The Banality of Enhanced Interrogation
A number of people have pointed out the auspicious timing of Philippe Sands’ Green Light article, appearing as it did at the same time as the Torture Memo. I’m just as struck, though, by its appearance shortly after the publication of profiles of two of the women convicted for abuse at Abu Ghraib: a long Stern interview with Lynndie England and a New Yorker profile of Sabrina Harman. Within short order, then, we have profiles of three of the women who enabled torture.
The England interview describes how England, who had joined the army to get out of her bleak West Virginia town, is stuck back there, unable to get a job and therefore a house of her own for her and her son (via Charles Graner).
I’m just trying to get by. Trying to find a job, trying to find a house. It’s been harder than I expected. I went to a couple of interviews, and I thought they went great. I wrote dozens of applications. Nothing came of it. I put in at Wal-Mart, at Staples. I’d do any job. But I never heard from them.
I am starting to wonder if they realize who I am and they don’t want the publicity. I don’t want to lie. On my resume I have a brief little paragraph about what I did in the army and about being in prison and that I’m still on parole. I want to be totally honest. I have to find a job by September, that’s part of the parole regulations. If you break the rules, then they can bring you back. That would be a big deal because I don’t want to leave my son.
England stays in her home town, she explains, because only there do people support her, some agreeing they would have done as she did, follow orders.
They don’t treat me any different. I haven’t met a person yet that’s been negative to me. Not since I got home. Most of them back me up one hundred percent. They say, "What happened to you was wrong." And some even say they would have done the same thing.
That they would have followed orders, just as I did in Abu Ghraib.
She stays in her home town, too, out of fear that elsewhere a stranger will come after her and her son.
I know more people support me here than are against me. It’s that one crazy one that you don’t know that finds out where you live and comes after you.
There’s a part of me that regrets that the most public face of Abu Ghraib is this woman who has had so little in her life. But she’s a totally unsympathetic person, someone who repeatedly appeals to the orders she received, and ultimately cannot totally disavow what she did.
Of course it was wrong. I know that now. But when you show the people from the CIA, the FBI and the MI the pictures and they say, "Hey, this is a great job. Keep it up", you think it must be right. They were all there and they didn’t say a word. They didn’t wear uniforms, and if they did they had their nametags covered.
To be honest, the whole time I never really felt guilty because I was following orders and I was doing what I was supposed to do. So I’ve never felt guilty about doing anything that I did there.
Okay, I do take responsibility. I was dumb enough to do all that. And to think that it was okay because of the other officers and the orders that were coming down. But when you’re in the military you automatically do what they say. It’s always, "Yes Sir, No Sir." You don’t question it. And now they’re saying, "Well, you should have questioned it."
England’s biggest regret, it seems, is that the pictures they took in Abu Ghraib got publicized and exposed what they had done and probably endangered other Americans.
I guess after the picture came out the insurgency picked up and Iraqis attacked the Americans and the British and they attacked in return and they were just killing each other. I felt bad about it, … no, I felt pissed off. If the media hadn’t exposed the pictures to that extent then thousands of lives would have been saved.
At least in what Stern published, England doesn’t blame Sabrina Harman, the woman who took most of the photos.
Harman comes off as a much more sympathetic person than England. In the profile, one after another person describes how sensitive she is.
“Sabrina literally would not hurt a fly,” her team leader, Sergeant Hydrue Joyner, said. “If there’s a fly on the floor and you go to step on it, she will stop you.” Specialist Jeremy Sivits, a mechanic in the company’s motor pool, said, “We’d try to kill a cricket, because it kept us up all night in the tent. She would push us out of the way to get to this cricket, and would go running out of the tent with it. She could care less if she got sleep, as long as that cricket was safe.”
Harman bought her Iraqi friends clothes and food and toys. She bought one family a refrigerator, and made sure it was stocked. Sergeant Joyner said, “The Iraqi kids—you couldn’t go anywhere without them saying, ‘Sabrina, Sabrina.’ They just loved themselves some Sabrina. She’ll get these kids balloons, toys, sodas, crackers, cookies, snacks, sweet rolls, Ho Hos, Ding Dongs, Twinkies, she didn’t care. She would do anything she could to make them kids smile.”
[in a letter Harman wrote to her wife] I have watch of the 18 and younger boys. I hear, misses! Misses! I go downstairs and flash my light on this 16 year old sitting down with his sandal smacking ants. Now these ants are Iraqi ants, LARGE! So large they could carry the family dog away while giving you the finger! LARGE. And this poor boy is being attacked by hundreds. All the ants in the prison came to this one boys cell and decided to take over. All I could do was spray Lysol. The ants laughed at me and kept going. So here we were the boy on one side of the cell and me on the other in the dark with one small flashlight beating ants with our shoes. . . . Poor kids.
“She is just so naïve, but awesome,” [Megan Ambuhl, the other woman punished for the abuse] said. “A good person, but not always aware of the situation.”
Along with her sensitivity, the profile describes Harman’s drive to capture everything in photos.
She liked to look. She might recoil from violence, but she was drawn to its aftermath. When others wanted to look away, she’d want to look more closely. Wounded and dead bodies fascinated her. “She would not let you step on an ant,” Sergeant Davis said. “But if it dies she’d want to know how it died.” And taking pictures fascinated her. “Even if somebody is hurt, the first thing I think about is taking photos of that injury,” Harman said. “Of course, I’m going to help them first, but the first reaction is to take a photo.” first grenade go off. Fun!” Later, she paid a visit to an Al Hillah morgue and took pictures: mummified bodies, smoked by decay; extreme closeups of their faces, their lifeless hands, the torn flesh and bone of their wounds; a punctured chest, a severed foot. The photographs are ripe with forensic information. Harman also had her picture taken at the morgue, leaning over one of the blackened corpses, her sun-flushed cheek inches from its crusted eye sockets. She is smiling—a forced but lovely smile—and her right hand is raised in a fist, giving the thumbs-up, as she usually did when a camera was pointed at her.
That combination–Harman’s sensitivity and her fascination with images–is how she explained to her wife her decision to take pictures of the abuse in another letter.
Okay, I don’t like that anymore. At first it was funny but these people are going too far. I ended your letter last night because it was time to wake the MI prisoners and “mess with them” but it went too far even I can’t handle whats going on. I cant get it out of my head. I walk down stairs after blowing the whistle and beating on the cells with an asp to find “the taxicab driver” handcuffed backwards to his window naked with his underwear over his head and face. He looked like Jesus Christ. At first I had to laugh so I went on and grabbed the camera and took a picture. One of the guys took my asp and started “poking” at his dick. Again I thought, okay that’s funny then it hit me, that’s a form of molestation. You can’t do that. I took more pictures now to “record” what is going on.
The profile shows, though, that Harman’s self-conception of her role "recording" the abuse is self-deception designed to preserve the fiction of her own innocence.
In her letters from those first nights, as she described her reactions to the prisoners’ degradation and her part in it—ricocheting from childish mockery to casual swagger to sympathy to cruelty to titillation to self-justification to self-doubt to outrage to identification to despair—she managed to subtract herself from the scenes she sketched. By the end of her outpourings, she had repositioned herself as an outsider at Abu Ghraib, an observer and recorder, shaking her head, and in this way she preserved a sense of her own innocence.
“I was trying to expose what was being allowed”—that phrase again—“what the military was allowing to happen to other people,” Harman said. In other words, she wanted to expose a policy; and by assuming the role of a documentarian she had found a way to ride out her time at Abu Ghraib without having to regard herself as an instrument of that policy. But it was not merely her choice to be a witness to the dirty work on Tier 1A: it was her role. As a woman, she was not expected to wrestle prisoners into stress positions or otherwise overpower them but, rather, just by her presence, to amplify their sense of powerlessness. She was there as an instrument of humiliation.
Harman’s discussion of taking the iconic picture from Abu Ghraib–the hooded and caped prisoner standing on a box with electrical wires attached to his fingers–captures the real self-deception of her position.
“I knew he wouldn’t be electrocuted,” she said. “So it really didn’t bother me. I mean, it was just words. There was really no action in it.
(The profile goes on to note that, after the military determined he was innocent, this particular prisoner became a favored prisoner. It also includes a meditation about why this image, of all the images taken at Abu Ghraib, proved so iconic.)
The New Yorker presents a much more ambivalent portrait of Harman than Stern does of England–but much of that derives from the subject. Even someone who, like Harman, went out of her way to be kind to some detainees at Abu Ghraib, invented fictions to distance herself from the role she played in the humiliation of the Iraqis.
Both Lynndie England and Sabrina Harman joined the army at least partly to earn money to go to college (though England says she was primarily attracted to military culture). Perhaps that’s why Diane Beaver joined up as well. She, like the two other women, started out in the Military Police. But when she wrote the memo the Administration blamed for the torture at Gitmo, Beaver had the benefit of a law degree and a prior visit to Nuremberg to give her the context that might help her understand her own actions. Even in spite of that relative advantage, Sands describes Beaver as nervous, having been hung out to dry.
In our lengthy conversations, which began in the autumn of 2006, she seemed coiled up—mistreated, hung out to dry.
Strikingly, Beaver conceives of the way her gender played into her role in authorizing torture; like Harman, she serves a particular role in the masculine violence directed at detainees.
“Who has the glassy eyes?,” Beaver asked herself as she surveyed the men around the room, 30 or more of them. She was invariably the only woman present—as she saw it, keeping control of the boys. The younger men would get particularly agitated, excited even. “You could almost see their dicks getting hard as they got new ideas,” Beaver recalled, a wan smile flickering on her face. “And I said to myself, You know what? I don’t have a dick to get hard—I can stay detached.”
And like Harman, Beaver has a narrative she has developed to distance herself from the process. She facilitated the process of brainstorming torture, she describes, she didn’t lead the process.
Some of the meetings were led by Beaver. “I kept minutes. I got everyone together. I invited. I facilitated,” she told me.
Ultimately, Beaver, like England and (to a lesser degree) Harman, appeals to the orders she received. Indeed, her memo exists largely because she insisted on documenting that those orders came from the top. But it also served primarily to confirm the orders she received.
Talking about the episode even long afterward made her visibly anxious. Her hand tapped and she moved restlessly in her chair. She recalled the message they had received from the visitors: Do “whatever needed to be done.” That was a green light from the very top—the lawyers for Bush, Cheney, Rumsfeld, and the C.I.A.
Diane Beaver was insistent that the decision to implement new interrogation techniques had to be properly written up and that it needed a paper trail leading to authorization from the top, not from “the dirt on the ground,” as she self-deprecatingly described herself.
In the end she worked on her own, completing the task just before the Columbus Day weekend. Her memo was entitled “Legal Review of Aggressive Interrogation Techniques.” The key fact was that none of the detainees were protected by Geneva, owing to Douglas Feith’s handiwork and the president’s decision in February. She also concluded that the torture convention and other international laws did not apply, conclusions that a person more fully schooled in the relevant law might well have questioned: “It was not my job to second-guess the president,” she told me.
But in the end she concluded, I “agree that the proposed strategies do not violate applicable federal law.” The word “agree” stands out—she seems to be confirming a policy decision that she knows has already been made.
From untrained reservists humiliating the detainees to the JAG officer who wrote the memo specifically authorizing torture at Gitmo, the dynamics are the same.
The Banality of Enhanced Interrogation
No matter how horrible were the things these three women did, these profiles still capture their ambivalence. You can’t understand Lynndie England without understanding the environment from which she comes, in which some people say they would have done the same as she did. You can condemn what she did–and especially her lack of remorse–but you can’t help but sympathize with this single mother who is completely unemployable, trying to raise a son in bleak circumstances. England’s son did not abuse prisoners on the other side of the world, but it’s hard to imagine how he won’t pay for what his father and mother did for much of his life.
