The Audacity of Having a Voice

17 06 2009

We have so villified the Iranians. Made them to be the enemy. Bush called them part of the “axis of evil.” We have feared them, mistrusted them, hated them, wanted to harm them.

Credit: Huffington Post

Credit: Huffington Post

I am in awe of the Iranian people. These are people standing up for freedom and for having a voice. Would you have such courage to protest as they are doing now?

Why, when Bush stole the election in 2000, did people in the United States not stand up and protest? Why, when Bush tortured people and we knew about it, did we not cast him and Cheney out of office? Why, when we knew that the Bush Administration was monitoring ordinary citizens, clamping down our human rights, and creating legal documents to make themselves a monarchy with absolute authority did we do nothing?

Where is our moral courage and passion to march, protest, and demand an end to child trafficking or sexual abuse or violence against women? What about children going hungry even in our own country or people living in tents or elderly people who can’t afford their prescriptions? Do we stand up and say ENOUGH!? Do we write our lawmakers who make light of these situations and spend more money on weapons than feeding people and helping the afflicted? Do we do ANYTHING? 

Would you march silently to give voice and to stand up for something you strongly believe in? Is there anything so important to you that you would risk arrest, injury, or even death as the Iranians are doing? 

Consider spending 10 minutes each day in meditation for healing in our world. It’s the least we can do.

Here is a video of people in Tehran peacefully protesting the election results today. This brings tears to my eyes. This is courage and conviction in action. I hope that we can all begin to see the Iranians…and so many other people speaking out all over the world for freedom from violence and freedom for a voice…as our brothers and sisters who are to be loved and applauded and not enemies to be feared and hated.

 

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Waking Up from a Tortured Past

26 04 2009

King Leopold II of Belgium was responsible for the deaths of 10 – 15 million people in the Congo between 1885 and 1908…twice the number that Hitler had killed. Have you even heard of him? I hadn’t until I read the unbelievable book King Leopold’s Ghost by Adam Hochschild.

King Leopold II

King Leopold II

Leopold could not convince Belgium to get involved in colonization so he developed his own private company…the International African Society…and laid claim to the area he called the Congo Free State, which is now the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC). He cloaked his takeover of this land and the ivory and rubber trades as doing philanthropic work.

Wikipedia says: ” With a complex scheme of political intrigue, corruption and propaganda, he wins the assistance of one of the greatest explorers of the time, Henry Morton Stanley, as well as that of public opinion and of powerful states.”

It took decades for people outside the Congo Free State to know the absolute reign of terror he held over those people, his ruthlessness, and the massacre of over half the population. Outsiders believed he was liberating the Congo people and helping them.

The world has amnesia or ignorance of this monster and the mass killings and maiming he ordered and caused. This reign of terror that King Leopold II started seems to be imprinted in the psyche of the people in the DRC.

Millions of people are still being killed on the same land…today the Democratic Republic of the Congo. The Second Congo War…the “African World War”…which started in 1998 and on paper ended in 2003 (but still continues) has resulted in 5.4 million deaths.

Child Soldiers in the DRC

Child Soldiers in the DRC - Credit: Reuters

Horrendous rapes and other sexual violence committed there as a tool of war are the worst in the world. Children are seized by the armies to serve as soldiers and sexual slaves. Over half of the victims of sexual violence are children. Girls and women are raped and their insides are then torn apart with butts of rifles, burned, or other horrors. I wrote a post Women Suffer Atrocities Silently in the Congo about this.

So what does this have to do with you and me? We have just lived through eight years of a monarch who appeared on the surface…as did King Leopold II…to be beneficent. Horrible atrocities were being committed, though, and justified under the guise of keeping us safe.

Yoga science defines samskara as “…an imprint from past experience in the unconscious mind, which later creates our experiences by causing a person to automatically behave a certain way.”

How does one…or a nation…heal from samskaras? By becoming aware of these imprints, deciding we are not going to just react like a Pavlovian dog, and by choosing different and healthier responses.

We must wake up from this 9/11 terror-induced coma we have been living in and acknowledge what was being done and hold people accountable for their atrocities. Otherwise we, like the people in the Congo, will hold torture in our psyches and will not be able to move on to being a more enlightened, awake, ethical, and peaceful people.

Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.” — Poet and Philosopher George Santayana

A further sign of health is that we don’t become undone by fear and trembling, but we take it as a message that it’s time to stop struggling and look directly at what’s threatening us.” –Buddhist Nun Pema Chodron

UPDATE 4/29/09: Human Rights Watch issued an alert today as reported on Reuters:

More than 100,000 displaced civilians in Lubero territory in eastern Democratic Republic of Congo desperately need protection from further attacks by Rwandan militias and Congolese forces, Human Rights Watch said today. Human Rights Watch called on the United Nations peacekeeping force and humanitarian agencies to take urgent steps to increase protection and assistance to the civilians at risk.

You can read the full report on Reuters here.





Mommy Died in the War

9 04 2009

Since 9/11, over 8,000 U.S. children have lost a parent in the military, according to the Department of Defense. These are the young casualties of war that we don’t talk about or even think about very often. Today I watched a 2007 movie “Grace is Gone” on HBO and I thought about it and cried…a lot.

grace-is-gone-movieIn the movie, John Cusack plays the stoic and sad father of 8- and 12-year-old girls whose mother Grace is a sargent in Iraq. He is notified that Grace died in combat and is at a loss for how to tell his daughters. He impetuously decides to take them on a bonding adventure, a testament to the love and sacrifice of parents that we try to ease the pain of our children in any way we can.

The movie was scored with beautiful music by Clint Eastwood, who was nominated for two Golden Globes for the score and one song. I could really feel the emotions of the father as he agonized over the loss of his wife and his daughters’ loss of their mother.

Over 8000 children have felt that loss due to our being in Iraq and Afghanistan. They already were made to sacrifice while the parent was away from home, but with a sudden death, they aren’t even given the opportunity to say goodbye to their parent. That parent will never come to their future soccer games and ballet recitals and graduations and weddings and baby christenings. That parent will never again hug them or tuck them in at night or comfort them when they’re scared or tell them they’re proud of how well they’re doing in school. All that is gone.

The child(ren) and the remaining parent are left to carry on…to grieve, to find some new normal in life, to wonder why this happened to them, and to ache for the loss of someone who can never be replaced.

It is important to remember that sacrifice comes even from small children in these wars we are fighting. And children suffer not only here in the U.S., but also in Iraq, where it is estimated that more than five million children (at the end of 2007; source: Iraq’s anti-corruption board) are orphans, mostly due to the war.

Take the time to watch Grace is Gone on HBO or rent the DVD. It is moving. It will touch you. If you want to help out families who have lost a loved one in the war, consider donating to one of these organizations.

  • Intrepid Fallen Heroes Fund – provides unrestricted grants to families of fallen troops
  • Fallen Patriot Fund – provides financial grants to the families of those killed or seriously injured in Iraq
  • Tragedy Assistance Program for Survivors (TAPS) – provides services to all who have lost a loved one while serving in the U.S. armed forces
  • Navy-Marine Corps Relief Society – provides financial assistance and emergency grants to families and survivors.




  • The Tortured Gitmo 14: Americans Unknowingly Paid for This

    6 04 2009

    Stripped naked for weeks. Deprived of food. Chained with hands above the head while standing for days on end. Denied sleep for days. Beaten brutally.

    Credit: Antiwar.com

    Credit: Antiwar.com

    Kept in solitary confinment for months and years with no knowledge of where they were, no contact with anyone except their masked interrogators, and no news of the outside world. Denied access to a toilet. Suffocated by water.

    Repeatedly slung against a wall with the collar they were forced to wear. Threatened with being infected with HIV…or the arrest and rape of their families…or of being sodomized…or of being electrically shocked…or of being brought close to death. Doctors monitoring the torture and even participating in it.

    This and more is what happened to 14 “high value” detainees that the International Red Cross was allowed to visit at Guantanamo and interview in October and December of 2006. The complete February 2007 “Strictly Confidential” report of what they saw and heard entitled ICRC REPORT ON THE ON THE TREATMENT OF FOURTEEN “HIGH VALUE DETAINEES” IN CIA CUSTODY was published today online on the New York Review of Books website by Mark Danner, a long-time contributor to the Review and author of the book Torture and Truth: America, Abu Ghraib, and the War on Terror.

    If you want to know more, I wrote about Mr. Danner’s article with more details of the Red Cross report in the post (with the same name as the article) U.S. Torture: Voices from the Black Sites.

    Why were Bush and his cronies allowed to stay in office when it was so clear that they lied when they said they weren’t torturing, broke the law, spit on the Constitution and the Geneva Conventions, and egregiously took away human rights of detainees? Read the International Red Cross report. The Bush Administration is guilty of torture. It is time that Americans demand that Bush, Cheney, Gonzales, Yoo, Addington, Rumsfeld, etc. be brought to justice. They need to be held accountable so the world can begin to heal from the harm they did.

