The Next Step

So we continue to discuss the torture report. *sigh* I’d like to think that we’ll be taking steps to do something about this, but we won’t; certainly not in a court of law. But allow me to discuss what I’d like to see in the next few years.

First off, if we don’t already have an independent, special prosecutor/team of such people investigating this with an eye toward filing charges, then we should.

Second, assuming there is enough evidence to go forward (and with Cheney bragging on TV about how we tortured people, I think this is likely), then charges need to be filed against everyone who was involved in this at all levels. Everyone from the CIA personnel who carried out the torture (and no, “I was just following orders” still isn’t a valid defense), on up to anyone who approved it being used to anyone who participated in covering-up it’s use. This would certainly include Cheney, probably Bush, and maybe Condeleeza Rice and Donald Rumsfeld, among others.

Now I do want to emphasize that these people stand accused of, and in Cheney’s case have admitted to, breaking American laws. I’m not even looking at the international aspect of this.

It is also worth remembering that we don’t actually have a choice, legally, about prosecuting them. We signed several treaties about things like torture, and under the guidelines of those treaties (which carry the force of law in the USA), we are legally required to prosecute.

Once that’s all done, and we’ve finished with the trials, we then should turn over any evidence and suspects to an international war crimes tribunal. Yes, this in theory means that an ex-American President would be facing trial in a foreign court. If we don’t do this voluntarily, then I suggest the various national courts of other countries start going after those involved. This means things like extradition requests and the like.

Lest this come off as something partisan (and how being against torture can be a partisan issue is beyond me), allow me to state clearly that I think everyone involved in the torture and cover-up should face criminal charges. This means that if there is evidence Obama helped in the cover-up, then Obama should also face charges.

I’m completely in favor of a scorched earth policy here. It’s terrible, but so is what we did. We need to own up to that, and we need to face the consequences, otherwise this country we all love will be one of the nastier things on Earth: a rogue nation outside international laws.


баналности зла

Looks pretty normal.

Late last night my friend Rob was visiting. We watched Sunset Boulevard, had a nice meal, feasted upon some yummy cheese and, at the end, wound up watching a hearing for Ratko Mladić, a very unpleasant man currently on trial in the Hague for ordering the massacre of nearly 9,000 civilians. This was during the Balkan Wars. Wars which, I would like to remind the Muslim world, featured the USA and NATO attacking a Christian nation to keep Muslims alive. Remember that, please.

Watching the hearing was interesting. Partly it was interesting because it was a hearing in the Netherlands, presided over by a judge from a non-English speaking country, trying a Serbian man, and yet the court was conducted in English. That was kind of cool. But what was even more fascinating was when Rob said, “That’s the guy? He looks so normal.”

And Rob is very right. Mladić looks very normal. If you were to walk past him in the streets, you wouldn’t have any idea he was one of the most unpleasant men in the world. He just looks like some guy. And you know what? I’m willing to bet that he probably loves his family. I’m willing to bet that had the Balkan Wars not happened, he probably would have just continued onward with his undistinguished career in the Yugoslav army.

But instead he got caught up in a system that said “Christians = good, Muslims = evil”, and since he probably considered himself a good man, he was willing to kill Muslims by the truckload. And why not? If your government and your media is telling you that these people are a threat to all you hold dear, why wouldn’t you kill as many of them as you could? I’m sure some of his defenders would say he perhaps went a little farther than he should have, but that he did what was required to keep Serbia safe (Romania has a similar argument about a certain Wallachian prince).

None of this excuses him, of course. He still needs to be held responsible for his crimes, and will be. He’s likely going to spend the rest of his life behind bars and well he should. Put him into prison and let him rot there for the next thirty years until he finally dies. I’m fine with that. But just to look at him, and to hear him talking in court yesterday, it’s fascinating to think of just how banal this evil fellow is.

Bombing Hiroshima and Nagasaki

Back on August 6, 1945, the USA dropped an atomic bomb on Hiroshima. Act two was a few days later when we did the same thing to Nagasaki. People have debated the morality ever since. People I respect deeply, like PZ Myers, think it was very wrong. Others think differently.

My take on this is that is was a very evil, unpleasant act. It was also necessary. It’s abundantly clear that the Japanese Military wasn’t going to surrender. The Emperor may have wanted them to and the civilian populus may have wanted them to, but it wasn’t going to happen.

I also believe it saved lives not only for us but for the Japanese soldiers and civilians. Yes, about 150,000 people died in the two bombings. I’m sure it would’ve been far, far more had we invaded. That’s not even going into the lives of American soldiers who weren’t killed in action.

