Friday, December 19, 2008

Are we men or beasts?

Beast
Twenty-some years ago, I was struck by a quote from one of the combatants in the civil war that was then occurring in Lebanon. I can't recall the man's name, or even how he was affiliated in that conflict. I can only recall that he was in custody, after being captured by the Israelis and that he had admitted to torturing captured enemies. He was being interviewed by Geraldo Rivera, and I remember that, as this man was recounting the unspeakable acts that he perpetrated on his victims, an outraged Geraldo interrupted him with this question: "Are you a man or an animal?"

The man seemed unperturbed by the question. He shrugged and replied, "I was a man when they allowed me to be a man. When that was no longer possible, I became a beast."

That reply, and the expression on the man's face as he said it, the casual way he tilted his head and lifted his shoulders, has stayed with me for more than a score of years. I was horrified and fascinated by it.

Flash forward to December 16th, 2008, a mere 3 days ago. ABC New's Jonathan Karl had the following exchange with Vice-President Richard B. Cheney:
Karl: Did you authorize the tactics that were used against Khalid Sheikh Mohammed?

Cheney: I was a ware of the program, certainly, and involved in helping get the process cleared, as the agency in effect came in and wanted to know what they could and couldn't do. And they talked to me, as well as others, to explain what they wanted to do. And I supported it.

Karl: In hindsight, do you think any of those tactics that were used against Khalid Sheikh Mohammed and others went too far?

Cheney: I don't.
The "tactics" to which Karl refers, and which Cheney here admits to authorizing, included water-boarding, which has been defined as torture by the United States since 1903. The United States prosecuted Japanese military officers after World War II for employing this tactic against American prisoners-of-war.

The New York Times editorial board has called for the appointment of a prosecutor to investigate the matter. They name former Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld and former Attorney General Alberto Gonzales as well as Cheney and his chief of staff David Addington, as possible targets for criminal charges in the matter.

The Democrats in Congress, even with their recent successes at the polls, seem reluctant to go down this path. One imagines that they perhaps might fear the degree to which they could be held as having been complicit in the whole matter. Especially craven and worthless Nancy Pelosi. And Barack Obama has already shown that he has little interest in holding the Bush administration accountable, despite his earlier rhetoric.

And, to be sure, the mindless (and diminished) hoardes of fake patriots will whine enough to provide cover for cowardly Democrats so that the latter can shirk their duty. One can already hear indignant protestations of "coddling the terrorists."

Never mind that professional interrogators insist that torture is not an effective method for extracting information, I still remember the face of that creature that sat across the table from Geraldo all those years ago. It was the face of something no longer human.

Dick Cheney is a beast. Donald Rumsfeld is a beast. Alberto Gonzales and David Addington and all those others are beasts. But, god damn it, I'm not a beast!

We must either have a special prosecutor to investigate the matter and bring criminal charges or we must consign ourselves to being a nation of beasts.

6 comments:

Mike said...

"We must... have a special prosecutor to investigate the matter and bring criminal charges" Dade, it's not gonna happen.

Are you sure the only other choice is to become a nation of beasts?

Like you, I refuse, whether Washington ever does the right thing or not.

Eugene said...

Beasts?

The Israeli's perform some rather horrific things upon the nations that surround them. I watched a video of Palestinian prisoners being taken to rock piles where they were sat down and the soldiers would pick up large rocks and break their arms and legs. All legitimately state sanctioned of course.

The U.S. also not only performed "water-boarding," but are also known, according to allegations from Seymour Hersch, to rape male children in front of their mothers.

I am not saying that such horrific behavior on anyone's part is excusable, just don't forget to look at the bigger picture. The system enacts HORRIFIC systematic and legitimized (by the system) terror upon nations, peoples, and environments that we usually live in denial about.

For example, there has NEVER been a war that hasn't employed the wonderful techniques and worse that King Dick authorized.

Then, the term "beast," is something that the founding fathers of this alleged great nation called anyone who wasn't a white male member of the elite.

Man or beast? No. Just a man. A man who did horrible things to his fellow human being. Right or wrong? Wrong, of course, but one must look at the total context of the situation before one says such things are inexcusable. His were in more of a defensive position and he did them directly. King Dick was offensive with the usual state sanctioned seven degrees of separation.

We definitely need REAL justice, not this crazy shit authorized by the state that enacted these crimes. King Dick and the rest, if the Nuremberg Laws were actually enforced, would be hanged.

It is one thing to actually do the torture, another to authorize it, because authorizing it spreads the crime into vast arenas over masses of people.

Man or beast? Just humans, doing what humans do in this current form of genocidal warfare.

Time for a change.

Heather Ann said...