    I urge you to contact Attorney General Eric Holder and ask him to take action on this. You can contact him at AskDOJ@usdoj.gov.





    U.S. Torture: Voices from the Black Sites

    15 03 2009

    Chilling. In the tortureds’ own words. US Torture: Voices from the Black Sites is the name of the cover article in the April 9 issue of the New York Review of Books. This is a must-read article by Mark Danner, a long-time contributor to the Review and the author of the book Torture and Truth: America, Abu Ghraib, and the War on Terror.

    Mark Danner - Source: NYBooks.com

    Mark Danner - Source: NYBooks.com

    Mark Danner contributed an OpEd to the 3/14/09 New York Times about the article. He talks of how on September 6, 2006 President Bush first “…informed the world that the United States had created a dark and secret universe to hold and interrogate captured terrorists. He says that President Bush’s remarks included the following:

    “In addition to the terrorists held at Guantánamo, a small number of suspected terrorist leaders and operatives captured during the war have been held and questioned outside the United States, in a separate program operated by the Central Intelligence Agency. At these places, the C.I.A. used an alternative set of procedures. These procedures were designed to be safe, to comply with our laws, our Constitution and our treaty obligations. The Department of Justice reviewed the authorized methods extensively and determined them to be lawful.”

    In that speech, Bush also said that 14 “high-value detainees” would be transferred from overseas Black Sites to Guantanamo and that the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) would have the opportunity to meet with them.

    In the Review article are excerpts from a secret ICRC report that details how the U.S. tortured prisoners at the Black Sites. The press release for this article includes this description of the kind of torture that was authorized by President Bush:

    This “alternative set of procedures,” as President Bush characterized them in a White House speech, including extended “sleep deprivation,” prolonged forced nudity, bombarding detainees with noise and light, repeated immersion in cold water, prolonged standing, sometimes for many days, beatings of various kinds, and “waterboarding” – or as the report’s authors phrase it, “suffocation by water.” These interrogations are described in chilling first-person accounts gathered confidentially by ICRC investigators and made public here for the first time.

    You can hear a podcast of Mark Danner speaking on this at the New York Review of Books website.

    Danner’s article backs up what Jane Mayer of the New Yorker has also written about in her excellent book “The Dark Side: The Inside Story of How the War on Terror Turned into a War on American Ideals.”  I heard Jane speak about this book at the Texas Book Festival on 11/2/08 and read her excellent book. It is eye-opening.

    I believe that every American should educate themselves on the crimes that Bush, Cheney, Addington, Woo, Rumsfeld, and others committed during the Bush Administration. These people were authorizing and justifying (with bogus legal documents) torture in secret while denying it in public. Senator Patrick Leahy is urging Americans to join him in calling for a commission to investigate abuses during the Bush/Cheney admninistration. Please visit the website at http://www.bushtruthcommission.com and sign the petition. No one should be allowed to so denigrate the office of the Presidency and Vice-Presidency, the United States, the Constitution, the Geneva Conventions, and the honor of the American people and totally walk away without any consequences. No one.





    Bashmilah: Innocent Yet Disappeared, Held Captive, Tortured

    20 02 2009

    Mohamed Farag Ahmad Bashmilah was disappeared by the U.S., held captive for 19 months, and tortured. He writes a chilling tale about it in an article on the Huffington Post.

    Bashmilla

    Bashmilah

    According to the short bio there, he is “…a citizen of Yemen, is a client of the International Human Rights Clinic at NYU School of Law, which represents him in his quest for truth and justice.” He starts his article with these words:

    “From October 2003 until May 2005, I was illegally detained by the U.S. government and held in CIA-run “black sites” with no contact with the outside world. On May 5, 2005, without explanation, my American captors removed me from my cell and cuffed, hooded, and bundled me onto a plane that delivered me to Sana’a, Yemen. I was transferred into the custody of my own government, which held me — apparently at the behest of the United States — until March 27, 2006, when I was finally released, never once having faced any terrorism-related charges. Since my release, the U.S. government has never explained why I was detained and has blocked all attempts to find out more about my detention.”

    I encourage you to read the rest of the post. This program of capturing people who may or may not be terrorists and renditioning them…disappearing them…to another country where they are then tortured was practiced secretly by President Bush. Surprisingly to me, according to the HuffPo article, this practice has been going on for decades and was alledgedly practiced by President Clinton 80 times. The difference, according to Panetta, is whether the prisoner is sent to another country for prosecution or torture.

