Sunday, December 30, 2007

World Can't Wait's January 2008 Statement

Seven years into the Bush administration, the conscience of the world is shocked by the crimes and destruction the American people have allowed to be carried out in our names: Iraq in ruins, torture codified, due process shredded, and the science of global warming suppressed as the future of the planet itself hangs in the balance. When, two years ago, we issued a Call to Drive Out the Bush Regime, even we did not anticipate the pace, cruelty and extremeness with which this program would advance and expand.

Today, impervious to the repeated pronouncements that he is a lame duck, George Bush is unrelenting in his determination to drive the savageness of his agenda into the next administration. If the consensus of the National Intelligence Estimate has put an unexpected road bump in Bush’s intent to conduct as many as 1,000 air strikes on Iran, it has also served to warn the public just how close we have come to another war predicated on a lie. Already the regime is redoubling its efforts to come up with new reasons to justify the outbreak of hostilities. This is still a president serene in his belief that he is on “God’s mission.” A war time president making use of unbridled executive power. A tyrant with his hands still on the levers of power.

Under the Military Commissions Act, passed by Congress in 2006, anyone the President decides to declare an enemy combatant can be disappeared into secret prisons without the right to know what crime he has been charged with and without the right to see his lawyer. And in this never-land where George Bush claims “We Do Not Torture” a detainee will be methodically robbed of his senses. He may be subjected to “stress positions” such as tying his arms behind his back and being strung from the top of a cage; he may subjected to electrical shocks, sexually degraded and deprived of sleep to the point where humans lose sanity. He may also be a she -- or as young as the 14-year-olds held in Guantanamo. The tapes destroyed by the C.I.A. document the commission of water-boarding and crimes against humanity.

The last seven years have also shown this to be true: There will be no savior from the Democratic Party. No "viable candidate" is calling for the immediate repeal of the Military Commissions Act or the Patriot Act. Clinton and Obama are not planning to dismantle the Department of Homeland Security’s domestic surveillance apparatus or the permanent U.S. military bases newly strung across the Middle East and Africa. The candidates for Commander-in-Chief are campaigning to better prosecute, not end, the so-called war on terror, a war promised to span generations. The election of 2008 will not be remembered for the candidate who campaigned to return the diaspora of black families displaced by natural disaster and criminal neglect back home to New Orleans. It is already remarkable for the regular bashing of immigrants.

There will be no pendulum swing when Democratic contenders join Republicans in lacing their speeches with professions of their faith, when Democrats seek common ground with religious fanatics who do not believe in evolution and want to see the church as state. There will be no pendulum swing when Democrats show tolerance for judicial nominees and “moral” agendas that are targeting the most fundamental rights of women to abortion and birth control for obliteration.

Official politics have proven to be a disaster. Your government does not want what you want and the Democratic nominee of 2008 will not speak for us.

THIS JANUARY join with us in mounting what has been gravely missing from political, ethical and cultural life in this country for the last 4 years – the voice of the people who refuse to be ruled in this way.

World Can’t Wait calls on all those who have shared a sense of collective outrage and shame - who would rise tomorrow if they believed there was a way to really change things - to do the only thing that is actually realistic. We can and must through mass political resistance create a political situation where this criminal regime is driven from office before their term is up - and the whole fascistic direction George Bush has been taking society is reversed. Only people highly mobilized and motivated by values that repudiate unjust war, bigotry and greed can bring the Bush agenda to a halt. Only the people who will not remain silent when their government tortures, terrorizes whole peoples and moves to quash dissent and critical thinking can change the course of history.

It’s up to us. We must show it or it doesn’t count. It begins with you taking personal responsibility to show how you feel and where you stand: wear orange daily, spread orange everywhere, protest and speak out in every way you can. As this orange resistance spreads to millions who represent the majority sentiment, Bush and Cheney's illegitimacy to rule will stand out vividly before the world.

This January the world needs to see that the people of this country rise to say NO to torture. Torture is a crime against humanity. Torture is an impeachable offense, ordered by the White House and still being sanctioned by Congress.

We Must Act Now - The Future Is In the Balance
The world can’t wait and it’s counting on You!
Drive Out the Bush Regime.

Friday, December 28, 2007

Scott Horton at Harper's: Did Bush Watch the Torture Tapes?

BY Scott Horton

PUBLISHED December 27, 2007

Did Bush Watch the Torture Tapes?

The Times (London) Washington correspondent, Sarah Baxter, reporting with a summary of the developments in the case involving the CIA’s destruction of recordings of the treatment of Abu Zabaydah, points to the growing belief in Washington that President Bush viewed the torture tapes. Baxter reports:

It emerged yesterday that the CIA had misled members of the 9-11 Commission by not disclosing the existence of the tapes, in potential violation of the law. President George W Bush said last week he could not recall learning about the tapes before being briefed about them on December 6 by Michael Hayden, the CIA director. “It looks increasingly as though the decision was made by the White House,” said Johnson. He believes it is “highly likely” that Bush saw one of the videos, as he was interested in Zubaydah’s case and received frequent updates on his interrogation from George Tenet, the CIA director at the time.

It has emerged that the CIA did preserve two videotapes and an audiotape of detainee interrogations conducted by a foreign government, which may have been relevant to the trial of Zacarias Moussaoui, the Al-Qaeda conspirator. The CIA told a federal judge in 2003 that no such recordings existed but has now retracted that testimony. One of the tapes could show the interrogation of Ramzi Binalshibh, a September 11 conspirator, who was allegedly handed to Jordan for questioning.

In this regards, the sequence of statements out of the White House is extremely revealing. It started with firm denials, then went silent and then pulled back rather sharply to a “President Bush has no present recollection of having seen the tapes.” This is a formulation frequently used to avoid perjury charges, a sort of way of saying “no” without really saying “no.” In between these statements, two more things unfolded that have a bearing on the question.

The New York Times squarely placed four White House lawyers in the middle of the decision about whether to destroy the tapes—Alberto Gonzales, David Addington, John Bellinger and Harriet Miers. It also reported that at least one of them was strongly advocating destruction. Suspicion immediately fell on the principle mover in support of torture, David Addington.

Second, John Kiriakou clarified his statements about the purpose for which the tapes were made. It was to brief higher ups about the process of the interrogation. Reports persist that one “higher-up” in particular had a special strong interest in knowing the details of the Abu Zubaydah case. His name is George W. Bush.

Are Bush’s denials that he has seen the torture tapes really credible? I don’t think so. And having seen them, the interest in their destruction would be equally fierce, which helps account for the involvement of the White House’s four most senior lawyers in the process. No doubt about it. The White House desperately wants to scapegoat some CIA people over this. (Laura Rozen’s article “Operation Stop Talking” is the best treatment so far of this phenomenon, which finds its best current expression in the effort to “get” John Kiriakou). But the trail leads to the White House, and that is clearly where the decision was taken. It will be interesting to see the techniques used by the Justice Department to obscure all of this. At this point, no one who’s tracked Justice Department antics over the past six years is anticipating anything but a crude cover-up.

Torture Lawyer’s Appointment Blocked

In 1946, the United States prosecuted two Justice Department lawyers for a peculiar crime. They had written memoranda which, in disregard of international law, facilitated the torture and abuse of prisoners. They were sentenced to ten years in prison, less time served. That was in the days when the Justice Department lived up to its name. The case is called United States v. Altstoetter. It would be a good case for Michael Mukasey to read; his underlings could benefit from a reading, too, since the time is approaching when it’s going to have some direct impact in their own lives.

In George Bush’s America, however, lawyers who specialize in making torture and abuse possible are promoted. Indeed, they become attorney general and get appointed to Court of Appeals judgeships. And one of the key figures in this disgraceful saga is Steven Bradbury, the “acting” head of the Office of Legal Counsel. Many senators demanded that Michael B. Mukasey withdraw his nomination to head the office after it was learned that he had issued memoranda enabling waterboarding and other torture practices. In fact, it was later learned that Bradbury was brought into the job in a rush when his predecessor, Daniel Levin, started exploring the need to impose limits on waterboarding. Levin was fired so that Bradbury could come in and confirm that under Bush torutre knows no limits.

However, Mukasey’s decision to wink at the process of torture and abuse is nowhere more evident than in his decision to proceed with the promotion of one of the prime torture lawyers, Bradbury. President Bush was prepared to use his recess appointment power to reward Bradbury with an order which would take away the word “acting” and make his position permanent—within the time limits of the recess appointment.

But the Senate figured this out, and by convening every day, it has blocked the appointment. As the Associated Press’s Laurie Kellman reports:

A nine-second session gaveled in and out by Sen. Jim Webb, D-Va., prevented Bush from appointing as an assistant attorney general a nominee roundly rejected by majority Democrats. Without the pro forma session, the Senate would be technically adjourned, allowing the president to install officials without Senate confirmation.

Bravo for the Senate.

Remembering those in Need

On Christmas Day, the superscript in the New York Times read, just as it has read for a century: “It’s Christmas Day. Remember the Neediest!” And on St. Stephen’s Day, as Christmas continued, the editors of the Times did exactly that. They authored an editorial addressing the rotting cesspool of a Justice Department that the Bush Administration has created, and all the unfinished business which Congress must pick up in the coming year. And right at the top of the list was this:

There is evidence of impropriety in several recent prosecutions, including that of Don Siegelman, a former governor of Alabama who is serving a lengthy prison sentence. Mr. Mukasey needs to investigate Mr. Siegelman’s case and others that have been called into question to ensure that no one was wrongly put in jail by his department, and that anyone who acted improperly is held accountable.

The integrity of the Justice Department is precious. The fair application of the law is the cornerstone of American justice and American democracy. A halfway resolution of this scandal is not enough. It needs to be investigated vigorously and completely.

The fact is, since coming to office six weeks ago, Michael Mukasey has not lifted a finger to address the egregious abuses that led to the false charges brought against Governor Siegelman and the corrupt process by which he was convicted. This continues to stain the Department of Justice. And, as we will soon be exploring in greater detail, the Justice Department continues to cover up, make apologies for the gross misconduct of those involved in the Siegelman case and to obstruct a proper investigation of prosecutorial misconduct by Congress. This scandal continues to fester, and the New Year must bring a renewed effort to secure justice and to punish those who perpetrated this abuse.

