bureaucracybusters

Posts Tagged ‘TORTURE’

MERCENARIES: “PATRIOTISM” FOR PROFIT

In Bureaucracy, Business, History, Military, Politics, Social commentary on August 27, 2018 at 12:07 am

The United States has been fighting in Afghanistan for almost 17 years—with no end in sight. 

Between 2001 and 2017, America spent an estimated $714 billion on this conflict.

Now Blackwater founder Erik Prince claims he can attain a victory that has eluded the United States Air Force, Army (including Green Berets) and Navy SEALs.  

His proposed solution: His private army of mercenaries—and $3.5 billion in taxpayer monies. 

Erik Prince.jpg

Erik Prince

By Miller Center [CC BY 2.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0)%5D, via Wikimedia Commons

In 1997, Prince created Blackwater, a private security company providing support to military and police agencies.

In August, 2003, Blackwater got the first of a series of Federal contracts to deploy its forces in Iraq. For $21 million, it would safeguard Paul Bremer, the proconsul running the American occupation in Iraq. 

Ultimately, Blackwater got $1 billion to provide security for American officials and soldiers in Iraq and Afghanistan. 

According to human rights organizations, Blackwater abused Iraqis and engaged in torture to obtain information.

In September, 2007, Blackwater guards killed 17 Iraqi civilians and injured 20 more in a Baghdad traffic circle.

Five guards were charged with murder. Three were convicted in October, 2014, of 14 manslaughter charges and in April 2015 sentenced to 30 years in prison. These sentences were deemed unfair upon appeal and await re-sentencing. 

As a result of its highly controversial activities in Iraq, Prince renamed the company Xe Services in 2009 and then Academi in 2011.

Now, against opposition by the Pentagon, Prince is pressing Trump to let Academi privatize the war in Afghanistan. 

Since the end of the Cold War, the American military and Intelligence communities have grown increasingly dependent on private contractors.

In his 2007 bestseller, Legacy of Ashes: The History of the CIA, Tim Weiner writes:

“Patriotism for profit became a $50-billion-a-year business….The [CIA] began contracting out thousands of jobs to fill the perceived void by the budget cuts that began in 1992. 

“A CIA officer could file his retirement papers, turn in his blue identification badge, go to work for a much better salary at a military contractor such as Lockheed Martin or Booz Allen Hamilton, then return to the CIA the next day, wearing a green badge….” 

Seal of the Central Intelligence Agency.svg

Much of the CIA became totally dependent on mercenaries. They appeared to work for the agency, but their loyalty was actually to their private–and higher-paying—companies.

Writes Weiner: “Legions of CIA veterans quit their posts to sell their services to the agency by writing analyses, creating cover for overseas officers, setting up communications networks, and running clandestine operations.”

One such company was Total Intelligence Solutions, founded in 2007 by Cofer Black, who had been the chief of the CIA’s counter-terrorism center on 9/11. His partners were Robert Richer, formerly the associate deputy director of operations at the CIA, and Enrique Prado, who had been Black’s chief of counter-terror operations at the agency.

Future CIA hires followed suit: Serve for five years, win that prized CIA “credential” and sign up with a private security company to enrich themselves.  

This situation met with full support from Right-wing “pro-business” members of Congress and President George W. Bush.

They had long championed the private sector as inherently superior to the public one. And they saw no danger that a man dedicated to enriching himself might put greed ahead of safeguarding his country.

But there are dangers to hiring men whose first love is profit. Recent examples include:

  • Edward Snowden deliberately joined Booz Allen Hamilton to secure a job as a computer systems administrator at the National Security Agency (NSA). This gave him access to thousands of highly classified documents—which, in 2013, he began publicly leaking to a wide range of news organizations. 
  • His motive, he has claimed, was to warn Americans of the privacy-invading dangers posed by their own Intelligence agencies.
  • On March 7, 2017, WikiLeaks published a “data dump” of 8,761 documents codenamed “Vault 7.”
  • The documents exposed that the CIA had found security flaws in software operating systems such as Microsoft Windows, Android and Apple iOS. These allowed an intruder—such as the CIA—to seize control of a computer or smartphone. The owner could then be photographed through his iPhone camera and have his text messages intercepted.
  • According to anonymous U.S. Intelligence and law enforcement sources, the culprits were CIA contract employees. 

But there are those who have offered a timely warning against the use of mercenaries. One of these is Niccolo Machiavelli, the Florentine statesman of the Renaissance. 

Image result for Images of Niccolo Machiavelli

Niccolo Machiavelli

In The Prince, Machiavelli writes:

“Mercenaries…are useless and dangerous. And if a prince holds on to his state by means of mercenary armies, he will never be stable or secure. For they are disunited, ambitious, without discipline, disloyal. They are brave among friends; among enemies they are cowards.

“They have neither the fear of God nor fidelity to man, and destruction is deferred only as the attack is. For in peace one is robbed by them, and in war by the enemy. 

“The cause of this is that they have no love or other motive to keep them in the field beyond a trifling wage, which is not enough to make them ready to die for you.”

Centuries after Machiavelli’s warning, Americans are realizing the bitter truth of it firsthand.

STALIN IN THE WHITE HOUSE: PART TWO (END)

In Bureaucracy, History, Politics, Social commentary on May 17, 2018 at 12:00 am

On May 10, The Hill reported that White House Special Assistant Kelly Sadler had joked derisively about Arizona United States Senator John McCain.

Aware that the 81-year-old McCain was dying of brain cancer, Sadler joked to intimates about the Senator’s opposition to Gina Haspel as CIA director: “It doesn’t matter. He’s dying anyway.”

Leaked to CNN by an anonymous White House official, Sadler’s remark touched off a furor of criticism—and demands for her firing.

