21 December, 2005

Some awful reading

Everyone should read Khaled el-Masri's account of his wrongful imprisonment and torture.

I won't say that the United States has turned a corner and come to a place of unadulterated evil; that would be rather naive. What's clear is that this behavior cannot, must not, continue. Clear as daylight. And the people who perpetrate these sorts of outrageous acts should be utterly reviled, remembered in history on the same pages as Pol Pot and Robespierre. That much, at least, is in our power to effect: we can blacken the names of these people and make them wear the ugly brand of "torturer".


Thanks for pointing this out Saurabh, I had missed it somehow. It's awful reading, but amazing also---how can he claim to still have so much faith in the American courts and the American people? I hope we can prove him right, but I fear we will not.

I guess the first order of business is shoring up the ACLU  to fight for his case like hell and keep the trial as open and visible and watched as possible. But perhaps the second order of business is getting more people to read this article, especially off the internets. Any ideas? If you were going to print up a thousand copies, where would you want them to go?

It seems like a stunt to ask someone to read it into the Congressional record, but I suppose it can't hurt.

It would be nice to visually map out the chain of command between the enema-inducers and the Commander-in-Chief.

I realize that this is abhorrent on a scale utterly above that of patriotism, one in which patriotism seems shallow and cheap, but if you want to get the T-is-for-Torturer brand to stick to clammycowardflesh, then I think you have to appeal to people's sense of patriotism. And remind them that this is fucking embarrassing . For pride people will do amazing things.  

Posted by Saheli

Thanks for the link. The amazing thing reading that is that I'm in Colorado, where even the relatively tech-savvy rarely read news on-line and the word "blog" still makes people think of a Russian submarine, and here the newspaper is full of happy chipper little ditties. I will put money on it that the top story tomorrow will be that ANWR was saved. And this is what our country does.

How to change it? Will we ever have a president who says, once and for all, in this country, we don't show IDs to get on Greyhound buses. We don't fire missiles into countries with which we're not at war. The law applies equally to all people. And our system is strong enough to stand up to terrorism without having to build a torture bridge to the 13th century. 

Posted by hedgehog

The Daily Camera does indeed top off with the saving of ANWR, but WaPo, LAT, and SFGate all top off the the extension of the Patriot Act, which seems more appropriate. NYT might be forgiven for being distracted by the strike, but ANWR is in fact it's nonlocal lead. Who knew Boulder and NYC had so much in common. . .not even me!

Give a girl a hand, guys. I know you're tough, experienced jaded activists--but no reaction to any of my ideas? Humor me. How shall we commence this name-blackening and historical revilement? How to change it? 100 copies of that article--where would you put them?  

Posted by Saheli

i surpised myself by making a murdering rogues' gallery of the 20th century last night. (stalin, hitler, mao, hirohito, nixon.) the surprise was the inclusion of nixon without blinking, where i usually file nixon under "domestic criminal" as i think about american politics. certainly there are others but these are the ones who killed by the million, discriminating by politics. nixon. 

Posted by chromo

saheli: i've been thinking about this year's torture story. keep in mind that many conspiracy-minded folks have known "extraordinary rendition" for many years, even before the practice got the fancy name. i don't know if what is being done now is more  like a police state, in terms of treatment of foreign nationals or naturalized citizens, than what was done-slash-authorized before 9/11. the existence of a network in eastern europe and central asia is more disturbing to me because of what it says about the freedom of the former-soviet-union states than that the network of dark holes has been moved from one set of unscrutinized countries to another. that's about as dark as i can get about that without crying. the things we did in central america were on a bigger scale than this now, as far as i can tell, even though we're already hearing about the legitimate-iraqi-government "disappearing" people, something which i expect to worsen.

keep in mind that abu ghraib appeared to have no impact on the 2004 presidential election. among those who support the president, there is a strong inclination to believe that those who were tortured had it coming, individually or by association.

there are 3 things about torture which can be used to turn minds away from it and from the people who encourage it.

1. as you said, patriotism and pride in being the good guys is a big one. the white hat works. however, there is also a gray hat, which americans wear without blinking, so that the white hat stays clean, and belief in the gray hat - which in recent years has been publicized heavily via grisly action shows on tv - makes purist white hat arguments look pollyannaish. essentially you have to argue that despite the appeal of the apparently empowering gray hat in scary times, it's gray not black that is the color of evil, which is unpersuasive to many folks, because of the clarity of the black hat imagery the gray hat people use. geez that's contorted.

in other words, the counter argument to the white hat argument is a simple derisive snort paired with "we're not terrorists" - argument over - at least for the moment.

personally - i like the white hat argument, even without attaching it to a flag. it has to stay out there. but it will always face accusations of naivete, shifting to accusations of false sincerity and subversion as the gray hats dig in their heels.

2. the practical argument: torture inflames the situation. treating the enemy justly is the short route to ending the fight - it keeps noncombatants from becoming enemies. cruelty makes enemies everywhere. the trouble here is that you have to talk millions of americans out of believing that there are already enemies everywhere and thus it doesn't matter what "we" do to "them." panic stricken folks need pulling back to ground.

as was noted in 2002 (urk can't find article), hundreds of thousands of kids here showed signs of PTSD following 9/11 (from watching the footage and sensing the fear among the adults) and their trauma went untreated. at the moment, the project to get heads back on shoulders has been left to time and to the slow realization that politicians are exploiting the fear, but gray hats are putting the "mean" in meantime here as white hat folks wait.

3. the unreliable argument just collapses on itself every time i look at it. "it doesn't matter that the information received is unreliable," say the gray hats. "what we might get outweighs what we do get, and besides, we need to show them who's boss."

so showing them who's boss is the more important part?
"no, it's the ticking time bomb is the most important."

what time bomb?
"the one we don't know about. the one we'll only discover through extraordinary means."

but these means - already they've lied to you about the existence of an iraqi time bomb.
"no, we already knew about the iraqi time bomb. the extraordinary means only confirmed our information."

which was faulty.
"but it could have been confirmed. and we need people to know we will follow every route to victory."

in other words - you torture specifically to give the appearance of having real information - and you torture generally to give the appearance of omnipotence.
"i don't know what you're talking about. where we have real information, we act on it, including the gathering of corroborating testimony."

i could go around like this for days. 

Posted by chromo

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