10 Myths About Iraq

American mainstream media coverage from Iraq remains pathetic. It’s heavily skewed by politics, which is to say, it doesn’t cover things in Iraq as they are. Rather it presents the vision of Iraq emanating from political leaders in the United States—from the White House and from Congress. In both cases, this vision reflects 90% political aspirations and interests and 10% reality. Shouldn’t the media be reporting on the facts on the ground rather than the politics in Washington?

Also those facts on the ground consist not just of the U.S. forces performing their mission, they include the complex political situation in the country as well. That’s the vastly more important story that regularly gets swept under the carpet because it’s “too complicated.” Complicated enough to warrant the expenditure of American lives and treasure, of course.

So what’s the remedy? I’d start with Juan Cole’s Informed Comment, still the indispensable supplement—and the best way to get a peek at the eyes and ears of the local and regional press, all within fifteen minutes. His posting yesterday is really superior—it’s Ten Myths About Iraq. And here’s a snippet:

Myth: The US public no longer sees Iraq as a central issue in the 2008 presidential campaign.
Fact: In a recent ABC News/ Washington Post poll, Iraq and the economy were virtually tied among voters nationally, with nearly a quarter of voters in each case saying it was their number one issue. The economy had become more important to them than in previous months (in November only 14% said it was their most pressing concern), but Iraq still rivals it as an issue!

Myth: There have been steps toward religious and political reconciliation in Iraq in 2007.
Fact: The government of Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki has for the moment lost the support of the Sunni Arabs in parliament. The Sunnis in his cabinet have resigned. Even some Shiite parties have abandoned the government. Sunni Arabs, who are aware that under his government Sunnis have largely been ethnically cleansed from Baghdad, see al-Maliki as a sectarian politician uninterested in the welfare of Sunnis.

Myth: The US troop surge stopped the civil war that had been raging between Sunni Arabs and Shiites in the Iraqi capital of Baghdad.
Fact: The civil war in Baghdad escalated during the US troop escalation. Between January, 2007, and July, 2007, Baghdad went from 65% Shiite to 75% Shiite. UN polling among Iraqi refugees in Syria suggests that 78% are from Baghdad and that nearly a million refugees relocated to Syria from Iraq in 2007 alone. This data suggests that over 700,000 residents of Baghdad have fled this city of 6 million during the US ’surge,’ or more than 10 percent of the capital’s population. Among the primary effects of the ’surge’ has been to turn Baghdad into an overwhelmingly Shiite city and to displace hundreds of thousands of Iraqis from the capital.

In Pakistan, The Meltdown Begins

News is now breaking about the attempt to assassinate Nawaz Sharif and the assassination of Benazir Bhutto in Rawalpindi. Most Pakistan observers I have been speaking with envision a dramatic further deterioration in Pakistan, largely the result of Musharraf’s decision to trash restructuring plans in favor of military rule. The assassination of Bhutto, whose Pakistan People’s Party had the loyalty and support of the nation’s aspiring middle class, is a tragic development and it presages still more instability. Condoleeza Rice and her senior advisors correctly understood that forcing Bhutto into a marriage of convenience with Musharraf was the only available tactic that would shore up and legitimize the general’s rule. Unfortunately they acted too late on this, and in the end their resolve was characteristically weak. Musharraf saw the writing on the wall, and he recognized that the real say in the Cheney Shogunate is held by Dick Cheney, not Condi Rice. So Musharraf welched on his promises and sent Pakistan spiraling down the maelstrom in which it now finds itself. This is more bitter fruit from America’s grossly mismanaged foreign policy in the age of Bush. More to come.

Tyger, Tyger Burning Bright

So back to that question that every English student asked back in college: how does a tiger “burn bright”? Was this the delusional Blake? The man who gave us the “doors of perception”? Maybe. The conventional interpretation was, of course, to juxtapose this poem against “The Lamb,” and speak of evil and innocence. But that sounds like an Anglican minister, not like William Blake. Were he to use the images this way, it would be with a mocking tone. No, I’d say that what “burns bright” in the tiger is the unrestrained force of nature. And if we have to search for meaning in this poem, there is a work that holds it in philosophical terms as beautifully as Blake expressed it in the poetic. It’s one of my favorite works of Edmund Burke, in fact—a work that is often overlooked or shunted aside as some curious artifact of the theory of aesthetics. But in its way, it’s every bit as important as the Reflections and perhaps even more relevant to our times and challenges. When the young Burke wrote his Philosophical Enquiry into the Origin of Our Ideas of the Sublime and Beautiful, in 1757, he was testing the boundaries of Enlightenment thought and pointing the way to the age of Romanticism. His work is about how we appreciate art and nature, how we come to call something “beautiful,” but it’s also about social and political interaction. When is humankind moved by terror and what causes this to happen? And how can this be manipulated by those who study human emotion and want to use it to enslave, rather than to liberate the human animal? (This he calls the essence of the “Oriental” mind, but as so often the case, “Oriental” is probably just a mask for something much closer to home.) “Terror is in all cases whatsoever, either more openly or latently, the ruling principle of the sublime.” Why? “Whatever is fitted in any sort to excite the ideas of pain, and danger, that is to say, whatever is in any sort terrible, or is conversant about terrible objects, or operates in a manner analogous to terror, is a source of the sublime; that is, it is productive of the strongest emotion which the mind is capable of feeling.” This notion of terror exists in objects all about us all the time, though we may seek to domesticate them, to render them harmless to us. “We have continually about us animals of a strength that is considerable, but not pernicious. Amongst these we never look for the sublime: it comes upon us in the gloomy forest, and in the howling wilderness, in the form of the lion, the tiger, the panther, or rhinoceros.”

And with this in mind, read Blake’s “Tyger” and see the point well encapsulated. The tiger is a powerful image for the human psyche and our perceptions of the world.

And so is the tragic tale we unfold in today’s paper of the last minutes of life and death of the Siberian tiger Tatiana, and her human prey, in the San Francisco Zoo yesterday. Tatiana killed. But did she do wrong? She acted according to the force of her nature. Tatiana truly “burned bright”—she did as her nature would have her do—it meant terror for men. Blake’s tiger is the raw force of nature, brutal, amoral, terrorizing, but also capable of illuminating those who understand her way and behavior without becoming blindly panicked in the face of them. Blake’s poem is about terror, but not simply experiencing it—it is about the need to surmount fear, to achieve mastery of it. And for America in the closing days of 2007, is there a lesson more essential than this?

Navy JAG Resigns Over Torture Issue

Knight Ridder 12/27/07

"It was with sadness that I signed my name this grey morning to a letter resigning my commission in the U.S. Navy," wrote Gig Harbor, Wash., resident and attorney-at-law Andrew Williams in a letter to The Peninsula Gateway last week. "There was a time when I served with pride ... Sadly, no more."

Williams' sadness stems from the recent CIA videotape scandal in which tapes showing secret interrogations of two Al Qaeda operatives were destroyed.

The tapes may have contained evidence that the U.S. government used a type of torture known as waterboarding to obtain information from suspected terrorists.

Torture, including water-boarding, is prohibited under the treaties of the Geneva Convention.

It was in the much-publicized interview two weeks ago between Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-South Carolina) and Brig. Gen. Thomas Hartmann, who is the chief legal adviser at the Pentagon's Office of Military Commissions, that led Williams to resign.

In the interview, Graham asked Hartmann how the uniformed legal community should respond if the Iranian government used waterboarding to torture a U.S. solider into disclosing when the next U.S. military operation would occur.

Hartmann responded: "I am not prepared to answer that question."

For Williams, a former naval Lieutenant Commander and member of the Judge Advocate General's Corps (JAG), this answer went against "every training I had as an attorney" and as a member of the military.

Williams enlisted in the Navy in 1991 after completing law school at Santa Clara University. He was a legal officer and defense counsel in the U.S. Navy, meaning he both prosecuted and defended people in military courts.

He served on the USS Nimitz CVN-68, based in Bremerton, before becoming a member of the Naval reserves in 1995.

Williams, 43, felt that Hartmann was admitting torture is now an acceptable interrogation technique in the United States -- an admission that did not sit well with him.

"There was this saying in the Marines: 'We don't lie, cheat or steal, or tolerate people who do,' " Williams said. "And that sort of echoed through the Navy."

Williams felt that resigning from the reserves was not enough to demonstrate his dissatisfaction. He wrote to the Gateway hoping to set an example, echoing his same reason for joining the Navy two decades ago: "It was my way of serving the public," he said.

In his letter, Williams likened the use of torture by the United States to techniques used by the Spanish Inquisition, Nazi Germany and the Khmer Rouge. He also wrote that he hopes "the truth about torture, illegal spying on Americans and secret renditions is coming out."

Williams doubts that much will come of his letter of resignation and acknowledges that his life in Gig Harbor -- which consists of practicing personal injury law and spending time with wife and young son -- will not change much.

"I suspect (the Navy is) probably going to be fine with it," he said. "I doubt they would keep me in voluntarily."

He also states that, although reserve officers only perform military service once a year, he "probably would have stayed on if this hadn't happened, both for sentimental value and if something big happened where I was needed."

Outrage over CIA scandal

Below is an excerpt from the letter Andrew Williams submitted to The Peninsula Gateway. For the entire letter, see Letters to the Editor 16A.

"Thank you General Hartmann for finally admitting the United States is now part of a long tradition of torturers going back to the Inquisition. In the middle ages the Inquisition called waterboarding "toca" and used it with great success. In colonial times, it was used by the Dutch East India Company during the Amboyna Massacre of 1623.

"Waterboarding was used by the Nazi Gestapo and the feared Japanese Kempeitai. In World War II, our grandfathers had the wisdom to convict Japanese Officer Yukio Asano of waterboarding and other torture practices in 1947 giving him 15 years hard labor. Waterboarding was practiced by the Khmer Rouge at the infamous Tuol Sleng prison. Most recently, the United States Army court martialed a soldier for the practice in 1968 during the Vietnam conflict."

Sound Off...What do you think? Join the discussion.

Thursday, December 27, 2007

Benazir Bhutto and the Worst Laid Plans

Pakistan, as Parry points out below, is the central front, not Iraq. I would go even further than that: Pakistan reflects and concentrates the centrifugal forces that are threatening to blow the world apart. When Benazir Bhutto, who I had a passing relationship with at Harvard/Radcliffe (as in - she lived on my floor, her nickname being "Pinky"), was interviewed on NPR shortly before returning to Pakistan on this last, fatal, journey, it was clear that she had been in talks with the Bush White House and that Bush et al were hoping that she would be able to get Musharaff to give up at least some of his powers.

