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Secret Prisons - Not Just For Despots Anymore
December 9, 2005 3:41 AM   Subscribe

The US has admitted for the first time that it has not given the Red Cross access to all detainees in its custody. Meanwhile, the German citizen picked up by the CIA and tortured in one of the secret prisons, based solely on having the same name as a suspected terrorist, would really, really like an apology from someone. If you think things are getting out of hand, why not join the Amnesty International Write-a-thon? You can get the message across to the people in charge and let them know that you don't support prisoner abuse or rendition to secret prisons.
posted by Dag Maggot (80 comments total)

 
Mr Bellinger said some of the allegations of secret prisons were "so overblown as to be ludicrous".

But some mean spirited people will notice he isn't denying.
posted by elpapacito at 4:24 AM on December 9, 2005


From the seattlepi piece:
Washington implicitly denies it tortures terrorist suspects held anywhere (my emphasis). Implicit my arse. Because Rice will not categorically deny renditioned suspects are being tortured then I imply they are.
posted by magpie68 at 4:40 AM on December 9, 2005


American credibility is the ultimate victim of this administration.
posted by clevershark at 4:41 AM on December 9, 2005


I am ashamed of the damage that this administration has done to your country's credibility. Truly. And what a fine country it was some time ago...
posted by keijo at 4:45 AM on December 9, 2005


Suing for only $75,000? He's clearly not an American.
posted by Slothrup at 4:49 AM on December 9, 2005


The nice thing about posting about the US at this hour, is that all of the non-americans and ex-pats get to weigh in first.
posted by Dag Maggot at 4:51 AM on December 9, 2005


Yeah. "Some" allegations, may be overblown. What about the other ones?

The whole song and dance by the administration is not only frustrating, it's insulting.

They say "we don't torture" but define torture to allow waterboarding, cold cell and so forth?

They say "we don't torture" but then, in the same breath, say they will do pretty much what they "have to do" to combat terrorism.

They say "we don't torture" but leave the door open to supporting and facilitating torture conducted on behalf of the US by other countries which aren't so squeamish (via rendition).

They say "we don't torture" but then indicate that, oh yes, other countries are complicit in whatever we've been doing, so they should back off of their rhetoric unless they want the whole story to come out.

They say "we don't torture" but then apply that statement to the narrowest conditions: US citizens on US soil in nonfederal facilities that happen to NOT be classified as enemy combatants, on alternate Tuesdays, etc....

They use every rhetorical trick in the book to avoid accountability on this issue because, as most people already know, we sure as heck DO torture when they want.

I'd like to see some integrity from our Administration on this issue. The fact that their own explanations, equivocations and evasions have become so tortured themselves has simply served to damage US morale and reputation throughout the world. The US claim to being a champion of due process, freedoms and liberties, human rights, begins to look like a hollow sham to the rest of the world.

Not to mention the fact that torture (and yes, I think that includes waterboarding, Alberto) is a grotesque concept of due process that is properly left in the 17th century.
posted by darkstar at 4:52 AM on December 9, 2005


And I'm a US citizen working overseas. :)
posted by darkstar at 4:53 AM on December 9, 2005


I think Rice said "we don't torture." However, you then have to look at what does not constitute torture under this administration, that sure looks like torture to most people. Add to that Darth Cheney's push to kill the anti-torture bill and the admin looks really dishonest.

As for the $75K, I think that is just to get him into Federal Court.
posted by caddis at 4:57 AM on December 9, 2005


By Gonzales's standards one could, without torturing, put a plastic bag on someone's head and cut off breathing until just before the person asphyxiates. Over and over again, too, because it's "not causing injury".

Things like that give a hollow sound to "we don't torture," as does VP Cheney's lobbying to have the CIA exempted from anti-torture laws.
posted by clevershark at 5:00 AM on December 9, 2005


Dag Maggot, nice point but I've spent many many months in America and love your country. And spent hours defending U.S. policies in Europe. But now I find it quite impossible to do so anymore. I keep defending that it is a lovely country with wonderful people but a twisted administration. But that's a hard concept for some people over here to grasp. That not all Americans think the same as their current leaders.
posted by keijo at 5:16 AM on December 9, 2005


I don't think that the US government is the only one losing credibility here - I know watching the Irish govt's starry eyed acceptance that Condi is really, really, really sure there's nothing weird about those CIA jets making stops in shannon has sickened a lot of my circle.

From todays Irish Times letters page :

Having read of the naive acceptance by the Taoiseach and the Minister for Foreign Affairs of Condoleezza Rice's "categorical assurances" regarding the CIA's use of Shannon, I am convinced that Ireland is no longer neutral, just neutered.

Heh.
posted by jamesonandwater at 5:19 AM on December 9, 2005


The US has admitted for the first time that it has not given the Red Cross access to all detainees in its custody.

Oh!
posted by Drexen at 5:20 AM on December 9, 2005


keijo: I feel you. As the lone pro-gringo amongst my pseudo-intellectual gringo-bashing friends, I've been keeping my mouth shut more often than not these last few years.
posted by signal at 5:23 AM on December 9, 2005


keijo, I'm sure Uganda had some lovely, beautiful people living under Idi Amin's rule.

It's natural and normal for people to anthomorphosize a country into an individual with unified beliefs. But - if the US is really is a democracy, then we can only blame its people for the administration's actions.

