Senator John McCain Correct About Torture Being Wrong Policy

The one line from an amazing speech on the Senate floor Thursday from Senator John McCain needs to be known to all.

“In short, it was not torture or cruel, inhuman, and degrading treatment of detainees that got us the major leads that ultimately enabled our intelligence community to find Osama bin Laden.”

I was very pleased with the words, tone, and message that McCain used.  I wish he could be like this everyday, as the nation needs real leadership from the Republican side of the aisle.

McCain, who was tortured as a prisoner of war in Vietnam, has always opposed the U.S. use of waterboarding and other abusive techniques employed after the 9/11 attacks—banned by President Obama when he took office–to elicit information from detainees.

What McCain was stating is quite simple.  There is no no place for torture in the military arena.  None.

We are better than those in the world who do employ such tactics.  I am still one of those who actually does think my country, even though we have made some grievous errors, is still a truly remarkable place, and a sign of hope to many others around the globe.  To lower our standards and employ the most degrading and dehumanizing methods to illicit information, which very well may be faulty and unusable, is a vile exercise.

What Motivates And Guides Caffeinated Politics?

I was reminded this past week that with over 2,500 posts on this blog, there are some over-riding themes and principles that are repeated over and over.  I thought it might be fun to think of the guiding issues and principles found on this blog, and write them down.

…. The process of governing is more important than the politics of any issue.  In addition a  fair and orderly atmosphere both in electing officals, and creating legislation is required to insure a fair and equal playing field.

….Campaign money, and the ever-consuming need for more and more of it,  pollutes the political process, and undermines the enactment of sound public policy.

…. The Supreme Court (both state and national) requires the highest and most ethical standards applied to applicants.  In the states, it is more appropriate to appoint justices through the merit selection process than to have elections for the judiciary.

…. Drunk driving is a most troubling  problem that will require tough-minded legislators being more interested in doing what is right, than  carrying alcohol for the Tavern League.

…. Tough anti-smoking laws are just common sense.

…. Going with principle (Dubai deal) is more important than following the prevailing political mood.

…. Torture is wrong, and spawns more terrorists while undermining a nation’s moral code.

…. Darfur needs the world.  Sadly, history will severely judge the  majorityfor not caring.

…. Preventive wars are a waste  of a nation’s  treasured resources.

….Israel needs to stop the illegal settlement policy, and Palestinians should have, must have, and will have a homeland to call their own.  When it comes to Israel the tail must stop wagging the dog.

….Polar bears are needing us to care more about them, and to reach an understanding about the need to address climate change.

…. Gun control is needed to insure the safety of the citizenry.  Strict regulations on the manufacture, sale, registration, and usage is the means for a safer nation.

…. Marriage matters, for all.   Period.

…. Cheating on a partner, married or otherwise, is smarmy and wrong.  Getting preachy about this issue is still OK.

…. Books are some of our best friends.

…. Just because a singer is older does not mean that they have less value or creative ability.

…. History is in need of more study and understanding, not only in our schools, but also with the average citizen of this nation.

….Never underestimate the lack of humor from Mormons.

…. Never underestimate the damage one Bishop (Molrino) can cause.

…. When it looks like it is a slow news day check in on the antics of Sarah Palin and the Clampetts of Palinland.

…. Newspapers are the foundation for long-form investigative reporting, and an essential ingredient to democracy.

….Journalists are as vital to the nations democracy and well being as our soldiers, sailors. and air force.

….Radio and TV personalities should be considered guests in our house, and when they offend should be rejected from our premises. 

…. Elvis is still The King.

…. So is Roy Acuff.

…. The Grand Ole Opry is a national treasure, and true slice of Americana.

Amazing Reaction To The Obama Decision Not To Release U.S. Torture Photos

There were so many thoughts and views about the bad decision yesterday from the Obama White House regarding the torture photos.  I was rather surprised at the volume, and weight of the rationale here on this blog from readers.  Once it started there was a constant and genuine need to talk about this matter.  Americans are concerned about the President’s decision, and rightfully so.