But the Trump White House refused to apologize for the remark.

Then, on May 14, President Donald Trump registered his fury—not at Sadler but at whoever had leaked her joke to the media:

Related image

Donald Trump

“The so-called leaks coming out of the White House are a massive over exaggeration put out by the Fake News Media in order to make us look as bad as possible,” Trump tweeted. “With that being said, leakers are traitors and cowards, and we will find out who they are!”

Then, Trump ordered an all-out investigation to find the joke-leaker.

In January, the White House had banned the use of personal cell phones in the West Wing. The official reason: National security.

The real reason: To stop staffers from leaking to reporters.

Officials now have two choices:

  1. Leave their cell phones in their cars, or,
  2. When they arrive for work, deposit them in lockers installed at West Wing entrances. They can reclaim their phones when they leave.

Several staffers huddle around the lockers throughout the day, checking messages they have missed. The lockers buzz and chirp constantly from 6 a.m. to 8 p.m. Monday through Friday.

More ominously, well-suited men roam the halls of the West Wing, carrying devices that pick up signals from phones that aren’t government-issued. “Did someone forget to put their phone away?” one of the men will ask if such a device is detected. If no one says they have a phone, the detection team start searching the room.

Image result for images of cell phone detectors on Youtube

Phone detector

The devices can tell which type of phone is in the room.

This is the sort of behavior Americans have traditionally—and correctly—associated with dictatorships

In his memo outlining the policy, Chief of Staff John Kelly warned that anyone who violated the phone ban could be punished, including “being indefinitely prohibited from entering the White House complex.”

Yet even these draconian methods may not end White House leaks.

White House officials still speak with reporters throughout the day and often air their grievances, whether about annoying colleagues or competing policy priorities.

Aides with private offices sometimes call reporters on their desk phones. Others get their cell phones and call or text reporters during lunch breaks.

According to an anonymous White House source: “The cellphone ban is for when people are inside the West Wing, so it really doesn’t do all that much to prevent leaks. If they banned all personal cellphones from the entire [White House] grounds, all that would do is make reporters stay up later because they couldn’t talk to their sources until after 6:30 pm.”

Image result for images of no cell phones

Other sources believe that leaks won’t end unless Trump starts firing staffers. But there is always the risk of firing the wrong people. Thus, to protect themselves, those who leak might well accuse tight-lipped co-workers.

Within the Soviet Union (especially during the reign of Joseph Stalin) fear of secret police surveillance was widespread—and absolutely justified.

Among the methods used to keep conversations secret:

  • Turning on the TV or radio to full volume.
  • Turning on a water faucet at full blast.
  • Turning the dial of a rotary phone to the end—and sticking a pencil in one of the small holes for numbers.
  • Standing six to nine feet away from the hung-up receiver.
  • Going for “a walk in the woods.” 
  • Saying nothing sensitive on the phone.

The secret police (known as the Cheka, the NKVD, the MGB, the KGB, and now the FSB) operated on seven working principles:

  1. Your enemy is hiding.
  2. Start from the usual suspects.
  3. Study the young.
  4. Stop the laughing.
  5. Rebellion spreads like wildfire.
  6. Stamp out every spark.
  7. Order is created by appearance.

Trump has always ruled through bribery and fear. He’s bought off (or tried to) those who might cause him trouble—like porn actress Stormy Daniels. And he’s threatened or filed lawsuits against those he couldn’t or didn’t want to bribe—such as contractors who have worked on various Trump properties. 

But Trump can’t buy the loyalty of employees working in an atmosphere of hostility—which breeds resentment and fear. And some of them are taking revenge by sharing with reporters the latest crimes and follies of the Trump administration.

The more Trump wages war on the “cowards and traitors” who work most closely with him, the more some of them will find opportunities to strike back. This will inflame Trump even more—and lead him to seek even more repressive methods against his own staffers. 

This is a no-win situation for Trump.

The results will be twofold:

  1. Constant turnovers of staffers—with their replacements having to undergo lengthy background checks before coming on; and
  2. Continued leaking of embarrassing secrets by resentful employees who stay.

STALIN IN THE WHITE HOUSE: PART ONE (OF TWO)

In Bureaucracy, History, Politics, Social commentary on May 16, 2018 at 12:08 am

It’s perhaps the most famous—and most widely quoted—part of The Prince, Niccolo Machiavelli’s classic work on gaining political power:

From this arises the question whether it is better to be loved than feared, or feared more than loved.  The reply is, that one ought to be both feared and loved, but as it is difficult for the two to go together, it is much safer to be feared than loved….

“And the prince who has relied solely on their words, without making other preparations, is ruined; for the friendship which is gained by purchase and not through grandeur and nobility of spirit is bought but not secured, and at a pinch is not to be expended in your service. 

“And men have less scruple in offending one who makes himself loved than one who makes himself feared; for love is held by a chain of obligations which, men being selfish, is broken whenever it serves their purpose; but fear is maintained by a dread of punishment which never fails.”

But Machiavelli immediately follows this up with a warning about the abuses of fear:

“Still, a prince should make himself feared in such a way that if he does not gain love, he at any rate avoids hatred: for fear and the absence of hatred may well go together….”

Niccolo Machiavelli

It’s a warning that someone should have given President Donald Trump long ago.

Not that he would have heeded it.

On May 10, The Hill reported that White House Special Assistant Kelly Sadler had joked derisively about Arizona United States Senator John McCain.

McCain, a Navy pilot during the Vietnam war, was shot down over Hanoi on October 26, 1967, and captured. He spent five and a half years as a POW in North Vietnam—and was often brutally tortured. He wasn’t released until March 14, 1973.

Recently, he had opposed the nomination of Gina Haspel as director of the CIA.

