Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Torture and American Nazis

[The rack. Photo from here.]

If you had told me fifty years ago - hell, if you had told me ten years ago - that we would be having a discussion in this country as to whether it is legitimate for Americans to torture their enemies, and that American leaders, including a former attorney general and CIA director would be defending the use of torture, I would not have believed you. I would have considered such talk irresponsible and stupid.

Growing up in these United States, I knew we didn't torture our enemies. My God, that's one of the standards by which we differentiated ourselves from the bad guys. Oh, I had heard stories about how sometimes in certain wartime situations, Americans had gotten carried away and done some horrendous things, but those were aberrations and were considered reprehensible and indefensible by almost everyone.

Americans did not torture, period!

Thus, the Bush administration memos "authorizing" and "justifying" torture take my breath away.

Rep. Jan Schakowsky has a piece at AlterNet dealing with this subject. Schakowsky notes that the torture used by Americans against suspected terrorists included "'walling,' (repeatedly smashing a detainee against a wall), stress positions (hanging a person from the ceiling with feet barely touching the floor -- including a one-legged man), sleep deprivation for as long as 11 days, cramped confinement (put in a casket-sized box or smaller -- insects option), and that medieval favorite, waterboarding."

How the hell did they forget the rack?

These are the thing that former Attorney General Michael Mukasy and former CIA Director Michael Hayden defended in an April 17 article in the Wall Street Journal. Torture works, they said; it keeps us safe, they said; and then they implied the lack of torture led to 9/11, a result of "weakened intelligence gathering ... that we came to sorely regret," they said. If only we had tortured people before 9/11!

Huh? The attacks of 9/11 had nothing to do with our refusal to torture our enemies. It had to do with George W. Bush not giving a damn, not being able to read and understand anything, having a fixation on getting the man who gave his daddy the finger so many years before, wanting to spend most of his presidency on vacation and not paying any attention to the August 6, 2001 briefing which was entitled "Bin Laden determined to strike in U.S."

Schakowsky has much more. But there are a couple of lessons to be derived from this mess that should not be downplayed. First of all, many folks much smarter than I am have noted that by not dealing with those involved in establishing the American torture academy; without bringing those criminals to justice, even if it means putting a former president and vice president in jail, we are telling the world we are hypocrites who, for all our talk, don't really care about the rule of law; and we are setting a precedent for every other administration that follows: We are saying, "Go ahead, ignore the constitution, do whatever the hell you want to, there will be no consequences."

I agree we must go after and deal with the lawbreakers according to the law. No matter who they are.

But there's something else. A question that has rattled around in the back of my head for years is this: How could so many "normal," god-fearing, cultured, "nice" Germans not only support Adolf Hitler and the Nazi regime, but actually work to help the Nazis accomplish their goals? Germany was much more a "Christian" nation than the United States has ever been. Hitler was a Roman Catholic as were a number of his top aides. (None of which were ever called to account by the Roman Church nor were they excommunicated).

I've answered that question with trepidation because what I've come to believe as true is that anyone of us can become a "Nazi"! A Nazi is a person who blindly follows a leader or an administration to the gates of hell. A Nazi is one who is able to twist reason and language to support the most horrendous of causes. A Nazi is a person who will "forget" his or her moral codes and ethical underpinnings to stay linked to power or to justify behavior that he/she would normally consider abominable.

Never before in my lifetime have we come so close to the brink; to losing it all as we did under the Bush/Cheney regime. Hordes of people like Mukasey and Hayden suddenly draped themselves in the flag of oppression and walked lock-step with those whose actions flagrantly defied our founding documents and our traditions.

And it ain't over yet! Nogoodniks and ignoramuses across the nation who don't know the difference between a tax hike and a tax cut, or between pedantry and intelligence, or between tact and belligerence, or between patriotism and jingoism are screaming "fascism" at the very people who would save them from it!

The line between sanity and insanity is very thin at times. This is one of those times.

Anyone can become a Nazi.

Read Schakowky's article here. There's more here.


A World Quite Mad said...

This reminded me of an article I read in the news a while back, about the normalcy that surrounded the death camp at Auschwitz. There were photos of the guards having fun on their day off while people were tortured and died nearby.

Day Off From AuschwitzAlso, there was another article, I can't find it now about how the people who were victims of war crimes in Bosnia knew the people who victimized them, they were their neighbors. They interviewed this one woman who said that she had seen people she had known to have raped and murdered people during the war going about their business now as if nothing had happened.

So yeah, it seems most people are sheeple and will do anything under the right circumstances.

Jacob said...

@ A World... Yes, I've seen those photos, too - camp guards (men and women) drinking beer and laughing as the ovens cooked human beings.

What's scary to me is how close we came to something similar as we are finding out in these newly-released torture memos...even Condi Rice signed off on torture!

Bob Poris said...

We could become a Nazi like regime if our President, VP, Attorney General etc assume powers not usually thought of as Constitutional and NO ONE INVESTIGATES OR STOPS THEM!! It did happen and Obama can use the same tactics if he wants to! There is no established law that can stop him, without an investigation, impeachment etc. The Republicans are complaining about the use of the same tactics they used for fourteen years to prevent a filibuster. Why would Obama not use it if he feels it will get a bill passed he wants? I assume some year, a politician will appeal a vote as Coleman is doing against Franken and once again a state will have only one Senator for months or perhaps years. Next time it will be a Democrat suing and appealing. This is preventing the Democrats form gaining one more seat. What if, it becomes a widespread practice in the future? There goes our election system!!!

If we do not have an investigation to determine if laws were broken or if our laws allow such changes, we will continue to slide down a very slippery path. In the meantime the Winning party can use all the tricks the previous party used with impunity.

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