Thursday, August 26, 2010

Links to the KGNU show on Condi Rice and American torture

For the KGNU show I was on yesterday on Condi Rice, torture and executive power in the Bush and Obama administrations, copy the following link and paste it into safari. The audio will come up (the program begins 30 minutes into the audio; just move the cursor to find it):

kgnu.org/audio/MorningMagazine_2010-08-25.mp3

You can also plug it in to real player or whatever audio program you use.

Alternately, go to KGNU.org. Hit listings for August 25, then for the entry at 8 o’clock – the morning magazine – hit the middle icon at the top right, on the screen that comes up, move the cursor as close to 8:30 as you can (the last two minute segment is Jim Hightower); the show runs from 8:30-9:25.

The two others interviewed, John Bambrick and Jeremy Kirk, are activists in Witness against Torture. They went to Bermuda to talk with Uighur former prisoners at Guantanamo. The Uighurs are an oppressed Mongolian minority in China who have rebelled against large scale Chinese settlements in their territories (last year, many protestors were slaughtered by the Chinese government). One of the largest contingents at Guantanamo, the last remaining one, is Uighur. Why we are holding innocents, who are oppressed by and dissidents in China, is a mystery only Condi Rice and Dick Cheney can explain.

These Uighurs had worked in Afghanistan in what was thought by the CIA to be a “terrorist camp.” They apparently had one day of training in shooting. Their aim was to return to China. They were arrested in Pakistan by the Pakistani authorities who undoubtedly got a good pay off – perhaps as Wikileaks reveals, they transferred the money to the Taliban in Afghanistan to kill American soldiers - for producing “live meat” for Guantanamo.

As Muslims and Arabs, they were subjected to neocon fanstasies (see Raphael Patai, The Arab Mind). Perhaps lucky, there were spared worse forms of American torture – women dancing around undressed, throwing fake menstrual blood on the prisoners at Abu Ghraib (is this really what female “intelligence” agents should be doing?). These Uighurs have religious prohibitions concerning privacy. But they were under camera while taking showers and while sitting on the toilet. Any of us would find this filming humiliating. Perhaps it is not even necessary to put oneself in John Rawls’ original position – what it is to think morally is to put yourself in another’s shoes, see things from the point of view of the least advantaged - and ask how you would feel if you were kidnapped halfway across the world by a “great” military power and subjected to such treatment. The Uighurs requested sheets to put between themselves and the camera. The American soldiers, under orders from the Bush administration denied them.

In Uighur lives, family and having children is central. One man who loved his wife and son sent word to her from Guantanamo that she should remarry, because he was gone. 7 years in Guantanamo. He is now on Bermuda, a second prison as he characterized it (the people are nicer), surrounded by the sea. He has no passport. She has remarried. There are few Uighurs and a small Muslim community. Interestingly, these Uighurs would like to move to the US - to Washington where there is a Uighur community and they would have a reasonable likelihood of marrying among Uighurs and having a family. Even imprisonment, humiliation and destruction of families does not lead them to hate the United States. Apparently, these Uighurs have the wisdom of Nelson Mandela.

That they were only treated this horribly is a sign that the US knew they didn’t now anything. They were innocent. When Bush-Cheney and Rice destroyed all legal procedures, they prevented release by a normal process.

In contrast, John and Jeremy spoke of how the Uighur men are human beings, funny, and moving in their sorrows. If America is not the ultra-white mob at Ground Zero, attacking a black carpenter who “looked Muslimish,” stirred on by Newt Gingrich whose ideal for America is to be governed by the despotic practices of Saudi Arabia, and the neocon ideologue Frank Gaffney, we should be able to treat such people decently or at least according to the law, not throw them away.

Now according to the Pentagon, 100 prisoners have been murdered in Pentagon custody in America's secret prisons overseas. This weekend there was a protest in Denver over the murder in prison of the homeless minister Marvin Booker. But a tidal wave of anti-Arab racism washes over the crimes that American jailers ordered by the Bush administration have committed.

Omar Khadr, arrested when he was 15 on the field of battle in Afghanistan, tortured for 7 years at Guantanamo (probably much more extensively than the Uighurs John and Jeremy talked with), has now been brought to a military tribunal by Obama, the teacher who forgets constitutional law. Obama has headed off the worst forms of torture; he has tried to free the Uighurs and close Guantanamo (to his great credit); he was the hope – a black man elected in the country of slavery and segregation, a decent man in contrast to Cheney and Bush - of the world. Thus a Norwegian committee awarded him the Nobel Peace Prize just for being elected. But Cheney bent the stick very far to the Right, far from the rule of law. It is unclear that Obama can bend it back. The remaining Uighurs in Guantanamo and this military “trial” are all part of the continuing corruption, even under Obama, of the American regime. He has now made himself the accomplice to the torturers, preventing any legal proceeding to consider the guilt of any of them. The reason for this is that by evidence already in the public record, Condi Rice and the rest of the Bush administration, with the possible exception of Colin Powell, are very likely guilty of war crimes by American and international law (see the Convention against Torture, signed by Ronald Reagan in 1986 and ratified by Congress in 1994, and Article 6, section 2 of the Constitution, the "Supremacy Clause" which makes treaties signed by the United States the highest law of the land). If there are legal proceedings…

Friday night in Denver at the Marriott, there will be a celebration of Condi Rice. Mayor Hickenlooper will be there, the economic elite of the area, the leaders of the University of Denver, Ed Greene the weatherman from ch. 4, and other dignitaries and celebrities. Ordinarily, the dinner celebrates distinguished politicians, say the President of Mexico or of Poland, who give interesting speeches. With good luck, it once featured George Soros in 2004, who gave a rousing speech, saying he had smelled the stench of fascism growing up in Eastern Europe and he could smell it again in the Bush administration. For this one moment of truth, the School compensated by inviting Wayne Murdy, head of Newmont Mining for a distinguished humanitarian award. Any googling of Newmont reveals depradations against people and the environment on 5 continents…

Sadly Condi is held up now as a model for our School, as what our students, if they are preternaturally determined and lucky, might become. Condi was once a charming person and has gone farther than any other student in the realms of power. But she has a defective moral compass. She chaired the principals meeting in the basement of the White House that planned out what torture techniques, in what combination and for what duration, should be used on “high value” Al-Qaida detainees. At the end of the meeting, she told George Tenet to “go for it” about waterboarding.

Now Condi once intervened in the case of Khalid El-Masri, a German of Turkish origin, kidnapped and sent to be tortured in Egypt. Discovering he was innocent, she apparently ordered Tenet to release him, though without identification or money, in Albania (El-Masri thought he was taken to be killed). I am afraid that her intervention in this case is the best thing I can say for her, though I sometimes like to imagine that she could do a great public service for America and renounce torture.

As I pointed out on the show, Charles Graner learned as a jailer in the United States to put panties on the heads of black prisoners, something he later did at Abu Ghraib. As John Bambrick pointed out, Chicago cop Jon Burge learned in the army in Vietnam to torture prisoners and did so to some 200 in Chicago. There is a dialectic between violations of international law abroad and atrocities at home.

Like the Obama administration and the failure to appoint an independent counsel or review panel, the dinner Friday night will include no questions about torture. Food will be catered. Wine will flow. Words will be spoken. Money will be raised for student scholarships.

I and perhaps some others on the faculty will not attend.

But I wonder if there will be any mirrors…

No comments:

Post a Comment