Weekly Letter to President Obama
Copyright © 2010
ofthisandthat.org. All rights
INAUGURATION, January 20, 2009
Drunk in its stale air
For two hundred years.
Fettered in mind and body,
The soul, the safe escape
To let me breathe the cries
Of my heart singing
Tears of mel-an-choly.
The tears flow free today
Washing the stains of blood
And sweat in brotherhood.
Raise the curtain then an'
Let the world look in
On this promised land --
We breathe free today.... almost.
--- Arshad M. Khan
We will be known forever by the tracks we leave.
--- Native American proverb
April 11, 2014
Mr. President: Among the usual news -- and appalling as it is for some of this week's
news to be 'usual' in a first-world democracy, sadly its a fact -- the question of torture
So what was the 'usual' news? While the memorial service was being held for victims
of last week's mass shooting, a 16-year old student went berserk in his school:
wielding two knives he managed to kill some of his fellow students and wound many
more. An incident, so horrifying it would have occupied weeks of soul-searching,
psychological analysis and social commentary a few decades ago, was soon buried in
other news like the long-expected resignation of Kathleen Sebelius. So how has
mass murder become so frequent an event during this administration? Perhaps the
seemingly favored option of political mass murder and mayhem unleashed on so
many countries filling our TV screens numbs the slightly unbalanced to violence, and
even more so the mayhem soldiers have witnessed in person.
The torture report in the news this week was the less usual item. According to Mr.
Bush, we do not torture; according to his Vice President, water-boarding is a little
dunking. Developed during the Spanish Inquisition and learned by the U.S. in the
former Spanish colony of the Philippines while fighting an insurrection following the
U.S. takeover from the Spanish, water-boarding is so excruciating and effective, it was
called the water cure by the Inquisition because Muslims and Jews subjected to it
would accept Christian doctrine and thus be 'cured'. Vice President Cheney's little
dunking prohibited by the 1949 Geneva Convention on torture has now obliged him to
confine himself to the United States. It is also reliably reported by University of
Wisconsin Professor Alfred McCoy that President Bush canceled a trip to Switzerland
in 2011 when there was a question he might be arrested. Rendition is also forbidden
by Article 3 of the Convention, and several U.S. operatives including a colonel have
been convicted and sentenced in Italy; their convictions upheld by the Italian
equivalent of our Supreme Court.
Meanwhile, John Yoo, the man who proffered the tortuous, shabby, sham, and now
indefensible legal advice permitting the torture, sorry, 'enhanced interrogation
techniques' is safe (so far) in his sinecure at Berkeley; he also writes a column for
Rupert Murdoch's Wall Street Journal. Mr. Yoo has now been sanctioned by Russia.
An executive summary of the Senate Committee's report on torture is awaiting
security clearance before release. But executive summaries are often a whitewash. It
certainly was the case for the scandalous CIA drug funding of the Contras when the
executive summary carefully elided any drug connection while the actual report
laboriously detailed meetings and contacts. To truly turn the page on the torture
ignominy the complete report needs to be released; as is evident, the executive
summary is not sufficient.
Thanks to McClatchy News Service we know the report questions the legal basis for
the CIA's use of water-boarding and other techniques tantamount to torture. The
agency has also evaded or misled the standard attempts and processes for oversight
including the Justice Department, the White House and of course Congress. Senator
Feinstein has charged the CIA with intimidation of her staffers as well as spying on
Should security services be allowed to run amok in a democracy? At this stage they
are not going to be prosecuted. That much is clear but surely the facts should be
made public to prevent such degeneration in the future.