Wednesday, November 02, 2005

Do As I Say, Not As I Do

Three years ago, the U.S. military turned the Cuban base at Guantanamo Bay into a massive prison facility to house suspected terrorists caught up in the War on Terror. 500 men are currently detained. They have been there for 3 ½ years. They have not been charged. They are not allowed legal representation. They are to be held indefinitely or at least until the War on Terror is concluded. Allegations and proof of misconduct and disregard for their safety, culture and well-being is rampant. Many of the prisoners are on hunger strikes to protest their treatment, seven of which are being hospitalized and force-fed.

And yesterday, Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld refused to permit United Nations human rights investigators—investigators there at the behest of the U.S. government after a persistent, three-year request by the U.N.—access to meet with detained terror suspects. One visit, by the American Red Cross, three years ago, was enough, Rumsfeld suggested.

“It makes no sense (to go),” Manfred Nowak, special investigator on torture and other cruel treatment, told reporters at U.N. headquarters in New York. “You cannot do a fact-finding mission without talking to the detainees.”

Continuing on its current course of believing itself above even its own laws—both national and international—the United States thumbs its nose at the rest of the world, cementing radically irresponsible and appalling policies, the sorts of which it itself would never permit were it interested in investigating human rights issues in the Sudan or some other such country plagued by torture allegations. The hypocrisy of this government is staggering and makes one wonder—just what are they trying to hide?


Blogger Brandon Fibbs said...

Oh yeah, I forgot to mention the CIA's request that it be exempted from anti-torture legislation.

And just this afternoon, it broke that the U.S. has a number of top secret bases overseas used expressly for the purpose of holding high level terrorists without the prying eyes of the military or government oversight.

When forced to comment on it, a U.S. National Security Advisor, said, "While we have to do what is necessary to defend the country against terrorists and to win the war on terror, the president has been very clear that we're going to do that in a way that is consistent with our values and that is why he has been very clear that the United States will not torture."

Take a look at our recent history! If the mistreatment of detainees at Abu Gharib is representative of our national values, then one can only imagine what is going on at the secret prisons.

Fuckers! Sorry, but there's no other word for it.

6:59 PM  
Anonymous Paul said...

What is the alternative to holding these SMFs (suspicious mo fo's)? I don't condone torture and think the alleged situations where "torture" is used need to be addressed and taken care of so that they do not occur or continue to occur.

So what do we do with these detainees, whether they're in a prison in D.C., Gitmo, or some hole in Afghanistan? I've heard people say, "charge them or release them." Is that really an option? It is against our justice system to hold them indefinitely but that is what we are doing because the alternative is unthinkable. We are sure (maybe not 100%) that if we let them go, they will disappear for a while and reappear in the form of a murderous suicide bomber or worse. We don't charge them because we can't prove anything, so we hold them. So what is the alternative??? Is releasing them really an option?


11:45 AM  
Blogger Brandon Fibbs said...

I don’t know Paul, but we have to do something.

This is a very different war (I hesitate to call it a war because wars are things with generally clearly defined enemies, ideologies, strike zones, and at least rough timelines for victory. As with the War on Drugs, the War on Terror is so nebulous and multi-faceted as to be completely incongruous.) and it requires very different rules.

It’s one thing to hold enemy combatants (as we have done and should have done in every war) and either try them for war crimes or hold them until the conflict is over. But when you declare war on a system and not a country, an ideology and not a nation, then you must prepare to be “at war” for generations. Ask Great Briton. Ask Israel. Ask any country embroiled in battling terror. They will tell you that it is a never ending struggle. If that is the case, then simply holding a person until the end of a war that may not end for hundreds of years is asinine.

We do not yet have the answer, but it is a question we must be asking. To hold someone caught in a wide dragnet of anti-terrorism roundups, who may or may not be guilty, without any access to council, without ever being charged, without any hope of release, and quite possibly tortured for the duration of his life is barbaric.

12:00 PM  
Anonymous Paul said...

It IS barbaric to hold them indefinitely without charge or access to counsel or hope of improving their situation in any way, shape, or form. The rules do need to be adjusted for this elusive, nebulous enemy. They were changed right after 9/11 (Patriot Act), which I'm sure has been debated at length in earlier blogs on this site that I have yet to read.