She, in turn, was obviously hoping that she could draw upon the U.S.'s backing and blessings to help get her back into power. She and the U.S. both underestimated both Musharaff and the fundamentalist forces in Pakistan. (While it obviously could have been these latter forces who assassinated her, it certainly benefits Musharaff that she's out of the way, and it should be pointed out that on the same day a violent attack was launched on the other presidential contender, Nawaz Sharif. So Musharaff shouldn't be ruled out as the perpetrator, or at a minimum, he left Bhutto open to assassination by not providing more security).

The notion that Bhutto would be able to successfully crack down on the Islamic militants and protect Pakistan's nukes from getting into their hands was certainly folly from the get. The mutually reinforcing and murderous de facto alliance between al-Qaeda (and its clones) and the Bush regime is what is creating the dynamite that threatens the world. It's as if Bush et al have mounted a tiger that they are constantly poking in the eye and trying to control.

What Bhutto seems to have not grasped (or perhaps fatally underestimated) is how "political power grows out of the barrel of a gun," as Mao put it epigrammatically.

Pakistan Is 'Central Front,' Not Iraq

By Robert Parry
December 28, 2007

The chaos spreading across nuclear-armed Pakistan after the assassination of former Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto is part of the price for the Bush administration’s duplicity about al-Qaeda’s priorities, including the old canard that the terrorist group regards Iraq as the “central front” in its global war against the West.

Through repetition of this claim – often accompanied by George W. Bush’s home-spun advice about the need to listen to what the enemy says – millions of Americans believe that Osama bin Laden and other al-Qaeda leaders consider Iraq the key battlefield.

However, intelligence evidence, gathered from intercepted al-Qaeda communications, indicate that bin Laden’s high command views Iraq as a valuable diversion for U.S. military strength, not the “central front.”

For instance, as the Iraq War was heating up in 2005, a letter attributed to al-Qaeda’s second-in-command Ayman al-Zawahiri asked if the embattled al-Qaeda operatives in Iraq might be able to spare $100,000 to relieve a cash squeeze facing the group’s top leaders in hiding, presumably inside Pakistan near the Afghan border.

Instead of money going from Pakistan to Iraq, the cash was flowing the opposite way. U.S. intelligence analysts recognized that this was not the way one would normally treat a “central front.” [See’s “Al-Qaeda’s Fragile Foothold.”]

In another captured letter sent to Jordanian terrorist Musab al-Zarqawi before his death in June 2006, a top aide to bin Laden known as “Atiyah” upbraided Zarqawi for his reckless, hasty actions inside Iraq.

The message from Atiyah, who is believed to be a Libyan named Atiyah Abd al-Rahman, emphasized the need for Zarqawi to operate more deliberately in order to build political strength and drag out the U.S. occupation. “Prolonging the war is in our interest,” Atiyah told Zarqawi.

[To view this excerpt in a translation published by the Combating Terrorism Center at West Point, click here. To read the entire letter, click here. ]

So, instead of seeking a quick ouster of U.S. forces from Iraq and using it as a base for launching a global jihad – as Bush and his supporters claim – al-Qaeda actually saw its strategic goals advanced by keeping the United States bogged down in Iraq.

To some U.S. analysts, the logic was obvious: “prolonging” the Iraq War bought al-Qaeda time to rebuild its infrastructure in Pakistan, where the Islamic fundamentalist extremists have long had sympathizers inside the Pakistani intelligence services dating back to the CIA’s war in Afghanistan in the 1980s.

Charlie Wilson’s Blowback

That CIA war, lionized in the new movie “Charlie Wilson’s War,” funneled billions of dollars in U.S. covert money and weapons through Pakistani intelligence to Afghan warlords and to Arab jihadists who had flocked to Afghanistan to drive out the Russian infidels. One of those young jihadists was a wealthy Saudi named Osama bin Laden.

While relying on Pakistani intelligence to assist the Afghan rebels, the Reagan administration also averted its eyes from Pakistan’s clandestine development of nuclear weapons, an apparent trade-off for Pakistan’s help in giving the Soviet bear a bloody nose in Afghanistan. [For details, see Robert Parry’s Secrecy & Privilege.]

After the Soviets withdrew in 1989, the war dragged on, with a triumphant United States unwilling to broker a deal with the secular Afghan government that the Soviets left behind. George H.W. Bush’s administration wanted these “Soviet puppets” dragged from their offices and killed (as some eventually were), replaced by the CIA-backed Islamic fundamentalists.

Then, in 1990, the alliances began to shift. U.S. military bases inside Saudi Arabia, which were established for driving Iraqi forces out of Kuwait, offended bin Laden and alienated him from his patrons in the Saudi royal family.

When the U.S. bases remained after the liberation of Kuwait in 1991, bin Laden began to view his old American allies as another band of infidels encroaching on Muslim lands. So, bin Laden’s fellow jihadists in Afghanistan shifted their sights onto a new enemy and developed a new organization known as “the base,” or al-Qaeda.

For obvious reasons, the Bush administration has sought to blur this complicated history for the American people. It takes some of the shine off the glorious Cold War victories of Ronald Reagan and George H.W. Bush.

Dark Backdrop

But this shadow struggle at the end of the Cold War was the backdrop for the 9/11 attacks, which in turn led to Bush’s invasion of Afghanistan, ousting bin Laden and his fundamentalist Taliban allies, but failing to catch bin Laden, Zawahiri and other key leaders.

Then, rather than finishing the job in Afghanistan, Bush made an abrupt detour into Iraq, a decision rife with settling old scores and other unspoken justifications, but which Bush sold to the American public as necessary because Iraq’s secular dictator Saddam Hussein was in league with the fundamentalist bin Laden and might give him WMDs.

When that justification proved false and a stubborn Iraqi insurgency emerged to challenge the U.S. occupation, Bush initially presented the resistance as an al-Qaeda offshoot operating under bin Laden’s control.

Again, U.S. intelligence saw a different problem: Sunni and Shiite Iraqis contesting the American presence and competing for dominance with each other, while a violent smattering of foreign jihadists like Zarqawi tried to insinuate themselves into the Sunni faction and spread havoc.

Though Bush eventually acknowledged that most of Iraqi resistance was homegrown, he still asserted that al-Qaeda planned to use Iraq as the launching pad for a global “caliphate” from Spain to Indonesia, another alarmist claim that scared some Americans into backing Bush’s war policies.

“This caliphate would be a totalitarian Islamic empire encompassing all current and former Muslim lands, stretching from Europe to North Africa, the Middle East, and Southeast Asia,” Bush said in a typical reference to this claim in a Sept. 5, 2006, speech. “We know this because al-Qaeda has told us.”

But many analysts saw Bush’s nightmarish scenario as preposterous, given the deep divisions within the Islamic world and the hostility that many Muslims feel toward al-Qaeda, including its recent much-heralded rejection by more moderate Iraqi Sunnis in Anbar province.

Also, according to a National Intelligence Estimate representing the consensus view of the U.S. intelligence community in April 2006, “the global jihadist movement is decentralized, lacks a coherent global strategy, and is becoming more diffuse.” [Emphasis added.]

The NIE also concluded that the Iraq War – rather than weakening the cause of Islamic terrorism – had become a “cause celebre” that was “cultivating supporters for the global jihadist movement.”

The grinding Iraq War – now nearing its fifth year – also prevented the United States from arraying sufficient military and intelligence resources against the reorganized al-Qaeda infrastructure in Pakistan and the rebuilt Taliban army reasserting itself in Afghanistan.

Hopes Dashed

So, when the Bush administration supported former Prime Minister Bhutto’s return to Pakistan in October 2007, the wishful thinking was that she could somehow energize the more moderate elements of Pakistani politics and marginalize the Islamic extremists.

But the overstretched U.S. military and intelligence services could do little in helping to protect Bhutto beyond hectoring Pakistan’s President Pervez Musharraf to give his political rival more security. Musharraf, who himself has dodged multiple assassination attempts, either couldn’t or wouldn’t ensure Bhutto’s safety.

Now, with Bhutto’s death and with unrest sweeping Pakistan, Bush’s Iraq War backers are sure to argue that these developments again prove the president right, that an even firmer hand is needed to combat terrorism and that the next president must be someone ready to press ahead with Bush’s concept of a “long war” against Islamic extremism.

But the reality again appears different. Though rarely mentioned in the American press, the evidence is that bin Laden and other extremists have cleverly played off Bush’s arrogance and belligerence to strengthen their strategic hand within the Muslim world.

By keeping Bush focused on Iraq, al-Qaeda and its allies also bought time to transform themselves into a more lethal threat in Pakistan, with the danger that the new turmoil could win al-Qaeda its ultimate prize, control of a nuclear bomb. [For more on this history, see our new book Neck Deep.]

Monday, December 24, 2007

The Holiday Spirit

In today's NYT's article on the growth of "shopdropping" (reverse shoplifting) is this gem from a corporate spokesperson who's upset about the shopdropping from consumerism/capitalism critics: “'Our goal at all times is to provide comfortable and distraction-free shopping,' said Bethany Zucco, a spokeswoman for Target."

Distraction-free? As in: we cannot allow you to be distracted from anything other than consumerism. We need you to focus now. Concentrate. Buy. Buy. Buy our stuff. Buy our stuff. Repeat after me: BUY OUR STUFF.

Friday, December 21, 2007

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Chertoff Concealed Role in Tape Destruction

Chertoff Concealed Role in Tape Destruction
By Jason Leopold
t r u t h o u t | Report

Wednesday 19 December 2007

Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff advised the CIA between 2002 and 2003 that its agents had the legal authority to use techniques that included waterboarding on one of the agency's so-called "high level detainees," according to a little-known report published in January 2005.

That interrogation was videotaped and the tape later was destroyed.

Chertoff was head of the Justice Department's Criminal Division when CIA officials inquired whether its agents could be charged with violating the federal anti-torture statute for employing interrogation methods such as waterboarding. The tactic is intended to make detainees feel as if they are drowning.

"The CIA was seeking to determine the legal limits of interrogation practices for use in cases like that of Abu Zubaydah, the Qaeda lieutenant who was captured in March 2002," says a January 29, 2005, New York Times story. That story quoted unnamed sources who told the newspaper that "Chertoff was directly involved in these discussions, in effect evaluating the legality of techniques proposed by the CIA by advising the agency whether its employees could go ahead with proposed interrogation methods without fear of prosecution."

