy? For Christ’s sake!!!

Where is the confrontation of how scandalous this is?

America’s national character is now hollow at the center. The sheep are conditioned by fear, immersed in paranoid propaganda and offered few choices. We wash and rinse daily in such propaganda, misinformation and denial, censorship and distortion. It is the ruling elite’s standard practice.

“If certain acts of violation of treaties are crimes, they are crimes whether the United States does them or whether Germany does them. And we are not prepared to lay down the rule of criminal conduct against others which we would not be willing to have invoked against us. We must never forget that the record on which we judge these defendants is the record on which history will judge us tomorrow. To pass these defendants a poisoned chalice is to put it to our own lips as well.” – Justice Robert H. Jackson, Chief Counsel for the Prosecution of War Crimes at the Nuremberg Tribunal

“I happen to believe that there are clear definite standards of good and evil in the world. If you read Nuremberg, if you listen to the voices of the Nazis, the testimonies of the Nazis there, and if you read the criticisms of the Nuremberg Trials, you cannot escape the conclusion that unless the world at least honors the idea of objective good and objective evil, we are lost in that murky world of relativism where we can always find some justification for doing what somebody also did but putting a spin on it so that it makes us feel more comfortable doing it than others did. So, I really do think that the teaching of Nuremberg, what we learned at Nuremberg, should be a required part of high school and college education.” - Bill Moyers

“The optimist sees the donut, the pessimist sees the hole.” - Oscar Wilde

I see only the hole.

Bert Gold, Ph.D, FACMG, Frederick, Maryland USA said...

Denis Neville, in a spot on comment, writes:

"America’s national character is now hollow at the center."


Kat said...

Breaking news: All of Cuba is now open for plunder.

Bert Gold, Frederick Maryland said...

People should view this link to understand the level of paranoia on the right and the new level of Joseph McCarthyism that the RWNJs are engaged in:


Sensible people, including nearly all the lefties I know, will be hiking uphill for the foreseeable future (unfortunately).

Zee said...


Well, at the very least it might eventually be an interesting test of human, "sociopolitical morality:"

Will the lure of capitalist opulence and excess eventually destroy Cuba's "revolutionary communist spirit?"

But at the moment it only appears that both sides are going to open an “official” channel to talk about a few selected things, none of which appear to threaten indundating Cuba with hordes of ruthless robber barons:

“Officials said they would re-establish an embassy in Havana and carry out high-level exchanges and visits between the two governments within months. Mr. Obama will send an assistant secretary of state to Havana next month for talks on Cuban-American migration and will attend a Summit of the Americas along with Mr. Castro. The United States will begin working with Cuba on issues like counternarcotics, environmental protection and human trafficking.

The United States will also ease travel restrictions across all 12 categories currently envisioned under limited circumstances in American law, including family visits, official visits, journalistic, professional, educational and religious activities, and public performances, officials said. Ordinary tourism, however, will remain prohibited.

Mr. Obama will also allow greater banking ties, making it possible to use debit cards in Cuba, and raise the level of remittances allowed to be sent to Cuban nationals to $2,000 every three months from the current limit of $500. Intermediaries forwarding remittances will no longer require a specific license from the government.

American travelers will also be allowed to import up to $400 worth of goods from Cuba, including up to $100 in tobacco and alcohol products.”


So I don't see any cause for panic by the American Left on behalf of Cuba. It's not as if Cuba is suddenly welcoming American investment in its economy.

The real histrionics appear to be reserved for the “patriotic” American Right, particularly from those who depend heavily on Cuban-American votes:

“Senator Marco Rubio, a Republican from Florida and a son of Cuban immigrants who may run for president in 2016, denounced the new policy as 'another concession to a tyranny' and a sign that Mr. Obama’s administration is 'willfully ignorant of the way the world truly works.'

