Sunday, September 24, 2006


Watched Bill Maher with Reza Aslan, Sandy Rios, and Bradley Whitford.

Rios, a Fox News Contributor and spokesmen/head of the “Culture Campaign” wanted to play, in her own words, “semantic” games and referred to torture as “coercion.” To justify torture, she cited a story that struck me as completely false or completely misrepresented the moment she finished telling it.

For one thing, I’d never heard it, and for another, it completely justified her argument. And one more thing, there were no telling details in it other than it involved people in Germany. I’ve been trying to Google it and can’t come up with the details of the story she’s talking about.

From everything I’ve heard, there is one overarching, clear message–TORTURE DOESN’T WORK. Please say that to whoever argues that we "have to be tougher" or whatever. Three words--"torture doesn't work."

Still looking for details on Rios story...

Guantanamo Guidebook

Watched about 20 minutes of this British documentary in which a number of volunteers agreed to be “enemy combatants” detained in recreated Guantanamo Bay conditions for 48 hours. The conditions were recreated based on the recollections of released detainees, declassified documents, and former military types. They even had former U.S. military men to play the parts of, well U.S. military men.

And several things struck me as I watched this documentary, aside from the fact that what is being done to these Guantanamo detainees is outrageous, illegal, and immoral.

I want to get these thoughts out rather than construct beautiful prose, so here goes:

1. Either you respect human rights or you don’t. In America, we don’t. We say we do, but we don’t. We say we follow Jesus, but we don’t. We say we provide equal opportunity, but we don’t. Saying something doesn’t make it so.

2. Rumsfeld and company better be damn sure that the people they have in this hellhole are guilty of something. Because Rumsfeld and company are now definitely themselves guilty of inhuman treatement of human beings. But you know, scratch that–that’s playing the game on Rumsfeld’s terms. In enlightened Western tradition, there is no justification for the treatment these detainees are receiving. They should be being given trials and attorney access, not beatings and “stress positions.”

3. Back to the semantic games. Calling something a “stress position” doesn’t change the fact that it’s torture.

4. These people at Guantanamo have been there for years now. Any plot that any of them may have been privy to a few years ago is likely now inoperative. But that’s assuming that all the people (yes, human beings) at Guantanamo are actually connected to anything remotely related to a terror plot (if there really is any such thing). We cannot assume that, because we know from news reports that a lot of the detainees were turned in for a bounty.

5. Human rights are absolute. There is no black and white. Absolute respect for human rights is the moral, healthy position, and disrespect for them is the evil, depraved position.
Bush and his cult of death, i.e., the Republican party have chosen the latter path.

6. It is so utterly important to prove what happened on 9/11. I can’t remember who said it–one of the 9/11 Truth guys–but it is so important to debunk the official story of 9/11 because literally every single thing that Bush (and his enablers) does hinges upon that official story. And that doesn’t just include foreign policy endeavors–domestic, economic, cultural policies and so on all depend on the story that one man in the desert was able to convince 19 guys to fly planes into buildings and kill 3,000 people because they hate America so much.

That’s the most important part of the official story–they did it because they hate us, which means that they hate all things good and right in the world. And that idea has really poisoned the well here in our country. On the Hattiesburg American forum, there was a lot of venom and vitriol directed at Muslims–not at “terrorists,” not at “extremists”–at Muslims. Because Muslims, they say, are dedicated to a fanatical death cult and therefore must be exterminated. That’s what people were saying on this forum (now completely redesigned and ruined)–they considered themselves loyal patriots who sided with the Jews yet didn’t mind suggesting a holocaust for Muslims. They never said it in those words, of course, but neither did Hitler.

Watching the Guantanamo documentary really brought home to me the way in which allowing this type of bullshit to go on really demeans not just our country and our principles, but us, the citizens. It makes us look bad. It makes us look paranoid and fearful. In short, it makes us look WEAK. And we must be weak, if we have to haul people around in hoods, shouting and cursing at them and humiliating them and subjecting them to conditions not even Saddam Hussein has to endure.

If Americans were really strong and courageous and moral, we would insist that these detainees be given fair, speedy, jury trials for the whole world to see. If we really believed in the ideas we say we do–openness, fair trials, human rights, democracy–we wouldn’t mind if a detainee were found to be wrongfully imprisoned or if there were insufficient evidence to convict. We would want to know that. We would say “the system works!” That is our system, after all–we use hard evidence to convict, not suspicion, intolerance, fear, and weakness. At least that’s what we tell the kids. But I guess we don’t really mean it...

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