Sunday, December 04, 2005

Skip & Lorraine's Open House; America's Dirty (Bloody) House

As announced yesterday, fellow area cartoonist Skip Morrow is having an open house this weekend in Wilmington for his new home gallery space (!). Skip and his wife (and fellow musician) Lorraine will be meeting and greeting folks in the expansive gallery from 10 AM to 5 PM today. There's food and drink and free books and hilarious and beautiful art and good company, so don't drag your feet if you're in driving distance.

If you're in the southern Vermont area today, by all means make the trip. It's an ideal Sunday afternoon jaunt and destination point. Tell them I sent you, please.

Info, art, and all kinds of cool stuff awaits you at
  • Skip Morrow's site

  • Contact info, should you require directions to the 'real world' gallery for today's open house, are available
  • here.
  • __________

    As the plethora of corruption scandals, multi-tier investigations, and cover-ups splitting at their very seamy seams swells in Washington, inevitably (at last) encompassing even pious righteous "moral" leaders like Ralph Reed (who was reportedly Bible-pocket-deep in the cynical & nakedly exploitational and racist Native American casino scam Jack Abramoff orchestrated), it's important to keep a clear eye on the most blatant and un-American of this current Administration's abuses: the New American Torture State.

    In hindsight, it's impossible to continue to cling to the belief that this was not a policy of the present Administration or our President. If the gaping logic disconnect between Bush and Cheney's shameful performances of the past two weeks concerning this current policy isn't enough to expose their lies, consider anew the actions of Michael Chertoff in 2002 -- prior to the revelations of torture and detainee abuse in Abu Ghraib, Guantanamo and even domestic facilities in New Jersey.

    As acting head of the Justice Department's criminal division (then under John Ashcroft's fiefdom), Chertoff was overseeing all ongoing terrorism-related prosecutions, including the prominent case against John Walker Lindh, the California youth captured in Afghanistan in December 2001 whom Ashcroft had villified as an "American Taliban."

    In mid-June of 2002, Lindh was scheduled to take the stand in what Nation reporter and columnist Dave Lindorff called "an evidence suppression hearing regarding a confession he had signed." Lindh's defense attornies maintained that Lindh had signed the confession only after US soldiers had tortured him "for days," and Federal District Judge T.S. Ellis had indicated he was prepared to allow Lindh and his attornies to place on the stand during trial military officers and Guantanamo detainees: participants in, or witnesses to, the alleged abuse of Lindh to coerce his confession and signature of the document.

    The Defense Department (who we now know had begun its covert Administration-sanctioned policies of torture of detainees at Bagram Air Base and elsewhere in late 2001) did not want Lindh allowed to take the stand. Thus, Chertoff (according to Lindorff, at the specific request of the Defense Department) instructed his prosecution team to offer a deal to Lindh and his attornies. In his essay "Chertoff and Torture" in the February 14, 2005 issue of The Nation, writer Lindorff specifies the nature of this "deal" that was invisible to almost all Americans:

    ...All the serious charges against Lindh -- terrorism, attempted murder, conspiracy to kill Americans, etc. -- would be dropped and he could plead guilty to just the technical charges of "providing assistance" to an "enemy of the U.S." and of "carrying a weapon." Lindh, whose attorneys dreaded his facing trial in one of the most conservative court districts in the country of the first anniversary of 9/11, had to accept a stiff twenty-year sentence, but that was half what he faced if convicted on those two minor charges alone.

    But Chertoff went further, according to one of Lindh's defense attorneys, George Harris. Chertoff (now an appeals court judge in New Jersey) demanded -- reportedly at Defense Department insistence, according to what defense attorneys were told -- that Lindh sign a statement swearing he had "not been intentionally mistreated" by his US captors and waiving any future right to claim mistreatment or torture. Further, Chertoff attached a "special administrative measure," essentially a gag order, barring Lindh from talking about his experience for the duration of his sentence.

    ...In seems clear that the man coasting toward confirmation as Secretary of Homeland Security effectively prevented early exposure of the Bush/Rumsfeld/Gonzales policy of torture, which we now know began in Afghanistan and later "migrated" to Guantanamo and eventually to Iraq. So anxious was Chertoff to avoid exposure in court of Lindh's torture -- which included keeping the seriously wounded and untreated Lindh, who was malnourished and dehydrated, blindfolded and duct-taped to a stretcher for days in an unheated and unlit shipping container, and repeatedly threatening him with death -- that defense lawyers say he made the deal a limited-time offer. "It was good only if we accepted it before the suppression hearing," says Harris. "They said if the hearing occurred, all deals were off." He adds, "Chertoff himself was clearly the person at Justice to whom the line prosecutors were reporting. He was directing the whole plea agreement process, and there was at least one phone call involving him."

