• Torture and the Company We Keep

    December 16, 2014 // 28 Comments »

    proud-american


    A new poll finds majority of Americans — 59 percent — believe torture was justified after the 9/11 attacks.

    Look around you at the company you keep. The people who support torture, six out of ten, are your neighbors, your co-workers, the people on the bus with you. If you live in Washington DC, they are your children’s friends parents, the people at Safeway, the folks you go to church with.

    Now, let’s have a look at the company the United States keeps.



    Tortures Human Beings

    United States – YES
    ISIS – YES
    North Korea – YES
    China – YES
    Russia – YES
    Nazi Germany – YES
    Apartheid-Era South Africa – YES


    Uses Medical Personnel to Enhance Torture

    United States – YES
    ISIS – NO
    North Korea – Unknown
    China – Unknown
    Russia – YES
    Nazi Germany – YES
    Apartheid-Era South Africa – YES


    Maintains Third Country Detention Facilities

    United States – YES (including Poland)
    ISIS – NO
    North Korea – NO
    China – NO
    Russia – NO (once including Poland)
    Nazi Germany – NO (once including Poland)
    Apartheid-Era South Africa – NO


    Kidnaps/Renders People from Other Countries to Torture

    United States – YES
    ISIS – YES
    North Korea – YES
    China – Unknown
    Russia – Unknown
    Nazi Germany – YES
    Apartheid-Era South Africa – NO


    Sends Prisoners to Other Governments for Torture

    United States – YES (including Libya, Egypt and Syria)
    ISIS – NO
    North Korea – NO
    China – NO
    Russia – NO
    Nazi Germany – NO
    Apartheid-Era South Africa – NO


    Holds Prisoners Indefinitely without Trial

    United States – YES
    ISIS – Sort Of
    North Korea – YES
    China – YES
    Russia – YES
    Nazi Germany – YES
    Apartheid-Era South Africa – NO


    Kills Prisoners Under Torture

    United States – YES
    ISIS – YES
    North Korea – YES
    China – YES
    Russia – YES
    Nazi Germany – YES
    Apartheid-Era South Africa – YES


    Holds Innocents for Torture

    United States – YES
    ISIS – YES
    North Korea – YES
    China – YES
    Russia – YES
    Nazi Germany – YES
    Apartheid-Era South Africa – YES


    Assassinates Opponents

    United States – YES
    ISIS – YES
    North Korea – YES
    China – YES
    Russia – YES
    Nazi Germany – YES
    Apartheid-Era South Africa – YES


    Had Some Sort of Reconciliation Once Torture Exposed

    United States – NO
    ISIS – NO
    North Korea – NO
    China – NO
    Russia – Sort Of (Post-Stalin)
    Nazi Germany (Post-War)- YES
    (Post) Apartheid-Era South Africa – YES

    Claims to be a Christian Nation

    United States – YES
    ISIS – Hells NO
    North Korea – NO
    China – NO
    Russia – NO
    Nazi Germany – NO
    Apartheid-Era South Africa – YES, mostly.

    BONUS: Has its State Department write sanctimonious yearly human rights reports about other countries: USA! USA! USA!




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    Copyright © 2014. All rights reserved. The views expressed here are solely those of the author(s) in their private capacity. Follow me on Twitter!

    Posted in Democracy, Embassy/State, Military, Post-Constitution America

    What Did They Die For?

    June 25, 2012 // 7 Comments »

    I met another one yesterday, on the subway. He was with his family visiting DC as tourists and they all stood swaying like happy but confused cows in front of Washington’s impossibly confusing subway fare map. I helped them figure it out, and learned they were from Montana, were in a “big city” for the first time in a long time and were a bit overwhelmed. The son was 26, in a wheelchair for the rest of his life, lost his leg near a city in Iraq whose name he awkwardly mispronounced. I doubt if an Iraqi would have recognized the name given how he said it, but it was where he got shot in a war that made no more sense than the subway map. The charts say he has sixty more years in that chair, three more lives. Almost 12 stops on the subway, too.

