Paul Revere by Cyrus Dallin, North End, Boston





Thursday, March 19, 2009


My friend, Patrick over at Sane Political Discourse, doesn't understand why, while we're in a financial meltdown, I, or any other blogger, would waste our time talking about Bush and his administration. He labels my blogging on the Bush Administration and torture a "distraction," which implies that it is unimportant.

As he pointed out, Bush has been out of office for two months, and he was a lame duck for months before that. Why dwell on what happened in the past?

Because, Patrick, what was done was immoral and illegal. And it was done in our name--the American people.

Bush told the world that America doesn't torture, and then he tortured.

What I don't understand is how people are willing to dismiss this as not important, or even worse, that torturing is necessary to fight terrorism. What I don't understand is the number of Americans willing to overlook and excuse the debasement of this country, its Constitution and ideals. For what? How does torturing people protect us? Why would Americans believe that we should become as evil, base, and inhumane as our enemies in order to protect ourselves? What do we protect in doing so? What do we diminsh in the process?

Here is a recent AP story on the consequences of this reckless policy that punishes the innocent and encourages more people to hate us and wish us further harm.

We gained little and lost much.

Associated Press

SAN JUAN, Puerto Rico – Many detainees locked up at Guantanamo were innocent men swept up by U.S. forces unable to distinguish enemies from noncombatants, a former Bush administration official said Thursday. "There are still innocent people there," Lawrence B. Wilkerson, a Republican who was chief of staff to then-Secretary of State Colin Powell, told The Associated Press. "Some have been there six or seven years."

Wilkerson, who first made the assertions in an Internet posting on Tuesday, told the AP he learned from briefings and by communicating with military commanders that the U.S. soon realized many Guantanamo detainees were innocent but nevertheless held them in hopes they could provide information for a "mosaic" of intelligence.

"It did not matter if a detainee were innocent. Indeed, because he lived in Afghanistan and was captured on or near the battle area, he must know something of importance," Wilkerson wrote in the blog. He said intelligence analysts hoped to gather "sufficient information about a village, a region, or a group of individuals, that dots could be connected and terrorists or their plots could be identified."

Wilkerson, a retired Army colonel, said vetting on the battlefield during the early stages of U.S. military operations in Afghanistan was incompetent with no meaningful attempt to discriminate "who we were transporting to Cuba for detention and interrogation."

Navy Cmdr. Jeffrey Gordon, a Pentagon spokesman, declined to comment on Wilkerson's specific allegations but noted that the military has consistently said that dealing with foreign fighters from a wide variety of countries in a wartime setting was a complex process. The military has insisted that those held at Guantanamo were enemy combatants and posed a threat to the United States.

In his posting for The Washington Note blog, Wilkerson wrote that "U.S. leadership became aware of this lack of proper vetting very early on and, thus, of the reality that many of the detainees were innocent of any substantial wrongdoing, had little intelligence value, and should be immediately released."

Former Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld and Vice President Dick Cheney fought efforts to address the situation, Wilkerson said, because "to have admitted this reality would have been a black mark on their leadership."

Wilkerson told the AP in a telephone interview that many detainees "clearly had no connection to al-Qaida and the Taliban and were in the wrong place at the wrong time. Pakistanis turned many over for $5,000 a head."

Some 800 men have been held at Guantanamo since the prison opened in January 2002, and 240 remain. Wilkerson said two dozen are terrorists, including confessed Sept. 11 plotter Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, who was transferred to Guantanamo from CIA custody in September 2006.

"We need to put those people in a high-security prison like the one in Colorado, forget them and throw away the key," Wilkerson said. "We can't try them because we tortured them and didn't keep an evidence trail."

But the rest of the detainees need to be released, he said.

Wilkerson, who flew combat missions as a helicopter pilot in Vietnam and left the government in January 2005, said he did not speak out while in government because some of the information was classified. He said he feels compelled to do so now because Cheney has claimed in recent press interviews that President Barack Obama is making the U.S. less safe by reversing Bush administration policies toward terror suspects, including ordering Guantanamo closed.