During his Senate confirmation hearing in February 2005, Chertoff maintained that he provided the CIA broad guidance in response to its questions about interrogation methods and never specifically addressed the legality regarding waterboarding or other techniques.

However, Chertoff, according to intelligence sources who spoke to Truthout, told former CIA General Counsel Scott Muller and his deputy, John Rizzo, that an August 1, 2002, memo widely referred to as the "Torture Memo" put the CIA on solid legal ground and that its agents could waterboard a prisoner without fear of prosecution. The memo was written by former Justice Department attorney John Yoo.

Yoo's memo said that Congress "may no more regulate the President's ability to detain and interrogate enemy combatants than it may regulate his ability to direct troop movements on the battlefield."

The videotaped interrogations were destroyed in November 2005, after The Washington Post published a story that first exposed the CIA's use of so-called "black site" prisons overseas to interrogate terror suspects, using techniques that were not legal on US soil. The Post's story discussed Abu Zubaydah and the harsh methods the CIA used when questioning detainees. However, it's unknown whether the Post's story directly led to the destruction of the videotapes.

An intelligence official told Truthout that the CIA's Muller and Rizzo feared that the Justice Department's issuance of a new legal opinion defining torture in broader terms than Yoo's August 2002 memo would expose its agents - specifically those who interrogated Abu Zubaydah - to prosecution and so Rizzo had approved the destruction of the videotapes. That reported approval followed publication of The Washington Post story exposing the CIA's secret prisons, and the new legal opinion defining torture. Last week, The Times reported, however, that Rizzo did not give a top spy in the agency's clandestine division final approval to destroy the videotapes. Whether Rizzo did or did not approve destruction of the videotapes is one of the questions Congress said it was determined to get answers to.

Rizzo, a 30-year veteran of the CIA, is now the agency's acting general counsel. Congress has requested Rizzo to testify before a Congressional committee investigating the videotapes' destruction. However, the Bush administration is blocking Rizzo from testifying. In September, members of the Senate Intelligence Committee requested that Rizzo be withdrawn as the administration's pick to lead the CIA's legal department, on grounds that he was a strong supporter of the White House's so-called "enhanced interrogation methods." Those methods include waterboarding, which has been described as torture by human rights groups.

At his confirmation hearing in 2005, Chertoff claims he did not advise Rizzo or Muller on the legality of specific methods agents used during their interrogation of Abu Zubaydah. Rather, he said, he answered general questions the CIA had posed about interrogations.

"You are dealing in an area where there is potential criminality," Chertoff said he told the agency. "You better be very careful to make sure that whatever you decide to do falls well within what is required by law."

The Times reported that Rizzo did not give final approval to destruction of the videotaped interrogations.

A spokesman for Chertoff said the Homeland Security secretary would not comment on his previous role in advising the CIA on its interrogation methods.

Two weeks ago, The New York Times revealed that the CIA videotaped its agents waterboarding Zubaydah and another detainee at secret prison sites as a result of the July 2002 meeting at the White House. Those videotapes were destroyed in 2005 and are now at the center of yet another scandal that has engulfed the Bush administration.

The Justice Department's Office of Professional Responsibility launched an internal probe in late 2004 to determine whether one of two "torture" memos drafted by Yoo's office at the DOJ was unethical and opened the door to legal challenge. The details of that probe have not been disclosed. A DOJ spokesman would not respond to specific questions regarding the issue. The agency is required to turn over to the attorney general an annual report of its activities and internal probes. However, OPR has not posted on its website a copy of its annual report on its website since 2004, and the spokesman for the agency would not say whether the agency has submitted reports for the past three years or whether the findings of its probe into Yoo's "Torture Memo" were included in its fiscal year 2005 report, nor would the spokesperson provide Truthout with a copy.

The Capture and Interrogation

Zubaydah was captured in Pakistan on March 28, 2002, and whisked to a secret prison site in Thailand for interrogation, according to published reports.

During the early stages of his interrogation, Zubaydah was somewhat cooperative. Later he became tight-lipped when questioned about alleged terrorist plots against the United States and the whereabouts of other high-level associates of al-Qaeda.

In July 2002, a meeting was convened at the White House, where former White House counsel Alberto Gonzales, Justice Department attorney John Yoo, Vice President Dick Cheney, Cheney's attorney David Addington, and unknown CIA officials discussed whether the CIA could interrogate Zubaydah more aggressively in order to get him to respond to questions.

It was at this July 2002 meeting where Yoo, Gonzales and Addington gave the CIA the green light to use a wide variety of techniques, including waterboarding, on Zubaydah and other detainees at several secret prisons to "break" them and force them to cooperate with interrogators, according to an account published in Newsweek in late December 2003. Less than a month after the meeting, on August 1, 2002, Yoo drafted a memo to Gonzales that was signed by Jay Bybee, the assistant attorney general at the time. That memo declared that President Bush had the legal authority to allow CIA interrogators to employ harsh tactics to extract information from detainees. Human rights organizations and Democratic and Republican lawmakers have characterized the methods outlined in the Yoo memo as torture.

In his book "The One Percent Doctrine," author Ron Suskind said Zubaydah was not the "high value detainee" the CIA had claimed. Rather, Zubaydah was a minor player in the al-Qaeda organization, handling travel for associates and their families, Suskind says.

Abu Zubaydah's captors soon discovered that their prisoner was mentally ill and knew nothing about terrorist operations or impending plots. That realization was "echoed at the top of CIA and was, of course, briefed to the President and Vice President," Suskind writes.

But Bush portrayed Zubaydah as "one of the top operatives plotting and planning death and destruction on the United States.

"And, so, the CIA used an alternative set of procedures" to get Zubaydah to talk, Bush said in the spring of 2002, after Zubaydah was captured.

Suskind writes that Zubaydah became one of the first prisoners in the wake of 9/11 to undergo some of the harshest interrogation methods at the hands of American intelligence officials.

Suskind says that, despite the fact that Bush was briefed by the CIA about Zubaydah's low-level al-Qaeda status, the president did not want to "lose face" because he had stated his importance publicly.

"Bush was fixated on how to get Zubaydah to tell us the truth," Suskind writes. Bush questioned one CIA briefer, "Do some of these harsh methods really work?"

Zubaydah was strapped to a waterboard and, fearing imminent death, he spoke about a wide range of plots against a number of US targets, such as shopping malls, the Brooklyn Bridge and the Statue of Liberty. Yet, Suskind writes, the information Zubaydah had provided under duress was not credible.

Still, that did not stop "thousands of uniformed men and women [who] raced in a panic to each ... target." And so, Suskind writes, "the United States would torture a mentally disturbed man and then leap, screaming, at every word he uttered."

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

On the Question of Legitimacy and Leadership

The essence of the Declare It Now: Wear Orange campaign is not that it's a color accessory. It's that it's a concrete manifestation of millions taking a public, daily political stand, openly taking the moral high road against the moral monsters in charge, and calling on others to do the same. It's an open challenge to the government's legitimacy to rule as it is.

It's a simple act powerful in its symbolism. It is individuals saying: "Here I stand. I can, in good conscience, do no other." It is millions of people taking personal responsibility to act, no longer waiting and waiting and waiting for someone else like the Democrats or the New York Times or CNN to do what must be done. It's people who have had it with complaining about why other people aren't acting and deciding that they will break the ice themselves and act, paving the way for others to do likewise. It's people recapturing and owning the power of the people and no longer relinquishing that power to others who are not fit to wield it.

Governments rule through two means: their ability to force people to do what they want them to do (coercion) and their legitimacy in the eyes of the people. While coercion is a government's ultimate argument - its last, unarguable argument - a government that relies mainly on coercion is a government that will not last long, for there aren't enough gendarmes and dungeons to hold the people who won't comply except at the point of a muzzle. Legitimacy is what keeps governments going. It's what keeps most of the people abiding. If enough people openly challenge a government's legitimacy, that government will surely fall. The GOP and the Democratic Leadership are in charge only as long as the fact that the majority of Americans want the war to end and oppose torture and tyranny isn't being openly expressed in a day-to-day way. Our government can only continue to do the morally monstrous things that they are doing hour by hour as long as the people remain politically paralyzed and continue to be political spectators. What millions wearing orange - and carrying out a multitude of other additional forms of resistance - would signify is that the government is not legitimate in their eyes. Undermining their legitimacy on this level and to that extent would have dramatic repercussions. We the people have a tremendous amount of power if we choose to use it.

Some people mistakenly think that the government could just crack down on all the people wearing orange and that would be that. The people as a whole would be silenced and the government would be able to carry on with their nasty deeds and plans. What that view misses is that if the government does crack down that way, this would also stir much wider and determined resistance to them and strip away the mantle of legitimacy from their actions that many people STILL feel. It would expose the government's illegitimacy and make their use of force illegitimate in the eyes of many and growing numbers of people. It would spell the government's eventual and likely not too distant end.

If it becomes clear that a majority of people don't see them as legitimate - clear in a public and explicit and unmistakable way - then the government is in grave danger of being toppled through a number of different ways - forced resignations, impeachment, conviction, constitutional crisis, etc. A majority of people want to see Bush and Cheney gone, but that majority sentiment isn't being expressed in a way that can create this situation. If 1% of the people, 3 million, were daily wearing orange two things would happen. First, it would lead to many others doing the same and those people would represent the majority sentiment and thereby drastically change the political atmosphere. Fox News, our government and their henchman would have to deal daily with powerful opposition to their lies. Second, wearing/displaying orange would foster and mutually reinforce other forms of resistance and rebellion. It would hearten the people who now feel isolated and alone and reveal that a majority want to get rid of this regime.

To effectively take on these moral monsters a competing, legitimate authority/leadership has to step forward. Millions wearing orange is a necessary and very practical way for that to happen. The people who step forward are in so doing altering the political equation. The current government is extremely vulnerable to being exposed as immoral and monstrous because of their deeds - torture, spying, lying, etc. But the means to truly expose the government for their horrid actions and to rally the people against them has not up to now been found. DIN/333 offers us this means. DIN and 333 are critical because they provide a vehicle for the millions who despise what's going on to show it and to become a material force.