The reason: In 2002, Haspel had operated a “black” CIA site in Thailand where Islamic terrorists were often waterboarded to make them talk. 

For John McCain, waterboarding was torture, even if it didn’t leave its victims permanently scarred and disabled. 

Aware that the 81-year-old McCain was dying of brain cancer, Sadler joked to intimates about the Senator’s opposition to Haspel: “It doesn’t matter. He’s dying anyway.”

John McCain's official Senate portrait, taken in 2009

John McCain

Leaked to CNN by an anonymous White House official, Sadler’s remark sparked fierce criticism—and demands for her firing.

McCain’s daughter, Meghan, said on the ABC talk show, “The View”: “Kelly, here’s a little news flash … we’re all dying. I’m dying, you’re dying, we’re all dying. And I want to say, since my dad has been diagnosed … I really feel like I understand the meaning of life, and it is not how you die, it’s how you live.”

Others were equally outraged. South Carolina Republican Senator Lindsey Graham, a close friend of McCain, said: “Ms. Sadler, may I remind you that John McCain has a lot of friends in the United States Senate on both sides of the aisle. Nobody is laughing in the Senate.”

“People have wondered when decency would hit rock bottom with this administration. It happened yesterday,” said former Vice President Joe Biden.

“John McCain makes America great. Father, grandfather, Navy pilot, POW hero bound by honor, an incomparable and irrepressible statesman. Those who mock such greatness only humiliate themselves and their silent accomplices,” tweeted former Massachusetts governor and 2012 Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney.

And how has the Trump White House responded to this bipartisan fury?

Officially, White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders refused to confirm or deny Sadler’s joke: “I’m not going to get into a back and forth because people want to create issues of leaked staff meetings.”

Unofficially, Sanders was furious—not at the joke about a dying man, but that someone had leaked it. After assailing the White House communications team, she pouted: “I am sure this conversation is going to leak, too. And that’s just disgusting.”

SarahHuckabeeSanders.jpg

Sarah Huckabee Sanders

No apology has been offered by any official at the White House—including President Trump.

In fact, Senior White House communications adviser Mercedes Schlapp reportedly expressed her support for Sadler: “I stand with Kelly Sadler.”

On May 11—the day after Sadler’s comment was reported—reporters asked Sanders if the tone set by Trump had caused Sadler to feel comfortable in telling such a joke.

“Certainly not!” predictably replied Sanders, adding: “We have a respect for all Americans, and that is what we try to put forward in everything we do, but in word and in action, focusing on doing things that help every American in this country every single day.”

On May 14 Trump revealed his “respect” for “all Americans”—especially those working in the White House.

“The so-called leaks coming out of the White House are a massive over exaggeration put out by the Fake News Media in order to make us look as bad as possible,” Trump tweeted.

“With that being said, leakers are traitors and cowards, and we will find out who they are!”

In a move that Joseph Stalin would have admired, Trump ordered an all-out investigation to find the joke-leaker.

HEROES, JOKERS AND LIARS

In Bureaucracy, History, Military, Politics, Social commentary on May 15, 2018 at 12:10 am

Arizona United States Senator John McCain knows firsthand about torture.

A Navy pilot during the Vietnam war, he was shot down over Hanoi on October 26, 1967, and captured. He spent five and a half years as a POW in North Vietnam—and was often brutally tortured. He wasn’t released until March 14, 1973.

So he had strong feelings when he learned about President Donald Trump’s pick for director of the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA).

John McCain's official Senate portrait, taken in 2009

John McCain

This was Gina Haspel, who, in 2002, had operated a “black” CIA site in Thailand where Islamic terrorists were often waterboarded to make them talk.  

After the September 11, 2001 Al-Qaeda attacks on New York and Washington, D.C., no one knew if other attacks were about to occur. Or where. The FBI, CIA, National Security Agency (NSA) and other Intelligence agencies were under huge pressure to discover—and foil—any future plots.

The administration of President George W. Bush ruled that waterboarding was not a form of torture, and thus did not violate the Geneva Convention.

Gina Haspel official CIA portrait.jpg

Gina Haspel

But for John McCain, waterboarding was torture, even if it didn’t leave its victims permanently scarred and disabled.

As a result, when Haspel’s name was put up for nomination, McCain quickly made clear his opposition.

Enter White House Special Assistant Kelly Sadler, who handles surrogate communications.

Aware that the 81-year-old McCain was dying of brain cancer, Sadler joked to intimates about the Senator’s opposition to Haspel: “It doesn’t matter. He’s dying anyway.”

Leaked to CNN by an anonymous White House official, Sadler’s remark touched off a furor of criticism—and demands for her firing.

McCain’s daughter, Meghan, said on the ABC talk show, “The View”: “Kelly, here’s a little news flash … we’re all dying. I’m dying, you’re dying, we’re all dying. And I want to say, since my dad has been diagnosed … I really feel like I understand the meaning of life, and it is not how you die, it’s how you live.”

Not to be outdone by Sadler, retired Air Force Lieutenant General Thomas McInerney went on the Right-wing Fox News Network to personally attack McCain.

Torture, he said, was effective: “The fact is, is John McCain—it worked on John. That’s why they call him ‘Songbird John.'”

“The fact is those methods can work, and they are effective, as former Vice President Cheney said. And if we have to use them to save a million American lives, we will do whatever we have to,” said McInerney.

There’s no evidence that McCain ever betrayed the United States during his captivity.

CNN correspondent Jake Tapper angrily replied to McInerney’s slander: “First of all, no one calls him ‘Songbird John’ except for crazy people and jerks—and I’m using my language carefully here.”

Meghan McCain responded to McInerney’s attack: “My father’s legacy is going to be talked about hundreds and hundreds of years. These people: Nothingburgers. Nobody is going to remember you.”