Enemys caught during a time of war must be detained. As do threats to our national and civil security, which are one and the same to me. If the conflict they were detained for has no end in sight, there needs to be a provision made for that.

This is a complex issue that requires creative solutions. The questions need to be prioritized first: How long do we keep these people? How do we keep them? (in suspected-terrorist ghettos? in prison-camp-style compounds?) How much input should they have to their own civil liberties? (access to counsel, religious services, family???) Simply eliminate them? Let them go?

Are there any options I overlooked? Which is the best and most inline with our ideals? Where do those ideals come from--the Constitution, the Bible, our upbringing and own sense of justice and liberty???

I like asking questions. Answers are more difficult to come by.


12:30 PM  
Blogger Brandon Fibbs said...

Oh don't get me started on the Patriot Act. Heck, don't get Jonathan started on the Patriot Act!

12:45 PM  
Blogger Jon said...

Ahem...The 5th amendment of the U.S. Constitution states:

No person shall be deprived of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law.

Can it be stated any plainer than that? Notice it does not say 'no U.S. citizen'. No person. Period. Long hard experience taught the Founders of the necessity for this amendment. What experience? Read the Declaration of Independence to see. Who the hell is the Bush administration to say it no longer needed. Its one thing to say the Geneva Convention is outdated, quite another to say the U.S. Constitution is. What part of the Constitution will they shred next I wonder?

If they have a case against these men, try them. If they thought they had enough evidence to warrant picking them up, and taking them from their families, flying them to another country, and sodomizing them with night sticks, then TRY THEM ALREADY! If not, then yes, let them go.

Imagine if it were you. Imagine if they picked you up and took you away and held you for years on end only to find out much later that you were innocent all along. You'd be pissed (biggest understatement of the century)! Oh but that could never happen you say, I'm an American citizen you say. Yeah? Tell that to Jose Padilla. U.S. citizen. If they can do it to him, they can do it to you!

You know, for a government that says they're in the business of spreading freedom, they sure do make the irony it tough to swallow sometimes. And is it just me, or do the actions of our country's government starting to get more and more fascist with every passing day?

Knock knock.

Who's there?

Gestapo, I, I mean, Homeland Security. We're here to pick you up. No, no. Don't pack anything. You won't be needing it. You'll be back before the morning. (snickers under breath). We just want to ask you some questions.

A dark cloud hangs over our country. The law is there to protect people, not persecute them. Yes Paul, try them or release them.

There is sooooo much more I want to say on this but its late (for me). If I'm still incensed tomorrow I'll continue then.


1:20 PM  
Blogger Brandon Fibbs said...

You know Jonathan, sometimes I just wanna wrap you up in my loving brotherly arms and say, "We are one, you and I."

Then you say something about some nefarious group being behind the success of the latest American Idol winner and I get confused again!

But not today...

5:58 PM  
Anonymous Nate said...

Heh heh. Man that's pretty gay.

6:12 PM  
Blogger Jon said...

Either our laws apply to all people, or to no one at all. To say that the laws that guarantee us due process and humane treatment apply only to American citizens is to deny the very heart of the U.S. Constitution: that all men are created equal and have a equal right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. To say or act otherwise is to throw out our nation's founding principle (natural law) and replace it with the so called "progressive law". In fact this is exactly what is happening in our country today, from the U.S. Supreme Court on down.