The administration is now evaluating what to do with the prisoners who remain at the U.S. military base in Cuba.

"I'm very concerned about the kinds of things Cheney is saying to make it seem Obama is a danger to this republic," Wilkerson said. "To have a former vice president fearmongering like this is really, really dangerous."


dmarks said...

Even aside from the torture issue, the people in charge of this were sloppy, as they are apparently (according to this article) holding non-terrorists, and have in the past released actual terrorists who went on to commit more crimes.

Time said...

The rule of law is what America is all about. If we don't investigate, prosecute, and penalize those that break the law, then we might as well discard the Constitution.

Cheney and others came from previous administrations. We must document behavior to inform the vote of the future.

Although I sometimes wonder if it helps. People voted for a 7 count felon, etc., you have heard me list the elected criminals before.

Adherence to honest History is a duty society owes future generations. The record must be clear and complete.

That's why those who try to obstruct the finding of the truth, should go to jail.

We cannot just ignore or forget violations of the law. That would only encourage more violations.

I'm sure Bush supporters would like to forget, hide, obstruct, ignore, and protect the criminals of the Bush Presidency, but following the rule of law and protecting the Constitution is a duty we can not dismiss.

It's not surprising this is their attitude, they were never protectors of the Constitution.

In fact their crimes were all about not upholding the Constitution, but breaking the law.

Dave Miller said...

Shaw, I do not think we will hear anything from the right on this.

There is just no way anyone can make a rational argument for what the bush Admin did,

Gordon said...

Hm. The Bush administration policy was to forbid extreme interrogation techniques--except in special cases that warrant them.

Oh, no, excuse me. That's the Obama administration policy.

James Wolfer said...

Gordon, could you cite something on this? Because so far we have seen Obama get RID of torture, while Bush INCREASED it.

Shaw Kenawe said...


Of course what you meant to say was that the Bush administration illegally used torture on prisoners in US custody and violated their basic human rights, and Mr. Obama has not.

See, the reason we were considered the beacon of liberty and justice in this often violent and unjust world is because we believed in justice even for people who committed the most vile acts.

I think that a country that adheres to and practices that ideal truly represents the best that humans can aspire to.

The Bush administration broke the law; and by doing so, joined us to unprincipled and barbaric third world countries.

"If you look at the history of the use of that technique used by the Khmer Rouge, used in the inquisition, used by the Japanese and prosecuted by us as war crimes, we prosecuted our own soldiers in Vietnam, I agree with you, Mr. Chairman, waterboarding is torture."

The above statement made by Eric Holder during his confirmation hearing for Attorney General marked a clean break from the policy of the Bush administration on “waterboarding,” the interrogation technique used by the CIA on at least three Al-Qaida suspects, and on the general issue of the use of torture in US interrogation.

It is illegal under the Geneva Conventions, which prohibit “outrages upon personal dignity,'' including cruel, humiliating, and degrading treatment. It is illegal under the Torture Act, which prohibits acts “specifically intended to inflict severe physical or mental pain or suffering.'' It is illegal under the Detainee Treatment Act, which prohibits “cruel, inhumane, or degrading treatment,'' and it violates the Constitution. The Nation's top military lawyers and legal experts across the political spectrum have condemned waterboarding as illegal.

After World War II, the United States prosecuted Japanese officers for using waterboarding.

Patrick M said...

First of all, my point is that you (and other bloggers) are focused on the Bush administration, not current, and it comports with the Obama administration's need to blame all their woes on Bush (like the AIG bonuses).

Nonetheless, part of the problem is that we fundamentally disagree on what is torture (part of my Catholic school upbringing, I guess), and what the treatment of the prisoners should be. Some of the things you cite aren't torture. Others, like Abu Graib, we prosecuted people for.

I suspect that, in the end, all the facts will get out there and the record will be clear.

But there's one thing that I can almost guarantee. The Obama administration will not pursue anything against the upper levels of the Bush administration. I would assume it's to protect the power of the office. Scary, but true, I bet.

Of course, as I don't have a problem with really torturing terrorists, or preferably just shooting them....

Arthurstone said...