It’s the ambivalence we see in all three profiles that strikes me. Particularly when you compare them to the glib snippets of two of the men who directed these acts. Sands describes, for example, David Addington, greeting Beaver after she wrote her memo with a smile.
Once, after returning to a job at the Pentagon, Beaver passed David Addington in a hallway—the first time she had seen him since his visit to Guantánamo. He recognized her immediately, smiled, and said, “Great minds think alike.”
And he describes Rummy, recording his own recognition that his behavior was wrong in a cocky note approving the torture at Gitmo.
Rumsfeld placed his name next to the word “Approved” and wrote the jocular comment that may well expose him to difficulties in the witness stand at some future time.
I presume a good writer could write similar narratives that capture the ambivalence of these two men. Did you know, for example, that Addington takes the Metro to work? And think of the way the documentary The Fog of War captured some of the ambivalence of Robert McNamara’s life (though of course the documentary was made after McNamara had actually confronted his own ambivalence; I’m not sure Rummy will ever do so).
But for the moment, the record shows only the glib satisfaction with which the Addingtons and Rummys view their own actions.
Very interesting, ew. Is conformism really the driving force of humanity? As long as everyone else is going along, who am I to question? It takes a rare person to go against the tide.
And in the category of glib satisfaction, let’s not forget TFSGOTP.
Another thought. It is easy to feel sympathy for England and Harman, even though something is definitely missing there. Not as much for Beaver. It makes me think of “the circle of guilt.” Who is inside, who is outside? How close does the circle get before one feels one’s own responsibility?
This banality is the reason we had the Nuremburg trials. We understand that the biggest abuses of power come from the top, that those people manipulate the rest of us with known and new tools, and that failing to hold them accountable means that the worst aspects of human nature will run free.
thanks ew – you’ve written an important piece that i hope is not overlooked because it is saturday. the narratives we write for ourselves seldom include the perspective of the people we’ve harmed.
i read the sands’ piece before starting the yoo brief – being familiar with “lawless world” i thought the vanity fair essay would help prepare me for yoo. but i think nothing could, i still haven’t gotten through it… as i can’t seem to read more than a couple of pages at a time.
last night i transcribed a bit from a talk mark danner gave some time after debating yoo. i think it helps put rummy’s comment in some perspective. here’s the comment i left on ES’s late late nite thread (hope you don’t mind that i cross post it here):
i just finished a quick transcription to share. this is from from mark danner’s talk, “Into the Light of Day: Human Rights after Abu Ghraib” at stanford, 2006. available for download at itunes. (this talk was after danner’s debate with yoo).
danner goes into many other much worse things, including descriptions of prisoners being sodomized. but i wanted to share this bit because it highlights, for me, what the language we use (”enhanced interrogation” “long time standing”) only serve to obscure.
and this is what yoo was attempting to provide legal cover for.
Little wonder the administration chose “enhanced interrogation”; the original German is so much more visceral: verschaefte Vernehmung.
To support what Selise is saying, I’d only alter it to say that their sadism (Republicans) goes back a farther than that.
I’m reading an old book called The Lincoln Conspiracy, and it details how “The Radical Republicans” were involved in the removal of Lincoln from office and how they conspired with John Wilkes Booth. Near the end it goes into detail in how the Sec. of War Stanton (Rad Repub) coordinated the coverup of who was involved and how, and how they used
enhanced interrogationTORTURE to coerce confessions after the assassination.
There’s a lot more but I’d have to find those pages
Oh, plus they get into how they want to speed up the trials because they fear how the Ex Parte Milligan case is going to turn out
I also hope this important post won’t be overlooked on the weekend. Suggest it be cross-posted over @ FDL proper.
Not really OT- may I recommend some vids I just finished watching of an all day conference @ Seattle University School of Law on the topic “What is to be Done with “Terrorists?” Hard hitting on Abu Ghraib, Gitmo, Hamdan, & a slew of related material covered by several diverse expert panels. Former USA John McKay, who now teaches @ Seattle U Law School, moderates the conclusory panel:
3 – Yes. That’s why I hold the lawyers who have over and over and over and over enabled and covered up and conspired the most accountable. As the record emerges from CIA and the active military, even Presidential directives and orders, standing alone, where not enough to enable the worst of the behaviors. It took the assistance and leadership of the Dept of Justice to really pave the way to “legalized depravity.” Apparently, the NSA under Hayden and used to the protections of blanket secrecy, was more malleable to initiating felonies against Americans without as much legal support and authority, but still, in the end, DOJ was the needle in the addict’s vein and they remain there today.
Part of the problem for England and Harman was the setting in which they operated in and of itself. As low ranking women surrounded by very hyped up guys who had been told they were in a no rules setting, the prospects of not going along aren’t pretty and the military reinforcement of bonding within units and the us v. them issues are all pressures.
Still, while we see the sympathetic stories over and over here, what we never do get here is the same kind of exposure and profiling of the victims. Harman’s story, for example, highlights that even after he was found to be innocent, “Gilligan” remained a detainee. Like many. She also mentions one of the stories that was barely touched upon here – the routine taking of family members as hostages to get adult males (whether innocent or not) in the family to turn themselves in.
The reprucussions for the women that US forces snatched as hostages and took off to places like Abu Ghraib and other facilities was a big issue in non-US press, but not much of even a flutter here. And the children who were taken to be used as hostages to get their parents as well – Harman mentions that in one of her emails, that it’s sad the kids are there just because we are trying to get their father. It’s sad and it’s a war crime and no one every investigate or pursued it in any way. The Harman piece also refers to the man who was tortured to death and whose body appears in one of her pictures. She ends up with convictions because she took pictures, but the men who were involved in the torture death itself – nothing.
For Beaver, I have a hard time saying much. She wasn’t in the same physical threat situation as the other two. My first exposure to her role at all was reading her memo and, like Sands I would agree that: “Time and distance do not improve the quality of the advice. I thought it was awful when I first read it, and awful when I reread it.”
For a woman who visited Nuremberg, the essence of her opinion is more startling. She basically adopts the Nuremberg defense, saying that things that are clearly violations of the UCMJ and Geneva Conventions are acceptable if authorized by order of a more senior soldiers. It is tough to be a younger woman, surrounded by the likes of people like Haynes and Addington and Rumsfeld breathing down you neck – but young women attorneys deal with this kind of thing all the time, in lots of settings, and you choose who you are each time it happens.
It’s never easy to be the 25 yo ‘girl’ in a room full of 40 and up guys who have so much power that it wafts around them and changes the air in the room when they enter. It’s not easy to be the young guy in that setting either for that matter. You either stand your ground or you do something else for a living. You may not stand it with aplomb and you may not stand it well, and you may be left behind on it as the testosterone tide rolls out, but if your path is just to be an enabler, you don’t cling to the pretense that you are a lawyer.
Every lawyer has to tell clients no and, sometimes more difficult, they have to tell colleagues no. It’s not nearly as much fun as being voted Ms. Popularity, but it’s the job. It may leave you with your voice shaken and trembling and your heart beating a thousand beats a minute, and it may keep you up for nights, worrying about the consequences of drawing the line in the sand, but it’s part of the job.
That doesn’t excuse anyone up the chain who didn’t override the Beaver memo (as a matter of fact, didn’t Haynes promote her after it?) or who pressured the outcome, etc. but the fact that there are higher ups is sometimes just used as a shield to try to deflect personal responsiblity as well.
i wouldn’t leave out the psychologists and (apparently) doctors who had to review and approve all “category 2″ and “category 3″ “interrogations”
“I wouldn’t leave out doctors..”
The role of medical & mental health professionals in our torture operations is important.
A team of American psychologists, James Elmer Mitchell & Bruce Jessen have a lucrative practice “consulting” on torture techniques. The Vanity Fair story below is excellent. Other links touch on the controversey.
I think this illustrates the administration’s revolutionary toujours de l’audace approach to “governance”. Consolidating a revolution requires that its new ways become banal. One way to do that is to force (via threats of ridicule, punishment or discharge) ordinary soldiers (England and Harman may have done extraordinary things, but the reasons they entered the military are commonplace) to regard them as ordinary conduct.
The success is immediate in that it elicits the desired conduct. It becomes lasting in the predictable need of these soldiers to defend their behavior when they do it the first time, the second and when they come home to civil society. The inevitable outcry from disclosure brings even greater efforts at self-defense, which are now buttressed by support from neighbors and friends. Which is then echoed on the national scene via the punditry of Kmiecs and Posners, Drudges and Limbaughs, and in Congress via thoughtless shouts to Support the Troops!, regardless of their behavior.
This administration is not effective at many things. It is startlingly competent at some, and not just in covering their own backsides.
It would be nice if there were a piece out there to include another portrait – Townsend’s – to round out the review. Was she part of the delegation that went down to observe at GITMO?
Fran Townsend? Interesting suggestion. Though from what I’ve heard there would be little ambivalence there either.
i wonder how much of the ambivalence is simply a reflection of the ambivalence of the audience? none of the stories seem to me to describe a person with much ability to see the world independently through their own eyes.
But I think that’s a fundamentally human defense mechanism.
Not that I’m trying to excuse them, but I suspect that Rummy, at least, manages to rationalize his advocacy of torture through his almost constant sense of irony. You saw it in all his interviews–even while Rummy was talking about the most serious thing, he’d still be treating himself as an ironic figure. And that’s what we see when he signs the authorization to torture–more self-ironization.
Addington, I think, is something different. In a longer version of the post on his testimony at the Libby trial, I wondered whether he didn’t have Aspergers. I know nothing about it, but he acted like I’ve always seen descriptions of people with Aspergers. He had absolutely no filter–none. It was almost hypnotizing to watch him.
That’s interesting you would think Addington might have Aspergers syndrome. I have a friend who is an art designer for films & tv. He has Aspergers syndrome, as does his nine yr. old son. The guy’s brilliant, very detached & analytical. Keeps finely detailed set drawings in his head to be quickly & finely drawn on demand when you ask, to everyone’s amazement. And no filter whatsoever, which has led to some extremely amusing job interviews where others laugh or squirm while he remains nonplussed.
Personally I really like talking w/him, though mutual friends can find him a bit off-putting.
For new readers, the phrase “the banality of evil” was coined by Hannah Arendt, a brilliant political philosopher and German emigre who covered the belated 1963 war crimes trial of Adolf Eichmann. (Belated because Eichmann had escaped to South America after the war and lived in hiding for nearly twenty years.) Eichmann was “the simple bureaucrat” whose considerable logistical skills enabled the Nazi’s complex, resource-intensive civilian murder machine operate so smoothly in the midst of all-out war.
The simplicity and irony in Arendt’s phrase perfectly captures her derision at Eichmann’s defense — which included “I was just following orders”, “I didn’t make decisions, I was only lowly bureaucrat”, and the familiar, “Who could have known the evil that was done because of my efficiency?”. It equally captures the potential for evil that continues to exist in the most unassuming places, even the offices of mid-level government lawyers who are only trying to protect us from further harm.
Also for newbies, there’s this:
but the real problem is there is no “enhanced interrogation’, you get less information, the information you do get is not likely to be nearly as accurate
the real purpose of torture is to create fear, to create unrest, to make certain the country you are occupying does not accept you as benevolent
they want unending war, they invited insurgency and they knew it
this was the very purpose
Marty Lederman and Eric Posner are arguing about the banality of John Yoo’s legal arguments and the bona fides of his competence and good faith. This comment from Marty, I think, is the better view and accords with the arguments we’re making here:
The fantasy of technological solutions to human economic impediments might issue of a cultural trop supporting a left brain bias secondary to the pathologies of financialization. Cf. the systemic distribution of surplus value in media, the closing of the frontiers and the mechanization of work. Why else would soviet style management techniques find such appeal among a political vanguard?
Rene Grousset in his epic studies of Chinese and Roman annals to portray eurasian tribalism notes a decline of brutality with the propogation of Christianity and Buddhism. Leaving the issues of fundamentalism aside, could these studies suggest the cultural power of enlightened principle?
