Guest Commentary (3935)
ROBERT C. KOEHLER FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT
The shock resonating from the Senate Intelligence Committee’s CIA torture report isn’t due so much to the revelations themselves, grotesque as the details are, but to the fact that they’re now officially public. National spokespersons (except for Dick Cheney) can no longer deny, quite so glibly, that the United States is what it claims its enemies to be.
We’re responsible for the worst sort of abuses of our fellow human beings: A half-naked man freezes to death. A detainee is chained to the wall in a standing position for 17 days. The stories have no saving grace, not even “good intelligence.”
The Axis of Evil smiles, yawns: It’s home.
The question is, what do we do with this moment of national self-awareness? Beyond demanding the prosecution of high-level perps, how about really changing the game? I suggest reviving S. 126, a bill introduced into the U.S. Senate on Jan. 4, 1995 by Daniel Patrick Moynihan, titled: Abolition of the Central Intelligence Agency.
BILL BERKOWITZ FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT
With every new mass shooting in this country resulting in casualties, people with mental illness are singled out for blame. While access to the United States' mental health care system is woefully lacking, the proliferation of guns and the ease with which anyone can get them - a central cause of mass shootings - is typically swept under the rug.
Two years ago this past weekend, 20-year-old Adam Lanza fatally shot 20 children and six adults with his mother's Bushmaster XM15-E2S rifle at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut. The nation was shocked, saddened and outraged. If there were ever an opportunity for the implementation of some very basic, common sense laws controlling guns, that was the time.
However, the National Rifle Association applied full-court pressure, Congress failed to act. National Rifle Association President Wayne LaPierre blamed "delusional killers" for violence in the United States, and provocatively called for a "national registry" of persons with mental illness. Instead of any meaningful gun control measures, pro-gun advocates and their media representatives obscured the issue and blamed mentally ill people for the mass shootings epidemic.
STEVEN JONAS MD, MPH FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT
6000-page report on torture and the CIA, headed "Panel Faults C.I.A. Over Brutality and Deceit in Terrorism Interrogations." One cannot be sure why the Chair, Sen. Diane Feinstein of California, decided to release it over the mounting objections of both the White House and the CIA as well as most Republicans (apparently in favor of the use of torture, from the sound of it/them). But she may have been informed that one Senator or another, especially the outgoing Senator from Colorado, Mark Udall, would do it himself if she didn't. (It is rumored that Sen. Udall may still put the whole report into the Congressional Record. If he does, I would strongly suggest that he never again fly in a small aircraft.) At any rate, even just the Executive Summary presents a huge amount of horrifying detail. (I need not detail it here; it and a huge amount of commentary has already appeared in The Times and many other news sources, print, electronic and other.)As the world that is interested in such matters knows, the U.S. Senate Intelligence Committee has finally released the (redacted) 524-page Executive Summary of its
It happens that a good deal of the information contained in it has been known, in relative bits and pieces, for quite some time. What the Senate Committee has done is assemble a huge amount of material in one place, and then put their imprimatur on the information, which it has been collecting in sometimes gruesome detail over the past six years. Of course the Republicans have reacted in horror, not at the details of the torture itself and the catalog of CIA cover-ups, incompetence, disorganization, amateurism, and what-have-you, but at the fact that they have all been made public. Of course, Sen. Feinstein and her Democratic colleagues knew full well that if they didn't release the document now, it would never see the light of day, at least for the next two years of a Republican Senate majority. Further, even if the Democrats were to retake the Senate in 2016, by that time it would be a) old news and b) the CIA and its allies within and outside of government would have had many more opportunities to a) cover their tracks and b) further justify their actions with the repetitive aid of Fox"News.".
One should note that Democrats hardly have entirely clean hands in this matter. After all, the Obama White House didn't want even the heavily redacted Executive Summary published. Further, right at the start of its Administration, the Obama White House and its "Justice" Department made clear that they would not be going after any of the torturers or, much more importantly, the torture-enablers starting with Cheney, based on what was even then already widely known about the program. Not only has it done nothing to prosecute the perpetrators, it has even allowed the promotion of many of them. Furthermore, we have the odd occurrence that Obama's current CIA director, John Brennan, who knew about the program when he was Obama's counter-terrorism advisor in 2009, and is a member of a Democratic Administration, criticized the Report not only as inaccurate, but also "flawed," "partisan" (sic), and "frustrating."
WILL DURST FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT
PAUL BUCHHEIT FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT
One of the themes of the superb writing of Henry Giroux is that more and more Americans are becoming "disposable," recognized as either commodities or criminals by the more fortunate members of society. There seems to be a method to the madness of winner-take-all capitalism. The following steps, whether due to greed or indifference or disdain, are the means by which America's wealth-takers dispose of the people they don't need.
1. Deplete Their Wealth
Recent analysis has determined that half of America is in or near poverty. This is confirmed by researchers Emmanuel Saez and Gabriel Zucman, who point out: "The bottom half of the distribution always owns close to zero wealth on net. Hence, the bottom 90% wealth share is the same as the share of wealth owned by top 50-90% families - what can be described as the middle class."
The United States has one of the highest poverty rates in the developed world. It's much worse since the recession, especially for blacks and Hispanics.
From 2008 to 2013 the stock market, which is largely owned by just 10% of Americans, gained 18% per year. Well-to-do stockholders get capital gains tax breaks, including a carried interest subsidy that Robert Reich calls "a pure scam."
The bottom half of America, relying on regular bank accounts, earn about one percent on their savings.
JOE CONASON ON BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT
With the release of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence report on the use of torture by the CIA after 9/11, the final defense of the indefensible by its perpetrators, advocates and publicists is falling apart before our eyes.