Warning: rabbit path ahead! Progressive law is based on Social Darwinism which posits that in the same way that man is evolving, so too are the social structures that hold us together; because our brains (and therefore our intellects) are evolving as well. Because we evolved from a less intelligent species to become a species of superior intelligence, it stands to reason that this same process must be continuing on to this day and forever more. As such, we should be constantly evolving towards something better and more enlightened until one day we as a people will reach a sort of societal utopia. No one will do wrong because we as a race will have evolved intellectually into a new and benevolent creature knowing right from wrong and desiring only to do what is right.. As such, laws of the past that once held society together will become invalid and restrictive towards our future growth and must be modified, altered, or all together removed so that we can go on bettering ourselves and our world. 'Times change' we are taught, 'Things are different now then they were then', 'Those rules don't apply anymore', 'When they wrote that they weren't dealing with the situation we are now', ad infinitum. As we attempt to convince ourselves that the laws of old no longer hold any validity in today's world, and that they must 'adapt' to the times, we seal our doom. The fundamental problem with Social Darwinism (and all its products) is that it ignores the very concepts of Evolutionary Darwinism. Survival of the fittest (or strongest). One need not be an evolutionist (as I am not) to recognize that these two concepts fly in the face of one another. The strongest have rarely concerned themselves with the 'rights' of the weaker. Moreover, if one believes in evolution then Social Darwinism is an utter fantasy, because the 'rights' of an individual cannot possible exist if those rights are not grounded in and accountable to a higher power. To put it in simpler terms: If I were to kill you and take your property (house, car) or your wife, I would not be transgressing your rights because I would simply ensuring my survival. I was the stronger (fittest), you were the weaker. This is what we witness in nature, is it not? There are no morality plays imposed on the lion that kills an older lion and his young so that he may assume control of the pride, why should we then impose such morality on the descendants of those lions? Rights are an illusion, justice is a myth and furthermore unnecessary. In fact, in the world Darwin envisioned, such rights as we now debate must be viewed as little more than obstacles towards the future development and evolution of life on this planet. Monkeys didn't bother themselves with the rights of other monkeys and that's what enable them to develop into man, right? This then is the basis for evolution and the reason Progressive Law is so dangerous-it denies the true nature of man and says instead, 'We are getting better everyday in everyway'. In short, we are in fact not equal, and have no rights, unless we were created so. In which case the actions of this or any other administration are in fact not morally wrong, and we should just pack up are keyboards and thoughts and go back to surfing more pleasant and distracting web sites while we await the horrid outcome of their policies. If you disagree with my thinking, then I challenge you to examine your own philosophies and their implications for man kind. I would be pleased to hear any dissenting opinions.

Now then, where was I...ah yes.

Either our laws count in the very worst of times, or they count not at all. They were, after all, written for the worst of times, not the best. The Declaration of Independence and the U.S. Constitution were not written in a time of tranquility, but rather a time of great turmoil. They were written to restore peace and justice and to ensure their continuance through a rule of law. Idealistic utopias have no need of laws. It is only here, on earth amongst our flawed fellowman that laws need to be implemented in order to protect the rights of others. When law are written in order to legitimize the abusive actions of the powerful on the weak such 'laws' cease to hold true to the original intent of the law: to protect the weak from the powerful. Those who wield power have always sought to use their power to trample the rights of weak for their own gain. The law is what stands between such men/organizations/governments and the those they would oppress. When these same men/organizations/governments seek to circumvent the law by rewriting it, we call this tyranny.

Let us look at the Constitution as our founding fathers originally created it to illustrate my point. It was not a document of do's and don'ts written to bind the actions of the people (the weak), but rather the actions of the government (the powerful). They feared the power of the government and its potential to become absolute. Accordingly, every word of the original Constitution was directed towards protecting the people from that great beast we call government, by attempting to forcibly subdue it. It was not drafted to control the freedoms of our nations citizenry, rather it attempted to reign in the greatest threat to those freedoms. I wonder, was it all in vain? When we allow the government to break free of those Constitutional bonds, we heap upon ourselves great shame, and invite in our own inevitable destruction. If we permit our 'enemies' to be treated in such a fashion by our government, that same government will turn on us and treat us likewise. The only question is when. Let me say that again, it is not a question of if, but when.

The actions of this administration have done more to destroy the concept of presumed innocence than any other in the history of our nation. The draconian laws it has passed and continues to push for (such as the Patriot Act) have eroded once sacred principles that built this nation right in front of our eyes. In less than four years! We are following in the perilous footsteps of other once proud nations such as Germany after the Hitler and his Nazis came to power, Mussolini's Italy, and Lenin's Russia. If we as a people are unable to see the tell tale signs that our country now displays and how they correlate to other tyrannical governments of the past, then I fear, we are doomed to follow them into the ash heap of history. We are becoming what we once hated, once fought against. Maybe we don't see it (or don't want to see it), but others can.

