Saturday, September 30, 2006

What is lost

The perpetrators of the gutting of Common Article 3 would have us believe it deals only with torture and that by defining that atrocity, they preserved the Geneva Conventions and America's adherence to them. Bunk on all counts. Here is Common Article 3 of the Geneva Conventions [emphasis mine]:

Art. 3. In the case of armed conflict not of an international character occurring in the territory of one of the High Contracting Parties, each Party to the conflict shall be bound to apply, as a minimum, the following provisions: (1) Persons taking no active part in the hostilities, including members of armed forces who have laid down their arms and those placed hors de combat by sickness, wounds, detention, or any other cause, shall in all circumstances be treated humanely, without any adverse distinction founded on race, colour, religion or faith, sex, birth or wealth, or any other similar criteria. To this end, the following acts are and shall remain prohibited at any time and in any place whatsoever with respect to the above-mentioned persons: (a) violence to life and person, in particular murder of all kinds, mutilation, cruel treatment and torture; (b) taking of hostages; (c) outrages upon personal dignity, in particular humiliating and degrading treatment; (d) the passing of sentences and the carrying out of executions without previous judgement pronounced by a regularly constituted court, affording all the judicial guarantees which are recognized as indispensable by civilized peoples. (2) The wounded and sick shall be collected and cared for. An impartial humanitarian body, such as the International Committee of the Red Cross, may offer its services to the Parties to the conflict.

Just to be clear; 'cruel treatment and torture' are but part of what is prohibited. Also included, as I have noted before are 'outrages upon personal dignity, in particular humiliating and degrading treatment,' which should cover all 'rough' interrogation techniques that fall short of the Congress's definition of torture. It also seems patently clear that these special military commissions and the denial of habeas corpus fall well short of the injunction in (d), mandating that prisoners be tried 'by a regularly constituted court, affording all the judicial guarantees which are recognized as indispensible by civilized peoples."

"Civilized peoples,' indeed. Our fearless incompetent leaders have removed us from that company.

Friday, September 29, 2006

Who's Delusional

We know that Bushy doesn't live in a "reality-based world." It appears that Senate Democrats don't either. Today's New York Times carries Carl Hulse's analysis of the Senate vote on torture and suspension of habeas corpus for those the Bushies don't like--too harsh?--under the headline "Democrats See Strength in Bucking Bush." Sure enough, Hulse details the back-patting and posturing of the thirty-four, including an independent and a Republican, who voted "no," especially those who intend to run for president. They stood-up to Bush on a national security issue, they claim. Really? This crew voluntarily renounced the one weapon they could have used to "buck" the Bushbucker-in-Chief--the filibuster--gave it up without so much as a whimper. That doesn't rate as genuflection or crawling--much less "bucking"--it's a full belly flop to the ground followed by a slither.

Thursday, September 28, 2006

Mourn the Republic

This country was founded on slavery and were one to conduct a poll in certain regions, would doubtless still endorse human bondage, just as it now has endorsed torture and degradation as fit and proper treatment of other human beings. And the people backing these measures dare call themselves Christians--'do unto others as you would have them do unto you"--dare to call themselves defenders of the rule of law, dare to lecture anyone about right and wrong. The Dog says, Fuck them all. The representatives who voted for this torture bill and evey member of the Senate--because none undertook a filibuster--have dragged this country into the foetid cesspool of history.

Amerika Besmirched

In Chile, Pinochet is slowly being brought to trial. Guatemela is struggling, once again, to come to grips with its dirty war against leftists, Mayans, anybody disasgreeing with the UI.S. backed and trained military. Yes, by all accounts, they studied torture and other "counterinsurgency" techniques at the School of the Americas, Fort Benning, Georgia, and it wasn't just the Guatemalans who learned brutality there. Yes, the U..S. knows a great deal about torture., and if the Senate votes today as expected, the U.S. will be able proudly to establish new standards for torture, for cruel and degrading treatment of prisoners, for denying basic legal rights to prisoners--including the right to face your accuser and to see all the evidence against you, not to mention the pesumption of innocence and ability to challenge your detention.

Forget who votes yes or no in the Senate on this one. The crew who spinelessly approved the Iraq fiasco agreed not to filibuster this moral and legal atrocity. That's right, not a man or woman among them could muster the strength to rise from their supine positions and howl. Not one in 100. They all joined in making a mockery of the Geneva Conventions and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, in shredding them and their own countries best traditions. Why? Because they were afraid of being called soft on terriors. None dare call them courageous.