Want to shoot terrorists Patrick? Enlist and head over to Iraq and preserve Democracy.

I think the military needs bodies.

dmarks said...

I am pleased to see that Arthurstone supports the dedication and mission of our volunteer armed forces.

Gordon said...

I looked at Leon Panetta's confirmation testimony. He said that the president has broad authority to order it under Article II. He also said that we would not do it.

However, the administration has only made the determination via executive order. They have not sought to have the prohibition codified into law. In other words, Obama can order anything he feels necessary without legal sanction.

This is a sensible policy. I don't disagree with it. I just don't enjoy the posturing.

DDW said...

Mark Danner’s recounting of the repulsive, inhumane techniques used on suspected terrorist leaders at “black sites” — techniques that President George W. Bush proudly and openly labeled “an alternative set of procedures” — makes one almost physically ill.
But much worse than this physically nauseating feeling is the spirit-numbing, immutable image of our president assuring us time and time again, “The United States does not torture.”

Shaw Kenawe said...

Dear, dear, dear Gordon.

Posturing? Moi?

It is so terribly disquieting to learn that when you come to my blog and read my opinions on current subjects you don't "enjoy" the manner in which I frame the issues.

I'm shocked, shocked, shocked, I tell you, that a far right conservative would hold that opinion of me.

Excuse me now while I take to my fainting couch and sniff deeply of my spirits of ammonia. I'm not sure I'll recover from the profound depression of the vital processes caused by your disapprobation.

Meanwhile, I'll just review some of your recent "posturings" gleaned from your most excellent blog and hope for a speedy recovery.

Obama: Screw injured veterans to pay for earmarks
March 17th, 2009 -- Posted in American Politics by Gordon

The latest proposal from the Obama administration to “cut” federal spending is amazing even by the new standards in Washington. The administration wants veterans with private health insurance to pay for service-related injuries. The vets would still be treated at VA hospitals and clinics, but the VA would bill the veterans’ private insurance for the costs.

This is yet another example that the Obamites don’t have a clue as to what they’re doing. Treatment for service-related injuries is part of the contract we have with our volunteer service members. If they get injured, we take care of them. It’s a fundamental part of what we owe them for their sacrifice.

Boston: It’s okay to beat your girlfriend
March 14th, 2009 -- Posted in Kultcha, The Media by Gordon

At least if you’re a popular singer, anyway. It doesn’t matter that she’s a popular singer also. Brietbart has the video: 46 percent of Boston teens think it was Rihanna’s fault that Chris Brown beat the crap out of her. 52 percent say the blame is shared.

Another paranoid fantasy
March 7th, 2009 -- Posted in American Politics, Irony, Kultcha by Gordon
Whiy do some leftists regard anyone who disagrees with lefty policies as a slavering horde bent upon rape, pillage and slaughter?

Former Clintonite (and bloodsucking bonus-taking Wall Street exec) Robert Reich:

Daphne has the best commenters
March 6th, 2009 -- Posted in American Politics by Gordon | 6 Comments »
James Wilson:

Obama is talent, not genius; actor, not director. It is the axis of Axelrod-Ayers-Alinski-Annenberg which prepared, planned and produced for the Manchurian Mannequin’s teleprompter.
It is only the duplicitous soul which is his own, and which will make a nation more sophisticated in its evil.

dmarks said...

So, how about Obama's mean-spirited Special Olympics joke on Leno? That someone would even be so mean spirited "by accident": it's on the level of the 5 Limbaugh quotes at the top of the blog.

This is the first indication I've seen that Barack Obama, when away from the teleprompter and editors, might be a very mean man. Inexcusable.

Shaw Kenawe said...

Patrick wrote:

First of all, my point is that you (and other bloggers) are focused on the Bush administration, not current, and it comports with the Obama administration's need to blame all their woes on Bush (like the AIG bonuses).

Patrick, bloggers are NOT "comporting" with the Obama administration covering the Bush torture issue. I haven't heard a word from the WH on this subject. Have you? The American people are the ones who are keeping this subject current.

(Besides I take my orders from George Soros, just ask Gordon. He'll tell you.)