'This whole new policy is based on an illusion, on a lie, the lie and the illusion that more commerce and access to money and goods will translate to political freedom for the Cuban people,' Mr. Rubio said. 'All this is going to do is give the Castro regime, which controls every aspect of Cuban life, the opportunity to manipulate these changes to stay in power.'

Senator Robert Menendez, Democrat of New Jersey and the chairman of the Foreign Relations Committee, was also sharply critical. 'Let’s be clear, this was not a ‘humanitarian’ act by the Castro regime. It was a swap of convicted spies for an innocent American,' Mr. Menendez said in a written statement. 'President Obama’s actions have vindicated the brutal behavior of the Cuban government.'”

In other words, despite the re-establishment of diplomatic relations that will promote limited communications between the U.S. and Cuba, it pretty much looks like business as usual.

annenigma said...


Thanks for giving me a much needed laugh! You hit the nail on the head.

stranger in a strange land said...

Dennis writes of Bert's "mammoth uneducated electorate":

"The sheep are conditioned by fear, immersed in paranoid propaganda and offered few choices."

Is it really our fault we behave like sheep? Those in power, who could but don't promote an educated civic-minded electorate, got us right where they want us. We don't confront how scandalous the violence that is committed by our country because we have been conditioned not to.

The sheeple are the victims, the creepy fascist oligarchy is the offender. How can we shake 'em?

Zee said...


I guess I don't see all that much to be surprised about in the “torture poll,” except, of course, for the simplistic way in which all such polls are carried out—just as you observe.

But it's not clear to me that even had the questions been much more penetrating, or if the American public had actually read the unclassified Senate report—500 or so pages, and that's just the so-called Executive Summary!—that the results would have been much different.

Human nature is what it is, something that Progressives just can't quite get past.

The desire to inflict pain on those who have done the same to us—and I DO see the aerial attacks on the World Trade Center, the Pentagon, and wherever United Flight 93 might have been bound before it was taken down by a handful of heroes, as pain inflicted upon the American people—is as old as Homo sapiens, and probably far older, though I acknowledge that I'm not a behavioral biologist/anthropologist.

Whether or not those who endorsed the use of torture against alleged terrorists actually believed that useful information was elicited from said “terrorists” may be irrelevant. They may have simply thought that the suspects deserved what they got, evidence be damned.

This should hardly be news to anybody. Those who have lost loved ones at the hands of criminals and have not received the closure that seems to come from having a body to bury might be capable of inflicting torture on the criminal(s) involved simply in order to recover a corpse. It's for this reason that we have courts of law and (nominally) humane sentences. Efforts were made to legitimize the torture that was committed by the CIA, and the American people have chosen to buy into it, whether or not it holds “legal water.”

(To be continued...)

Zee said...


Torture and reprisal, cont'd:

Denis says that “America’s national character is now hollow at the center.” But if being human and taking out our anger on those who have nominally “done us wrong” means that our character is hollow at the center, well, it has been hollow for quite some time:

“On December 17, 1944, during the Battle of the Bulge, German Waffen-SS troops gunned down 80 American prisoners in the Malmedy massacre. Word of this spread rapidly among American forces, and aroused great anger. One American unit issued orders: 'No SS troops or paratroopers will be taken prisoners but will be shot on sight.' In this atmosphere American forces executed German prisoners as retribution.

Author Martin Sorge writes,

'It was in the wake of the Malmedy incident at Chegnogne that on New Year's Day 1945 some 60 German POWs were shot in cold blood by their American guards. The guilty went unpunished. It was felt that the basis for their action was orders that no prisoners were to be taken.'

An eyewitness account by John Fague of B Company, 21st Armored Infantry Battalion (of the 11th Armored Division), near Chenogne describes the killing of German prisoners by American soldiers.

'Some of the boys had some prisoners line up. I knew they were going to shoot them, and I hated this business.... They marched the prisoners back up the hill to murder them with the rest of the prisoners we had secured that morning.... As we were going up the hill out of town, I know some of our boys were lining up German prisoners in the fields on both sides of the road. There must have been 25 or 30 German boys in each group. Machine guns were being set up. These boys were to be machine gunned and murdered. We were committing the same crimes we were now accusing the Japs and Germans of doing.'

