In just over a decade, America has gone from a bipartisan consensus that torture and brutality are bad to a bipartisan consensus that they're necessary.
I’ve been trying for the past couple weeks to write about Bradley Manning, but I can’t. It makes me sick to my stomach. The whole trend of brutality and betrayal of American ideals over the past decade makes me sick to my stomach.
We have gone from being the first country that established the principle that prisoners of war should be treated respectfully to a country that operates black sites and sends prisoners to other countries to be tortured–when we don’t torture them ourselves.
In the American Revolution, the number one cause of death for American soldiers was maltreatment and disease in British POW camps. In the Civil War, Andersonville was a cause of national outrage. In the early 20th century, the United States emphatically supported the adoption of the Geneva Conventions. In World War II, German soldiers happily surrendered to Americans in the West, knowing they’d be well treated. But in the East, they fought the Russians to the last man because they knew they wouldn’t be.
Now, in the 21st century, we send robot planes to bomb civilians in a country that’s ostensibly an ally. We have prisons where people are routinely denied basic essentials, denied due process, are maltreated and tortured. We reverse decades of tradition and not only have legalized assassination, but have legalized assassination of United States citizens.
And there’s no outrage on Main Street. There’s no outrage in Washington. There’s only outrage on the internet. And half the internet rage is coming not from the acts themselves but rather partisan bullshit surrounding them. (“You only hate torture when Bush does it!” “You only hate it when we do it to white people!” “Nuh-uh!” “Uh-huh!”)
The first time I voted in a Presidential election, in 2000 (for Harry Browne), no part of my consideration of any of the candidates had to do with whether they wished to torture people or assassinate American citizens. It didn’t have to be, because it wouldn’t cross anybody’s mind to have a position on it. Americans don’t torture. That was our position. We were a shining city on a hill. You can’t torture people in the basement if you’re trying to set an example of decency to the world.
In 2004, this became a partial voting issue, as John Kerry oh so politely pointed out that maybe throwing people into a prison might be a little wrong? Maybe? But since at the time Kerry seemed to be supporting whichever way the wind was blowing, it didn’t seem to matter as much. (In the end, I voted for “None of the Above.”)
Then in 2008, one major reason why I voted for Barack Obama was because he forcefully claimed to be opposed to such policies. And I was mad that that was actually a voting issue for me, because you’d think that not torturing people is a moral no-brainer.
But, as it turned out, Obama lied.
Now, as I look to vote in 2012, I realize that just like in 2000, no part of my consideration for any of the candidates will involve their positions on torture, war crimes, secret prisons, renditions, etc.
Because both candidates will be in favor. Without apology.
Necessary for what?
Because both candidates will be in favor. Without apology.
Of course, Alex – why wouldn’t they be? There’s clearly no penalty whatsoever for violating US and international law; let alone basic human morality, solely for the sake brutal revenge.
This is one huge reason I want to see Ghaddafi taken in alive & put in front of the ICC; maybe the precedent will be clear enough to force us to play by the same rules we expect everyone else to use…
And because the American people have voted for these people knowing full well their candidates acceptance of such brutality, the American people themselves have become complicit in war crimes and serial human rights violations.
We know for a fact, for a fact, that George Bush, Barak Obama and officials throughout their administrations have committed crimes punishable by lifetime imprisonment. What is our collective response?
I guess torture, denial of due process, lying and illegal search and seizure are only crimes when other countries do it.
In this way, Osama bin Laden has won a victory of sorts…
The only problem is that, generally speaking, that this type of behavior has gone on long before now. Perhaps the victory is that we are still engaging in these activities even after the amount of press they have received.
On the first point, I know from first hand accounts, that bad things happened to captured German soldiers, especially when the army was on the move. Commands were given to “take them to the holding area and be back in ten minutes” when holding was at least twenty minutes away.
Likewise, while not directly torture, one just needs to look at the history of medical experimentation on at-risk citizens within the US to see other examples of systemic abuse of humans (true fact: one of the defenses launched at Nuremberg was that at least some of the the Nazi science experiments were actually just developing on abusive experiments that had been run in the US).
It’s always easier to police the enemy than yourself.