The people elected George Bush, and the people elected a majority Republican congress. So, sorry, I blame the people, (and myself as an American).
posted by Dag Maggot at 5:26 AM on December 9, 2005


Nicely put, jamesonandwater in the paper. although I'm quite put off by the constant discussion in European media about these CIA flights for two reasons: (1) The naive thought that the U.S. would ever admit to anything in public that they didn't have to (2) The naive way of representing this as CIA doing this or CIA doing that. The CIA is not a country, it is completely under federal control and the administration has full control of its operations. So please say that it is the United States that is doing something allegedly-not-quite-accepted under foreign soil.
posted by keijo at 5:26 AM on December 9, 2005


According to this report of her speech Rice did not at any time say "we don't torture". This was a well-crafted lawyerly speech which leaves all sorts of doubts lingering, and ensures it can be "dissembled" later should scandals emerge.

For instance she uses the term "will be tortured" instead of "may be tortured", and "seeks assurances that .... persons will not be tortured".

And the screamingly funny
The United States has fully respected the sovereignty of other countries that co-operate in these matters.
which implies that they will not respect your sovereignty if you do not co-operate, a position seen in action here.
posted by magpie68 at 5:30 AM on December 9, 2005


Dag Maggot, that's a fair argument, although you can argue that the current administration wasn't even elected without a court decision and that in a country where in any case more or less 50% have recently voted for the opposing candidate you cannot blame the people as a totality? But that is a problem with democracy and this is not the place for that discussion.
posted by keijo at 5:31 AM on December 9, 2005


And let's face the facts. This administration has done some devious things. It does torture, I think that is given (not going to argue what constitutes as torture or not). I personally suspect it is corrupted beyond whatever administration before. And the people chose it, and for a second term. I suspect the real question is, since America is so divided into two parts (with regards to religion, morality, drug policy, abortion, the death penalty, lots of other things) how long can this go on? Do we want to different Americas?
posted by keijo at 5:39 AM on December 9, 2005


Intelligence agancies, by design must have a great deal of freedom in their operations, otherwise they cease to be effective. This, underneath the sanitized public version, is the way intel ops have been conducted since their inception. The fact that we're now seeing this is more a good point about the changes in oversight and the availability of information than any change in the procedures.

Signal: Pro-gringo? What in the hell is that? Are there Pro-beaners, too?
posted by IronLizard at 5:40 AM on December 9, 2005


Sorry, "two different Americas" I was saying
posted by keijo at 5:40 AM on December 9, 2005


keijo, I don't think anyone (including the op-ed writers) really expect Condi to admit to extraordinary rendition - they just want to see the Irish govt show some persistence and shake off some of that credulity about an issue they've come to care a lot about.
posted by jamesonandwater at 5:41 AM on December 9, 2005


IronLizard, of course the intelligent agencies must have independence just for the sake of what they are doing. But you cannot refute the fact that the president and the administration is in ultimate control of that federal facility. The president gets daily intelligent reports from the CIA for example and continues to do so for the rest of his life if he/she wants to.

So whilst intelligence organisations should have their freedom, I can't see what would stop the federal state stopping/amending what they are doing? (and I am not going into the discussion about the different functions and doings about the relationship between the military intelligence and the CIA, that's a whole other discussion again).
posted by keijo at 5:46 AM on December 9, 2005


If we were talking about the first term, I would agree with you keijo, but you might remember that the second election gave Bush "Political Capital" and he sure as hell has spent it. He won that election.

Most people living outside the reach of Fox News could see that a day old dog turd should have been able to beat George Bush for the second term, but he was still voted in. So, while no I don't blame individuals for this monstrosity of an administration, I do blame "The People".
posted by Dag Maggot at 5:47 AM on December 9, 2005


IronLizard writes 'Signal: Pro-gringo? What in the hell is that? Are there Pro-beaners, too?'


A proo-gringo is someone who supports gringos. 'Gringo' can refer to US citizens, or more generally to any white first-worlder. I was using it in the first sense.

What's a 'beaner'?
posted by signal at 5:50 AM on December 9, 2005


Intelligence agancies, by design must have a great deal of freedom in their operations, otherwise they cease to be effective. :-)

I just got up and read the above sentence wrong, thinking, "Why in the world is he talking about Intelligent Design in this thread??"

And while America may be a lovely country with wonderful people, a lot of those wonderful people believe that torture is okay because of the global war on terrorism. Everything has changed since 9/11. Better to torture them over there than have another 9/11 occur here. Wonderful people, but not big on critical thinking or compassion.
posted by leftcoastbob at 5:52 AM on December 9, 2005


True, Dog Maggot, although a second term win is always easier especially if you put in the "fear factor" of what the administration keeps feeding into the minds of people living inside the reach of Fox News. And even the second time it was close as hell.

But I'm not saying nothing, a more or less 50% didn't vote for Bush for his second term but a more or less 50% did. Go figure.
posted by keijo at 5:53 AM on December 9, 2005


leftcoastbob, while a lot of people may think that torture is "ok", the question really is what the administration is feeding you. If they're telling you that people are out to get you and the threat is imminent everyday, sure you would torture somebody. Is it right? No. Is it justified in the mind of somebody when they belive in just government? Yes.

I just had a friend of from Europe going over to Chicago for a week and getting to watch local news. He said that the most striking fact was the culture of fear. That the news basically told you what to fear the most. Go figure what this is about.
posted by keijo at 5:58 AM on December 9, 2005


'Gringo' can refer to US citizens, or more generally to any white first-worlder. I was using it in the first sense.

Hmmmm, last time I hear it used it had the word pinche in front of it. Are you sure?

