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The Chain of Command in Coercive Interrogations
April 3, 2008 7:53 AM   Subscribe

“You could almost see their dicks getting hard as they got new ideas." A Vanity Fair reporter investigates the chain of command that tossed out the Geneva Conventions and instituted coercive interrogation techniques -- some might call them torture or even war crimes -- in Bush's Global War on Terror. UC Berkeley law professor John Yoo's now-obsolete 81-page memo to the Pentagon in 2003 [available as PDFs here and here] was crucial, offering a broad range of legal justifications and deniability for disregarding international law in the name of "self-defense." Others say that Yoo was just making "a clear point about the limits of Congress to intrude on the executive branch in its exercise of duties as Commander in Chief." [previously here and here.]
posted by digaman (76 comments total) 15 users marked this as a favorite

 
so embarrassed for Cal that John Yoo continues to infest Boalt hall. or at least did until 2006, not sure if he's still there.
posted by joeblough at 7:55 AM on April 3, 2008


"This year I was really a player," Feith [previously here] said, thinking back on 2002 and relishing the memory. I asked him whether, in the end, he was at all concerned that the Geneva decision might have diminished America’s moral authority. He was not. "The problem with moral authority," he said, was "people who should know better, like yourself, siding with the assholes, to put it crudely." -- from the primary link
posted by digaman at 8:02 AM on April 3, 2008


Yoo is still teaching law at Berkeley.
posted by digaman at 8:05 AM on April 3, 2008


At least his films are entertaining.
posted by Pollomacho at 8:07 AM on April 3, 2008 [3 favorites]


Yoo was interviewed in the amazing Frontline documentary Bush's War, a film I think should be required viewing for every American.
posted by zardoz at 8:07 AM on April 3, 2008


War crimes trials Impeachment Meaningful investigation Sternly worded letters are off the table. We have to be reasonable and centristic.
posted by DU at 8:13 AM on April 3, 2008 [4 favorites]


coercive interrogation techniques -- some might call them torture or even war crimes

I suppose 'war crimes' is debatable on account of it being law and all, but there's no need to euphemise the torture part with 'some might call it', is there?
posted by Mocata at 8:18 AM on April 3, 2008


No need, perhaps, but I don't want to upset the kommandant, who has a terrible temper in the morning.
posted by digaman at 8:20 AM on April 3, 2008


How much you want to bet this tool and the rest of the guys involved get blanket pardons after the November elections? If there's one minor tweak I'd like to see the presidents pardoning power, it would be to remove their ability to pardon between the presidential election and when they leave office. More broadly I'd like to see the president not able to pardon people who actually work for him if the crime is "job related"
posted by delmoi at 8:21 AM on April 3, 2008 [2 favorites]


German law claims jurisdiction over all crimes against humanity, no matter where they are committed. The final act of the next US president should be to convene a PNAC/Neocon/Bush administration reunion in Dusseldorf. Attendance mandatory.
posted by East Manitoba Regional Junior Kabaddi Champion '94 at 8:24 AM on April 3, 2008 [3 favorites]


A pithy footnote from the Yoo memo:

One exception to this general statement is the War Crimes Statute, 18 U.S.C. 2441, which expressly applies to the military's conduct of war. This statute does not apply to the interrogations in the current conflict for the reasons we explain infra Part II.C.l.
posted by digaman at 8:25 AM on April 3, 2008


Brad deLong, who also is on the Berkeley faculty, is thinking (but waffling) about raising the issue with the UC Senate of revoking Yoo's appointment for moral turpitude. Interesting stuff in the comments; I hope he takes the advice of most to just go for it.
posted by Kat Allison at 8:35 AM on April 3, 2008 [3 favorites]


And whoops, let's post the LINK, damn it:
posted by Kat Allison at 8:35 AM on April 3, 2008 [1 favorite]


IANAL, but I believe that whether or not we regard certain "enhanced interrogation techniques" as legal has no bearing on their actual legality.

Torture is a crime against humanity. The fuckers behind these policies are intellectally and morally bankrupt. They deserve our scorn, derision and long,long,long legal repercussions.
posted by Benny Andajetz at 8:47 AM on April 3, 2008 [1 favorite]


Another pithy comment, this time from Slate law blogger Diane Marie Amann:

The disclosed memoranda provided rare and troubling evidence of the deliberate construction of a framework that appeared to be ruled by law, but was not. The framework might better be termed 'legalist' rather than 'legal'; within it, the only laws recognized were those allowing free rein for presidential prerogative dressed in the guise of legal constraints. For more than two years, laws that the Executive chose neither to acknowledge nor to accommodate seemed not to operate as law at all. -- "Because Ipse Dixit Says So"
posted by digaman at 8:48 AM on April 3, 2008


My bad: Philippe Sands is not just a reporter for Vanity Fair, but a professor of international law at University College London and author of the upcoming book Torture Team, of which this article is an excerpt.
posted by digaman at 9:00 AM on April 3, 2008


I patiently await this generation's Nuremberg trials.
posted by tommasz at 9:25 AM on April 3, 2008 [1 favorite]


Urinated on himself. Began to cry. Asked God for forgiveness. Cried. Cried. Became violent. Began to cry. Broke down and cried. Began to pray and openly cried. Cried out to Allah several times. Trembled uncontrollably.