Sadly, ultimately, I think the desires of the candidate (or even the office-holder) have very little to do with any real power to end torture. This seems to me to be an issue of systemic violence and one that I have absolutely no idea how to shutdown. Prosecutions would be a start, but as we have seen, they rarely get any “big fish.” And even when a major figure is taken down, that’s treated as an end point — the closing of a chapter — rather than ever a serious consideration of how that person got into that position.
I don’t want to go as far as saying that the system is inherently corrupt or unfixable. But given how hard that is under the best of circumstances, it’s difficult to imagine how it’s going to get better any time soon.
Yes, and we used to be a nation that believed in human rights and not just American rights. Soon, no one will be safe. History does seem, after a kind, to repeat itself.
Alex, one of my greatest disappointments has been Obama’s record on civil rights (i was naive) Still, I will vote for him again come Nov. 2012. Why? Because he tried to close Gitmo… But Americans are pussies and would not let him. (remember: Congress passed a LAW….)
I repeat, Americans are pussies (and guess what? Obama wants to be re-elected)(surprised?…)
Alex, been voting since 1980, haven’t yet been happy with any of my votes…
Truth brother… it is ALWAYS the lesser of 2 evils. Sometimes we get taken in by a few sweet words that speak to a longing we have felt for thirty g*d-damn years, but really, ask yourself:
Obama or McCain? That was your choice… you know which was right. Perfect? We don’t live in that world.
The rules have changed. We didn’t change them. Our examples of civility fell on deaf ears, our concern for some civilians got others killed and sometimes our own soldiers.
We still do what is right more often than not. We still try and avoid hurting the innocent while our enemies target the innocent. Some of those we release go back and kill our soldiers.
The ally we bomb is not really an ally but a necessary evil we endure because they could get worse.
Sending prisoners back to their own country is their problem not ours. They should work for a better home country.
Our prisoners are treated well but they are still prisoners. How well do our enemies treat those they capture?
As a whole we are still a humane country that does the best it can under the circumstances. Ignoring the good while looking for the perfect can make us seem less than what we really are.
Continue to seek a better America Alex, we all do in our own ways, but understand why Main Street USA is content with what we have concerning your topic.
I have signed on to no brutality, but I have expected it, as the moral pendulum shifts in time of war. It is much easier to say “never again” when you are safely at peace and tempers are cool.
For better or worse the pendulum will swing back to “never again.”
Government protects its own. Now that we’ve started down this road turning back will be very hard. But keep right on voting I’m sure in the end it will help….
Steve, spoken like the folk who built Manzanar.
(That was to Steve P. Steve V shoulder hopped me.)
“The rules have changed. We didn’t change them.”
Of course WE changed them. None of our NATO allies has followed suit. Perhaps because they, unlike us, believe they are bound by the treaties they signed.
Reminds me we are also the last western country to resort to the death penalty. Coincidence? I think not.
And your solution is what, Steve?….
2nd amendment solutions?
Without defending the more brutal instances called forth, I’m not sure that waterboarding three, count ’em three people, and whatever depredations PFC Manning may have endured constitutes mainstreaming brutality.
What astounds me is all the other stuff you still trust the government to get right.
It would be nice for you to pay more attention, Charles, or are you saying torturing people to death isn’t that big a deal?
Ben, um ok. Still hard to understand how that constitutes mainstreaming brutality. But I suppose Abu Ghraib during an insurrection and the Clark County Detention Center on Saturday night are all one and the same in your eyes. Or are you referring to my comment about all the other stuff you expect the government to do right?
tom p, not Steve byut how about less government? Power corrupts. The greater the power the greater the corruption. How such a simple life lesson continues to elude so many is hard to understand.
Steve – you Manzanar-like building person you.
These comment threads are like George Carlin once described life, a front row seat at the freak show.
Try reading Charles. They didn’t all happen at Abu Ghraib. But here, more deaths:
Here, on how we experimented with torture:
But so long as those tortured are enemies of the state, I guess it’s ok with you.
During WWII there were six German Prisoner of war camps that I know of here in this part of Texas. Because of the manpower shortage, the prisoners were used as forced labor by lumber companies to harvest trees for the war effort out in the vast forests here in Texas. After the war, some of them opted to stay in Texas and not return to Germany. Those that remained here eventually married local women and became outstanding citizens of the communities where they settled.