    Bush sent detainees to other countries for torture. He wanted them off U.S. soil so illegal torture could be done to them outside our country’s watch. Senator Patrick Leahy is calling for a commission to investigate abuses during the Bush/Cheney administration. I urge you to sign the petition to urge Congress to create this commission by going to http://www.bushtruthcommission.com.





    Iraq War: The Cost of Bush Lies and His Influence of Not Being Accountable

    1 02 2009

    UPDATED 3/15/2013

    From a Reuters report on a Watson Institute study:

    NEW YORK, March 14 (Reuters) – The U.S. war in Iraq has cost $1.7 trillion with an additional $490 billion in benefits owed to war veterans, expenses that could grow to more than $6 trillion over the next four decades counting interest, a study released on Thursday said.

    The war has killed at least 134,000 Iraqi civilians and may have contributed to the deaths of as many as four times that number, according to the Costs of War Project by the Watson Institute for International Studies at Brown University.

    When security forces, insurgents, journalists and humanitarian workers were included, the war’s death toll rose to an estimated 176,000 to 189,000, the study said.

    See the full article here: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/03/14/iraq-war-cost-more-than-2-trillion_n_2875493.html?ncid=edlinkusaolp00000009.

    ORIGINAL POST I WROTE

    George W. Bush reasons for the Iraq War: WMDs, Iraq’s ties to al-Qaeda, and liberate Iraqis from Saddam Hussein and create a democratic government. His refusal to accept or admit any accountability for the results of his misleading the American people have had tremendous cost to Iraq and to the U.S.

    I just finished reading the riveting “War Journal: My Five Years in Iraq” by Richard Engel, NBC News Middle East Correspondent. Richard says none of those reasons for starting the war are true, and that the war in Iraq “…has always been more about geography, religion, and power than democracy. If you see where Shiites, Sunnis, and Kurds live, it’s easy to understand their struggles for dominance.” Bush never understood that…and frankly didn’t care. He did what he wanted to do and what he wanted to do has been…and continues to be…extremely costly.

    Here are some statistics on what the Iraq war (taken from think tanks such as the Brookings Institute and from the media) has cost the U.S. as of 1/21/09 due to Bush’s folly of inserting us in the middle of a civil and religious war:

    • 4,231 U.S. soldiers killed; 30% of them younger than 22 years old
    • 30,984 U.S. soldiers injured, with 20% of them having serious brain or spinal injuries
    • 30% of U.S. soldiers develop serious mental health problems within 3-4 months of returning home and suicide rates in the U.S. Army hitting an all-time high in 2008
    • One TRILLION DOLLARS (that’s $1000 billion) through  October 2009 in U.S. taxpayer money (this figure was updated 10/25/09)
      • $390,000 per year to deploy just ONE U.S. soldier
    • 142,000 – 148,000 (depending on whose statistics you use) troops in Iraq currently
    • 513,000 U.S. troops deployed since 2003; 197,000 of those more than once and 53,000 more than 3 times
    • According to February, 2007 Congressional hearings (and that was two years ago so the number is probably much higher now) an estimated $10 billion wasted and mismanaged in Iraq

    Now add to those staggering numbers the impact on the Iraqi people:

    • An estimated more than one MILLION Iraqi citizens killed as of August, 2007 (according to the Opinion Business Research survey); the official documented number around 100,000
    • 2.25 million Iraqis displaced inside Iraq and 2.25 million Iraqis who are now refugees in Syria or Jordan as of May 2007; an additional 840,000 people displaced since May 2007 – a total of well over 5 MILLION Iraqis displaced
      • A note: Syria has refused to allow the 1.5 million who came there to work so many of the refugees have been forced to send their daughters – even as young as 5 or 6 – to clubs to dance to get money unofficially, becoming the family breadwinners. The girls make usually $20 to 30 per day in the clubs and the fathers of these girls act as pimps for work outside the club. These girls and their families are casualties of the U.S. War on Iraq.

    Bush used the fear that the Iraq War would disintegrate into chaos to get re-elected in 2004. The cost to the American people of having four more years of Bush as president has been immense. He used fear again to continue to justify the now $12 billion per month the U.S. spends to keep our troops there. This is triple the burn rate of what we spent in the early years of the war. John McCain used fear about the war to try and get elected president and said he would never take our troops out until we had won. Only Barack Obama seems to understand that we are in a war we should never have started and that we cannot win.