This is being done to people who haven't been tried, or proven to be involved in any actual plots to harm our nation. This is being done in our names.

There are times when I'm deeply ashamed of my country.
posted by quin at 9:25 AM on April 3, 2008 [17 favorites]


Metafilter: you could almost see their dicks getting hard as they got new ideas
posted by plexi at 9:35 AM on April 3, 2008 [5 favorites]


Interview with Sands.
posted by homunculus at 9:37 AM on April 3, 2008


How much you want to bet this tool and the rest of the guys involved get blanket pardons after the November elections?

Plus anyone to do with any kind of money to do with Iraq/"The war on terror".

It's going to be a long list.
posted by Artw at 9:38 AM on April 3, 2008


I patiently await this generation's Nuremberg trials.

It's a good thing you're patient.
posted by Fuzzy Monster at 9:39 AM on April 3, 2008 [6 favorites]


This is being done to people who haven't been tried, or proven to be involved in any actual plots to harm our nation.

Fixed that for you.
posted by DU at 9:40 AM on April 3, 2008 [4 favorites]


New Rule -
Do not powergame our constitution.

It is not there to be min/maxed.

Thank you and enjoy the ride.
posted by Lord_Pall at 9:50 AM on April 3, 2008 [3 favorites]


The entire Iraq invasion and occupation is a war crime. It's a violation of international law to invade a country that hasn't attacked you. Iraq didn't bomb Pearl Harbor or fly planes into the twin towers. Now, if the Security Council had given authorization, you could begin to make a case that the US had some right to invade and stay long enough to eliminate the WMD. I suppose, in theory, the SC could have authorized an open ended occupation, but it would have had to have come up with some other excuse once it became evident that the weapons weren't there. Of course, it goes without saying that if any other country in the world had even suggested the SC back its invasion of a defenseless country, they would have been told to go fuck themselves. The US came within a few votes of getting permission.

Anyway, the point is that since we have no right to be there in the first place, every act of violence or imprisonment we commit there is a war crime.
posted by Clay201 at 10:06 AM on April 3, 2008 [3 favorites]


How much you want to bet this tool and the rest of the guys involved get blanket pardons after the November elections?

If a Democrat is elected, I'm betting Bush pardons everybody in his administration, including Cheney, then resigns a few days before Jan. 20 so that Cheney can pardon him.
posted by jamjam at 10:13 AM on April 3, 2008 [3 favorites]


Benny Andajetz writes "IANAL, but I believe that whether or not we regard certain 'enhanced interrogation techniques' as legal has no bearing on their actual legality."

The actual legality, as you put it, is a fair point, but the problem is that the US has not regarded international law as binding in recent years, and no repercussions have come of it. Belgium reduced their war crimes law so that it only applies to residents after rumblings that the US would boycott NATO, saying that Belgium was unfit for the organization. That leaves the UN. Maybe Germany. Well, Kissinger still can't travel to many countries because he's wanted for war crimes throughout the world, but he's still a free man.
posted by krinklyfig at 10:16 AM on April 3, 2008


homunculus, thanks for posting the interview.
PHILIPPE SANDS: Diane Beaver was the lawyer down at Guantanamo. Mike Dunlavey was her boss. General Hill was the commander of United States SouthCom based at Miami. I’ve spoken to all three of them, and both Diane Beaver and Mike Dunlavey, who have largely been scapegoated by the administration, described to me the visit that Mr. Gonzales made, accompanied by Mr. Addington, who’s Vice President Cheney’s lawyer, and Jim Haynes, who is Rumsfeld’s lawyer.

They came down. They talked about interrogation techniques. They apparently even watched an interrogation or two. I was told that the driving individual was Mr. Addington, who was obviously the man in control. ...

And [Rumsfeld] approves fifteen techniques of interrogation and then leaves open three other techniques, including waterboarding. Those techniques were used over a period of fifty-four days on al-Qahtani at Guantanamo, until one of Jim Haynes’s colleagues, Alberto Mora, who was the general counsel for the Navy, stepped in and said this cannot go on. And the order was then rescinded, but not before, I think, he had been abused and almost certainly also tortured.