Second, what do you mean by the Obama administration's "need" to blame the Bush administration for all its woes?

The last time I checked, the "woes" caused by breaking international and national laws on torture were clearly the fault of the Bush administration.

You apparently don't consider torture that big a deal, as evidenced by this piece of bravado:

"Of course, as I don't have a problem with really torturing terrorists, or preferably just shooting them...."

How quickly so many Americans are willing to cast the USA as spiritual allies of the likes of the Nazis, Khmer Rouge, and the disgusting Al Qaeda who chop peoples' heads off when irritated.

Your willingness to abrogate the rule of law for the cheap thrill of revenge killing is unAmerican through and through. And barbaric.

Shaw Kenawe said...


I was wondering who would be the first to jump on that.

You didn't disappoint me.

Let's see. Making a stupid and embarrassing remark on teevee


allowing the torture and murder of prisoners.

Compare and contrast.

It's really astounding to observe what gets conservatives enraged.

dmarks said...

Compare and contrast.... Might as well get rid of those Limbaugh quotes, right? If Obama's does not matter compared to the Bush torture thing, then neither do those.

"It's really astounding to observe what gets conservatives enraged."

I can't recall the last time I've seen conservatives enraged over bashing disabled individuals. It doesn't really fit any sort of stereotype, does it?

Time said: "The rule of law is what America is all about. If we don't investigate, prosecute, and penalize those that break the law, then we might as well discard the Constitution."

I do agree with that, to get back on topic.

Shaw Kenawe said...


Don't you understand that a pattern of racist remarks over a lifetime is an indication of that person's character?

Please give me evidence of other intemperate remarks on Special Olympics that Mr. Obama has given over his lifetime.

And the quotes on Limbaugh are not complete. There are many, many more, I just didn't want to unnecessarily pollute my blog.

One stupid remark by Mr. Obama does not make him Rush Limbaugh's moral equivalent.


Ronald Reagan called Martin Luther King "a near-Communist."

Did that make him a racist?

dmarks said...

Shaw: Obama's comment would imply he's a mean person. However, you do refer to a "pattern". I can't recall any other comments like this, a pattern to prove that he is as mean as this "stupid" comment of his implies. But that still does not excuse it, just because he was making a "retard" joke instead of an N-word joke.

dmarks said...

It's as bad as Ann Coulter's "is no one going to remark on what a great country it is where a mentally retarded woman can become speaker of the house"

But I do generally find Coulter's language and "style" to be far worse than President Obama's.

Anonymous said...

Too many people are trying to figure out where to blame Obama for things that he said that may or may not have been meant as taken. ..when they should be focused on the entire show where he came off as being great he did a fine job in explained the AIG situation and his defense of Geithner was to be applauded. I also thought that he came across as a regular guy when he said that his daughters Sasha and Malia would get their pet dog.

Lynne said...

Obama apologized. Others make no apology for their disgusting comments. (Coultergeist, Limpbaugh) Find me someone in the public eye who hasn't said at least ONE stupid thing. Seriously.

Shaw Kenawe said...

The Gray Headed Brother,

Mr. dmarks has commented 4 times already on what Mr. Obama said on the Jay Leno show last night and has tried to put him in the same category as Rush Limbaugh and now, Ann Coulter.

This is what Mr. Obama said:

Leno asked the president whether the White House bowling alley had been "burned and closed down" in light of Obama's gutter ball embarrassment on the campaign trail last year.

Obama replied, "No, no. I have been practicing . . . I bowled a 129."

The audience roared with laughter, and the late-night talk show host assured Obama "that's very good, Mr. President." To which Obama interjected, "It's like -- it was like Special Olympics, or something."

I've asked Mr. dmarks to find me other examples of Mr. Obama's insensitivity toward the Special Olympics program.

There aren't any.

Comparing that misstep to Limbaugh's and Coulter's years of documented racism and calumny is foolish.

dmarks said...

Not foolish to compare them, but cautionary. One instance of a Coulterish bigoted "joke" is not a pattern. Let's hope that the total stays at 1.

