Feeds:
Posts
Comments

Posts Tagged ‘torture’

The Arrogance of Power

[The Vile History of the CIA and Crimes against Humanity]

 

PRES. BARACK OBAMA, UNITED STATES:  The British, during World War II, when London was being bombed to smithereens had 200 or so detainees.  And Churchill said, “We don‘t torture.”  Churchill understood: you start taking short-cuts, and over time, that corrodes what‘s—what‘s best in the people.  It corrodes the character of a country.

Keith Olbermann show, 2009

 

Introduction

The people of the United States are at a crossroads of morality and conscience where torture policy in America is concerned. Much harm has been done to the reputation of this country as a civilized people, due to the expediency of policies during the Bush Administration believed to aid and assist the job of National Security. A secret policy of torture was promoted by the Bush Administration ostensibly to counter international terrorism. Subsequently, every “MOW-RON” and his brother came out of the woodwork to euphemistically describe torture as, “Enhanced Interrogation Techniques.”

While it’s one thing for a misguided, uneducated general public to miss the historical, religious, social, legal, sociological and psychological basis for prohibiting torture, there really is no excuse for former members of the government to do so, many of whom knew it was wrong from the start.

In recent weeks, the primary motivation of former Vice-President Dick Cheney, and others who promoted an after-the-fact dismissal of national and international law, including the Geneva Convention, was self-preservation, and the fear that they might one day soon be prosecuted and incarcerated for crimes against humanity.

Since we now have President George W. Bush’s confession on tape, broadcast on the Keith Olbermann MSNBC show in 2009, the country knows that there was approval at the highest levels of government to commit these war crimes. Those guilty of war crimes did reach all the way from “lackey” levels in the CIA to military prisons in Iraq and elsewhere, and finally to the Bush White House itself.

More blatant rationalizations came recently from ex-vice president Dick Cheney. He appears on the television networks as the primary defender of torture. Cheney, who never went beyond his freshman year of college, seems to lack any understanding of law and shows absolutely no remorse for initiating and promoting torture and crimes against humanity.

How soon do the American people forget history? At the end of World War II many public servants, low-level bureaucrats, military officers, Nazi SS elite, judges, and high-level government officials were brought to the Nuremburg War Crimes Tribunal and tried for crimes against humanity. Where German military and concentration guards were concerned, they were not allowed to defend themselves with rationalizations like “We were only following orders,” or “let’s put this all behind us and look to the future” (sound familiar?). The Japanese also were tried after WWII for war crimes, including those who used waterboarding to torture prisoners. Many were sentenced and put to death by hanging for Crimes against Humanity.

Crimes against humanity were viewed as great violations of this country’s values to respect life and humanity in general. Policies of torture rob our nation of both dignity and respect. If we fail to act responsibly now as a nation, and fail to bring to justice all those involved in initiating an American torture policy or promoting or carrying out war crimes in the name of the United States, the consequences of a dishonored nation with a double standard will taint the American image, and thus taint the American people forever more. According to Alfred W. McCoy in his important book, A Question of Torture: CIA Interrogation, from the Cold War to the War on Terror, concluded:

 

“Finally, as we learned from France’s battle for Algiers in the 1950s and Britain’s Northern Ireland conflict in the 1970s, a nation that sanctions torture in defiance of democratic principles pays a terrible price. For nearly two millennia, the practice has been identified with tyrants and empires. For the past two centuries, its repudiation has been synonymous with the humanist ideals of the Enlightenment and democracy. When any modern state tortures even a few victims, the stigma compromises its majesty and corrupts its integrity. Its officials must spin an even more complex web of lies that, in the end, weakens the bonds of trust and the rule of law that are the sine qua non of a democracy. And, beyond its borders, allies and enemies turn away in collective revulsion.”

 

 

 

Background

The Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) has been involved in torture, kidnapping, extortion, blackmail and murder since its official inception in 1947 when the CIA was organized from its predecessor, The OSS—Office of Strategic Services. Both agencies have had a long and vile history. Individuals responsible for these violations of national and international law have never been held accountable because of the veil of secrecy and the alleged compromise to American intelligence gathering and national security. Because of this the public ends up not knowing whether the CIA did their clandestine activities out of a legitimate need for protecting the nation’s security, or was it a bogus smokescreen to cover up criminal behavior, including murders committed on behalf of the agency?

 

With more and more revelations every day that the CIA engaged in a long rogue program of illegal activity bordering on treason (any act of betrayal or disloyalty—in this case the undermining of the laws, values and ideals of the American people, it is imperative that the crimes not be stonewalled or met with impunity.

 

In addition, the violation of civil and human rights (decade after decade) warrants a long overdue charge of “Crimes Against Humanity” directed at individuals responsible including the chief architects of such programs.

 

It is now clear that in order to regain any shred of national respect and honor in the eyes of the American people and the rest of the world, those responsible must finally be brought to justice. Such vile human conduct of the last 71 years must not be whitewashed or swept under the rug of obscurity. The CIA has castrated the Declaration of Human Rights worldwide and, at home, stripped all moral authority of the United States to promote human rights anywhere in the world.

 

The CIA has used mind control drugs on unwitting experimental subjects, been a party to, over the last seventy one years, the murder or attempted murder of international democratically-elected political figures, and has been directly involved in training 56,000 South American soldiers (School of the Americas at Fort Benning, Georgia) in methods of torture. Torture methods taught were eventually used against innocent civilians (men, women and children), political figures, militant rebels, and military combatants and detainees, all sponsored on behalf of the CIA of the United States government.

 

A Long and Vile History

 

The following quote from the late Steve Kangas describes the underlying motivation of just a few of the hundreds of atrocities and crimes committed by the CIA and its predecessor since 1943.

 

“CIA operations follow the same recurring script. First, American business interests abroad are threatened by a popular or democratically elected leader. The people support their leader because he intends to conduct land reform, strengthen unions, redistribute wealth, nationalize foreign-owned industry, and regulate business to protect workers, consumers and the environment.

 

So, on behalf of American business, and often with their help, the CIA mobilizes the opposition. First it identifies right-wing groups within the country (usually the military), and offers them a deal: “We’ll put you in power if you maintain a favorable business climate for us.” The Agency then hires, trains and works with them to overthrow the existing government (usually a democracy). It uses every trick in the book: propaganda, stuffed ballot boxes, purchased elections, extortion, blackmail, sexual intrigue, false stories about opponents in the local media, infiltration and disruption of opposing political parties, kidnapping, beating, torture, intimidation, economic sabotage, death squads and even assassination.

 

These efforts culminate in a military coup, which installs a right-wing dictator. The CIA trains the dictator’s security apparatus to crack down on the traditional enemies of big business, using interrogation, torture and murder. The victims are said to be “communists,” but almost always they are just peasants, liberals, moderates, labor union leaders, political opponents and advocates of free speech and democracy. Widespread human rights abuses follow.

 

This scenario has been repeated so many times that the CIA actually teaches it in a special school, the notorious “School of the Americas.” (It opened in Panama but later moved to Fort Benning, Georgia.) Critics have nicknamed it the “School of the Dictators” and “School of the Assassins.” Here, the CIA trains Latin American military officers how to conduct coups, including the use of interrogation, torture and murder.

 

The Association for Responsible Dissent estimated that by 1987, 6 million people had died as a result of CIA covert operations. Former State Department official William Blum correctly calls this an “American Holocaust.”

 

The CIA justifies these actions as part of its war against communism. But most coups do not involve a communist threat. Unlucky nations are targeted for a wide variety of reasons: not only threats to American business interests abroad, but also liberal or even moderate social reforms, political instability, the unwillingness of a leader to carry out Washington’s dictates, and declarations of neutrality in the Cold War. Indeed, nothing has infuriated CIA Directors quite like a nation’s desire to stay out of the Cold War.

 

The ironic thing about all this intervention is that it frequently fails to achieve American objectives. Often the newly installed dictator grows comfortable with the security apparatus the CIA has built for him. He becomes an expert at running a police state. And because the dictator knows he cannot be overthrown, he becomes independent and defiant of Washington’s will. The CIA then finds it cannot overthrow him, because the police and military are under the dictator’s control, afraid to cooperate with American spies for fear of torture and execution.

 

The only two options for the U.S at this point are impotence or war. Examples of this “boomerang effect” include the Shah of Iran, General Noriega and Saddam Hussein. The boomerang effect also explains why the CIA has proven highly successful at overthrowing democracies, but a wretched failure at overthrowing dictatorships.”

 

 

“Since 1949 the United States government has been a Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde. On the one hand, the U.S. government was a signatory to the United Nation’s Geneva Convention and Declaration of Human Rights. More recently, during the Clinton administration, the government was a signatory to the 1994 Torture Statute. The statute basically said that any US citizen involved in torture outside the United States would be charged with a crime and prosecuted under the statute when they return.

 

When all of the scandals hit the news media on Abu Ghraib, Guantanamo Bay, and secret torture prisons outside the United States run by the CIA, the graphic pictures of abuse shocked the nation. Many Americans began to see for the first time the clandestine, repulsive side of its government—Mr. Hyde.

 

George W. Bush and Richard Cheney were not the first politicians to ever pervert American values and the ideals of human rights. Every CIA Director going back to 1947, have kept their dirty little secrets. The uncanny similarity to Nazi Germany during the 1930s and 1940s is unmistakably frightening.

 

The German people also turned a blind eye and were caught up in the rhetoric of charismatic heads of state and taken in by false propaganda, lies and deceit. Few people remember that the CIA operated a top-secret program called, “Operation Bluebird.” It was approved by the CIA Director on April 20, 1950.

 

This was a behavior modification program jointly undertaken with the Pentagon. Bluebird was a continuation of a Nazi program that had been conducted at Dachau concentration camp. CIA scientists, many of whom were former Nazis, used human guinea pigs at the Pentagon’s chemical warfare base in Edgewood, Maryland.”

 

Now move forward in time to the 21st Century. It is now estimated that 100 detainees during the Bush/Cheney years died in custody. Of these, 8 died while being tortured.” And, please remember this—there is no Statute of Limitations on murder or manslaughter. So ask yourself this question—why aren’t they being tried in a criminal court for these criminal acts?

 

Society’s Inner Conflict over Torture

 

Ultimately, there are now serious long-lasting value conflicts going on between various segments of American society over the issue of torture. Since things went public, there are those who find torture the epitome of evil incarnate—a violation of human decency, abhorrent criminal behavior that has now put our troops at extreme risk, morally wrong and reprehensible conduct unbecoming of professionals, the likes of which have never been seen before. In effect, it is the perversion of American’s highest ethical standards. It is ironic that the very people who are supposed to be protecting our national security are the very ones who are the greatest threat to the American people and, as it turns out, a major threat to the Congress of the United States as well.

 

They also view a national policy around torture as the promotion of despicable acts not worthy of the highest ideals a people can hold; it dishonors the importance of human rights and dignity, and tarnishes the character of the American people.

 

There are some in our society today who, reacting under the pressures of terrorist potential attacks, psychologically and morally cave in to these pressures by turning a blind eye to such public disclosures as a national torture policy. Fear and anxiety over potential terrorist attacks dominate and rule these people’s beliefs, however unfounded or useless the “ticking Bomb Scenario” might be.

 

There is still a small percentage of the American public that has no moral qualms where human suffering is concerned, and would give our government a free pass to torture whomever they want.

 

While the above fearful type may be thought of as pragmatic whose approval of torture is highly conditional (the ticking bomb scenario), the latter group would allow the government to torture anyone they saw fit and exempt government from any control whatsoever. The fearful and anxious group of citizens needs education. Those giving government a free pass to conduct torture under any circumstances are not in need of education. Education probably won’t help them. What they need most is a psychiatrist.

 

The greatest problem facing both of these latter groups is that they have not taken the time to carefully think things through in any systematic or careful way. One of the key ideas that haven’t been thought through at all by these societal groups is our own system of laws and history of American jurisprudence in the United States.

 

At the top of the list is the country’s century old domestic problem of law enforcement—beating confessions out of detainees (The Third Degree). You will recall Brown versus Mississippi (1936) in which Negro defendants were whipped in order to coerce a confession.

 

Lynching and murder was the mainstay of a desperate south trying to protect its repressive social order. One-by-one the legal system has slowly purged law enforcement its legacy of violence against the citizenry. When the Rodney King incident occurred in 1991, society was relatively swift to punish law enforcement personnel who engaged in beating Rodney King. But over the decades there have been cases of law enforcement personnel who engaged in other criminal acts such as torture, rape or murder of suspects or jailed individuals without cause.

Or, in the case of police officers committing child abuse or spousal abuse, there is no longer hiding from the consequences of such criminal acts. More recently no one looks the other way or hides their head in the sand when police officers commit unjustified homicides. Just consider all the national and local protests of law enforcement murdering unarmed black men in this country.

 

And, for those who do bring nothing but shame and dishonor to themselves by such acts, the word cowardice does come to mind.

 

The Problem of the EIT (Enhanced Interrogation Techniques) Timeline

 

Some politicians (like Dick Cheney) have been suggesting that EIT were responsible for protecting Americans against terrorist attacks on American soil between 2001 and today.

 

But there is a strange bit of twisted logic in that assumption. Between 2001 and 2009 such CIA tactics as torturing were ostensibly used to acquire intelligence information. The information obtained through torture was then allegedly used to prevent such attacks.

 

However, enhanced interrogation techniques came to an end in 2009 when President Obama gave an executive order that enhanced interrogation techniques used by the CIA were to be stopped immediately.

 

But alas here is the rub or distortion of logic. Between 2009 and today there also have been no attacks on American soil. If EIT protected us, why then was the country unharmed between 2009 (five years) and today in the absence of EIT? EIT obviously had nothing to do with why the country has been unharmed during the last 13+ years. Let’s be clear: CIA rationalizations around the alleged value of torture are being used to protect those at the highest levels in the government from being prosecuted for Crimes against Humanity and quite possibly Treason.