Still the conflation of tribal emotions and rational education historically has a mixed record especially if fear obscures the inherent benefits of rational enlightenment.
Perhaps a kind of constitutional spiritism, a revival of the political interests that advanced both Abraham Lincoln and Madame Blavatsky to the popular forefront in the 19th Century yet is the solution. This kind of consciousness may be the one ultimately receptive to devices like the feuilleton and the kind of cultural unraveling that precipitates a water shed moment like the Dreyfus Affair. And I only mention these things in the context of the challenge of framing suggested through these threads in the face of the ultra vires conversions of Constitutional Sovereignty noted in the new revelations pointing beyond “a few bad apples.” The caveat of course is the experience of mythic propoganda in the rise of fascism.
What is the public left with but banality if the mythos of frontier prosperity is subsumed in pharmaceutical sales, day trading, river boat gambling, financial arbitrage, mandatory insurance, mirror-game politics, internet prostitution rings and money lending? But there yet is the potential of a Yankee explosion toward a vast cybernetic exploitation of solar and bio/solar energetics (contrast this to the bionecrology of the petroleum trade)and the multi-cultural transcendant civil potential born of the 14th Amendment that distinguishes our potential. And probably yet enough residual surplus remaing to continue to permit the free time required for extracurricular education and commenting.
yes, to a greater or lesser extent. that’s why i wrote that:
and i include myself here… but with time and distance one hopes for a bit of introspection/reflection to temper the defenses?
One of the conclusions of the investigation into the My Lai Massacre was that Lt. Calley was an Officer who had no leadership fiber in him. He should never have received a Commission to begin with.
On that day, Calley lost control, joined the madness himself, and – over 400 dead women, children and old men later – he claimed he was only following orders.
Calley didn’t have ‘the right stuff’ to Lead soldiers into the barbarity of combat, and bring them back with their honor and dignity intact.
Since you are looking at the roles of uniformed military women in the Torture Program, here’s an Army Captain, Carolyn Wood, who was featured in the BBC Documentary “Taxi Cab to the Dark Side” – the story of Dilawar’s murder.
I don’t know if she’s as banal as England, Harman or Beaver, but Wood, like Calley, certainly doesn’t have ‘the right stuff’ – the ability to tell right from wrong, even under fire – as a Leader. I guess that’s why she’s a Torturer…
Perhaps one of the historical truths of Abu Ghraib will be that whereas Calley’s Lack of Moral Fiber was ’seen’ as the Exception in Vietnam, today his excuse for Officers – like Wood and her entire Chain of Command – is now ’seen’ as the Rule – Nuremburg be damned!
We know enough today that it is obvious that England, Harman, Beaver, and Wood were Empowered in their Depravity by none other than Bush and Rumsfeld, Addington/Yoo/Haynes, and the Chain of Command that reached all the way down to all those who were ‘green-lighted’ to Torture.
Like Yoo said – It’s not that interrogators “Should” but they “Can” – without fear of Legal reprisal – because it’s not Torture unless Bush says it is, and Bush is your Commander in Chief.
“Your Country needs that information – now go get it!” “Whatever it takes.” “The gloves are off.”
Isn’t this the entirety of the question before us? How did we go so far off the tracks as a nation, to conflate honor and dignity with the savage abuse of untried civilians?
How did we forget the lessons of the Holocaust, of My Lai? How did these very events get turned upside down and used against others — look at how the Holocaust is now justification by a political faction for the utter and complete suppression and subjugation of an “other”? How did My Lai eventually yield a military that nearly wiped Fallujah off the map?
How is it that we stopped having conversations about real evil, genuine goodness, spending our time quibbling over blowjobs in the White House instead, so that people without any conscience and without social filters could take our country hostage?
How did all of us — a majority sufficient to elect an administration — lose the “right stuff”?
One of the results of My Lai was the military stopped commissioning individuals without at least a Bachelor’s degree. I forget the specific rationale but I think the feeling was the better educated the individual, the less likely to perpetrate these types of horrors.
It may have changed or it may have been unofficial but when I was in ROTC, they were quite emphatic that no one without the degree would be commissioned.
I wind up enlisting in the AF but I went through the Army ROTC for the full 4 years. Was eventually “honorably discharged” from the program when we agreed to disagree. This was right after ‘Nam in ‘75, so they were looking for reasons to cut back and I gave ‘em a few. :})
Gotcha. Requirements do fluctuate. My grad work was on the GED and I looked at recruiting criteria and it changes according to need.
No thought that, oh, this innocent prisoner ought to go free? That perfectly captures this administration’s Bush League notion justice, as does much that takes place at Guantanamo Bay in Cuba.
Having captured and tortured an innocent victims is bad, the administration retains some hold on reality. But its primary concern is for its own political fortunes. It keeps innocents banged up, lest they reveal the administration’s flailing, usuriously expensive incompetence.
You noticed that, huh?
Just routine, m’am. That couldn’t possibly be why you excerpted it in the first place, now could it?
Go after Addington and watch how fast he throws Bush and Cheney under the bus…he’s got “all” the dirt on them both.
Yes, I think Addington is the first one — not merely because he has the “dirt”, but because of his lack of filters.
Call me an opportunist, but we should take advantage of the very thing that they prized so much in Addington: his inability to put a brake on questions.
They asked him to solve problem “X”, and he did, without questioning the orders, just as England did, rolling over for Graner, rolling over for her chain of command.
Yes, and I think that EW’s observations of him during the Libby trial show that he’ll just spill the beans and pass the buck. He has no conscience and ultimately no loyalty. He’s like a robot. His firewall though, would be Mukasey at this point, I would think…he’d never let testimony from Addington see the light of day, but if he advised the Admin to commit crimes…who knows…maybe the American Bar Association would be able to do something.
Oh, no. The government might thrice disavow Mr. Addington – the cock might crow, the heavens rend and the earth weep – but he would not disavow Mr. Cheney. And Mr. Cheney will not forsake him.
Mr. Addington also knows, and this administration’s radical behavior is built on that knowledge, that the Democrats would not stoop to the depths of the Bushies. Short of using its own methods of interrogation against it (which we know don’t elicit credible data), we might never know the extent of its criminality.
So Mr. Addington is safe to become a radical adviser for GOP candidates and administrations to follow. That is, unless a progressive administration actually reviewed its own records and, working with a progressive Congress, investigated and prosecuted the serial wrongs, evidence of which must litter the streets and hallways of Metro DC.
Did this thread just jump over to FDL by mistake? We’re in the middle of Blue America with Greg Fischer right now. He’s running for Mitch McConnell’s seat in the Senate. ALSO a very important thing… hint, hint.
I think it’s some new functionality Jane tested the other day. It allows for cross posting and gives EW a front page on FDL but brings folks here. Kind of a hybrid.
but, but… we are in a fund-raising drive… don’t get me wrong. I LUUUUUURRRVE me some EW. Lord knows it’s true!
But…. we need to ditch mitch! and defeat the odious DINO that the DSCC is trying to shove down our throats.
10 – well, not much ambivalence from me, that’s for sure. I think Comey contributed some admiring observations for a USNews&WR piece on her. I think she’d be an interesting addition because she had much more power than the other three in her own fashion, but had even before 9/11 appeared to get it by being the same kind of sychophant Beaver was – Townsend was Beaver with the typical progression of that kind of response. Even the FISC barring her, as has been reported, didn’t derail her ability to cling to the powersuits and stay aloft.
9- Yes, but they only reason they had categories they could approve within is because the lawyers created them. It’s not that there isn’t all kinds of blame to go around, and all kinds of excuses for that matter. It’s that people said over and over, “I need the protection of a legal opinion” and DOJ handed them out. I’ve mentioned this story before, but a friend of mine got a call one day from a client at a bar wanting to know some legal ways he could beat someone up. Seriously. And you know what? If she had coughed up something, he’d have done it. Even Bush was only titular. The power Yoo and Addington and others were able to exercise was basically manipulating the Emperor’s thumb to up or down. I think that did the same for them as thinking up new abuses did for Beaver’s glassy eyed crew.
19 – It’s hard to remember this, thinking back, but when Calley went to trial, there was a lot surpressed from the media coverage in general, but even with the pictures of the dead and the stories of grabbing a toddler, crawling, crying, out of the killing ditch and tossing him back in and killing him, MOST people in the country thought Calley should walk. That’s where the national ambivalence took us then – after years and years of hearing that “those people” were all the enemy, the ones were were fighting “for” being indistinguishable from the ones we were fighting “against” Some of the EXACT same phrases that were used by the soliders at My Lai (and there were sexual assaults and rapes to fill out what happened there as well) have come from the soldiers involved in Haditha, in particular this one: The whole village was bad. Having heard it before, it was beyond sad and depressing to hear it again.
I really see Higazy’s case as the universe telling us exactly what to expect from a panicked application of coercion. Instead of learning from it – DOJ publically embraced the great job done by everyone involved.
You can almost always understand a panicked overreaction, a stressed bad call, a point in time when things just aren’t clear and you are willing to do things that horrify you later. The key being, “that horrify you later.” The DOJ, with tame media in tow, used every bit of its leadership and institutional integrity to make the “horrify you later” part go away; to assuage with legalizations and rationalizations, to dehumanize, to do all the things that everything we are taught tells us not to do, not to accept, not to participate in. And institutionally, there are no horrified voices. Not one. Direct institutional participation in kidnaps, tortures, childnapping, deaths, coverups, obstruction, etc. has generted massive and direct institutional acceptance and that institution sets the national standard.
JAG officers fought, resigned, lost their jobs and careers, and spoke out – diplomats resigned – DOJ stayed the course and still does. A military officer takes the stand and embraces waterboarding, and other military men immediately and publically resign and publically repudiates that position. Mukasey signals his support and his devotion to allowing criminal behaviour in the Executive Branch to be protected on all fronts, and not one DOJ lawyer does the same. Not one did the same at any point. For years now it’s been like watching a slinky going down the stairs – a jerky and uneven descent, but one where there has never been any indication of a trajectory that goes anywhere but down.
I’ll never be a philospher bc I don’t understand people that well. I dt tend to see things through the filter of the animals around me. Every day I get up and deal with 4 German shepherds acquired at different times and from different backgrounds and every day, no matter what happens, you have to reaffirm with them the rules. Every day, they learn and relearn to act acceptably, with respect for the 4 lb cat and the crippled goat and the child that reaches out to pet them. Every day, you have to reinforce that, whether or not the cat smacks them for no reason or the goat smells like prey waiting to be finished or the child accidentally pokes them in the eye, they have too much power to be allowed to respond in kind.
Every day, if you say – not today, I’m just not into making the rules stick today, every day the only thing that keeps the weak from being hurt or maimed or killed is the fact that you demand it. And eventually, that power unchecked causes injuries that can’t be healed leaves you with things that can’t be undone. You have to take responsiblity and once you abdicate that, there’s chaos.
I know that makes for an oversimplification that doesn’t factor in some of the issues, but I do understand the drives to conformity. It’s a l000 times harder to make the 4th dog stay back and not attack after you’ve allowed the first one, then the next, then the next. You don’t stop the attack by going after the Harmans and Englands, you stop it by making damn sure the leader of the pack knows that he/she is bound by the rule to not attack, before it happens. The DOJ opinions were the same as me leaning down and whispering in the ear of my high strung, aggressive, male – “get ‘em” It only takes a whisper.
I think what was also suppressed at the time was the fear among professional and drafted officers alike that, “There but for the grace of God, go I”. Yes, Calley succumbed; who else might? And how does the atrocity of killing dozens of villagers stack up with the bureaucratic (dare I say, banal) lies of the early military leadership that “The war in Vietnam is going swimmingly, we’re winning”, which kept us there, all sides killing each other for years. Not to mention the deceptions revealed in the Pentagon Papers.
How does it stack up? It’s the the same thing.