Saturday, September 23, 2006

Abandonment, part 2

No Horatius on the bridge to Rome, these three frightened mice--Warner, McCain, and Graham--nor even little boys standing with their fingers in the dike against the rising sea. They hear the voices of the Bushies whining and scurry off because those voices in their ears drown out the cries of all those millions--yes, millions--who throughout history have been tortured, abused, humiliated in the name of some god or noble cause or simply because someone wanted to beat, rape, assault their bodies and minds, break their spirits. After WWII--after two bloody international conflagrations in thirty years--much of the world took a breath and crafted a number of documents that included provisions against degrading treatment, against torture, against affronts to human dignity--provisions the U.S. heartily supported because they adhered to what it believed were its own guiding principles. Many signatories, including, notably, the U.S. have violated those provisions over the years in their dirty wars, but the declarations have held because they have provided a way for abusers of human rights to be brought to justice. What constitutes abuse of human rights, affronts to human dignity, and torture is clear enough to all but the most morally corrupt.

The bill the Bushies and his three pet mice want to push through Congress codifies the Bushies' criminal violations of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, Common Article 3 of the Geneva Conventions, the U.S. War Crimes Act, and the Supreme Courts ruling in June, throwing out the bogus Bush tribunals and saying the al-Qaida captives had to be treated according to the law. The NewYork Times produces an elaborate chart--in this article --showing the list of banned practices, as if there were no others or no new ones would be developed. The list is like having a list of banned performance enhancing drugs, along with a statement supporting penalties for their use, and then allowing the athletes to decide what new drugs are "performance enhancers." In fact, the bogus tribunals are back in only slightly modified form, as is denial or habeas corpus and the use of coerced testimony, the denial of a prisoners' right to appeal their treatment in U.S. courts under the Geneva Conventions. Americans are granted immunity from prosecution for previous torture. The Washington Post's R. Jeffrey Smith presents a starkly different view from that of the NYT.

Human Rights Watch has weaseled on this one; Amnesty International has not. The military's judge advocate generals have taken the lead in government, fighting attempts to gut the Geneva Conventions; I hope they hold the line. But it's really gut check time for the rest of the Congress, and when this Congress faces those situations, it buckles. Far better than even one courageous soul should filibuster this thing to death, but courage and Congress don't belong in the same sentence. Oskar should be pounding his tin drum to scrap on this one, but Oskar....No good as ever come of torture.

Friday, September 22, 2006


This entry will be short, dirge for the republic: The three mice--Warner, McCain, and Graham--didn't cave, as I predicted they had last night: rather, they abandoned the field, fled. They were routed and left only the pathetic spectacle of McCain declaring victory. Yes, they agreed to draft legislation, protecting torturers from prosecution and granting the Bush--and anyother president--authority to define torture, humiliating, and degrading treatment of prisoners out of existence in direct violation of Common Article 3 of the Geneva Conventions, the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, and everything this country has at least claimed to stand for. Read about it in the Washington Post. The New York Times editorial board got it. The NY Times and L.A. Times news pages did not.

Thursday, September 21, 2006

Three Mice and the Fallacy of Fallacies

So the details of the 'compromise' between the three mice and the Bushies are not yet known, but this Dog bets that they will show how the mice caved, in that they agreed to some bogus method of 'redefining' torture. What's to redefine or refine and why--because the Bush is convinced he might learn something by abusing people?

To be repetitive: Consider the ticking bomb scenario. If you know that W knows where the bomb is and where it is going off and if you know that W will only spill that information through torture, then you are justified in torture, the argument goes. I leave it to my few faithful readers to figure how many fallacies are wrapped up in that specious logic, but I will say that if you know all those things from the start, which is to say you know the outcome already, you have no need to capture, much less torture W.

Wednesday, September 20, 2006

What We Have Created

Anyone who thinks we have any reason for being in Iraq or have done the least bit of good or have promoted democracy and freedom should read this account on daily life in Baghdad from an Iraqi reporter for the L.A. Times. It's been said before, but each new account is just more proof that the situation gets worse and worse.

"Outrages Upon Human Dignity"

The Bushies, Kate Zernike reports in today's New York Times, share with the celebrated--in some quarters--trio. Warner, Graham and McCain a feeling that the phrase from Common Article 3 of the Geneva Conventions forbidding "outrages upon human dignity" is vague or ambiguous. Well, here's an easy test--one McCain, who was tortured and treated outrageously, should not have to take--iIf you will subject yourselves, your wives, lovers, sisters, brothers, daughters, sons, and dogs to it, no holds barred and then freely go back for more, the treatment arguably is not an "outrage upon human dignity." But if you will not....And just saying, "I would subject myself to interrogation and incarceration on those terms," is not sufficient--you must then do so publicly. My guess is that talk of ambiguity will vanish.

