Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Lest We Forget

Before watching the Presidents address last night I watched the DVD "Taxi To the Dark Side."  It is a brutal documentary about the torture of prisoners held during the Bush administration.  It is not one to watch if you are sensitive to unspeakable cruelty. The bestial treatment of the prisoners is painful to watch.   Torture and homicide were well documented and not one single officer has been charged.  A few low level GI's were found guilty, but they obviously had to take their orders from the chain of command.

After it was over I sat there dumbfounded wondering why Donald Rumsfeld, Dick Cheney, Alberto Gonazales, John Woo, and George W. Bush were not in the dock at the Hague right now for crimes against humanity.  There is no denying that they approved of the brutal and inhumane treatment of the prisoners.   They had condemned themselves with statements made on public TV.

The tragic fact is that they never got any useful information after authorizing torture.   This is a classic example of ideology run amok.  Contrary to all evidence of the lessons that should have  been learned from history, they believed that a person would give valuable information when tortured.  Of course, all they got was what they wanted to hear.  It never served any purpose and it isn't as if they weren't told that it was counter-productive.  They knew, but ignored the sage advice of some of their military commanders.  

I am sure that you remember that 'the then'  President Bush pardoned all of them, including himself, before leaving office.  I am not familiar with international law, but I wonder if that pardon extends beyond our shores.  And I do wonder if it is legal for anyone, even a president, to pardon himself. 

You may be wondering why I am bringing this old painful subject up when we have more pressing problems to write about.  I decided to write about it for two reasons.  1).  An editorial in this mornings New York Times relates to this story.  I am including excerpts from it.   2).  It relates to how ideology causes people to make terrible errors in judgment; specifically, I am thinking of gun control.
A Case for Accountability

A court hearing this month in Manhattan turned on a subject that has mostly been missing in the legal response to former President George W. Bush’s abusive detention policies: some measure of accountability.

The focus of the hearing before Judge Alvin Hellerstein of Federal District Court was not torture itself but the Central Intelligence Agency’s deliberate destruction in 2005 of dozens of videotapes made three years earlier showing the brutal interrogation of high-level terrorism suspects, including the simulated drowning technique known as waterboarding. At the time, the agency had been ordered by Judge Hellerstein to preserve the tapes.

They were part of the evidence being sought in a lawsuit brought by the American Civil Liberties Union under the Freedom of Information Act seeking details of prisoner mistreatment. Their destruction was seen as so egregious that the Bush administration felt compelled to order a special investigation when it was disclosed. 
In November, the special prosecutor handling that investigation, John Durham, decided against bringing criminal charges against any C.I.A. official. No details of his decision were provided, leaving it unclear why those involved were not charged with any crime. 

The C.I.A.’s decision to destroy the tapes — rather than submit them to the judge for a decision on whether to order their public release — was a serious affront to the court and the rule of law.  

Thinking about this gross miscarriage of justice led me to ruminating on how ideology twists minds into erroneous beliefs while ignoring facts.   I see the same thing happening now with Arizona's governor and many others of like mind on gun control.  Their ideology makes them believe the flawed perception that more guns in the hands of more people make them safer.   The story line goes something like this:  "If the students and teachers in the Columbine school had been armed the perpetrators would have been taken down and lives would have been saved."  The reality is, it happened so fast the the victims were shot before they would have had time to react.  Or the danger of some frightened teacher shooting wildly and hitting innocent kids could have resulted. 

No matter how you think it could have played out, the statistcs of factual real life dramas have proven that if you have a gun you are more likely to get shot.  I think some people like Ronald Reagan (sorry - I couldn't resist) confuse movies and TV with real life.  Statistics be damned; the NRA is determined to sell more guns and more ammunition for their backers with flawed information until we are all targets.  

My grandmother used to preach to me that justice triumphs and the good wins over evil.  Sorry, Grandma, but after living more years than I want to count I do not see it happening.   I will continue to fight for right, but I am getting tired of seeing the bad guys win.



Looking to the Stars said...

Good post! My life is a big example of injustice and I have learned good people do bad things and bad people do good things.

The american people are finally seeing things that have been done behind closed doors. You would think that our government would've learned from the past and from other governments that torture results in bad information.

America is not liked in other countries and that started in WWII. But, we were fed b.s. that America was loved by other countries. It is a shame that we are judged by what our leaders do. And it is a shame that our past leaders are cruel and corrupt.