 

Not all Fear of Terrorism is Irrational

 

Although terrorist attacks have not occurred in the United States since 2001, the fear isn’t entirely abnormal or irrational. That is, there have been worldwide several terrorist attacks in Iraq, Afghanistan, Mumbai, India and the Indian Embassy in Kabul, Bali, Madrid, Paris, London, and a continuous stream of threats from Al-Qaeda against the United States. When these events occurred, people became easily manipulated by an exaggerating press.

 

Add to this the continued fear-mongering by members of the previous Bush administration, there is a rush to judgment as to what ought to be done about terrorist activities worldwide.

 

Promoting a national torture policy is shortsighted to say the least. Homeland Security’s effort to police cargo shipping, ports of entry, airports, aviation schools, and other transportation venues along with security measures to identify all people coming into the country legally and illegally has probably gone a long way toward protecting our country than some clandestine CIA and military program to torture incarcerated detainees.

 

Dick Cheney in particular wanted the public to be fearful so as to justify, in his mind, the Bush administration’s decisions to ignore national laws prohibiting torture, and international laws, including the 1994 Torture Statute and the earlier Geneva Conventions.

 

Why then is there such a double standard when it comes to torturing foreign military combatants, or prisoners in detention, in places like Guantanamo Bay or Abu Ghraib? Besides fear, anxiety, and an unwillingness to consider the legal, historical, moral, intellectual, humanistic, philosophical, psychological and sociological basis for not adopting policies of torture, there are two other reasons that seem to block the mental ability of some to think things through: (1) An underlying element of ethnic and religious prejudice, bigotry and racism towards detainees or enemy combatants, and (2) lack of foresight into what might be called, “The Opening of Pandora’s Box.”

 

In the next section I want to take the reader on a conceptual trip into the Abyss of torture and potential human suffering. This is largely hypothetical but I ask each reader to contemplate what could happen or might have happened if the United States had suffered additional terrorist attacks between 2001 and now.

 

 

The Abyss of Pandora’s Box

 

a·byss [ə bíss]

(plural a·byss·es)

n

  1. Chasm: a chasm or gorge so deep that its extent is not visible 
  2. Endless space: something that is immeasurably deep or infinite 
  3. Terrible situation: a situation of apparently unending awfulness 
  4. Hell: hell thought of as a bottomless pit 

 

[14th century. Via late Latin abyssus < Greek abussos “bottomless” < bussos “bottom”]

Encarta ® World English Dictionary © & (P) 1998-2005 Microsoft Corporation. All rights reserved.

 

 

One of the reasons for writing this Blog is simply that people I meet just have not thought through this issue with any degree of logic and reason. Just as it took the entire 20th century to minimize or lessen the use of torture and violence by law enforcement in the United States, it now seems some people want to reverse that trend by starting to compromise where enemy combatants are concerned. It is easy to dismiss such people as being, “Not Too Bright.”

 

Unfortunately, things aren’t that simple. Those supporting torture are not necessarily stupid (although a psychiatrist might help them). Although reason and logic isn’t their strong suit, such people are mostly ordinary, well-meaning people like your neighbor, a family member, or a close friend. This makes their missing the mark all the more befuddling and stupefying. A logical analysis of the torture issue asks a very simple question. That is, where do you draw the line? If 9% of those surveyed give carte blanche to government to torture, then what else lies beyond that line?

If nothing but irrational emotion and value judgments rule the day, then who or what will ever put a limit on buffoons in government from crossing the line to absolute extremism and national insanity?

 

Consider the following as a hypothetical example of how this might occur.

 

Let’s say this is 2016 and the fear-mongers (mostly conservative republicans and Tea Party members are in control of Washington, and the “loose-cannon media are looking for an exaggeration high to be filled.” Let’s further hypothesize that three more attacks on American soil have occurred killing an additional 10,000 of our good citizens.

Ultra-conservative politicians want blood and revenge for these attacks and the public is clamoring and demanding action as well. The Vice President gets the assignment. Being overwhelmed and stressed out, he turns to his two confidants, the director of the CIA and the Secretary of Defense. They advise the Vice President to bring in Homeland Security, more senior CIA staff, and the Pentagon to discuss options. They propose to re-institute the 2009 phased-out Enhanced Interrogation Techniques. They want to again torture detainees and re-institute renditions and secret torture prisons overseas.

 

Always anxious to impress his bosses, a lower level lackey inside the CIA comes up with a proposal that promotes an old concept of graduated responses (like we did in Vietnam) where responses would be in direct relationship to the number of attacks on our soil.

 

Four levels of response are proposed.

 

They include a program of cruelty, brutality, savagery, and genocide. The VP looks at the rest and says, “We once supported a policy of “cruelty” i.e., waterboarding, sexual humiliation, nudity, walling, facial slaps, abdominal slaps, dietary manipulation, wall standing, water dousing, and sleep deprivation. And, at least 8 detainees were murdered by their captors and torturers; well, we’ve got to do more than that!”

 

The Vice President then wants to know what else can one do. The lackey tells the VP that the previous program of cruelty was very satisfying and successful. But there is level 2, 3, and 4. The VP inquires, “What are levels 2, 3, and 4?”

The lackey tells the VP level 2 is designated “brutality,” “level 3 is savagery,” and level 4 is “genocide,” where individuals are no longer singled out. Instead this last response is directed toward killing hundreds of thousands, if not millions of people, including non-combatant men, women, and children.

 

He tells the VP that brutality (level 2) is whipping and beating a detainee to a near-death state, cigarette burning and use of acid on a man or woman’s genitalia, and (level 3) savagery involves skinning the detainee, burning flesh with branding irons, convulsive electro-shock, blinding the subject, heating pins/nails and forcing them under fingernails, and of course, cutting off a man’s penis and slicing and dicing a women’s breasts. When all else fails to get a detainee to talk, we forcibly hold a detainee’s mouth open and force a poisonous snake to enter his or her body (See the Schwarzenegger movie, Collateral Damage) for this grisly way to put someone to death. And, like the Nazis following the plot to assassinate Adolf Hitler, hundreds of German officers and government officials, who were alleged to have been part of the plot, were hanged with razor-thin wires making their suffocation and suffering last so much longer.

 

The VP begins to salivate at these ideas, but he wants to know more about the idea of genocide. The CIA director, with his lackey employee, smile in gleeful anticipation of the answer the lackey will provide.

 

The VP is told the following:

 

“Let me give you an example of how this could have worked in our previous war in Afghanistan. We controlled the cities in Afghanistan with troops, sir.

 

What we couldn’t control was the countryside and the tribal areas of Afghanistan. (Level 4) is an operational plan to use biological warfare (killing microbes) that could have been used to wipe out everyone in these tribal areas.”

 

“That’s fabulous,” said the VP.

“But, sir,” said the lackey, “that will also kill more than just Taliban, Al-Qaida, or ISIS. It will also kill hundreds of thousands, if not millions, of innocent men, women and children.”

 

“To be honest,” said the VP, “we’ve already committed crimes against humanity with our torture/cruelty program. What are a little more torture, and a little more Collateral Damage?  “I want all 4 levels implemented right away.”   

 

     This has been just a hypothetical example. However, if push comes to shove and the terrorist attacks were to continue within the United States, do you really think four levels of response wouldn’t be considered by our government?

 

 

Let the Generals Speak

 

October 29, 2008

Retired Generals Condemn Use of Torture

 

On October 23, 2008, at the University of Virginia Law School retired military leaders Lieutenant General Harry E. Soyster and Lieutenant General Charles Otstott discussed the importance of using interrogation methods that are effective, lawful and humane, and the importance of the commander-in-chief setting the highest standards for all U.S. personnel in the treatment of prisoners.

 

“It doesn’t matter what they do, it’s what we do. We don’t lower ourselves to the level of this terrible enemy we are fighting. It’s about what our standards are.”

 

General Soyster

 

“The rules are the same, and should be the same. All the Machiavellian work that has been done to get around those rules is detestable, and I can’t believe we are doing that as an official policy in the United States of America.”

 

General Otstott

 

In an article on August 27, 2009, “CIA probe shields architects of US torture regime,” its author Bill Van Auken reported on the Obama’s administration’s cover-up, reluctance to prosecute, and its substantial censorship of the CIA Inspector General’s Report on torture.

Given the number of murders that were perpetrated by the CIA, it is flabbergasting that the Obama Administration, which promised “accountability”, would fail the American people so miserably in this way.

 

Bill Van Auken reported that,

 

The censoring of information on similar torture deaths means that the Obama administration is acting to ensure that those who planned, ordered, and executed the torture program under Bush are literally allowed to get away with murder.

 

Nor is this a matter restricted to the three deaths concealed in the report released Monday. Human rights groups have unearthed information on at least 100 detainee deaths during interrogations, and given the cover-ups carried out by the military and the CIA, there is ample reason to believe that there are many more.

 

An indication of the widespread character of such fatal abuse was given by retired US Army General Barry Richard McCaffrey during an interview on MSNBC television news last April, following President Obama speech to CIA employees at the agency’s headquarters in Langley, Virginia.

 

In that interview General McCaffrey said, “We should never, as a policy, maltreat people under our control, detainees,” said McCaffrey, who made repeated inspection tours of US-occupied Iraq on behalf of the military’s Central Command. “We tortured people unmercifully,” he added. “We probably murdered dozens of them during the course of that, both the Armed Forces and the CIA.”

 

 

 

Judgment at Nuremberg Revisited

 

 

In 1961 a movie was released called Judgment at Nuremberg. The actual Nuremberg trials took place in 1945-46 in Nuremberg, Germany. Although a movie, the final speech by Spencer Tracy spoke volumes to the ramifications of what these trials meant and the long-term impact of crimes against humanity would have on the world.

 

These trials cut through the rationalizations of citizens following orders of a corrupt and evil dictator. The rationalization, “I was only following orders” carried no weight in the end. Individuals were held responsible for their own acts and were punished or sentenced accordingly. Half of the original 22 defendants were hung.

 

Current and former members of the CIA, U.S. Army, or higher up political figures will not be allowed to hide from their crimes against humanity by shifting responsibility to “good intentions” or uncertain pragmatic beliefs about results. All that is irrelevant; what matters is that the United States Justice Department bring criminal offenders to justice and set an example of a democratic country doing what is morally, legally and ethically just.  

As you read ahead, empathetically place yourself inside the mind of Judge Haywood. In the movie Spencer Tracy played Judge Haywood. As you read his words, see the striking connection to what took place this last decade, in particular compared to the United States at the end of World War II in 1945. One can easily see that society today needs to be reminded of the Nuremberg trials because, indeed, history does seem to repeat itself and governments don’t seem to learn from either history or its mistakes. Individuals have memories; institutions do not.

 

Speech by Judge Haywood Prior to Sentencing

 

“The trial conducted before this Tribunal began over eight months ago. The record of evidence is more than ten thousand pages long, and final arguments of counsel have been concluded.

Simple murders and atrocities do not constitute the gravamen of the charges in this indictment. Rather, the charge is that of conscious participation in a nationwide, government organized system of cruelty and injustice in violation of every moral and legal principle known to all civilized nations. The Tribunal has carefully studied the record and found therein abundant evidence to support beyond a reasonable doubt the charges against these defendants.

Heir Rolfe, in his very skillful defense, has asserted that there are others who must share the ultimate responsibility for what happened here in Germany. There is truth in this. The real complaining party at the bar in this courtroom is civilization. But the Tribunal does say that the men in the dock are responsible for their actions, men who sat in black robes in judgment on other men, men who took part in the enactment of laws and decrees, the purpose of which was the extermination of humans beings, men who in executive positions actively participated in the enforcement of these laws — illegal even under German law. The principle of criminal law in every civilized society has this in common: Any person who sways another to commit murder, any person who furnishes the lethal weapon for the purpose of the crime, any person who is an accessory to the crime — is guilty.

Heir Rolfe further asserts that the defendant, Janning, was an extraordinary jurist and acted in what he thought was the best interest of this country. There is truth in this also. Janning, to be sure, is a tragic figure. We believe he loathed the evil he did. But compassion for the present torture of his soul must not beget forgetfulness of the torture and the death of millions by the Government of which he was a part. Janning’s record and his fate illuminate the most shattering truth that has emerged from this trial: If he and all of the other defendants had been degraded perverts, if all of the leaders of the Third Reich had been sadistic monsters and maniacs, then these events would have no more moral significance than an earthquake, or any other natural catastrophe. But this trial has shown that under a national crisis, ordinary — even able and extraordinary — men can delude themselves into the commission of crimes so vast and heinous that they beggar the imagination. No one who has sat at through trial can ever forget them: men sterilized because of political belief; a mockery made of friendship and faith; the murder of children. How easily it can happen.

There are those in our own country too who today speak of the “protection of country” — of “survival.” A decision must be made in the life of every nation at the very moment when the grasp of the enemy is at its throat. Then, it seems that the only way to survive is to use the means of the enemy, to rest survival upon what is expedient — to look the other way.

Well, the answer to that is “survival as what?” A country isn’t a rock. It’s not an extension of one’s self. It’s what it stands for. It’s what it stands for when standing for something is the most difficult!

Before the people of the world, let it now be noted that here, in our decision, this is what we stand for: justice, truth, and the value of a single human being.”

 

 

Final Comments

 

The issue of torture and the war crimes committed by members of the government in our name isn’t going to go away. The choices are simple. The end does not justify the means and no amount of rationalization is ever going to alter that. No matter how many times someone tries to gloss over it, torture is a crime against humanity.

 

Those who have initiated policies to institutionalize interrogation techniques involving torture, otherwise promoted it, or carried it out, should receive the harshest of punishment, namely death or life in prison. It is not important what position an individual held in our government; those guilty of war crimes need to be brought to justice.

 

It is an unacceptable act of betrayal and disloyalty to the values of the American people that misguided buffoons in our government led us down the path toward everlasting national dishonor and disgrace.

