Photo of Bush demanding torture (or "alternative" interrogation) by Khue Bui for Newsweek September 25th issue
If we are too busy, if we are carried away every day by our projects, our uncertainty, our craving, how can we have the time to stop and look deeply into the situation---our own situation, the situation of our beloved one, the situation of our family and of our community, and the situation of our nation and of the other nations?
---Thich Nhat Hanh
Negotiations then turned to the amount of time that a detainee's suffering must last before the tactic amounted to a war crime. Administration officials wanted "prolonged" mental or physical symptoms, while the senators wanted something milder. They settled on "serious and nontransitory mental harm, which need not be prolonged."
---from The Seattle Times edition of the LA Times story by Julian E. Barnes and Richard Simon
The Bush administration had to empty its secret prisons and transfer terror suspects to the military-run detention centre at Guantánamo this month in part because CIA interrogators had refused to carry out further interrogations and run the secret facilities, according to former CIA officials and people close to the programme.
---from Financial Times (London) September 20, 2006 [link]
I can't recall a morning when the headlines were more confusing and even contradictory. The LA Times says "Bush Bows to Senators on Detainees." [link] The Washington Post says, in editorial, "The Abuse Can Continue; Senators won't authorize torture, but they won't prevent it, either." [link] Bloomberg has it that "President to Define Prisoner Abuse in Agreement With Senators By James Rowley Sept. 22 (Bloomberg) -- President George W. Bush would be able to write secret rules on how to treat suspected terrorists during interrogations under an agreement the administration worked out with dissenting Republican senators." The New York Times editorial says, "Here is a way to measure how seriously President Bush was willing to compromise on the military tribunals bill: Less than an hour after an agreement was announced yesterday with three leading Republican senators, the White House was already laying a path to wiggle out of its one real concession. About the only thing that Senators John Warner, John McCain and Lindsey Graham had to show for their defiance was Mr. Bush’s agreement to drop his insistence on allowing prosecutors of suspected terrorists to introduce classified evidence kept secret from the defendant. The White House agreed to abide by the rules of courts-martial, which bar secret evidence." [link]
The bottom line of course is to get some kind of legislation before the election in November to protect the Bush-Cheney gang from prosecution under our own War Crimes Act. Should the Democrats win control of either House or both and regain subpoena power in committee, the business-as-usual of spreading the neo-Con brand freedom might be slowed down a mite. Incidentally, Robert Kennedy Jr. unblinkingly expands his campaign about the "e-government revolution" (that's a Diebold Electronic Elections Systems slogan by the way) in the October 5th issue of Rolling Stone, now online. [link]
But let me ask you this: what does it take to reduce a relatively civilized population to a condition of animal savagery? And if it happens, is that necessarily a bad thing? Animals are creatures of nature with instincts of survival. Savages are people with traditions of tribal gathering, hunting, celebration and warfare that perhaps are closer to nature than citified people. The Wild West was tamed sometimes in savage ways to show who was boss. Is this not how the world always has been? Is this how things really are?
There were reports the last few days about bodies found strewn around Iraq. They show signs of "alternate interrogation" techniques, some of which perhaps caused death. Acid was poured on the people. Electric drills were employed to illicit information. Hot wires burned them. If they die from this...and everyone finds out they did...what lesson does the population learn? Now the United States revives its tradition of getting tough. I'm sure my military friends, particularly from VietNam, will tell me we've always done this stuff, only it's been secret. Yeah, we've got to credit Bush for going public about it...although the photos from our "detention" centers may have had something to do with it. But is all this good for democracy and freedom?
I'd like a clean election this time to find out how Americans really feel about all this. I know there may be too much power and money involved to allow a clean election, but I'd really like to find out. Are we now the tough guys, the fearless rangers, the hanging judges the rest of the world must respect...or else? Are public executions good for the village morale? Is it invigorating and disciplinary at once for the tribe to see the enemy intestines dragged out of his body and into the campfire? Are we ready to enjoy the enemy torn apart by hungry animals in the stadium? Is it all really only a pep rally, with bonfire, before the homecoming game?
What happens to a civilization that goes this way? What does history tell us? Does it matter...when we are on a courageous path of creating our own reality? I have a friend who retired this year. He's a soldier who saw action and suffered from it. He's given his civilian career in a very helpful way to others, but he's maintained a hard edge about life. He knows how to survive and fishes and hunts and always has a weapon on hand. He doesn't take a walk in the woods without a handgun. He's fed up with government and will not be surprised if his pension and other funding vanish. He has a plan: he will live in a cave...and if necessary, eat other humans. He's kidding of course...or is he?
For a lighter view, here's Molly Ivins on Wednesday~~~ [link]