Saturday, December 15, 2007

An International Day of Action to Shut Down Guantanamo

From Witness Against Torture, Amnesty International, and the National Religious Campaign Against Torture:

"Immediately close the detention center at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba,
and either release its inmates or bring them before an impartial tribunal."
— United Nations Human Rights Commission


We declare January 11, 2008, six years after the first prisoners arrived at Guantanamo, an International Day of Action to Shut Down Guantánamo. In Washington, DC we will hold a permitted demonstration at the National Mall followed by an orange jumpsuit procession to the Supreme Court. There will also be solidarity demonstrations in Chicago, Miami, London and Paris, with more being added every day. We invite you to come to Washington and participate, or else join or plan an action in your own community. We also encourage people around the world to wear orange t-shirts, armbands or other orange clothing on January 11th to mark the date.


Friday, January 11, 11:00am. (National Mall).

The day involves several elements:
Demonstration at the National Mall. Witness Against Torture has teamed up with Amnesty International and the National Religious Campaign Against Torture to hold a permitted demonstration on the National Mall at 11:00am. (Exact location TBA.)

“Prisoners of Guantánamo March.” Hundreds marched in last year's procession
A provocative street theater performance involving people wearing orange jump suits and black hoods. We will march from the National Mall to the Supreme Court in an orderly silent procession hauntingly evoking the moral disgrace that is Guantánamo. With your help, we will form a prisoner contingent including as many protesters as there are prisoners.

Funeral Ceremony at the Supreme Court. Following the procession to the Supreme Court, we will hold a Funeral Ceremony to remember the four men who died in custody at Guantánamo and to mourn the death of Habeas Corpus. Like last year, some may choose to risk arrest. To participate, please consider attending an orientation meeting on Thursday, 4pm, at St. Stephen and the Incarnation Church (1525 Newton Street, NW) or come early to the National Mall for an orientation and rehearsal at 10:00am. Please let us know in advance if you are willing to participate in either the Prisoners Contingent, Nonviolent Direct Action, or both. Email or call Matt Daloisio at 201-264-4424.
For up-to-date details as well as information about housing, food, rides and directions, legal support and much more, please visit our web site at


Wherever you are on January 11th, we encourage you to wear orange to raise public awareness and strengthen the movement to demand an end to torture and indefinite detention. Consider wearing one of Witness Against Torture's Orange "Shut Down Guantánamo" T-shirts, an ACLU arm band, or even an orange jump suit.


If you can't join us in Washington D.C., please consider attending or organizing a vigil, march or a public forum in your community. Actions are currently planned in London, England; Paris, France; Miami, FL; Boise, Idaho; Saratoga Springs, NY; Ft. Huachuca, AZ; and New York City, NY.

Visit for up-to-date details about solidarity events, as well as to find ideas for actions, to post to our calendar, or to download flyers and other resources.


Two years ago Witness Against Torture drew international attention after it walked to Guantánamo to visit the prisoners. Upon its return, the group has organized vigils, marches, nonviolent direct actions and educational events to expose and decry the administration's lawlessness, build awareness about torture and indefinite detention, and forge human ties with the prisoners at Guantánamo and their families.

Some of the organizations endorsing the Jan 11 Day of Action include:

Bill of Rights Defense Committee
The Catholic Worker
Declaration of Peace
National Campaign for Nonviolent Resistance
Pax Christi USA
Peace Action
School of the Americas Watch
Torture Abolition and Survivors Coalition
United for Peace and Justice
Voices For Creative Nonviolence
War Resisters League
World Can't Wait
...and more. See a full list of endorsers.


Please make a contribution to help cover the costs of the January 11th event. You can donate online or send a check made out to "Witness Against Torture" to Mary House Catholic Worker, 55 E. Third Street, New York, NY 10003.

Inside the CIA's notorious "black sites"

[One of the people who wrote in response to this heartrending article at said that she felt powerless to do anything about this horror. I beg to differ. There is something you can and must do: protest, speak out, show how you feel, spread the resistance - declare it now! wear orange and spread the color of refusal to be complicit, ugly Americans. There are millions who feel as she does and these millions must and can do something.]

NOTE: I received a note from the Blogger Team today, 12/18/07, that I was violating a copyright law by reposting this article. I was surprised to get that notice since I clearly attributed where it came from, provided the author credit, and a link to the article. But since I was asked to remove it, I will do so. You can go to the link in the title of this posting to find the actual article. I urge you to read it.

Thursday, December 13, 2007

The Spin is All That Matters

Tonight on NPR I heard the most unbelievable Op-Ed piece by conservative columnist, radio personality, Heritage Foundation Visiting Fellow and for eight years, Newt Gingrich's Press Secretary, Tony Blankley. Commenting on the CIA's destruction of its videotapes of waterboarding torture, he proudly declared that "Finally, the CIA did something right" by preventing the inflammatory videotapes from falling into the hands of YouTube or Al Jazeera. He went on to say what an "incubus" of a PR disaster its general distribution would have been because it would harm "our" efforts to "win the hearts and minds" of the Muslim world.

I could not believe my ears. No words of dismay or outrage about the fact that the CIA has been torturing people from Mr. Blankley. No, in today's America, according to the mouths of reactionaries such as he, the good thing is that the video evidence of these heinous acts has been destroyed. And NPR had the temerity to run such monstrous talk.

Is this the ultimate in spin? It doesn't matter, according to Mr. B, that our government has been torturing people. No, what matters is that the most inflammatory evidence of said acts, the most dramatic proof and footage of their existence, has been eliminated. The Muslim world won't know the difference, or so Mr. B thinks. What contempt for truth. What contempt for the Muslim world - that they wouldn't be offended and inflamed by the knowledge - a fact that the Muslim world has known for years already - that the U.S. government and military torture people. What contempt for Americans that he thinks such twisted logic can convince Americans not to rise up against this regime and send it to the Hague!

The Genovese Case: How It Applies Now

Kitty Genovese was a 29-year old New Yorker stabbed to death in 1964 in front of her neighbors in Queens. The case is famous because dozens of bystanders in their apartments are believed to have watched, listened and done nothing to save her while she was being murderously assaulted over the course of an hour. As it turns out, someone did call the police and the widely reported thirty-eight people who watched was in fact a handful who did not see the attack occur in its entirety. The incident has, nonetheless, become important for what it symbolizes about the bystander effect problem: the more people there are who are witness to an emergency, the less likely any one of the people will act in response because of the diffusion of responsibility.

Why should this be? I’m not a psychologist (though I am surrounded by many of them in my joint department at work), but in investigating this on trusty Wikipedia, I came across this: “pluralistic ignorance is a process which involves several members of a group who think that they have different perceptions, beliefs, or attitudes from the rest of the group[1][2]. While they do not endorse the group norm, the dissenting persons behave like the other group members, because they think that the behaviour of the other group members shows that the opinion of the group is unanimous. In other words, because everyone who disagrees behaves as if he or she agrees, all dissenting members think that the norm is endorsed by every group member but themselves. This in turn reinforces their willingness to conform to the group norm rather than express their disagreement. Because of pluralistic ignorance, people may conform to the perceived consensual opinion of a group, instead of thinking and acting on their own perceptions.”

And then there is this: “Social proof, also known as informational social influence, is a psychological phenomenon that occurs in ambiguous social situations when people are unable to determine the appropriate mode of behavior. Making the assumption that surrounding people possess more knowledge about the situation, they will deem the behavior of others as appropriate or better informed.”

Most of America has been puzzled at the failure of most of America (or enough of America) to speak out effectively against the crimes against humanity and tyranny being carried out by our government. “Why isn’t someone doing something?” you hear again and again in social gatherings and in classrooms. ”Why don’t the Democrats show some spine?” millions of people say. “What’s wrong with Americans?” people decry.

The whole world is wondering the same.

The absence of any real and determined opposition to the Bush regime’s tyranny from the Democratic Party and the mass media has put most Americans in a state of social proof. It has created a national state of "ambiguous social situations when people are unable to determine the appropriate mode of behavior." The people they think have the expertise and greater knowledge and should therefore be acting on that knowledge aren’t, so many people have so far concluded that the problem must not be all that bad, even if their own sense of it is that it is.

[S]ocial proof kicks in when one or more of the crowd steps in to assist.”

Many years ago my significant other and I were standing on a city sidewalk while a fire was blazing in a storefront, brightening up the night sky. A crowd of several dozen other people was standing next to us. I said to my partner that I was going to move a little closer for a better look as we were all standing behind the driveway entrance. She said: “No, don’t do it. Nobody else is.” I said, “Why not?” As soon as I stepped over the invisible barrier everyone else did.

“[S]ocial proof kicks in when one or more of the crowd steps in to assist.”

“Honestly it was one of the most frightening things I've done in a long time. I was praying for a familiar face, but I just dove in and started asking students as they walked by if they wanted to pick up a ribbon to support our anti-war movement, at first many of them just kept walking and said no thanks (a little discouraging...). However, as more students began to come out of class I was able to grab the attention of a few who came up to the table and wanted to know what the orange and the ribbons were all about …

“I was so pleased to see many people taking the ribbons and putting them on their backpacks and on their shirts. As time passed and more students came out, I begin to get people to pledge to get three other people to wear the orange ribbons. I got about 10 pledges from people who said that they had friends that would wear the ribbon in support. I remember this one guy who came back and asked me if he could have one for his girlfriend :) It was great! …

“Another young woman from the CGU [Claremont Graduate University] mentioned that 'people in this generation haven't had their "1960s" yet and need to' and that she would try to spread this out in Claremont... Another gentlemen … had friends that would wear the ribbons too and that he was interested in how this turned out. My most memorable one was the professor that took a ribbon and thanked me for doing what I was doing :) Another professor said that he wanted to see us in front of the school picketing just like they did in the 60's.

“Overall, even though my palms were clammy and I was nervous each time I spoke to someone it was very rewarding and I think I passed out about 150 ribbons, if not more, out [over the course of an hour and three-quarters], especially to classmates and even to a gentlemen at an Empire conference.”

“[S]ocial proof kicks in when one or more of the crowd steps in to assist.”

"Until one is committed, there is hesitancy, the chance to draw back, always ineffective. Concerning all acts of initiative (and creation), there is one elementary truth the ignorance of which kills countless ideas and splendid plans: the moment one definitely commits oneself, then Providence moves too. All sorts of things occur to help one that would never otherwise have occurred. A whole stream of events issues from the decision, raising in one's favor all manner of unforeseen incidents and meetings and material which no man or woman could have dreamed would have come his or her way. Whatever you can do or dream that you can do, begin it. Boldness has genius, power, and magic in it. Begin it now." – Goethe

“[S]ocial proof kicks in when one or more of the crowd steps in to assist.”

