Monday, April 27, 2009


YANKING ON THE CHOKE-CHAIN : Among red diaper babies who came of age in the sixties, when paranoia struck deep into our lives it often crept in the form of a book which had not yet come of age- George Orwell’s 1984.

Written in 1948, at it’s then futuristic heart was a depiction of the now common practice of using less ominous euphemisms to replace hot button words with cooler though less accurate language.

Sure enough the practice was perfected during the Regan years and has become a de rigor cog of the modern political spin machine.

At first the press was skeptical but as real journalism devolved into a quick juxtaposition of unexamined opposing quotes of the “he said she said” ilk, truth became a casualty and “they say it- we print it” became the standard M..O. for every corporate reporter and editor.

What used to be episodes of acknowledged Orwellian doublethink- and the resultant popular term doublespeak, which is actually not part of the book- are now part of a widely accepted Orwellianism that doesn’t even elicit a second thought from the Joe News-consumer.

So it’s not really surprising that every- and we mean every- news report about the Bush administration’s torturing of prisoners refers to “enhanced interrogation techniques” sometimes adding “that some refer to as torture”

No! (and we don’t use exclamation marks lightly). What are we, freakin’ idiots? It’s torture- it never was and never will be anything else. The only ones who call it “enhanced interrogation” are the ones who tortured people.

The fact that some wigged-out wise-asses tried to write their way out of it at the behest of the administration overlords doesn’t make it anything but torture under an assumed name.

But the mainstream corporate press is so entombed in the cacophony of their own echo chamber that they can actually no longer press the BS button and report the “truth”, allowing special interests to dictate the very language that the last generation so profoundly feared would supplant the apparent.

Perhaps due to 21st Century corporate-style reporting, apparently the current “current occupant”- to use humorist Garrison Keilor’s catch-phrase for the last White House denizen- is perfectly happy being every bit as lawless as his predecessor, using George Bush’s creative constitutionalism to think himself enough of a “unitary executive” to say who is and isn’t above the law.

It is illegal to the US to torture prisoners, not just under international law but under the 1988 U.N. Convention Against Torture that Ronald Regan signed, making the law of the land.

What’s even worse than the misuse of language may be the notion that somehow “it worked” so it’s all an “ends justifies the means” wash.

Where to start with this little bit of disingenuous drivel, where to start?

We could start with the fact that the ends rarely justify the means.

Or we might ask who defines “works”... Dick Chaney? His citation of the fact that there hasn’t been another 9/11-style incident to show it “worked” is like the old joke about the guy wearing a tin-foil hat, dancing on one foot on the center stripe of the freeway, saying he’s keeping away the elephants and citing the lacking proximal presence of pachyderms as proof of his success.

Only a war-criminal could ignore decades of research showing that torture does not work.

The latest in a long line of interrogators who have almost unanimously reached this conclusion is U.S. Major Matthew Alexander -a named assumed for security reasons- who personally interrogated 300 Iraqi prisoners.

According to the UK newspaper The Independent, in his book with John R Bruning called “How to Break a Terrorist: The US interrogators who used brains, not brutality, to take down the deadliest man in Iraq”, he details what everyone from the FBI to the CIA to every cop-on-the-beat knows- that developing a relationship with a subject is what elicits information.

Torture elicits, at best no information and at worst incorrect information and “confessions” from those who will say whatever the torturer wants to hear, many times “information” designed to mislead and sometimes to injure those in whose name the torture is performed.

The squishy moral center of American political leadership isn’t something new- for all the deification of the founding fathers their genocide of 30 million native Americans and enslavement of an equal number of Africans sometimes makes the Nazis look like incompetent amateurs.

According to Wikipedia the Nuremberg Principles were a set of guidelines for determining what constitutes a war crime, set down during the Nuremberg trials of Nazis after WWII and signed by the U.S.
Principle IV says:

The fact that a person acted pursuant to order of his Government or of a superior does not relieve him from responsibility under international law, provided a moral choice was in fact possible to him.

That’s principle came as a result of the famous Nuremberg Defense used by those who, like the CIA personnel and others in Iraq and Guantanamo, were “ordered” to torutre or kill but said they were not responsible because they were “just following orders.”

As important for President Barack Obama, who has apparently “decided”- or at least “instructed” the Attorney General- not to prosecute the actual torturers, is Principle VII which says:

Complicity in the commission of a crime against peace, a war crime, or a crime against humanity as set forth in Principle VI is a crime under international law.

Complicity under U.S, law includes obstructing justice especially to hinder prosecution which would make Obama an accessory to war crimes if he bans prosecution of those covered under Principle IV.

It should also be noted that war crimes include not just actual torture but any “ill-treatment of prisoners of war

Torture itself is banned under Article 4 of the 1949 Third Geneva Convention and defined in part as

any act by which severe pain or suffering, whether physical or mental, is intentionally inflicted on a male or female person for such purposes as obtaining from him, or a third person, information...

Some, even among those who show the intelectual curioisty and consistancy to go beyond the usual left-right, Democratic-Republican and American-forigner axese, may accepet the “truths” herein described and yet still feel compelled to case-specifically shun the rule of law.

They may see the war crimes of Bush, Chaney, Rice, Gonzalez and others so heinous as to shake the county to it’s core and undermine the foundation should they be proescuted and many rather call for a “truth and recociliation commission” type resolution.

But the rule of law, if not to insure punishment or make re-offending impossible, is to insure, as people said after “the” holocaust, it happens “never again”.

If they count on the people of the country to “never again” elect someone with a predilection for such criminal intent they’d best remember how unlikely many American voters thought such a scenario in November of 2000.

1984 came, just as predicted- both the year and the world ascribed to it in the book. But while we calmly munch our pita-bread and watch reporters on the wall mounted screen discuss the circus of a recent NY Times editorial discussion regarding whether the “enhanced interrogations” were merely “harsh” or should now be described as “brutal”, we’d best remember that 2540 is yet to come and even now it’s beginning to look like a “Brave New World”.

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