war crimes

A Note on Civility and Equivocation

#wellduh | #WhatTheyVotedFor

Radical Centrism 101: Detail of cartoon by Matt Lubchansky, via The Nib, 31 May 2017.

In such time as we have to reflect on notions of civility and politic, and observing its coincidence in which we grasp both desperately and often belligerently after comparisons in history, it does occur that sometimes these lines of thought and inquiry merge or intersect or whatever else they might do, and from this nexus arises a question worth considering:

• While rhetoric of conservative backlash often drew puzzlement and even mockery, and centrists, liberals, progressives, and leftists alike have scrambled to remind women, queers, and blacks what happens when we make too much uncivil noise, like winning court cases or wondering who would actually claim a religious right to actively sabotage health care, there is also an iteration of Green Lantern Theory whereby President Obama could reconcile the political factions by simply charming and schmoozing Republicans enough, including that he should never speak common platitudes of empathy because, being a black president, doing so apparently means one is trying to start a race war; and, yes, it seems worth wondering just how much worse the conservative and crossover payback would have been had the nation’s first black president gone on to prosecute war criminals, including the white woman recently minted Director of CIA.

When questions of civility arise, perhaps we ought to consider just how we might answer such demand for civility that torture and white supremacism are not somehow uncivil.

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Image note: Radical Centrism 101 — Detail of cartoon by Matt Lubchansky, via The Nib, 31 May 2017.

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The Netanyahu Way

Detail of cartoon by Dave Granlund, 25 February 2015, via Cagle Post.There is a lot going on, but in terms of our House of Representatives meddling in the Israeli election, there comes a point when one no longer wonders at the character of this Prime Minister. Mr. Netanyahu is beset by scandal, increasingly viewed as a bully with nothing left but to whine about how everybody should feel sorry for him, and apparently in need of foreign intervention in order to secure a new term. In other words, Benjamin Netanyahu is a disgraceful coward and, as such, perfect company for the likes of our House Republicans.

• Should we be surprised that Netanyahu’s speech before Congress is such a bad idea that he kept his own National Security Advisor in the dark? (Tikkun Daily)

• Nor should we be surprised that Netanyahu and his supporters disdain rule of law in favor of cheap politicking. (Haaretz)

• Here’s a proposition: Netanyahu undertakes cynical politics, but won’t do anything to dispel that appearance because it would be too political. (msnbc)

• Remember that no matter how much Netanyahu wants to insist that criticizing Israel crimes against humanity in Palestine is some form of anti-Semitism, Israel does not equal Judaism, and Judaism does not equal Israel. (Tikkun Daily)

And one other thing. It sometimes occurs to wonder why so many non-Jewish Americans are so interested in maintaining a Judeosupremacist state and protecting war crimes. This, perhaps, is the sickest of ironies; that support comes from our evangelical Christian sector, where many believe in something akin to premillennial dispensationalism. They need Jewish people to control Israel and Jerusalem, so that when Jesus comes home, He can kill them.

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Image note: Detail of cartoon by Dave Granlund, 25 February 2015, via Cagle Post.

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.

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.

Actual, Real, Honest-to-Goodness, Genuine Good News

Victims of a chemical attack in Syria, circa 2013.We can certainly admit that it’s a hell of a lede:

The United States said Monday that it had completed the destruction of the deadliest chemical weapons in Syria’s arsenal, a rare foreign policy achievement for President Obama at a time when the Middle East is embroiled in violence and political turmoil.

Rappeport

Oh, yeah. Remember that? Syria? I suppose we could use some good news. Or maybe we’re too busy botching Star Trek jokes.

You know, journalistic priorities.

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Rappeport, Alan. “Syria’s Chemical Arsenal Fully Destroyed, U.S. Says”. The New York Times. 18 August 2014.