Decades-old Pentagon records show that Army criminal investigators substantiated seven massacres of Vietnamese and Cambodian civilians by U.S. soldiers — in addition to the notorious 1968 My Lai massacre.
My bad: “career and drafted officers alike”. Professionalism is something else entirely.
Not many draftees became officers, some, but not many.
If the state is corrupted how will status save anyone?
Is that a trick question? Nobody but me is gonna save me.
I wouldn’t take anything I say too seriously. It’s intended to be light.
I think what’s missing is “enlistees”, as in, “You can wait and be drafted, and enjoy your time on Paris Island. Or you can join up for a longer stint, and spend part of it at the Quantico country club.”
No slight intended on the work, or the skills acquired, but it filled the gap between career and draftee officers.
Well, you’d have to be pretty gullible to become a Marine Corps 2nd Lt in order to avoid, what? Their kia ratio was pretty steep.
So I’ve heard. But I have it from unimpeachable sources that that was a common recruiters’ line on college campuses. I don’t think they intended it for use on the class valedictorian.
Aha, you mean now!
If by “now” you mean 1968, yea.
I think you capture the mentality of the Cheney/Bush/Addington administration in a nutshell:
“Never apologize!” “Tell ‘em to go Cheney themselves if they don’t like my pissing on the Constitution.” and “Who cares if I shoot straight, so long as I pull the trigger?”
This discussion is why this is my favorite blog – no nastiness – just an extremely intelligent laying out of various parts of an issue.
My own view of the torture issue is that humans have the ability to do bad things – e.g., torture other human beings. This is why we have rules/laws in place to prevent this kind of action.
In a purely military context (as a Naval Officer and DoD employee for 32 years), I have never met anyone who said torture would produce useful, truthful information. Therefore the restrictions on torture contained in the Geneva Conventions, etc., are there to try and put a set of rules in place that will present some level of safety for all people in a wartime situation. This is one of the things that has always frightened me during this torture discussion – don’t the people (Rumsfeld, Yoo, Addington, Cambone, etc.) understand what this does to our own people faced with a captured situation?
As to the Abu Ghraib case, it seems certain to me that the actions of the lower level perpetrators were caused by an atmosphere stemming from the policy – formal or INFORMAL – laid down from the top of the chain of command. This would never have happened without the ‘troops’ feeling they were doing what ‘the Brass’ wanted done – whether it was in writing or not. And we now find that a lot of the ‘policy’ was in writing.
Should all involved be punished – my answer is yes. The lower level ones have already received their punishment, but the rest of the chain still stands free. BGen Karpenski has been made a fall gal, but her higher ups have not faced a court.
IMHO, Bush, Cheney, Rumsfeld, Addinton, Yoo and many others in the military chain of command should be charged with crimes against humanity.
Mary suggested a parallel profile of Fran Townsend. But I think one of Karpinski would be interesting as well.
Not that this is all about the women involved. Though when you tell the story from the women’s perspective, it sure reveals the gender largely mobilized in torture.
If they succeed in somehow convincing us torture is necessary, & a plus in the “WOT” bs, they convince the real hold outs. Damn them.
But don’t you think the same atmosphere has pervaded our entire American culture? the lack of critical thinking and analysis manifested by a majority of Americans in the run-up to/during the sale of the Iraq War, for example, established a permissive tone and implicit consent for anything the White House wanted to do.
I think you certainly have a valid point. And I don’t claim that things happening in the general society don’t have a impact on the military society.
However, I still believe the set of rules governing the military society are more influenced by the chain of command within the military. And when you have people like the two star who commanded Gitmo coming in to show the Abu Ghraib people ‘how to do it’, the impact on the military is much stronger, IMHO.
This is what really worries me about “No Child Left Behind”: with its emphasis on math and reading skills (which are needed for the worker bees of business and industry), there’s not enough time left for teaching critical thinking skills in the high schools (which are needed for civics and an effective citizenry). Which is just what the Republicans want: worker bees, who don’t spend too much time thinking.
Bob in HI
And AFAIC, seeing same thing beginning w/media treatment of St. McCain.
24 – that middle paragraph is the really summary of it all, isn’t it. And you can substitute others, like lawyers and members of Congress, for soldiers as well. The only thing I’d add would be the control over the media in the disclosure – drowning and redirecting than outcry with reinforcement.
Have at least 90 semester hours of college study towards a degree and be able to complete your bachelors within one year.
On that day, Calley lost control, joined the madness himself, and – over 400 dead women, children and old men later – he claimed he was only following orders.
I disagree. He was ordered to kill anything that moved. His Company Co, Ernest Medina and Battalion Commander Frank Baker were just as guilt as “Rusty”. I am not trying to excuse Calley but it was typical bullshit when he was scapegoated.
The Master race!
There is something wrong with the news ticker–every link takes me here to this post.
Forgive this OT please. This must be stopped:
“The Wall Street Journal said last week that the US war effort in Iraq must have a double goal.
“The US must recognise that Iran is engaged in a full-up proxy war against it in Iraq,” wrote the military analyst Kimberly Kagan.
There are signs that targeting Iran would unite American politicians across the bitter divide on Iraq. “Iran is the bull in the china shop,” said Ike Skelton, the Democrat chairman of the Armed Services Committee. “In all of this, they seem to have links to all of the Shi’ite groups, whether they be political or military.”
That WSJ article, claiming the Iraq war is a public good, and that it must be seen as the necessary proxy war against Iran, is startling in its dishonesty and cynicism, even for a Murdoch outlet.
Next, the WSJ will be telling us that “Success in Iraq will make it a bulwark against global Islamofascism; it is a domino we must not allow to fall in order to appease liberal fantasies of peace on earth, goodwill toward hippies.”
The writing is so unoriginal, I think even Bill Safire would disdain it. It plagiarizes countless editorials, speeches and books from 1950’s and ’60’s, puts them on a new masthead, and charges double for it.
McCain on TV giving a speech today: He wants to greatly expand the military, all americans should serve, wants to establish permanent bases (recruiting centers) at all colleges and universities in the country to continue Bush’s imperialistic foreign policy. Does’nt want to have a draft but it sounds like he still has it on the table.
God help us.
I think she just did. Electing President Obama or President Hillary just got a whole lot easier.
Really…what drugs is he on…oh yeah, let’s see those health records Johnny boy???
McCain’s been out fundraising this week too
“As the Washington Post reports, McCain is now “assiduously courting
both lobbyists and their wealthy clients, offering them private
audiences as part of his fundraising.” He has more lobbyists as
fundraisers than any other White House contender, and he allows
lobbyists to simultaneously work in his campaign and represent
business clients. In fact, the Post reported that his chief adviser
“said he does a lot of his [lobbying] work by telephone from McCain’s
Straight Talk Express bus.”
Sounds like “I don’t want to have a draft but I will if I have to.” He doesn’t care as long as he get to finish
McCain should be asked if he is willing to draft members of the Bush family. If he say that he is, he should be asked why they have to be forced to serve.
(Andrew Sullivan complained about Kagan’s) academic credentials in linking to her assessment of the progress of the “surge” for the Weekly Standard. I should have disclosed that Kagan is the wife of Frederick Kagan, the principal author of the surge; and his brother is Bob Kagan, another pro-surge advocate and editor at the Weekly Standard, and they’re both sons of Donald Kagan, who is also a neoconservative intellectual. More to the point: Kimberly Kagan is listed as one of the participants in her husband’s research team that came up with the surge in the first place. So when the Weekly Standard decided to compile a regular report on the surge’s progress, they picked the wife of the main author and one of the plan’s original architects. And they never disclosed these relevant facts. So allow me.
The neocon agenda is to establish the Fourth Reich, right here in the U.S. And a bunch of crazy Islamic kids in Baghdad fucked it up for them. Sigh!
I held off saying this, but there have been so many clever references to Rome (republic, empire, etc). I would love to hear Kimberly Kagan being superficial if pedantic in the presence of someone like, eg, Gore Vidal, who would actually know what he was talking about (and would certainly not agree with her).
I learned so much of my Rome from Vidal (Julian is like having an extra volume of Gibbon), not to mention my America. I hope y’all are taking good care of him.
Vidal is one of my favourites. Go look on YouTube for the Buckley-Vidal debates at the 1968 TV coverage of the Democratic convention, where Vidal called Buckley a “crypto-Nazi” and Buckley called Vidal a “queer” – one wag said of the ensuing libel suits that both parties could rely on the defence of truth!
I watched the original — it makes me smile, sort of, now, but at the time I think I was afraid. That was a very scary week.
Did you see the terrific interview that George Stroumboulopoulos did with Vidal on The Hour (CBC) last year? I’m not sure they archive their shows, but that was priceless. Vidal started off by promising that he would try not to fall apart during the show. He is still so sharp, but he is a very generous subject — he works to make the interview a good one, to make his young interviewer look good. I don’t mean that to S’s discredit, either — he is very good — but you’re very aware while watching Vidal of how much he wants to help anyone who isn’t an outright bastard (please forgive the language). With the outright bastards, of course, he is uncompromising. Best senator the U.S. never had, eh?
Great post, EW, and amazing discussion from all. I will do everything I can to disseminate, as soon as I can see through the tears.
Do young people learn about Nuremberg in school any more? It seems to me that that should be fundamental in the education system of a democracy. It’s not just soldiers who have to know — every citizen has to know: “I was just following orders” is not a moral defence.
So much of what was accomplished at Nuremberg was done by American legal thinkers, and that will always be to your credit. I wish it weren’t necessary now, but I think you are writing a new chapter, EW.
Another excellent post, Marcy! This quote enrages me…
I hope they both rot in adjacent cells at The Hague…!
The most banal of presidents. An excerpt from a survey of historians, who conclude by more than a sixty percent margin, that Bush is in a category all by himself as the worst president ever (excerpted by Scott Horton):
wow, that’s an amazingly strong statement backed by a lot of big brains
“The survey says” that 98% of historians rank Mr. Bush’s administration a failure, while more than 60% rank it as the worst failure in American history. A typical comment:
Mr. McCain, please keep saying that the reason you deserve our confidence and our votes is that you will give us four more years of Mr. Bush. Please.
You’d think McCain’s warmongering would even scare the bejeebus out of the media…but..noooooooo…..
I suppose it’s silly to point out,again, that there is no such thing as THE MEDIA.
Moderator, please remove the system data erroneously published at the bottom of comment 71.
John McCain is a warmongerer…repeat, repeat, repeat…it bothers him…heh.
Funny, McCain is not quoted in that article.
“McCain at his media avail today: “It’s a free country, and we have freedom of speech in America, and Mr. [Ed] Shultz is entitled to his views. I would hope that in keeping with his commitment that Sen. Obama would rapidly condemn, Sen. Obama would condemn such language since it was part of his campaign. But that kind of thing, I don’t think is necessary at all in this campaign. I made it very clear how I feel about war and my experiences with it.”
who is Ed Schulz?
He’s a radio guy.
He did Peanuts
That was funny. Well, I laughed, anyway.
Well, I’ve got to stop reading here & get gone, but just thought linking to some “Wasteland” might be in order today. Oh WTH, why not a link to the whole thing. Eliot was nothing if not prescient of these times:
The Wasteland- T.S. Eliot
April can sometimes be the cruellest month. Flow gently, if you can manage it. Read you all later.
An old fav. Thanx for reminding me, Raven. TTFN.
I would guess that the legal work for the arrest and war crimes indictment of George W. Bush, Dick Cheney, Donald Rumsfeld and John Yoo is already in place in several different overseas capitals.
I would guess that it’s only a matter of time that one or all of them find themselves, like Pinochet, before a judge in a war crimes court of law in land where morality is taken seriously — not present day America.
Inevitable doesn’t quite begin to describe it.
The DC Madame case is gearing up again.
The government is calling a witness to explain porn lingo – no, not Yoo (although he and Bybee probably have that memo tucked away too) but a Dect. Haight.