What's a 'beaner'? Really, I'm not sure, it has something to do with a molotov flash.
posted by IronLizard at 6:21 AM on December 9, 2005


I think Rice said "we don't torture." - caddis

It wasn't Rice, it was Bush who said "We don't torture." He said this about a month ago while at the same time Cheney was lobbying Congress to exempt the CIA from legislation banning torture [or extraordinary rendition or whatever].

It sickens me that people here do not think the torture issue is not an issue -- or even worse what some that some of the talking heads on Fox think that the problem is people who criticize the the policy of torture. And the whole scheme of outsourcing the torture to governments where it isn't illegal is just wrong, wrong, wrong. I just wonder if it more than just American's getting revenge for 9/11 or if it is OK to torture and abuse people that have darker skin and don't believe in Jesus.

Part of me seethes with anger. The other part of me is starting to think that maybe its me. Even with allegations of vote fraud, the government doing this was elected. Only a small minority of people here seem to have a problem with what's going on, maybe we just all "just go to Canada" then.
posted by birdherder at 6:21 AM on December 9, 2005


The people elected George Bush, and the people elected a majority Republican congress. So, sorry, I blame the people, (and myself as an American)

Yeah right, blame the people ! Just remember only -part- of the whole voting population elected Bush administration...how is it to be the idiots' idiots.
posted by elpapacito at 6:22 AM on December 9, 2005


Yeah, the policy that U.S. citizens are taxed on their worldwide income (very rare) but the administration can torture or even hold people (Guantanamo Bay) abroad is ok is completely foreign to me.
posted by keijo at 6:27 AM on December 9, 2005


I mean, that is a strange comparison that just came to mind. That the government takes your money because you are a citizen wherever you are, wherever you are taxed, etc. But then then the government uses devious things (Guantanamo Bay came to mind) to hold people abroad so they are not within the U.S. jurisdiction. The mind just blows away.
posted by keijo at 6:35 AM on December 9, 2005


"We don't torture" is the new "Read my lips."
posted by Rothko at 7:44 AM on December 9, 2005


elpapacito writes "Yeah right, blame the people ! Just remember only -part- of the whole voting population elected Bush administration...how is it to be the idiots' idiots."

That shouldn't be an excuse - in a free society, during a democratic election where dozens polls were available showing that the outcome was either too close or (as I think they showed before the last election) Bush would win, not voting means you approve the outcome or you don't care what the outcome is. In either case the non-voting citizen is as responsible for the election result as the voting citizen.
posted by nkyad at 7:55 AM on December 9, 2005


In either case the non-voting citizen is as responsible for the election result as the voting citizen.

And of those with no confidence in any of the canidates? You're saying they must choose the lesser of two evils when they don't know, rhetoric aside, which that is? I hardly think abstaining from a vote is synonymous with either apathy or approval.
posted by IronLizard at 8:03 AM on December 9, 2005


The defense is circular.

That is, if you call them "CIA prisons", that is inaccurate, because even though the CIA works there, it is not their prison. (A renter does not own the property.)

If you say that the US tortures prisoners, that is also inaccurate, if the torturers are not Americans, nor are directed as to how to torture by the American standing in the room.

If you say that the US tortures our prisoners, that is inaccurate if they are not our prisoners, if they are in the custody of someone else when they are being tortured.

Things like this, and many more, are legal finesses used to deny the obvious. Eventually, you create a wall of denial for even the most blatant activities.

Lastly, the great secret of torture, is that considerable effort has been made to deceive as to the means of torture. The sap gloves, electric shocks, and sodium pentathol were tools of the 1940s. Extrapolate how horrific torture would be today with the technological advances that have been made since that time.

Dozens of pharmaceuticals alone would be useful. Any number of psychological and physical means that defy the imagination. Surgery, electronics, brainwashing, etc.
posted by kablam at 8:05 AM on December 9, 2005


IronLizard writes "You're saying they must choose the lesser of two evils when they don't know, rhetoric aside, which that is? "

Besides the fact there were at least a dozen evils to choose from, I think the correct way to say you have no confidence in any candidate is to show up and actively nullify your vote. Abstaining is just a way of saying "I don't care".
posted by nkyad at 8:10 AM on December 9, 2005


That's implausible. Whay should they do? Yell at the personnel? There is no 'non of the above' slot. Additionally, only two canidates float to the top of the crap pile by vote time. While there might be (comparatively) excellent canidates floating around out there, your average joe hears very little about them. It always comes down to two main players that seem cut from the same mold. Very moldy.
posted by IronLizard at 8:19 AM on December 9, 2005


kablam, you own defence is circular/makes no sense.

It can be a CIA/U.S. prison if it is set up by the U.S. and with the consent of the state where it is based.

Similarily, in most, if not all, interpretations of international law, if those prisoners would be in U.S. custody in a friendly country, with their acceptance, especially if tacit pressure would be given towards that friendly country, they would be considered prisoners of the U.S.
posted by keijo at 8:23 AM on December 9, 2005


Additionally, I think you'll find that whil a great number do care, they don't believe that their individual vote will matter, which is quite true.
posted by IronLizard at 8:24 AM on December 9, 2005


IronLizard, no offense, but maybe you should spend some of that righteous energy doing something other than defending yourself and your choice to not vote in an election that ultimately effects the whole world. It's exactly this kind of self-centred attitude that causes such disdain of America in the rest of the world.
posted by stinkycheese at 8:33 AM on December 9, 2005


And yet the whole torture-by-proxy thing is providing the results: Iraq war intelligence linked to coercion.
WASHINGTON The Bush administration based a crucial prewar assertion about ties between Iraq and Al Qaeda on detailed statements made by a prisoner while in Egyptian custody who later said he had fabricated them to escape harsh treatment, according to current and former government officials.
posted by blag at 8:42 AM on December 9, 2005


spend some of that righteous energy doing something other than defending yourself and your choice to not vote in an election that ultimately effects the whole world.