Not only did "enhanced interrogation," the Nazi euphemism adopted by the Bush-Cheney administration, include methods outlawed and prosecuted by our country for more than a century, such as waterboarding — and not only did those "activities," as Dick Cheney called them, violate American law, the Constitution, the Geneva Conventions and the conventions on torture — but also we now know with great certainty that the CIA executed this secret program with horrific incompetence and that it produced nothing of significant value.
Indeed, the SSCI report concludes — contrary to the boasting of Cheney and many others — that torture was proved "not an effective means of gathering intelligence," let alone saving millions of Americans from jihadi plots, and actually "complicated, and in some cases impeded, the national security missions." The overseers of the torture program, themselves of dubious competence, were unable even to assess the impact or effectiveness of their orders.
As Micah Zenko of the Council on Foreign Relations points out, the CIA itself has admitted, in its otherwise aggressive response to the SSCI, that it lacked the "structure, expertise, and methodologies" to "systematically evaluate the effectiveness" of its "covert actions." The CIA didn't know what it was doing. But it was doing grave damage to itself and to us.
JACQUELINE MARCUS FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT
Allow me to ask congressional members in the House and Senate and American voters the following questions:
1. Do you like polluted air that’s so toxic that it’s causing asthma, heart disease and premature death, lung and respiratory-related health problems for you and your family?
2. Do you like it when your water is contaminated with poisons associated with coal, gas or oil drilling? Do you enjoy seeing wildlife killed from toxic pollution?
3. Do you like eating toxic food because safety inspections have been lifted?
No one in his-her right mind would answer ‘yes’ to the above questions unless they’re receiving money from the fossil fuel industries.
ROBERT C. KOEHLER FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT
This shattered nation.
“Eric Garner was overweight and in poor health. He was a nuisance to shop owners who complained about him selling untaxed cigarettes on the street. When police came to arrest him, he resisted. And if he could repeatedly say, ‘I can’t breathe,’ it means he could breathe.”
And, oh yeah: “You cannot go out and break the law. What we did not hear is that you cannot resist arrest. That’s a crime.”
This is the police counter-narrative, as reported by the Associated Press. Eric Garner’s choking death was mostly his own fault. It’s another standoff: another line of cops in bulletproof vests, ominously gripping their batons, stepping slowly toward the protesters. “He was a nuisance . . .” Get him, boys. Take him down.
The national divide is solid and four-square. Actual human beings congregate only on one side of it, or the other. If Eric Garner is a nuisance and Michael Brown is a thug and Trayvon Martin is a suspicious-looking kid in a hoodie who didn’t belong in that neighborhood . . . then, whoosh, all their humanity vanishes and “upholding the law” justifies every action against them, including killing them. The cries of grief from their families are just irritating noises. The outrage about it is insubordination.
Either we’re united by our common humanity or we live in a broken world, a nation hellishly divided against itself, a roiling stew of privilege and squalor. And no one in such a world is free — that is to say, fully himself or herself, fully human. Fear rules. Hatred rules.
AKIRA WATTS FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT
“Alas, the gates of life never swing open except upon death, never open except upon the palaces andgardens of death. And the universe appears to me like an immense, inexorable torture-garden… What Isay today, and what I heard, exists and cries and howls beyond this garden, which is no more than asymbol to me of the entire earth.”
― Octave Mirbeau
After years of delays and redactions and even a last minute intervention from Secretary of State Kerry, a man whose recent career seems devoted to destroying the moral legacy of his early years, the executive summary of the Senate Report on CIA Torture has finally been released. Spoiler alert. Torture? We sure did. There’s nothing that is terribly surprising in the report, beyond the endless brutality of the details, so now the game will shift to arguing over and spinning all the facts that we’ve known for so long.
It was not long after the events of September 11 that justifications were being written for torture. Legal opinions were issued, memoranda that defined the outer boundaries of what was acceptable. And we knew it was happening. And now those same memoranda are being used to grant immunity to those who carried out torture. And the predictable voices are lining up to claim that yeah, we tortured, but look at all the neat intelligence we got out of it. Sure we crossed a moral event horizon but we literally saved America from certain destruction.
BILL BERKOWITZ FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT
He has a lifestyle that would make Robin Leach blush; he's crafted deals with scoundrels in a number of countries and does the bidding for huge corporations and investment firms; he still maintains that the War in Iraq was the right thing to do; for several years he has represented the Quartet in the Middle East but doesn't have much to show for it; he gets snippy when talking about how few people pay attention to his political opinions.
One could be forgiven if one didn't think very often about former British Prime Minister Tony Blair. If one did, however, one would probably think back to those crazy-ass days in 2002-2003 when President George W. Bush was having a heck of a time trying to round up support for his impending invasion of Iraq. Bush turned to Blair, and, to perhaps the astonishment of the civilized world, Blair adopted the Bush Administration's "weapons of mass destruction" mantra. And for that decision, the man once thought of as an intelligent, articulate and savvy politician, now has the well-deserved reputation as, well, a first class schmuck. And, to top it off, since that time, he can't seem to shake the "Bush's Poodle" appellation.
With the publishing of the Senate's report on torture, Blair's name is in play once again. While the "report provides reams of uncomfortable details about the CIA's use of torture ... for Britons it leaves one key question unanswered," Peter Foster pointed out in a recent column in The Telegraph. "What did Tony Blair, ... and Jack Straw, then Foreign Secretary, know of a CIA torture programme that was sanctioned at the very highest levels of the US government? And to what extent were they complicit in giving UK assistance to US operations?"