Also a secret client of a lawyer (who has represented David Vitter before) is objecting to a subpoena for the trial. The article visits some of the other people Palfrey has tried to supoena, including Pat Leahy.
Really? DOJ/Prostitution – the relevance needs explanation?
There is apparently another “sealed name” witness whose lawyer was there objecting to the release of his client’s name.
“Once, in a cheap science fiction novel, Fat had come across a perfect description of the Black Iron Prison, but set in the far future. So if you superimposed the past (ancient Rome) over the present (California in the twentieth century) and superimposed the far future world of The Android Cried Me a River over that, you got the Empire, as the supra- or trans-temporal constant. Everyone who had ever lived was literally surrounded by the iron walls of the prison; they were all inside it and none of them knew it.”
Philip K. Dick, Valis, London; Gollancz, 2001, pp. 54-55
Dick nailed it in Valis, didn’t he? Thanx for posting that money quote.
Philip K. Dick, scifi writer famous for his paranoid world-turned-inside-out plots & flaming prose, now revealed as an historian of our times.
Re-reading passages from Ubik, Time Out of Joint, or Flow My Tears. the Policeman Said can seem a hellava lot like reading the paper or watching 24/7 news channels right now.
Or reading the words of England, Harman, & Beaver…
Seasonal, but OT, Digby points to a fabulous excerpt about Martin Luther King from Rick Persltein’s Nixonland. I won’t excerpt the MLK piece, but two comments from Rick that make me proud to be progressive.
One reason Rick says he wrote the book is to dispute the “Santa Clausification” of King: the attempts by David Brooks and others to appropriate Dr. King’s stature as their own while deleting his radicalism and understating his personal courage, erasing the danger to life and limb he met every day for more than a decade and which finally wrenched him, but not his message, from American life.
The Reverend Dr. King gave angry, hopeless people a voice and a peaceful way to use it. They wouldn’t stop using it. Which made the corrupt cross-dressing dictator of the FBI, J. Edgar (Clarice) Hoover, regard King as the most dangerous man in America. Not only did that feed into the prejudices of “the haves”, it assured Mr. Hoover’s tenure at the FBI so that he could “maintain order” and keep the “the have nots” in their proper place. An attitude Mr. Cheney and Mr. Bush have brought back to official Washington.
Rick Persltein deserves the last word, from yesterday:
So much for spell check and my brains. Apologies to Rick Perlstein.
A very important point about “Santa Claus-ing” Dr. King. On Tavis Smiley last night, Michael Eric Dyson pointed out how King’s popularity in white America declined with his opposition to the Vietnam war and his indictment of economic inequality – it was preferred that he confine his criticism to Jim Crow and make inspiring speeches. I think Barack Obama has learned this lesson very well, and decided that it would be fatal to his election chances if he goes beyond speeches about hope. Not a slam at Obama, just an observation that he keenly understands how far America still has to go in terms of what it will accept as reasonably public discourse.
Another example of Santa Claus-ing happened to Helen Keller, who had the bad manners to grow up to be a socialist after everyone preferred that she just be the deaf, mute and blind girl who learned to read and write. From Wikipedia:
“Keller was a member of the Socialist Party and actively campaigned and wrote in support of the working classes from 1909 to 1921. She supported Socialist Party candidate Eugene V. Debs in each of his campaigns for the presidency.
Newspaper columnists who had praised her courage and intelligence before she expressed her socialist views now called attention to her disabilities. The editor of the Brooklyn Eagle wrote that her “mistakes sprung out of the manifest limitations of her development.” Keller responded to that editor, referring to having met him before he knew of her political views:
“ At that time the compliments he paid me were so generous that I blush to remember them. But now that I have come out for socialism he reminds me and the public that I am blind and deaf and especially liable to error. I must have shrunk in intelligence during the years since I met him…Oh, ridiculous Brooklyn Eagle! Socially blind and deaf, it defends an intolerable system, a system that is the cause of much of the physical blindness and deafness which we are trying to prevent. ”
Keller joined the Industrial Workers of the World (known as the IWW or the Wobblies) in 1912, saying that parliamentary socialism was “sinking in the political bog.” She wrote for the IWW between 1916 and 1918. In Why I Became an IWW, Keller explained that her motivation for activism came in part from her concern about blindness and other disabilities:
“ I was appointed on a commission to investigate the conditions of the blind. For the first time I, who had thought blindness a misfortune beyond human control, found that too much of it was traceable to wrong industrial conditions, often caused by the selfishness and greed of employers. And the social evil contributed its share. I found that poverty drove women to a life of shame that ended in blindness. ”
The last sentence refers to prostitution and syphilis, the latter a leading cause of blindness.
Keller and her friend Mark Twain were both radicals whose political views have been forgotten or glossed over in their popular perception.”
“Government of the people, by the people and for the people” was always an aspiration, not an accurate description. The fastest way to appreciate that is a quick read through Howard Zinn.
The frequent sanitizing of history is remarkable, its effects heightened by time and loss of memory. Few today will have experienced the routineness of death and disfigurement common before antibiotics, vaccinations and birth control became widely available. Helen Keller’s experience is condensed to a two-hour play, with Annie Sullivan taking up half of it. As remarkable as was her career, she only read Keller’s assignments to her at Radcliffe; it was Keller who earned a degree at a time when fully blessed women in polite society were forced to remain at home. The vast majority of women managed without machinery and with little money, they and their menfolk and children dying early of poverty, overcrowding, overwork and unsafe conditions at work, preventable disease and yearly pregnancies.
Sanitizing often works the other way, too. Andrew Carnegie is best remembered, if at all, for how he gave away the largest fortune the world had ever seen, not how he made it. His libraries and endowments overshadow his poor pay and the brutal methods his managers used in putting down strikes at his steel mills like Homestead. Nobel, of course, is remembered for his prizes, not his dynamite.
You’ve raised an important issue, because Rove and the Bush Librarians surely intend to sanitize this administration’s record like no one has before. If they brag about violating their statutory obligations under the Presidential Records Act (and many others) while in office, what will they do behind the closed doors of a private foundation when preparing Bush’s “history” for publication? What will Congress do to enforce the people’s rights to an accurate historical record?
enhanced interrogationtorture from The Lincoln Conspiracy
Hmmmm…did Gates go to Oman to calm them down after the Cheney visit in March…??:
10 things you should know about John McCain (but probably don’t):
1. John McCain voted against establishing a national holiday in honor of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Now he says his position has “evolved,” yet he’s continued to oppose key civil rights laws.1
2. According to Bloomberg News, McCain is more hawkish than Bush on Iraq, Russia and China. Conservative columnist Pat Buchanan says McCain “will make Cheney look like Gandhi.”2
3. His reputation is built on his opposition to torture, but McCain voted against a bill to ban waterboarding, and then applauded President Bush for vetoing that ban.3
4. McCain opposes a woman’s right to choose. He said, “I do not support Roe versus Wade. It should be overturned.”4
5. The Children’s Defense Fund rated McCain as the worst senator in Congress for children. He voted against the children’s health care bill last year, then defended Bush’s veto of the bill.5
6. He’s one of the richest people in a Senate filled with millionaires. The Associated Press reports he and his wife own at least eight homes! Yet McCain says the solution to the housing crisis is for people facing foreclosure to get a “second job” and skip their vacations.6
7. Many of McCain’s fellow Republican senators say he’s too reckless to be commander in chief. One Republican senator said: “The thought of his being president sends a cold chill down my spine. He’s erratic. He’s hotheaded. He loses his temper and he worries me.”7
8. McCain talks a lot about taking on special interests, but his campaign manager and top advisers are actually lobbyists. The government watchdog group Public Citizen says McCain has 59 lobbyists raising money for his campaign, more than any of the other presidential candidates.8
9. McCain has sought closer ties to the extreme religious right in recent years. The pastor McCain calls his “spiritual guide,” Rod Parsley, believes America’s founding mission is to destroy Islam, which he calls a “false religion.” McCain sought the political support of right-wing preacher John Hagee, who believes Hurricane Katrina was God’s punishment for gay rights and called the Catholic Church “the Antichrist” and a “false cult.”9
10. He positions himself as pro-environment, but he scored a 0—yes, zero—from the League of Conservation Voters last year.10
Internalized power and control occurs to those who have suffered most at it’s hands. They feel the victimization and they idolize the power behind it. They know that where there is power and contol the person directing it has the power and they have felt that power on the opposite end.
I think it’s fascinating that they pegged it on three women. In a white male dominated society that idolizes power and control. Who is usually swinging the bat? It ain’t the women.
And yet we have plenty of examples of women who did not follow orders; white male domination may be the case, but caving to it absolutely is not a given. I point to Sherron Watkins, Colleen Rowley, Cynthia Cooper as recent examples.
Look at the men who caved into the pressure, too. We could say that it was about women, but it isn’t; the media is complicit with the military in its refusal to look more critically at the larger mass of men who are the military and who acted corruptly. They refuse to look in the mirror at their roles in breaking what should be a lifetime of training and cultural programming to do the right thing.
al75 @ 126 — yes, I hear you; I’ve heard the same kind of conflicts in my mother’s “shop talk”, when she came home with horror stories from work as a nurse in OB-GYN, intensive care, and most recently, ER. There’s a need for switching off and highly filtering the trauma that patients experience, in order for aid to be given effectively. (This is one key reason I couldn’t go into medicine; I don’t have that filter, am far too empathic and would drown in emotion helping a patient.) And yet it’s clear that the training medical professionals receive does not help them navigate the line between being too empathic and not enough, and the business of medicine exacerbates the problem when it demands a concentration on numbers and not on holistic patient outcomes.
I might add that my admiration of MLK comes from my knowledge about what happens to peoples, cultures, abused women. It is not uncommon for them to internalize power and control and use it against themselves (the way a borderline-self harms) or they use it on those who are perceived more vulnerable than themselves. (battered women sometimes abuse their children) When the enormity of this part of the human condition is realized someday we will finally understand the “unique” and “most important” message from Dr. King. His position took courage, a paradigm shift. He somehow had not internalized power and control but saw it clearly as the cause of harm.
Not only did he face the white power mongers who would do him harm but he did it without a gun.
hi y’all. OT:
Clinton Asks N.D. Delegates to Switch Votes
from ABC News: Top Stories
Although she lost the state’s caucus, Clinton wants delegates’ support.
there certainly can’t be many delegates from that state? Super Delegates ?
Clinton Asks Obama’s Pledged Delegates to Switch
oh, I saw that speech on CNN, that’s not what I got from it …wonder what ABC saw that I didn’t
‘In his report he can frame it in terms of our soldiers killed and diplomats dead in attacks on the Green Zone.’ British fear US commander is beating the drum for Iran strikes 05 Apr 2008 British officials gave warning yesterday that America’s commander in Iraq will declare that Iran is waging war against the US-backed Baghdad government. A strong statement from General David Petraeus about Iran’s intervention in Iraq could set the stage for a US attack on Iranian military facilities, according to a Whitehall assessment.
more ot: same source:
Obama Adviser Calls for Troops to Stay in Iraq Through 2010 04 Apr 2008 A key adviser to Senator Obama’s campaign [Colin Kahl] is recommending in a confidential paper that America keep between 60,000 and 80,000 troops in Iraq as of late 2010, a plan at odds with the public pledge of the Illinois senator to withdraw combat forces from Iraq within 16 months of taking office.
We do not do forgiveness well. While we are very adept at assigning guilt to the “found guilty” and ostensibly having the guilty serve the time. We cannot let go of their guilt. See the sex offenders who are stuck in permanent limbo ( at best) where they cannot live with x of certain places and have to register with the authorities AFTER they have served their term of incarceration.