Yes, my fingers ache from typing that paragraph, it was a terrific strain and one I'll gladly undergo to defend my right to do nothing. I suppose I should start a blog to convince others to vote, wearing away my fingerprints further. So, what, you recommend compolsory voting? At which point does it end it's existence as a right and become something entirely different?
posted by IronLizard at 8:55 AM on December 9, 2005


To state the obvious, most interregators I've heard quoted in recent months find torture to be a pretty ineffective way to obtain information. So stop it with the waterboarding and go surfing or something. I want my country back...except without all the nasty bits like racism, the screaming media and the misery of the poor.
posted by kozad at 8:56 AM on December 9, 2005


“This, underneath the sanitized public version, is the way intel ops have been conducted since their inception.” - posted by IronLizard

Not as a matter of policy. Certainly not as a matter of course. To say that there are squad of - say - LAPD cops who run drugs with certain public officials involved does not mean the LAPD is a drug running organization. It happens. It is not what is SUPPOSED TO happen.

“And yet the whole torture-by-proxy thing is providing the results: Iraq war intelligence linked to coercion.”- posted by blag
That’s exactly what I fear most blag. I also fear it will go on and on in this Inquisition-esque self-fufilling prophecy of “terrorists” everywhere.

Mimicry: “See! He confessed to being a terrorist and blowing things up (after we drilled his teeth, split his kneecaps, pulled his fingernails and blowtorched his anus). This justifies us torturing others to find out if they're terrorists!”

I couldn’t imagine the United States hiding prisoners from the Red Cross.This is Disgraceful. And by God I never thought I would use that term to discribe my country. I’m so low. I feel like walking around with a black armband.
posted by Smedleyman at 9:08 AM on December 9, 2005


IronLizard: So, what, you recommend compolsory voting? At which point does it end it's existence as a right and become something entirely different?

I recommend you realise how important it is to vote. And if you choose not to vote, I recommend you stop defending yourself as a good person when the point is made that Americans - as people living in a democracy - must share some blame for the actions of their elected officials.

Statements such the ones you and keijo (Blame Fox News, not me, blah blah) have made in this thread just sound like a toddler saying "not my fault, not my fault" when Mommy finds some broken dishes. Whether it's your fault or not is really small potatoes, and it seems the only real consideration in taking such a stance is to exonerate yourself from any guilt, responsibility or other icky feelings.

It is irksome to see so many Americans on the left take this petty and, again, self-centred position. Just help Mommy clean up the dishes. No one needs the whining.

/going to go to lunch now
posted by stinkycheese at 9:10 AM on December 9, 2005


I want my country back...except without all the nasty bits like racism, the screaming media and the misery of the poor.

I hate to say this, but we've always had those.

I think what's truly disturbing about all of this is not that it happens (it has been, for centuries), it's the giant steps backwards we're taking with it. At one time, this country stood for progress against such evils without the great blank wall of denials and subterfuge succeeding against reason and compassion. The point is that we were able, as a people, to change the horrible inequities through peaceful means. Now, we're faced with a near impenetrable facade that sprang forth almost overnight. When accountablity returns, if this isn't some Orwellian nghtmare, we may be able to get back to something like the US we remember. Or think we remember.
posted by IronLizard at 9:11 AM on December 9, 2005


I recommend you realise how important it is to vote. And if you choose not to vote, I recommend you stop defending yourself as a good person when the point is made that Americans - as people living in a democracy - must share some blame for the actions of their elected officials.

Fine, we're all evil. Have it you're way. You're next.
posted by IronLizard at 9:13 AM on December 9, 2005


IronLizard writes "Whay should they do? Yell at the personnel? There is no 'non of the above' slot."

Sorry, in my country (Brazil) we have fully automated ballots for all levels. Exactly the same voting machines and the same procedures are used everywhere and the elections are organized and supervised by a special central branch of the Judiciary (the "Electoral Justice"). Even so, the machines are designed in a way that you can not only blank your vote (there is a specific button for this in the machine) but also nullify it (by entering a non-existent candidate number).

I understand the US has a much more decentralized electoral system, but I bet in many places you're allowed to "write-in" your vote (so you can vote for "Malaclypse the Younger" for President) or use a procedure similar to ours to vote null.
posted by nkyad at 9:41 AM on December 9, 2005


It always comes down to two main players that seem cut from the same mold. Very moldy.

This was not the case for the presidential election last year. There was significant daylight between Bush & Kerry.

For political reasons Kerry had to "cling to the belt"[1] of Bush on many issues like abortion, Iraq, health care... This is basically 'triangulation' I guess, trying to not alienate the mushy middle that has its head largely up its ass usually (as opposed to the righttards who have their heads permanently inserted).

[1] this is the strategy of the VC/NVA to get so close to the american positions that the superior american fire support couldn't target them effectively.
posted by Heywood Mogroot at 9:45 AM on December 9, 2005


This was not the case for the presidential election last year. There was significant daylight between Bush & Kerry.

