Friday, April 17, 2009

Not going away

Admiral Emilio Massera was the last head of the brutal military junta that ruled Argentina from 1976 to 1983. Not only are prosecutions over official misconduct, especially in cases of torture and murder, proceeding still in Argentina. But Italy is now seeking to have the old killer extradited to face charges for the deaths of Italian citizens during the junta. (Massera podrá ser juzgado en Italia Página 12 03.02.2009; Italia consideró que Massera no está demente y lo enjuicia Clarín 05.03.09)

And the Cheney-Bush torture program isn't going away. And in the torture program I'm including the whole Bush Gulag system of which it was an integral part.

I haven't yet read the reportedly gruesome memeos released yesterday on the particular kind of tortures the Cheney-Bush administration explicitly authorized. I want to read through them before I start commenting on that.

But the New York Review of Books has posted the entire International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) report on torture in the Bush Gulag. Mark Danner has a two-part article there on the report: US Torture: Voices from the Black Sites 03/12/09; and, The Red Cross Torture Report: What It Means 04/02/09. Ray McGovern, a long-time critic of the torture policy, weighs in on the ICRS report at some length in Anatomy of Bush's Torture 'Paradigm' 04/14/09.

As much as I appreciate the improvements Obama in making virtually across the board from the radically bad and often enough criminal conduct of the Cheney-Bush administration, nothing is going to substitute for a real prosecution of those responsible for the torture program. It has to be done.

Some strong advocates for prosecution of senior officials responsible for the torture program want to exempt low-level perpetrators from prosecution, although there have been a few already. But that makes no sense to me. If senior officials are prosecuted but no lower-level perps, the next set of Dick Cheneys will just take more elaborate precautions to have personal deniability. The people that administered the torture hands-on, the military officers who allowed it to occur under their commands and the soldiers who participated, the doctors and other health-care personal that violated their ethical obligations in the most basic way by participating in torture: they all should be prosecuted. If you need to give lower-level perps deals for reduced sentences or whatever to get testimony against higher-ups, fine. But why should anyone participating in this thing get off free?

Danner writes about how badly our Establishment press keeps failing on the torture issue:

It is a testament as much to the peculiarities of the American press—to its "stenographic function" and its institutional unwillingness to report as fact anything disputed, however implausibly, by a high official — that the former vice-president's [Cheney's] insistence that these interrogations were undertaken "legally" and "in accordance with our constitutional practices and principles" continues to be reported without contradiction, and that President Bush's oft-repeated assertion that "the United States does not torture" is still respectfully quoted and, in many quarters, taken seriously. That they are so reported is a political fact, and a powerful one. It makes it possible to contend that, however adamant the arguments of the lawyers "on either side," the very fact of their disagreement makes the legality of these procedures a matter of partisan political allegiance, not of law. ...

This political fact partly explains why, when it comes to torture, we seem to be a society trapped in a familiar and never-ending drama. For though some of the details provided - and officially confirmed for the first time - in the ICRC report are new, and though the first-person accounts make chilling reading and have undoubted dramatic power, one can't help observing that the broader discussion of torture is by now in its essential outlines nearly five years old, and has become, in its predictably reenacted outrage and defiant denials from various parties, something like a shadow play. [my emphasis]
Our press and our democratic political processes have so far failed badly in dealing with torture. And its now completely normal for Republicans, and some Democrats, to defend torture, though few like to use the word.

But this issue is not going away.

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"It is the logic of our times
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