    The fear the Republican warmongers have perpetuated is that Iraq would descend into civil war if we leave. It has been happening for years now. Richard Engel cites countless atrocities that Iraqis have committed against other Iraqis during the Iraq War, continuing the torture and violence of Saddam Hussein:

    • A father’s beautiful 17-year-old daughter is kidnapped. The father talks to the kidnappers and convinces them to let him speak to his daughter. He asks her if she has been violated and she says yes. He tells the kidnappers to keep her…that he doesn’t want her back in that condition. The kidnappers execute the girl.
    • A family refuses an order to move from their home and their two-year-old boy is kidnapped, split open, stuffed with rice, roasted, and delivered to their doorstep.
    • People are executed and thrown in the streets as a warning to others to not cross the executioners.
    • Body parts are everywhere, bombings are commonplace, and women in particular hide in their homes in fear.

    Some infrastructure improvements have been made since the U.S. invaded Iraq in 2003. Phone subscribers have increased from 800,000 to over 14 million. Internet users have increased from 4,500 to around 850,000. Those improvements do not negate the fact that the cost of the Iraq war has been very high…for the U.S., other countries, and especially for Iraqis.

    Bush’s lies have caused unbelievable destruction, death, injury, harm to the U.S. reputation around the world, increase in terrorists and terrorism, U.S.-sanctioned use of torture, and money. And we wonder why our country is in the place it is now. We had an immoral, destructionist, lying, and above-the-law president who felt he was accountable to no one. The American people followed suit…we felt we could do anything and not pay a price. We are paying now…both as a country and individually.





    Renditions and Torture: Outlawed

    26 01 2009

    A powerful 26 minute film that every American should watch. Go to this link to see it: http://hub.witness.org/node/8109. A description from the website is included below:

    Human rights groups and several public inquiries in Europe have found the U.S. government, with the complicity of numerous governments worldwide, to be engaged in the illegal practice of extraordinary rendition, secret detention, and torture. The U.S. government-sponsored program of renditions is an unlawful practice in which numerous persons have been illegally detained and secretly flown to third countries, where they have suffered additional human rights abuses including torture and enforced disappearance. No one knows the exact number of persons affected, due to the secrecy under which the operations are carried out.

    Outlawed: Extraordinary Rendition, Torture and Disappearances in the ‘War on Terror’ corroborates these findings through the harrowing stories of Khaled El-Masri and Binyam Mohamed, two men who have suffered as a result of the U.S. government’s disregard of the international legal instruments dealing with respect for fundamental rights. The film features commentary from Louise Arbour, the U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights, Michael Scheuer, the chief architect of the rendition program and former head of the Osama Bin Laden unit at the CIA, U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and U.S. President George W. Bush.

    OUTLAWED is a 27-minute WITNESS production in association with 14 production and distribution partners worldwide, including the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU); Amnesty International; Breakthrough (US/India); the Brennan Center for Justice at New York University School of Law; the Center for Constitutional Rights; the Center for Human Rights & Global Justice at New York University School of Law; Freedom House; Human Rights First; Human Rights Watch; the International Commission of Jurists (Switzerland); Liberty (UK); the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the USA; Redress (UK); and Reprieve (UK).





    Bush Tortured Democracy and Detainees

    25 01 2009

    The Bush administration authorized and used torture. Period. “Torturing Democracy” is a documentary on their lies and insistence that “The U.S. does not torture” while they were practicing it. 

    The New York Times reported on 10/16/08 that PBS was holding this documentary until January 21, 2009, the first day they said they could find on their schedule to air it, and noncoincidentally, the day after Bush and Cheney left office. It is suspected that PBS was pressured by the Bush administration and thus held showing the documentary.

    Jane Mayer, a consultant for the program, wrote the incredibly elucidating and damning book  “The Dark Side: The Inside Story of How the War on Terror Turned Into a War on American Ideals.” I heard Jane speak in Austin the weekend before the election and was stunned by what I heard.

    I immediately bought her book and read it in shock at what Bush, Cheney, Rumsfeld, Gonzales, Addington, Woo and others did in the name of keeping America safe. They assumed, and justified, absolute power after 9/11, declaring that not even Congress could keep them from doing whatever they felt was necessary.

    The United Nations human rights chief on 1/22/09 called for an investigation into torture at Guantanamo Bay. Will Bush and others be charged and prosecuted? They have violated the Geneva Conventions and defied and defiled the Constitution of the United States. Why should they be above the law? People discovered what they were doing. Why were they not impeached? They have held and tortured detainees who were shepherds and never shown to be terrorists. They have harmed the United States beyond measure with their dictatorial use of authority. Their use of torture served as a technique to recruit terrorists, which led to thousands of U.S. deaths.