Can you imagine the stink from bleeding hearts if the POWs we have now were required to work for their upkeep and be productive?
Did requiring the Germans to harvest timber constitute abuse or violate some arcane code?
Charles, not sure about your larger point, but I have to point out, how is it that when the “greater power” is a corporation you complain not a whit about the corruption inherrent,
My question is only this: you like to complain when the gov’t shoves it up your a**…. But when a corporation shoves it up your a**, What…. they use KY Jelly????
Really Charles, you are getting F’ed either way, but somehow it is OK when a Corp. does it but not when the Gov’t does it?
No. The Geneva Convention allowed the use of enlisted POWs to work in economic efforts that were directly related to the war effort. Certainly a case could be made that harvesting the wood was part of the war effort. I’m sure we paid the POWs for their labor, and that no officers were forced to work (IAW the Geneva Convention). I think we were pretty scrupulous to keep strictly with what the convention said we could and couldn’t do.
What does manual labor have to do with prisoners being beaten to death?
What is wrong with you?
Rock: can you imagine the stink from the right if a bunch of ex muslim jihadists wanted to stay here and be productive??????
Rock, DO YOU EVEN LISTEN TO YOURSELF????
(sorry for the all caps, but it has been a long time since I have read anything that stupid)
tom p, Bush and Obama both seem to be ok with torture, but you seem to like the guy who lies openly to your face about not supporting it better than the guy who doesn’t. Just seems strange to me.
Oh, and what evil corporation approaches the power and size of the US government? The biggest problem with corporations and the abuse of power comes from those sucking at the government tit. Check the current administration for the best examples. Oh, and last I checked not a single corporation could force me to buy their product. Really, what is it with you and corporations?
Ben and Alex, the perfect is the enemy of the good. Your push for perfection seems to be yielding less than good results.
The rest of your post is reasonable and optimistic in a way, but I guess I just fundamentally disagree with the opening:
The rules have changed. We didn’t change them. Our examples of civility fell on deaf ears, our concern for some civilians got others killed and sometimes our own soldiers.
This reminds me of something my (very conservative) father used to say, except it went the other way: “It’s better to let X guilty men go free than convict one innocent.” Yes, other innocents will get hurt as a result of letting the guilty go free, but it’s better than letting the system do the wrong thing.
The analogy here is that we’re letting the system do the wrong thing, but in this case it’s for no apparent gain. Waterboarding hasn’t saved anybody, humiliating Manning hasn’t protected any documents, and the atrocities at Abu Ghraib haven’t helped anything at all, more likely the other way around.
Don’t get me all wrong, though. I agree America is mostly good, I just think in this case we can clearly do better.
(Also, I think some of the Main Street “meh” reaction is due to the primal urge for revenge, rather than any well-thought argument.)
Or burn them, or behead them, and or hang them from bridges? Where’s the outrage against prisoner abuse by the jihadists?
If a bunch of ex Muslim jihadists wanted to stay here and be productive I’m sure the Dems and Obama would welcome them with open arms … and find a way to do it despite the stink form anyone . . . anything for a vote. But tell me what kind of productive work are the Gitmo prisoners involved in now?
Uhhhh…. Bush said it wasn’t tortue, Obama said he would end it but a bunch of gutless Representatives would not have that…..
And Which one lies to me?
Yeah, I hate what is happening to Bradley Manning, and I contribute to the ACLU…. what high horse are you going to climb onto???? The Chamber of Commerce? Give me a break…
Wal Mart? The Koch brothers? I recently read on a RW web site that 3 out of the top 10 contributers to political campaigns were unions…. What they did NOT say Charles. is that the OTHER 7 were CORPORATIONS…. (sorry, no link, don’t recall, google it, if you come up with someting different, I will google it as well)
Glad to hear you finally admit to the fact of “The Golden Rule” (those with the gold, make the rules)
How convenient that you ignore the last (“TAX CUTS FOR THE RICH!!!!”) administration?
As to what is “with me and corporations”….
As I said, come out to small town America some time, and find out that Wal-Mart has a HELL of a lot more impact on our day to day lives than the US gov’t ever did….
The whole trend of brutality and betrayal of American ideals over the past decade makes me sick to my stomach.