 

Given the failure of the United States to follow the principles of international law, and the failure of a sizeable minority of American citizens to comprehend the gravity of a democratic country promoting torture, the “land of the free and the home of the brave” are now in serious moral trouble.

 

 

References

Alfred W. McCoy, A Question of Torture: CIA Interrogation, from the Cold War to the War on Terror, New York: (Metropolitan Books, Henry Holt and Company, LLC), 2006.

Steve Kangas, Timeline of CIA Atrocities, 1996, online @ http://www.serendipity.li/cia/cia_time.htm available October 9, 2009. The timeline used in Kangas’ article is from another source: Primary data source was All history concerning CIA intervention in foreign countries is summarized from William Blum’s encyclopedic work, Killing Hope: U.S. Military and CIA Interventions since World War II, Monroe, Maine: Common Courage Press, 1995. Sources for domestic CIA operations come from Jonathan Vankin and John Whalen’s The 60 Greatest Conspiracies of All Time, Secaucus, N.J.: Citadel Press, 1997.

 

Advertisements

Read Full Post »

Taking Aim at Violence against Children—Part I

Gun Violence

[The Importance of a Broader Contextual Viewpoint]

 

Introduction

I am initiating a four part series on the subject of violence perpetrated against children. This will occur from February through May 2013 and will involve a broad and extensive contextual look at violence against children. Adulthood can be difficult for anyone. But children making that journey between infancy and adulthood do not make their journey possessing all the physical, mental and emotional resources to cope with all the potential sources of violence in their environment.

Children need love and support and protection as they attempt to navigate through the sometimes troubled waters of growing up. Above all, they need a safe caring environment while they grow and develop skills, and develop that all-important personality characteristic—self-esteem.

Are we as a society serious about loving and protecting all our children? If we are, we need to confront head on, not just the evil of mass murder, but all individual and institutionalized violence committed against children. Why should society take such a comprehensive approach to all sources of violence against children? It appears childhood victimization is very widespread in this country. This highlighted statement above will be supported with research data and statistics during the course of the four part series.

Contextual Approach to Evaluating Violence

All human behavior is neutral until someone attaches social meaning to the actions of individuals or groups. I have always found the contextual nature of behavior very thought-provoking and interesting from a social scientist’s point of view. Said another way, my sociological imagination is on full throttle whenever I detect some inconsistency between a person’s values or beliefs (beliefs, particularly cherished beliefs, are really cherished values) on the one hand, and their actual behavior on the other.

Nowhere is this more evident than with current efforts to deal with gun violence in the nation’s schools. People have jumped to deal with only one type of violence; a much more comprehensive approach would be to pursue and confront all sources of violence toward children, not just mass murder. When the smoke finally clears on the President’s plan to stem gun violence, I recommend the President and the Congress promote a more comprehensive approach to stemming violence in society, with special attention to preventing violence against children.

Don’t get me wrong. I admire President Barack Obama for his politically courageous efforts to deal with gun violence and the NRA gun lobby following the tragedy at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut. The decisions being made now have reached a boiling point in light of the culmination of other horrific previous tragedies such as Columbine, a theater in Aurora Colorado, Virginia Tech, and many other locations where mass murder has occurred. But, it is really important in the future to take a more comprehensive and contextual approach to preventing violence toward children.

Complexity of Violence

Violence in society is a complicated subject to address because it depends upon the variegated contextual nature in differing social setting in which it occurs. Sometimes violence as human behavior can be identical from social setting to social setting, yet the meaning one attaches to the same behavior (be it positive, negative, or neutral) can vary significantly.

We all possess values that conflict with one another. Differing value judgments within the same individual can often create as much conflict as differing value judgments between individuals. In addition, when there is a major inconsistency between one’s behavior and one’s beliefs, psychologists have a name for that—it’s called Cognitive Dissonance.

For example, many people believe in the sanctity of life, yet will take life in a combat zone. Or a parent will try to” teach” a child not to hit others (how utterly dumb is this?) by in turn hitting the child. Inconsistency between one’s beliefs or values and one’s behavior can surface when someone believes smoking is bad for one’s health and longevity, but lights up anyway.

Or, someone can get on another’s case for stealing, but have no conscience when cheating or lying about one’s own tax return. Or, many people profess to care about violence toward children, but fail to really explore or deal with all sources of violence in their own child’s environment. An example of this is the parent who knowingly stands by while the other parent sexually or physically abuses a child. Personally, from a psychological point of view, I see much cognitive dissonance in individuals as emanating from a highly egocentric personality. Even when inconsistency is recognized by the individual, psychological defense mechanisms come into play to engage in denial of reality.

COGNITIVE DISSONANCE AND OTHER INTERNAL DIFFERENCES IN OUR OWN PERSPECTIVE ARE OFTEN A TELLING MARK OF HYPOCRISY, OVER-ACTIVE DEFENSE MECHANISMS, LACK OF INTELLECTUAL PERSPECTIVE, LACK OF PERSONAL COURAGE, AND/OR CONFUSION.   

 

Background

Before getting underway with this series, readers need to understand two things: (1) this author’s approach to classifying violence, and (2) the definition of violence and torture.

Classifying Violence

     All violence can be classified into two basic types: Individual or small group violence and institutionalized violence. Individual or small group violence would include, of course, individuals acting alone. But the definition would also include the actions of small groups of individuals such as gangs, or the spontaneous actions of loosely-constructed mobs where individuals may not even know each other.

Then, there is institutionalized violence. These are violent acts sanctioned by larger social institutional entities such as schools, criminal organizations such as the Mafia, or small, medium or large organizations (like the CIA) within a government (democratic or otherwise). Even entire countries can sanction violence, as in wartime. Violence is an individual and culturally-generated behavior that manifests itself with very little restraint, and is all-to-common everywhere in the world.

Definition of Violence and Torture

     Violence can be of either short or long duration. Therefore, it is necessary to define torture although sometimes these words are interrelated and not necessarily mutually exclusive (torture is violence, but not all violence involves torture). Thus, there is a need to define torture as well. Torture (even as a rationalization of the Bush Administration for homeland security) is nevertheless a criminal act, and a violation of human rights and prohibited in law by four international Geneva Conventions going back to the early part of the Twentieth Century.

Here is the definition of each term: Violence is behavior involving physical, mental, or emotional harm or psychological duress in order to hurt, damage, or kill someone or something. It is also the strength of emotion generated from an unpleasant or destructive natural force. Torture is the action or practice of inflicting severe pain on someone as a punishment, or in order to force someone to do or say something.

Sources of Violence toward Children

During a child’s formative years children can be  victimized in a variety of ways including: gun violence such as drive-by shootings, homicide and school shootings, physical child abuse, sexual abuse, emotional and psychological abuse, sibling abuse, criminal acts such as assault and battery by strangers, being drawn into the drug addiction world and victimized, sex trafficking, kidnapping, bullying,  corporal punishment in schools (20 states still sanction acts of violence hurting children that they euphemistically rationalize as discipline), and finally—mass murder, the ultimate victimization.

Huge Social Changes Are Coming

In light of the terrible tragedy at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut there has been a very much needed response to the events that occurred there. Consequently, President Barack Obama took the reins of leadership and took quick action to develop a viable plan to stem gun violence in this country.

I feel that given the public’s support for gun control, and the public’s emotional reaction to what happened at Sandy Hook Elementary School, the timing is right for expanding our efforts to prevent all violence directed against children. But, as a society, we really do need, as the old cliché says, to think outside the box. Our way of solving problems at every governmental level in this country is, all-too-often, fragmented.

Nowhere is this more evident than where violence and children are concerned. For society to address doing a better job of protecting children—social change must be embraced if the goal of preventing all violence against children is to ever become a reality.

However, as one can easily see, the real dangers that can potentially victimize children include more than the tragedies fostered by mass murder. Therefore, an opportunity now presents itself to explore and recommend, at every level of government, policy and legislative proposals to seriously confront all the real dangers children may confront as they make that journey from infancy to adulthood.

Focus of Part I

Part I will report on the President’s current plan to address the issue of gun violence. It must be pointed out this series is oriented toward protecting children. Nevertheless, the implications of a viably enacted set of laws and executive decisions to gain better and more effective control of guns affects everyone from the ordinary citizen to the most violent of criminal offenders.

Gun Violence

The Research Issue on Gun Violence

It has been reported that President Barack Obama lifted a 17-year ban on U.S. funding for research on gun violence, instructing the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) to step up its support for such work. But his request for Congress to approve $10 million for research on several aspects of violence prevention—including a look at the effects of video games and media images—could face stiff resistance among advocates of gun ownership.

Lifting the ban is one of 23 new actions, including a series of legislative proposals, to curb gun violence that the White House announced in the wake of last month’s shooting of children and teachers at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut.

Among other goals, the president said he aims to require a “universal background check” for everyone buying a gun (about 40% of gun sales are not covered now), a prohibition on the sale of “military-style assault weapons,” a ban on high-capacity ammunition magazines that can hold more than 10 bullets, and a push for better mental health care.

CDC’s funding of research on gun violence peaked at about $2.6 million in 1996. The results included findings such as the observation that homicides are significantly more likely to occur in households where a gun is kept. The NRA gun lobby pressured Congress to stop this line of inquiry, and in the mid-1990s legislators issued a series of advisory messages and some legal restrictions on agency actions.

Today’s news is “a terrific development,” says Jens Ludwig, director of the University of Chicago research center known as the Crime Lab. Ludwig is a co-author of a letter signed by more than 100 academics that calls for an end to the ban on gun violence research. In an e-mail to Science Insider, he says, “Without support for data and research in this area, it is very difficult to know which policy changes are most likely to generate net improvements in public safety that can justify the costs involved.”

A Few Facts You Should Know

Since 1982, there have been at least 62 mass shootings across the country. The killings took place all over the country from Massachusetts to Hawaii. Twenty-four of these mass shootings took place since 2006. In 2012 alone there were seven mass shootings. Below is a chronology that details mass shootings that have occurred between April 1999 (Columbine) and December 14, 2012 (Newtown, Connecticut).

Dozens of mass killings have occurred in the United States since two teenagers went on a rampage at Columbine High School in Littleton, Colorado in April of 1999, killing 12 of their fellow students and a teacher. The deadly school shooting at a Newtown, Connecticut elementary school on Friday, December 14, 2012 was the latest in a series of shooting crimes in the United States.

The following is a detailed list of mass killings in the United States since Columbine compiled by Telegraph, Reuters, and Milwaukee Journal Sentinel.



April 1999
– two teenage schoolboys shot and killed 12 schoolmates and a teacher at Columbine High School in Littleton, Colorado, before killing themselves.

July 1999 – a stock exchange trader in Atlanta, Georgia, killed 12 people including his wife and two children before taking his own life.

September 1999 – a gunman opened fire at a prayer service in Fort Worth, Texas, killing six people before committing suicide.

October 2002 – a series of sniper-style shootings occurred in Washington DC, leaving 10 dead.

August 2003 – in Chicago, a laid-off worker shot and killed six of his former workmates.

November 2004 – [There is perhaps great irony where Second Amendment Rights are concerned when this happened]. In Birchwood, Wisconsin, a hunter killed six other hunters and wounded two others after an argument with them.

March 2005 – a man opened fire at a church service in Brookfield, Wisconsin, killing seven people.

October 2006 – a truck driver killed five schoolgirls and seriously wounded six others in a school in Nickel Mines, Pennsylvania before taking his own life.

April 2007 – student Seung-Hui Cho shot and killed 32 people and wounded 15 others at Virginia Tech in Blacksburg, Virginia, before shooting himself, making it the deadliest mass shooting in the United States after 2000.

August 2007 – Three Delaware State University students were shot and killed in “execution style” by a 28-year-old and two 15-year-old boys. A fourth student was shot and stabbed.

December 2007 – a 20-year-old man killed nine people and injured five others in a shopping center in Omaha, Nebraska.

December 2007 –
a woman and her boyfriend shot dead six members of her family on Christmas Eve in Carnation, Washington.

February 2008 – a shooter who is still at large tied up and shot six women at a suburban clothing store in Chicago, leaving five of them dead and the remaining one injured.

February 2008 – a man opened fire in a lecture hall at Northern Illinois University in DeKalb, Illinois, killing five students and wounding 16 others before laying down his weapon and surrendering.

September 2008
– a mentally ill man who was released from jail one month earlier shot eight people in Alger, Washington, leaving six of them dead and the rest two wounded.

December 2008 – a man dressed in a Santa Claus suit opened fire at a family Christmas party in Covina, California, then set fire on the house and killed himself. Police later found nine people dead in the debris of the house.

March 2009 – a 28-year-old laid-off worker opened fire while driving a car through several towns in Alabama, killing 10 people.

March 2009 – a heavily armed gunman shot dead eight people, many of them elderly and sick, in a private-owned nursing home in North Carolina.

March 2009 – six people were shot dead in a high-grade apartment building in Santa Clara, California.

April 2009 – a man shot dead 13 people at a civic center in Binghamton, New York.

July 2009 – Six people, including one student, were shot in a drive-by shooting at a community rally on the campus of Texas Southern University, Houston.

November 2009 – U.S. army psychologist Major Nidal Hasan opened fire at a military base in Fort Hood, Texas, leaving 13 dead and 42 others wounded.

February 2010 – A professor opened fire 50 minutes into at a Biological Sciences Department faculty meeting at the University of Alabama in Huntsville, killing three colleagues and wounding three others.

January 2011 – a gunman opened fire at a public gathering outside a grocery in Tucson, Arizona, killing six people including a 9-year-old girl and wounding at least 12 others. Congresswoman Gabrielle Gifford was severely injured with a gunshot to the head.

2012

 

April 2 – A gunman kills seven people and wounds three in a shooting rampage at a Christian college in Oakland.

July 20 – A masked gunman kills 12 people and wounds 58 when he opens fire on moviegoers at a showing of the Batman film “The Dark Knight Rises” in Aurora, a suburb of Denver, Colorado.