...Going back down the road into town I looked into the fields where the German boys had been shot. Dark lifeless forms lay in the snow.

Joseph Cummins also relates Fague's account of the killing of about 60 prisoners, but he notes that before the execution of the POWs took place, several Germans including unarmed medics waving red-cross flags, were machine-gunned when trying to surrender. Cummins further connects the massacre with the entry made by General Patton in his diary for January 4, 1945: 'The Eleventh Armored is very green and took unnecessary losses to no effect. There were also some unfortunate incidents in the shooting of prisoners. I hope we can conceal this.'”

And the list goes on. How many of these other acts of reprisal went unpunished?

Torture? Maybe not. War crimes? Certainly. Should these acts have been punished as such? Of course.

But the “winners” define what represent torture and war crimes. And thus it will be for quite some time to come.

Pearl said...

The reports of what occurred in Vietnam are truly horrific and American soldiers in countries of other racial and ethnic backgrounds seem to be especially prone to hatred of the civilian 'enemy'. Men I knew and spoke with who had been drafted to Vietnam, told me they were shocked to hear how their fellow soldiers spoke with such contempt of the people as they themselves did not feel that way about civilians. Orders to eliminate villages with women and children and old men in them woke them up to the realities. Some of them were never able to come to terms with what they had done under orders and spoke extremely emotionally about their experiences.
War brings out the worst in both sides which is why we have to work to eliminate getting pulled into conflicts that could be resolved by other ways of communicating (especially people to people) to avoid such horrors. No one "wins" in war as history shows us all too well, past and present.
It is interesting how many men who fought during WW 2, the 'good war'often never spoke about their experiences to their families when they returned nor wanted to discuss what had happened.

Denis Neville said...

Lots and lots of bleating from the sheep, cheerleaders for Napoleon.

“It is the same in all wars; the soldiers do the fighting, the journalists do the shouting, and no 'true patriot' ever gets near a front-line trench, except on the briefest of propaganda-tours." - George Orwell

Government by criminals - amazingly the sheep are more than willing to grant them unlimited powers - thrives on war because war corrupts the nation's moral fabric.

“The State is the organization of the herd to act offensively or defensively against another herd similarly organized. The more terrifying the occasion for defense, the closer will become the organization and the more coercive the influence upon each member of the herd. War sends the current of purpose and activity flowing down to the lowest level of the herd, and to its most remote branches. All the activities of society are linked together as fast as possible to this central purpose of making a military offensive or a military defense, and the State becomes what in peacetimes it has vainly struggled to become - the inexorable arbiter and determinant of men's business and attitudes and opinions. The slack is taken up, the cross-currents fade out, and the nation moves lumberingly and slowly, but with ever accelerated speed and integration, toward the great end, toward the "peacefulness of being at war."

“War is the health of the State. It automatically sets in motion throughout society those irresistible forces for uniformity, for passionate cooperation with the Government in coercing into obedience the minority groups and individuals which lack the larger herd sense. The machinery of government sets and enforces the drastic penalties; the minorities are either intimidated into silence, or brought slowly around by a subtle process of persuasion which may seem to them really to be converting them. Of course, the ideal of perfect loyalty, perfect uniformity is never really attained. The classes upon whom the amateur work of coercion falls are unwearied in their zeal, but often their agitation instead of converting, merely serves to stiffen their resistance. Minorities are rendered sullen, and some intellectual opinion bitter and satirical. But in general, the nation in wartime attains a uniformity of feeling, a hierarchy of values culminating at the undisputed apex of the State ideal, which could not possibly be produced through any other agency than war. Loyalty - or mystic devotion to the State - becomes the major imagined human value. Other values, such as artistic creation, knowledge, reason, beauty, the enhancement of life, are instantly and almost unanimously sacrificed, and the significant classes who have constituted themselves the amateur agents of the State are engaged not only in sacrificing these values for themselves but in coercing all other persons into sacrificing them.”