    Somewhere along the way the US killed off over 100,000 Iraqis while 4480 American soldiers died alongside of them. No one can really count how many were wounded, like the guy on the subway. It was a war purely of choice, a war of desire, launched with an invasion into a country that did not attack or threaten the US. That was 2003, when “men” like Colin Powell, Condi Rice and the Bush clan lied about weapons of mass destruction in Iraq. It is important to go over those things once in awhile, because government fibbers are always poking around– Syria, Iran, Pakistan– with more false or exaggerated claims. Let’s agree to ask a few questions next time.

    The wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, despite whatever reasons they started, morphed into nation building, where the US sought/seeks to create neat little democratic allies. That is a fool’s errand, and an expensive one in terms of lives and dollars, so it is important to check in to see where these things are going once in a while.

    In the same week that we learn of Iraq’s plan to shut down the majority of major media outlets, Musings on Iraq, one of the most dispassionate and apolitical sites on the topic, offers this pocket assessment of today’s Iraq:

    Recently, the United Nations and the State Department issued reports on human rights within Iraq. Both said that the country had a poor record. Freedom of the press, assembly, and expression, along with women and minority rights were all threatened, and the country lacked a functioning justice and prison systems. This was due to not only the on going violence within the country, but corruption and government dysfunction. Both organizations believed that the situation would continue. Not only has the government’s promises of improving its human rights situation proved hollow, but no official has ever been punished for their actions, while insurgents still carry out their daily terrorist attacks.


    Of course one must ask if that’s the best we could do with 4480 American lives and several trillion dollars, what hope do we have in America’s other endless wars of choice and desire?

    If you have the stomach for it, read a more detailed look at the state of modern Iraq on Musings.



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    Copyright © 2014. All rights reserved. The views expressed here are solely those of the author(s) in their private capacity. Follow me on Twitter!

    Posted in Democracy, Embassy/State, Military, Post-Constitution America

    State Department Censors Web Sites China Allows

    May 15, 2011 // 30 Comments »

    chimps see no wikileaksIf you’ve come over from TomDispatch after reading my article there, I am fairly certain of at least one thing (besides your good taste in blogs): You don’t work for the State Department.

    The State Department continues to block web sites within our offices such as Tom’s because they may contain content from Wikileaks, which although available all over the web, is still considered classified by the State Department. If you try to access a forbidden site, you get a message like this (click on the graphic below and it will enlarge so that your computer at home will look like a real US Government computer. Pretend you’re a real diplomat!):

    State Dept Wallpaper

    The doesn’t-make-sense part is that the State firewall does not block mainstream web sites that have a lot more Wikileaks content than Tom’s. Examples include the Washington Post, The New York Times and the Guardian UK. All of these sites have and continue to include Wikileaks material that is otherwise still classified within Foggy Bottom.

    Just to make sure our quotient of irony stays at Defcon 99, the State Department plans to spend $19 million on breaking Internet censorship overseas. State says it will give $19 million dollars to efforts to evade Internet controls in China, Iran and other authoritarian states which block online access to “politically sensitive material.” Michael Posner, the Assistant Secretary of State in charge of human rights, said that the funding would support technology to identify what countries are trying to censor and “redirecting information back in that governments have initially blocked; this is a cat-and-mouse game. We’re trying to stay one step ahead of the cat through email or posting it on blogs or RSS feeds or websites that the government hasn’t figured out how to block.”

    I emailed a colleague in Beijing, and yes, Tom Dispatch is available there to him, at home. In his US Embassy office however, the site is still blocked.



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    Copyright © 2014. All rights reserved. The views expressed here are solely those of the author(s) in their private capacity. Follow me on Twitter!

    Posted in Democracy, Embassy/State, Military, Post-Constitution America

    What They Died For

    April 12, 2011 // Comments Off

    George Bush Mission Accomplished It is hard not to be angry, hard not to be just sad.

    After eight years of war in Iraq, at a cost of 4,447 dead Americans, tens of thousands wounded, over a hundred thousand Iraqi dead, and at a financial cost of $3 trillion dollars (oh, go ahead and argue that’s too high; fine, call it $2 trillion if that makes you feel better), here is how the 2010 State Department Human Rights Report describes the country we created for that price, Iraq:

    (more…)

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    Copyright © 2014. All rights reserved. The views expressed here are solely those of the author(s) in their private capacity. Follow me on Twitter!

    Posted in Democracy, Embassy/State, Military, Post-Constitution America

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