Aug. 5 – A gunman kills six people during Sunday services at a Sikh temple in Oak Creek, Wisconsin, before he is shot dead by a police officer.

Aug. 24 – Two people are killed and eight wounded in a shooting outside the landmark Empire State Building in New York City at the height of the tourist season.

Sept. 27 – A disgruntled former employee kills five people and takes his own life in a shooting rampage at a Minneapolis sign company from which he had been fired.

Oct. 21 – Three people are killed in a Milwaukee area spa including the estranged wife of the suspected gunman, who then killed himself.

Dec. 14 – A shooter opens fire at the Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut, involving the cold-blooded mass murder of 20 children and six adults.

President Obama Puts Forth his Plan

     Since the tragedy at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown Connecticut, on December 14, 2012, there has become much renewed interest in gun control. It seems to this observer that what the President has proposed is a kind of targeted, focused solution to the problem of gun violence. Thus, he put forward a plan that centers on guns and the people who use them in these mass murders. But policy also centers more broadly on criminal violence everywhere guns are used in the commission of a crime. The emphasis of these gun control policies goes back to my typology of violence, in this case—individual violence.

The proposal, which comes at the end of a month-long review process spearheaded by Vice President Joe Biden, is broken down into four sections:

  • Law Enforcement
  • Availability of dangerous Firearms and Ammunition
  • School Safety
  • Mental Health

Overview

In an effort to touch on all four of those elements, the president recommended requiring criminal background checks for all gun sales; reinstating the assault weapons ban; restoring a 10-round limit on ammunition magazines; eliminating armor-piercing bullets; providing mental health services in schools; allocating funds to hire more police officers; and instituting a federal gun trafficking statute, among other policies. The cost of the package, senior officials estimated, would be roughly $500 million, some of which could come from already budgeted funds.

Because these recommendations require congressional approval, the administration is supplementing its proposal with 23 executive actions that will be taken immediately. Those actions include requiring federal agencies to hand over relevant data for a background check system; providing law enforcement officials, first responders and school officials with better training for active shooting situations; directing the Centers for Disease Control to research the causes and prevention of gun violence; and many more.

What’s in Obama’s Gun Control Proposal?

The following material was obtained from a news report of the New York Times. It basically laid out all of the specifics of the President’s new plan to stem gun violence. The initiative to reduce gun violence announced by President Obama  included both legislative proposals that would need to be acted on by Congress and executive actions he can do on his own. Many of the executive actions involve the president directing agencies to do a better job of sharing information.

 

Proposed Congressional Actions

  • Requiring criminal background checks for all gun sales, including those by private sellers that currently are exempt.
  • Reinstating and strengthening the ban on assault weapons that was in place from 1994 to 2004.
  • Limiting ammunition magazines to 10 rounds.
  • Banning the possession of armor-piercing bullets by anyone other than members of the military and law enforcement.
  • Increasing criminal penalties for “straw purchasers,” people who pass the required background check to buy a gun on behalf of someone else.
  • Acting on a $4 billion administration proposal to help keep 15,000 police officers on the street.
  • Confirming President Obama’s nominee for director of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives.
  • Eliminating a restriction that requires the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives to allow the importation of weapons that are more than 50 years old.
  • Financing programs to train more police officers, first responders and school officials on how to respond to active armed attacks.
  • Providing additional $20 million to help expand the system that tracks violent deaths across the nation from 18 states to 50 states.
  • Providing $30 million in grants to states to help schools develop emergency response plans.
  • Providing financing to expand mental health programs for young people.

 

Executive actions

  • Issuing a presidential memorandum to require federal agencies to make relevant data available to the federal background check system.
  • Addressing unnecessary legal barriers, particularly relating to the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act, which may prevent states from making information available to the background check system.
  • Improving incentives for states to share information with the background check system.
  • Directing the attorney general to review categories of individuals prohibited from having a gun to make sure dangerous people are not slipping through the cracks.
  • Proposing a rule making to give law enforcement authorities the ability to run a full background check on an individual before returning a seized gun.
  • Publishing a letter from the A.T.F. to federally licensed gun dealers providing guidance on how to run background checks for private sellers.
  • Starting a national safe and responsible gun ownership campaign.
  • Reviewing safety standards for gun locks and gun safes (Consumer Product Safety Commission).
  • Issuing a presidential memorandum to require federal law enforcement to trace guns recovered in criminal investigations.
  • Releasing a report analyzing information on lost and stolen guns and making it widely available to law enforcement authorities.
  • Nominating an A.T.F. director.
  • Providing law enforcement authorities, first responders and school officials with proper training for armed attack situations.
  • Maximizing enforcement efforts to prevent gun violence and prosecute gun crime.
  • Issuing a presidential memorandum directing the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to research gun violence.
  • Directing the attorney general to issue a report on the availability and most effective use of new gun-safety technologies and challenging the private sector to develop innovative technologies.
  • Clarify that the Affordable Care Act does not prohibit doctors asking their patients about guns in their homes.
  • Releasing a letter to health care providers clarifying that no federal law prohibits them from reporting threats of violence to law enforcement authorities.
  • Providing incentives for schools to hire school resource officers.
  • Developing model emergency response plans for schools, houses of worship and institutions of higher education.
  • Releasing a letter to state health officials clarifying the scope of mental health services that Medicaid plans must cover.
  • Finalizing regulations clarifying essential health benefits and parity requirements within insurance exchanges.
  • Committing to finalizing mental health parity regulations.
  • Starting a national dialogue on mental health led by Kathleen Sebelius, the Secretary of Health and Human Services, and Arne Duncan, the Secretary of Education.

 

Post Script

     In Part II ahead I will begin to provide statistical evidence on violence against children in those areas in which data are collected. One of the major areas of abuse against children is physical abuse, sexual abuse, emotional abuse, and the neglect of children. Sibling abuse is difficult to measure and there exists no standardized data collection system. Survey research may be the only way to look at its prevalence.

In Part III of the series, sex trafficking of children, corporal punishment in American schools, the problems of bullying, kidnapping and other crimes perpetrated against children will be covered.

Part IV in my series will examine any types of abuse not covered earlier, and I will put forth a set of recommendations on how to deal with violence directed against children beyond the current ones proposed to stem gun violence. However, I did notice that, where gun violence is concerned, several former, disgruntled employees were involved in killing family members and former co-workers back at the work site. I did not see any legislative or executive actions or recommendations related to what employers could do, or what their responsibility might be to help discharged employees. I will say more about this in my recommendations in Part IV.         

 

 

Read Full Post »

ELECTION YEAR POLITICS

AND THE ECONOMY

[Part VI-A]

The final segment of my six part series will be composed of a Part VI-A and a Part VI-B. In Part VI-A I present the accomplishments of the Republican Party and provide a biography of their candidate in 2012—Mitt Romney.

In Part VI-B I will suggest who I think should be elected  president of the United States on November 6, 2012. I will post Part VI-B a few days after people have had a chance to digest the data in Part VI-A. I am not going to tell you who to vote for; that is now up to you. What I will do is explain, in detail, the reasons why I’m voting as I am.

I will explain as best I can both the strengths and weaknesses of each candidate in a final conclusions section. Everyone may or may not come to the same conclusion as I have. Hopefully, since the economy is the main issue, I hope everyone makes intelligent use of the material I’ve provided about how the economy really works, and integrates such knowledge into each person’s value framework and political preferences. No one can predict the future but as voters, let’s give it a good shot as to who we think will best serve as president of the United States during the next four years.

                                Accomplishments of the Republican Party

In this author’s opinion the accomplishments of the Republican Party fall into two areas: (1) signed legislation that became law, and (2) bills introduced giving you some idea as to what they wanted to do for the American people.

The Republican Party, of course, did not have control of the White House between 2008-2012. However, they did regain control of the House of Representatives in November, 2010. And, they did propose major legislation in a number of areas. Many of their Bills they proposed failed to pass muster in the Senate, and on several occasions President Obama promised to veto many of the major types of legislation proposed by the Republicans.

If one defines accomplishments as bills that become laws, then by that standard they failed miserably in terms of doing something useful for the American people. It may be one of the reasons why the Republican Party is often called “the Party of No.”

 I believe, in all fairness, the voter needs to evaluate The Republican Party in a different way. Since you are comparing a party with lots to show for it, the only other remaining way to evaluate Republican contributions to the country is to usefully look at their ideas as reflected in the Bills they put forward. If you agree with those ideas you’ll still have a basis for comparison to President Obama’s accomplishments. If you don’t like what was proposed by the Republicans, then perhaps you have a clear choice in November, 2012.

So what major legislation did the Republican Party propose before the Congress during the last four years.

MAJOR LEGISLATION PROPOSED BY THE REPUBLICANS

 I found five major pieces of legislation proposed by the Republican Party during the last four years. A sixth bill actually became law in 1998. That law was the Defense of Marriage Act. It is discussed here because it was followed during the last four years as the Respect for Marriage Act, which failed to become law.

Most Republican bills seem ideological in nature. Only two seem to relate to economics. Along with the Defense of Marriage Act passed in 1996 the bills are the No Taxpayer Funding of Abortion, the Protect Life Act, and the Respect for Marriage Act which was a new version of the original Defense of Marriage Act.

One bill was actually bi-partisan in nature and was the Stop Online Piracy Act. The one bill that tackled spending issues, the debt ceiling, and balancing a budget was the only truly economic bill proposed by the Republican Party. That bill was the Cut, Cap and Balance Act of 2011.

Collectively, these legislative efforts are the ideas of the Republican Party.

Defense of Marriage Act

The Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) Public Law 104-109, 110 Statute 2419, enacted September 21, 1996, 1 U.S.C. & 7 and 28 U.S.C. & 1738C is a United States federal law that defines marriage as the legal union of one man and one woman. The law passed both houses of Congress by large majorities and was signed into law by President Bill Clinton on September 21, 1996.

Under the law, no state or other political subdivision of the U.S. may be required to recognize as a marriage a same-sex relationship considered a marriage in another state. Section 3 of DOMA codified the non-recognition of same-sex marriage for all federal purposes, including insurance benefits for government employees, Social Security survivors’ benefits, and the filing of joint tax returns. This section has been found unconstitutional in two Massachusetts court cases and a California bankruptcy court case, all of which are under appeal.

The Obama administration announced in 2011 that it had determined that Section 3 was unconstitutional and, though it would continue to enforce the law, it would no longer defend it in court. In response, the House of Representatives undertook the defense of the law on behalf of the federal government in place of the Department of Justice (DOJ).

Respect for Marriage Act

The Respect for Marriage Act, or RFMA (H.R. 1116, S. 598), was a proposed bill in the United States Congress that would repeal the Defense of Marriage Act and allow the U.S. federal government to provide benefits to couples in a same-sex marriage; the bill would not compel individual states to recognize same-sex marriages. It was supported by former U.S. Representative Bob Barr, original sponsor of the Defense of Marriage Act, and former President Bill Clinton, who signed the Defense of Marriage Act in 1996.

Until 1996, the federal government customarily recognized marriages conducted legally in any state for the purpose of federal legislation. Following an unsuccessful law suit aimed at legalizing same-sex marriage in Hawaii, the United States Congress passed the Defense of Marriage Act one section of which forbids the federal government from recognizing same-sex marriages.

H.R. 3567

a) repeals section 1738C of title 28 of the United States Code

b) amends Section 7 of title 1 in the United States Code to read:

(a) For the purposes of any Federal law in which marital status is a factor, an individual shall be considered married if that individual’s marriage is valid in the State where the marriage was entered into or, in the case of a marriage entered into outside any State, if the marriage is valid in the place where entered into and the marriage could have been entered into in a State. (b) In this section, the term ‘State’ means a State, the District of Columbia, the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico, or any other territory or possession of the United States.

No Taxpayer Funding for Abortion Act

The No Taxpayer Funding for Abortion Act (H.R. 3) is a bill that was introduced to the 112th Congress of the United States in the House of Representatives by Rep. Chris Smith (R-New Jersey) and Dan Lipinski (D-Illinois). Although the bill is a bipartisan effort, most of the 173 co-sponsors were Republicans. The bill’s stated purpose was “[t]o prohibit taxpayer funded abortions and to provide for conscience protections, and for other purposes.”

In large measure, it would render permanent the restrictions on federal funding of abortion in the United States laid out in the Hyde Amendment. The bill passed the House on May 4, 2011 by a vote of 251-175; however, because it was not expected to pass the Senate, the bill was largely a symbolic one.

Controversy over language about rape

The text of the most recent version of the Hyde Amendment provides an exception for cases of rape, stating that its prohibitions shall not apply “if the pregnancy is the result of an act of rape or incest.” The rape exception in H.R. 3 uses somewhat different language, stating that its limitations shall not apply “if the pregnancy occurred because the pregnant female was the subject of an act of forcible rape or, if a minor, an act of incest.” Some women’s rights groups have questioned the addition of the qualifier “forcible” to the word “rape” in H.R. 3, noting that it excludes many forms of rape and “takes us back to a time where just saying no was not enough.”

One critic, Mother Jones, alleged that the bill is a deliberate attempt on the part of the Republican Party to change the legal definition of rape.

Another critic, Representative Debbie Wasserman Schultz (D-FL) criticized the legislation, too. An article in The Raw Story had this to say about her reaction to HR 3. “The Florida Democrat, a rising star in her party and vice chair of the Democratic National Committee, is a leading voice on women’s issues.

And she didn’t mince her words in an interview with The Raw Story, fiercely denouncing GOP colleagues over H.R. 3, the “No Taxpayer Funding for Abortion Act.” ‘It is absolutely outrageous,’ Wasserman Schultz said in an exclusive interview late Monday afternoon. “I consider the proposal of this bill a violent act against women…” She continued, “It really is — to suggest that there is some kind of rape that would be okay to force a woman to carry the resulting pregnancy to term, and abandon the principle that has been long held, an exception that has been settled for 30 years, is to me a violent act against women in and of itself,” Wasserman Schultz said.” “Rape is when a woman is forced to have sex against her will, and that is whether she is conscious, unconscious, mentally stable, not mentally stable,” the four-term congresswoman added.”