There are those today who have a rather different and unique perspective on this war. They-unlike us-can recognize tyranny and call it by it's rightful name. In the same way that our nation once railed and fought victoriously against the injustices and tyrannical powers of England while we were yet her colonies, there still exists a people that now carry on the same fight. Those who live under the boot of oppression will always recognize it as such long before those who impose it. I speak of the Iraqi insurgents. History is just an endless game of repetition it seams, and in this latest installment it is our country that has decided to play the part of England, while forcing the Iraqis to assume the role of the colonies. Are they freedom fighters? I can't yet say, but I can say that I empathize for their cause more than that of the Bush administration's. I don't want to see any more of our guys get killed in this war, but I must acknowledge the legitimacy of their cause. If you think my remarks extreme and inappropriate then I put it to you: what would you do if it was your wife/daughter/son/mother/grandparent that was killed by a foreign government's cluster bomb, or a scared trigger happy soldier? How would you take it if a country from the other side of the world imposed martial law on your streets and disarmed you, removing your ability to defend yourself? What would you do if that same government smiled when it told you that your family members death was for a just cause and that they were there to make your life better. Who decided that your family members death was worth it to bring you the 'freedom' to sell them oil? You? Your dead family member? Certainly not. We have removed their right of self determination though the power of arms and now dictate how they will be governed. Is it any surprise they now take up arms against us? Allow me to say that I would be one of the first to take up arms against such a force were it in America. I suspect so would many of you. These are the people that now call Gitmo their prison. Don't confuse them with terrorists or allow the U.S. government to label them so. They don't fight for Saddam, or Osama, or even al-Zarqawi; they fight for their God given rights. History has shown that few fight so hard as those who fight in the name of freedom.

In closing I would like to inquire, am I the only one hear who ever saw 'In the Name of the Father'? I can think of few films with a more relevant, important, and timely message for us, as it applies to the original subject of Brandon's Blog entry. I encourage anybody who has not yet seen this film to go rent it. If you have seen it, rent it again anyway. Then ask yourselves, "What are we fighting for? What do we as a people and a nation represent?" I hope the answer to those questions scares and angers you.

I now return this blog to its original and rightful owner. Thank you for your time. I truely do look forward to you comments.


7:39 AM  
Blogger Brandon Fibbs said...

I particularly liked: "Either our laws count in the very worst of times, or they count not at all. They were, after all, written for the worst of times, not the best."

How true. We are, I feel, in the worst of times, or very close to it. Yet, through the machinations of the few, the many walk in ignorant bliss, thinking it the best of times. They feel protected, yet they have never been more imperiled in their lives.

Geez, now I sound like Jon!

I also liked: "We are becoming what we once hated, once fought against. Maybe we don't see it (or don't want to see it), but others can."

How tragic, how ironic, and how historically precedented if America falls, not from outside forces, but from a cancer she herself introduces into her once-great body.

This ought to cause some blog unrest: "I empathize for the insurgency's cause more than that of the Bush administration's."

I don't see it quite that way, though I do see your point. I am perfectly willing to assent to the idea that many, many of these people have been terribly abused (I don't mean that in the prison torture sort of way, but in a grander nationalistic abuse), are fighting for freedom, and see this as a necessary purging of an occupying power with values at odds with its own. We would do the same. However, I think many who began and still lead this fight are, indeed, Saddam loyalists or those ousted from power who now fight to get it back.

11:01 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Someone mentioned creative solutions earlier...being a researcher of human mind and behavior, I certainly think we could do better than what has been dreamt up thus far in dealing with the host of people detained as suspects.

Our government has played right into the hands of Al Qaida recruiters. They've been disgustingly, overhwelmingly stupid!!

We need to be clever--we need to understand about brainwashing and proper ways of "de-programming" such victims (which of course can be and is done in other domains). We need to understand what propaganda has been fed to these people about us as a nation (of course, some of it's true: moral decay is certainly spreading/entrenched in our current sick culture, for ex). We also need to understand about martyr complexes and how to defuse that.

