Category Archives: 7. Obsession with National Security

Torture’s OK Because ‘America Is Awesome’

They totally said that:

“The United States of America is awesome, we are awesome. We’ve closed the book on it, and we’ve stopped doing it. And the reason they want to have this discussion is not to show how awesome we are. This administration wants to have this discussion to show us how we’re not awesome.”

The Tea Party, the Debt Ceiling, and White Southern Extremism

“Contradicting the mainstream media narrative that the Tea Party is a new populist movement that formed spontaneously in reaction to government bailouts or the Obama administration, the facts show that the Tea Party in Congress is merely the familiar old neo-Confederate Southern right under a new label. The threat of Southern Tea Party representatives and their sidekicks from the Midwest and elsewhere to destroy America’s credit rating unless the federal government agrees to enact Dixie’s economic agenda of preserving defense spending while slashing entitlements is simply the latest act of aggression by the Solid South. In light of this recent history, it is clear that the origins of the debt ceiling crisis are to be sought, not in generic American conservatism, but in idiosyncratic Southern conservatism. The goal, the methods and the passion of the Tea Party in the House are all characteristic of the radical Southern right. From the earliest years of the American republic, white Southern conservatives when they have lost elections and found themselves in the political minority have sought to extort concession from national majorities by paralyzing or threatening to destroy the United States. As white Southerners, upset with the Democratic Party’s racial and social liberalism, migrated into the post-Goldwater GOP, they brought their Dixiecrat attitudes into the party of Lincoln. The Kemp-Roth tax bill of 1981, which inaugurated the policy of creating permanent deficits by slashing taxes without cutting spending, had its strongest support among Southern and Western members of Congress and the least support in the fiscally conservative Northeast. The debt ceiling crisis is the latest case in which the radical right in the South has held America hostage until its demands are met. Presidents Andrew Jackson and Abraham Lincoln refused to appease the Southern fanatics. Unfortunately, President Obama and the Democrats in Congress chose not to follow their example and instead gave in. In doing so, they have encouraged the neo-Confederate minority in Congress to find yet another opportunity in the near future to extort concessions from America’s majority by sabotaging America’s government.”

The Tea Party, the debt ceiling, and white Southern extremism – War Room – Salon.com.

Wielding Power

“The only rational thought is that he’s gotten what he wants. That he wanted to protect the torturers. That he wanted to protect the banksters. That he wanted to solidify and increase the powers of an Imperial Presidency. That he wanted Health Care Reform that amounts to little more than a giveaway to the megacorporations and no public option. That he wanted to put Social Security up on the chopping block.

“None of those are comforting thoughts but they don’t require us to imagine that Obama, a man of demonstrated intelligence, is an moron.

“And I’ll still (pointlessly since I live in Texas) be casting my vote for the lousy, backstabbing, villain in 2012 because even given all that he’s still a better choice than any Republican.

“Though, at this point, I’m pretty sure that’s entirely due to the Supreme Court.

  • Am I worried that the next Republican president will shit all over the Constitution and start a new and obscenely costly foreign war without even pretending to care about separation of powers? Nope, Obama (the Constitutional scholar!) already did that.
  • Am I worried that the next Republican president will slash social spending to the bone while increasing military spending? Nope, Obama already did that.
  • Am I worried that the next Republican president will decide that he has the power to imprison (forever and without even the possibility of charges and trials) any American citizen they declare to be a terrorist? Nope, Obama already did that.
  • Am I worried that the next Republican president will decide that they can order the CIA to assassinate American citizens merely on the presidential declaration that those citizens are terrorists? Nope, Obama already did that.
  • Am I worried that the next Republican president will attack whistleblowers while ignoring the crimes those whistleblowers report? Nope, Obama already did that.
  • Am I worried that the next Republican president will severely restrict abortion via executive order and legislation? Nope, Obama already did that.
  • Am I worried that the next Republican president will offer retroactive immunity to corporations which cooperate with blatantly illegal civil rights abuses? Nope, Obama alread did that.
  • The only thing I can see that differentiates Obama from Romney is who they’ll appoint to the Supreme Court.
  • I can’t be scared with dire threats that if Obama loses we’ll be plunged into war, the economy will be fucked, civil rights will be trampled, and the safety net will be shredded. Obama’s already done all that.

“The single, solitary, only thing I see that makes Obama better than any Republican up to and including Palin, is the Supreme Court.

“And on that basis I’ll vote for him. It will hurt. It will make me depressed and wretched for weeks after. I’ll hate myself for doing it, but I will because the Supreme Court is important.

“But I can’t keep pretending that the problem is that Obama just isn’t good at wielding power. He’s great at wielding power, and everything that has happened since he came into office is exactly what he wanted.

Commenter on MetaFilter

Regime Change is Not Revolution

“”There was no meaningful revolution. It’s former members of the Soviet elite and their kids who are still running the country as we speak. Nothing’s changed for the general populace except that their rights to medical care, education and (shitty, but functioning) housing has been removed. Life expectancy is fucking worse in modern Russia than it was under Communism and yet its seen as progress. Here’s what happened, in a simplistic description:

“Some of the wealthy elite decided that they weren’t getting rich enough in a closed economy. They realized that they could pacify the populace more effectively by stapling up a thin veneer of freedom while they privatized all the state-built infrastructure by way of selling it off to their buddies and simultaneously built an economy designed to do more for lining their pockets than stealing shared internal wealth ever could.

“Then they decided to clean house with the coup. This gave the illusion of distancing future government from the Central Committee and making a fresh start where the abuses of the past were blamed on historical figures, and not the people taking over who just moments ago had been ideological companions of those historical monsters.