[Cheney's] man was a guy called David Addington. I didn’t meet Addington; he doesn’t give interviews. I met his protege, Jim Haynes, with whom he worked very, very closely. Addington was plainly the man who was driving the issues forward. And one assumes he wasn’t doing it on his own behalf, but on behalf of his boss, who is the Vice President. Diane Beaver described to me, you know, that she was fearful of this man. He has a big powerful man, a booming voice, a big beard that he had. And he was obviously the man in charge. And it is plain from a lot of accounts that I’ve got from people who dealt with him directly, who were bullied by him, that he was the driving force. ...

The administration recognized the threat that it faced [after Hamdan], and within three months it had adopted legislation in the Military Commissions Act which created an immunity for any person who was involved in the interrogation of al-Qahtani, as well as many other people. That immunity applies within the United States.

But, as I write in the article in Vanity Fair, it doesn’t go beyond the United States. And I describe in the Vanity Fair piece, in much more detail than in the book, the meetings I’ve had with a European judge and a European prosecutor, who basically said the fact that the US has created a domestic immunity significantly increases the prospects of international investigational prosecution, if any of these people set foot out of the country. And as the prosecutor said to me, that was a very stupid thing to do, to create an immunity.
posted by russilwvong at 10:19 AM on April 3, 2008 [1 favorite]


krinklyfig: no repercussions have come of it.

Alberto Mora, former Navy General Counsel:
... because cruel treatment of prisoners constituted a criminal act in every European jurisdiction, there must be few European government officials, including military intelligence or police officials, who do not ask themselves at some point whether cooperating with the United States in the war on terror might not make them accomplices or abettors in criminal activity or expose them to civil liability.

[This and other factors] contributed to the difficulties our nation has experienced in forging the strongest possible alliance in this war. Because this is so, we consequently weakened our defenses. Whatever intelligence we obtain through the use of harsh interrogation tactics, on the whole these policies and practices greatly damaged our overall effectiveness and impaired our military intelligence capabilities in the war on terror.
posted by russilwvong at 10:23 AM on April 3, 2008


Well, if the future U.S. government really wanted these guys prosecuted it could be done in another country, and the U.S. would just extradite them. The problem, of course, is that no U.S. government is going to want to do this as far as I can see, and even if they were not charged in other nations, I doubt the U.S. would hand them over.

I'd love to see that happen, though.
posted by delmoi at 10:23 AM on April 3, 2008


I'm betting Bush pardons everybody in his administration, including Cheney, then resigns a few days before Jan. 20 so that Cheney can pardon him.

I wonder. In a way that would be a fitting end to an administration that, while perhaps not technically lawless, has lived and prospered in legal twilight ("enemy combatants", "extreme rendition", "advance interrogation techniques") for eight years.

Based on the ransacked government and infrastructure they'll be leaving behind, I think they'll be more likely to leaving the country en masse shortly after inauguration day. Does the US have extradition treaties with Dubai?
posted by psmealey at 10:42 AM on April 3, 2008


We have to be reasonable and centristic.

What's even funnier, maybe will the Democrats will lose anyway!


No, seriously: I don't think there's a lot of traction, nationally, with the torture issue -- the Abu Ghraib photos and reports came and went, and nothing happened (well, yes, something happened, Bush won in '04). Even Rumsfled remained in place for a long time after the torture shit hit the proverbial fan. The American people -- outside of MetaFilter -- don't really care. Not even Kucinich made it a real issue in his campaign, and that's saying something. "We're a nation of torturers now" doesn't seem to be a winner, when electoral politics are involved. I'd be surprised if the Democratic nominee -- whomever he or she will be -- starts hammering on that point, it's dead. People deny the reality of My Lai to this day -- they certainly denied it back then. Calley did MUCH less time than, you know, a lot of petty thieves, almost no time at all.

There are things -- regardless of their truth -- that Americans don't really want to hear. Because they eat out at the core of something that, for all its corniness, is at the heart of what Americans think about their country. Selling America as an agent of evil will always be a political dead end for an American politician, doesn't matter if it's true or not. Not many people want to hear that.
posted by matteo at 10:43 AM on April 3, 2008 [7 favorites]


(incidentally, this may be why the Wright video is such a pain in the ass for Obama -- that's stuff a lot of people don't really want to hear, and it rubs off on Obama)
posted by matteo at 10:46 AM on April 3, 2008


UC Berkeley law professor John Yoo's now-obsolete 81-page memo

If by "now-obsolete" you mean "replaced by similar practices, though officially deniable".
posted by spock at 10:48 AM on April 3, 2008 [3 favorites]


The disconnect on this issue seems to be the following:

Do you view the constitution as the proper way to operate the country, or is it a constraint that impedes us from doing what needs to be done?