I agree that it's beastly Dade, and I agree with Eugene that they are still men, but men can be beastly. And Mike, Washington is supposed to be a government of, for and by the people! So not only do we each need to choose to be humane, but we also need to do SOMETHING about the beastly behavior sanctioned by those "representing" us! What to do? I don't know....but we cannot let them just slip into history.

Argentina is still prosecuting the torturous beasts who wrecked havoc when my husband was growing up in the early 80's. Some were about to be released on a technicality but I heard on NPR today that Cristina Kirchner is not going to allow it, and is even threatening to impeach the justices who ordered their release!

I hope Obama takes a hint, and surprises us all by really going after those beastly enough to approve torture, which not only doesn't work, but leaves both the victim and the torturer scarred for life. If he doesn't, then he becomes partially complicit, at least in my mind.

Eugene said...

One thing I don't like about the word "beast," is that it conveys that the folks that torture are something other than human. It "sounds" too much like an "excuse" for their behavior.

After WWII, Dugout Doug, aka Douglas Macarthur, PARDONED many of the folks from unit 731, the Japanese unit known to torture. Unit 731 basically tortured many humans to death to see how much suffering folks would take before they died. Useful and fun information for Doug and the U.S. government.

In the '50's and '60's in Canada, John Zubek made some rather profitable studies on sensory depravation torture and sold the information mostly to the U.S. and Britain. The Brits put that wonderful information to use on the Irish political prisoners in Northern Ireland.

Civilization LOVES to torture. It is a power over. In the case of DICK, his POWER comes at the end of a pen or maybe even the click of a computer, and *POOF*, thousands of people are killed, tortured, displaced. He doesn't see it, doesn't hear the screams, doesn't witness the damage he does, but gets away with the crime because the system runs on such things.

I have no faith in Obama. Obama, through his cabinet choices, has made it perfectly clear that he is going to continue the system with business as usual, except it will be the democrats in charge, and at least Obama has a brain, unlike King George. People will still get tortured, and he could, with the power of the pen, put an end to it, but he won't.

It is up to us, we who are not members of the elite, to do something about this issue. The U.S. government will continue to torture, slaughter, and oppress, because that is what it has always done.

May we, in our Love for humanity, find a way to break the illusion that the U.S. government is some sort of good thing. I think it is because we don't hear the screams of the little boys that get raped in front of their mothers that we don't do a whole lot about these issues. That we pretend that the government that claims to represent us doesn't do such things. No more denial. Let's do something about this. You and me. Obama isn't going to do shit. It is his job to MAINTAIN this system and he is clearly going to do just that. I had little faith in him to begin with (more than John and Sarah, though), but have none now in seeing the actions and inactions he has taken thus far. I have faith in us at the bottom.

We have to do something. I don't know what, but I'm gonna keep on trying to do something...anything.

Heather Ann said...

Well, let me know when you've got a plan, because I've got a good imagination. Those screams have been haunting me for years!

Eugene said...

One thing I don't like about the word "beast," is that it conveys that the folks that torture are something other than human. It "sounds" too much like an "excuse" for their behavior.

After WWII, Dugout Doug, aka Douglas Macarthur, PARDONED many of the folks from unit 731, the Japanese unit known to torture. Unit 731 basically tortured many humans to death to see how much suffering folks would take before they died. Useful and fun information for Doug and the U.S. government.

In the '50's and '60's in Canada, John Zubek made some rather profitable studies on sensory depravation torture and sold the information mostly to the U.S. and Britain. The Brits put that wonderful information to use on the Irish political prisoners in Northern Ireland.

Civilization LOVES to torture. It is a power over. In the case of DICK, his POWER comes at the end of a pen or maybe even the click of a computer, and *POOF*, thousands of people are killed, tortured, displaced. He doesn't see it, doesn't hear the screams, doesn't witness the damage he does, but gets away with the crime because the system runs on such things.

I have no faith in Obama. Obama, through his cabinet choices, has made it perfectly clear that he is going to continue the system with business as usual, except it will be the democrats in charge, and at least Obama has a brain, unlike King George. People will still get tortured, and he could, with the power of the pen, put an end to it, but he won't.

It is up to us, we who are not members of the elite, to do something about this issue. The U.S. government will continue to torture, slaughter, and oppress, because that is what it has always done.

May we, in our Love for humanity, find a way to break the illusion that the U.S. government is some sort of good thing. I think it is because we don't hear the screams of the little boys that get raped in front of their mothers that we don't do a whole lot about these issues. That we pretend that the government that claims to represent us doesn't do such things. No more denial. Let's do something about this. You and me. Obama isn't going to do shit. It is his job to MAINTAIN this system and he is clearly going to do just that. I had little faith in him to begin with (more than John and Sarah, though), but have none now in seeing the actions and inactions he has taken thus far. I have faith in us at the bottom.

We have to do something. I don't know what, but I'm gonna keep on trying to do something...anything.