Kay Dennison said...

I figured out long ago that there really is no justice so none of this really surprose me anymore and that really saddens me.

janinsanfran said...

When we were in Argentina last year, I met a man who had to flee that country for awhile in the late 1970s during the so-called "dirty war" when the government picked up left leaning students, tortured them, and mostly killed them. He said proudly that his country was now trying some of the torturers in the courts: "It takes a long time; but it is worth it."

I am just glad there are filmmakers like Alex Gibney who will make films like "Taxi" so we can see what is happening if we don't look away.

It takes a long time, but I hope it is worth it. And as we get tired, there will be others. :-)

Darlene said...

*Looking to the Stars - I think we are disliked because of a few bad men in power. Some countries do like us. England and France certainly liked us during WW II. We saved them and they were grateful, but heads of government change and times change as well as the perception of nations. I think Obama has done much to change our image in Europe and some Asian countries.

*Kay Dennison - It's heartbeaking, isn't it?

*Janinsanfran - I wish I could live long enough to see Cheney behind bars. You give me hope that there will be justice in the future.

Joy Des Jardins said...

This is a really good post Darlene. I hate to say that my sense of justice and fair play has taken a brutal hit...but it has. I hate feeling the fallout from other countries and in our own for some of the bad decisions our government makes.

Darlene said...

*Joy Des Jardins - Me too.

Hattie said...

Excellent post. I got interested enough in Columbine after this latest shooting to get the book, *Columbine,* by Dave Cullen. What would have helped is if the parents had noticed that their boys were accumulating guns and explosives. How did this escape their attention? It could have been of some use, also, for them to monitor their whereabouts and maybe even not let them drive. They were adolescent boys all over the place with no supervision. The parents I see around me would never let their kids roam around like that. The parents got off scott free in the whole consideration of this case. I think they did not care.
It's the lack of caring that is so galling. Nobody really cares until something awful happens and then it's all deary me how was it that we didn't see this coming?
As to Bush and friends ever being brought to justice: that will never happen.

Darlene said...

*Hattie - I think that Hillary was right. It does take a village. The parents should be held accountable, but surely others must have been aware that these boys were acting strangely and reported them.

Sadly I have to agree with you about Bush and company.

Jack Jodell said...

I'm tired of the bad guys winning too, Darlene. You who like to travel - come on over and see my latest post about my trip to Cuba!

Darlene said...

*Jack Jodell - I'll be right over. When I return I will post your URL so others will follow.

Darlene said...

Jack Jodell writes a wonderful blog and his trip to Cuba is fascinating reading. Since most of us will never get reading it is a way to savor the culture and travel to Havana. You can do that by pasting the URL in your browser.

P. S, Jack also has a web site named The American Dissident. Check it out for a good political rant.

mandt said...

Great post Darlene!

Jack Jodell said...

Thanks, Darlene! I think you'll enjoy subsequent posts on Cuba!

Darlene said...

*Jack Jodell - You are most welcome. I am looking forward to them.

joared said...

Meanwhile, back at the camp, the cowboys there are busy scraping the barrel to find something, any shortcomings they can, to launch accusations, innuendos and lawsuits against the current administration. I have great difficulty believing they will unearth anything remotely as criminal as what went on during the administration preceding.

I look forward to the day when injustice in the world ends, but given human nature I believe the challenge to pursue justice will always be present. Seeking justice is an ongoing task, so keep up your spirits and continue your dedicated efforts toward that end.

Darlene said...

*Joared - I try to keep seeking justice and am sometimes rewarded, but politically it gets very discouraging.

naomi dagen bloom said...

Darlene, What frustrates me is that there is a role for older, sane people to play in asking questions about the power given to the NRA. We've needed a movement that would represent our particular demographic around issues of social justice.

Only the Tea Party has tapped into a small group of seniors' negativity and know-nothingness. Over the past 15 years I've seen a couple of efforts to give those like ourselves a voice but they've always faded. Perhaps the boomers will find a way--though they need to hurry up!

Cowtown Pattie said...


Excellent post! (Even if its truth is disheartening...)

Darlene said...

*Naomi Dagen Bloom - You make an excellent point. I wonder how we can form an Elders Against Ignorance party.

*CowtownPattie - It is disheartening, but we can't give up.