As for me, I'm in the Barbara Jordan camp; I believe in the constitution.
posted by LastOfHisKind at 11:00 AM on April 3, 2008


russilwvong writes "[This and other factors] contributed to the difficulties our nation has experienced in forging the strongest possible alliance in this war. Because this is so, we consequently weakened our defenses. Whatever intelligence we obtain through the use of harsh interrogation tactics, on the whole these policies and practices greatly damaged our overall effectiveness and impaired our military intelligence capabilities in the war on terror."

Of course. I'm talking about consequences for the actors involved, as in crime and punishment. Of course their actions and policies had effects. That's the very issue, I believe.
posted by krinklyfig at 11:07 AM on April 3, 2008


I don't think the whole Final Solution thing has much traction with the German people, I mean Kristallnacht came and went and the smokestacks are still smoking, and that weird waxy soap is still foaming away, and Herr Fuhrer is still sitting pretty up in his mountain lodge with his mistress. Other than jews and their fellow travellers who read electronic pamphlets of marginal importance like this one, I think there are just some things that the burghers and frauleins don't want to hear, so I think it's sort of a tactical dead end to even talk about it. [pace Mike Godwin]
posted by digaman at 11:19 AM on April 3, 2008 [1 favorite]


There are things -- regardless of their truth -- that Americans don't really want to hear. Because they eat out at the core of something that, for all its corniness, is at the heart of what Americans think about their country.

I think a good many Americans like to believe in the infallibility and moral rectitude of certain of its institutions. While this belief in the presidency, baseball, mom and apple pie have all taken big hits in the past few decades, it still persists in the military. I do think people want to believe that the military takes every step to ensure that only the "bad guys" are adversely affected by its activity, but that sometimes extremes are called for, and the reactions are either callously indifferent ("you can't make an omelette without, etc..."), accommodating ("it's regrettable but certainly understandable"), or blindly allegiant ( "they must've had it coming") when our boys go off the reservation.

On a personal level, I'm ashamed to admit that I, myself, was not terribly troubled by the beating or waterboarding of Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, but I still know that, intellectually, it was not the right thing to do. But for every one of me, there were 10 people that would have been giddy ti shell out $85 to HBO to see him drawn and quartered on PPV as retribution for 9/11.
posted by psmealey at 11:20 AM on April 3, 2008


I'm with Matteo. As far as I can tell, many American's really don't give a fuck that your country is torturing the shit out of people. If things like the photographs from Abu Gharib have little to no effect then I can't imagine what will.

Oh I know, if Cheney is caught sucking Bush's dick.
posted by chunking express at 11:21 AM on April 3, 2008


Which Americans are you talking about? Those ones over there, across the country from me, or perhaps some of them down south or in the Midwest? Because I'm American and, I don't think anyone likes to hear about torture, but I care.

Show me how I can stop these bastards and their cohorts and I'll do it. Do you think I should organize a letter-writing campaign? Would that stop them? Because from what I can see from here, they don’t give a flying fuck what I think (I did write to Bush before the Iraq war and ask him not to invade Iraq, but he didn’t listen to me then, either). Bush thinks God appointed him President and so he’s got a clear conscience. They are all protected by the Military Act, aren’t they, so why the need for pardoning? They wrote a law to keep themselves from being prosecuted already.

Torture is wrong. It’s heinous. I hate torture. People who legalize torture should be prosecuted. I’m American and I like the flag and all, but I'm not so Pollyanna that I can't admit this is really fucked up. It's beyond fucked up and I hope those responsible pay for what they did.
posted by Marie Mon Dieu at 11:30 AM on April 3, 2008 [4 favorites]


Frankly, who cares what this fictitious entity called "most Americans" allegedly think? The point of my Godwin-violating post was to say that, if you care about the United States becoming a beacon of torture for despots all over the world, then it's your job to keep track of in-depth stories like this one, who was involved in the chain of command, and how precisely our nation came to this tragic point in world history. It's not as if history has been put on "pause" while Joe and Jane Sixpack ponder whether or not to bestir themselves from their Ikea futon to have a cow about Abu Ghraib. Those who know and care are obliged to track these developments as intelligently as they can even in the face of widespread apathy. I don't expect Obama to display the guy in the black hood in his next round of TV spots, though I would be damned happy if the Dems would leave behind the "horse race" bullshit and brand brand brand the GOP as the Party of Torture and Lawlessness, because that's what they are, and that's what the choice is in the next election, to put it over-simply. But I'm content to just do may part and try to stay current with the latest research into how all this happened.
posted by digaman at 11:31 AM on April 3, 2008


If things like the photographs from Abu Gharib have little to no effect then I can't imagine what will.

BTW check out the trailer for Errol Morris upcoming documentary 'Standard Operating Procedure.'
posted by ericb at 11:36 AM on April 3, 2008 [1 favorite]


Oh I know, if Cheney is caught sucking Bush's dick.