Her comment echoed a remark by former President Harry S. Truman about Indiana United States Senator William Jenner. Jenner, a Right-wing Republican, had attacked the patriotism of George C. Marshall, who, as chief of staff of the United States Army, was rightly called “the architect of Allied victory” in World War II.

Asked by biographer Merle Miller for his opinion on Jenner, Truman responded: “In my opinion, General Marshall will go down as one of the great men of his time. And, of course, people like Jenner, they aren’t even a footnote in history.”

Others were equally outraged. South Carolina Republican Senator Lindsey Graham, a close friend of McCain, said: “Ms. Sadler, may I remind you that John McCain has a lot of friends in the United States Senate on both sides of the aisle. Nobody is laughing in the Senate.”

And Meghan McCain added during her appearance on “The View”: “I don’t understand what kind of environment you’re working in when that would be acceptable and then you can come to work the next day and still have a job.”

Of course, for anyone familiar with Donald Trump and his vicious reactions to even the smallest opposition, Sadler’s jibe at McCain should come as no surprise.

Related image

Donald Trump

During the 2016 Presidential campaign, Trump infamously said of McCain: “He’s not a war hero. He was a war hero because he was captured. I like people who weren’t captured.”

This from a man who sought—and got—five draft deferments during the Vietnam War. And who has compared his reckless sex-life during the 1970s to risking his life in service to his country.

Officially, White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders refused to confirm or deny Sadler’s joke: “I’m not going to get into a back and forth because people want to create issues of leaked staff meetings.”

Unofficially, Sanders was furious—not at the joke about a dying man, but that someone had leaked it. After assailing the White House communications team, she pouted: “I am sure this conversation is going to leak, too. And that’s just disgusting.”

For Sanders—and her boss—it’s disgusting that Trump’s White House can’t enforce the censorship that reigns in Vladimir Putin’s Kremlin.

FEAR–AND ITS POLITICAL LEGACY

In Bureaucracy, History, Politics, Social commentary on March 10, 2017 at 10:38 am

Dick Cheney left office as co-President of the United States on January 20, 2009. During the last four years, he has had time to write his memoirs and reflect on the legacies of the George W. Bush Presidency.

His book, In My Time, was published in 2012. And, in March, 2013, Cheney appeared in the Showtime-produced documentary, “The World According to Dick Cheney.”

Dick Cheney

Throughout the program, Cheney showed no interest in introspection.

“I don’t go around thinking, ‘Gee, I wish we’d done this, or I wish I’d done that,’” said Cheney. “The world is as you find it, and you’ve got to deal with that….You don’t get do-overs.

“I did what I did, and it’s all part of the public record and I feel very good about it.  If I had it to do over again, I’d do it in a minute.”

When the interviewer, R.J. Cutler, raised how the administration altered privacy rights, tortured detainees and pushed for an unnecessary war in Iraq, Cheney replied:

“Tell me what terrorist acts you would let go forward because you didn’t want to be a mean and nasty fella?”

Perhaps the most telling moment came when Cheney outlined his overall views on Realpolitick:

“Are you going to trade the lives of a number of people because you want to preserve your honor?” asked Cheney. “This was a wartime situation and it was more important to be successful than it was to be loved.”

Perhaps Cheney was thinking of Niccolo Machiavelli’s famous quote about love versus fear in The Prince, his primer on how to attain political power:

From this arises the question whether it is better to be loved than feared, or feared more than loved.  The reply is, that one ought to be both feared and loved, but as it is difficult for the two to go together, it is much safer to be feared than loved. 

For it may be said of men in general that they are ungrateful, voluble, dissemblers, anxious to avoid danger and covetous of gain; as long as you benefit them, they are entirely yours: they offer you their blood, their goods, their life and their children, when the necessity is remote, but when it approaches, they revolt….

Niccolo Machiavelli

And men have less scruple in offending one who makes himself loved than one who makes himself feared; for love is held by a chain of obligations which, men being selfish, is broken whenever it serves their purpose; but fear is maintained by a dread of punishment which never fails.

Cheney appears to belileve that it’s better to be feared than loved.

In that, he has plenty of company among his fellow politicians–in the United States and elsewhere. But there is more to Machiavelli’s teaching, and this is usually overlooked–as it most certainly was by Cheney:

Still, a prince should make himself feared in such a way that if he does not gain love, he at any rate avoids hatred: for fear and the absence of hatred may well go together…. 

If Cheney considers himself a student of Machiavelli, then he utterly ignored this last offering of cautionary advice.

By authorizing the use of torture, the administration made itself–in the eyes of its Western European allies as well as its Islamic enemies–an epicenter of evil. “Guantanamo”–the Marine base in Cuba that had been largely forgotten over the decades–became a synonym for Auschwitz.

And after photographs emerged of the tortures and humiliations of detainees at Abu Garib Prison in Iraq, the United States sank even lower in the world’s estimation.

Among the human rights violations committed upon prisoners held by U.S. Army military police and assorted CIA agents:

  • physical abuse
  • psychological abuse
  • torture
  • rape
  • sodomy
  • homicide.

Of the ultimate legacy of George W. Bush and Dick Cheney, historian Nigel Hamilton wrote in his 2010 book, American Caesars: Lives of the Presidents from Franklin D. Roosevelt to George W. Bush:

“…arguably the worst of all the American Caesars, who willfully and recklessly destroyed so much of the moral basis of American leadership in the modern world.”

Soviet dictator Joseph Stalin believed, above all, in the brutal use of force–whether applied by prison torturers or legions of soldiers unrestrained by the Geneva Convention.

Once, when told that a certain policy he wanted to pursue would be heavily criticized by the Pope, he famously asked: “How many divisions does the Pope have?”