I'm sure that's true for those who can see through mud. I, for one, only hoped for a 'regime change' and, from what little I understood of Kerry's campaign, that's what the Democrats were about but not much else. It was a simple 'i know better than you', 'a plan? uhh sure we have one somewhere around here, but I'm still smarter than you!' type of race. Nothing concrete at either end but still sinking like a stone. I don't know why we're going through this, Bushco mignt not have won EITHER election legally and here we have a few foreigners blaming every American, individualy, for every slimy move a few crooks make. Nice.
posted by IronLizard at 10:08 AM on December 9, 2005


Smedleyman writes "Mimicry: “See! He confessed to being a terrorist and blowing things up (after we drilled his teeth, split his kneecaps, pulled his fingernails and blowtorched his anus). This justifies us torturing others to find out if they're terrorists!”

Indeed. "Never mind if his statements are true or not - it's what we want to hear!"
posted by blag at 10:21 AM on December 9, 2005


I think the whole "individual voter" concept is a tired paradigm and needs to be done away with ASAP. Individual voters and their individual votes mean nothing. Individual voters interconnected and organized into voting blocks--peer groups, neighborhoods, social and civic organizations, whatever--mean everything.

Other paradigms destined for the slag heap: Orwellian nightmares, impenetrable facades, blogging as a substitute for actual dialogue.
posted by halcyon_daze at 10:29 AM on December 9, 2005


To state the obvious, most interregators I've heard quoted in recent months find torture to be a pretty ineffective way to obtain information. So stop it.

So fine, you've addressed one objective of torture. How else to take revenge?
posted by nervousfritz at 10:33 AM on December 9, 2005


IronLizard: here we have a few foreigners blaming every American, individualy, for every slimy move a few crooks make. Nice.

Am I one of those foreigners? Because I never stated that every individual American is to blame for the actions of the U.S. government. That was your own xenophobic paranoia speaking there.

What I said is that the proclivity of Americans to excuse themselves from the bad things said about/done by their government doesn't serve anyone but themselves, and is indicative of the selfishness people attribute to America as a whole.

Maybe you should go speak to some elderly German people about this and see what they think of your pain.
posted by stinkycheese at 10:50 AM on December 9, 2005


Sorry, didn't mean to Godwin out there. Go ask some Russians or something instead.
posted by stinkycheese at 10:55 AM on December 9, 2005


A friend of mine is staying in New England for half a year. He says US news on television is extremely inward-looking: only local news like submerged cellars and US inland politics. The rest of the world just does exist.
Is that true?

By the way: the dutch shouldn't be very proud either. Our government blissfully accepted Condi's "we don't do torture". Argh.
posted by jouke at 10:55 AM on December 9, 2005


“The rest of the world just does exist.
Is that true?”

I assume you meant “doesn’t”. Yep. T.V. news sucks mostly. The deepest it tends to get is “he said/she said”. The rest is (metaphorically) car chases.
posted by Smedleyman at 11:04 AM on December 9, 2005


Indeed I meant "doesn't".

So do you basically rely on news on the internet then?
posted by jouke at 11:13 AM on December 9, 2005


"We don't torture" is the new "Read my lips."

Actually, I think the much closer parallel is "I did not have sexual relations with that woman, Miss Lewinsky." Same finger-wagging, incredulous, I-can't-believe-you-would-even-imply-such-a-thing self-righteous tone.

More ironic, however, is that what so infuriated conservatives about Clinton's statement was the weaselly, true for very specific definitions of "sexual relations" air of it all. When he said "sexual relations," he didn't mean blowjobs, so technically he was telling the truth.

"We do not torture" is the exact same thing--Bush doesn't mean waterboarding, electrocution, beating, and all sorts of other horrible things when he says "torture," so again, he's technically not lying to us. The only real difference is one of degree. He's talking about acts of barbarism sanctioned by the so-called leader of the free world, not an extra-marital affair. It's the same old sleazy semantic tricks, dressing up far worse offenses.

There's glory for you.
posted by EarBucket at 11:19 AM on December 9, 2005


Please instead of placing blame, could the millions and millions and millions of non-Americans who are opposed to American foreign policy put their heads together and figure out some way to help the now more than 50% of Americans Against Bush put an end to this?

Consider this our humble request for aid.

If Rupert Murdoch can do it, so can you.
posted by Skwirl at 11:50 AM on December 9, 2005


And I suppose we should be serving others? The U.S. has quite often extended aid for humanitarian reasons in the past and continues to do so. The rewards? None. Of course those of us who disagree with what our government has done will excuse ourselves, since we didn't have anything to do with it. You didn't notice the protests, public approval ratings, ect? Apparently, nothing short of storming the Whitehouse will spurr change in the current atmosphere. I suppose you'll lead the charge, since it affects you (being a part of the 'rest of the world')?
You go on to accuse me of 'xenophobic paranoia' after a statement like this:
It's exactly this kind of self-centred attitude that causes such disdain of America in the rest of the world.

Who wouldn't be xenophobic if the 'rest of the world' was accusing them of these horrible crimes and viewing them with disdain? Admit it, you just like AmericaBashing(TM)
posted by IronLizard at 11:59 AM on December 9, 2005


I think Rice said "we don't torture."

Yeah. One of those surreal news moments. Rice on a diplomatic tour says US do not use torture or condone use of torture and there's no torture facility in Kosovo and European ministers are "satisfied". Okay then, if she says there's no torture and everyone is satisfied, guess that's all we need to know. Anyone has any questions? there's no more answers. Anyone have a problem with that? there is no problem. Torture? what torture? shut up.
posted by funambulist at 12:20 PM on December 9, 2005


Apparently, nothing short of storming the Whitehouse will spurr change in the current atmosphere.