Critics insist that HR 3 would directly diminish the rights of women who have fallen victim to rapes that are not considered “forcible” by the bill, as well as increase the danger of these types of sexual abuse occurring.

TalkingPoints Memo reported, “In an interview with the anti-abortion site LifeNews, Douglas Johnson, the legislative director for the National Right to Life Committee, admits the language in the House’s No Taxpayer Funding for Abortion Act “would not allow general federal funding of abortion on all under-age pregnant girls.”

However, the bill’s text does not offer a definition of “rape” nor of “forcible rape.” Responding to the criticism about the language used in the rape exception clause, bill co-sponsor Dan Lipinski (D) stated, “The language of H.R. 3 was not intended to change existing law rearding taxpayer funding for abortion in cases of rape, nor is it expected that it would do so. Nonetheless, the legislative process will provide an opportunity to clarify this should such a need exist.”

Protect Life Act

The Protect Life Act (H.R. 358) is a bill introduced to the 112th United States Congress in the House of Representatives by Rep. Joe Pitts (R-PA). The bill had 121 co-sponsors, including 6 Democrats. It would make several amendments to the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act.

The bill was initially referred to the House Energy and Commerce Committee, Subcommittee on Health, of which Pitts is the ranking majority member. The committee approved it 33 to 19.

On October 13, 2011, the Republican-controlled House of Representatives passed the bill; however, it was judged unlikely to pass the Democratic Senate, and President Obama stated that he would veto it if it reached his desk.

The following are the provisions of the bill.

Provisions

  • Ban the use of federal funds to cover any costs of any health care plan that covers abortions. (This would extend previous restrictions on abortion coverage, which currently ban the use of federal funds for abortion and require federal funds and abortion-related funds to be kept separate.) Require the Office of Personnel Management director to make sure no health plans that fall under the Exchange cover abortions.
  • Require any entity offering, through a federal exchange, a health care plan that covers abortions to also offer an otherwise identical one that does not cover abortions.
  • Prohibit government agencies from “discriminating” against health care providers who refuse to undergo, require, provide, or refer for training to perform abortions.
  • Allow remedies to be sought in court for violations of PPACA abortion provisions.

Stop Online Piracy Act

The Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA) is a United States bill introduced by U.S. Representative Lamar S. Smith (R-TX) to expand the ability of U.S. law enforcement to fight online trafficking in copyrighted intellectual property and counterfeit goods. Provisions include the requesting of court orders to bar advertising networks and payment facilities from conducting business with infringing websites, and search engines from linking to the sites, and court orders requiring Internet service providers to block access to the sites. The law would expand existing criminal laws to include unauthorized streaming of copyrighted content, imposing a maximum penalty of five years in prison. A similar bill in the U.S. Senate is titled the PROTECT IP Act (PIPA).

Proponents of the legislation state it will protect the intellectual-property market and corresponding industry, jobs and revenue, and is necessary to bolster enforcement of copyright laws, especially against foreign websites. Claiming flaws in present laws that do not cover foreign-owned and operated sites, and citing examples of “active promotion of rogue websites” by U.S. search engines, proponents assert stronger enforcement tools are needed.

Opponents state the proposed legislation threatens free speech and innovation, and enables law enforcement to block access to entire internet domains due to infringing content posted on a single blog or webpage. They have raised concerns that SOPA would bypass the “safe harbor” protections from liability presently afforded to Internet sites by the Digital Millennium Copyright Act. Library associations have expressed concerns that the legislation’s emphasis on stronger copyright enforcement would expose libraries to prosecution. Other opponents state that requiring search engines to delete a domain name could begin a worldwide arms race of unprecedented censorship of the Web and violates the First Amendment.

On January 18, 2012, the English Wikipedia Reddit, and an estimated 7,000 other smaller websites coordinated a service blackout, to raise awareness. In excess of 160 million people viewed Wikipedia’s banner. Other protests against SOPA and PIPA included petition drives, with Google stating it collected over 7 million signatures, boycotts of companies that support the legislation, and a rally held in New York City.

In response to the protest actions, the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) stated, “It’s a dangerous and troubling development when the platforms that serve as gateways to information intentionally skew the facts to incite their users and arm them with misinformation,” and “it’s very difficult to counter the misinformation when the disseminators also own the platform.”

The sites of several pro-SOPA organizations such as RIAA, CBS.com, and others were slowed or shut down with denial of service attacks started on January 19. Self-proclaimed members of the “hacktivist” group Anonymous claimed responsibility and stated the attacks were a protest of both SOPA and the United States Department of Justice’s shutdown of Megaupload on that same day.

Opponents of the bill have proposed the Online Protection and Digital Trade Act (OPEN) as an alternative. On January 20, 2012, House Judiciary Committee Chairman Smith postponed plans to draft the bill: “The committee remains committed to finding a solution to the problem of online piracy that protects American intellectual property and innovation … The House Judiciary Committee will postpone consideration of the legislation until there is wider agreement on a solution.”

Cut, Cap and Balance Act of 2011

The proposed Cut, Cap and Balance Act of 2011 (or HR 2560) was a bill put forward in the 112th United States Congress by Republicans during the 2011 U.S. debt ceiling crisis. The provisions of the bill included a cut in the total amount of federal government spending, a cap on the level of future spending as a percentage ofGDP, and, on the condition that Congress pass certain changes to the U.S. Constitution, and an increase in the national debt ceiling to allow the federal government to continue to service its debts.

The bill had the support of Republicans and much of the Tea Party movement. It passed the U.S. House of Representatives on July 19, 2011, but was rejected by the President and the Senate. The Senate voted to table the bill on July 22. President Obama had promised to veto the bill had it proceeded further.

The Republican Candidate in 2012

The Republican cadidate running for the Office of the President of the United States in 2012  is former Massachusetts Governor, Mitt Romney.

 

Biography

Born Willard Mitt Romney onMarch 12, 1947, in Detroit,Michigan and raised in Bloomfield Hills,Michigan, Romney attended the prestigious Cranbrook Schoolbefore receiving his undergraduate degree fromBrighamYoungUniversityin 1971. He attended Harvard LawSchool andHarvard Business School and received both a law degree and an M.B.A. in 1975.

Mitt Romney married Ann Davies in 1969; they have five sons, Tagg, Matt, Josh, Ben and Craig. He is a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, also known as the Mormon Church.

Entry into Politics

The son of George Romney, Michigan governor and Republican presidential nominee (he was defeated by Richard Nixon in 1968), Mitt Romney began his career in business. He worked for the management consulting firm Bain & Company before founding the investment firm Bain Capital in 1984. In 1994, he ran for the U.S. Senate in Massachusetts but was defeated by longtime incumbent Edward Kennedy.

In 1999, Romney stepped into the national spotlight when he took over as president of the Salt Lake Organizing Committee. He helped rescue the 2002 Winter Olympics from financial and ethical woes, and helmed a successful Salt Lake City Olympic Games in 2002.

In 2004 Romney authored the book Turnaround: Crisis, Leadership, and the Olympic Games.

Masachusetts Governor

Romney parlayed his success with the Olympics into politics when he was elected governor of Massachusetts in 2003. During Romney’s term as governor, he oversaw the reduction of a $3 billion deficit. Romney also signed into law a health care reform program to provide nearly universal health care forMassachusetts residents.

2008 Presidential Run

After serving one term, he declined to run for reelection and announced his bid for U.S.president. Romney made it through Super Tuesday, winning primaries inMassachusetts, Alaska, Minnesota, Colorado and Utah, before losing the Republican nomination to John McCain. In total Romney spent $110 million on his campaign, including $45 million of his own money.

Romney continued to keep his options open for a possible future presidential run. He maintained much of his political staff and PACs, and raised funds for fellow Republican candidates. In March 2010, Romney published a book titled No Apology: The Case for American Greatness. The book debuted on the New York Times Best Sellers list.

2012 Campaign

At a farm in New Hampshire on June 2, 2011, Mitt Romney announced the official start of his 2012 campaign. A vocal critic of President Barack Obama, Romney has taken many standard Republican positions on taxes, the economy and the war on terror. Romney’s critics charge him with changing his position on several key issues including abortion, which he opposes, and health care reform—he opposed President Obama’s health care reform program, which was similar to theMassachusetts plan Romney supported as governor.

From the start of his campaign, Romney emerged as the front-runner for the Republican nomination. He showed more mainstream Republican appeal than Tea Party-backed competitors such asTexas governor Rick Perry. In January 2012, Romney scored a decisive victory in the New Hampshire Republican primary. He captured more than 39 percent of the votes, way ahead of his closest competitors, Ron Paul and Jon Huntsman.  As the race has continued, Rick Santorum became his greatest competition, winning several states. But Romney had been able to secure a substantial lead in the number of delegates needed to clinch the nomination.

In April 2012, Romney benefitted from a narrowing of the field when Santorum announced he was suspending his campaign. He publicly paid tribute to his former rival, saying that Santorum “has proved himself to be an important voice in our party and in the nation.” After Santorum’s departure, Romney only had two opponents left—Ron Paul and Newt Gingrich. But neither seems to have enough support to gain the necessary delegates to take the nomination from Romney. In May, 2012 Newt Gingrich departed from the campaign.

Post Script

At this point every reader of this six part series should now be armed with enough knowledge to make an informed intelligent decision as to who should be elected to the White House this coming November. Good luck in how you arrive at that decision. In a few days following the posting of this Part VI-A, I will present how I plan to vote this coming November. Based on all the knowledge presented in this series I will explain all the reasons why I have selected one candidate over the other. And, I will present such reasons in terms of both strengths and weaknesses of each candidate.

Read Full Post »

 

     In Part III I will attempt to evaluate the impact of immigration, specifically illegal immigration. It is perhaps linguistically amusing to note the definition and how such a word as “Impact” is defined, and how it fits so well into this discussion of illegal immigration.  Impact is defined as the collision of one body against another; collision; or the  force of a collision, or to press closely or pack in. And indeed, there is a kind of social collision going on all across the nation right now as the issue of illegal immigration is debated.

      No where is there a better way to measure such a social collision and impact than to evaluate the differing attitudes and beliefs regarding this issue. Like many social issues, “attitudes and beliefs” (for better or worse) seem to trump facts, logic and reason. This is not surprising given that all facts are valued in a different way or evaluated always within a social context. Writers like myself can impart facts but public opinion is usually all about “feelings.” So if feelings are the measure of impact—what is the impact?

      I have chosen to communicate such impact through a social science research methodology known as public opinion polls. They have their strengths and weaknesses and sampling errors, but I think that collectively (A kind of Meta-Evaluation Assessment) they can give the reader direction of opinion that is both reliable and valid.

     There are literally hundreds of polls that have been conducted at national, state, and local levels on the complex issue of illegal immigration. In terms of a sociological analysis, the issue divides people by all the relevant social and demographic variables sociologists and political analysts use: political party, age, race, gender, and  geographical area.

     I had to make some choices here to report. I chose to use American National polls, California polls, and a Zogby International Poll of people from Mexico to evaluate the perceived impact of illegal immigration. The results follow.

 AMERICAN NATIONAL POLLS

   The general public overwhelmingly favors immigration reform. Poll after poll shows that Americans want well-enforced, sensible, and sustainable immigration laws.

  • 89% of Americans think illegal immigration into the U.S. is a problem (30% “extremely serious,” 33% “very serious,” and 26% “somewhat serious.” (Time Magazine, Jan. 2006)
  • 82% think that not enough is being done along the borders to keep illegal immigrants from crossing into the country. (New York Times/CBS, May 2007)
  • 68% feel that the number of immigrants who cross the border, whether legal or illegal is “too high”. (Polling Company, Sept. 2006)
  • 62% oppose making it easier for illegal immigrants to become citizens of America. (Quinnipiac Univ., Feb  2006)

     These are only a few examples of the many statistics demonstrating that Americans want lower immigration, greater enforcement, and more commitment to making immigration work in the best interests of the nation.

Categorical Issues found in National Polls

     A Rasmussen Report Poll conducted November 5, 2008 of 1,000 likely voters asked: “Is the government doing enough to secure the border?”

  • 79% responded “no,”—” it is not doing enough”.
  • 10% responded “yes.”
  •      It also asked, “Which is more important: securing the border or legalizing undocumented workers?”
  • 65% responded that gaining control of the border is more important.
  • 26% responded that legalization is more important.
  • Rasmussen Report Poll conducted from October 24-25th of 800 likely voters found that:
  • 51% opposed the DREAM Act (a form of amnesty for former and present illegal alien students) concept.
  • 68% believe the passage of the bill would encourage more illegal immigration in the future.
  • 71% believe that illegal immigrants should not qualify for in-state tuition rates at colleges and universities.
  • 77 % oppose making drivers’ licenses available to illegal immigrants.

