Allison Kilkenny: Unreported

A Little Torture

Posted in Barack Obama, law, politics, prison, torture, War on Drugs by allisonkilkenny on April 17, 2009

justice“There is no such thing as a little torture.” — Alfred M. McCoy, author of A Question of Torture

The Bush administration is really an impressive force of nature. Whenever I was absolutely certain that their dastardly deeds couldn’t possibly get any more nefarious, Dick Cheney shot a family friend in the face, or George W. Bush ordered the U.S. military to invade another country. When they finally left office, I assumed they couldn’t harm America’s reputation ever again.

I was wrong. The Justice Department finally made the infamous memos that sanctioned torture public this week. The details are horrific. Not only are barbaric measures like “walling” (slamming a person into a wall,) and stress positions deemed acceptable by legal experts, but also more inventive interrogation methods like placing live bugs in a confinement box (and telling the prisoner they’ll sting him). 

Politicians repeatedly regurgitate the fairy tale that America is a Nation of Laws. Except, the laws get broken all the time, and the archetypes of anarchy usually aren’t held accountable. Barack Obama has sought to reassure CIA operates, who participated in torture, that they can use the same defense Nazis could not use during Nuremberg. Namely, that they were just “following orders.”

This doesn’t bode well for justice enthusiasts, who hoped that maybe (just maybe) the Big Guys would be help accountable this time. That maybe John Yoo, Douglas Feith, Jay Bybee, Dick Cheney, David Addington, George W. Bush, Donald Rumsfeld, and William Haynes would have to stand before the American people and explain why they thought sanctioning torture was acceptable.

That maybe they would finally have to explain why a little torture was okay.

We are a nation of laws only if the people in charge get to benefit from the rulings. We are a nation of laws only up until Lynndie England, but justice stops short of Donald Rumsfeld. We are a nation of laws for thieves and crooks, but justice can’t touch Goldman Sachs CEOs. The hypocrisy is rampant. It infests every facet of the justice system, and has left us with a broken two-tier system of justice.

The debate over torture is frequently aimed at Guantanamo. However, the problem is also domestic, although the victims are still the unprivileged. While the United States is home to just five percent of the world’s population, it contains 25% of the world’s prisoners. More than one in 100 adults are in prison. Most of those prisoners aren’t homicidal sociopaths. They’re nonviolent drug offenders. America is the only western industrialized country to still use the death penalty, but apparently injecting someone will a chemical that paralyzes their organs doesn’t constitute torture, even though the Nazis used the same method. Those that live inside our prison-industrial complex experience a form of torture every day. Prisoners face the threat of rape and are more likely to contract H.I.V., hepatitis and tuberculosis. 

This kind of domestic torture is frequently overlooked because it’s the “right people” suffering. Bad guys. Bottom-tier justice types: poor people, immigrants, people of color. And after all, it’s only a little torture. Terrorists and criminals deserve whatever happens to them. Waterboarding doesn’t even count as torture! It’s just a light spritz in the face! (Of course, even Bush’s own legal team knew it was torture and expressed their concern in footnote form.)

This cartoonish, simplified scope of reality would be laughable had it not been the ideologies held by the Bush administration for eight years. Innocent people are accused of crimes all the time. That’s why our smart ancestors put in place that whole “justice system” in the first place. Ya’ know, that thing about being able to face one’s accusers and present evidence to defend one’s self.

If justice is to come to Guantanamo (and it should,) it must also come to the United State’s domestic prisons where draconian drug laws continue case overcrowding and strain stark resources, which then breeds inhumane conditions. If justice is to come to torture victims, it must mean than the archetypes of the torture memos will stand beside the CIA agents that carried out the orders.

The American two-tier justice system must end, and a good start would be for the Obama administration to recognize that a little torture is never okay, no matter who is doing it.

Douglas Feith (and the Times) are Silly

Posted in media, politics by allisonkilkenny on March 30, 2009
Douglas Feith: Getting Shit Wrong Since 1953

Douglas Feith: Getting Shit Wrong Since 1953

The mainstream media’s players are incapable of cognitive dissonance.

The editors of our major, failing newspapers, seem perfectly comfortable with printing foreign policy advice from men, who would be arrested in other countries for war crimes.

I expected some kind of disclaimer before former undersecretary of defense, Douglas Feith’s, New York Times op-ed. Maybe Warning: This man has been accused by Spanish human rights lawyers of providing legal cover to Bush policies under which detainees were tortured. TAKE NOTHING HE SAYS SERIOUSLY.

Or Warning: Douglas Feith created the Counter Terrorism Evaluation Group shortly after 9/11. The group was under investigation by the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence for whether it exaggerated the threat posed by Iraq to justify the war.

Or Warning: Taking advice from men like Douglas Feith got us into two wars, which — in case you haven’t been watching television — aren’t going very well, so maybe you shouldn’t take what he has to say very seriously.

Alas, I reached the end of the article to find the following benign interpretation of Feith’s career:Douglas J. Feith, a former under secretary of defense, is a senior fellow and Justin Polin is a research associate at the Hudson Institute.

This is like describing Augusto Pinochet as a stern fellow with an unpopular vision of Chile’s future.

The media continues to perpetuate the cycle of bad advice by treating men like Douglas Feith as “serious” foreign policy “experts.” We could replicate (or possibly improve upon) Feith’s world class strategy advice by dressing a chimp in a suit and having him hurl his own feces at a world map. Wherever the shit lands, that’s where we send our troops. And we only have to pay undersecretary Chimp in bananas.

Our national conversation could benefit greatly from banning Douglas Feithian contributors. Feith has nothing new to offer the debate, anyway. In the Times, he recycles the old arguments that we must invade Pakistan for, like, the good of the people! Remember, this was partly the excuse Neo-Conservatives concotted for why we had to invade and occupy Iraq. While it is true Iraqis were suffering greatly, firebombing their villages was hardly a solution to the problem.

But then, helping the indigenous people is never the real reason we send our army overseas. And men like Douglas Feith know this. Though he writes about spreading the message of moderate religion via radio in Pakistan, his true interests have nothing to do with his love of Pakistani culture. He (and his cronies) are only interested in political and military leverage.

The Times is the only player still harboring the debunked notion that the Neo-Conservatives have something of value to offer the planet.

Cross-posted from allisonkilkenny.com. Also available on Twitter.