torture

A “Political Question” (Abu Ghraib)

This is still going on:

A federal court of appels on Friday reinstated a case brought by four Iraqis who allege they were tortured by employees of CACI while they were held at the infamous Abu Ghraib prison during the Iraq War.

The case had been dismissed by a lower court that found the alleged abuses amounted to a “political question” and was beyond the court’s jurisdiction. But the case, which was first filed in 2008, was reinstated by a panel of judges for the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit.

(Davenport)

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Davenport, Christian. “U.S. Appeals Court reinstates Abu Ghraib prison abuse case against CACI”. The Washington Post. 21 October 2016.

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Tomorrow, Today

Detail of frame from Sekirei.

I should be embarrassed. Or, you know, maybe not.

Really, I thought the right wing would have taken the hint and moved on to the next front. That is to say, my prognostication somehow failed to account for just how stubborn is this conservative desperation:

There have been predictions for several years that gay-bashing by GOP presidential candidates would be dead by 2016, some of it wishful thinking by gay advocates. Back in 2012, Fred Sainz of the Human Rights Campaign, for example, commenting on the lack of discussion of gay issues in the three debates between President Obama and Mitt Romney, said, “What we’re seeing is proof positive that gay issues aren’t the wedge they used to be.” The public, he said, has “moved on.”

Fast forward to 2015: Ted Cruz, Scott Walker and Rick Perry have expressed blatant anti-gay positions, from banning gay scout leaders to supporting yet another marriage amendment. Some pundits believe this to be politically dangerous, certainly in a general election, and they’re right when it comes to the more overt bigotry. As I noted last week, Scott Walker clearly crossed a line — and walked back — when he said the Boy Scouts’ ban on gay adults “protected children.”

But new polling underscores that covert messaging — the dog whistle — could do the trick for the GOP, just as it has worked for the party on race and gender for decades now. Jeb Bush has defended “religious liberty” — the new code words for anti-gay positions — even while saying gay couples deserved “respect” for their relationships. And just last week, Bush said he supported the idea of anti-discrimination laws protecting LGBT people, though he thought they should be handled “state-by-state” (contrary to a comprehensive federal bill introduced by Democrats in Congress today that would protect LGBT people nationally).

But in comments that directly followed, Bush said that he believes there should be an exception for people with religious objections to allowing gays and lesbians to marry, such as a florist who refused to sell flowers to a gay couple for their wedding. In other words, those who would discriminate in the first place should be exempt from laws banning discrimination. This will in fact be the more subtle — but no less vile and discriminatory — gay-bashing of the 2016 election.

The one and only Michelangelo Signorile recalls predictions “for several years that gay-bashing by GOP presidential candidates would be dead by 2016”, and appropriately notes at least some of it was wishful thinking. And perhaps we might simply be considering a different perspective on the question of gay-bashing, but it seems unclear just how any of that wishful thinking would have worked. We would not fault Mr. Signorile for his recollection; he isn’t wrong. But it has never been clear quite how that relief should work.

(more…)

Re-education

Televangelist Pat Robertson of the 700 Club, circa 2012.

The headline should suffice: “Pat Robertson: God Can ‘Straighten Out’ Your Gay Daughter At Summer Camp”.

Allister Fiend comes to mind.

Be strong.

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Tashman, Brian. “Pat Robertson: God Can ‘Straighten Out’ Your Gay Daughter At Summer Camp”. Right Wing Watch. 27 February 2015.

Dr. Ben Carson

In March, Ben Carson spoke at the Conservative Political Action Committee conference. (Credit Susan Walsh/Associated Press)

In today’s chapter, we look to a report from David McCabe of The Hill, documenting what appears to be neurosurgeon, conservative activist, and presumptive 2016 GOP presidential contestant Ben Carson advocating war crimes.

While being interviewed on Fox News’s “America’s Newsroom” by Bill Hemmer, Carson was asked about the fight against the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria.

“And our military needs to know that they’re not going to be prosecuted when they come back because somebody has said you did something that was politically incorrect,” he said.

“There’s no such thing as a politically correct war. We need to grow up. We need to mature. If you’re going to have rules for war, you should just have a rule that says no war. Other than that, we have to win. Our life depends on it.”

Carson did not specify what he meant by “politically incorrect” behavior.

It is easy enough to cheer the proposition of a “no war” rule, but good doctor would still need to explain how our lives depended on invading Iraq.

Ladies and gentlemen, Ben Carson.

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McCabe, David. “Ben Carson: No rules against ‘politically incorrect’ acts of war”. The Hill. 16 February 2015.

The Best Blurb Ever

Detail of cartoon by Brian McFadden, 24 December 2014, via Daily Kos Comics.Okay, not really, but, you know, we needed an excuse.

The image is a detail from Brian McFadden’s look at holiday cinema, via Daily Kos Comics.