Arthurstone said...

dmarks typed:

'I am pleased to see that Arthurstone supports the dedication and mission of our volunteer armed forces.'

I don't. But if somebody gets excited about 'shooting terrorists' shot dead that's the career track.

Sadly we will be offering young men and women's lives up to the illusory goals (whatever they may be this week) in the 'GWOT for a good many years to come.

The cost of empire is high.

Shaw asked:

'Ronald Reagan called Martin Luther King "a near-Communist."

Did that make him a racist?'

Yes. It was yet another episode in an endless pattern right-wingers used in the 1950's and 1960's in an attempt to discredit the Civil Rights Movement.

As for Ronnie's other 'achievements' consider the 'State's rights' speech in 1980 in Philadelphia, MS kicking off his presidential campaign. 'Constructive engagement' with the Apartheid South African government. Opposition to the 1964 Civil Rights Act and the Farm Workers Union in California. 'Welfare Queens' driving Cadillacs? Support of Bob Jones University? 'Strapping young buck' using food stamps to buy steak in a grocery?

Etc. Etc.

Shaw Kenawe said...


QUICK! Your indignation is needed


I look forward to reading your outrage and ultimate take down on this conservative/libertarian Daphne's blog (she fancies herself a fabulous writer) and her bashing of Special Olympic participants.

Don't disappoint me.


Your forgot Reagan's famous quote that the Civil Rights Act was an insult to the south.

He need their votes, and he knew how to win them.

Arthurstone said...

Shaw pointed out:

'Your forgot Reagan's famous quote that the Civil Rights Act was an insult to the south.'

No sense hogging all the bandwidth.

The examples are endless.


dmarks said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
dmarks said...

Arthur: "The cost of empire is high."

Very true. Thankfuly, what you discussed has nothing to do with maintaining empire. We don't have one to maintain. But the cost of fighting against empires (such as Saddam Hussein's expansionist terrorist regime) can be high.

Also, I remember the welfare queens comment. As most people on welfare were white, how was this racist? Was there a photo that Reagan used that I never saw or something?

Shaw: That post was craptacular. And so was the "Tard" bashing commenter. I leave my indignation in this comment, rather than leave something in a blog I've never gone to before and likely will forget to go back to.

dmarks said...

Shaw: I do, though, get the impression that you think jokes like this are somehow OK, and that "indignation" should be reserved for racial jokes. Not for jokes that bash the disabled. Is that it? That one kind of bigotry is not as bad as the other? Or is it just because a "Can do no wrong" President made the joke?

Shaw Kenawe said...

Can we drop this now?

I've already said that it was an intemperate comment and stupid.

Mr. Obama has apologized and made some remark about supporting the Special Olympics--or so someone told me this morning.

In my opinion that remark was tasteless but not "bashing" the disabled.

The poster shown on Daphne's blog (I linked to it) is BASHING the Special Olympics AND the retarded.

For those of you too lazy to link to it, the poster shows a really cute Downs Syndrom child breaking through a tape at the end of a foot race. The message on the poster says:


Found on a conservative/libertarian blog.

There are some of your fellow travelers who apparently do not agree with you that Mr. Obama was bashing anyone. It appears they like that sort of humor.

Now can you just let it go?

I have work to do.

Anonymous said...

Well for what it's worth, I though this post was excellent.

Arthurstone said...

dmarks wondered:

'Also, I remember the welfare queens comment. As most people on welfare were white, how was this racist? Was there a photo that Reagan used that I never saw or something?'

A great many members of the Republican base are/were of the opinion the welfare roles were filled with healthy, able-bodied African-Americans scamming decent, hard-working middle class real Americans, that is Caucasians. It is a building block of post WWII Republican politics. And Dick Nixon, RR et. al. understood this in their DNA.

Most people not only do not know that the overwhelming majority of welfare recipients are white, they likewise don't know (or seemingly care) that a huge number are children.

TRUTH 101 said...

Were I a Special Olympian, I would be offended that President Obama thinks he bowls as well as I do. Stick with basketball Mr. President. Now join me in a patriotic rendition of Hail to the Chief Dmarks. That is if you love America sir.

dmarks said...