“Yay! Communism’s over! We’re going to have elections! We’ll totally be counting the votes but there’s no corruption anymore so you can trust us! We’re going to be free now. ‘Free’ means that you can potentially purchase consumer goods that weren’t designed and manufactured by gibbons, and you can watch sitcoms instead of watching ballet and playing god damn chess. Backpacks for your children with cartoon characters on them, just like your cousin in Toronto has for his kids! Doesn’t that sound fucking sweet?”

“Then when the mic was off, they said “Of course, most of you still aren’t going to have the money to buy anything except turnips, rags and methanol. But a plutocracy’s an easier sell when people can aspire to step over their neighbor’s corpse to join it instead of that ‘we’re all in this together’ bullshit. And we won’t actually provide free speech or free elections. We’re not idiots; the idiots are those grimy people out there. Their lives are going to be virtually unchanged because they’re still going to have jack shit and they’re still going to have to be careful about how loud they complain. Hey guys, who wants an oil refinery?”

“A regime change doesn’t always equal a revolution. A revolution causes a fundamental shift in how government works. The “revolution” in question caused as much change for the ordinary Russian citizen as Bush I taking over for Reagan did for Americans.”

Commenter on a Metafilter discussion about the collapse of the Soviet Union.

Pro-War Ideology Connected to Being Shielded From the Human Cost of War

“[A new study] suggests that many Americans’ aggressively pro-war ideology may fundamentally rely on their being physically shielded/disconnected from the human cost of war. … The researchers analyzed data from the Jennings-Niemi Political Socialization Study of college-bound high schoolers and subsequent interviews of those same high-schoolers from 1965 onward. In the process, they discovered that men holding low draft lottery numbers (and therefore more at risk of being drafted into combat) “became more anti-war, more liberal, and more Democratic in their voting compared to those whose high numbers protected them from the draft.” Importantly, for these men “lottery number was a stronger influence on their political outlook than their late-childhood party identification.” That influence transcended previous party affiliation and made a permanent impact on their politics into adulthood. Men with vulnerable numbers show evidence of totally rethinking their partisanship in response to the threat of the draft,” the researchers report. “Republicans in the group abandoned their party with unusual frequency, while even Democrats moved toward the independent category with slightly greater frequency than others.””

Why people become chickenhawks, Salon.com

The American Death Star

“When you laugh at Michele Bachmann for going on MSNBC and blurting out that the moon is made of red communist cheese, these people don’t learn that she is wrong. What they learn is that you’re a dick, that they hate you more than ever, and that they’re even more determined now to support anyone who promises not to laugh at their own visions and fantasies. …  Michele Bachmann has found the flaw in the American Death Star. She is a television camera’s dream, a threat to do or say something insane at any time, the ultimate reality-show protagonist. She has brilliantly piloted a media system that is incapable of averting its eyes from a story, riding that attention to an easy conquest of an overeducated cultural elite from both parties that is far too full of itself to understand the price of its contemptuous laughter. All of those people out there aren’t voting for Michele Bachmann. They’re voting against us. And to them, it turns out, we suck enough to make anyone a contender.”

Matt Taibbi, Michele Bachmann’s Holy War, Rolling Stone

Former Military Interrogator on How Torture Delayed Finding Bin Laden

“One of the things that people aren’t talking about is the fact that one of the people that was confronted with this information that bin Laden had a courier is Skaykh al-Libi, who was held in a CIA secret prison and was tortured and who gave his CIA interrogators the name of the courier as being Maulawi Jan. And the CIA chased down that information and found out that person didn’t exist, that al-Libi had lied. And nobody is talking about the fact that al-Libi caused us to waste resources and time by chasing a false lead because he was tortured. The other thing that’s being left out of this conversation is the fact that Khalid Sheikh Mohammed certainly knew the real name of the courier, whose nom de guerre or nickname was Abu Ahmed al-Kuwaiti. But Khalid Sheikh Mohammed had to have known his real name or at least how to find him, a location that we might look, but he never gave up that information. And so, what we’re seeing is that waterboarding and enhanced interrogation techniques, just like professional interrogators have been saying for years, always result in either limited information, false information or no information.

” I don’t torture because it doesn’t work. I don’t torture, because it’s immoral, and it’s against the law, and it’s inconsistent with my oath of office, in which I swore to defend the Constitution of the United States. And it’s also inconsistent with American principles. So, my primary argument against torture is one of morality, not one of efficacy. You know, if torture did work and we could say it worked 100 percent of the time, I still wouldn’t use it. The U.S. Army Infantry, when it goes out into battle and it faces resistance, it doesn’t come back and ask for the permission to use chemical weapons. I mean, chemical weapons are extremely effective—we could say almost 100 percent effective. And yet, we don’t use them. But we make this—carve out this special space for interrogators and say that, well, they’re different, so they can violate the laws of war if they face obstacles.”

“When I was in Iraq, I oversaw the interrogations of foreign fighters. And those foreign fighters, the majority of them, said, time and time again, the reason they had come to Iraq to fight was because of the torture and abuse of detainees at both Abu Ghraib and Guantánamo Bay. And this is not my opinion. The Department of Defense tracked these statistics. And they were briefed, every interrogator who arrived there, that torture and abuse was al-Qaeda’s number one recruiting tool.

“They won’t talk about the fact that al-Qaeda uses it to recruit. They won’t talk about the fact that future Americans are going to be subjected to the same techniques by future enemies using our own actions as justification. They’re not going to talk about the fact that it makes detainees more resistant to interrogations as soon as they walked in the interrogation room, because they see us all as torturers. So they’re not going to talk about all these long-term negative consequences.”

Former Military Interrogator Matthew Alexander on Democracy Now.