Oh, please. That dick-sucking was taken completely out of context by the left-wing media.
posted by Legomancer at 11:40 AM on April 3, 2008


was taken completely out of context by the left-wing media.

What really happened was that the President had to urinate out doors (as manly men do), and was bitten on the end of his penis by a diamond-back rattlesnake. Cheney was merely doing instinctively (and quite correctly) what he should have: sucking the poison out of the wound to save the President'ss life.

We're still looking into why Vice President Cheney had his index and middle fingers inserted into the President's anus, but we think it's somehow related.
posted by psmealey at 11:44 AM on April 3, 2008


Thanks for that Morris link, ericb. I didn't know about that film.
posted by digaman at 11:46 AM on April 3, 2008


I don't think the whole Nazi Holocaust thing has much traction with the enlightened anti-Bushies, I mean the massacre of millions came and went and random idiots on the Internet are still dishonouring the memory of the dead by equating it to any government policy that happens to draw their attention at the moment. I think there are some things that certain spoiled Americans just don't want to think about, lest it diminish their enormous persecution complex, so I think it's sort of a tactical dead end to even talk about it.
posted by Krrrlson at 11:54 AM on April 3, 2008


Comments from one guy in particular on the HotAir.com link in the original post depress me:

First, this one

(Arguing that the President doesn't need to worry about the Constitution):

I don’t believe in this bullcrap. If I have the right to defend my home and shoot a trespasser, kidnapper or anyone who threatens me and my family, then America, as a nation, should have the right to do the same.

Whatever existing laws that prevent America from saving the lives of her citizens by using any means, do not make any sense, should be revised, modified or deleted from the Books.

What kind of a nation where its promulgates laws that are hindering saving the lives of its own citizens?

Indy Conservative on April 2, 2008


Which isn't as bad as this second one:

(Arguing that laws are pointless when danger! is all around!)

And laws are not made to be holy. The Constitution was amended. Laws can be modified or deleted. Nothing is sacred that is made by men. What’s wrong is wrong and should be corrected. And preventing the U.S. government from taking any action to defend the citizens is wrong.

The president should have available laws that give him the power to defend the American people by using any possible mean. Heck, if the Constitution needs to be amended to protect the American people, so be it. What’s more important? The Constitution which is a piece of paper or the life of a human being that is lost because of that piece of paper? Did we reach a time where a piece of paper or law can kill a human being or prevent his or her defense? That’s why we will not win. Because we don’t dare adjust to the new reality. We don’t have the guts. Mass-murder was in our home and we’re still debating how to be gentle and kind with terrorists who want to mass-murder more of us. What a sissy nation!

Indy Conservative on April 2, 2008


Can I be the first to point out that the noble soldiers the right-wing is so fond of venerating publicly in defense of their war are the ones who, in theory, are willing to be a human being lost because of "that piece of paper?"

Christ, what an asshole.
posted by peacecorn at 11:56 AM on April 3, 2008


an I be the first to point out that the noble soldiers the right-wing is so fond of venerating publicly in defense of their war are the ones who, in theory, are willing to be a human being lost because of "that piece of paper?"

Thus again, and very loudly demonstrating that this particular flavor of present day conservative is not a conservative at all: he's a monarchist.
posted by psmealey at 12:00 PM on April 3, 2008 [3 favorites]


“other than jews and their fellow travellers who read electronic pamphlets of marginal importance like this one, I think there are just some things that the burghers and frauleins don't want to hear, so I think it's sort of a tactical dead end to even talk about it.”

Indeed, I don’t think the folks running should be able to get away with dodging this issue.
That is, perhaps, the most important question in the coming elections (for president, et.al.) - what is your position on the powers of the executive?
And indeed - who benefits from such a state of affairs? I mean - why torture, specifically? Why a powerful executive? And why would congress roll over while he farms out chunks of operations to private organizations congress would otherwise have oversight over?
(Well, yeah, power - duh, but the prez is only there for 8 years barring martial law)
Consider - we know (or rather people familiar with interrogation, espionage, etc. know) that torture is not a viable method of information gathering. And it’s not just torture, it’s holding cells, food, maintainance, personnel, etc. etc. What, then, is it?

Expensive.
And most importantly, billable. And only from a black
budget that receives limited oversight.

Steal big enough and no one notices.
The thing is the stakes involved. (S’why you bring the sheep to the edge of a precipice before you screw them, so they back themselves up into you.)

There were plenty of people (non-jews) involved in active resistance against the nazis - the White Rose probably the most famous.
And how did that go? Well, they were college students mostly (a few soldiers among them) who got busted by a handyman when they were chucking leaflets off a balcony (the handyman - Jakob Schmidt - became a hero).