Stalin died in 1953. Had he lived on into the 1980s, he would have found out.

It was then that Pope John Paul II showed the power of an aroused spirituality.

John Paul II

When the Soviet Union seemed about to invade his native Poland as it had Hungary in 1956 and Czechoslovakia in 1968, the Pope reportedly sent the Kremlin a message: He would fly to Warsaw and place himself directly in the line of fire.

The Soviets never dared launch their planned invasion.

It is a lesson utterly lost on the likes of men like Dick Cheney.

DOES TORTURE WORK?: PART TWO (END)

In Bureaucracy, History, Law, Law Enforcement, Military, Politics, Social commentary on April 5, 2016 at 12:11 am

Donald Trump has made a return to waterboarding terrorism suspects a prime issue in his campaign for the 2016 Republican Presidential nomination.  

And a recent Reuters/lpsos poll shows that nearly two-thirds of Americans believe that the use of torture can be justified to force suspected terrorists to talk.  

A growing fear by Americans of Islamic terrorism has been ignited by a series of deadly Islamic terrorist attacks in Europe and the United States. 

Humiliating a prisoner in Iraq

In fact, however, torture, generally, and waterboarding in particular, have proven worthless at obtaining reliable information.  

Victims will say anything they think their captors want to hear to stop the agony.   

Yoshia Chee, a Special Forces veteran of Vietnam, recalled his use of torture against suspected Vietcong:

“One of the favorite things was popping one of their eyeballs out with a spoon….

“If I had one of my eyeballs hanging out, I’d say I killed Kennedy.  I’d agree to anything in the whole world.  

“We would do that, and they still wouldn’t talk….You rarely got anything out of them. Just more hatred. More reason to fight back.” 

Click here: Strange Ground: An Oral History Of Americans In Vietnam, 1945-1975: Harry Maurer: 9780306808395: Amazon.com: Books 

During the George W. Bush Presidency, the CIA relied on harsh physical punishments–beatings, humiliations and waterboarding–to convince suspects to talk. These were euphemistically referred to as “enhanced interrogation techniques.”  

Upon assuming the Presidency in 2009, Barack Obama ordered an immediate halt to such methods. Since then, Republicans generally and their Presidential aspirants in particular have harshly criticized Obama’s decision.  

Like Trump, they claim that Obama has endangered American security in the name of Political Correctness. In turn, Obama has argued that the use of torture produces unreliable information and inflames Muslim hatred of America.

Meanwhile, the FBI has applied its traditional “kill them with kindness” approach to interrogation. And agents found this yielded far greater results.

For one thing, most Al Qaeda members relished appearing before grand juries.

Unlike organized crime members, they were talkative–and even tried to proselytize to the jury members. They were proud of what they had done–and wanted to talk.

“This is what the FBI does,” said Mike Rolince, an FBI expert  on counter-terrorism. “Nearly 100% of the terrorists we’ve taken into custody have confessed. The CIA wasn’t trained. They don’t do interrogations.”

According to The Threat Matrix: The FBI at War in the Age of Global Terror (2011) jihadists had been taught to expect severe torture at tha hands of American interrogators. 

Writes Author  Garrett M. Graff:

“Often, in the FBI’s experience, their best cooperation came when detainees realized they weren’t going to get tortured, that the United States wasn’t the Great Satan. Interrogators were figuring out…that not playing into Al Qaeda’s propaganda could produce victories.”

And the FBI isn’t alone in believing that acts of simple humanity can turn even sworn enemies into allies.

No less an authority on “real-politick” than Niccolo Machiavelli reached the same conclusion more than 500 years ago.

In his small and notorious book, The Prince, he writes about the methods a ruler must use to gain power. But in his larger and lesser-known work, The Discourses, he outlines the ways that liberty can be maintained in a republic.

Niccolo Machiavelli

For Machiavelli, only a well-protected state can hope for peace and prosperity.  Toward that end, he wrote at length about the best ways to succeed militarily.  And in war, humanity can prevail at least as often as severity.

Consider the following example from The Discourses:

Camillus [a Roman general] was besieging the city of the Faliscians, and had surrounded it….A teacher charged with the education of the children of some of the noblest families of that city [to ingratiate himself] with Camillus and the Romans, led these children…into the Roman camp. 

And presenting them to Camillus [the teacher] said to him, “By means of these children as hostages, you will be able to compel the city to surrender.”         

Camillus not only declined the offer but had the teacher stripped and his hands tied behind his back….[Then Camillus] had a rod put into the hands of each of the children…[and] directed them to whip [the teacher] all the way back to the city. 

Upon learning this fact, the citizens of Faliscia were so much touched by the humanity and integrity of Camillus, that they surrendered the place to him without any further defense.  

This example shows that an act of humanity and benevolence will at all times have more influence over the minds of men than violence and ferocity.

It also proves that provinces and cities which no armies…could conquer, have yielded to an act of humanity, benevolence, chastity or generosity.

This truth should be kept firmly in mind whenever Right-wingers start bragging about their own patriotism and willingness to get “down and dirty” with America’s enemies.

Many–like Newt Gingrich,  Rudolph Giuliani, Rick Santorum, Eduardo “Ted” Cruz and Donald Trump–did their heroic best to avoid military service. These “chickenhawks” talk tough and are always ready to send others into battle–but keep themselves well out of harm’s way.

Such men are not merely contemptible; they are dangerous.

DOES TORTURE WORK?: PART ONE (OF TWO)

In Bureaucracy, History, Law, Law Enforcement, Military, Politics, Social commentary on April 4, 2016 at 12:09 am

Nearly two-thirds of Americans believe that the use of torture can be justified to force suspected terrorists to talk, according to a March 30 Reuters/lpsos poll. 

