Thursday, May 07, 2009

Is the Noose Tightening?

It is hard to read the "responsible" press and not find an article or editorial pertaining the the practice of torture by the Bush administration. Today's IHT reported on the backlash that John Yoo and Jay Bigbee face as a result of their outlandish memos claiming that previously outlawed treatment of detainees was legal. It would appear as if many of their fellow members of the bar and academia are uncomfortable with them in their midst, making them as unwelcome in US circles as they are in the Spanish circles seeking to prosecute them.

This editorial cries for full disclosure.

It very well might become increasingly difficult for the Obama administration to follow a line of "only looking forward". As nasty, embarrassing and divisive as a full inquiry might be, it seems to me that the support for punitive as well as curative action is growing.

But then, I'd really like to see these vermin suffer for the abominable acts they so gleefully approved. No claims of objectivity on this old geezer's part.


sheerahkahn said...

I think that the key element that needs to be brought up any time this discussion takes place is the charge of War Crimes because that will hang like a pall over any and all discussions that these men are ever involved in.
Regardless of whether it is Yoo, Bybee, Bush, Cheney, Addington, Rumsfeld, or anyone else in the White House (knowledge of the crime without reporting it is considered accessory to the crime) will forever be tainted by the charge of War Crimes.
To be perfectly honest, this is such a serious charge that taps the highest levels of our government that turning a blind eye to it in the hopes that it will die down, or go away is fantastical at best. This is something that will forever taint these offices of ours until the charges are cleared, or the offenders are prosecuted.
Obama is not doing the right thing here, and I don't care what he breathes past his lips because if this isn't dealt with...we as a nation will suffer the consequences of the Bush era, ten fold.

Aviator47 said...


Back in the early 60's, I met a member of the Kennedy family brain trust who was, by then, a retired federal judge. He shared an experience from WWII that sounds like it was plucked right from a W.E.B Griffin novel!

In 1943, FDR approached him to accept a commission as a Navy Reserve JAG Captain, to be called to active duty at the end of the war for tribunal service, as there were plans to deal with issues such as those in the Philippines and FDR wanted able prosecutors. Being well acquainted with FDR, he openly told him he would be willing to serve as a defense counsel or even perhaps a judge, but definitely not as a prosecutor. He told me that he expressed, in graceful terms, that he based it on his conclusions that such tribunals were only conducted by the victors, trying only the vanquished, but rarely, if ever, their own transgressors. He did not see that as true justice. As a side note, he mentioned that the behavior of the Red Army pushing to Berlin never raised one serious move for prosecution of any sort.

Roosevelt responded with something like, "But, John, I am asking you to serve the cause of the winning and righteous side in this matter." He said he told FDR that if commissioned and assigned to tribunal duty, he would bring all his talents to bear on ensuring that justice would be served. FDR, apparently thinking that the judge was agreeing with him, said, "I knew you would understand." Knowing that he could not be forced to be a prosecutor, he accepted the commission, and went on his way. Turns out he was never called to serve.

We are now in a situation were crimes clearly seem to have been committed. Not sure if they are precisely war crimes, as the torture things were not done in the heat or fog of battle, especially the horrendous legal opinions. These were carefully crafted memos written for the express purpose of enabling what were previously defined as torturous acts and placing the POTUS above the law.

In order for us to prosecute these swine, we must openly admit that we were not universally righteous. Second, since we seem to have already legitimized the "Eichmann Defense" for the CIA agents (they were only following what they were told were lawful orders), I am sure that there are fears that bringing Yoo, Bigbee et. al. to trial would only result in a songfest attempting to say that they were "directed" to produce a given legal opinion, turning the whole affair into a Mafia style finger pointing extravaganza! In fact, I could easily see the whole business looking like a Monty Python written Sopranos episode on steroids.

Think about it: Yoo gets word that Justice is going to indict. Yoo screams, "I'll give you So and So in return for a deal." So and So responds, "I have an even bigger fish to fry in return for a deal." And on and on and on as it spirals out of control.

That said, I am not saying that prosecution should not take place. It is just a question of how much drama the current leadership is willing to tolerate to achieve real justice, and how many years will it take.

My Greek Navy JAG friend made an interesting comment. He is pretty much of the legal opinion that if the Spaniards indict, the indictment could be rendered moot if the US justice system took jurisdiction, which could easily be forced by Yoo & Co by simply offering to "confess" in return for a plea bargain. As he said, it would all depend on whether they would be intimidated by the probability of arrest and a heavy sentence should they ever leave the US.

But beyond interesting speculation, it's time to face up to what some of our officials did and deal with it under the law. If we don't, then we are no better that the torture architects themselves.

sheerahkahn said...

"If we don't, then we are no better that the torture architects themselves."

As soon as my wife sends me the link to a pod cast, I'm going to post the link so you, and anyone else, can listen to how far we have fallen as a nation, a society, a people, a culture, and as individuals.
The tone is "our measure comes from the least of our citizenry."