Voting the other party into control of the House this November would serve as a check. Giving the opposing party control of both House and Senate would be an even better check. The current Congressional rubberstamp is a huge part of the reason this President has the ability to run roughshod over every principle we've held dear, straying from the wisdom of policies initiated and continued by past Presidents from both parties.

You may not believe your vote has any influence in national elections (a point with which I disagree, but hey)...you certainly have a great deal of influence in who represents your district in the House, and who represents you at a state and local level. There's simply no argument there.

And the beauty of the Constitution is that we get an entirely new House every two years, and that House can check the Executive, up to and including voting to impeach.
posted by edverb at 12:27 PM on December 9, 2005


“So do you basically rely on news on the internet then?” - posted by jouke

Personally? I read a variety of newspapers online. Listen to various radio stations (From Limbaugh to Franken - it’s like doing Swedish sauna). And of course check various blogs. I skim for perspective and concepts once I get the newsy details from the AP, et.al sources. Keeps you from getting information overload. And there’s a lot of overlap in content as well as activities (e.g. I’m at the gym or in the car) so it doesn’t take up as much time as you’d think. I watch t.v. for a few programs. Commercial drive me insane because they’re content negative. Like someone force feeding you coffee creamer.

Metafilter is just for fun.
posted by Smedleyman at 12:47 PM on December 9, 2005


You may not believe your vote has any influence in national elections (a point with which I disagree, but hey)...you certainly have a great deal of influence in who represents your district in the House, and who represents you at a state and local level. There's simply no argument there.

Absolutely and I'm happy to say I live in a district represented by a Democrat that I support. Unfortunately, I live in a very republican entrenched state that guarantees a vote for the hawks each an every national election year. It also gives the same treatment to the senate. Not that democrats are angels, either.
The problem is just beyond me (and the best minds in the democratic party, apparently) to figure out how to even begin helping without enourmous sums of money. That is after all what wins national elections, you know. Enourmous sums of money.
posted by IronLizard at 12:56 PM on December 9, 2005


“The U.S. has quite often extended aid for humanitarian reasons in the past and continues to do so. The rewards? None.” -
posted by IronLizard

I see where you’re headed IronLizard. I agree with your sentiment, but we do, as a country, reap dividends from humanitarian aid. Domination has it’s price as well as privileges. I don’t entirely disagree with you, but we do have it to give in the first place. That doesn’t invalidate the giving of course. We do often spill American blood where few others are willing or able to.
I think I’m in a minority of Yanks who thinks we shouldn’t be a hyperpower anymore.
I’d rather work a little less, keep a little more money in my pocket and have less privileges if it means other countries take up some of the burden.
The secret prisons are just one symptom of this problem. Money is being spent on it. Money was spent to detain the innocent German. Money will be spent defending against his lawsuit and ultimately paying him off (if we do) etc. etc. etc.
That money should be riding on my hip instead of going for government programs of dubious efficacy (moral issues aside).
posted by Smedleyman at 12:57 PM on December 9, 2005


The U.S. has quite often extended aid for humanitarian reasons in the past and continues to do so. The rewards? None.

If the aid has been extended for humantiarian reasons, why would you expect rewards? Can't you see the contradiction?

Apparently, nothing short of storming the Whitehouse will spurr change in the current atmosphere. I suppose you'll lead the charge, since it affects you (being a part of the 'rest of the world')?

Again with the putting words in my mouth. I'm not advocating any action whatsoever, other than the ceasing of the "Not me" meme, which really only hurts your position as it makes you look self-centred and insensitive. You're doing nothing in this thread to counter those impressions BTW.

Look, for as long as you've been alive I'm guessing, you're used to thinking of the USA as the good guys. Now you're increasingly considered by the world at large as the bad guys, thanks to the actions and policies of your government. What would be the smart thing to do here? What would help your country's image abroad? What might you as an individual do to turn the tide back?

Here's a clue: not voting, and then defending your right to do so on the basis that it's pointless anyways doesn't help.

Fine, we're all evil. Have it you're way. You're next.

That doesn't help either.

You go on to accuse me of 'xenophobic paranoia' after a statement like this:
It's exactly this kind of self-centred attitude that causes such disdain of America in the rest of the world.


I accused you, if you want to put it that way, of xenophobic paranoia because you refer to "foreigners" and then assert that these "foreigners" place blame for Bush's crimes on every individual American, when neither myself nor anyone else in this thread did any such thing. Calling people foreigners is not very endearing to non-Americans either BTW. It gives the impression you divide the world into Americans and Everybody Else.

Who wouldn't be xenophobic if the 'rest of the world' was accusing them of these horrible crimes and viewing them with disdain?

This doesn't even make sense. I hope you see that. Is the US commiting horrible crimes? I suppose that's debateable, but, if so, should the US not be viewed with disdain? How should it be viewed? And if it is viewed with disdain, how on earth does this merit a xenophobic attitude on your part?

Admit it, you just like AmericaBashing(TM)

Nope. This whole situation makes me very sad actually. I admit there's a fleeting sense of just deserts to the widespread acknowledgement of the US government's true nature - because I've been peeking behind the curtain for quite awhile now. But, let's be honest, Bush's two terms are likely going to set the tone for world affairs in our lifetime. That's not funny or fun. Not even if you do like AmericaBashing.
posted by stinkycheese at 12:59 PM on December 9, 2005


And by true nature, I refer to the usual litany of post-WWII nastiness, which so many people are only finding out about decades later...but this guy here explains all that better than I can.
posted by stinkycheese at 1:16 PM on December 9, 2005


Everyone's talking about votes, but the discussion is only now beginning to turn to the real issue, money.