What we aren’t so good at is finding the “real” guilty parties. Lyndie wasn’t a rogue or a bad apple. We all know that but she has become the poster child for what we don’t want to face,
Now she is left with the toxic combination of our inability to say that those have Served their Time are allowed to re-enter society on the one hand and our wilfull blindness to the crimes that her superiors committed and allowed her to be the scapegoat for.
The post’s reflection of the engagement of women in the military’s torture is an appropriate emphasis. I once worked in a conservation organization one of whose most physically imposing, vocal, and strong members was a lady who had been a ‘fire jumper’, working to protect against wildfire in the southwest’s forests. Responsibilities accompany women’s new participation in lots of jobs; and women earn and desrve respect. Though I agree with the comments about the way the chain of responsibility tends to evanesce when the assignments venture in the most callowly conceived escapades. Yet there is a prurient aspect to the torture regime in US prison camps and brigs, and women’s presence has added a new lurid patina to that, in addition to providing an internal learning experience for military women who see those inhumanities up close. I prefer to look at creative ways to make a personal statement rather than pursuing some of the banal trails along which some career professionals tend to travel, like this image of a child whose parents are teaching moderation in social behavior. I agree there are ways to engage the impetus toward ingraining torture in the US government’s basic policy set, and that it is an issue important in this election year. Laura Rozen has written several germane articles recently, like this on March 31 quoting an attorney who consulted in olc from 1994 thru August 2002, regarding ways the current administration has changed the interface it presents to congressional oversight hearings compared to prior administrations’.
I am catching up on EWs excellent post at an airport in western Canada, waiting for the redeye east. So, I have time to be philosophical. In her descriptions of the detachment of Addington and Beaver, I think that to avoid the banality of evil, we have to stress the absolutely essential role of empathy in morality. Once you take basic human empathy out of the issue, and rely solely on cognitive matters, like abstraction, or imagination, or excessive legal analysis for Addington, or economic determinism for Stalin and Mao, or destroying the village to save it, moral actions and judgment are quickly abandoned. Perhaps this kind of detached rationalization is more horrible and can cause more atrocities than the worst results of unleashed fear or anger in the mob. I have wondered why both the results of excessive rationality and the madness of the mob are so “contagious”, and as a consequence, tend to sweep away individual conceptions of morality towards a collective act and therefore a collective responsibility, in varying degrees.
“Old men start wars. Young men fight them. And everyone in the middle gets killed. War is natural. Peace is an accident. We’re animals”
This is dialog that was cut from the new Rambo movie.
I’ve been an admiring reader of this blog since its inception, and before that, Firedoglake, and though I really hate the word, lurker, I guess I’ve been one when it comes to commenting. When I saw the mention of Lt. Calley in the context of tonight’s subject, I couldn’t resist.
I covered the Calley trial for the Village Voice and was in the court room for much of his testimony, as well as a good deal of what led up to it. (Granting press credentials to the Voice was a bitter pill for the Army to swallow — but they did after journalist friends of mine covering the trial for The NY Daily News and the Washington Post threatened to write about it if they denied me credentials. Man, those were the good old days, huh, when elements of the MSM stood up for the likes of a Voice writer.) Because I was friendly with John Sack, the Esquire writer who had wrapped up Calley in with a book contract that prevented Calley from even talking to, much less granting interviews to anyone else, I was able to talk to Calley at length one night at dinner before he went on the stand. So I got a pretty good feel for him…at least a better feel, anyway, than other reporters who never even got a chance to meet him.
It’s too simple to say that Calley was just plain dumb, although that’s what he was. He was drafted under McNamara’s notorious “Project 100,000″, when they lowered standards down to the level of what we used to call droolers. Probably because Calley was several levels above droolers, he was offered the chance to go to OCS after AIT (advanced individual training, which follows basic training) and became a 90 day wonder. They were as desperate for junior officer cannon fodder as they were for privates and corporals, I guess.
What Calley was more than dumb was a type I saw all too often in the Army, and before that, at West Point when I went there between ‘65 and ‘69 when I graduated. He was one of those guys who we used to say “believed the bullshit.” That is to say, he was another kind of Aspergers type, if you will. Guys who believed the bullshit had no filter — they took it all in, the stuff they taught you that they actually meant, and the stuff they said just because it was part of rote warrior culture. A good example, and one that I actually saw in action at West Point and in the Army, was teaching the so-called “standing assault” during Infantry tactics. Having closed on the enemy objective, you execute the standing assault just like it sounds, by standing up and moving forward placing well-aimed fire on the objective until all the enemy are dead or the objective is taken.
You can imagine how frequently the standing assault was executed in Vietnam, where we were all scheduled soon to be. And yet I had West Point classmates who sat in tactics class and feverishly scribbled notes on the standing assault and talked afterwards about how cool it would be to take out a bunch of VC that way.
Calley was such a believer of the bullshit that when he began his direct testimony, the way he described the assault on My Lai sounded like it was taken straight from the Infantry tactics field mannual. After court that day, I got a copy of the manual and looked it up. Calley had memorized whole paragraphs of doctrine on the standing assault and spit them out perfectly.
Now obviously, part of his performance on direct testimony, responding to friendly questions from his own lawyer, was to put his behavior that day in context of standard Army doctrine and tactics. In fact, what they sought to do was to portray Calley not merely as following orders, but as a direct product of Army culture and training. The Voice story I wrote that week was titled something like “The Good Lt. Calley,” because that’s what he was. He was a perfect lieutenant. He believed the bullshit so completely that he actually carried it out.
I think all three of the young female soldiers referenced in this post fall into this rather pathetic category — believers of the bullshit to the point of carrying out the bullshit. And that’s a problem far larger than Abu Ghraib or Guantanamo. Because recruits for the volunteer Army come from such a narrow self-selected sliver of our propulation, the Army seriously infected with believers of the bullshit because so many of them are predisposed by their own cultures — by upbringing, education, religious training and belief…you name it. This is not to say that our military is sentenced tosuch infection permanently. The great thing about bullshit believers is that all you have to do is change the bullshit, and they’ll believe the new version as easily as the old, which is to say that they respond to good leadership as well as to bad. As it happens, I was in Iraq when the Abu Ghraib abuses were just beginning, Oct – Dec 2003, and spent most of my time up in the north with the 101st Airborne Division, at the time Petraeus was the Div Commander. I saw a lot of detainees, from the time they were detained, right through much of the process as it took place up the chain from Platoon to company to battalion to brigade to division, before some of them were sent south to Baghdad and presumably, Abu Ghraib. I never saw any abuse at all. In fact, I never even saw voices raised against a detainee. This was no doubt because in the 101st, at least, leadership was exercised in the proper fashion, and all detainees were treated as if they were POW’s, even though all of them were seized off the street or from houses or compounds in civilian clothes, the great majority of them unarmed.
It’s my humble opinion that there’s no excuse for the behavior of England, Harman and Beaver. If they didn’t know better, they should have. And there is a solution to the problem. Get rid of the top-down torture culture enforced by the chickenhawk-heavy Bush administration and replace it with the correct military culture that was already in place — viz the TJags who attempted to protest and shortcircuit the Justice Dept driven torture madness, which means, of course, getting rid of the top as well as the mid-level mongrels such as Yoo, Feith, Wolfowitz, and more senior suckasses like Rumsfeld, Cheney, Rice, and yes, the sainted Powell.
I can see jaws dropping out there already — Colin Powell? Well, consider this: Powell was senior enough, and well enough in the loop of the Bush adminstration to at least have an inkling about what was being perpetrated in the name of freedom and democracy, and he had hundreds of days of opportunities to resign and not be a part of it. But he didn’t.
And it’s useful to remember how Colin Powell got his career kick-started in the first place — how the skids were greased for him to go from being a Major on a division staff in Vietnam to a White House fellowship and ever onward and upward. How, you say? He handled Public Affairs (PR in militaryspeak) for none other than Maj. Gen. Samuel Koster, the division commander who ordered My Lai. It was his job to keep the massacre OUT of the press, which he succeeded in doing until Sy Hersh broke the story doing his reporting stateside, by interviewing returning veterans of Calley’s unit and writing his story for Pacific News Service, if memory serves. (The Voice and Pacific News Service were the blogs of their day, in a sense.) Powell’s reward for holding the hounds at bay was his White House Fellowship, and the rest is, sadly, history…and a dark history it is, brightened not a single watt by Colin Powell’s future service to his country, in and out of uniform. (Recall also that it was Gen. Powell in his role as Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, who led the revolt of the Chiefs of Staff in the Oval Office, when they virtually refused to carry out any executive order signed by President Clinton — in office only a few weeks — integrating gays into the military. Nice move, Colin. If President Truman hadn’t signed a similar executive order in 1948, unilaterally integrating blacks into all military services, he would have been pushing a broom or driving a truck in Vietnam, rather than covering up My Lai.)
Lucian K. Truscott IV
Lucian — so glad you de-lurked to leave your comment. As a graduate of West Point, perhaps you can answer a question that has been bothering me… I thought that after Nuremberg, all branches of the military began teaching various concepts such as not following an illegal order and “I was just following orders” is not a legal defense. Am I mistaken about that or is that a part of the curriculum that goes in one ear and out the other for those who buy into the “bullshit”?
Yes, all those sorts of ethical questions have been part of military training and ciriculum since way back. But once again, it’s all about emphasis. If military leaders teach that “just following orders” isn’t a defense against war crimes with a wink and a nod, the bullshit believers take the hint.
There’s one other thing I left out. We were taught four years of very, very good military training at West Point — good ethical teaching and training, good tactics, good “Duty Honor Country” right down the line.
Then we got out into an Army in 1969 that was already 2/3 of the way down the road to becoming the “hollow army” of the 70’s — an army that had virtually been destroyed by the war in VN and the way it was being fought. All of a sudden, we were being told by Captains, Majors, and Colonels to forget what West Point taught us. This was the “real world” now, and we do things in the real world differently. I was regularly told to sign off on statements and reports that were complete horseshit — certifying “readiness” in a unit that couldn’t move itself across the street, much less be ready for battle. I was told to sign a statement every day as Weapons Officer of an Infantry company that all of the weapons were locked down and in good condition and all the ammunition was present and accounted for and in good condition, when in fact we had missing ammunition and weapons that were inoperable. When I refused to certify that all was well with the weapons room, I was ordered to sign the document. When I refused that order, I was accused of disloyalty and all manner of other bad things and within a couple of weeks was called in by the Captain (company commander) and given an “interim” OER — officer efficiency report…the army’s report card that determined promotions, etc. Getting less than 99 out of 100 was considered really bad and likely to damage your career. My “interim” report was a 63.
That was the real world as we knew it, and yeah, it was one hell of a lot different than the way we were told it would be at West Point.
Interestingly, my class, 1969 was the first in Academy history to have more than 50% resign after reaching the end of a four year service committment. The previous record was 25% resigned before reaching the 20 year retirement mark!
It is perhaps instructive that the West Point classes of 2000, 2001 and 2002 are similarly having heavy resignations at the end of their service committments. Gee, I wonder why?
Lucian K. Truscott IV
Thanks so much for the follow up. So I guess then that what the public is told about how our military is trained to say no to an illegal order is another layer of bullshit. From your experience of refusing to sign a false statement and then being punished for it, it is clear that saying no is much less of an option than one might think. Unless of course one is prepared to be drummed out of the service. Thanks again for your insight.
That’s exactly what happened to me, phred. Drummed out of the Army with a bad discharge, although not right away, and not for refusing to sign a false statement as a weapons officer. (Lying on that form, by the way, was the military equivalent of felony, punishable by up to 5 years in prison. This is how seriously the Army takes safeguarding weaponry: the crime of negligent homicide is punishable by up to a year in prison. Try telling that to the NRA.)
The crime that caused my ignominious exit from the Army was revealing a 15 percent rate of addiction to heroin in my unit at Fort Carson, Colorado in 1970. The Army didn’t want this lovely little secret to see the light of day until they were ready…about 18 months later, as it happened. So for revealing the Army’s heroin problem and trying to do something about it — I tried to convince them to insitute a program where soldiers could turn themselves in for treatment without being arrested for the crime of drug use, which is what happened to one of the troops in my platoon — I was unceremoniously dismissed as not fit for the service.