 Legal Immigration

  • 47% want to decrease immigration. (Gallup, June 2003)
  • Only 12% support increases in immigration. (Zogby Intl. and Hamilton College, Feb. 2003)
  • 20% believe immigration should be stopped immediately, and 52% believe that “Some immigration is okay, but it should be limited and people immigrating illegally should be vigorously prosecuted.” (Zogby Intl., Feb. 2000)
  • 72% completely or mostly agree that “We should restrict and control people coming into our country to live more than we do now.” (Pew Research Center, Oct. 1999)
  • 73% think that the U.S. should strictly limit immigration. (Time/CNN, Sept. 1993)

 Immigration and Terrorism

  • 58% think that immigration should be decreased. (USA Today/CNN/Gallup, Oct. 2001)
  • 83% think that it is too easy for people from other countries to enter the U.S. (CBS News/New York Times, Sept. 2001 and Dec. 2001)
  • 77% think not enough is being done to control the border and to screen people allowed into the country. (Zogby Intl., Sept. 2001)

 Labor Issues

  • 72% said the U.S shouldn’t allow more immigrants into the country because they take American jobs. (Wall Street Journal/NBC News, Dec. 1998)
  • 86% agree that “allowing companies to hire additional temporary foreign professionals reduces employment opportunities for U.S. technical workers.” (IEEE-USA/Harris Interactive, Sept. 1998)
  • 62% agree that immigrants take the jobs of U.S. workers. (Newsweek, July 1993)

 Illegal Immigration and Amnesty

  • 55% consider illegal immigration a “very serious problem.” (Roper ASW for Negative Population Growth, March 2003)
  • 65% disagree with granting amnesty to illegal Mexican immigrants in the U.S. (Zogby Intl., May 2002)
  • 55% think that granting amnesty to illegal immigrants is a bad idea. (Zogby Intl., Sept. 2001)
  • 65% believe that granting amnesty to illegal immigrants would encourage further illegal immigration, and that for this reason amnesty should not be granted. (Harris Interactive for FAIR, August 2001)
  • 67% think the U.S. should not make it easier for illegal immigrants to become citizens. (Gallup, August 2001)

 CALIFORNIA POLL DATA

     A Field Poll by the Field Research Corporation of 570 registered California voters taken from March 20-31, 2007 found that:

  • 83% support the legalization of illegal immigrants who are employed and have resided in the United States for “a number of years,” and a lower share (67%) agree to a temporary worker program for illegal immigrants.
  • 77% believe that illegal immigration is either a “very serious problem” (48%) or a “somewhat serious problem” (28%).
  • 71% agree with strengthening border patrols.
  • 63% support stiffer penalties for employers who hire illegal immigrants.
  • 53% favor deporting illegal immigrants.

     A Field Poll released March 4, 2005 with a +/- 4.1% age point margin of error found:

 “A new bill currently in the U.S. Congress would effectively block states like California from providing driver’s licenses to undocumented immigrants, by requiring all states to verify that applicants for driver’s licenses are American citizens or living in the country legally.” The results were that 59% favored this action (vs. 38% opposed). Republicans supported by 78%-19%, Non-partisans by 57%-42%, and Democrats by 53%-41%. Latinos opposed by 53%-45%.

     A question also probed the issue of California adopting a measure to allow driver’s licenses for “undocumented immigrants.” The similar results were opposition by 62%-35%. However opinions were nearly equal on whether the state should issue a different non-ID license to the illegal aliens.

  • 65% said that illegal immigrants should not be eligible for services and benefits provided by state and local governments, except for emergency services.  53% said they would be more likely to vote for a candidate who opposes granting government benefits and services to illegal immigrants.  73% said that illegal immigrants should not be eligible for in-state tuition at state universities, and 68% opposed granting driver’s licenses to illegal aliens. (Luntz Research, October 2003)

     A Zogby International Poll of 802 registered California voters in Feb.-Mar. 2002 for Diversity Alliance probed attitudes towards immigration. The organization reported the following findings:

Q. State legislators have proposed a law allowing illegal immigrants to apply for driver’s licenses. Knowing that in California, driver’s licenses can be used as one form of identifcation to apply for welfare benefits, do you support or oppose a law granting driver’s licenses to illegal immigrants?
A. Oppose = 67%, Support = 29%, Not Sure = 4%.
Immigrants were stronger opponents than U.S.-born respondents (71% to 67%).

Q. The state legislature proposed a law giving illegal immigrants reduced tuition to state colleges and universities. Do you support or oppose such a law?
A. Oppose = 72%, Support = 25%, Not Sure = 3%.

Q. Do you agree or disagree that employers should be required to certify that there are no American workers available for a job before an employer imports workers from overseas?

A. Agree = 68%, Disagree = 27%, Not Sure = 5%.
Immigrants were stronger supporters of a certification requirement than native-born respondents (83% to 68%).

Q. Do you think a three-year moratorium on legal immigration would be beneficial or harmful to Californians?
A. Beneficial = 43%, Harmful = 40%, Not Sure = 16%.
Immigrants viewed a moratorium as more harmful than did U.S.-born respondents (46% to 40%).

  • 62% of citizens and 71% of immigrants oppose a law that would grant driver’s licenses to illegal residents. (Zogby Intl., March 2001)
  • 82% believe that population growth over the next two decades will make the state a less desirable place to live. (Public Policy Institute of California, May 2001)

     A statewide poll by the Public Policy Institute of California released in December 1999 found immigration as the second most important issue facing California (after education).

     Eight percent of respondents identified immigration as their greatest concern compared with 28 percent for education and seven percent for crime, the third most frequently volunteered response. Other results offer a mixed picture. While most respondents see the state headed in the right direction (62% – 31%), more respondents indicated that they think the state will be a worse place to live in 2020 than a better place (43% – 25%). Some of the reasons for concern may be the growing wealth gap in the state and concern about the environment. By 72% to 23%, respondents said they expect to gap to continue to grow. By a margin of 60% to 37% respondents said they expect the quality of the natural environment to get worse rather than get better. Interestingly, 22 percent of the respondents did not want to hazzard a guess about the state’s population size, and among those who did guess, only 13% chose the correct answer (30-35 million) while 46% underestimated the population and only 19% overestimated it.

 Californians are ambivalent as to whether “the increasing diversity that immigrants bring” improves or threatens American culture. About the same number think immigrants “improve” – 39% and “threaten” – 38%. (The comparable national public opinion is “improve” – 30% and “threaten” – 42%). And they are ambivalent about whether “legal immigration is a problem.” They divide 47% to 48% saying it “is” or “is not” a problem. However, most Californians (86%) say “illegal immigrants are a problem.” A majority of Californians (54%) favor changing the law so children of illegal immigrants born here are not automatically U.S. citizens — 40% are opposed. But, most Californians (53%) would not bar illegal immigrants from attending public schools — 41% would bar them.
(Source: Los Angeles Times, Nov.2, 1997)

 THE MEXICAN PEOPLE SPEAK

 Mexicans also Feel Mexican-Americans Should Be Loyal to Mexico 

     A new survey by Zogby International finds that people in Mexico think that granting legal status to illegal immigrants would encourage more illegal immigration to the United States. As the top immigrant-sending country for both legal and illegal immigrants, views on immigration in Mexico can provide insight into the likely impact of an amnesty, as well as other questions related to immigration.

     The results are available online at the Center for Immigration Studies’ website. Among the findings:

* A clear majority of people in Mexico, 56 percent, thought giving legal status to illegal immigrants in the United States would make it more likely that people they know would go to the United States illegally. Just 17 percent thought it would make Mexicans less likely to go illegally. The rest were unsure or thought it would make no difference.

* Of Mexicans with a member of their immediate household in the United States, 65 percent said a legalization program would make people they know more likely to go to America illegally.

* Two-thirds of Mexicans know someone living in the United States; one-third said an immediate member of their household was living in the United States.

* Interest in going to the United States remains strong even in the current recession, with 36 percent of Mexicans (39 million people) saying they would move to the United States if they could. This is consistent with a recent Pew Research Center poll which found that about one-third of Mexicans would go to the United States if they could. At present, 12 to 13 million Mexico-born people live in the United States.

* An overwhelming majority (69 percent) thought that the primary loyalty of Mexican-Americans (Mexico- and U.S.-born) should be to Mexico. Just 20 percent said it should be to the United States. The rest were unsure.

* Also, 69 percent of people in Mexico felt that the Mexican government should represent the interests of Mexican-Americans (Mexico- and U.S.-born) in the United States.

* A plurality, 39 percent, of Mexicans thought that in the last year fewer people they know had gone to the United States as illegal immigrants compared to previous years. Only 27 percent thought more had gone. The rest thought it had stayed the same or were unsure.

* A plurality, 40 percent, also thought that in the last year more of the illegal immigrants they know had returned to Mexico compared to previous years. Only 25 percent thought the number returning had fallen. The rest thought it had stayed the same or were unsure.

* Both the bad economy and increased immigration enforcement were cited as reasons fewer people were going to America as illegal immigrants and more were coming back to Mexico.

     The following discussion wasn’t written by me. It came at the end of the survey and I thought it articulated very well the assessment of the data by the author and his opinion on the issue of illegal immigration and immigration policy.

Discusssion:

     As the nation begins debates the issue of immigration, the perspective of people in Mexico is important because Mexico is the top sending country for both legal and illegal immigrants. In 2008 one of six new legal immigrants was from Mexico and, according to the Department of Homeland Security, 6 out of 10 illegal immigrants come from that country. Asking people in Mexico their views on immigration can provide insight into the likely impact of an amnesty for illegal immigrants and other questions related to immigration.

     This survey is the first to ask people in Mexico if they thought legalizing illegal immigrants in the United States would encourage more illegal immigration. The survey was conducted in August and September of 2009 and consisted of 1,004 in-person interviews of adults throughout Mexico. The findings show that a majority of people in Mexico think that an amnesty would make it more likely that people in Mexico would come to the United States illegally. This is especially true for people who have a member of their households living in the United States. It is important to note that respondents were asked specifically about whether an amnesty would make illegal immigration more likely, not just immigration generally. Other questions in the survey explore attitudes about migration to United States generally, recent trends in migration, and loyalty to the United States.

     The results may give pause to those lawmakers who think that an amnesty/legalization for illegals immigrants would reduce illegal immigration in the future. The findings of this survey indicate that an amnesty would encourage more illegal immigration, at least from Mexico.

Methodology:

     The in-person survey done in Mexico for the Center for Immigration Studies by Zogby International was of 1,004 persons 18 years of age and older. The sampling framework was the most recent (2009) electoral sections defined by the Federal Electoral Institute. A multi-stage sampling procedure was employed that first randomly selected 100 electoral sections proportional to size. Second, two house blocks were randomly selected from each section. Within each block five households were selected using a systematic random procedure. The margin of error for the entire sample is +/- 3.1% for a 95% confidence level. Margins of error are larger for sub-groups.

The above is a press release dated October 14 from from Center for Immigration Studies. 1522 K St. NW, Suite 820, Washington, DC 20005, (202) 466-8185 fax: (202) 466-8076. Email: center@cis.org http://www.cis.org

SUMMARY AND AN OPINION

Summary

     The data make it clear that the vast majority of Americans want immigration reform. The data also makes it clear that the majority of Americans  oppose illegal immigration (and a good percentage want no immigration at all) and do not favor giving amnesty to illegal aliens.

     These are the highlights that I surmise constitutes the best summary of the data you’ve just read:

American National Polls

89% of Americans think illegal immigration into the U.S. is a problem. 

 68% feel that the number of immigrants who cross the border, whether legal or illegal is “too high”.

 73% think that the U.S. should strictly limit immigration. 

 71% believe that illegal immigrants should not qualify for in-state tuition rates at colleges and universities.

77 % oppose making drivers’ licenses available to illegal immigrants.

California Polls

      83% support the legalization of illegal immigrants who are employed and have resided in the United States for “a number of years,” and a lower share (67%) agree to a temporary worker program for illegal immigrants.

     Even in California however :

 71% agree with strengthening border patrols.

63% support stiffer penalties for employers who hire illegal immigrants.

53% favor deporting illegal immigrants.

Poll Conducted in Mexico 

 Mexicans also Feel Mexican-Americans Should Be Loyal to Mexico 

     A new survey conducted in 2009 by Zogby International finds that people in Mexico think that granting legal status to illegal immigrants would encourage more illegal immigration to the United States. As the top immigrant-sending country for both legal and illegal immigrants, views on immigration in Mexico can provide insight into the likely impact of an amnesty, as well as other questions related to immigration.

     The results are available online at the Center for Immigration Studies’ website. Among the findings:

* A clear majority of people in Mexico, 56 percent, thought giving legal status to illegal immigrants in the United States would make it more likely that people they know would go to the United States illegally. Just 17 percent thought it would make Mexicans less likely to go illegally. The rest were unsure or thought it would make no difference.

* Of Mexicans with a member of their immediate household in the United States, 65 percent said a legalization program would make people they know more likely to go to America illegally.

* Two-thirds of Mexicans know someone living in the United States; one-third said an immediate member of their household was living in the United States.

Opinion

      Up until this point I have shyed away from giving an opinion in deference to a complete, objective presentation of facts. Before I undertook to write a five-part series on the topic of immigration (specifically illegal immigration) I honestly had a complete open mind (or no opinion at all) as to the immigration debate. Subsequently however, by learning many facts on this complex issue, I have begun to form an opinion about immigration and what is going on. It’s led to the observation that there exist a major disconnect between what the American people want on immigration and the political establishment in Washington and California. I like to think that my opinion is well-reasoned based on only the facts; however, you be the judge of that assumption.

    What does all this mean? How can one make sense of the impact of illegal immigration on the American people? When a citizen breaks the law and is on the run, most people don’t question whether law enforcement has the right to apprehend the offender and make an arrest for some offense. If law enforcement has the legal right, if not moral obligation, to bring offenders to justice, why then does it matter whether the offender is a citizen or an illegal alien? This is more than an opinion—it is the law.

     This is not the view of just some off-beat moronic right-wing conservative group, it is the opinion of a wide and diverse group of Americans who support our laws once a soverign democratic nation has spoken.

     Right now, we have a U.S. president who is doing a really fine good job on many issues like healthcare, financial reform and the economy. However, he appears to have some “CHINKS IN HIS ARMOR” or weaknesses in his moral compass on some very important issues.

     He has failed to bring to justice war criminals who committed crimes against humanity. The offenders ran the entire gamut of CIA lackeys, military personnel, and members of the Bush administration. He also dragged his feet on promises he made during his election campaign to the Gay and Lesbian citizenry, and now he wants to ignore the vast majority of Americans who want no amnesty for illegals, and who want our borders protected.  We also have a California governor who is “illegal alien-friendly” and doesn’t understand that illegals are law-breakers and are violating the soverign territory of the United States. To use the colloquial language of the street—“ illegal aliens are dissin’ us (i.e., disrespecting the American people).