If I recall correctly, something like $5 per vote was spent on the most recent presidential election.

Throw in the sums spent on other federal, state, and local elections, and maybe it's somewhere around $10 per voter (I'm making a wild ass guess, but think of it as an "order of magnitude" estimation.)

If you want to change the direction this country is headed, it's time to give.
posted by Richard Daly at 1:46 PM on December 9, 2005


The problem is just beyond me (and the best minds in the democratic party, apparently) to figure out how to even begin helping without enourmous sums of money. That is after all what wins national elections, you know. Enourmous sums of money.

I don't want to get too far offtopic here, discussing what ordinary people can do to affect change instead of torture...but I promise after this I'll let it go.

You're absolutely right about one thing -- enormous sums of money are required to compete in elections. It is an unfortunate truth. It is not everything (still need a candidate to show up, message, disclipline, etc) but without money a candidate cannot compete. They need to buy airtime, fund operations, bumper stickers, pay staffers, etc. It takes money.

That said, the "best minds in the Democratic Party" are increasingly figuring out how to raise enormous sums of money from small, recurring donors, instead of big money bundles which come with strings attached. Howard Dean is out there employing the strategies that led to fundraising magic in the 2004 primaries, and stressing a 50 state strategy -- compete at every level, in every race, in every state, every election. No more gimmes, no more 18 state campaigns, no more conceding before the battle is even fought. He has blown the doors off of previous so-called fundraising geniuses like McAuliffe and has decreased the funding gap between parties.

The playing field is changing before your eyes. You just may not see it yet (and there are no shortage of pundits and entrenched Dems and Repubs who will spin for the conventional status quo, and undermine bottom-up change, and do everything they can to convince the uninformed that what Dean and co are doing is a "non-story" or a failure, etc..) It will not happen overnight, but make no mistake it is happening, and it's not from the top down -- but from ordinary people getting involved, which is the way it's always supposed to have been in a democracy.

Democracy isn't a spectator sport. Voting is just the most basic pre-requisite...if you really don't like the direction your gov't is taking, try volunteering, try phonebanking or knocking on doors, try organizing, writing letters. If you're really bold, try running for office. You are your government -- and I don't mean that to point blame, but to suggest a remedy. You can't really complain that your voice isn't being heard, when you've done absolutely nothing -- not even voting -- to exercise your right to be heard. You can't concede defeat before you even fight. and then bitch about getting trampled upon.

Understand....the current right wing had been organizing since Goldwater...their thinktanks have been writing policy recommendations for thirty years, their grassroots -- mailing lists and email lists accumulated for 10-20, "leadership institute" reporters being groomed for a decade, College Republicans for decades. They patiently built a very unlikely coalition -- giant corps and evangelical Christians -- out of ingenuity and tactical excellence. Their machine is very effective -- they were patient, and had the pieces in place to seize opportunities when they arose. (See Reagan, Ronald.) They didn't just wake up in charge of everything one morning. They waited through eight years of Clinton, through changes of control of Congress...they have been planning this day for thirty years!

(And it's no wonder no letter writing campaign, no 500,000 signature petition from MoveOn, or march on Washington, or Gold Star Mother camping out in Crawford, or what have you -- is going to derail them from their plans. These guys play hardball. You think Bev Harris or Verified Voting is gonna get their papertrail? You think Murtha's gonna get his strategic reployment, or that the top auditor at the Army Corps of Engineers is gonna get accountability on KBR subcontracting? Please. Mere nuisances when your party machine controls every branch of government and every department, the Treasury, the budget, $1.5 TRILLION in defense spending every four years, and have the most powerful military the world has ever seen at your disposal. Sheehan? Greenhouse? The Civil Rights Commission? Mere nuisances. Their plan is nothing less than a century of dominance, and every action they take is geared with that in mind. Including poisoning EVERY well, and undermining every public trust, and drowning the government in the bathtub, and the various canaries in the coalmines.)

They've been testing their limits for five years...and they haven't found it yet. Holding American citizens for three years without charges? Suggesting a Constitutional Amendment to ban gay marriage? Torture? Extraordinary rendition?

You know the message they've gotten? There is no line we cannot cross. After Katrina threatened to shine a light on poverty in this country, you know what the GOP did? They proposed to gouge school lunches, HeadStart and PBS to pay for it. Hardly anyone noticed, nevermind called them on it.

Message: There is no line.

In any event, there's no sense complaining about something you can change. And change can be accomplished far short of "storming the White House", it takes fortitude, patience, acceptance of incremental gains, and participation. It takes infrastrcuture like MoveOn, Media Matters, the Center for American Progress, AirAmerica Radio, it takes a deep bench coming up through state and local office, and a long view.

For the ordinary citizen's part, it starts with voting, writing letters, a little volunteering, and $10 every now and again. It's not too much to ask.

posted by edverb at 2:10 PM on December 9, 2005


I'm not going to create another huge post to respond to that, but...

I wasn't contradicting myself. That was redundancy.
Perhaps I am self centered and insensitive. That's not the issue.

No one likes to think of themselves as 'the bad guys'. That's a frivolous argument and a cheap shot. I'm supposed to, what, cry for them (See I AM insensitive!)?
When it comes to voting, I'm talking about the national level here. There is seriously nothing that can be done in my state. You'll have to trust me on this one. I live in Texas.
This 'xenophobic attitude' is helped along by our loving propaganda machine. But then, why should I listen to a small voice (or voices) on the internet any more than a huge media conglomerate(s)? Or even give them equal weight? But really, your assumption is incorrect, I divide the world into 'Me' and everybody else. (See, I AM self-centered!).
How is torture being a horrible crime debateable?
Oh, and you missed the snark. Or pretended not to notice, to pop in a condescending response.