They were correct. I was unfit under their terms, and I’ve been unfit for “yes sir!” service to anyone or anything ever since. Most recently, I suffered a lesser, but similar fate while in Afghanistan back in 2004 with an assignment for a major magazine to “cover” the search for bin Laden. I was that I had to have a public relations “escort” at all times while working on the story as an “embed,” and that before I interviewed anyone, I had to write down all of my…get this…”talking points, questions, and areas of interest” beforehand.
Needless to say, I refused, and in less than 24 hours, I was put on a C-130 bound for Kabul, my military press credentials were yanked, and I was out of the business of “covering” the Army’s search for Osama.
Some things never change.
Lucian K. Truscott IV
Lucian K. Truscott IV
I suspect that they now teach that following orders is okay provided you are acting “in good faith” on advice of counsel that the action is legal, e.g., on advice of the Office of Legal Counsel, say the advice of John Yoo. Per the “protection of personnel” section of John McCain’s Detainee Treatment Act of 2005:
West Point to Village Voice? A story I think we’d all be delighted if you shared it with us. (If you’ve published it elsewhere, a link would be great.)
“Standing assault”? Used at Malplaquet, no doubt. Strangely, I heard of one in SE Asia. It involved a larger than usual number of folks trained in sea, air, land combat, executed by the book against an entrenched position blocking the planned route to an ultimate objective.
Given the specialized training of the men involved, which included map reading, several of them remembered a collateral route, unobstructed as it turned out, which would have avoided not only the standing assault, but the repeated attempts at it requested by the force commander. The commander politely rejected their advice and ordered another standing assault. Sadly for him, his force dwindling rapidly, metal fragments unexpectedly entered his dorsal region, terminating his command. The alternate route was taken, the objective rapidly achieved, and a non-com received a commission for his initiative in leading his “leaderless” men.
There comes a point in nearly every occupation where going by the book isn’t leadership, it’s self-destruction, and can take a lot of folks with you. Staying the course can sometimes be a remarkably stupid thing to do.
eoh, your story of the standing assault reminds me so much of Pete Seeger’s brilliant performances of “Waist Deep in the Big Muddy” (”and the big fool says to push on”). There’s a great YouTube somewhere …
Fully agree… I’ve read Powell needs meds these days to keep “even”.
Reminds me of Frontline “GWB’s War” a couple weeks ago, an interview w/Wilkerson: he said he knew things were going badly wrong early, but didn’t “have the intestinal fortitude” to submit his handwritten resignation which he kept in drawer in his desk. Wilkerson also said he things BushCo went in for oil.
You’ve given a really informative post, Lucian, which I will think about for a long time.
I have more sympathy for England and Harman than you do.
I’m a physician. I was an intern in a big public hospital, near the peak of the AIDS epidemic. The hospital was stressed on a good day. At night, the pressure and fatigue and fear – and the sense of being unable to cope with the sheer volume of work, the suffering, and people (black/brown, poor, desperate, suspicious, suffering, dying) I couldn’t understand, was overwhelming.
I didn’t shoot anybody. I performed the work that should have been the job of three people. I saved a number of lives, and killed a few people with mistakes which I have only detected and pieced together over the years.
But I became brutalized. At times I behaved in ways that were undoubtedly terrifying to my “patients” e.g. putting my knee on a junkie’s face to hold him still as I put a central line in his neck to give him life-saving drugs. I felt nothing.
In a proper hospital, I would have been disciplined or suspended for my conduct. Where I was, i was — appropriately – valued. I was an intern who knew enough (by the local standard) to operate without supervision, freeing up the senior resident who should have been helping me to work with weaker trainees who were actively killing people.
My point is, I engaged in conduct I believe to be utterly inhuman — and this was here in America, when I was 27 years old with 16 years of elite education under my belt. In my case, I never got in trouble, and moved on with distinction and only private emotional scars to slowly prize apart.
What would I have done at Mai Lai, or Abu Graib, as a scared, insecure kid, particularly if I had a boss who didn’t seem scared telling me what to do?
I would have followed orders. And I would have been screwed, like Harman and England have been.
I’m not relieving them from responsibility, any more than I relieve myself. But the people who maintain the system carry a heavier burden, and — I know this will shock you — they never seem to be the ones who get prosecuted.
Thanks for your thoughtful, wonderful glimpse…
We are a low-water mark.
The “bullshit” has spilled over… and continues
Once a bright-eyed optimist, not anymore.
I’ll just chime in with my thanks too, Lucian. That is wonderful testimony. Funny how much of “the good old days” (I’m about your vintage, I’m guessing) are coming back to EW’s brave little band here. I’m not sure I want to relive the last years of the sixties, except this detail is so telling:
Yup. That made a huge difference.
Thanks for sharing.
What you say, I think, is particularly true of Lynndie England. She describes wanting to join the army because of the culture. And her description of all those in WV who would do the same–follow orders, believe the bullshit–yeah, that’s who she is.
I’m curious about Beaver. While SAnds gives us a context of her, now, we don’t see who she is, where she came from. And I’m curious how she got where she is.
One thing I’m fascinated by. I think they punished Harman worse than England (and wanted to still more), because she exposed them. She took the pictures. She describes how they really wanted to prosecute her (under the charge of theft of government property) for taking the picture of the murdered corpse. Of course, the guy who killed the corpse never faced punishment at all.
So the military really wanted to teach Harman a lesson. What surprises me is that I never knew (as I conclude from her letters to her wife) that she’s gay. They had to have known that–but that never came out, AFAIK. Striking that in this military they never exposed her sexual orientation (if I’m making the right conclusion from her letters home to her wife).
Who and how many people knew about the platform at AG prison, were in a position to see that it happened, and/or were in a position to stop it, and when did they know it? How many were members of the US Senate or Congress? I haven’t seen a source that tells me that.
It’s never been made clear, but rather been an enigma enshrouded in a mystery as to precisely who in the chain of command to Rumsfield gave the orders that spelled Abu Ghraib.
Where is the detailed list of the daisy chain of the people who generated the orders that Beaver received? Congress has done little to clarify this in the hearings I saw. Beaver has done next to nothing to clarify this. I would think with a law degree she would be capable of making a list to the extent she knows it. Most Americans rember something about dogs and naked prisoners in a pile, but focus little on the genisis of the orders that caused the spectacle performed by poorly educated and bored army officers looking for a little excitement in their drab existence in Iraq.
I find it a little bit appropriate to add this morning’s headline in the NYT above the fold:
Bush Fucks Up More Families and Kills More Americans;
All the people in West Virginia who have sympathy for England have plenty of time to give her a job and put their money where there mouth is, before her P.O. enjoys swooping down on her and dragging her ass back before the judge. The fact that she has a son to worry about makes it all that more enjoyable for them, and would put icing on the cake of a revocation. In revocation hearings, the judges, most of whom are veterans at dictating PSIs and pushing for revocation hearings as former AUSAs are puppy dogs for the POs and rubber stamp their attempts to refuck the former defendant.
Lyndie England is experiencing the full blown schadenfreude that Americans inflict on their fellow Americans after federal sentencing with orgasmic relish, and metaphorically she might as well have a tatoo that is and inch think in Gothic letters reading from right cheek to forehead to left cheek that says “I am so fucked.”
Lynndie England isn’t on parole, and we haven’t had federal parole in effect since November 1, 1987. England is on probationon and her conditions are much worse, and her sentence was longer because of it. Federal prisoners serve 85% of their sentence if none of their so-called good time is taken away. Someone should educate her that things are far worse for her now.
The Sentencing Reform Act of 1984 not only set up a confrontation between probation officers and attorneys, but it set up a widely practiced and never admitted situation where the AUSAs send a memo often emailed to the probation officer dictating what they want to see in that pre-sentencing report (PSR or PSI) and they have many ways of forcing the issue and making sure they comply.
The probation officers relish being the figure heads in a contest with the defense attorney where their ammo is usually carefully prepared in consultation with their office’s designated so-called “sentencing-expert” and the US attorney on the case behind the scenes. So DOJ and AOC have ganged up on the little girl from West Virginny as they do on every defendent. Celebrity defendants and defendants with money get a disproportionate break in the scheme of things. Lindie England would be less happy with the situation if she were aware of scenarios like the rapper TI. Had Lindie England been a grammy award winning rapper instead of a puppy dog for Charles Grainer, she might have gotten a spit on the wrist.
TI faced a minimum of 4 years and 8 months via USSG but he used his fame and hundreds of thousands paid to his two attorneys to secure a sentence any self respecting rapper can do standing on his head–a year and a day in exchange for speaking to high schools on the virtues of not stocking up on enough sub-machine guns to outfit half the Iraqi army. I would note that the guns TI had hidden in his house were of far better quality than the broken down shit being issued to the Iraqi army which will never stand up just as ours will never stand down.
140,000 and growing as Bushie heads to clearing brush with his muddled head in Texas.
What Lindie is facing is seldom talked about because elegantly put, as always, there is no ground swell for her where this country gives a shit. She’s facing again, the unmitigated schadenfreude that Americans enjoy inflicting on other Americans, knowing that flawed and as hard as their existence might be, others have been dealt a worse hand, and bloodied up the cards.
The Lynndie Englands and Sabrina Harmans of the world are simultaneously torturers and victims of a corrupting system. It is, however, a national disgrace that there were so few who made even a token stand against torture. The larger national disgrace is how few people will take a stand against torture when it would cost them nothing personally.
Our political class is now infested with war criminals and their apologists. In theory, the Cheneys, Yoos, and Rumsfelds of the world are at risk for war crimes trials (and it is every moral person’s duty to make that theoretical possibility a reality), but what do we do with the apologists, the arm-chair torturers, the torture porn addicts? What should be our response to Benjamin Wittes, for example?
For starters, folks like that should get torture apologist attached to their names when they must be mentioned in polite conversation.
Lucian — if you have the time and the notion, would you do me the favor of emailing me? No pressure or obligation. I would really like to chat with you more about the old MSM v. contemporary MSM, am working for an alternative outlet that is trying hard not to become another contemporary MSM outlet.
rayne_today AT yahoo
I’ve worked with children with Asperger’s syndrome (as well as other conditions) for eight years. I was just checking some current research when I read that psychiatric diagnoses are 200 to 300 years behind other medical diagnoses – this written by a psychiatrist interested in Asperger’s syndrome.
People with Asperger’s syndrome have extreme difficulty with social cues. They also often have a devotion to one subject of interest which will allow them to work alone for untold hours, caught up in their own worlds. Their lack of empathy for others is usually more of a curse for themselves than for others, leaving them lonely for friendship and the subjects for bullies.
I have a dear friend whose son has shown some of these symptoms since birth. Yet through tremendous parenting and teaching of social skills, this child has succeeded academically and has been admitted to fine law schools. He has had one relationship with a girl which ended with high school. He has traveled extensively; they were never afraid of him getting into any sort of trouble for he followed every law of every place he went. He traveled with his best friend from high school and now shares an apartment with that friend.
This kid loves working at an enormous law firm as a paralegal. His parents encouraged him to try this before applying to law school to make sure he could handle the overwhelming time demands. On his first weekend at the firm he arrived home at 2 AM after sixteen hours of research. He was up and back at the firm the following day. As a matter of fact, for those who put in those kinds of hours, a cab delivers them to and from the office, no charge.
With exceptional test scores, he will be attending law school in either DC or Boston. And I anticipate that he will be more than willing to work 24/7 for whatever law firm hires him.
There is so much to say about Asperger’s syndrome:
-that it has been around for a long time – just recently being diagnosed.
-that social skills classes are a must for these children.