     As a writer with a very pro-liberal outlook on civil rights in general, it is nevertheless appallingly clear that there is a major “disconnect” between what Americans want and the politicians who we elect to serve us. Just like Meg Whitman running for Governor of California this fall, it is clear—“we have the best politicians money can buy.” 

    And, it isn’t only politicians who are dragging their feet on supporting a viable, legal, and social policy on illegal immigration. American business is also dragging its feet. Why? Because cheap labor has been their major incentive. Consequently, the nation has been “importing” poverty for decades since data shows that 70% of all illegals have no high school diploma,  and virtually no skills.

     Right now the vast majority of Americans are against illegal immigration, in favor of protecting our borders, and opposed to amnesty. Nevertheless this majority are being vilified in the media and scapegoated by a sizeable minority of pro-illegal immigration folks. But you have to ask yourself this question. How do other countries (whether developed or undeveloped) deal with their own illegal immigration problem? Last year and in 2008, my wife and I visited Mexico as part of a Princess Cruise and the excursions the ship provided. Both times we were asked to whip out our passports upon entry into Mexico. I suspect that Mexico (just like the United States), despite its current political rhetoric castagating the new Arizona law, actually respects the soverign nature of its own country and borders as well. In my humble opinion the Mexican people are a good and decent people. We Americans are very lucky to have such good people living south of the border. For this reason, I think the opinion of the Mexican people is very important in order to have a comprehensive view of this issue. I found the survey data from Mexico itself very telling. The survey of Mexican citizens shows that Mexicans want all their citizens (including illegals) to be loyal to Mexico, and the majority feel that if the U.S. grants amnesty to illegals it will only further increase illegal immigration.

     If there is some sort of compromise reached by the U.S. Congress on the many issues of immigration, it will need to be looked at very closely. Like many other political issues compromise is mostly welcome, but not always welcome. I think immigration is one issue where the soverign nature of the United States needs to be protected and respected with no compromises at all. We’ve had enough “feet-dragging” by the U.S. Congress already. Too much compromise will also weaken our resolve to eliminate future illegal immigration.

     Where border protection is concerned modern technology needs to be employed. If border protection is deemed really important (and the American people seem to think so) then it is imcumbent upon the U.S. government to make the resources available to do the job. And, I want a four-star general to be put in charge (and responsible for) the securing of our borders. It makes no sense to me to allocate our “brightest and our best” field commanders to fight in Afghanistan and Iraq when we can’t even secure our own borders at home.

 

 


Read Full Post »

America at Crossroads of Morality And Conscience

 The people of theUnited States are at the crossroads of morality and conscience where torture policy in America is concerned. Much harm has been done to the reputation of this country as a civilized people, due to the expediency of policies during the Bush Administration; they believed such policies aided and assisted the job of national security. As a result of such beliefs, a secret policy of torture was promoted by the Bush Administration ostensibly to counter international terrorism. Subsequently, every “MOW-RON” and his brother came out of the woodwork to euphemistically describe torture as, “Enhanced Interrogation Techniques.” While it’s one thing for a misguided, uneducated general public to miss the historical, religious, social, legal, sociological and psychological basis for prohibiting torture, there really was no excuse for former members of the government to do so, many of whom knew it was wrong from the start.

In recent months, the primary motivation of Dick Cheney and others who promoted an after-the-fact dismissal of national and international law, including the Geneva Convention—was self-preservation, and the fear that they might one day be prosecuted and incarcerated for crimes against humanity. Since we now have President George Herbert Walker Bush’s confession on tape, broadcast on the Keith Olbermann MSNBC show, the country now knows that there was approval at the highest levels of government to commit these war crimes. Those guilty of war crimes do reach all the way from “lackey” levels in the CIA, to military prisons in Iraq and elsewhere, and finally to the White House itself. More blatant rationalizations came recently from ex-vice president Dick Cheney. Cheney, who never went beyond his freshman year of college, seems to lack any understanding of law and shows absolutely no remorse for initiating and promoting torture and crimes against humanity.

How soon do the American people forget history? At the end of World War II many public servants, low-level bureaucrats, military officers, Nazi SS Elite, judges, and high-level government officials were brought to the Nuremburg War Crimes Tribunal and tried for crimes against humanity. Where German military and concentration guards were concerned, they were not allowed to defend themselves with rationalizations like “We were only following orders, or let’s put this all behind us and look to the future” (sound familiar). The Japanese were also tried after WWII for war crimes, including those who used waterboarding to torture prisoners. Many were sentenced to death for waterboarding. Crimes against humanity were viewed as great violations of this country’s values to respect life, human dignity and humanity in general.

Policies of torture rob our nation of both dignity and respect. If we fail to act responsibly now as a nation, and fail to bring to justice all those involved in initiating an American torture policy, either promoting or carrying out war crimes in the name of the United States, the consequences of a dishonored nation with a double standard will taint the American image, and thus the American people forever more. According to Alfred W. McCoy in his important book, A Question of Torture: CIA Interrogation, from the Cold War to the War on Terror, concluded:

Finally, as we learned from France’s battle for Algiers in the 1950s and Britain’s Northern Ireland conflict in the 1970s, a nation that sanctions torture in defiance of democratic principles pays a terrible price. For nearly two millennia, the practice has been identified with tyrants and empires. For the past two centuries, its repudiation has been synonymous with the humanist ideals of the Enlightenment and democracy. When any modern state tortures even a few victims, the stigma compromises its majesty and corrupts its integrity. Its officials must spin an even more complex web of lies that, in the end, weakens the bonds of trust and the rule of law that are the sine qua non of a democracy. And, beyond its borders, allies and enemies turn away in collective revulsion.

 CIA’s Historically Subversive Role

 The Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) has been involved in torture, kidnapping, extortion, blackmail and murder since its official inception in 1947 when the CIA was organized from its predecessor, The OSS—Office of Strategic Services. Both agencies have had a long and vile history. Individuals responsible for these violations of national and international law have never been held accountable because of the veil of secrecy and the alleged compromise to American intelligence gathering and national security. The public ends up not knowing whether the CIA did their clandestine activities out of a legitimate need for protecting the nation’s security, or if it was a bogus smokescreen to cover up incompetence, criminal behavior, including murders committed on behalf of the agency.

More and more revelations every day demonstrate that the CIA engaged in a long rogue program of illegal activity bordering on treason (any act of betrayal or disloyalty—in this case—the undermining of the laws, values and ideals of the American people). In addition, the violation of civil and human rights (decade after decade) warrants a long overdue charge of “Crimes Against Humanity” directed at individuals responsible including the chief architects of such programs.

It is now clear that in order to regain any shred of national respect and honor in the eyes of the American people, and the rest of the world, those responsible must finally be brought to justice. Such vile human conduct of the last 63 years must not be whitewashed or swept under the rug of obscurity. Are you listening Mr. Eric Holder?

The CIA has used mind control drugs on unwitting experimental subjects, and has been a party to the murder or attempted murder of international democratically-elected political figures. They have also been involved in directly training 56,000 south American soldiers (School of the Americas at Fort Benning, Georgia) in methods of torture. Torture methods taught were eventually used against innocent civilians (men, women and children), political figures, militant rebels, and military combatants and detainees, all sponsored on behalf of the CIA of the United States government.

 Society’s Inner Conflict over Torture

Ultimately, there are now serious long-lasting value conflicts going on between various segments of American society over the issue of torture. Since things went public, there are those who find torture the epitome of evil incarnate—a violation of human decency, abhorrent criminal behavior that has now put our troops at extreme risk, morally wrong and reprehensible conduct unbecoming of professionals like never seen before, and perversion of American’s highest ethical standards. They also view a national policy around torture as the promotion of despicable acts not worthy of the highest ideals a people can hold, by dishonoring the importance of human rights and dignity, and tarnishing the character of the American people.

There are some in our society today who, reacting under the pressures of terrorist potential attacks, psychologically and morally cave-in to these pressures, by turning a blind eye to such public disclosures as a national torture policy. Fear and anxiety over potential terrorist attacks dominate and rule these people’s beliefs, however unfounded or useless the “Ticking Bomb Scenario” might be.

There is also a small percentage (around 6 percent) of the American public who have no moral qualms where human suffering is concerned, and would give our government a free pass to torture whoever they want.

While the above fearful types may be thought of pragmatists whose approval of torture is highly conditional (only in the case of the ticking bomb scenario), the latter group would allow the government to torture anyone they saw fit and exempt government from any control whatsoever. The fearful and anxious group of citizens needs education. Those giving government a free pass to conduct torture under any circumstances is not in need of education. Education probably won’t help them. What they need most is a psychiatrist.

The greatest problem facing both of these latter groups is that they have not taken the time to carefully think things through in any systematic or careful way. One of the key ideas that hasn’t been thought through at all by these groups—is the significance of our own system of laws, and history of jurisprudence in the United States. At the top of such history is our country’s two century plus old domestic problem of law enforcement beating confessions out of detainees (The Third Degree). In addition, there were many cases in which ( Brown versus Mississippi, 1936) Negro defendants were whipped in order to coerce a confession. Lynchings and murder were the mainstay of a desperate south trying to protect its repressive social order. One-by-one the legal system has successfully purged law enforcement its legacy of violence against the citizenry.

When the Rodney King incident occurred in 1991, society was relatively swift to punish law enforcement personnel who engaged in beating Rodney King. In addition, nationwide there have been other cases of law enforcement personnel who engaged in criminal acts such as torture, rape or murder of suspects or jailed individuals. In most cases media exposure and a strong public backlash brought forth law enforcement’s illegal behavior into the light of day. Criminal indictments often follow such illegal behavior on the part of law enforcement; and in the end, massive civil lawsuits follow the criminal proceedings in order to exact monetary retribution.

Society itself has changed its attitudes over the decades where child abuse and spousal abuse are concerned. Physical punishment and abuse are viewed more and more as acts of violence and torture. While there are still institutionalized acts of abuse committed within our educational system in some states, rationalizations for such behavior are no longer tolerated, as evidenced by widespread lawsuits, and teachers and administrators whose names are added to state databases and registrys as child abusers, threatening and putting at risk their own livelihood and personal reputation.

At least domestically, no one looks the other way or hides their head in the sand. At the national or federal level, those who, in the name of national security, commit acts of torture of prisoners of war—bring nothing but shame and dishonor following such acts. Underlying such criminal behavior, the word cowardice does come to mind.

Let the Generals Speak

On October 23, 2008, at the University of Virginia Law School retired military leaders, Lieutenant General Harry E. Soyster and Lieutenant General Charles Otstott, discussed the importance of using interrogation methods that are effective, lawful and humane, and the importance of the commander-in-chief setting the highest standards for all U.S. personnel in the treatment of prisoners.

“It doesn’t matter what they do, it’s what we do. We don’t lower ourselves to the level of this terrible enemy we are fighting. It’s about what our standards are.”

General Soyster

“The rules are the same, and should be the same. All the Machiavellian work that has been done to get around those rules is detestable, and I can’t believe we are doing that as an official policy in the United States of America.”

General Otstott

In an article on August 27, 2009, “CIA probe shields architects of US torture regime,”its author Bill Van Auken reported on the Obama’s administration’s coverup, reluctance to prosecute, and its substantial censorship of the CIA Inspector General’s Report on torture. “Given the number of murders that were perpetrated by the CIA, it is flabbergasting that the Obama Administration, which promised ‘accountability’ would fail the American people so miserably in this way.”

Bill Van Auken also reported that,

The censoring of information on similar torture deaths means that the Obama administration is acting to ensure that those who planned, ordered,and executed the torture program under Bush are literally allowed to get away with murder. Nor is this a matter restricted to the three deaths concealed in the report released Monday. Human rights groups have unearthed information on at least 100 detainee deaths during interrogations, and given the cover-ups carried out by the military and the CIA, there is ample reason to believe that there are many more. An indication of the widespread character of such fatal abuse was given by retired US Army General Barry Richard McCaffrey during an interview on MSNBC television news last April, following President Obama’s speech to CIA employees at the agency’s headquarters in Langley, Virginia.

In that interview General McCaffrey said,

“We should never, as a policy, maltreat people under our control, detainees,” said McCaffrey, who made repeated inspection tours of US-occupied Iraq on behalf of the military’s Central Command. “We tortured people unmercifully,” he added. “We probably murdered dozens of them during the course of that, both the armed forces and the CIA.”

Judgment at Nuremberg Revisited

In 1961 a movie was released called Judgment at Nuremberg. The actual Nuremberg trials took place in 1945-46 in Nuremberg, Germany. Although a movie, the final speech by Spencer Tracy spoke volumes to the ramifications of what these trials meant and the long-term impact that crimes against humanity would have on the world.

These trials cut through the rationalizations of citizens following orders of a corrupt and evil dictator. The rationalization, “I was only following orders” carried no weight in the end. Individuals were held responsible for their own acts and were punished or sentenced accordingly. Half of the high-level original 22 defendants were hung.

Current and former members of the CIA, U.S. Army, or higher up political figures will not be allowed to hide from their crimes against humanity by shifting responsibility to “good intentions” or uncertain pragmatic beliefs about results. All that is irrelevant; what matters is that the United States Justice Department bring criminal offenders to justice and set an example of a democratic country doing what is morally and ethically just.

As you read ahead, empathetically place yourself inside the mind of Judge Haywood. In the movie Spencer Tracy played Judge Haywood. As you read his words see the striking connection to what took place this last decade in particular compared to the United States at the end of World War II in 1945. One can easily see that society today needs to be reminded of the Nuremberg trials because, indeed, history does seem to repeat itself and governments don’t seem to learn from either history or its mistakes. Individuals have memories; institutions do not.

 Speech by Judge Haywood Prior to Sentencing

“The trial conducted before this Tribunal began over eight months ago. The record of evidence is more than ten thousand pages long, and final arguments of counsel have been concluded.