    In his first week in office, President Obama signed authorizations to stop the use of torture and close down Guantanamo Bay within one year. The Bush administration’s horrific and secretive practices have stopped.

    “Torturing Democracy” is now being shown in select cities on PBS and is available to see online at http://www.TorturingDemocracy.org. After the film is shown, a leading panel of experts discuss the film. Watch and see what your former President, Vice President, and others did. Form your own opinion. Personally, I believe they should be prosecuted and jailed. They broke U.S. laws and international laws about the humane treatment of people, including prisoners of war. They caused American deaths. No one is above the law. NO ONE.





    Finally…Moral Leadership and NO MORE TORTURE

    22 01 2009

    Finally. An ethical President. When we hear “The U.S. does not torture,” this time it will not be a lie. Today President Obama (I love the sound of that!) issued an executive order that orders that any prisoner being held at Guantanamo must be be treated humanely in accordance with the Geneva Conventions (which Bush totally ignored). He also ordered the closing of Guantanamo no later than one year from today. Some prisoners have been held there as long as 7 years without a trial.

    Obama with Retired Generals Signing Order on 1/22/09 to Close Guantanamo

    Obama with Retired Generals Signing Order on 1/22/09 to Close Guantanamo

     One of the retired generals accompanying President Obama as he signed the orders was Retired Major General Paul D. Eaton. He was interviewed by Keith Olbermann and Eaton had this to say about today: “It’s been a blockbuster day. The performance of our President was nothing less than terrific…great courage. It was a wonderful, wonderful session with him.” He also said that he and other retired generals and admirals  have been working with Human Rights First on how to restore our moral standing in the world. He said a critical component of that is how you handle your detainees.

    Eaton also said that the Bush Administration “…allowed Guantanamo to become a recruiting poster for Al Qaeda.” This statement is similar to one made by “Matthew Alexander” (an assumed name) who is a former U.S. interrogator. I wrote about him in this post and his assertion that as many Americans have died because of the U.S. practice of torture as died in 9/11.

    Obama also signed today an executive order to establish an interagency task force on detainee disposition to “… identify lawful options for the disposition of individuals captured or apprehended in connection with armed conflicts and counterterrorism operations.”

    A third executive order President Obama signed was “Ensuring Lawful Interrogations.” He revoked previous regulations issued to or by the CIA from 9/11/01 to 1/20/09, which gave them power to ignore the Geneva Conventions and other U.S. laws regarding treatment of prisoners and torture. The executive order asserted that detainees are not to be tortured and are to be interrogated using the Army Field Manual guidelines.

    Yesterday President Obama ordered that military prosecutors halt all Guantanamo war crimes tribunals for 120 days so that the cases can be reviewed. The military had been serving as judge and jury in these cases.

    I have written several blogs about torture after hearing New Yorker writer Jane Mayer speak in Austin and then reading her riveting book “The Dark Side: The Inside Story of How the War on Terror Turned into a War on American Ideals.” I had a recent conversation with my mother about how Bush and Cheney had personally authorized torture and she seemed to be totally unaware this was going on. I’m sure there are millions of other Americans who have been blissfully unaware. They are most likely the same people who voted for Bush for president again in 2004…the same year the photos of the abuse at Abu Ghraib came out.

    President Obama is a different man. He is caring, compassionate, has a strong moral compass, and believes there are other ways to deal with our enemies rather than torture them to partial or complete death or to bomb them and go to war on false pretenses.

    Finally the U.S. can begin to assume our position as the leader in human rights and equal rights for all people. It’s about time.





    Bush Legacy in 8 Minutes

    16 01 2009

    Sobering. The two men most responsible for authorizing the United States’ use of torture will receive pensions of $196,700 (Bush) and $132,451 (Cheney) per year – both adjusted for inflation. How does that make you feel to know that your hard-earned money is going to two men who crippled our country, egregiously broke the law, and decided they were above abiding by the Geneva Conventions? Watch and be reminded of why our country is in the shape it is.





    Going Out in a Blaze of Revisionism, Denial, Blaming

    14 01 2009

    Bush, Cheney, and Palin are all on their I-didnt-do-it-it’s-those-people’s-fault 2009 Revisionism, Denial, and Blaming Tour. One wonders how they keep a straight face when being interviewed. The words that come out of their mouths are so surreal when compared to the facts of what actually happened.