But there was also a lot of talk on the cable channels, and as such I found a link with lots of  those voices included.  The one that stands out for me is Jonathon Turley.  I love the guy for his logic and calm when dissecting a story, and helping the nation better understand an issue.  I think he is right in what he said yesterday.  I made that comment bold in the following link.

World News” and “Evening News” both led with Pres. Obama‘s reversal on detainee photos. “Nightly News” led with the hearings on the Buffalo plane crash.

Obama announced 5/13 that he will not release hundreds of photos potentially showing U.S. military members abusing prisoners.

ABC’s Stephanopoulos, on what changed: “The White House argues that first of all, the president did realize he could make new legal arguments. The second is, these commanders came in hard on the president. … They said, you are harming our troops. The president was convinced by this argument.”

More Stephanopoulos: “But what I think you see here is that there has been a tension between the president’s desire for a clean break from the past and his continuing responsibilities as commander in chief. He’s siding increasingly with his responsibilities as commander in chief” (“World News,” 5/13).

CBS’ Plante: “Candidate Obama pushed for full disclosure. President Obama has decided that there are times when transparency is a tough call” (“Evening News,” 5/13).

GW prof. Jonathan Turley: “What President Obama is saying today is diametrically against the federal law. And if he succeeds, instead of having a transparent government, he would create this opaque government. … It’s an incredibly dark moment for civil libertarians. It’s just more evidence that this administration is becoming the greatest bait and switch in history. Then, you know, he’s morphing into his predecessor” (“Rachel Maddow Show,” MSNBC, 5/13).

CNN’s Henry: “You know something really strange is happening here at the White House when Republicans like Mitch McConnell are praising the president and liberal groups like the American Civil Liberties Union is ripping him apart” (“Situation Room,” 5/13).

More after the jump, including interrogation hearings.



FNC’s Hannity: “I, Sean Hannity, agree with President Obama. He did the right thing” (“Hannity,” 5/13).

Rep. Joe Sestak (D-PA): “I have a bit of a hard time with this decision, but I would accept it for a temporary pause in the release for one primary reason. He’s been dealt a very weak hand on Pakistan. … I remember how the Danish newspapers published those photographs that were insulting to the Islamic faith. I would accept that at this precarious time for national security, not for the protection of our troops — because our troops were already in endangered by the notices that we did torture — but rather not to inflame a very precarious situation.”

More Sestak: “But just like I believe there needs to be an exit strategy measuring success and failures and benchmarks for Afghanistan, there should be an exit strategy for the release of these eventually, because only then can we hold up a mirror to ourselves and once again say, that’s not who we are. We are better than that” (“Ed Show,” MSNBC, 5/13).

New York Times’ Zeleny: “They really know that, once these photos were released — at least that was their fear — that this would spread and would, of course, be broadcast in media there and it would simply give another reason to oppose and to stand against what American troops are trying to do there” (“NewsHour,” PBS, 5/13).

Conservative radio talk show host Monica Crowley: “On its face, it looks like a good move. It looks like he’s protecting American soldiers. But if we are to believe what he said today, that he’s concerned about the inflammatory effect that these photos would have in the Muslim world and on American citizens around the world, then why didn’t he make this argument weeks ago? Why didn’t he nip this thing in the bud from the beginning?”

More Crowley: “I think his Hamlet-like indecision of how to handle this has actually made this decision worse. … What you have going on in the Muslim world today is an endless conversation about what is in those photos that must be so bad that even the liberal American president didn’t want to release them. … Now you have the imaginations running wild across the world as to what is in those photographs” (“O’Reilly Factor,” FNC, 5/13).

CNN’s Borger: “The president changed his mind. And he’s allowed to do that. I don’t think, politically, anybody would hold this against him, because he made the decision not to hand over propaganda to our enemies. … But the question I want to know is if there were questions from the generals, why didn’t the secretary of Defense, Mr. Gates, talk to the president about that sooner so it didn’t look like they were flip-flopping here?” (“Situation Room,” 5/13).