When one person in the crowd steps in to help and breaks the spell of inaction, others realize that they are not alone in their sentiments and they will move as well. Social proof has been established. The invisible and erroneous spell of unanimity and consent is thereby pierced. New terms have been set by your actions.

Some of us need to be brave and this will help others to be brave as well. Stop wondering why others aren’t doing what you yourself need to do and do it. The task ahead of us is historic and extraordinary. It won’t be accomplished without courage, boldness, initiative, persistence in the face of difficulty, and sacrifice. No great things have ever been accomplished without these. What are you waiting for?

Silent Night, Holy Night, While You're Sleeping, Our Government is Torturing People

From the following article, not the most outrageous item in this monster parade, but one of the most revealing of the condition we are in. Law professors at esteemed law schools such as Harvard's Alan Dershowitz and UC Berkeley's John Yoo, infamous advocates of torture, can openly say unspeakably horrible things and are not instantly run out of town: "Harvard law professor Alan Dershowitz - who, at his perch at Harvard would undoubtedly be outraged if he were to be tortured - thinks that the practice needs to be regulated, as if it were a routine medical act. He has suggested empowering judges to issue 'warrants' that would allow interrogators to insert 'sterile needles' underneath finger nails to 'to cause excruciating pain without endangering life.'"

The fundamental lie that all of these bastard purveyors of barbarity rest their entire case upon: anything goes in the defense of Americans' lives and American Empire. What makes American lives more precious than those of Iraqis or Afghani or Iranians or Palestinians? Who says it's ok to torture and kill others so long as "ours" are safe? Even if you assume that torture produces good intelligence and saves lives, which it does not - in fact, the very opposite - you have to ask yourself: can I sleep peacefully at night knowing that my government is torturing people - innocent people - in order to safeguard my right to shop till I drop? Can I live with myself if I am not doing everything possible to stop these monsters? It shouldn't matter if not a single other person was out there fighting against crimes against humanity. Crimes such as these must be opposed if you have a conscience.

The Unholy Trinity:
Death Squads, Disappearances and Torture - From Latin America to Iraq

By Greg Grandin

Tuesday 11 December 2007

The world is made up, as Captain Segura in Graham Greene's 1958 novel Our Man in Havana put it, of two classes: the torturable and the untorturable. "There are people," Segura explained, "who expect to be tortured and others who would be outraged by the idea."

Then - so Greene thought - Catholics, particularly Latin American Catholics, were more torturable than Protestants. Now, of course, Muslims hold that distinction, victims of a globalized network of offshore and outsourced imprisonment coordinated by Washington and knitted together by secret flights, concentration camps, and black-site detention centers. The CIA's deployment of Orwellian "Special Removal Units" to kidnap terror suspects in Europe, Canada, the Middle East, and elsewhere and the whisking of these "ghost prisoners" off to Third World countries to be tortured goes, today, by the term "extraordinary rendition," a hauntingly apt phrase. "To render" means not just to hand over, but to extract the essence of a thing, as well as to hand out a verdict and "give in return or retribution" - good descriptions of what happens during torture sessions.

In the decades after Greene wrote Our Man in Havana, Latin Americans coined an equally resonant word to describe the terror that had come to reign over most of the continent. Throughout the second half of the Cold War, Washington's anti-communist allies killed more than 300,000 civilians, many of whom were simply desaparecido - "disappeared." The expression was already well known in Latin America when, on accepting his 1982 Nobel Prize for Literature in Sweden, Colombian novelist Gabriel García Márquez reported that the region's "disappeared number nearly one hundred and twenty thousand, which is as if suddenly no one could account for all the inhabitants of Uppsala."

When Latin Americans used the word as a verb, they usually did so in a way considered grammatically incorrect - in the transitive form and often in the passive voice, as in "she was disappeared." The implied (but absent) actor/subject signaled that everybody knew the government was responsible, even while investing that government with unspeakable, omnipotent power. The disappeared left behind families and friends who spent their energies dealing with labyrinthine bureaucracies, only to be met with silence or told that their missing relative probably went to Cuba, joined the guerrillas, or ran away with a lover. The victims were often not the most politically active, but the most popular, and were generally chosen to ensure that their sudden absence would generate a chilling ripple-effect.

An Unholy Trinity

Like rendition, disappearances can't be carried out without a synchronized, sophisticated, and increasingly transnational infrastructure, which, back in the 1960s and 1970s, the United States was instrumental in creating. In fact, it was in Latin America that the CIA and U.S. military intelligence agents, working closely with local allies, first helped put into place the unholy trinity of government-sponsored terrorism now on display in Iraq and elsewhere: death squads, disappearances, and torture.

Death Squads: Clandestine paramilitary units, nominally independent from established security agencies yet able to draw on the intelligence and logistical capabilities of those agencies, are the building blocks for any effective system of state terror. In Latin America, Washington supported the assassination of suspected Leftists at least as early as 1954, when the CIA successfully carried out a coup in Guatemala, which ousted a democratically elected president. But its first sustained sponsorship of death squads started in 1962 in Colombia, a country which then vied with Vietnam for Washington's attention.

Having just ended a brutal 10-year civil war, its newly consolidated political leadership, facing a still unruly peasantry, turned to the U.S. for help. In 1962, the Kennedy White House sent General William Yarborough, later better known for being the "Father of the Green Berets" (as well as for directing domestic military surveillance of prominent civil-rights activists, including Martin Luther King Jr.). Yarborough advised the Colombian government to set up an irregular unit to "execute paramilitary, sabotage and/or terrorist activities against known communist proponents" - as good a description of a death squad as any.

As historian Michael McClintock puts it in his indispensable book Instruments of Statecraft, Yarborough left behind a "virtual blueprint" for creating military-directed death squads. This was, thanks to U.S. aid and training, immediately implemented. The use of such death squads would become part of what the counterinsurgency theorists of the era liked to call "counter-terror" - a concept hard to define since it so closely mirrored the practices it sought to contest.

Throughout the 1960s, Latin America and Southeast Asia functioned as the two primary laboratories for U.S. counterinsurgents, who moved back and forth between the regions, applying insights and fine-tuning tactics. By the early 1960s, death-squad executions were a standard feature of U.S. counterinsurgency strategy in Vietnam, soon to be consolidate into the infamous Phoenix Program, which between 1968 and 1972 "neutralized" more than 80,000 Vietnamese - 26,369 of whom were "permanently eliminated."

As in Latin America, so too in Vietnam, the point of death squads was not just to eliminate those thought to be working with the enemy, but to keep potential rebel sympathizers in a state of fear and anxiety. To do so, the U.S. Information Service in Saigon provided thousands of copies of a flyer printed with a ghostly looking eye. The "terror squads" then deposited that eye on the corpses of those they murdered or pinned it "on the doors of houses suspected of occasionally harboring Viet Cong agents." The technique was called "phrasing the threat" - a way to generate a word-of-mouth terror buzz.

In Guatemala, such a tactic started up at roughly the same time. There, a "white hand" was left on the body of a victim or the door of a potential one.

Disappearances: Next up on the counterinsurgency curriculum was Central America, where, in the 1960s, U.S. advisors helped put into place the infrastructure needed not just to murder but "disappear" large numbers of civilians. In the wake of the Cuban Revolution, Washington had set out to "professionalize" Latin America's security agencies - much in the way the Bush administration now works to "modernize" the intelligence systems of its allies in the President's "Global War on Terror."

Then, as now, the goal was to turn lethargic, untrained intelligence units of limited range into an international network capable of gathering, analyzing, sharing, and acting on information in a quick and efficient manner. American advisors helped coordinate the work of the competing branches of a country's security forces, urging military men and police officers to overcome differences and cooperate. Washington supplied phones, teletype machines, radios, cars, guns, ammunition, surveillance equipment, explosives, cattle prods, cameras, typewriters, carbon paper, and filing cabinets, while instructing its apprentices in the latest riot control, record keeping, surveillance, and mass-arrest techniques.

In neither El Salvador, nor Guatemala was there even a whiff of serious rural insurrection when the Green Berets, the CIA, and the U.S. Agency for International Development began organizing the first security units that would metastasize into a dense, Central American-wide network of death-squad paramilitaries.

Once created, death squads operated under their own colorful names - an Eye for an Eye, the Secret Anticommunist Army, the White Hand - yet were essentially appendages of the very intelligence systems that Washington either helped create or fortified. As in Vietnam, care was taken to make sure that paramilitaries appeared to be unaffiliated with regular forces. To allow for a plausible degree of deniability, the "elimination of the [enemy] agents must be achieved quickly and decisively" - instructs a classic 1964 textbook Counter-Insurgency Warfare - "by an organization that must in no way be confused with the counterinsurgent personnel working to win the support of the population." But in Central America, by the end of the 1960s, the bodies were piling so high that even State Department embassy officials, often kept out of the loop on what their counterparts in the CIA and the Pentagon were up to, had to admit to the obvious links between US-backed intelligence services and the death squads.

Washington, of course, publicly denied its support for paramilitarism, but the practice of political disappearances took a great leap forward in Guatemala in 1966 with the birth of a death squad created, and directly supervised, by U.S. security advisors. Throughout the first two months of 1966, a combined black-ops unit made up of police and military officers working under the name "Operation Clean-Up" - a term US counterinsurgents would recycle elsewhere in Latin America - carried out a number of extrajudicial executions.

Between March 3rd and 5th of that year, the unit netted its largest catch. More than 30 Leftists were captured, interrogated, tortured, and executed. Their bodies were then placed in sacks and dropped into the Pacific Ocean from U.S.-supplied helicopters. Despite pleas from Guatemala's archbishop and more than 500 petitions of habeas corpus filed by relatives, the Guatemalan government and the American Embassy remained silent on the fate of the executed.

Over the next two and a half decades, U.S.-funded and trained Central American security forces would disappear tens of thousands of citizens and execute hundreds of thousands more. When supporters of the "War on Terror" advocated the exercise of the "Salvador Option," it was this slaughter they were talking about.

Following U.S.-backed coups in Brazil, Uruguay, Chile, and Argentina, death squads not only became institutionalized in South America, they became transnational. Throughout the late 1970s and 1980s, the CIA supported Operation Condor - an intelligence consortium established by Chilean dictator General Augusto Pinochet that synchronized the activities of many of the continent's security agencies and orchestrated an international campaign of terror and murder.