    Cheney still denies that waterboarding is torture and flatly asserts that torture and Guantanamo Bay were and are necessary. He believes that he participated in an administration that accomplished a lot and he’s proud of what he’s done. He may just be one of the most dangerous people who has ever served in an administration. He says that the torture, detention, and renditions that he personally authorized were done legally. Of course, his chief of staff David Addington was the person who was in charge of getting Gonzales, Yoo, and others to pen whatever legal chicanery they could to cover their asses.

    And Bush…this man is probably the most unaware person I have ever observed. He seems to have no conscience at all. He led us into a war on false pretenses, but maintains it was necessary. He asks in a press conference what else could he have done to help out during Katrina and says he couldn’t land his helicopter there because that would’ve taken resources away from rescuing people…as if that was his only choice for what to do. He, too, insists that torture was necessary and finally…after many years of denying it…admits that he did authorize torture of the master mind of 9/11.

    And then there’s Palin. She blames the McCain people for keeping her quiet during the election (there’s a reason for that as has become quite evident). She whines that bloggers were smearing her and the media was biased against her due to class issues. She looks for any opportunity to be in the national spotlight while many of her own people in Alaska are having to choose between heating their homes or eating due to the high cost of heating oil…and she does nothing. At least John McCain has the decency to not blame others and has kept quiet. Palin could learn a thing or two from him.

    So what’s the message we get from Cheney, Bush, and Palin? It’s okay to do whatever you want to do and you don’t have to listen to or consider the people you serve. Lie if it will save your ass. You can treat people however you want as long as you smile and wave the flag of being a good Christian or family values person. Intelligence is overrated. Manipulation is underrated.

    Barack Obama is a breath of fresh air. He tells us the truth…even when it’s painful to hear. He gives us hope. He gathers the smartest people he can to advise him and help him govern…he values intelligence and is incredibly intelligent himself. He has real family values…the affection he has for his wife and children is undeniable. During the election and after he takes office he has made it a policy that those working with him need to take time off to be with their families. He denounces torture and will reverse that policy and many others that Bush and Cheney have put in place…ones that have destroyed the respect that so many people have had for the United States. Obama will get things done to lift us up rather than destroying our country as Bush and Cheney have.

    Human rights will once again be important in the U.S. and for those we touch. Bush and Cheney assumed absolute power and took away so much of our freedom in the name of keeping us safe.

    Cheney, Bush, and Palin, your time on the national stage is over. You have done enough damage. Let our country heal now under the leadership of Barack Obama. Yes we can…have hope and honest and intelligent leadership…finally.





    Bush Ducks as an Iraqi Takes Aim

    15 12 2008

    Disrespectful? Yes. Understandable? Also yes. Bush had two shoes thrown at him today by Iraqi journalist Muntadar al-Zeidi during a press conference in Iraq. Showing the soles of shoes is a sign of contempt in Arab culture.

    When the first one was thrown, the Iraqi journalist throwing it said: “This is a goodbye kiss from the Iraqi people, dog.”

    When he threw the second shoe, he said: “This is from the widows, the orphans and those killed in Iraq.”

    Zeidi knew first-hand about the violence in Iraq: he was kidnapped last year by Shiite militiamen, tortured, and later released. He has also had relatives killed in fighting in Iraq.

    Reports vary wildly of how many Iraqis have been killed since the U.S. invaded in 2003. The website http://www.IraqBodyCount.org lists 89,878 – 98,139 documented civilian Iraqi deaths in that time period. Other counts are much higher. On October 10, 2006, the New York Times reported that the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health study said that over 600,000 Iraqi deaths had occurred…and that was over two years ago.

    With so many innocent Iraqi citizens killed, it’s understandable that they would feel hatred toward Bush. Saddam Hussein was responsible for over 2 million people being killed (many of these Iranians). Bush’s decision to take the U.S. into war in Iraq on false pretenses has not had the reign of terror that Saddam Hussein had, but to the Iraqis, it may feel like it…and the numbers are startling.

    Bush seems to have no remorse or any feeling at all over the havoc he has created in the world and the many many lives that have been lost, destroyed, or forever changed because of his actions. Throwing shoes at him, while disrespectful, is mild considering the damage he’s done. When he’s out of office, will there be repercussions for his having authorized torture? For lying repeatedly to the American public? Will people be standing in line to “throw shoes” at him?

     





    U.S. Torture Has Caused As Many U.S. Soldier Deaths as 9/11

    3 12 2008

    They got it all wrong. Bush, Cheney, Addington, Rumsfield, and Gonzales authorized torture to “keep us safe” after 9/11. I wrote about this in a 11/16/08 blog.