On the other hand you have the ‘43 Warsaw ghetto uprising where the Jewish resistance (using only small arms, molotov cocktails and guerilla tactics - that is, getting food, weapons and ammo from the enemy) held off the Nazi troops for months. The Nazis had to divertand expend valuable war resources to crush the resistance in Warsaw with overwhelming force (they leveled the place).

Stakes.
The thing is not to expect an appeal to the sensibilities of the American people to work (they’re like people anywhere else). The thing is to make them feel the reality of the situation - now. Show how it’s personal and how it affects them. Then yeah, they’ll come a-running.

Not that all this isn’t useful. I’m learning quite a bit. And the detail is great. But while people might understand, even empathize, they’re not going to kick in and ante up unless they see it’s their neck too. (And yeah, it is, they just don’t see it - I mean Jose Padilla is a dead giveaway).
posted by Smedleyman at 12:13 PM on April 3, 2008 [2 favorites]


This is where the Roman comparisons become apposite. Things are done with the form of the Republic, but the Empire has begun. In a generation or two, Senator will be a ceremonial position, and the leader will be chosen by the troops.
posted by i_am_joe's_spleen at 12:22 PM on April 3, 2008


Selling America as an agent of evil will always be a political dead end for an American politician, doesn't matter if it's true or not. Not many people want to hear that.

I think there's a great deal of truth in that, unfortunately. The sad thing is that the people who are offended by the behavior of these asshats want to hear about this stuff even less than that.
posted by Benny Andajetz at 12:38 PM on April 3, 2008


Yoo Torture Memo Says Fourth Amendment Doesn't Apply in War on Terror
posted by homunculus at 2:15 PM on April 3, 2008


Not that all this isn’t useful. I’m learning quite a bit. And the detail is great. But while people might understand, even empathize, they’re not going to kick in and ante up unless they see it’s their neck too. (And yeah, it is, they just don’t see it - I mean Jose Padilla is a dead giveaway).

I wish that guy had had a more anglo name.
It's an awful thing to say, but I think alot of common folk would view things differently if this happened to Tad Davenport
posted by Senor Cardgage at 2:55 PM on April 3, 2008


Well yeah, I suspect racism is a big factor in the American acceptance of torture - after all, it only happens to people who LOOK like terrorists, right?

(See also the complete lack of interest in iraqi bodycounts)
posted by Artw at 3:16 PM on April 3, 2008


Frankly, who cares what this fictitious entity called "most Americans" allegedly think?

Reality does care. Because unless a majority of Americans go to the polls and proceeds to demolish the party that made America a nation of torturers, and vote for a party that is committed not only to stop the torture but also prosecute and jail those who broke the law, well, if that "fictitious entity" doesn't show the fuck up, and God knows it hasn't in '04, all you're left is the occasional front page post whining about things you can't do anything about.

Bush polled around 15% against Kerry all over the industrialised world in early November '04. America gave him 51%. Regardless of Ohio and Diebold, and that's pathetic, regardless of how many Nazi jokes can you crack.

torture is not an issue in the current Presidential campaign. the economy (well, the recession) will very likely be one. not torture. war? yes, because you're losing, and losing bad. if America were winning, torture and all, I doubt the people (outside of MetaFilter) would care much. they sure as fuck seemed to like the war as long as it seemed to go well, illegal and immoral as it already was.


and seriously, if McCain wins, the whining around here is going to be deafening.
posted by matteo at 3:28 PM on April 3, 2008 [1 favorite]


"and vote for a party that is committed not only to stop the torture but also prosecute and jail those who broke the law"

not that there is one, of course. there's no serious demand for it -- supply, demand etc
posted by matteo at 3:30 PM on April 3, 2008


Excellent article, thanks.

Clay201: I'm sure we have very different views on this, but personally, I think it's counter-productive to call the Iraq invasion a war crime, and Blair and Bush war criminals; it dilutes the term. Yes, invading Iraq was a bad idea, poorly executed, and yes it has led to lots of dead Iraqis and a fair smattering of dead other people too. Also, it was done without UN authorisation, but so was the Kosovo intervention, which I supported at the time and still do.

Perverse as it may seem to those who are passionately opposed to (the Iraq) war, I'd prefer the term 'war crime' was retained for individual illegal actions of individual people, whether on the ground or in Pentagon legal offices, rather than the actions of state leaders who are, for better or for worse, exercising democratically legitimate state power.
posted by athenian at 4:00 PM on April 3, 2008


There are times when I'm deeply ashamed of my country.

Well, I'm pretty much always deeply ashamed of your country, so there's that.
posted by stavrosthewonderchicken at 4:54 PM on April 3, 2008


Yeah, Senor Cardgage, that and “gang member” and “terrorist” buzzwords.
Oh, he’s a gang member, well then you can electrocute his genitals. (Says Tad)
What’s weird - Yoo is one of the guys who probably would have been rounded up in California in ‘42. ( “But I’m Korean” “Yeah, whatever you say slanty, get on the bus”)
Like a guy named Damontae arguing against standards for informed consent so we can infect people with syphilis and study them.