Truth: "Hail to the chief, he's the chief and he needs hailing, he is the chief so everybody hail like crazy"...

from "My Fellow Americans"

Arthurstone said...


Thanks for posting the New Yorker cover. Got mine in the mail today and it's a wonderful image. Perfectly captures Rush in all his bleating, breath holding, whining, tantrum-throwing glory.

Patrick M said...

Arthur: My time to enlist would have been in the 1990's. Had I come along a decade later (post 9/11) I might have considered it.

But that's not going to happen now. I've never been of a military mold.

Shaw: I said focusing on the administration (in general), not the torture issue specifically. That's your drum to beat.

As for my lack of concern for torturing and killing actual terrorists, it's based in an enemy that doesn't play by any rules and will use ours against us. That doesn't mean we need to torture every guy off the battlefield. Just shoot them. Save the torture when we want to make a point, like flying over the places where Bin Laden is supposedly hiding and drop defiled bodies.

I'd compare the terrorists to animals, but I respect animals. And yes, it's damned barbaric. But cheap thrills of revenge killing? No. It's a matter of winning.

Shaw Kenawe said...

Patrick wrote:

That doesn't mean we need to torture every guy off the battlefield. Just shoot them.

Save the torture when we want to make a point, like flying over the places where Bin Laden is supposedly hiding and drop defiled bodies.

I'd compare the terrorists to animals, but I respect animals. And yes, it's damned barbaric.

But cheap thrills of revenge killing? No. It's a matter of winning.

Sorry. But those comments do constitute advocating revenge killings.

Are we a nation of laws or of wild-assed vigilantes?

Cuz that's what you're talking about.

During WWII, the Japanese and the Germans committed unspeakable atrocities. We all know the barbarisms the Germans perpetrated on the European Jews and other ethnic groups.

And the Japanese were no better. Remember what they did to Pearl Harbor? The Battan Death March?

Both of our enemies during that war were ruthless murderers of not only our soldiers, but of civilians.

If you read your history you will see that it was not our country's policy to "just shoot them" [their soldiers] or torture them with impunity and drop their defiled bodies either on Berlin or Tokyo.

At Nuremburg, we tried war criminals and hanged the guilty for commiting the very crimes that you advocate as a way of winning the war on terrorism.

Dave Miller said...

Shaw, what we are hearing is the classic view that "might makes right."

dmarks said...

Arthur: Why didn't they do one of Rush in "terrorist" garb doing a fist-bump with Ann Coulter?

OpenMindedRepublican said...

Re WWII, the firebombing in Japan, and the general indiscriminate bombings of cities would probably have had our leaders up for war crimes if we had lost. It was a different time, in many ways the best that can be said about it is that we learned.

Regarding the post itself:
Regarding torture, the whole "What if torturing a suspect could have prevented 9/11?" question has always had a simple answer. If you are that certain that torturing someone will save lives, do what you have to, and then go to prison for it.

There are cases where it is necessary to break the law, any easy way to tell if it is really justified is to see if you are willing to pay the cost.

And before anyone asks, being right about saving lives is no excuse. Break the law, go to prison.

Time said...

I cannot agree with the idea that it's ok to do the crime as long as you are willing to do the time.

That's the ideology of gangsters and mafia.

There have been laws on the books for decades that torture and water boarding specifically are against the law.

The question is whether the President of the United States can override that law in time of war by simple Presidential decree.

The President takes an oath to uphold the Constitution and the laws of the United States as they are, not as he would want them to be.

The Congress passes the laws. If the President went to Congress and asked for this law to be rescinded because of the war, that would be the way to do it.

I hope the court will not find in favor of the Bush administration.

That would be dangerous for a country that uses elected representation to design its laws.

Arthurstone said...

dmarks wondered:

Arthur: Why didn't they do one of Rush in "terrorist" garb doing a fist-bump with Ann Coulter?

That theme has been done. And while they may bring Eustice Tilley back annually the editors always strive to keep the cover topical and fresh.

Besides, the cover captures the essence of Rush Limbaugh so perfectly it cannot be improved upon.