Human Rights, Right

The Emperor Boy George was preaching democracy and moderation and singing the praises of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, first promulgated in 1948, at the United Nations General Assembly yesterday. David Corn, The Nation's Washington editor, observes that Boy George must not have read the document, especially the parts forbidding torture and "cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment"; demanding fair trials and equal treatment of prisoners; prohibiting arbitrary detentions; or other sections Corn lists while asking did W even read the thing. The Bushies like to call the Islamists "Nazis" and "fascists" and people who want out of Iraq appeasers, but the Bushies's style of governance and absolute disrespect for human rights and the rule of law place them well to the right of the Nazis. Their enablers in Congress and corporate and born-again America are the true appeasers.

Saturday, September 16, 2006

Insanity Rules

R. Jeffrey Smith reports today in the Washington Post on the "debate" over Bushy's desire to change the universal interpretation of Common Article 3 of the Geneva Conventions (earlier blogs on this subject define Common Article 3). It's an interesting piece precisely because it is typical of today's journalism, which insists that there are two equally valid sides to every issue. In this case the Bushy claim that the CIA must have the right and authority to torture, although they dare not call it that, is balanced against the opposition to torture by the military and FBI and a considerable body of scientific and anecdotal evidence that torture doesn't work. The pro-torture side argues by assertion, not evidence. There is no debate when one side presents no evidence--and these assertions that information obtained by torture has led to the foiling of terrior plots or arrest of suspects have consistently been exposed as false or inflated. There is only a battle between the forces of law, reason, and morality and their opposite--irrationality, contempt for law and science, brutality.

On another front: U.S. and Iraqi forces have begun to seal themselves inside Baghdad. As strategies go this one would seem to be the equivalent of besieging yourself in your capital thereby surrendering the countryside. That's a sure sign the Bushies are winning hearts and minds.

Friday, September 15, 2006

Torture Not

I doubt I have much in agreement with the congenitally conservative, Andrew Sullivan, except an utter disgust with anyone who would endorse or condone torture--that includes the Bushies' attempt to reinterpret Common Article 3 of the Geneva Conventions on the grounds that it is ambiguous pr an impediment in their war on terriors. The reason it is "Common" to all Geneva Conventions since 1946 is that its protections of non-combatants and prohibition against humilliating and degrading treatment--i.e., torture--are totally unambiguous. Those people who violate them should face charges for war crimes and crimes against humanity.

Wednesday, September 13, 2006

brief note

Dog Bytes, as loyal readers know, is largely political and social commentary which I don't write for publicatiion in traditioinal media. As a rule, I don't blog about or link to articles I write for publication, and I don't intend to start now. But people have been coming to the blog to comment on an opinion piece I recently published--I said I don't link to those articles--and leaving their obseervations here and there. I am belatedly making this space available for that purpose. Fortunately for some of those venters who have visited, I believe more absolutely in freedom of speech than they do, but I will remind them that I do not allow anonymous comments.

Sunday, September 10, 2006

Destruction and Creation

Berserkers were ancient Norse warriors who, dressed as bears, destroyed all they encountered. Rape and pillage. Shock and awe. Relatively speaking--sometimes literally--destruction occurs in an instant, a flash, while creation, construction, is a laborious, unending process. It is both deliberate---that is, planned--and accidental, proceeds not just through the conscious accumulation of goods and experiences, as when one goes traveling or to school or shopping (not intended here in the American consumer sense), but also through the accretion of routines and friends and treasured objects that form the ektoskeleton of our lives with all its encrustations and dings.

Being a land of social-climbing, freedom seeking immigrants, America has a strong tradition of individuals wiping the slate clean and starting over, theoretically if not practically leaving their former selves and lives behind. The 'born again' religious phenomenon is one aspect of that. On the societal level, Jefferson believed in a self-renewing political revolution every generation, and many other revolutionaries have embraced some form of permanent revolution, only to run afoul of the propensity of individuals, governments and societies to maintain and build upon their power and privilege. That deep conservationism promotes stability, which is widely perceived as a positive attribute until the society becomes so corrupt and unjust that the people rise up--in myth, anyway. In reality, a minority makes revolution--and it's not usually the most downtrodden--and it sweeps away the good and the bad.

The Russian anarchist, Mikhael Bakunin, no commoner he, said: "Bloody revolutions are often necessary, thanks to human stupidity; yet they are always an evil, a monstrous evil and a great disaster, not only with regard to the victims, but also for the sake of the purity and the perfection of the purpose in whose name they take place." It's not that Bakunin disapproved of revolution; it's that he saw the outcome, most obviously that the high drama and purpose of the French Revolution produced senseless mayhem and slaughter and ultimately the opposite of what it was intended to create. Napoleon managed to marshall and unloose that destructive fury on Europe for reasons, Tolstoy, for one, tried desperately to understand, without much success, and I'll not try here.