    Today Keith Olbermann interviewed “Matthew Alexander” on torture. “Matthew” (not his real name) served 14 years in the U.S. Air Force and is still in the Reserves (thus the assumed name). He has written a book called “How to Break a Terrorist: The U.S. Interrogators Who Used Brains, Not Brutality, to Take Down the Deadliest Man in Iraq.”

    Alexander went to Iraq in March, 2006 for a 5-month stint as a senior interrogator. He witnessed the U.S. using torture to try and elicit information from terrorist suspects. He conducted 300 interrogations and supervised 1,000 interrogations, and refused to use those methods. Instead, he built a rapport with the suspects, showed an understanding of their culture, and used criminal investigation techqniues to elicit the information he sought. His interrogation methods gathered information that led to the bombing and killing of Abu Masab al-Zarqawi, the leader of al-Qaeda in Iraq.

    “Matthew” says that torture is “extremely ineffective and is counter-productive to what we are trying to accomplish.” He says that you get unreliable information from torture and that al-Qaeda uses the fact that we torture people to recruit new members. He says we need to outlaw torture immediately when Obama takes office.

    In a 11/30/08 Washington Post article he wrote, which was entitled “I’m Still Tortured by What I Saw in Iraq,” Alexander says that:

    I learned in Iraq that the No. 1 reason foreign fighters flocked there to fight were the abuses carried out at Abu Ghraib and Guantanamo. Our policy of torture was directly and swiftly recruiting fighters for al-Qaeda in Iraq. The large majority of suicide bombings in Iraq are still carried out by these foreigners.

    He also makes this startling declaration:

    The number of U.S. soldiers who have died because of our torture policy will never be definitively known, but it is fair to say that it is close to the number of lives lost on Sept. 11, 2001. How anyone can say that torture keeps Americans safe is beyond me — unless you don’t count American soldiers as Americans.

    LET THAT SINK IN FOR A SECOND. We have lost as many soldiers due to torture as we did in 9/11. We are supposedly FIGHTING a war on terror. Instead, we have CREATED terror with our torture policies…terror for our own soldiers and terror produced by new recruits who came to fight directly because of our torturing suspected terrorists.

    Here’s Keith Olbermann interviewing “Matthew Alexander” on “Countdown” today:

    Alexander is hopeful since Obama has said he will outlaw torture. Obama’s top legal advisors met today with 12 retired generals to talk about banning torture. Torture is just so unnecessary…and IT HAS TO STOP.





    Bush: Remained True to His Values – And Authorized Torture

    28 11 2008

    Bush, who authorized torture, wants to be remembered for remaining faithful to his values. He says that he “…did not sell his soul in order to accommodate the  political process,” according to CNN.

    Jane Mayer, who writes for The New Yorker, wrote a book about how the Bush Administration used 9/11 to justify absolute authority to do whatever they pleased in a book called The Dark Side:  The Inside Story of How the War on Terror Turned Into a War on American Ideals. I heard Jane speak in Austin at the Texas Book Festival and bought and read this book. It is shocking and eye-opening.  

    PBS is holding a documentary called “Torturing Democracy,” about the Bush Administration ordering coercive interrogation techniques and torture in Guantanamo and Abu Ghraib in Iraq. They say they cannot find a place on their schedule for it until January 21st, 2009, the day after Bush leaves office.

    Watch for yourself at http://www.torturingdemocracy.org and ask yourself if you ordered what is depicted in this documentary, if these are values you’d be proud of. Here is a clip from the documentary.

     





    Obama Will End the Bush Administration’s Sanction of Torture

    16 11 2008

    We’ve had 7 long and shameful years of torture instituted and sanctioned by George Bush and Dick Cheney. Obama said on 60 Minutes tonight that he will close Guantanamo Bay and ban torture in order to “regain America’s moral stature in the world.” Most people have heard about Guantanamo Bay in Cuba and know that we have held terrorist suspects there, but most – myself included – haven’t known the extent to which Bush and Cheney have gone to take away human rights in the name of keeping our country safe.
    CLICK HERE to read more





    Dear George Bush and Henry Paulson

    14 11 2008

    Bush and Paulson have misled the American public about the bailout and continue to do so. The market declined from 13,058 on May 2nd to 10,825 on September 24th, the day McCain suspended his campaign to rush back due to the emergency in Washington. Why was there all of a sudden THAT WEEK an emergency? The market was the same as it had been since July. CLICK HERE to continue reading