A growing fear by Americans of Islamic terrorism has been ignited by a series of deadly Islamic terrorist attacks in Europe and the United States.

  • On November 13, 2015 in Paris, France, terrorists belonging to the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) killed more than 100 people.  
  • On December 2, a married Islamic couple shot and killed 14 people at the Department of Public Health in San Bernardino, California.  
  • And on  March 22, a series of ISIS attacks struck Brussels, Belgium. Two explosions at the city’s main international airport and a third in a subway station killed 31 persons and injured 270 more.

Click here: Most Americans Say Torturing Suspected Terrorists Is Justifiable 

And the chief beneficiary of this growing fear among Americans is likely to be Donald Trump.

Donald Trump August 19, 2015 (cropped).jpg

Donald Trump

Since declaring his candidacy for the 2016 Republican nomination for President in June, 2015, Trump has made the use of torture a major campaign issue. He has promised to end the waterboarding ban that President Barack Obama declared at the start of his term in 2009. 

During a campaign event at Arizona’s Sun City retirement community, Trump said he would reinstate waterboarding and techniques that are “so much worse” and “much stronger.”  

“Don’t tell me it doesn’t work–torture works,” Trump said. “Okay, folks? Torture–you know, half these guys [say]: ‘torture doesn’t work.’ Believe me, it works. Okay?”  

And in a February 15 Op-Ed piece for USA Today, Trump declared: “I will do whatever it takes.

“I have made it clear in my campaign that I would support and endorse the use of enhanced interrogation techniques if the use of these methods would enhance the protection and safety of the nation,” he wrote.

“Though the effectiveness of many of these methods may be in dispute, nothing should be taken off the table when American lives are at stake.

“The enemy is cutting off the heads of Christians and drowning them in cages, and yet we are too politically correct to respond in kind.”

The Reuters/lpsos online poll of 1,976 Americans occurred between March 22 and 28.  Among its findings:

  • About 25% said that the use of torture can “often” be justified against suspected terrorists. 
  • Another 38% said such tactics were “sometimes” appropriate in order to obtain information. 
  • Only 15% opposed torture under all circumstances.

Past surveys found Americans less comfortable with the controversial tactic. 

In 2014, a poll by Amnesty International revealed that about 45% of Americans supported the use of torture against terrorism suspects.

Unfortunately for Americans, the truth about torture generally–and waterboarding in particular–is that it doesn’t work.

Victims will say anything they think their captors want to hear to stop the agony.  And, in fact, subsequent investigations have shown that just that happened with Al Qaeda suspects.

Waterboarding a captive

Shortly after the invasion of Afghanistan in October, 2001, hundreds of Al Qaeda members started falling into American hands.  And so did a great many others who were simply accused by rival warlords of being Al Qaeda members.

The only way to learn if Al Qaeda was planning any more 9/11-style attacks on the United States was to interrogate those suspected captives.  The question was: How?

The CIA and the Pentagon quickly took the “gloves off” approach.  Their methods included such “stress techniques” as playing loud music and flashing strobe lights to keep detainees awake.

Some were “softened up” prior to interrogation by “third-degree” beatings.  And still others were waterboarded.

In 2003, an FBI agent observing a CIA “interrogation” at Guantanamo was stunned to see a detainee sitting on the floor, wrapped in an Israeli flag.  Nearby, music blared and strobe slights flashed.

In Osama bin Laden’s 1998 declaration of war against America, he had accused the country of being controlled by the Jews, saying the United States “served the Jews’ petty state.”

Draping an Islamic captive with an Israeli flag could only confirm such propaganda.

The FBI, on the other hand, followed its traditional “kill them with kindness” approach to interrogation.

Pat D’Amuro, a veteran FBI agent who had led the Bureau’s investigation into the 1998 bombing of the American embasy in Nairobi, Kenya, warned FBI Director Robert Mueller III:

The FBI should not be a party in the use of “enhanced intrrogation techniques.” They wouldn’t work and wouldn’t produce the dramatic results the CIA hoped for.

But there was a bigger danger, D’Amuro warned: “We’ll be handing every future defense attorney Giglio material.”

The Supreme Court had ruled in Giglio vs. the United States (1972) that the personal credibility of a government official was admissible in court.

Any FBI agent who made use of extra-legal interrogation techniques could potentially have that issue raised every time he testified in court on any other matter.

It was a defense attorney’s dream-come-true recipe for impeaching an agent’s credibility–and thus ruin his investigative career.

CHENEY VS. MACHIAVELLI

In Bureaucracy, History, Military, Politics on October 9, 2014 at 1:21 am

Dick Cheney left office as co-President of the United States on January 20, 2009.  Since then, he has had time to write his memoirs and reflect on the legacies of the George W. Bush Presidency.

His book, In My Time, was published in 2012.  And, in March, 2013, Cheney appeared in the Showtime-produced documentary, “The World According to Dick Cheney.”

Dick Cheney

Throughout the program, Cheney showed no interest in introspection.

“I don’t go around thinking, ‘Gee, I wish we’d done this, or I wish I’d done that,’” said Cheney.  “The world is as you find it, and you’ve got to deal with that….You don’t get do-overs.

“I did what I did, and it’s all part of the public record and I feel very good about it.  If I had it to do over again, I’d do it in a minute.”

When the interviewer, R.J. Cutler, raised how the Bush administration had altered privacy rights, tortured detainees and pushed for an unnecessary war in Iraq, Cheney replied:

“Tell me what terrorist acts you would let go forward because you didn’t want to be a mean and nasty fella?”

Perhaps the most telling moment came when Cheney outlined his overall views on Realpolitick:

“Are you going to trade the lives of a number of people because you want to preserve your honor?” asked Cheney.  “This was a wartime situation and it was more important to be successful than it was to be loved.”