One of my former bosses--a neuroscientist and licensed psychologist--suggested something (at the very beginning of this mess...we were both in our DC office on 9/11/01 and were horrified at the obviously self-defeating way our gov't chose to respond) along the lines of never giving detainees the pleasure of heroic resistance. That is--ignore them. Make them feel they are totally uninteresting and unimportant--no chance to be heroes, resistance fighters...just the most boring, ordinary inmates imagineable--certainly not with any information we "need" to get from them. Give them access to the Koran--in conjunction with access to only moderate imams and alternative formulations of Moslem Scripture than what they've been fed (which abound!).

After intensive de-programming, during which time they have always been treated with the dignity fitting a human creature, releasing them because there's of course no evidence against them will not necessarily entail risk. In fact, in such a situation, one could expect them to be potential allies-converts, if you will, spreading the good news about the actual Moslem Scripture and the surprisingly benign behavior of the Americans.

>sigh< instead, all we do is repeatedly give them more evidence of our sexual immorality, greed, and plans to control other countries'--their country's--natural resources.

Clearly, our President needs a good shrink. ; )


3:58 AM  
Blogger Jon said...

"I think many who began and still lead this fight are, indeed, Saddam loyalists or those ousted from power who now fight to get it back."

I don't doubt that for a second Brandon. History teaches us that revolutions rarely result in an government beneficial to those who helped bring it to power.. A perfect case in point would be Cuba. The promise for a just government was stripped from the very people that fought so hard to end Batista's regime and put Fidel into power. These are the risks taken when a people stand up against a government of oppression. Nine times out of ten, you end up exchanging one form of tyranny for another. Usually the people are spurred to action on their own after a tipping point is reached within a country. This particular case it is different though. The people of Iraq did not ask for this regime change, but it happened none the less. We forced it upon them. I know this is not an answer that is very satisfying (not to me anyway), but the Iraqi people must now face reality. It happened. The past can not be undone. The future is what counts now. Many have decided to take the future of their nation into their hands, rather than allow it to be dictated to them by a foreign power and its puppet government. Right or wrong, that is their right (and only their right). The Iraqi people must now stand up and be counted. Many are. Some are fighting for freedom from a occupying power, some fight for power of their own, and still others fight for a return of the previous power structure.

The odds are against them. I don't mean that in reference to our nation's presence either. If we were to leave tomorrow and let them duke it out amongst themselves, odds are that another oppressive regime would assume control. That's reality. It not pleasant, but it true. Every Iraqi must stand up and force their voices to be heard. It would be a hard fight they never sought for. C'est la vie. I don't mean to trivialize the matter; that's just the reality of the situation they face. Forcing out the American Empire is just the beginning for those poor people. Forming a new government based on a rule of law that dispenses true justice-not terror-to the people would be the harder task. Their are some bright spots in the history books though, not the least of which was the founding of our once great nation. It is not hopeless, but it is an uphill battle on the muddy slopes of human struggles. I guess my point is that the U.S. has no right to interfere with their internal affairs. The outcome of the struggle is for the Iraqi's alone to decide.

I have long fostered a pessimistic view of revolutions (think Benjamin the donkey from 'Animal Farm'), but that is the reality they are now faced with. I feel for them, I really do. I wouldn't want to be in their shoes for all the tea in China. The average Iraqi citizen will likely get screwed over regardless of the government that takes shape next. But I would rather they take the chance to make a better county for themselves then guarantee they're downfall by accepting a government of our making.

What responsibilities do we-as the nation that got them into this mess in the first place-have towards the Iraqi people, if any? I would say at the very least we must prevent outside neighboring countries like Syria and Iran from influencing the outcome of their government of choice. But then, that will never be possible with either a Republican or Democrat administration in the White House (Benjamin again), because neither party ever even considered such a benevolent stance towards Iraq. I don't care if a Democrat wins the next Presidency (as is most likely to happen) or a not, the war in Iraq and our nations stance towards Iraq will remain the same. Basically I feel that the Iraqi people have about a one in a 1,000 chance of making it out of this tragedy any better off then they were when Saddam was in power. That's sad...but true.

