April 30, 2012

The Lighter Side of Torture

Jose Rodriguez, former Director of the National Clandestine Service at the CIA, has written a book called Hard Measures: How Aggressive CIA Actions After 9/11 Saved American Lives. It turns out that waterboarding (1) isn't torture and (2) is so incredibly horrible that it forced terrorists to give up information they never would have otherwise.

So that's pretty funny. But this part is even funnier:

You don't join the CIA if you have an overwhelming urge to be universally loved. But it is hard to explain how debilitating it can be to be constantly undermined and second-guessed.

My first significant experience with inquisition-by-overseer came during the mid eighties when I was stationed in Central America. The CIA found itself embroiled in the so-called Iran-Contra controversy.

So...being questioned about possible violations of the Constitution is like an inquisition. What's apparently not like an inquisition is using torture techniques actually used in the inquisition.

P.S. Hard Measures was written "with" (i.e., by) Bill Harlow. Harlow used to be George Tenet's spokesman/lickspittle, and also wrote Tenet's book At the Center of the Storm. And Harlow told one of the most blatant and egregious WMD lies in the run-up to the invasion of Iraq. So he was clearly the man for this job.

P.P.S. Rodriguez worked in the CIA's El Salvador station during the eighties, so given the massive amount of hideous torture in which he must have been involved during that period, it's not surprising that he doesn't get the fuss over a little waterboarding.

—Jon Schwarz

Posted at 02:17 PM | Comments (19)

April 24, 2012

The Two Constituencies of Liberalism

This is from the 1987 book Mortal Spendor: The American Empire in Transition by pundit Walter Russell Mead:

[Jimmy Carter] decided there was room on the national state for a politician dedicated to the "restoration" of the traditional American idealism in world affairs — an idealism so warmly admired by all the people of the hemisphere, from the Sioux to the Panamanians…

Liberalism has two constituencies, and each secretly believes that it is using the other. On the one hand are the idealistic, sometime naive grassroots liberals who stand for progress, tolerance, democracy and compassion. They believe that the present economic system can support all these values, and they believe that the United States can and should take the lead in easing the misery of the poor here and abroad. This popular liberalism in its dear fuzzy way hopes and believes that any advance in the welfare state and in central planning prepares the country for some form of social democracy, the peaceful transition to a mild form of socialism.

Corporate liberalism, the second constituency, believes that social programs are the grease that keep the wheels of industry turning. It would rather have the grassroots liberals administering social programs than scheming for social change; it favors government intervention in the economy because only such intervention can create the safe and predictable world in which large corporations can flourish.

Wars in the Third World expose the split in liberal ranks. They make clear who is using whom. Emerging social democracies do not intervene on behalf of blood-soaked oligarchies, but highly centralized corporate states do it all the time.

Man that's good writing. It makes it especially distressing that now, 25 years later, Mead's such an embarrassing right-wing hack. (Did you know that global warming doesn't exist because some male babies still get circumcised? Plus Al Gore is quite fat.) But that's life, I guess.

Anyway, if you come across something written by Walter Russell Mead these days and you're wondering whether you should pay any attention to it, here are two things to keep in mind:

1. In Mortal Splendor, Mead said that Henry Kissinger "lied gamely" during the Vietnam war:

Since 1917, when America first became a major player in world politics, foreign policy has been formulated, and often carried out, behind the scenes. A smoke screen of policy rationales has been laid down for public consumption: Truth, Justice and the American Way. But the serious players have always known that the game was much more complex. To quote again from the Kissinger memoirs:
Our entry into World War one was the inevitable result of our geographical interest in maintaining freedom of the seas and preventing Europe's domination by a hostile power. But true to our tradition, we chose to interpret our participation in legal and idealistic terms.

Until the Indochinese War, popular ignorance about the basis of American foreign policy was, if anything, an asset to the conduct of that policy. Major wars were presented as crusades forced on a pacific United States. Anyone saying what Kissinger said about World War I while the war was in progress would have been locked up if not lynched – particularly if the speaker had been a German-Jewish immigrant and a Harvard professor, to boot. During World War I Kissinger himself would have said nothing of the kind; he would have joined in the effort to present the war as a moral crusade – as, indeed, he did during the Indochinese War and as he continues to do with respect to the situation in Central America.

Later in the book, Mead says that "the American government lends itself well to bribery and influence peddling" and describes how Henry Kissinger and David Rockefeller lobbied the government to let the deposed Shah of Iran into the U.S. Meanwhile, Rockefeller was CEO of Chase Manhattan Bank, which had made tons of money off the Shah, and Kissinger had gotten "a sizable Rockefeller retainer." Mead's conclusion: "George Washington, hearing of such a state of affairs, might well have assumed that his worst fears for the Republic were being confirmed."

2. After changing his mind about stuff, Mead became the "Henry A. Kissinger Senior Fellow for U.S. Foreign Policy" at the Council on Foreign Relations.

P.S. I assume it goes without saying that Walter Russell Mead is a graduate of Stutts University.

—Jon Schwarz

Posted at 12:41 AM | Comments (30)

April 19, 2012

Taking Responsibility

By: John Caruso

I've mentioned in passing here that I worked with the International Solidarity Movement in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip during Israel's 2002 invasion.  After many years I've finally posted the full account, starting with our breaking of the siege of Arafat's compound and ending with our breaking of the siege of the Church of the Nativity, with stops in between in Ramallah, Jenin, Gaza and Hebron.  Despite the changes that have taken place since then there's (unfortunately) hardly a word that doesn't still apply today.

If you're curious, you can read it here.

— John Caruso

Posted at 12:55 AM | Comments (2)