Legalized torture as an American institution is a new twist, but it’s tough to see how our ideals have been betrayed. Did Washington or Main Street show any outrage about the millions of Vietnamese and Cambodian citizens murdered by American bombs? Or the death squads and dictators we supported or the governments we overthrew? Basically, Americans are either locked in their own self-serving fantasies, or they actually get off on brutality, and only want more, e.g. Dick Cheney.
Welll, all I can think of is keeping a bunch of Marines off the streets…. (and if the truth be told, I can think of several DOZEN things those Marines would be better off doing) (and I bet dollars to donuts they have a couple HUNDRED things on their minds)
That comment is a pretty damn low blow against the Marines. I’m sure that some of them would disagree with you and maybe adjust your attitude and love to preform emergency dental extractions in your … pie hole. You should be ashamed of that comment.
I’ve had basically the same reaction as you. I’ve been sidestepping these stories because they are painful.
I don’t think Obama is Bush. But I’m not happy.
This is how we treat a suspect? Not a terrorsim, suspect, a man suspected of leaking. I know it’s about sending a message, but that’s no excuse. And no doubt Obama’s been advised not to interfere with the chain of command, but that’s bullshit: he is the commander in chief of the military. So this is on him.
And on us.
I don’t see why. Your suggestion that they’re sadists who enjoy torturing people who disagree with them is FAR more slanderous.
“Or burn them, or behead them, and or hang them from bridges? Where’s the outrage against prisoner abuse by the jihadists?”
Seriously Rock? You think there was no outrage?
The worst thing about this thread is that it has descended into a “‘some’ brutality is ok” argument, with of course they “they do it too” level of sophistication.
I expect we’ll get back to “never again,” as I say, but it’s a sad interlude.
It’s understandable and completely proper for Bush and Cheney to use enhanced interrogation against foreign terrorists to protect the country.
It is still unknown what Obama’s motivations are in ordering Manning to be tortured. Whether he directs each individual humiliation and takes pleasure in watching video of it is only a matter of speculation at this point. This must be a cultural thing he learned growing up in Indonesia or through his association with Bill Ayers, who hated the military. Either way, I refuse to believe Obama ordered the torture just because Manning is white, even though it would fit with the Rev. Wright’s Black Nationalist views.
I suggested so such thing. All I’m trying to do is point out that in today’s politically correct world, having prisoners work would be called abuse or torture … I personally think that abuse and torture of prisoners is as abhorrent as child abuse.
I’m still waiting for CNN and various human rights organizations to demand investigations and accountability of abuse by the jihadists.
Rock, I’m pretty sure we kill them when we can. See also “Predator drones.”
“Oh, we’d like to investigate those jihadists, but oops, we killed them already.”
apologies to P.J. O’Rourke
tom p, WalMart? Really? You want poor people to have to pay more for the basic necessities of life? Now that’s progressive!
The Koch brothers? Really? The guys opposed to the drug war and pro gay marraige? Apparently it’s ok in your mind to fund causes if you think the correct way but not if you don’t? It’s getting harder to recognize this country all the time.
I note that you conveniently left out who the evil corportaions are donating too. Hint: it hasn’t been Republicans for a while.
Tax cuts for the Rich? You mean the Obama Tax Cuts? After all, the Bush tax cuts expired, so you must be talking about Obama now.
I don’t need to climb on to any high horse, but I can recognize projection from where I’m standing.
I know plenty about small town America and can’t fathom why some people hate that others can get lower prices for food, clothing, electronics, tires, etc.
Still waiting for anyone to respond as to why they trust the government to do all their other special things just right.
Rock, nobody has more respect for the Marines than I, I have several friends and relatives who are Marines, and I especially appreciate their sense of humor…
Something you sorely lack.
I guess pointing out that 90% of the crap they sell at Wal-mart is cheap garbage that doesn’t last more than a week so these poor people have to buy it again and again…
And I will save you the trouble Charles and point out that yes, I am exagerating with those particular #s…
I would continue the conversation but it is pointless.
Steven Plunk says:
Monday, March 7, 2011 at 18:55
The rules have changed. We didn’t change them. ”
As has been pointed out, this is clear lie – the USA deliberately decided to change them.
“Our examples of civility fell on deaf ears, our concern for some civilians got others killed and sometimes our own soldiers.”