    Lindorff goes on to quote the President of the Center for Constitutional Rights Michael Ratner, who summarizes:

    "It is outrageous that Chertoff didn't allow testimony about Lindh's torture by American forces to come out... What did he [Chertoff] know about Lindh's treatment in Afghanistan, and why did he go to such lengths to silence him about it? ...Had testimony from witnesses under oath about Lindh's torture come out in court in 2002, we might have learned about the government's torture program earlier, and we might not have had Abu Ghraib and other torture scandals..."

    (All quoted from Dave Lindorff, "Chertoff and Torture," The Nation, February 14, 2005, pp. 6, 8.)

    But of course, that's the dynamic of cover-up operations: the successful ones indulge and conflate suspect or criminal behavior into wider, broader systematic adoption. The cover-up of Lindh's torture in effect sanctioned and nurtured the expansion of the Defense Department and Administration's covert torture policies -- now, it appears, into pockets of Europe, thus placing what few allies we still have in the European Union at risk for harboring covert American torture operations.

    Thus, we now know the coverup was underway before the Abu Ghraib scandal, the photos, and all that has followed. The coverup was in fact underway before the torture began at Abu Ghraib.

    Is this American? Are these the "armies of compassion" President Bush has ballyhooed with such smug piety, the "march of freedom and democracy" he hopes will be his legacy? Is this the triumph of "moral values" the last Presential election supposedly demonstrated?

    This past week, ACLU Executive Director Anthony D. Romero spoke out in no uncertain terms about this dire state of affairs/affairs of state:

    President Bush is lying to the American people.
    Those are words that I have never uttered before in public.  To make such a serious allegation against my country's leader is not something I do lightly.

    Consider the President's words in Panama: "We are finding terrorists and bringing them to justice.  We are gathering information about where the terrorists may be hiding.  We are trying to disrupt their plots and plans.  Anything we do ... to that end in this effort, any activity we conduct, is within the law.  We do not torture."

    As the President well knows, the sad fact for all Americans is that many of the interrogations we have conducted are not within the law.  As many current and former government and military officials recently told PBS' Frontline, we have tortured - and even killed - prisoners in our custody.

    Government documents obtained through our Freedom of Information Act lawsuit describe hundreds of incidents of torture and abuse in excruciating detail.  It is clear that these are not the actions of a few rogue soldiers.  The mere existence of thousands of government documents on torture underscores the systemic nature of the problem. There are also videos and photos showing torture and abuse that government lawyers are fighting like mad to suppress.

    If the President really wished to solve the torture scandal that has marred America's standing at home and abroad, he would own up to what has happened. He would ask the Attorney General to appoint a special counsel to investigate and prosecute the torture and abuse in Iraq, Afghanistan and Guantanamo Bay.  He would not threaten to veto the legislation proposed by Senate Republicans led by Senators John McCain and Lindsey Graham, which would ensure that no one is above the law, and no one - regardless of their office or rank - can order anyone else to break the rules and abuse detainees.

    Holding high-level government officials accountable for torture and abuse is the only way to ensure that we will not repeat these mistakes.  And upholding the rules of war will help ensure that no member of the U.S. military is subjected to cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment when they are captured by the enemy.

    But our President's lies merely add insult to the very real injury that has already occurred.

    If you're among those denying this is either of concern or consequence, take a sobering look at the succinct blow-by-blow
  • US torture chronology at Kos.

  • ACLU Associate Legal Director Ann Beeson has posted first-hand accounts from torture victims after her visit to Amnesty International's Global Struggle Against Torture Conference in London; it's all here at the
  • Amnesty International Ann Beeson report.
  • The ACLU and Human Rights First have now filed a federal lawsuit charging Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld with direct responsibility for the ongoing torture and abuse of detainees; the details are online at
  • ACLU federal lawsuit.

  • We are a rogue superpower, and Bush, Cheney, Rumsfeld, Rice, Gonzales, Chertoff and others have actively created and/or subsidized this New Torture State.

    This no longer covert knowledge: it is exposed for all the world to see -- not just by leaked photos and accounts, but by the words from the mouths of our own leaders.

    Their torn fabric of lies is now obvious and inescapable.

    Save, of course, for those Americans who refuse to hear or see.

    If this is in any skewed stretch of the concept "moral," "Christian" or "American," we are indeed lost.

    It can happen here.

    It is happening here.

    Are you going to wait until your neighbor is dragged away before you stand against this?