Chuck Todd in a Diaper

'Tom the Dancing Bug' by Ruben Bolling, 18 December 2014. (via Daily Kos)It’s … just another American horror that one cannot unsee.

Nonetheless, the intelligence data has been redacted for security purposes, and also to protect the innocent.

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Bolling, Ruben. Tom the Dancing Bug. 18 December 2014.

A Quote: Steve on Dick

Former Vice President Dick Cheney (Getty Images, undated)

“It’s a curious argument: ‘We didn’t do anything wrong, but for the love of God, please don’t tell anyone what we did.'”

Steve Benen

In a separate post for msnbc, Steve Benen noted:

Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.), the committee’s chairwoman, summarized the four key findings of the report this way:

1. The CIA’s “enhanced interrogation techniques” were not effective.

2. The CIA provided extensive inaccurate information about the operation of the program and its effectiveness to policymakers and the public.

3. The CIA’s management of the program was inadequate and deeply flawed.

4. The CIA program was far more brutal than the CIA represented to policymakers and the American public.

As to Mr. Cheney, Benen writes:

Leading the charge, not surprisingly, is former Vice President Dick Cheney, who has not read the report, but is nevertheless comfortable dismissing it as “hooey.”

“What I keep hearing out there is they portray this as a rogue operation and the agency was way out of bounds and then they lied about it,” he said in a telephone interview. “I think that’s all a bunch of hooey. The program was authorized. The agency did not want to proceed without authorization, and it was also reviewed legally by the Justice Department before they undertook the program.”

Referencing CIA officials responsible for executing the administration’s torture policies, Cheney told the New York Times, “They deserve a lot of praise. As far as I’m concerned, they ought to be decorated, not criticized.”

It should not require a lifetime attending politics to comprehend the differences between the two approaches.

One can certainly try arguing that the four points attributed to Feinstein are wrong, but Cheney’s argument is such that it doesn’t really matter; for God and country, anything is justified, and deserving of praise.

Sen. Feinstein, asked about the possibility that the Senate report will inspire violence around the world, responded, “I think the greatness of this country is that we can examine mistakes and remedy them, and that really is the hallmark of a great and just society.”

One wonders what Mr. Cheney is so afraid of.

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Benen, Steve. “Cheney blasts torture report he hasn’t seen as ‘a bunch of hooey'”. msnbc. 9 December 2014.

—————. “Intel Committee releases report on Bush-era torture”. msnbc. 9 December 2014.

What It Comes To (Choke On It Mix)

Guantánamo Bay detention facility, undated.  (AFP/Getty)

Rule number … er … I don’t know, give it a number: Don’t fuck with the nurses!

The case of a Navy medical officer who refused to force-feed prisoners on a hunger strike at Guantánamo Bay prompted the country’s largest nursing organization on Wednesday to petition the Defense Department for leniency, citing professional ethical guidelines that support the officer’s decision.

The officer is a nurse and 18-year Navy veteran whose commander has called for an internal inquiry into the refusal, his lawyer said.

(Carey)

Okay, look, this is a problem. We have heard versions of it before, dealing with “enhanced interrogation”, but to what degree are war crimes really worth redefining the role of medical professionals in our society?

And that is the whole of the question; everything else is a matter of policy and procedure, but at the core is this fundamental question.

We are holding these prisoners for no good reason, in violation of our own principles and in dubious relationship with our own laws. To the one, they have every reason to try a hunger strike. To the other, if you’re going to force-feed them, do it your fucking selves.

Which is the other thing: We’re Americans, damn it! Get your heads out, close this atrocity of a prison, and stop trying to redefine our society for the purposes of fostering warfare.

This should not be our heritage and legacy, yet for some reason history defies American principle. Indeed, Guantánamo will become one of our shameful tales, like biological warfare and genocide in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. It happens, we don’t like to talk or think or give any sort of consideration about it, so it happens again.

The military’s aggressive interrogation policy, at Guantánamo and elsewhere, has forced agonizing decisions on medical professionals. Psychologists have helped design the torturous techniques, which have included sleep deprivation and isolation; they have also monitored the interrogations. Medical doctors have advised on caring for the detainees. Details of these professionals’ roles have fueled debates within major medical associations; such debates have played a role in elections in at least one major group, the American Psychological Association.

One of the main issues is whether the medical associations should discipline members who have taken part in interrogations in any way, even as observers. The Navy case represents the flip side of the equation. It is the first known defiance of Guantánamo’s force-feeding procedure, and the nurses association is acting to defend, rather than to condemn, the medical officer’s actions.

But, seriously, do not screw with the nurses.

And, no, you don’t need a proverbial slippery slope to understand the problem; all you need is some comprehension of what medical professionals pledge their lives to, and a modicum of human decency.

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Carey, Benedict. “Nurses Urge Leniency Over Refusal to Force-Feed at Guantánamo Bay”. The New York Times. 19 November 2014.