I've been working on this post for so long I've nearly lost my way, but I'll try to wrap it up...I invoked Bakunin because I think his comment about revolutions--I took the quote, I believe, from Camus's The Plague but am unable to find the source in Bakunin's oeuvre--applies to destruction of any sort. Destruction obliterates everything associated with that which is destroyed. Oh yes, I hear it said that there are records and artifacts and, among the living, memories, but finally they, the living, must rebuild around the emptiness left by the vanished. That, as I've said, takes time.

Bringing it to Iraq, then, not to mention Afghanistan, shock and awe overthrew the prevailing order and, in so doing, unloosed forces of destruction that the Bushies' never even tried to imagine. Clearly they have not yet played themselves out. The Bushies, "the wannabe berserkers," who keep insisting they can affect a revolution from outside and above, in fact, simply wanted to throw Saddam out. Judging from their actions, they believed Iraqi society would smoothly reconfigure itself under new leadership. They were wrong on all counts, as we know, because the destructive force had not played itself out. So now, the Bushies are trying to put that force back in the bottle, and they can't. Indeed, as nearly as I can tell, if the Bushies really want a unified Iraq, they should be backing Muqtada al-Sadr and the nationalistic Sunnis who, of course, want the Bushies out. So there's the final irony no one here wants to face.

Saturday, September 09, 2006

False Clarity

The Bushies have long excelled at obfuscation, sanctimonious hypocrisy and contemptuous disregard for the rule of law--indeed for anything that threatens to arrest the full expression of their infantile tantrum, which is no less dangereous and destructive for being infantile, because they hold the levers of power. The top Bushy is pissed because 9/11 revealed him in all his incompetence, which a bullhorn and clever image manipultion, followed by two wars--the tantrums--managed to obscure. Then along came Katrina. The media has focused on the image of the disengaged president flying over in Air Force One, as the beginning of the end of the Bushy mystique, but I think what really did him in was that video tape of his video conference with emrgency managers and Max Mayfield at the National Hurricane Center. The Bush sat basically doing nothing and issuing no orders--nor even exhorting the troops--despite Mayfield's pointed warrning that Katrina was a storm that could inflict catastrophic damage. Bushy's ennui--maybe that's why he read L'etranger this summer--put people in mind of his nonresponse to the CIA August 2001 briefing about bin Laden's intention to use planes as weapons inside the U.S.

Bushy's been scrambling since Katrina to persuade people that the overwhelming evidence of his incompetence is a lie. The latest campaign is designed to convince people that his trashing of the law---especially his approval of kidnapping and torture--produced valuable information that saved lives, at the very moment that the military has finally and forcefully forebade torture, admitting in the process that is doesn't work. David Johnston in today's NYT exposes the lies surrounding the torture of Abu Zubaydah--lies Bushy repeated in a speech justifying torture and promoting the very same secret trials the Supreme Court rejected. Whatever Abu Zubaydah revealed of any worth, he appears to have spilled during standard interrogation, before he was tortured. Mark Mazzetti dissects every case Bush cites in the September 8 NYT --bottom line--torture doesn't work. In both stories, CIA officials are quoted claiming the opposite, but they provide no evidence. Indeed, every bit of evidence obtained from these tortured prisoners was apparently already known or useless

I'm beginning to sound like a broken record on that. My initial thought was to point out that it appears that Bushy is openly losing large chunks of the military. The revised Army field manual forbids virtually all the techniques Bushy was seeking to justify. The man's disconnect from reality seems to be increasing, and that makes him all the more dangerous.

Wednesday, September 06, 2006

No to Torture

Julian E. Barnes reports in today's L. A. Times that the revised Army field manual to be released today will mandate adherence to Common Article 3 of the Geneva Conventions in the treatment of all enemy combatants in the U.S. military's custody. Common Article 3--so-named because it is found in each of the four Geneva Conventions--forbids torture, degrading and inhumane treatment of prisoners and non-combatants sucked up in conflict within a signatory country that is not international in scope. Whether adherence to Protocol II, which expands Article 3's provisions, to people caught up in purely internal rebellions, is also specifically mandated remains to be seen. The Society of Professional Journalists has full text and history of the Geneva Conventions on its excellent site. If correct, this move by the military represents a significant step back toward civilization from the dark age of Abu Ghraib and the Bushies' impositiion of torture as the policy of the land. But it doesn't exonerate those who ordered and carried out torture in the past; they should still be held accountable for war crimes.