"After intensive could expect them to be potential allies-converts, if you will, spreading the good news about the actual Moslem Scripture and the surprisingly benign behavior of the Americans."

What your suggesting DB, whether you realize it or not, is not deprogramming, but reprogramming. Your suggestion implies that we in the U.S. are free of such brainwashing and that all we need do to turn these people towards our values is simply detox them from the ideology of their rulers (both political and spiritual). I am sorry, but you are sadly mistaken (in my opinion). I do not mean to be cruel, but you are extremely naive. If you think that by simply playing nice with these people that they'll forget all the wrongs done them and travel throughout the Muslim world spreading the good news of American hospitality, then you need to turn off the TV and start educating yourself. The actions of our nation are the very antithesis of benign. They are sadistic. They see that quite clearly; why can't you? The only thing surprising here is your mystifying belief in this fantasy land of America-it doesn't exist anymore.

I am not suggesting that those who are fighting us are not brainwashed to some degree or another, but no people on the face of the earth today or in history are as brainwashed as the American public. The fact that you don't recognize this fact only serves to illustrate my point. Americans today lead the world in abysmal ignorance. It is the one remaining area that Americans can rightly claim to be #1 in. Do the insurgents need to be 'deprogrammed' as you suggest? Probably. But I am far more concerned with deprogramming Americans from their brainwashing. We have nothing to offer these people. Nor do we have any room to talk. And they know it. Compared to us, I think they've got a pretty good handle on the reality of the situation at hand; that's why they're fighting us. I feel sorry for the people of Iraq, but I fear for the people of America. Our government hasn't played into the hands of Al Qaida; the American people have played into the hands of our government.


8:20 AM  
Blogger Brandon Fibbs said...

President Bush on Monday defended U.S. interrogation practices and called the treatment of terrorism suspects lawful.

"Our country is at war, and our government has the obligation to protect the American people. We are finding terrorists and bringing them to justice. We are gathering information about where the terrorists may be hiding. We are trying to disrupt their plots and plans. Anything we do ... to that end in this effort, any activity we conduct, is within the law. We do not torture," Bush said.

Sure...that's why Abu Ghraib happened and nearly 30 detainees have been murdered (according to US military reports) at the hands of U.S. personnel.

If all of our actions are so above par, what do we care about anti-torture legislation?

Relatedly, since 9/11, of the 500 detainees at the Guantanamo facility, 9 have now been charged with criminal offenses. It's a start. Woeful, laughable, imbecilic--but a start.

8:28 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hi Jonathan--good to "see" you again after all these years (it's Daria)--even if you did completely misconstrue my position! ; ) I suppose I shouldn't post and then not pop in for weeks.

So, for the record...I haven't had a TV in years (I think TV has brought great evil in the form of numbing and, as you indicate, essentially brain-washing the U.S. public, though I'm not sure if I'd define it quite in that fashion). I absolutely consider U.S. foreign policy largely, often, and consistently evil (we will have much to answer for)--this Iraq, Afghanistan, and detention camp mess is just one of the latest things in the long list. That was actually part of my point about how we *should* be behaving in a completely other way (and, never fear, I do not often confuse the "ought" and "is" these days--I do firmly believe we must hold on to and live according to the ought to the best of our ability--that is what living out the Redemption, incarnating Christ, means--while understanding and facing the is--being wise as serpents, shrewd about the ways of the world). I agree with you that I was speaking about re-programming people. And yes, most of the U.S. public needs to be re-programmed, too--which is why I'm studying to be a professor--to reach more minds and, perhaps, hearts! : ) quiet subversion, babe ; )

Am I an idealist? yes--and I'm also a pessimist (think of Chesterton's treatise on this complementary duality)...and it's just fine with me to only ever throw a droplet on the inferno. We do not walk in the light because we think we will uncover the sun for the whole world. We do not walk righteously and justly because we think we will actually bring lasting, whole healing to this world. We don't go on our mission because we have hope of success (thinking of Tolkien's tales)--we go because, in light of the Redemption, in light of the heart of the Creator and our fellowship with this amazing, beautiful, just God, it is the only thing to do.

Daria : )

2:34 AM  

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