“War becomes almost a sport between the hunters and the hunted. The pursuit of enemies within outweighs in psychic attractiveness the assault on the enemy without. The whole terrific force of the State is brought to bear against the heretics. The nation boils with a slow insistent fever. A white terrorism is carried on by the Government against pacifists, socialists, enemy aliens, and a milder unofficial persecution against all persons or movements that can be imagined as connected with the enemy…

“In this great herd machinery, dissent is like sand in the bearings. The State ideal is primarily a sort of blind animal push toward military unity. Any difference with that unity turns the whole vast impulse toward crushing it.” - Randolph Bourne, “War Is the Health of the State,”


Bert Gold, Frederick Maryland said...

I am not a big fan of invoking "human nature" as an argument to rationalize killing, torture or corruption.

I count myself as a student from afar of two great female thinkers on this issue: Hannah Arendt and Gertrude Stein.

Gertrude Stein tried to distinguish between the thinking part of the brain, which she called "human mind" and "human nature", which I take to be the emotional brain.

Neuroscience sometimes dubs the emotional brain the limbic system, although there are arguments about the structural anatomy and whether it is truly a 'system'. In any case, it's pretty clear that the limbic system is integrated into the rest of the brain and, to some extent is anatomically inseparable from what Stein called "human mind". That shouldn't make us complacent about attempting to separate those functions in our everyday lives, especially if it makes us more moral beings.

Hannah Arendt wrote about the banality of evil after World War II. In one of my NYTimes comments yesterday, I invoked the image of Kurt Vonnegut, Jr. witnessing a smoldering Dresden, in the midst of a man-made firestorm.

The fact that human nature within human beings is capable of creating unspeakable horrors must not mean these are inevitable and must be perpetuated.

There is such a thing as cultural evolution, even if we live in a retrograde age. Hopefully, our great great grandchildren, who we will never meet, will live in a more just and enlightened world than we do. To believe there will be no progress on the ethical front is unthinkable because it predicts the end of humankind.

Zee said...

@Bert Gold

“I am not a big fan of invoking "human nature" as an argument to rationalize killing, torture or corruption.” —Bert Gold

rationalize: to attempt to explain or justify (one's own or another's behavior or attitude) with logical, plausible reasons, even if these are not true or appropriate

I certainly did not intend to imply that “human nature” justifies the commission of “unspeakable horrors” by human beings on other human beings. But a realistic understanding of human nature certainly explains why such things can and do occur.

And to my mind, useful change, in any sociopolitical area, begins with a real understanding of the current state of affairs.

IMHO, that is why, for example, we have the current form of government that we do. The Founding Fathers had a pretty good grasp of the wicked side of human nature, which is why they gave us a tri-partitite form of federal government having numerous checks and balances, a written Bill of Rights, and a difficult, ponderous mechanism by which to change the Constitution. They sought to keep power from concentrating in any one person or group of people, knowing the dangers resulting from such a concentration.

As we see today, they failed in their effort in many ways, not foreseeing the infinite ability of bad people to find ways to “game the system” and profit thereby.

I agree with you that it is essential that we try to evolve morally and culturally. And I think that our history shows that we have. But it is, inevitably, a slow process.

We no longer own slaves, for instance. But 150 years later, we still have not stamped out the evils of racism.

Heck. It has taken me almost 50 years simply to develop the wisdom not to become enraged every time some driver cuts me off in busy traffic.

So how much longer will it take us to evolve away from even more visceral responses, such as "An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth?"

And if, during that evolution, we attempt to design new and better institutions to take the place of the old, it would be folly not to design them with the understanding that there are—and will be, for the foreseeable future—fundamentally bad people out there who will take advantage of every weakness and loophole that we inadvertently build into the new system. Trust in the fundamental goodness of humanity should not be a cornerstone of any human endeavor.