Sort of a catch-22 from the other side. They’re not going to disappear Tad Davenport until it’s too late for anyone with an anglo name and any clout to do anything about it.
So you’d have to pull some pretty nasty stuff into incite them into doing that. And of course, that then makes you one of “them” anglo name or not.
What’s scary is that this isn’t just some dickheads with big egos abusing power but a pattern. A tyrant you can goad into overreaching himself. Corporations are just about the bottom line and don’t care if you moon them (metaphorically) or some such.
Vastly more complex a problem.

“I'd prefer the term 'war crime' was retained for individual illegal actions of individual people”

Agreed. It shouldn’t be a blanket statement. Pretty much only for acts outside of military necessity, but within the theater of war.
Still, I’d hold the Bush admin accountable for specific actions outside the theater - in prosecuting the war and subverting the democratic will (manufacturing intelligence, etc. etc).
So planning and initiation of a war of aggression and conspiracy to commit crimes against peace.
Although Bush & Rummy (et.al.) could be charged with abuse of prisoners (at Gitmo - et.al.) - a war crime.
posted by Smedleyman at 5:07 PM on April 3, 2008


Yes, Matteo, I know reality cares. I was just confused by your approach to raising awareness of an issue by pointing out, when a writer does the leg-work of actually exposing this stuff, how few people care -- "I don't think there's a lot of traction... don't really care... 'We're a nation of torturers now' doesn't seem to be a winner... it's dead... Selling America as an agent of evil will always be a political dead end... doesn't matter if it's true or not... Not many people want to hear that," etc.
Thanks for making things more clear.
posted by digaman at 5:12 PM on April 3, 2008


I don't think the whole Final Solution thing has much traction with the German people, I mean Kristallnacht came and went and the smokestacks are still smoking, and that weird waxy soap is still foaming away, and Herr Fuhrer is still sitting pretty up in his mountain lodge with his mistress. Other than jews and their fellow travellers who read electronic pamphlets of marginal importance like this one, I think there are just some things that the burghers and frauleins don't want to hear, so I think it's sort of a tactical dead end to even talk about it.

Wie, bitte?
posted by oaf at 6:08 PM on April 3, 2008


The entire Iraq invasion and occupation is a war crime. It's a violation of international law to invade a country that hasn't attacked you.

I'm not sure this is entirely clear. You're correct that a war of self-defense is explicitly lawful (as is a war with the Security Council's OK), but there's a gap between simply being not lawful and being criminal.

A war of aggression is a war crime, but not all unlawful wars are wars of aggression. The outer limits of "aggression" are not totally clear, but the paradigmatic example is attacking another country with the intention of conquering it and then ruling it afterward. The Iraq war certainly doesn't fall neatly into this model, since it was always clear that the intention was that Iraq would be under domestic control after the war was eventually over.

I think the UN defined a "war of aggression" more broadly at one point, but the definition isn't binding, so we're left in this gray area where it's clear that Nazi-style occupations are criminal wars of aggression, but it's just not clear what else would qualify.
posted by Mr. President Dr. Steve Elvis America at 7:29 PM on April 3, 2008


Denial is an integral stage in the unfolding of a genocide. I didn't know it was that bad (so I'm not responsible for fixing it). I don't know what I can do to help (so I do nothing). Anyway, those dirty fools deserve it (because I have dehumanized them). I only passed the laws (I didn't actually do the deed). I only enforced the laws (I didn't have a choice). The law says it's okay (so I'll stop thinking any further).

This talk of denial as exhibited by the american people, this desire to not know what we already know, is the exact same type of denial practiced by the germans during the holocaust.

Higher ups did not have to take responsbility, for they merely gave the orders from an isolated perch. They acknowleged the moral imperative but denied the personal ramifications. Lower downs did not have to take responsibility, for they merely followed the orders. They acknowleged the personal ramifications but denied the moral imperative. Each of the people on the german heirarchy had an excuse, a justification. Each of the people involved at Abui Graib did as well. They are exactly the same.

This comparision to nazi germany is in no way disrepectful, this comparision is intended to SHOCK THE FUCKING COMPLACENCY OUT OF YOU.

But you, most of you who are reading this, you don't want to know either. Because shared responsibility for failing to monitor our own government is shared blame. So we all continue to play a game of avoidance and denial, because god only knows what would happen if we stepped up to the plate and said NO FUCKING MORE.
posted by bravelittletoaster at 12:04 AM on April 4, 2008 [1 favorite]


Abu Ghraib
posted by bravelittletoaster at 12:07 AM on April 4, 2008


This comparision to nazi germany is in no way disrepectful, this comparision is intended to SHOCK THE FUCKING COMPLACENCY OUT OF YOU.

