April 7, 2009


The trickle of information on our torture policy continues. The International Red Cross has released its complete report, and Mark Danner has a right up of it here. It is always shocking for me to realize that our Christian president authorized policies taken from the Gestapo and KGB that were intended to produce false confessions.

And the former Vice President is still out there defending torture as essential. I found this quote from Colonel Wilkerson to be the most troubling:
Simply stated, this philosophy held that it did not matter if a detainee were innocent. Indeed, because he lived in Afghanistan and was captured on or near the battle area, he must know something of importance.... All that was necessary was to extract everything possible from him and others like him, assemble it all in a computer program, and then look for cross-connections and serendipitous incidentals—in short, to have sufficient information about a village, a region, or a group of individuals, that dots could be connected and terrorists or their plots could be identified.
Thus, as many people as possible had to be kept in detention for as long as possible to allow this philosophy of intelligence gathering to work. The detainees' innocence was inconsequential.

Glenn Greenwald notes:
Note how warped our political culture is: Sen. Dick Durbin was forced to tearfully apologize on the Senate floor for accurately comparing our treatment of detainees at Guantanamo to the techniques used in Soviet gulags and by Gestapo interrogation squads, but those who perpetrated these war crimes have apologized for nothing, remain welcome in decent company, and are still shielded by our Government from all accountability.


One bit of good news is the way our current President speaks about our history and religious tradition. As Rob Boston notes, Obama told a Turkish audience that we are not a Christian nation:
" "I've said before that one of the great strengths of the United States is - although as I mentioned we have a very large Christian population - we do not consider ourselves a Christian nation, or a Jewish nation or a Muslim nation," Obama said. "We consider ourselves a nation of citizens who are bound by ideals and a set of values."
A few second later, Obama went on to praise the concept of "a secular country that is respectful of religious freedom, respectful of rule of law, respectful of freedom, upholding these values and being willing to stand up for them in the international stage.""
Doesn't mean that Christianity has not played a critical role in our history (though not always positively), but it simply means that we are a secular nation. Secular, as Boston notes, does not mean the same thing as being hostile to religion. And the right wing should stop acting as if it does.


LB said...

I'm usually critical of you Streak, but this was a rather good post and I would have to agree with you on all its points.

Streak said...

Thanks, LB.

leighton said...

Seems like Cheney and company actually believe the CIA's lies from the 50s and 60s about what the capabilities of US intelligence gathering and covert ops would be, if only they could have carte blanche to do what they wanted when they wanted to it.

Tony said...

If you really want to rile a group of conservative sbc pastors, just mention that the country is not a Christian country. WOW! I cannot understand why the thought that America is not a Christian nation evokes such animosity and hostility. Must have something to do with national pride. Or the lack of.

Streak said...

Leighton, I think you are right. It is a hubris of power that suggests that we can do whatever we want if only we had the license. It is the rallying cry of the VN war, and even for liberals at times, the hubris that they could stop genocide if only Congress or the President would act.

Doesn't mean we shouldn't try to do things, but we have to recognize some limits.


You have hit on it, and I suspect that clip is circulating in the usual circles. Gary Bauer is already annoyed, evidently, and one can only imagine what Dobson and others are saying. It is such an interesting thing, isn't it? They are dependent somehow on Congress or the President reinforcing their beliefs or they don't exist? Or if we are not a Christian nation, that means their faith is suspect?

leighton said...

No believer likes the idea of separation from God, so it's kind of natural that people who worship power, whether direct power or the vicarious experience thereof, would be anxious at a lessening of their perceived influence.