Richard: More than that, Bush bribed the nation with those nifty little tax refund checks.
posted by IronLizard at 2:20 PM on December 9, 2005


edverb: I stand in awe. You rock. I still think it will make no difference whether or not I haul my ass out to the booth in 2k8. I make my voice heard here, as far as that goes. I'm competeing aginst too much MONEY, RELIGIOUS INFLUENCE and some crooked voting machines. I should get a job for the manufacturers. Then I could really make myself heard.
posted by IronLizard at 2:30 PM on December 9, 2005


I still think it will make no difference whether or not I haul my ass out to the booth in 2k8.

There's an election in 2006 first, which is every bit as important as 2008. Win the House, check the Executive.

Try voting towards that end, it won't hurt, I promise.
posted by edverb at 2:38 PM on December 9, 2005


Didn't I mention? I've been speaking of the national elections all along. I live in a D district and always have gone to the booth for this... let's see where was it: district represented by a Democrat that I support ok, I should have said VOTED FOR. My fault. Now I'm 1 in 4000 or so as opposed to 1 in a hundred million.
posted by IronLizard at 2:44 PM on December 9, 2005


Incidentally, I’m proud to be associated with the civic mindedness in this thread. There is indeed no substitute for involvement.
That said, I’ve always been an optimist, but I am wary of the Dems ability/desire to change the heading of things (Kerry as a f’rinstance) much less roll it back and the voting with bullets wing of thought keeps looking more attractive.

I’d love a glimpse into the bizzarro world where it’s Gore and a democratic congress doing all this. I wonder how some of the Dems would rationalize it all away?
No snark intended. Many folks on both sides just root for their team no matter what. And present company excepted - I’m not seeing any evidence of that.

Perhaps I’ve just been listening to too many panicky conspiracy theorists. They are ubiquitous. And endemic to either side. But the push for this kind of thing - secret prisons - I don’t see as purely party driven.
posted by Smedleyman at 4:28 PM on December 9, 2005


As a Chilean raised under the US-backed Pinochet dictatorship, can I point out that the U.S. has always condoned, supported, paid for and trained torturers when they serve their geopolitical purposes? The only difference now is the absolute lack of giving-a-fuck about who knows about it. Basically, the attitude is "yeah, we torture people, watcha gonna do about it, punk?"
posted by signal at 6:17 PM on December 9, 2005


Which is one more thing that bothers me signal
posted by Smedleyman at 8:29 PM on December 9, 2005


Statements such the ones you and keijo (Blame Fox News, not me, blah blah) have made in this thread just sound like a toddler saying "not my fault, not my fault" when Mommy finds some broken dishes.

What I said is that the proclivity of Americans to excuse themselves from the bad things said about/done by their government doesn't serve anyone but themselves, and is indicative of the selfishness people attribute to America as a whole.

You don't think that saying it's the people's fault - everyone, collectively - is just another way to blame everyone ie. blame no one?

That's my problem with the idea of collective responsibility taken so literally and extensively.

If I was American, and was adamantly against torture and horrified by what my goverment is doing with it, why shouldn't I say "not my fault"? Am I torturing anyone?

And as one of those foreigners I'd also like to demand the right not to be attributed some collective monolithic idea about the US with no distinction between government/people and no further distinction between those among the people with different views and beliefs and political positions. Political opposition to US policies doesn't equate hating American people as a whole.

And the thing about Bush being re-elected, sure, even aside from the issues about election results, it tells us the slight majority of those who voted don't consider the torture issue a deal breaker. They either don't care, or actively support it, and there's ample evidence that attitude is there.

So of course there is a mentality (and a history) that makes the policies of the US government possible in that respect.

But those policies are possible also, and mainly, because the US has the capability - political, technical, military - to implement them without incurring in any effective opposition not just domestically (from other political forces and the public at large), but also from other governments. See the "European ministers are satisfied" example. It's like signal said, "yeah, we torture people, watcha gonna do about it, punk?". They do it because they can, and no one can stop them. Period.

And let's have no delusions about democracy, especially in a military superpower. The US has an awesome propaganda machine, the elections involve so much money, the big media are so supine, the opposition is so weak - seriously, are you so convinced if the Democrats had been elected last year, they'd have adopted a radically different foreign policy? dismantled Guantanamo on the first day of Kerry's mandate? stop rendition? Please! As far as I recall, the only thing Kerry promised to do differently was to get "more international support", and one express motive of that was to share the costs and responsibility. Fuck you very much, Kerry. Sorry, but based on that campaing and on foreign policies of the Clinton's presidency I don't see how the Dems had an approach to international relations that went beyond the "we're nicer and look prettier so we'll get those foreigners to go along with our military plans with less reluctance". Is that any less condescending than saying "of course we don't torture"?

So yes, definitely a low voter turnout is a problem, in any country, people should go vote, no matter how bad or limited the alternatives are (and oh how I sympathise with that situation!). And yes, it's true that many Americans have an attitude of condoning or supporting torture because it's believed necessary against terrorism or just because of a revenge desire or out of fear and paranoia or the disdain for international law and other mentalities that have been played upon by this administration after 9/11.

But don't delude yourself that voting alone would have changed all that. The relationship between the actions of those in power and the people are not a clearcut one-way street. And as signal pointed out, those policies have deeper roots than this administration.
posted by funambulist at 6:05 AM on December 10, 2005


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