Simple murders and atrocities do not constitute the gravamen of the charges in this indictment. Rather, the charge is that of conscious participation in a nationwide, government organized system of cruelty and injustice in violation of every moral and legal principle known to all civilized nations. The Tribunal has carefully studied the record and found therein abundant evidence to support beyond a reasonable doubt the charges against these defendants.

Heir Rolfe, in his very skillful defense, has asserted that there are others who must share the ultimate responsibility for what happened here in Germany. There is truth in this. The real complaining party at the bar in this courtroom is civilization. But the Tribunal does say that the men in the dock are responsible for their actions, men who sat in black robes in judgment on other men, men who took part in the enactment of laws and decrees, the purpose of which was the extermination of humans beings, men who in executive positions actively participated in the enforcement of these laws — illegal even under German law. The principle of criminal law in every civilized society has this in common: Any person who sways another to commit murder, any person who furnishes the lethal weapon for the purpose of the crime, any person who is an accessory to the crime — is guilty.

Heir Rolfe further asserts that the defendant, Janning, was an extraordinary jurist and acted in what he thought was the best interest of this country. There is truth in this also. Janning, to be sure, is a tragic figure. We believe he loathed the evil he did. But compassion for the present torture of his soul must not beget forgetfulness of the torture and the death of millions by the Government of which he was a part. Janning’s record and his fate illuminate the most shattering truth that has emerged from this trial: If he and all of the other defendants had been degraded perverts, if all of the leaders of the Third Reich had been sadistic monsters and maniacs, then these events would have no more moral significance than an earthquake, or any other natural catastrophe.

But this trial has shown that under a national crisis, ordinary — even able and extraordinary — men can delude themselves into the commission of crimes so vast and heinous that they beggar the imagination. No one who has sat at through trial can ever forget them: men sterilized because of political belief; a mockery made of friendship and faith; the murder of children. How easily it can happen.

There are those in our own country too who today speak of the “protection of country” — of “survival.” A decision must be made in the life of every nation at the very moment when the grasp of the enemy is at its throat. Then, it seems that the only way to survive is to use the means of the enemy, to rest survival upon what is expedient — to look the other way.

Well, the answer to that is “survival as what?” A country isn’t a rock. It’s not an extension of one’s self. It’s what it stands for. It’s what it stands for when standing for something is the most difficult!

Before the people of the world, let it now be noted that here, in our decision, this is what we stand for: justice, truth, and the value of a single human being.

Final Comments

      The issue of torture and the war crimes committed by members of the government in our name isn’t going to go away. The choices are simple. The end does not justify the means and no amount of rationalization is ever going to alter that. No matter how many times someone tries to gloss over it, torture is a crime against humanity.

Those who have initiated policies to institutionalize interrogation techniques involving torture, otherwise promoted it, or carried it out, should receive the harshest of punishment, namely life in prison. It is not important what position an individual held in our government; those guilty of war crimes need to be brought to justice. It is an unacceptable act of betrayal and disloyalty to the values of the American people, that misguided buffoons in our government, led us down the path toward everlasting national dishonor and disgrace.

Given the failure of the United States to follow the principles of international law, and the failure of a sizeable minority of American citizens to comprehend the gravity of a democratic country promoting torture, the “land of the free and the home of the brave” are now in serious moral trouble.

 

Read Full Post »

OBAMA’S FIRST POLITICAL BLUNDER:

SWEEPING THE TORTURE ISSUE UNDER THE RUG

[A National Disgrace]

 

  

 

     It shouldn’t take a genius to recognize that willfully initiating, promoting or committing acts of torture, despite whatever rationalizations are attendant to it, is nevertheless a violation of International Human Rights. Whether torture is used against anyone during wartime or peacetime, it is an extremely serious violation of the Geneva Convention articles reached in 1949 by the United Nations. The United States was instrumental in bringing this about and, as a nation, was a signatory to it.

 

     Recently President Obama stated, following release of the U.S. Justice Department’s torture memos, that he preferred that individuals in the CIA who carried out torture, not be prosecuted. One day later he realized his blunder. The choice to prosecute or not lies with the Justice Department, not the White House. What the President failed to understand is that American values, and the opinion of other nations toward the moral integrity of a good and just country like the United States, was not being taken into consideration. Neither did the President show any understanding of American or World History based on the terrible events of World War II.

 

     These sins of omission show not only a failure of presidential moral leadership, but a failure to follow through with campaign rhetoric on accountability in government. It also shows, unfortunately, a serious question of his unwillingness to protect American values around human rights. At a broader level of rationalization, he wanted the country to look past the torture issue so he could concentrate on his massive political spending plan, and economic agenda. By discouraging prosecution of war criminals at home, he has inadvertently dishonored and disgraced this country and its people.

 

      In addition, it was irresponsible to summarily ignore all national and international laws prohibiting torture and all precedents of the United Nation’s prohibition against torture and violations of universal human rights. For a liberal democratic president to have done this is surprizing and has brought shame and dishonor to the very office he holds. The President’s quick, flippant and somewhat dismissive arrogant response to the torture memos, released under the Freedom of Information Act, demonstrates the country didn’t elect the thoughtful, reasoned politician we thought we did. The rationalizations he put forth as to why he didn’t want to prosecute CIA officers, other government officials, and some members of the military, sounded strikingly very similar to the same rationalizations coming out of Germany at the end of World War II. Serious questions remain: Who did the President think he was trying to protect and why? If he was trying to protect ex-President George Walker Bush, his loyalty to the office of the presidency is misplaced. Remember who said this:  “When the president does it, it is not illegal.” (Frost/Nixon)

 

      Since we now have President George Walker Bush’s confession on tape, recently broadcast on the Keith Olbermann MSNBC show, we now know that there was approval at the highest levels of government to commit these war crimes. Those guilty of war crimes do reach all the way from “lacky” levels in the CIA, to military prisons in Iraq and elsewhere, and finally to the White House itself. More blatant rationalizations are currently coming from ex-vice president Dick Cheney. Cheney, who never went beyond his freshman year of college, seems to lack any understanding of law and shows absolutely no remorse for initiating and promoting war crimes and crimes against humanity.

 

     How soon do the American people forget history? At the end of World War II many public servants, low-level bureaucrats, military officers, Nazi SS Elite, judges, and high-level government officials were brought to the Nuremburg War Crimes Tribunal and tried for crimes against humanity. Where German military and concentration guards were concerned, they were not allowed to defend themselves with rationalizations like “We were only following orders, or let’s put this all behind us and look to the future” (sound familiar).    

 

      The Japanese also were tried after WWII for war crimes, including those who used waterboarding to torture prisoners. Crimes against humanity were viewed as great violations of this country’s values to respect life and humanity in general. Policies of torture rob our nation of both dignity and respect. If we fail to act responsibly now as a Nation, and fail to bring to justice all those who were involved in initiating torture policy, promoting or carrying out war crimes in the name of the United States, the consequences of a dishonored nation with a double standard will taint the American image, and thus the American people forever more. According to Alfred W. McCoy in his important book, A Question of Torture: CIA Interrogation, from the Cold War to the War on Terror, concluded:

 

Finally, as we learned from France’s battle for Algiers in the 1950s and Britain’s Northern Ireland conflict in the 1970s, a nation that sanctions torture in defiance of democratic principles pays a terrible price. For nearly two millennia, the practice has been identified with tyrants and empires. For the past two centuries, its repudiation has been synonymous with the humanist ideals of the Enlightenment and democracy. When any modern state tortures even a few victims, the stigma compromises its majesty and corrupts its integrity. Its officials must spin an even more complex web of lies that, in the end, weakens the bonds of trust and the rule of law that are the sine qua non of a democracy. And, beyond its borders, allies and enemies turn away in collective revulsion. 

 

 

What should be Done?   

 

     Every President has a poor decision during his administration that he wishes he hadn’t made. President Obama is no exception. Protecting war criminals is the worst thing he could have done. It is the biggest blunder of his administration. 

 

     There are already indications coming from sources close to the Department of Justice that indicate high level officials are angry at the President because it is their decision, not the administration’s, whether someone is to be tried, or not tried, for a crime.

 

     In addition to the United States Justice Department, the U.S. Senate should work collaboratively with the Justice Department by holding congressional hearings. Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Patrick Leahy called three weeks ago for the establishment of a nonpartisan “Commission of Inquiry” to investigate allegations of wrongdoing against former Bush administration officials in their prosecution of the war on terrorism. Senator Leahy is quoted as saying at a committee meeting, “Nothing did more to damage America’s place in the world than the revelation that our great nation stretched the law and the bounds of executive power to authorize torture and cruel treatment.” He added that “the Commission should have the power to issue subpoenas and offer immunity to witnesses.”

 

   The United States has a long history, long before the Bush administration, of secretly violating international and domestic laws prohibiting the use of torture in interrogations. The U.S. has been very uneven in honoring humanitarian values and both national and international law. Many of these secret crimes went unpunished in the past. It’s time a real message is sent to all people in government and to the world at large: The United States will not tolerate torture under any circumstances.

 

     But now, with the “smoking–gun” evidence mounting with the memos and confessions by both the former President and Vice-President, the nation can now send a permanent message to all future administrations and other nations abroad, that the United States will hold people, no matter what their political or administrative level, accountable for their criminal acts, and specifically for promoting or carrying out torture of prisoners. The first step needed is for the United States Justice Department to prohibit all travel outside the United States for anyone previously employed by the Bush administration. Leaving the country would make them subject to immediate arrest. This would set the initial stage that things are about to happen on the investigative front.

 

    As a nation we must not let war crimes committed in the name of our country go unpunished

 

   The following outlines various passages of International Human Rights laws that are applicable to the issue of torture. Below these passages the various techniques used by war crime criminals within the CIA and in military prisons overseas will be used to compare with what they did. Policy decisions, it must be remembered was done all in the narrow and unimaginative underlying rationalization of national security.

 

 

     In 1948, delegates to the United Nations, led by former first lady Eleanor Roosevelt, adopted the Universal Declaration of Human Rights—the Foundation for all later UN humanitarian conventions. Among its various provisions was Article 5, that “no one shall be subjected to torture or cruel, inhumane, or degrading treatment.” A year later, the United States also ratified Geneva Convention III Relative to the Treatment of Prisoners of War, with its strong prohibitions against torture. Article 13 states that “prisoners of war must at all times be humanely treated, while Article 87 bars “corporal punishment, imprisonment in premises without daylight and, in general, any form of torture or cruelty.”

 

      Accordingly, Article 89 offers an unambiguous ban on harsh treatment: “In no case shall disciplinary punishments be inhuman, brutal or dangerous to the health of prisoners of war.” Later, under Geneva Convention IV Relative to Civilian Persons in Time of War, the United States accepted the broad language of Article 31 which states, “ No physical or moral coercion shall be exercised…to obtain information from them or third parties.” The United States had thus committed itself to a new, strict standard for human rights, whether in war or peace.

 

     Had the Bush Administration, who drafted the memos and legal opinions for the CIA in adopting torture procedures, ever heard of the ratification by the United States as signatories to the various Geneva Conventions or the original Universal Declaration of Human Rights? Apparently not, for the following was carried out by the underlings in the CIA, military prisons in Iraq, and secret prisons overseas. According to the May 10, 2005 Justice Department memo the CIA and others were advised that the following methods were legal:

 

 

AMERICAN INTERROGATION TECHNIQUES

 

Dietary manipulation:

 

Substituting liquid meal replacements for solid foods

 

Nudity:

 

Used to cause psychological discomfort

 

Walling:

 

Slamming detainee into a wall.

 

Facial slap:

 

Slapping detainees face with fingers slightly spread

 

Abdominal Slap:

 

Striking the abdomen with the back of an open hand.

 

 

Wall Standing:

 

Forcing detainees to stand with feet spread, arms outreached, fingers resting on the wall, not permitted to move.

 

 

Water dousing:

 

Cold water is poured on detainee.

 

 

Sleep Deprivation:

 

Detainee is deprived of sleep for more than 48 hours. Procedures were never followed. Some were forced with sleep deprivation for 11 straight days.

 

 

Waterboarding:

 

Pouring water over face of detainee, who is lying at an angle on his back, head lowered in order to simulate drowning.

 

 

 

People, including government officials, like to use euphemistic terms to mollify others. In this case interrogation techniques is a more acceptable term than the rawness of the term—Torture. So how is the term torture defined anyway? Well, the definition is no mystery. It is defined as,

 

 

“tor·ture [táwrchər]

vt (past and past participle tor·tured, present participle tor·tur·ing, 3rd person present singular tor·tures)

 

1.  Inflict pain on somebody: to inflict extreme pain or physical punishment on somebody 

 

2.  Cause somebody anguish: to cause somebody mental or physical anguish.

 

 

3.  Distort something: to twist or distort something into an unnatural form 

 

 

n

1.  Inflicting of pain: infliction of severe physical pain on somebody, e.g. as punishment or to persuade somebody to confess or recant something 

 

2.  Methods of inflicting pain: the methods used to inflict physical pain on people 

 

3.  Anguish: mental or physical anguish 

 

 

Encarta ® World English Dictionary © & (P) 1998-2005 Microsoft Corporation. All rights reserved.

 

 

 

Final Comments

 

     The issue of torture and the war crimes committed by members of the government in our name isn’t going to go away. The choices are simple. The end does not justify the means under any circumstances, and no amount of rationalization is ever going to change  or alter that. No matter how many times someone tries to gloss over it, torture is a crime against humanity.

 

     Those who have initiated policies to institutionalize interrogation techniques involving torture, otherwise promoted it, or carried it out, should receive the harshest of punishment, namely life in prison. It is not important what position an individual held in our government; those guilty of war crimes need to be brought to justice. It is an unacceptable act of betrayal and disloyalty to the values of the American people, that misguided buffoons in our government, led us down the path toward everlasting national dishonor and disgrace.     

Read Full Post »