Perhaps Cheney was thinking of the famous quote about love versus fear in The Prince, Niccolo Machiavelli’s primer on how to attain political power:

From this arises the question whether it is better to be loved than feared, or feared more than loved.  The reply is, that one ought to be both feared and loved.

But as it is difficult for the two to go together, it is much safer to be feared than loved. 

For it may be said of men in general that they are ungrateful, voluble, dissemblers, anxious to avoid danger and covetous of gain.

As long as you benefit them, they are entirely yours: they offer you their blood, their goods, their life and their children, when the necessity is remote, but when it approaches, they revolt….

Niccolo Machiavelli

And men have less scruple in offending one who makes himself loved than one who makes himself feared.  

For love is held by a chain of obligations which, men being selfish, is broken whenever it serves their purpose; but fear is maintained by a dread of punishment which never fails.

Cheney appears to belileve that it’s better to be feared than loved.

In that, he has plenty of company among his fellow politicians–in the United States and elsewhere.  But there is more to Machiavelli’s teaching, and this is usually overlooked–as it most certainly was by Cheney:

Still, a prince should make himself feared in such a way that if he does not gain love, he at any rate avoids hatred.

For fear and the absence of hatred may well go together, and will always be attained by one who abstains from interfering with the property of his citizens and subjects or with their women. 

If Cheney considers himself a student of Machiavelli, then he utterly ignored this last offering of cautionary advice.

By authorizing the use of torture, the Bush administration made itself–in the eyes of its Western European allies as well as its Islamic enemies–an epicenter of evil.  “Guantanamo”–the Marine base in Cuba that had been largely forgotten over the decades–became a synonym for torture.

And after photographs emerged of the tortures and humiliataions of detainees at Abu Garib Prison in Iraq, the United States sank even lower in the world’s estimation.

Among the human rights violations committed upon prisoners held by U.S. Army military police and assorted CIA agents:

  • physical abuse
  • psychological abuse
  • torture
  • rape
  • sodomy
  • homicide.

In his 2010 book, American Caesars: Lives of the Presidents from Franklin D. Roosevelt to George W. Bush, historian Nigel Hamilton wrote:

“[George Bush and Dick Cheney were] arguably the worst of all the American Caesars, who willfully and recklessly destroyed so much of the moral basis of American leadership in the modern world.”

Joseph Stalin once famously asked: “How many divisions does the Pope have?”  Stalin died in 1953.  Had he lived on into the 1980s, he would have found out.

It was then that Pope John Paul II showed the power of an aroused spirituality.

John Paul II

In 1981, the Soviet Union seemed about to invade his native Poland–as it had Hungary in 1956 and Czechoslavakia in 1968.  That was when the Pope reportedly sent the Kremlin a message:

If the Soviets invaded, he would fly to Warsaw and place himself directly in the line of fire.

The Soviets never dared launch their planned invasion.

It is a lesson utterly lost on the likes of men like Dick Cheney.

DOES TORTURE WORK?: PART THREE (END)

In Law, Law Enforcement, Politics, Social commentary on May 1, 2013 at 12:02 am

Throughout the Cold War, Republicans held themselves out as the ultimate practitioners of “real-politick,” at home and abroad. They convinced millions of Americans to believe that only their party could be trusted to not sell out America.

As a result, they held the White House–and often the Senate and/or House of Representatives–for most of the 20th Century.

According to Republicans and their Rightist supporters: A President–especially a Democratic one–could never be too aggressive or warlike.

  • President Harry S. Truman hemmed in the Soviet Union with a ring of military bases, making its further expansion into Europe impossible.
  • But the Right judged this as abject surrender. The reason: Truman refused to again turn Eastern Europe into a mass graveyard and ignite World War III by declaring war on the Soviet Union to “roll back” Communism.
  • President John F. Kennedy forced Nikita Khrushchev to withdraw Soviet nuclear missiles from Cuba.
  • But, according to Republicans, that was actually a defeat.  The reason: He didn’t risk thermonuclear war with the Soviet Union by launching an all-out invasion of that island.

After the 1991 collapse of the Soviet Union, Republicans lost their Great Red Bogeyman. Now they could only accuse Democrats of being “soft” on crime, not Communism.

Then, on September 11, 2001, the Republicans found their next great enemy to rally against–-and to accuse Democrats of actively supporting: Islamic terrorism.

This ensured the 2004 re-election of George W. Bush–-who had hid out from the Vietnam war in the Texas Air National Guard–over John Kerry, a genuine war hero who had seen heavy action in the same conflict.

In the last column, we saw that the FBI’s “kill them with kindness” approach to interrogation has yielded far better results than the “Jack Bauer/24” methods favored by the CIA and military.

But this has not prevented Republicans from attacking  even those FBI agents who have risked their lives at home and abroad to defend America from terrArabism.

According to the high priests of the Republican party, those agents are “naive” do-gooders who don’t have the guts to go “all the way” against America’s enemies.

But Niccolo Machiavelli, whose name is a byward for political ruthlessness, would disagree with those Republicans.

In his small and notorious book, The Prince, he writes about the methods a ruler must use to gain power. But in his larger and lesser-known work, The Discourses, he outlines the ways that liberty can be maintained in a republic.

Niccolo Machiavelli

For Machiavelli, only a well-protected state can hope for peace and prosperity.  Toward that end, he wrote at length about the best ways to succeed militarily.  And in war, humanity can prevail at least as often as severity.

Consider the following example from The Discourses:

Camillus [a Roman general] was besieging the city of the Faliscians, and had surrounded it….A teacher charged with the education of the children of some of the noblest families of that city [to ingratiate himself] with Camillus and the Romans, led these children…into the Roman camp. 