Btw, I've come to stop calling those who were involved in torturing other humans animals, demons, or worse because really, Al, if you think about it...they are men, human beings, who have chosen...poorly, and have lost their way completely.
In my opinion, they are crazy, and they need help. Lot's of help.

Fasteddiez said...


"Sheerah the magnanimous!" The problem with people of your persuasion is that sociopaths frequently take advantage of your predilections, thus gaming the system, in order to serially offend again.

They suffer from lead deficiency be cured only by a "Failure Drill."

sheerahkahn said...

Listen to it, and weep.

And the saddest thing I had to tell my wife that this is nothing new, we, as a nation, have always been this way.
When we're afraid, fearful, scared-shitless, we become the thing we despise.
We become the very thing we hate because we use the other human being's inhumanity as carte blanch for our own wickedness...and we become the crueler monster because we, in our own minds, have granted ourselves permission to behave in the most monstrous manner possible.
All the while claiming victimhood as our casus belli for inhumanity to anyone guilty, or more often the case, innocent.
The streets of Iraq are littered with the innocent who had the misfortune of being in the wrong place, at the wrong time.
When will it end?

sheerahkahn said...

I would not think to call my self magnanimous, now cocky, arrogant, proud oh yeah, but magnanimous?
That would be my wife. ;)

However, I do agree that on the surface it would seem that I'm setting myself up to be a putz, not a bad putz, but a goofy putz of the Bush persuasion of which I'm deathly afraid of being compared too.
No, what I'm doing is choosing not to belittle the humanity of my...well, for lack of a better term, opponent, so yeah, enemy.
Granted, I'm not stupid, so I will not being giving ground. Instead, I set my expectations higher, and expect my opponent to measure up, or face the consequences, in this case, my wrathful critique.
I know, Oooh, maxi-big Sheer's wrathful critique, lookout!
Hmm, now I have an image of an enraged mouse screaming his lungs out...not a very impressive figure I must admit.
Anyway, I cannot change my opponents opinion of me, himself, or others; but I can make sure I don't sink to his level.

Aviator47 said...


Lefevre's statement says it all:

"America is my client; Americans are who I care about," says Lefever. "I have no fondness for the enemy, and I don't feel like I need to take care of their mental health needs."Was not Nazi Germany Josef Mengele's client? Was he wrong for not taking care of the health of his nation's enemies?

We sure have a lot of sick bastards in our population.

Lisa said...

Totally off-topic:

I notice you have a very elite membership in your link list :)
however, I'll ask anyway: would you be interested in sharing a link, or would you simply like us to put you in our blogroll?

Anything that can keep the IntelDump thinkers going is a good thing, to my mind,



Aviator47 said...


This is actually JD's blog, and I'm simply a contributor. That said, however, I trust he would accept my judgment for adding a link.

Suggest away!


wourm said...

On purely technical grounds, responsibility must be determined, prosecuted and punished. The law demands that.

On an emotional level, I think it would be a cathartic relief for thinking citizens of this country. We voted out the bully and his cronies last fall in lieu of a man who thinks before he speaks and acts. Let's follow through and put them where they belong.

On a diplomatic level, prosecuting and punishing those at fault sends a clear signal that it won't be so easy to do next time. That this really is a democracy, a country of laws that apply to all.

Personally, I'd like to see the whole bunch thrown into prison for as long as possible. I would, however, be satisfied if we convicted them and never even punished them.

I'd like, for once, to see them accept responsibility for their actions.

seydlitz89 said...

Greetings gentlemen-

As more comes out on this whole sorry policy the clearer it becomes . . .

" . . . But the tenor of the Abu Zubaydah interrogations changed a few days later, when a CIA contractor showed up. Although Soufan declined to identify the contractor by name, other sources (and media accounts) identify him as James Mitchell, a former Air Force psychologist who had worked on the U.S. military's Survival, Evasion, Resistance and Escape training—a program to teach officers how to resist the abusive interrogation methods used by Chinese communists during the Korean War. Within days of his arrival, Mitchell—an architect of the CIA interrogation program—took charge of the questioning of Abu Zubaydah. He directed that Abu Zubaydah be ordered to answer questions or face a gradual increase in aggressive techniques. One day Soufan entered Abu Zubadyah's room and saw that he had been stripped naked; he covered him with a towel.

The confrontations began. "I asked [the contractor] if he'd ever interrogated anyone, and he said no," Soufan says. But that didn't matter, the contractor shot back: "Science is science. This is a behavioral issue." The contractor suggested Soufan was the inexperienced one. "He told me he's a psychologist and he knows how the human mind works." Mitchell told NEWSWEEK, "I would love to tell my story." But then he added, "I have signed a nondisclosure agreement that will not even allow me to correct false allegations." . . .

So, good ole interrogation methods were working fine and all the sudden in pops some contractor with a SERE background? Of course the purpose of Chinese and NK methods wasn't intelligence collection, it was propaganda, that is false confessions. No wonder they destroyed the tapes. Look at the timeline as well . . . Summer 2002 when the Bush boyz were assembling their list of reasons to go into Iraq. . . that's what it's coming down to imo, in addition to the stalking horse of course. No wonder that the Neocons and Neoconned are going apeshiz.

almost drafted said...

With regard to interrogation vs. eliciting false confessions, I have a modest proposal.

Any one in the media who claims that waterboarding is not torture should be waterboarded until they "confess" that it is torture.

But let's be reasonable. If they resist making this confession after they experience waterboarding the same number of times* as Kalid Shiekh Mohammed, they can continue to make that public claim.



*Note that there is some disagreement about this number. Some claim that there were a smaller number of "sessions" in which water was poured down his nose some number of times. Even though this seems to be a distinction without a differenc, let's call it an even dozen.

basilbeast said...

sheera, digby at hullabaloo has written a couple of pieces about US medical personnel aiding the torture effort.

She quotes from Vanity Fair:

In the camp's acute ward, a young man lies chained to his bed, being fed protein-and-vitamin mush through a stomach tube inserted via a nostril. "He's refused to eat 148 consecutive meals," says Dr. Louis Louk, a naval surgeon from Florida. "In my opinion, he's a spoiled brat, like a small child who stomps his feet when he doesn't get his way." Why is he shackled? "I don't want any of my guys to be assaulted or hurt," he says.

By the end of September 2003, the official number of suicide attempts by inmates was 32, but the rate has declined recently-not because the detainees have stopped trying to hang themselves but because their attempts have been reclassified. Gitmo has apparently spawned numerous cases of a rare condition: "manipulative self-injurious behavior," or S.I.B. That, says chief surgeon Captain Stephen Edmondson, means "the individual's state of mind is such that they did not sincerely want to end their own life." Instead, they supposedly thought they could get better treatment, perhaps even obtain release. In the last six months, there have been 40 such incidents.
And the American Pyschological Assn.

Koocher, the incoming APA president, supported the task force's decision to leave international standards out of their document. "I have zero interest in entangling APA with the nebulous, toothless, contradictory, and obfuscatory treaties that comprise 'international law,'" he wrote on July 30 [23]. "Rather, I prefer to see APA take principled stands on policy issued where psychology has some scientific basis for doing so."

The U.S. military apparently appreciated the report. Banks wrote on August 12 [24] to say that he, James and another psychologist had found it "a solid anchor" in an eight hour meeting with the Army's surgeon general that hammered out "the doctrinal guidelines and training model for psychologists" who support interrogations.

basilbeast said...

Any one in the media who claims that waterboarding is not torture should be waterboarded until they "confess" that it is torture.You might mention that to Sean Hannity.

I'm sure he'd appreciate being reminded of his on-air boast.


sheerahkahn said...

I think the best thing that is coming out of this is the open air defense of the torture by those who support it, and the best advocate for that is Dick "shotgun" cheney himself.
I fully believe that Shotgun feels he is right, and he'll declassify everything to prove it.
And the most amusing thing of it all is this: Cheney may be the very person, albeit unwittingly, who will finally bring to light the full horrendous episode of the last eight years, and quite possibly force the Obama Administration to act in a judicial manner against the perpetrators of torture in the White House.
But there is also something that will come to light too, something we will all have to acknowledge on a national level and that is we have finally found the weak spot in our government and our constitution for if there is one thing that can be said of our government during the Bush II years is this: The Checks and Balances epically failed to check the Executive branch, and failed to Balance the shift of power away from congress and judicial branches to the executive branch.

If this imbalance isn't addressed now...we will be going through the last eight years...again.

Aviator47 said...

I think the term "taking on a life of its own" is starting to come into play in the torture issue.

1. It makes for titillating press coverage, both for and against.

2. As Sheer mentions, the "for" people will, in their blind, religious belief that they are infallible, likely fight for the release of the very info that will damn them.

3. Other countries are bringing charges against some of the architects of the business.

4. If Nancy Pelosi needs a political firewall against allegations that she was duly informed about CIA interrogation methods, and did nothing, this OpEd gives a basis. All she has to do is point out that since the law wasn't being followed and it was all verbal, she did not think that there was intent to use the questionable techniques. After all, the legal requirements for "notification" weren't present, so it was just speculative. Thus, she'll have to claim violation of the law to protect herself.

5. There is going to be more debate in the medical and psychologist community over ethical breaches.

Unlike fine wine, this fiasco is not going to improve with age.

almost drafted said...

Y'all might want to have a look at Larry King's interview with Jesse Ventura
(former SEAL and former Governer of Minnesota).

He talks about SEAL training and SERE waterboarding, and one of the most memorable things he said was, "Give me one hour with Dick Cheney and a waterboard, and I'll have him confessing to the Sharon Tate murders."



Pluto said...

Almost Drafted - Jesse Ventura - "Give me one hour with Dick Cheney and a waterboard, and I'll have him confessing to the Sharon Tate murders."

Great quote but Jesse frequently has only a vague understainding of the facts before he speaks.

Besides, Dick's such a tough old stinker I wouldn't be surprised if he killed himself first to avoid spilling his guts.