According to Washington's ambassador to Paraguay, the heads of these agencies kept "in touch with one another through a U.S. communications installation in the Panama Canal Zone which covers all of Latin America." This allowed them to "co-ordinate intelligence information among the southern cone countries." Just this month, Pinochet's security chief General Manuel Contreras, who is serving a 240-year prison term in Chile for a wide-range of human rights violations, gave a TV interview in which he confirmed that the CIA's then-Deputy Director, General Vernon Walters (who served under director George H.W. Bush), was fully informed of the "international activities" of Condor.

Torture: Torture is the animating spirit of this triad, the unholiest of this unholy trinity. In Chile, Pinochet's henchmen killed or disappeared thousands - but they tortured tens of thousands. In Uruguay and Brazil, the state only disappeared a few hundred, but fear of torture and rape became a way of life, particularly for the politically engaged. Torture, even more than the disappearances, was meant not so much to get one person to talk as to get everybody else to shut up.

At this point, Washington can no longer deny that its agents in Latin America facilitated, condoned, and practiced torture. Defectors from death squads have described the instruction given by their U.S. tutors, and survivors have testified to the presence of Americans in their torture sessions. One Pentagon "torture manual" distributed in at least five Latin American countries described at length "coercive" procedures designed to "destroy [the] capacity to resist."

As Naomi Klein and Alfred McCoy have documented in their recent books, these field manuals were compiled using information gathered from CIA-commissioned mind control and electric-shock experiments conducted in the 1950s. Just as the "torture memos" of today's war on terror parse the difference between "pain" and "severe pain," "psychological harm" and "lasting psychological harm," these manuals went to great lengths to regulate the application of suffering. "The threat to inflict pain can trigger fears more damaging than the immediate sensation of pain," one handbook read.

"Before all else, you must be efficient," said U.S. police advisor Dan Mitrione, assassinated by Uruguay's revolutionary Tupamaros in 1970 for training security forces in the finer points of torture. "You must cause only the damage that is strictly necessary, not a bit more." Mitrione taught by demonstration, reportedly torturing to death a number of homeless people kidnapped off the streets of Montevideo. "We must control our tempers in any case," he said. "You have to act with the efficiency and cleanliness of a surgeon and with the perfection of an artist."

Florencio Caballero, having escaped from Honduras's notorious Battalion 316 into exile in Canada in 1986, testified that U.S. instructors urged him to inflict psychological, not "physical," pain "to study the fears and weakness of a prisoner." Force the victim to "stand up," the Americans taught Caballero, "don't let him sleep, keep him naked and in isolation, put rats and cockroaches in his cell, give him bad food, serve him dead animals, throw cold water on him, change the temperature." Sound familiar?

Yet, as Abu Ghraib demonstrated so clearly and the destroyed CIA interrogation videos would undoubtedly have made no less clear, maintaining a distinction between psychological and physical torture is not always possible. As one manual conceded, if a suspect does not respond, then the threat of direct pain "must be carried out." One of Caballero's victims, Inés Murillo, testified that her captors, including at least one CIA agent - his involvement was confirmed in Senate testimony by the CIA's deputy director - hung her from the ceiling naked, forced her to eat dead birds and rats raw, made her stand for hours without sleep and without being allowed to urinate, poured freezing water over her at regular intervals for extended periods, beat her bloody, and applied electric shocks to her body, including her genitals.

Anything Goes

Inés Murillo was definitely a member of Greene's torturable class. Yet Greene was writing in a more genteel time, when to torture the wrong person would be, as he put it, as cheeky as a "chauffeur" sleeping with a "peeress." Today, when it comes to torture, anything goes.

Ideologues in the war on terror, like Berkeley law professor John Yoo, have worked mightily to narrow the definition of what torture is, thereby expanding possibilities for its application. They have worked no less hard to increase the number of people throughout the world who could be subjected to torture - by defining anyone they cared to choose as a stateless "enemy combatant," and therefore not protected by national and international laws banning cruel and inhumane treatment. Even former Attorney General John Ashcroft has declared himself potentially torturable, telling a University of Colorado audience recently that he would be willing to submit to waterboarding "if it were necessary."

Things are so freewheeling that Harvard law professor Alan Dershowitz - who, at his perch at Harvard would undoubtedly be outraged if he were to be tortured - thinks that the practice needs to be regulated, as if it were a routine medical act. He has suggested empowering judges to issue "warrants" that would allow interrogators to insert "sterile needles" underneath finger nails to "to cause excruciating pain without endangering life."

Pinochet, who didn't shy away from justifying his actions in the name of Western Civilization, would never have dreamed of defending torture as brazenly as has Dick Cheney, backed up by legal theorists like Yoo. At the same time, revisionist historians, like Max Boot, and pundits, like the Atlantic Monthly's Robert Kaplan, rewrite history, claiming that operations like the Phoenix Program in Vietnam or the death squads in El Salvador were effective, morally acceptable tactics and should be emulated in fighting today's "War on Terror."

But this kind of promiscuity has its risks. In Latin America, the word "disappeared" came to denote not just victimization but moral repudiation, as the mothers and children of the disappeared led a continental movement to restore the rule of law. They provide hope that one day the world-wide network of repression assembled by the Bush administration will be as discredited as Operation Condor is today in Latin America. As Greene wrote half a century ago, on the eve of the fall of another famous torturer, Cuba's Fulgencio Batista, "it is a real danger for everyone when what is shocking changes."


Greg Grandin is the author of a number of books, most recently Empire's Workshop: Latin America, the United States, and the Rise of the New Imperialism. He teaches history at NYU.

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Are Americans 'Better Than That'?

[Reposted from]

By Ray McGovern
December 12, 2007

A boyish, inquisitive face with an innocent look peered out from the Washington Post’s lead story on torture. It was well groomed, pink-shirted John Kiriakou, a CIA interrogator who could just as easily pass for the local youth minister.

The Dec. 11 report by the Post’s Joby Warrick and Dan Eggen, which describes Kiriakou’s experience in interrogating suspected terrorists, raises in an unusually direct way an abiding question: Should the United States of America be using forms of torture dating back to the Spanish Inquisition?

Nowhere is the mood of that infamous period better portrayed than in the famous Grand Inquisitor chapter of Dostoyevsky’s Brothers Karamazov. Dostoevsky was unusually gifted at plumbing the human heart.

While it has been 127 years since he wrote Brothers Karamazov, he nonetheless captures the trap into which so many Americans have fallen in forfeiting freedom through fear.

His portrayal of Inquisition reality brings us to the brink of the moral precipice on which our country teeters today. It is as though he knew what would be in store for us as fear was artificially stoked after the attacks of 9/11.

In the story, Dostoevsky’s Grand Inquisitor (the Cardinal of Seville) ridicules Christ for imposing on humans the heavy burden of freedom of conscience, and explains how it is far better, for all concerned, to dull that conscience and to rule by deceit, violence, and fear:

“Didst thou forget that man prefers peace, and even death, to freedom of choice in the knowledge of good and evil?...We teach them that it’s not the free judgment of their hearts, but mystery which they must follow blindly, even against their conscience.... In the end they will lay their freedom at our feet [and] become obedient...We shall tell them that we are Thy servants and rule them in Thy name.... we shall be forced to lie.... We shall tell them that every sin will be expiated if it is done with our permission.”
--The Grand Inquisitor, in Brothers Karamazov

Abu Zubayda: Poster Child

Kiriakou was one of the first interrogators to interview suspected terrorist Abu Zubayda in a Pakistani military hospital, where Zubayda was recovering from wounds suffered during his capture in early 2002.

When he refused to provide information about al-Qaeda’s infrastructure, he was flown to a secret CIA prison where, according to Kiriakou, the interrogation team strapped Abu Zubayda to a board, wrapped his nose and mouth in cellophane, and forced water into his throat.

In just 35 seconds, viola! Abu Zubayda starting talking. That is called waterboarding.

The 15th & 16th century Spanish inquisitors were not squeamish, and had little need for circumlocutions or euphemisms like “alternative set of procedures” that are part of President George W. Bush’s lexicon.

The Spanish called this procedure, quite plainly, “tortura del agua.”

Lacking cellophane, they inserted a cloth into the victim’s mouth, forcing the victim to ingest water spilled from a jar starting the drowning process. Four centuries later, the Gestapo put out several technically improved releases of this operating system of torture, so to speak.

Quick; someone please tell newly confirmed Attorney General Michael Mukasey, who told reporters on Dec. 11 that he still cannot decide whether waterboarding is torture.

The information from John Kiriakou confirms what has long been a no-brainer but not definitively established before; namely, that President George W. Bush’s “alternative set of procedures” for interrogation by C.I.A. includes waterboarding.

Zubayda was given pride of place in George W. Bush’s remarkable speech of Sept. 6, 2006, in which he bragged about the effectiveness of such procedures and appealed successfully for passage of the Military Commissions Act.

That law allows a president to define what set of interrogation procedures can be used by the C.I.A. This is Bush on Sept. 6, 2006:

“We believe that Zubayda was a senior terrorist leader and a trusted associate of Osama bin Laden...[and that] he had run a terrorist camp in Afghanistan where some of the 9/11 hijackers trained...

“We knew that Zubayda had more information that could save innocent lives, but he stopped talking...And so the CIA used an alternative set of procedures...The Department of Justice reviewed the authorized methods extensively and determined them to be lawful.... But I can say the procedures were tough, and they were safe, and lawful, and necessary.

“Zubayda was questioned using these procedures, and soon he began to provide information on key al-Qaeda operatives, including information that helped us find and capture more of those responsible for the attacks on September the 11th.

“For example, Zubayda identified one of Khalid Sheikh Mohammed’s accomplices in the 9/11 attacks -- a terrorist named Ramzi bin al Shibh. The information Zubayda provided helped lead to the capture of bin al Shibh. And together these two terrorists provided information that helped in the planning and execution of the operation that captured Khalid Sheikh Mohammed.”

Saving Lives?

Bush claimed that his interrogation program had saved lives, and Kiriakou says the use of waterboarding “probably saved lives.” We cannot know for sure if this is true.

Off-the-record interviews with intelligence officials strongly suggest that there is much prevarication and exaggeration in the president’s claims about lives saved and operations disrupted, and that his assertions merit no more credulity than other claims—for example, that Iran’s nuclear weapons program poses a threat to the U.S., even though it has been stopped for four years.

Other U.S. intelligence officials take issue with the C.I.A.’s version of the questioning of Zubayda. Some say that initially he was cooperating with F.B.I. interrogators using a non-confrontational approach, when C.I.A. assumed control and opted for more aggressive tactics.