Obama VERY Wrong, Prison Abuse Photos Should Be Made Public

I take no pleasure in the fact that this nation, under the Presidency of George Bush, used methods and practices of torture that ran counter to international law, and the ethics and underpinnings of our nation.  There are not enough words to be found in the dictionary to excoriate his administration for these past crimes.  But there is a process that this nation, and the indeed the world, needs to go through in order to get past what the United States did.  It is important that we hold ourselves fully accountable for the past, and let the world understand  that we ‘get it’, and fully appreciate the gravity of these practices, and the impact it has on international relations.

Part of that accountability process was to have been the releases of more photographic evidence of the torture committed by Americans.  The Obama White House had stated that the evidence would be released.  However today there was a reverse direction given, and as CNN reports those pictures will not be released.

President Obama said Wednesday that he told government lawyers to object to a court-ordered release of additional images showing alleged abuse of detainees because the release could affect the safety of U.S. troops and “inflame anti-American opinion.”

The Defense Department was set to release hundreds of photographs showing alleged abuse of prisoners in detention facilities in Afghanistan and Iraq.

“I want to emphasize that these photos that were requested in this case are not particularly sensational, especially when compared to the images we remember from Abu Ghraib,” the president said on the South Lawn of the White House. “But they do represent conduct that didn’t conform with the Army manual.”

Obama said the publication of the photos would not add any additional benefit to investigations being carried out into detainee abuse — and could put future inquires at risk.

I find this argument weak, and unacceptable.  I think there will need to be further pushing to get the pictures released.  There is no justification for hiding the facts.  None!  To cave in to those on the right who bluster about the potential harm that these photos would ignite is rich, considering it was the very policies of the conservatives that have placed our nation at this moment in time.  Showing the world what happens when neo-conservatives rule is not harmful, but educational.  If we do not see and know the truth we are bound to repeat it.

Amrit Singh, an attorney with the ACLU, said the president’s decision “makes a mockery” of his promise of transparency and accountability.

“Essentially, by withholding these photographs from public view, the Obama administration is making itself complicit in the Bush administration’s torture policies,” Singh said. “The release of these photos is absolutely essential for ensuring that justice was done … for ensuring that the public could hold its government accountable, and for ensuring that torture is not conducted in the future in the name of the American people.”

Singh said his organization is prepared to “do whatever it takes” in order to have the photos released.

Churchgoers More Likely To Back Torture

I find this truly upsetting.  As a believer in Christ, I find this unacceptable.  What aspect of Christ’s teachings are not being stressed enough in today’s churches?  How can anyone miss the message?

The more often Americans go to church, the more likely they are to support the torture of suspected terrorists, according to a new analysis.

More than half of people who attend services at least once a week — 54 percent — said the use of torture against suspected terrorists is “often” or “sometimes” justified. Only 42 percent of people who “seldom or never” go to services agreed, according the analysis released Wednesday by the Pew Forum on Religion & Public Life.

White evangelical Protestants were the religious group most likely to say torture is often or sometimes justified — more than 6 in 10 supported it. People unaffiliated with any religious organization were least likely to back it. Only 4 in 10 of them did.

The analysis is based on a Pew Research Center survey of 742 American adults conducted April 14-21. It did not include analysis of groups other than white evangelicals, white non-Hispanic Catholics, white mainline Protestants, and the religiously unaffiliated, because the sample size was too small.

NYT: U.S. Torture “A Perfect Storm Of Ignorance And Enthusiasm”

When I stated in the past that historians would severely judge President Bush and his administration, I had no idea then how deep the rot went.  Damn George Bush all the way to hell.

The program began with Central Intelligence Agency leaders in the grip of an alluring idea: They could get tough in terrorist interrogations without risking legal trouble by adopting a set of methods used on Americans during military training. How could that be torture?