It's far from apt. Apathy is not denial.
posted by oaf at 4:43 AM on April 4, 2008


But you, most of you who are reading this, you don't want to know either. Because shared responsibility for failing to monitor our own government is shared blame. So we all continue to play a game of avoidance and denial, because god only knows what would happen if we stepped up to the plate and said NO FUCKING MORE.

That sounds great, but what does it actually look like? Torches and pitchforks for everyone? Tear down the walls? Kick out the jams, motherfuckers?

I feel your frustration, and I share it, but when I see this kind of rhetoric that blames decent, hardworking people who participate in the process (and lose time and time again), and exhorts them to WAKE UP SHEEPLE, I can't help but think that you're very new to the game, and you don't really have much of a way forward. Short of bloody revolution (which only happens in times of economic desperation... which may indeed be on the way), I'm not quite sure how the rest of us can live up to your expectations of us.
posted by psmealey at 6:48 AM on April 4, 2008


This comparision to nazi germany is in no way disrepectful, this comparision is intended to SHOCK THE FUCKING COMPLACENCY OUT OF YOU.

Just a bit of constructive criticism: the comparison is more likely to cause people not to take you seriously than anything else. Just thought you might like to know.
posted by Mr. President Dr. Steve Elvis America at 7:17 AM on April 4, 2008


Well, psmealey, folks could work to make things worse (yes, worse) sort of a tai chi or yes, anding and hyperaugmentation of where the government appears to want to go. (Oh, you wanted wiretaps for everyone? Ok. Here’s Gov. Schwartzenegger’s phone records...what? Why’s everyone so pissed off?)
I mean, look at the passport thing. And voila’ less than a month later people are talking too many damned intelligence contractors. Almost makes one think it was by design. *cough*
But I don’t know how many people are thinking revolution though. And I’m not talking the pitchfork toting sort of thing. Just basics. Look at the civil rights struggle. You make everyone feel the pain. The tactics themselves are widely known.
Not sure anyone’s in that frame of mind yet.
And indeed, the hell of it is - should they be?
I think the heaviest criticism I can lay on Obama is that he does bring a message of hope. Oh, I think he’s going to clean house. Positionally he has to otherwise he’s a lazy fish (inert... in the water, that’s a joke son, putcher hands up they’ah goin ova y’all head....sorry, lost my mind there for a sec, thought I was forghorn leghorn)
He doesn’t carry the juice on his own (like Clinton). Of course he could flip. So could Clinton. Who knows.
But yeah, that’s the big problem, no one’s talking/working toward agitation.
But by the same token - the picture hasn’t come into focus yet. Maybe stuff can still get done through channels.
That’d be nice, really.
But that’s all conjecture. Could be just talking out of my rear end. It’s not the man/woman in office it’s the apparatus. No guarantee it’s going to get fixed from the political end without bringing some sting to collective asses.
posted by Smedleyman at 7:48 AM on April 4, 2008 [1 favorite]


Well, psmealey, folks could work to make things worse

Yikes. Yes, I am acutely aware of that. Mostly I was commenting on bravelittletoaster's YOU LET THIS HAPPEN histrionics. I've been pushing this rock up hill a long time, volunteering on phone banks, registration campaigns, local stuff etc. It's bad enough dealing with some of the people I need to deal with in the Democratic party on a regular basis, let alone be subject to the juvenile rantings of someone that thinks he's the first person ever to have the thoughts he's trying to express.
posted by psmealey at 8:01 AM on April 4, 2008


Olbermann Countdown excerpt on the legal justification of torture via Raw Story.
posted by digaman at 11:50 AM on April 4, 2008


The Surge, with it's basic strategy of going along with whatever ethnic cleansing solution the locals come up with, seems like it might have all kinds of problems with complicity in war crimes. I’d expect some troubling stuff to emerge there, if it hasn't already.
posted by Artw at 11:58 AM on April 4, 2008


NYT’s Lichtblau: Bush Torture Program And CIA Tape Destruction ‘Could Lead To Criminal Action’
posted by homunculus at 2:50 PM on April 17, 2008


Torture and the Law: Experts Weigh in on Top Officials Talking Torture With Bush's Approval
posted by homunculus at 3:39 PM on April 18, 2008


Yoo: Justice Department Won't Let Me Talk
posted by homunculus at 1:11 PM on April 23, 2008


Letters Give C.I.A. Tactics a Legal Rationale: The Justice Department has told Congress that U.S. operatives trying to thwart terrorist attacks may use interrogation methods that might otherwise be barred under international law.
posted by homunculus at 12:47 PM on April 27, 2008


Cheney lawyer claims Congress has no authority over vice-president
posted by homunculus at 11:47 AM on April 29, 2008


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