After that experience, the F.B.I. reportedly warned its agents to avoid interrogation sessions at which harsh methods were used.

As for credibility, never has a U.S. president’s word been so cheapened as it is today.

In late July 2007, we Veteran Intelligence Professionals for Sanity joined with Justin Frank, MD, psychiatrist, professor at George Washington University Hospital, and author of “Bush on the Couch,” to search for insight on how President Bush thinks. See “Dangers of a Cornered Bush,” from which we excerpt the following:

“His pathology is a patchwork of false beliefs and incomplete information woven into what he asserts is the whole truth...He lies—not just to us, but to himself as well...What makes lying so easy for Bush is his contempt—for language, for law, and for anybody who dares question him.... So his words mean nothing. That is very important for people to understand.”

This Is Oversight?

The past few weeks have witnessed an unseemly square dance in Congress, highlighting conflicting claims about what those who are supposed to be overseeing the intelligence community knew and when they knew it—about torture, about Iran, about many things.

It is nothing short of an insult to the Founders that members of the House and Senate can find nothing more useful to do than wring their hands over their largely self-inflicted powerlessness.

Lawmakers have been so thoroughly intimidated by the White House that I get physically ill watching the likes of Nancy Pelosi, Jane Harman, Bob Graham and Jay Rockefeller moan about how secretive and nasty the Bush administration has been.

Harman complained recently that when she was ranking Democrat on the House Intelligence Committee, some of the material (on interrogations) was so highly classified that she had to take a “second oath” to protect it.

What about the solemn oath they all take to support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic? Should not that oath transcend and govern others that an administration might require for access to secret materials?

Senator Dick Durbin of the Senate Intelligence Committee has complained that he was aware that classified information did not justify the conclusion in 2002 that Iraq had unconventional weapons, but he could not say anything because it was classified! Durbin explained:

“We’re duty-bound once we enter that room to respect classified information. Everything you hear is supposed to stay in the room...I certainly had enough to know that the statements that were made about mushroom clouds were not the conclusions of someone in the administration who was really being honest about the full debate. But you really know, walking in the room, what the rules of the game will be.”

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi has admitted knowing for several years about the Bush administration's eavesdropping on Americans without a court warrant. She was briefed on it when she was ranking Democrat on the House Intelligence Committee when Bush and Cheney took office.

One key unanswered question is this: Was she told that within days of their taking office—that is, seven months before 9/11, the National Security Agency's electronic vacuum cleaner had already begun to suck up information on Americans—the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, not to mention the Constitution, be damned?

In a Washington Post op-ed of Jan. 15, 2006, Pelosi proudly advertised her uniquely long tenure on the Intelligence Committee and acknowledged that she was one of the privileged handful of lawmakers who were briefed.

"This is how I came to be informed of President Bush's authorization for the NSA to conduct certain types of surveillance," she wrote. Pelosi then proceeded to demonstrate the bowing and scraping characteristic of her subservient attitude toward the Executive Branch:

"But when the administration notifies Congress in this manner, it is not seeking approval. There is a clear expectation that the information will be shared by no one, including other members of the intelligence committees. As a result, only a few members of Congress were aware of the president's surveillance program, and they were constrained from discussing it more widely."

And so too, may we assume, with respect to torture? This is oversight?

Neutered Watchdogs

What can we expect from the current Senate and House oversight chairmen regarding the recently disclosed, deliberate destruction of two tapes of harsh interrogations of Abu Zubayda and Abd al-Rahim al-Nashiri? (Al-Nashiri is thought to have played a role in the attack on the USS Cole.)

On the Senate side, expect nothing of Mr. Milquetoast Jay Rockefeller, chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee, who, it is said, is so afraid of his own shadow that he only ventures outdoors at night or in bad weather.

House Intelligence Committee Chairman Silvestre Reyes has a different kind of problem, and should recuse himself. He has been fawning all over José Rodriguez, the former CIA Deputy Director of Operations who ordered the tapes destroyed.

On August 16, 2007, Congressman Reyes told a conference in El Paso he considered Rodriguez “an American hero,” proudly adding that, “with a few liberties that Hollywood takes, the exploits of José Rodriguez are documented in the FOX TV series ‘24.’”

I am told that almost every episode of “24” includes at least one scene glorifying torture, usually with lead man Jack Bauer playing a main role. Reyes made it clear he is a big fan of Bauer and “24.”

Were that not enough, after Rodriguez’s role in destroying the interrogation tapes became public, Reyes immediately cautioned against allowing investigations to find just one “scapegoat” (no secret to whom he was referring).

And so, unless Reyes does recuse himself, look for a “complete and thorough” investigation of the kind favored by the Nixon White House. (Just when you may have thought it could not get any worse!)

On Sept. 6, 2006, the very day Bush bragged about his “alternative set of procedures for interrogation” and appealed for legislation allowing the C.I.A. to continue using them, the head of Army intelligence, Lt. Gen. John Kimmons, took a very different tack.

Conducting a Pentagon briefing shortly before the president gave his own speech, Kimmons underscored the fact that the revised Army manual for interrogation is in sync with the Geneva treaties. Then, conceding past “transgressions and mistakes,” Kimmons updated something I learned 45 years ago as a second lieutenant in Army intelligence:

“No good intelligence is going to come from abusive practices. I think history tells us that. I think the empirical evidence of the last five years, hard years, tells us that.”

Grabbing the headlines the following day was Bush’s admission that the CIA has taken “high-value” captives to prisons abroad for interrogation using “tough” techniques prohibited by the revised Army field manual—and by Geneva, for that matter.

Gen. Kimmons displayed uncommon courage in facing into that wind.

Because It’s Wrong?

Have you noticed the shameful silence of our institutional churches, synagogues, and mosques?

True, on occasion a professor of moral theology will speak out.

Professor William Schweiker of the Chicago Divinity School, for example, has heaped scorn on the scenario of the lone knower of the facts whose torture is thought to be able to save millions of lives. He notes that such is “the stuff of bad spy movies and bad exam questions in ethics courses.” Schweiker warns Christians, in particular:

“Not to fall prey to fear and questionable reasoning and thus continue to support an unjust and vile practice that demeans the nation’s highest political and moral ideals, even as it desecrates one of the most important practices and symbols (Baptism) of the Christian faith.”

And, to its credit, the National Religious Campaign Against Torture, a coalition of 130 religious organizations from left to right on the political spectrum, issued a strong call for the appointment of a special counsel to investigate the C.I.A.’s destruction of the videotapes of harsh interrogation techniques.

NRCAT’s founder, Princeton Theological Seminary professor George Hunsinger told the press that “to acknowledge that waterboarding is torture is like conceding that the sun rises in the east,” adding:

"All the dissembling in high places that makes these shocking abuses possible must be brought to an end. But they will undoubtedly continue unless those responsible for them are held accountable. Clearly a joint probe by the Justice Department and the CIA -- agencies that are both seriously compromised -- is not enough. A special counsel is an essential first step.”

But where are the official voices of the institutional churches, synagogues, and mosques in this country. In effect, they are ordaining Jack Bauer with their silence.

This Happened Before

With very few exceptions, the institutional churches in Nazi Germany kept a shameful silence, denying believers the moral authority and leadership so needed to stand up to Gestapo torturers. Indeed, many of the bishops—like military leaders, and jurists—swore a personal oath to Hitler.

For his part, the Nazi leader moved quite quickly to ensure that there was a pastor—whether Evangelical or Catholic—in every parish in Germany. He saw this as a source of support and stability for his regime. And, sadly, it was.

While the Nazis were systematically torturing and even murdering defenseless victims, they kept repeating assurances that not a single hair of anyone’s head would be harmed. (Shades of the familiar refrain “we do not torture.”)

And the propaganda machine under Joseph Goebbels made a fine art of what President Bush calls the need to “catapult the propaganda.”

Sebastian Haffner, a young German lawyer in Berlin during the Thirties, kept a journal that his children subsequently published in book form as “Defying Hitler.” His fascinating account of Germany in the Thirties provides many thoughtful insights into prevailing attitudes and the lack of moral leadership.

Haffner’s journal depicted the kind of ambiance in which the approach of the Grand Inquisitor would, and did, flourish—“in the end they will lay their freedom at our feet [and] become obedient:”

Haffner wrote: “The weather in March 1933 was glorious. Was it not wonderful to...merge with festive crowds and listen to speeches about freedom and homeland? (It was certainly better than having one’s belly pumped up with a water hose in some hidden secret police cellar.)”

Haffner closes his chapter on 1933 with observations that, in my view, apply much too aptly to America today:

“The sequence of events is, as you see, not so unnatural. It is wholly within the normal range of psychology, and it helps to explain the almost inexplicable. The only thing that is missing is what in animals is called ‘breeding.’

“This is a solid inner kernel that cannot be shaken by external pressures and forces, something noble and steely, a reserve of pride, principle, and dignity to be drawn on in the hour of trial. It is missing in Germans.

“As a nation we are soft, unreliable, and without backbone. That was shown in March 1933. At the moment of truth, when other nations rise spontaneously to the occasion, the Germans collectively and limply collapsed. They yielded and capitulated, and suffered a nervous breakdown.”

C.I.A.’s John Kiriakou says he is now convinced that waterboarding is torture and he is against it. He adds, “Americans are better than that.”

Are We Better Than That?

Sadly, that remains to be seen. With virtually all religious institutions, politicians, and educators squandering what moral authority they have left, the Jack Bauer culture threatens to win out in the end. We cannot let that happen.

The upcoming duel on the missing interrogation tapes will again bring the issue of torture front and center. And, strangely, waterboarding and other Jack Bauer tradecraft tools still enjoy a strong constituency.

Here’s where we come in; for we are the ones we’ve been waiting for. As one of my intelligence alumni colleagues noted recently, this is about our country losing its soul.

Let’s rise to the occasion and stop unconscionable policies like torture. True patriotism goes well beyond a flag-on-the-lapel.

As Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. noted, “Sometimes you have to put your body into it.”

Besides, we need to keep the water hose from pumping up our bellies and those of our loved ones. I only wish that were as remote a possibility as it was before President Bush and his associates came up with their “alternative set of procedures.”

Ray McGovern works with Tell the Word, the publishing arm of the ecumenical Church of the Saviour in Washington, DC. He was an Army officer and then a C.I.A. analyst for 27 years, and now serves on the Steering Group of Veteran Intelligence Professionals for Sanity (VIPS).