Monday, October 02, 2006

This is what's going in my paper this week.

I've been a bit manic the past day or two as I was thinking this over . . .

It was an autumn day in 1976 and I was sitting in our high school library in Norfolk, reading a magazine.
Since it was in a Navy town, the school had a pretty good-sized JROTC program and the library reflected it with some professional journals such as the Naval Institute Proceedings. I was reading a copy that day and paying special attention to a piece based on interviews with several POW's who had returned from North Vietnam the previous year.
Among those interviewed were Everett Alvarez and John McCain, and they and some others described just what it was like to be beaten, stretched into unnatural positions, malnourished and used as propaganda material.
One of the former prisoners illustrated the article with the starkest, most frightening pen-and-ink drawings of American prisoners being bound, beaten, having their arms stretched out of their sockets, shackled into excruciating positions. The words from those prisoners made the illustrations even more sickening.
In later years, I read more on how prisoners of war and captured 'enemy combatants' found themselves beyond the pale of international protections - black American soldiers and airmen who disappeared in the 'custody' of the SS; American prisoners tortured and brainwashed by the North Koreans; mass graves in the former Yugoslavia; and eventually Abu Ghraib and 'rendition' of terror suspects to countries with supposedly less respect than we have for the niceties of international law.
And after all that time, I still remember that magazine article and its sketches.
Anyone who hasn’t been away on a wilderness hunting trip or in a coma the last few months has probably heard Mr. Bush demanding the authority to decide who’s an enemy combatant, what’s torture and what’s not, and whether a prisoner has the right to contest his or her confinement.
And during that debate, I’ve still remembered those sketches of American pilots trussed up like poultry and pulled and stretched until they screamed and passed out before they were awoken and given the same abuse again and again.
Now, our Congress has given a sitting President a power that no president in my lifetime has had so openly - the power to judge just how much pain constitutes torture.
Sixty years ago, America, Britain, France and the Soviet Union put Nazis to death at Nuremburg for crimes against humanity. Scores more were convicted and imprisoned despite their defense that they were following orders.
Out of the Nuremburg trials came a fundamental priciple that American soldiers had a duty to refuse unlawful orders when they violated American or applicable international law. Yes, there were violators, but there was a system to make some attempt to bring them to justice.
Now that system is a pen-stroke away from disappearing.
I think I’m going to see more pen-and-ink drawings in the coming years.

13 Comments:

Blogger Homo Escapeons said...

Pathetic...doesn't he realise what that means if one of his boys is a prisoner?
Is this because other countries are doing this anyway so they figure that they might as well?
This administration has made losing the moral high ground into an art form..is this Rove's idea?



et tu John McCain?

10:27 PM  
Blogger Miss Cellania said...

Thats how democracy dies. Not with a bang, but with a whimper.

Hey! Maybe The Decider should have to actually feel the different methods of interrogation before he decides what is torture and what is not.

10:39 PM  
Blogger awaiting said...

All I can say is "what is our country coming to?"

The definition of torture varies from 'man to man'...how can we consitute the right of determination of torture to one individual when all definitions are varied?

1:58 AM  
Blogger The Michael said...

It's pretty well accepted that most of us gravatate towards the discussions that we already agree with. "Liberals" make up the bulk of the audiance for NPR, "Conservatives" go to work listening to Rush Limbaugh and get their fix on Fox. So, it stands to reason that a certain demographic is recieving this same news and are all giddy about it. Mom and Pop Conservative America is sitting at the breakfast table remarking, "Yea, bout time we put some hurt on those animals and give em a taste of their own medicine!" It's a narrow mindset that is being well fed these days, much like the brownshirts in pre-war Germany fed the hatred and resentment brewing in that nation. As a human being, I can easily understand how George Bush feeds off this desire to "deal with these terrorists" before some Friday night football game gets shot up by Al Quida. So, unless you have the courage to turn to a co-worker, or even complete stranger in the grocery line, who has uttered some clueless agreement with such concepts, and challenge him or her, asking what it was that turned them into the very kind of people we feel so threatened by, then that virus will continue to spread and infect everyone who wants to take the easy way out and let the likes of Bush, Cheney, Rove, and Rumsfield take care of them.

10:45 AM  
Blogger Metro said...

I am similarly haunted by the pictures of men in Japanese prison camps. Worked to death, starved, forced to drink water and then beaten until their internal organs ruptured.

But the Japanese at least didn't try to redefine the Geneva Conventions they were so blatantly violating.

Is this what's going on now? We can only wait for history to tell us.

German commanders were executed at Nuremburg for doing things they knew to be wrong, or against international law.

Dubya will get off scot-free.

2:59 PM  
Blogger Carmenzta said...

the michael is right the we all gravitate towards discussions we agree with. But I would add that to actually talk to one of these Mom or Pop Conservative who are in agreement with Dubya's definition of interrogation v. torture would be a complete waste of time. No one is going to change these people's tiny little minds, not even if one has the guts to speak up to them!

4:23 PM  
Blogger lee said...

I'm just catching up on the last couple of days in which you've gone from ELO to this. Will make the obvious comment and say that for some ELO would be torture.

But this is scary stuff, isn't it - very sobering.

7:47 PM  
Blogger Frontier Editor said...

Yesterday a local dentist called our ad rep to announce that I was to stop putting "anti-American" material on our editorial page or else he would stop advertising.
Hope he finds a good deal elsewhere.

11:01 PM  
Blogger Within Without said...

Fronty:

Is this your actual editorial?

Regardless, it's a hell of a read and makes the point painfully obvious.

I'm glad you're prepared to tell that dentist to shoot himself up the arse with one of his needles.

Thank god for newspaper editorials.

11:44 PM  
Blogger Miz BoheMia said...

It is sickening, isn't it? WTF is the Geneva Convention for if it is to be trampled upon so blatantly?

I hope Bush gets what's coming to him... all we can hope for is a change of power when election time rolls around again but for now... I am not too optimistic about it all I am afraid!

12:55 AM  
Blogger Carmenzta said...

Fronty,

Good for you! Since when is having an opinion "Anti-American?" Yeah, he needs to advertise in "Dentistry Today" or wherever...

2:50 PM  
Blogger The Michael said...

Your local Dentist seems to have a major misunderstanding of what constitutes anything "American". Ask him to write in an explanation of what is "anti-American" about your column so that you can publish it and "educate" his fellow citizens on the concept of patriotism, which in his mind is bowing to King George and keeping his mouth shut no matter what.
Let's see if he has the courage to put his convictions where his mouth is. Maybe he knows that dentists make the best interrogators and he doesn't want to lose out on a really great career opportunity. hehe

5:00 PM  
Blogger Frontier Editor said...

"Is it safe? Is it safe?"

9:09 PM  

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