-that a percentage of these kids will focus on dark subjects, horror-filled subjects because it is one of the few subjects which allow the kids to feel an emotional response.
-that their lack of empathy for those trying to listen to these “little professors” going on and on about their favorite subjects is legendary.
-that they do well in research laboratories and in front of computers, alone and for long hours.
-that they are born without the abilities to sustain social relationships.
-that they can be and are manipulated by others.
EW and All,
How this has contributed to history and to today’s America is a subject which will most likely be addressed along with that of the sociopaths who devised the takeover of our “justice” system.
Sociopaths like Cheney could very easily manipulate persons with an inability to read social cues; Cheney consciously rejects culturally embedded ethics, while an Aspie’s cannot help but reject culture if only reinforced by social cues. All that is needed is for an Aspie to believe that the executive has more powers than are supported by culture and voila, Cheney has his tool.
There are other kinds of human tools, though, at the disposal of sociopaths. England does not manifest Asperger’s, but she shares in common a lack of respect for ethics that are embedded in a meta-culture outside of her sub-culture; she lives in a context where authoritarianism is strong, and lacks the adequate cultural programming to detect flaws in authority let alone reject them. Unfortunately, media’s role here is overlarge; in sub-cultures across America, where the only meta-culture is broadcast media, there’s nothing to repudiate authoritarianism. Where in England’s world would she have acquired the knowledge and ability to reject failed authority?
Rush Limbaugh? FOX News?
You can find out more than you ever wanted to know about the authoritarian types, both followers and leaders, in Bob Altemeyer’s online book The Authortarians at:
John Dean sourced heavily from Altemeyer’s work for his book Conservatives without Conscience, published about three years ago.
PS: For reasons I don’t understand the University of Manitoba site doesn’t respond as I try to test the link, whether via the tinyurl or directly. (UM has been Altemeyer’s home base for his 40 years of study of authortarians.) I posted this same link in a comment about a month ago and it worked then. Try later.
Rayne, I like your analysis of England. I think media reinforces a number of other cultural influences present in the lives of a large number of our fellow citizens, including patriarchy, religious training, and schooling. Schools reinforce respect for authority by rewarding deference among the average and below people.
I think schools are not out of line to ask students to respect authority, but the nature of authority is not discussed at an early age. Is the authority they recognize situational, titular, experiential, so on? I expect my own kids to mind their teachers. However I’ve also explained that teachers are fallible. We had one that made comments I found offensive as ethnically and politically biased when my daughter was in third grade. I had several conversations with my child as to why the comments were wrong — and fortunately, my daughter came home and told me about the comments to begin with, her 9 year-old’s sensibility fine-tuned enough to pick up on something that wasn’t quite right. We talked about bias, and how even adults who are authority figures can be wrong because of bias.
But I suspect this is not the norm, and that there are more parents who are tuned the other direction — harassing teachers about a lack of bias towards Christian fundamentalism, for example — and the schools end up teaching to nothing but NCLB-dictated tests as an easy way out, reinforcing the lack of discernment.
It’s a systemic mess and I don’t know how we are going to put an end to the circumstances that create Lynnie Englands.
Boston1775 @143 — yes, the power of schools including secondary schools to normalize behaviors is disturbing, as is the power of the very few who manage and oversee schools to manipulate what is normative. I’ll point to Michigan State University as one example; it has permitted known white supremacists/nationalists to speak on campus, with taxpayer funded facilities and in some cases taxpayer-funded security, in an effort to create and maintain a venue of open-minded free speech. How far is this supposed to be permitted? At what point does this appear to be normalization of hate on our dime?
Could not agree more. We have had similar situations with our own children and a few times when our kids have actually stood up in class and “called the teacher” on their commentary.
Currently, through guidance education, there is a “movement” to help kids “open up”. As my daughter relayed one of “these sessions” I was appaulled. A total move towards using kids to inform on adults.
We all need to pay attention and guide our children through such experiences as well as confront such behavior of adults teaching our children.
Yes, I wrote the sentence about schools thoughtlessly, remembering my own high school.
Oh, you were right, there is an effort in schools to subjugate independent thought; it’s all bound up in that lousy ‘No Child Left Behind’ crap, too. Work to a test and you’re golden, at all levels of K-12 education. Big Pharma plays a role here, too, painting every frisky child who generally doesn’t get enough free time outside to run around as ADD/ODD and in need of meds until they are no longer a normal child.
What’s missing in our schools is encouragement of independent, critical thinking; kids are now supposed to have a uniform education experience, not an experience which highlights their singular gifts while improving upon areas of weak performance. More so than any past effort to socialize public education, the current public school system creates mindless, unquestioning, conformity.
It scares the crap out of me.
Your comment was very rewarding in that it prompted me to talk with my kids while I drafted my response; we hashed over the nature of authority. (Mom is still the uber-boss – heh.) We explored the limits of authority that teachers, principals, policemen, elected officials possess in a variety of cases. It was a good discussion. I didn’t tell them this was the kind of “Stranger Danger” that could continue to hurt them well into adulthood, when we give “strangers” power that they shouldn’t have, but we’ll get to that some day soon.
Rayne and masaccio,
The dulling of the social conscience that has happened as a result of the billions of “news” dollars fueling the hate speech of talk radio and the “fair and balanced” stations is real. I think historians will document the ceaseless rants in much the way the propaganda of other dangerous regimes has been documented.
It is the combination of the successful planning of likeminded sociopaths who have figured out how to use all of us who have forgotten, or never learned, to think critically.
I am currently going through the worst school year in my working history. The last time we experienced this it was a group of kids who had sociopathic tendencies and worked together to upend the school. They worked together to turn off lights in the hallways, burn library books, steal, break into the school and eventually set the school on fire. They’d set fields on fire near houses as well.
This year brought a group of kids dedicated to knives. They’ve cut themselves and threatened to kill others. They’ve left notes in bathrooms threatening to kill a teacher, as well as the entire school. They’ve targeted students with vicious notes stating that they are anxious to put a knife into their hearts. They lie, cheat and steal as well. What has made this year the worst is that the administration has been one of their tools. The last group had one of the school psychologists as an ally. This current group has used the same psychologist AND the principal and vice principal as tools of their cunning.
I have learned invaluable lessons about the formation of sociopathic groups from the two years when groups have worked together to ruin a school year.
The first administration understood what was going on and worked with us to get through the school year. This year’s administration has made the matters worse by not acknowledging the warnings of veteran teachers. The leader of the group has been hospitalized (showed up with knives) but he has done enormous damage and the rest of the group is still there.
This is happening in one of the highest performing school districts in the country. This is a lovely community which supports its schools by paying one of the highest tax rates in the state.
In the other years, students with these tendencies were not in groups. They still exhibited all the behaviors but they didn’t have a group to influence. When a twenty dollar bill was missing from a friend’s purse, we knew who did it. This year, it has taken handwriting analysis and fingerprinting. Even with this, the police are not certain they’ve called it right.
Again, this is an upper middle class community with an outstanding reputation for its schools.
And these kids are thirteen and fourteen years old. I’ve witnessed the Cheney/Addington relationship in their youth. Frightening. I’ve also witnessed Cheney/Gonzales/Bush/Powell in middle school. They live to make you believe them.
I know what you mean. I remember being blown away a couple of weeks ago when news came out that 1 in 100 Americans is in prison, jail or on probation. Then I thought of the student body of 700 in my school, and thought again, that perhaps that number isn’t out of line. I’ve got three contenders in my class of 34 alone.
I really meant to say “harassing teachers for a bias towards Christian fundamentalism”. Oops.
This is part of the disaster that the OLC and things like the Beaver memorandum generated. They a) said that the Geneva Conventions don’t apply because these are “unlawful” combatants (the laws don’t apply to them) and that b) there is a legal defense, it’s “self defense” or “necessity” because you just never know when that 12 yo you bought off a Pakistani criminal might hold the key to Armageddon, and that c)it is a lawful to follow those orders that tell you to violate the UCMJ (that’s pretty much the heart of the Beaver memo) because JAG and OLC say so.
So sure, you can’t follow an “illegal” order, but JAG and OLC have ok’ed these orders to engage in depravity.
Lots of food for though in a lot of the posts (115 – I didn’t know Keller was a socialist, you’d think that would have been mentioned now and then )
119/122 – Those are some interesting observations. It makes me think back to some of the testimony by one of the other soldiers – not Calley, I’d have to google back to find the name – about the women holding babies and being asked if the babies were about to attack and having this dogged response about taking action against a possible “counterbalance” maneuver. When you mentioned this, “the way he described the assault on My Lai sounded like it was taken straight from the Infantry tactics field mannual” it took me back to that.
And when you mention, “The great thing about bullshit believers is that all you have to do is change the bullshit, and they’ll believe the new version as easily as the old, which is to say that they respond to good leadership as well as to bad.” I relate that to people in general and, for that matter, the way dogs work in packs. But it’s why you have to have place the controls on the leader. If my German shepherds take off after something, the way to control the 4 is to call down HARD, the top gun in the crew. Sometimes even before he responds, the rest stop in their tracks and start back. As soon as you call down the leader – they start the new path they know he will be taking.
It also makes me think a bit about some of what Tony Lagouranis talks about in his book, “Fear Up Harsh”
129 – Lots of very good stuff about the probation system and reactions of America to its burgeoning “criminal” subclass, but on the initial observation,
“Where is the detailed list of the daisy chain of the people who generated the orders that Beaver received? Congress has done little to clarify this in the hearings I saw. “
This is what Taguba made a lot of effort to highlight and not one Demcratic member of the Armed Services made a big deal over this. Taguba said pointedly that the main sources of problems seemed to generate from Military Intelligence/MI – and not from the MP stories that were getting some attention. Sam Provenance has been a whistleblower to the same effect. Both of them have not only not seen a follow up on their claims, but have also suffered for trying to push forward on those claims.
Levin and Clinton pretty much have done NOTHING and made sure that anything said was done sotto voce. I couldn’t be more embarassed of my “once upon a time” votes for Lugar and Warner, but even the Dem “leadership” has stood shoulder to shoulder in cover ups and acquiescing on what MI was authorized to do and what it did. Presumably the “Gang of 4″ and later the “Gang of 8″ and/or the full intelligence committees received briefing at some point on the detainee who was frozen to death during his torture interrogation and they all stay silent about that criminal revelation. Presumably they were briefed on the plans to bury detainees like Zubaydah alive and stayed silent.
If they didn’t ever get briefed, then now, as the stories have emerged, they are doing a bang up job and not requiring any briefing. Pelosi and Reid can look at Negroponte’s briefing schedule and, on its face, determine that the administration deliberate and for years violated the National Security Act’s provisions on briefing covert programs – but they raise no outcry and say nothing.
It really leaves you without anyone much to vote for or any real hope in government as a vehicle. Certainly, while men and women like Beaver, Townsend, Comey, Philbin, Ashcroft, Goldsmith, Gonzales, Yoo, McNulty, Clement, Flanigan, Mukasey, Filip, etc. inhabit the halls at DOJ, there won’t be anything positive that comes from there – but while there are Levins and Clintons and Liebermans and Reids and Pelosis and Hoyers etc. etc. etc. – there’s nothing really worthwhile there either.
That’s for sure.
Good points Mary. I lived in Naptown for a couple years back in the day when Dick Lugar was mayor.
I only wish I had access to secret briefings of Congress because most of what really happens in this government, and particularly this administration when it comes to oversight, takes place behind closed doors.
OT: Mark Penn resigned from clinton campaign.
I saw Wolfowitz drive through my neighborhood in an SUV two weeks ago. He must have been on his way to see Bob Bennett. Or Rumsfeld. I was crossing the street in front of him, so I slowed down, looked him in the face and deliberately mouthed “war criminal” a couple times. Even if he never goes to jail it was nice to see him look like a rat in a cage with his eyes darting around like that for a couple seconds.
lkt – radiofreewillyahoo