And presenting them to Camillus [the teacher] said to him, “By means of these children as hostages, you will be able to compel the city to surrender.”         

Camillus not only declined the offer but had the teacher stripped and his hands tied behind his back….[Then Camillus] had a rod put into the hands of each of the children…[and] directed them to whip [the teacher] all the way back to the city. 

Upon learning this fact, the citizens of Faliscia were so much touched by the humanity and integrity of Camillus, that they surrendered the place to him without any further defense.  

This example shows that an act of humanity and benevolence will at all times have more influence over the minds of men than violence and ferocity.

It also proves that provinces and cities which no armies…could conquer, have yielded to an act of humanity, benevolence, chastity or generosity.

This truth should be kept firmly in mind whenever Right-wingers start bragging about their own patriotism and willingness to get “down and dirty” with America’s enemies.

Many–like Newt Gingrich, Donald Trump, Rudolph Giuliani, Rick Santorum and Mitt Romney–did their heroic best to avoid military service. These “chickenhawks” talk tough and are always ready to send others into battle–but keep themselves well out of harm’s way.

Such men are not merely contemptible; they are dangerous.

DOES TORTURE WORK?: PART TWO (OF THREE)

In History, Law Enforcement, Politics, Social commentary on April 30, 2013 at 12:24 am

In his gung-ho views on torture, New York State Senator Greg Ball has plenty of company.

At the November 12, 2011 Republican debate on foreign policy, all seven candidates endorsed the use of torture as an effective counter-terrorism tactic.

Former Godfather Pizza CEO Herman Cain called for the re-authorized use of waterboarding to “persuade” captured terrArabists to talk.

“I don’t see it as torture, I see it as an enhanced interrogation technique,” said Cain.

Representative Michele Bachmann (R-Minn.) and Texas Governor Rick Perry agreed with Cain.

And Perry drew sustained applause when he declared, “This is war…I will defend them [waterboarding and other coercive techniques] until I die.”

The use of waterboarding was discontinued late in the administration of President George W. Bush.

Following much heated, internal debate, officials in the FBI and Justice Department admitted that it constituted torture and was therefore illegal.

But after the killing of Osama bin Laden, several Bush administration officials–notably former Vice President Dick Cheney–tried to reinstitute the technique, or at least its reputation.

They suggested that information acquired during the earlier waterboarding years may have provided an essential clue to locating bin Laden.

Unfortunately for Republicans, the truth about torture generally–and waterboarding in particular–is just the opposite.

Victims will say anything they think their captors want to hear to stop the agony.  And, in fact, subsequent investigations have shown that just that happened with Al Qaeda suspects.

Waterboarding a captive

Shortly after the invasion of Afghanistan in October, 2001, hundreds of Al Qaeda members started falling into American hands.  And so did a great many others who were simply accused by rival warlords of being Al Qaeda members.

The only way to learn if Al Qaeda was planning any more 9/11-style attacks on the United States was to interrogate those suspected captives.  The question was: How?

The CIA and the Pentagon quickly took the “gloves off” approach.  Their methods included such “stress techniques” as playing loud music and flashing strobe lights to keep detainees awake.

Some were “softened up” prior to interrogation by “third-degree” beatings.  And still others were waterboarded.

In 2003, an FBI agent observing a CIA “interrogation” at Guantanamo was stunned to see a detainee sitting on the floor, wrapped in an Israeli flag.  Nearby, music blared and strobe slights flashed.

In Osama bin Laden’s 1998 declaration of war against America, he had accused the country of being controlled by the Jews, saying the United States “served the Jews’ petty state.”

Draping an Islamic captive with an Israeli flag could only confirm such propaganda.

The FBI, on the other hand, followed its traditional “kill them with kindness” approach to interrogation.

Pat D’Amuro, a veteran FBI agent who had led the Bureau’s investigation into the 1998 bombing of the American embasy in Nairobi, Kenya, warned FBI Director Robert Mueller III:

The FBI should not be a party in the use of “enhanced intrrogation techniques.”  They wouldn’t work and wouldn’t produce the dramatic results the CIA hoped for.

But there was a bigger danger, D’Amuro warned: “We’ll be handing every future defense attorney Giglio material.”

The Supreme Court had ruled in Giglio vs. the United States (1972) that the personal credibility of a government official was admissible in court.

Any FBI agent who made use of extra-legal interrogation techniques could potentially have that issue raised every time he testified in court on any other matter.

It was a defense attorney’s dream-come-true recipe for impeaching an agent’s credibility–and thus ruin his investigative career.

But there was another solid reason for avoiding interrogations that smacked of torture: Most Al Qaeda members relished appearing before grand juries.

Unlike organized crime members, they were talkative–and even tried to proslytize to the jury members.  They were proud of what they had done–and wanted to talk.

“This is what the FBI does,” said Mike Rolince, an FBI experrt on counter-terrorism.  “Nearly 100% of the terrorists we’ve taken into custody have confessed.  The CIA wasn’t trained.  They don’t do interrogations.”

According to The Threat Matrix: The FBI at War in the Age of Global Terror (2011), jihadists had been taught to expect severe torture at tha hands of American interrogators.  Writes Author  Garrett M. Graff:

“Often, in the FBI’s experience, their best cooperation came when detainees realized they weren’t going to get tortured, that the United States wasn’t the Great Satan.  Interrogators were figuring out…that not playing into Al Qaeda’s propaganda could produce victories.”

And the FBI isn’t alone in believing that acts of simple humanity can turn even sworn entmies into allies.

No less an authority on “real-politick” than Niccolo Machiavelli reached the same conclusion more than 500 years ago.

%d bloggers like this: