Posts Tagged ‘torture’

Dick Cheney is at it again.  Like an undead vampire he has returned, being interviewed on CNN and once again espousing the virtues of torturing prisoners.  It is in a way surreal.  How can it be that a former U.S. Vice President can advocate a policy that completely disregards human rights?  Under Cheney’s direction the U.S. engaged in a systematic program of capture and torture of people who had suspected Al Qaeda connections.  He claims that through techniques, such as waterboarding (were there also other methods, even more diabolical that we don’t know about?) the U.S. obtained key information that allowed us to preempt terrorist attacks. Unfortunately, all the details of the information and the preemptive strikes are so secret the American people can’t be trusted to know the details of these episodes – even though they are episodes that happened in the past.  Cheney is convinced that it was only through these extraordinary measures that America has been kept safe.  So how come Cheney never used his wonderful torture techniques to find out where Osama bin Laden was hanging out?

It might be instructive to take a brief look at the career of another person who seems to have shared Cheney’s admiration for the use of torture. This person is known today as Vlad the Impaler. Vlad became ruler of a part of Romania, called Wallachia, upon the death of his father. He was confronted by a host of enemies and within a short span of time he had lost and regained his crown three times.  During his main reign, from 1456 to 1462, Vlad attained his reputation for torturing his prisoners. Torture was used for various purposes, but one of the primary purposes was to instill fear in his enemies. Vlad would impale his prisoners on posts and set them outside Wallachia as a warning to attacking armies.  When Sultan Mehmed II attacked Wallachia in 1462 he was faced with the sight of 20,000 impaled Turkish prisoners between him and Vlad’s town.  Mehmed was undeterred and simply drove his army forward and quickly conquered Wallachia.  It seems that Vlad’s practice of extreme torture was ineffective as a deterrent.  It is also likely that any information he obtained by torture was equally useless because it is well known that people under torture will say anything just to make the torture stop.  Confessions given under torture are never admissible as evidence in a court of law.  Today, not many people are familiar with the career of Vlad the Impaler. Most people have never heard his name.  However, almost everyone in the world knows him today by his other name: Vlad Dracula or simply Dracula.  Even for Dracula, torture just never worked as well as he hoped it would.

Getting back to Cheney, our former Vice President is now making the rounds of the news media, asserting that President Obama is making us less safe because he is stopping the torture and extraordinary rendition programs that Cheney the Torturer so loved.  What he fails to mention is that it was during his watch, as Vice President, that this country was attacked.  What he fails to mention is that his beloved torture program failed to lead to the capture of Osama bin Laden.  What he fails to mention is that his torturing of prisoners from Abu Ghraib to Guantanamo to the dark and secret recesses of former Soviet prisons somewhere in Eastern Europe has failed to prevent terrorist attacks in Spain or England.  More importantly, his torturing of prisoners has not stopped thousands and thousands of undocumented people flooding across our border with Mexico throughout his term as Vice President. I wonder if an Al Qaeda terrorist could do that too? So how does Cheney’s program of torture prevent that?

Cheney claims that the U.S. is vulnerable to attack, and he should know.  He methods of torture have been ineffective, his Department of Homeland Security is incompetent, and his war in Iraq irrelevant.  The Pashtun tribes who occupy the border regions between Afganistan and Pakistan are rumored to be helping Osama bin Laden and his buddies, but who can be sure? If we were sure we would capture them, wouldn’t we? The simple fact is that Dick Cheney has looked for Al Qaeda everywhere except where we think Al Qaeda really is. We have sent our armed forces into Iraq and Afghanistan, but no where near the Al Qaeda hideouts.  Cheney and Bush tortured people for seven years and their torture produced no effective result.

These days, Cheney the Torturer is still advocating and justifing torture. So did Vlad the Impaler throughout his life.  The puzzling thing is this: it really didn’t work very well for Vlad, and it clearly didn’t work very well for Cheney either.

Maybe they both liked torture for some other reason.

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Bush, Cheney, Paulson, Rumsfeld, and now Madoff…the list could go on and on.  For far too many years Americans and the world have sat back and watched as these men and others have proved, time and again, that they lack a moral compass.  Most recently it was announced that Bernard Madoff bilked investors out of billions of dollars. Some wealthy investors have been virtually wiped out.  Who cares? Life goes on.  The best the Wall Street Journal has to offer is the advice that we must be careful with whom we invest our money.  How about some regulation and real oversight of the Wall Street crooks? Wouldn’t that be a good thing too?

Recently, Dick Cheney admitted that he approved the use of torture on people who were suspected of being enemy agents. The specific form of torture being discussed was waterboarding, a technique used during the Roman Catholic Church’s Spanish Inquisition.  Despite the fact that torture is against the laws of the United States and the world in general, Cheney is able to sit comfortably, unconcerned about being arrested and thrown into jail, and say that he was for it and that he helped in getting the “process cleared”. And yet, look at us.  We have become so accustomed to this sort of lack of integrity that we all just sit back and just turn the channel to see what else is on TV.

When the Iraq War was initiated, our Secretary of Defense was Donald Rumsfeld. Unhappy with General Shinseki, truthfully telling Congress that Rumsfled’s war plans were inadequate and non-sensical, he publicly scorned Shinseki saying that he was “far off the mark”. Rumsfled’s Deputy Secretary of Defense, Paul Wolfowitz said that Shinseki was “wildly off the mark”. Now, both Rumsfeld and Wolfowitz have been shown to “wildly off the mark” – after too many thousands of Americans and Iraqi civilians died in an entirely unjustified war against Iraq – a war advocated by Wolfowitz long before 9/11.  So where is the outrage of the American people? Why aren’t we marching in the streets in protest? Is it because there is something better on TV?

Today it was reported that President Bush is considering an “orderly” bankruptcy for the U.S. auto industry as part of a rescue package.  Some rescue.  It’s like going to a hospital for a heart transplant and later being told, while you are on life support, they have replaced your heart with a donor liver – it’s the best they could do.   I wonder if Goldman Sachs would have been interested in an orderly bankruptcy as part of their “rescue”?  How about Morgan Stanley? How about Fannie Mae or Freddie Mac?  I guess that if you are in the money business you get special treatment in this country.  If you are in the manufacturing business – well, you just don’t get it, do you? You see, we’re outsourcing all that kind of work – part of the global economy, you see.  We’re not really interested in having a strong manufacturing industry in the U.S. when we can get the poor people of other countries to make things cheaper over there in their poor countries. Then we just import the stuff, add on a nice profit margin, and run a sale – buy now and pay later. That’s the Bush business model: no rules finance, usurious interest rates, and let the rest of the world go through the labor of actually making stuff for us to buy cheap, while the country’s millionaires and billionaires make even more billions from the interest on our credit card purchases – interest that we’ll be paying for the rest of our lives, if all goes according to plan.

Recently, an Iraqi man was arrested for throwing his shoes at President Bush.  The news of this incident has made headlines around the world. President Bush has laughed it off as if it were a sort of carnival game he and the man were playing – like Whack a Mole or something.  Now the man who threw the shoes at Bush has become a hero to Arabs around the world who are unhappy with the war in Iraq.  However, it is my guess that while these Arabs might clearly associate the shoe throwing incident with a rejection of Bush and his war, there are many millions of other people worldwide who are quietly smiling at this act of rebellion and rejection because it symbolizes something more.  It also symbolizes a repudiation of Bush and his cronies, a repudiation of a disastrous war and a disastrous economic policy, a repudiation of a lawless presidency that endorses torture and the systematic dismantling of our Constitutional rights, a repudiation of a President who failed to “protect and defend the Constitution of the United States”, a repudiation of a President who even failed to save the drowning citizens of New Orleans.  His list of failures goes on and on.  The lack of integrity of this president, the most unpopular in the history of the United States, and his cronies, appears to have no limit.  The only plausible reason for not impeaching the man is that it would have left us with Cheney for President.

So America,  don’t ask for whom that Iraqi man threw those shoes, they were thrown for you.

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