Saturday, March 08, 2008

Lest we delude ourselves with nostalgia…

Much has been made, and rightly so, of the myriad abuses by the Bush (mal)administration of domestic, Constitutional and international law. However, we must keep firmly in mind that the path to many, many of these abuses had been laid by previous administrations, at least some of them Democratic ones.

Bush and others of his cabal have stated repeatedly that the U.S. "does not torture" and much has been made by Bush apologists about various practices and whether or not they fall under the definition of ‘torture’. William Blum has turned an excellent phrase in this regard, "Like pornography, torture doesn't require a definition; you know it when you see it or feel it." Albeit Michael McConnell has stated that he would find waterboarding to be torture if done to him, our oh so independent Attorney General, Michael Mukasey just can’t find it in him to declare waterboarding (or, for that matter, any other ‘coercive’ questioning techniques approved by the WH) as being torture. For, to do so, he would then be forced to start legal proceedings to determine who has sanctioned, permitted or approved of these procedures and then to prosecute them for it.

However, even before we get to our own instances of torture, horrendous as it is, we must examine the practice of "extraordinary rendition" of persons to states where it is fairly certain that they will be tortured. Why this, you ask? Well, it so happens that the practice of "extraordinary rendition" did not begin with the Bush (mal)administration. No, on the contrary, it was during the "liberal" Clinton administration that the practice was begun. I refer you all to several articles in "Mother Jones" that lay out the ugly genesis and development of this heinous practice. First, there is "Disappearing Act: Rendition by the Numbers", by Peter Bergen and Katherine Tiedemann. Now, prior to the ascendancy of the Bush cabal, there were an even dozen such "extraordinary renditions". This means that the "liberal" Clinton administration violated "…the United Nations Convention Against Torture, which prohibits delivering someone to a country where there are "substantial grounds" to assume that he might be tortured." And, according to Michael Scheuer, the original "extraordinary rendition" program was not even to collect information.

"The extraordinary rendition program was not primarily intended to yield information, according to Michael Scheuer, the cia official whom the Clinton White House tasked with implementing it. "It came from an improvisation to dismantle these terrorist cells overseas. We wanted to get suspects off the streets and grab their papers," Scheuer explains. "The interrogation part wasn't important." - "I Was Kidnapped by the CIA", by Peter Bergen

Yes, I know, it’s not "liberally correct" to speak ill of a former Democratic reign. The problem is, it is true and it needs to be addressed for, without knowing where we have been we cannot hope to know where we are nor just how we got here. Granted, with the coming to power of the Bush cabal, and especially after 9/11, the "extraordinary rendition" process has been thrown into high gear but, we must remember it was Bubba Clinton and his administration that started it.

Further, those that decry Bush’s Iraq attack (even if they hold that the equally illegal assault on Afghanistan had some legitimacy), let’s all remember what was wrong with it.

    1. The "Authorization for the Use of Military Force" (AUMF) is NOT a declaration of war and, even though we’ve been rather lackadaisical in declaring war since WWII, that is the sole Constitutional means by which the U.S. can actually go to war;

    2. Both the Afghanistan and Iraq misadventures were launched without UN Security Council imprimatur. Barring an imminent attack, the ONLY internationally sanctioned way to go to war is to be sanctioned to do so by the UNSC; and

    3. The U.S. has engaged in myriad blatant war crimes in these instances (use of disproportionate force, use of illegal weapons, intentional targeting of civilian populations, intentional and needless destruction of civilian infrastructure, etc. ad nauseam).
Oddly enough, the three charges above are exactly the same as those that can be leveled against the Clinton administration and its ‘use of force’ against the Serbs in Bosnia in 1995 and against Yugoslavia in 1999.

    1. Clinton and his cabal did not secure a declaration of war from the Congress.

    2. They also, just as Bush II did after them, did NOT secure a UN Security Council Resolution permitting the U.S. (or NATO as we insist) to attack the Bosnian Serbs or Yugoslavia.

    3. Further, the U.S. committed myriad war crimes during the 78 day and night bombing of Yugoslavia. They used illegal weapons (Depleted Uranium), intentionally targeted civilian populations, intentionally and needlessly destroyed civilian infrastructure to cause needless suffering to the civilian population.
Any of us with even ½ a grain of intelligence know that Bush’s fabled maxim of "They hate us for our freedom" as the "explanation" for 9/11 is garbage, pure and simple. However, those that dared suggest that it could possibly be blowback were derided as "Hate America Firsters". Oddly enough, the real explanation, or at least part of it, was made public in 1998. In an interview with "Le Nouvel Observateur, Paris, 15-21 January 1998, Zbigniew Brzezinski made some rather revealing comments:

"Question: The former director of the CIA, Robert Gates, stated in his memoirs ["From the Shadows"], that American intelligence services began to aid the Mujahadeen in Afghanistan 6 months before the Soviet intervention. In this period you were the national security adviser to President Carter. You therefore played a role in this affair. Is that correct?

Brzezinski: Yes. According to the official version of history, CIA aid to the Mujahadeen began during 1980, that is to say, after the Soviet army invaded Afghanistan, 24 Dec 1979. But the reality, secretly guarded until now, is completely otherwise Indeed, it was July 3, 1979 that President Carter signed the first directive for secret aid to the opponents of the pro-Soviet regime in Kabul. And that very day, I wrote a note to the president in which I explained to him that in my opinion this aid was going to induce a Soviet military intervention.

Q: Despite this risk, you were an advocate of this covert action. But perhaps you yourself desired this Soviet entry into war and looked to provoke it?

B: It isn't quite that. We didn't push the Russians to intervene, but we knowingly increased the probability that they would.

Q: When the Soviets justified their intervention by asserting that they intended to fight against a secret involvement of the United States in Afghanistan, people didn't believe them. However, there was a basis of truth. You don't regret anything today?

B: Regret what? That secret operation was an excellent idea. It had the effect of drawing the Russians into the Afghan trap and you want me to regret it? The day that the Soviets officially crossed the border, I wrote to President Carter. We now have the opportunity of giving to the USSR its Vietnam war. Indeed, for almost 10 years, Moscow had to carry on a war unsupportable by the government, a conflict that brought about the demoralization and finally the breakup of the Soviet empire.

Q: And neither do you regret having supported the Islamic fundamentalism, having given arms and advice to future terrorists?

B: What is most important to the history of the world? The Taliban or the collapse of the Soviet empire? Some stirred-up Moslems or the liberation of Central Europe and the end of the cold war?

Q: Some stirred-up Moslems? But it has been said and repeated Islamic fundamentalism represents a world menace today.

B: Nonsense! It is said that the West had a global policy in regard to Islam. That is stupid. There isn't a global Islam. Look at Islam in a rational manner and without demagoguery or emotion. It is the leading religion of the world with 1.5 billion followers. But what is there in common among Saudi Arabian fundamentalism, moderate Morocco, Pakistan militarism, Egyptian pro-Western or Central Asian secularism? Nothing more than what unites the Christian countries."

That question, Mr. Brzezinski, should be asked of the people of New York City, the Pentagon, the friends and families of those on those hijacked planes. Think that, maybe, "some stirred-up Moslems" could be a bit of a problem?

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