You have no evidence whatsoever for this. In addition, how many US soldiers’ lives were saved because various enemies had a choice between fighting to the death or being captured by the USA? As was mentioned in the original post, German soldiers in WWII had sharply different behaviors on the Eastern and Western Fronts.
@ jwest Tuesday, March 8, 2011 07:01
That’s such a nice story…it’s a real shame for you that most Americans, or even most voters, don’t believe in such fairy tales…
Complete bullshit…unless you can actually find a real example of this…
Umm, it’s obvious that jihadists commit human rights violations, no investigation needed…we, on the other hand, aren’t supposed to do those kinds of things…you know, we’re supposed to be better than the jihadists…
How’s that again? I fought side-by-side with Marines in Vietnam . . . and never though of insulting them for fear of eating a knuckle sandwich.
Umm, who is claiming that the government does so many things just right? Of course government, just like any other institution run by people, is going to make mistakes…but, if your point is that this topic proves that government is bad, we can easily extend that to corporations and even small businesses, finding bad examples in each and using such examples to smear both…that does seem to be the game you are playing…
I fought side-by-side with Marines in Vietnam . . . and never though of insulting them for fear of eating a knuckle sandwich.
I insult them all the time, but I was Navy.
Of course ‘main street’ Americans don’t care, because we’re One Nation, permanently dumbed down by Fox Noise and squawk radio.
People don’t get their ‘news’ from news sources, they get them from comedians and college dropouts with microphones.
Add into the mix that the average American is a flippin’ ignorant moron who thinks angels exist and that evolution is ‘just a theory’. Oh, but there’s a shiny new iPad and smart phone to distract you, plus, you work work work all the time and don’t have any energy to expend on the important stuff.
We’re doomed. America is in one giant free fall. There’s no where to go but down.
I don’t know if it’s possible to shame these people, but if Obama is still human, maybe this picture could do it:
Obama’s Secret Meeting With Bradley Manning
This has always gone on – there are always bad people or people that believe in the ‘greater good’ who have power and misuse it. However I think it went past the tipping point after WWII when we brought in Nazis from Germany not to mention doing nothing against the supporters Nazi Germany already had here (Ford, IBM, etc.).
When you read this please separate the genocidal solution the Nazis used from what their actual agenda was. They wanted wealth held in the hands of the most powerful corporations and for people to be the servants of those corporations. The evil that they perpetrated against the Jewish, the gays, Romanians, true Christians, etc. was a means of getting there not by eliminating a group of people but by generating hate and distracting the masses from what was actually being done against them.
People hear the term Nazi and they think what a terrible thing to say about anyone. They think of the word to mean mass murderers. Step back from the genocide and look at why they did what they did and you will see the same thing going on here. When you are taking away the freedoms, the rights, the wealth of a people you have to distract them from what you are doing. You need to have them NOT look at the man behind the curtain but to look at show. In our country you have seen the same tactics used against almost the same people. Elections have been won by using gays, blacks, and yes Jews as scapegoats. Hate and fear have been and is being used to distract people from their own best interests. When you have most of the wealth in the world held by a very small number of people then those people become Kings and you move back into a feudal society (at the very best).
I am afraid it is too late for our country and that the lamb is on the butchers block.
I’m with you: disgusted, ashamed, and at a loss as to what to do.
Hell, look at the comments to your post. A good percentage of them illustrate the problem very well.
You have a small minority of the population that is: 1) aware of what’s happened and is happening; 2) doesn’t like it. The rest of the population either doesn’t know, knows but doesn’t care, or knows and LIKES IT.
Soon there will be camps in the USA that Torture our own citizens who fall in disfavor. Right now we have “Prisons” and Private Prisons. The number of “Felony” categories will continue to increase and Judges will continue to ignore the constitution and “make law” instead of interpret and rule on law, from the bench will continue and grow.
Attorney Generals and USAA will continue to utilize their “Opinion Letters” to circumvent voted Laws and they too will continue to ignore both State and Federal Constitutions.
Now it is torture outside the USA on “terror suspects.” Next it will be on the “Felon Class.”
and very very soon it will be on anyone who speaks out against them in any manner, and mainstream won’t even think about you as they change the Chanel with the remote on the big screen TV set.