In a series of high-level meetings in 2002, without a single dissent from cabinet members or lawmakers, the United States for the first time officially embraced the brutal methods of interrogation it had always condemned.

This extraordinary consensus was possible, an examination by The New York Times shows, largely because no one involved — not the top two C.I.A. officials who were pushing the program, not the senior aides to President George W. Bush, not the leaders of the Senate and House Intelligence Committees — investigated the gruesome origins of the techniques they were approving with little debate.

According to several former top officials involved in the discussions seven years ago, they did not know that the military training program, called SERE, for Survival, Evasion, Resistance and Escape, had been created decades earlier to give American pilots and soldiers a sample of the torture methods used by Communists in the Korean War, methods that had wrung false confessions from Americans.

Even George J. Tenet, the C.I.A. director who insisted that the agency had thoroughly researched its proposal and pressed it on other officials, did not examine the history of the most shocking method, the near-drowning technique known as waterboarding.

The top officials he briefed did not learn that waterboarding had been prosecuted by the United States in war-crimes trials after World War II and was a well-documented favorite of despotic governments since the Spanish Inquisition; one waterboard used under Pol Pot was even on display at the genocide museum in Cambodia.

They did not know that some veteran trainers from the SERE program itself had warned in internal memorandums that, morality aside, the methods were ineffective. Nor were most of the officials aware that the former military psychologist who played a central role in persuading C.I.A. officials to use the harsh methods had never conducted a real interrogation, or that the Justice Department lawyer most responsible for declaring the methods legal had idiosyncratic ideas that even the Bush Justice Department would later renounce.

The process was “a perfect storm of ignorance and enthusiasm,” a former C.I.A. official said.

Why We Must Investigate Americans Who Used Torture

When I was a boy reporters would write from all corners of the earth how homes would have two pictures on the wall. One would be of the Pope, and the other would be President Kennedy.  The world then looked to the United States with hope.  Our efforts through various programs to lift the world, and aspirations of people was applauded. 

When I was a kid it was also only about 20 years after executions had been held for members of the Japanese military following World War II who had used water-boarding as a means of torture, trying to get information from American soldiers.

So much has changed in my lifetime.  Really so much has changed during the past eight years.

President George Bush is not a wall hanging in homes around the world providing hope about American intentions, and this time it is Americans who are conducting the torture.

The recklessness that was crafted into the most bizarre and un-American legal documents justifying torture by the United States is a powerful read.  Sickening.  Depressing.  And yet important for my fellow citizens to wade through.

It was a most correct decision to release these documents, and showcase the level of tortured reasoning by the Bush Administration that led to the destruction of the rule of law that we once held ourselves up to as a nation.    We can no longer say that we are better than other countries who torture.  We aren’t.  We are supposed to be.  But we no longer are.

That is is the rot that now is fact given the reluctance of members of Congress to hold accountable the legal nightmare of plotting, deception, and political ruthlessness while it was happening from President George Bush, Vice-President Cheney, and many top members of the Bush Administration.

There now needs to be accountability for the actions of the past.  History not only deserves a reckoning, but the American soul needs a cleansing.  There can be no more squeamishness from any elected official in Washington, from President Obama right down to freshman members of Congress about the necessity of doing what is right.  The highest ideals of our nation have been broken by lawlessness and extra-constitutional excesses that demand action.

Investigations needs to take place, and those responsible from the lowest perpetrators of torture to the ones who gave the orders and crafted the legal train wreck all need to be held to the strictest laws in the land.  This is not a political show for partisan reasons, for the issue of what America stands for, and how it should serve to shine to others around the globe is bigger than the last election, or the next one.  Instead this reckoning with our past is about who we are, and what we stand for.

If we still stand for anything.  I hope we do.

We must get this right, and hold ourselves to the same light of day that we insist on for others around the world.  It is the first needed step to again place America back where the rule of law is more than words, but actually means something.

Over the past eight years we have left our ideals for the dark side.  President Obama and Congress must undo this crime, and bring those to justice who have broken the laws.  Nothing less is acceptable.