It’s also worth noting that while it was clearly a war crime on our part, it paled in comparison to the incredibly evil things the Japanese did in the war. Everything from the Rape of Nanking to the way they treated POW’s was brutal, nasty and unpleasant. Now their evil does not excuse ours, but our committing a relatively small amount of evil to put a stop to far greater evil is morally acceptable.

There’s also an excellent argument to be made that had we not used the bombs, and had to invade, the Soviets would’ve also invaded and wanted their pound of flesh. I can guarantee you that they would’ve tried to take and hold northern Japan, much as they did with East Germany. Imagine how nasty it could’ve been to have a communist north in Japan, especially since the Soviets were still smarting over the Russo-Japanese War. An occupation by them would’ve been really, really nasty. Ending the war when we did, as opposed to dragging it out for another year or so, prevented this.

Finally, much as it might suck to bring up this argument, can you imagine the political fallout if Truman had not used the bombs to end the war, and hundreds of thousands of Americans had died taking Japan? Impeachment would’ve been the least of what would’ve happened to him, and rightly so. It was his job at that point to win the war with as few American deaths as possible, and doing otherwise would’ve been seriously wrong.

And I do feel the need to point out one rather obvious, but important, fact: we didn’t start the war. Japan started it. They can claim that it was necessary on their part to secure natural resources denied them by a trade embargo, but that embargo came about because of their actions in Manchuria.

It’s sad that thousands of civilians died in Hiroshima and Nagasaki, and I’m not without empathy for them, especially those who died of radiation poisoning or cancer later in life. It’s an ugly, unpleasant way to die. But I strongly doubt the world in general, and Japan in particular, would have been better off if we’d had to invade.

DVD Review – Storm

(special thanks to Film Movement for providing me with a screener!)

War crimes tribunals can be a tricky thing. It can be hard to define what a war crime is, hard to get evidence and hard to get testimony. Sometimes eyewitnesses are all you’ve got, and eyewitnesses are notoriously unreliable.

This is what Hannah, a war crimes prosecutor handling a case against a Serbian war criminal, discovers very quickly into her case as her star witness lies on the witness stand and then kills himself. Needless to say this buggers the case but good and leaves her completely at a loss as to how to proceed. Then she meets the witness’ sister and begins to see a way to make the case after all…

The plot to this movie is quite good as are the performances (and most of the film is in English, for those of you who shy away from subtitles), but there was something about it that left me rather bored. I didn’t dislike it at all, but it just seemed somewhat off. The ending was certainly somewhat unsatisfying, but real-life court cases frequently are. Maybe it’s just that I don’t know enough about the genocides in the Balkans to really get sucked into it?

Whatever it was, it made this movie less-than-compelling to me. I didn’t dislike it, but I just couldn’t get into it.

=== Short Subject ===

This month’s short subject, Toyland, is a real tear-jerker. It centers around a woman who lives in Germany during WWII and explains to her son that the Jewish neighbors are being sent away soon. She doesn’t want to expose the boy to reality, so she says they’re going to Toyland. The boy is fascinated by this and decides he wants to go. The mother dismisses this, but imagine her surprise and panic when she finds the boy is missing and the neighbors are already on the trains.

This movie, despite it’s short length, was much more compelling to me than the main feature. The performances were all excellent, and the final shot was wonderfully poignant. This film alone is worth picking up the DVD for!

Yes, It Was Genocide

A US congressional panel has officially dared to use the word “genocide” in describing a mass slaughter of Armenians by Turks during World War I.

Now to me rounding up and killing 500,000 people on the basis of the fact that they are Armenian is a genocide. I’m kind of silly that way, I suppose. But the Turks have, since the end of World War I and the collapse of the Ottoman Empire, claimed no genocide has happened.

This is incredibly unlikely. There’s a great deal of photographic, forensic and eyewitness evidence that indicates that something really horrible, beyond the normal scope of nastiness in war, occurred in the Ottoman Empire and was directed at the Armenians.

Even back during the time it was happening rumors were circulating. The international community did nothing to stop it, of course, a fact that a young Austrian allegedly paid a great deal of attention to. Sadly, we still tend to ignore genocide as much as possible, especially in places like Rwanda and the Balkans, as well as the ongoing genocide in Darfur.

Really, the Turkish government needs to own up here, but there’s a silver lining for them. They can, actually, have it both ways. If they’re quite clever they can say, “Yes, it was something horrible the Ottoman Empire did,” and follow that by saying, “But they were a pretty horrible government and we got rid of them in the 1920’s. We’re not the same as they are. They were bad, we’re not.” This enables them to take blame for it and, at the same time, put some distance between themselves and the crimes of their ancestors.

Ultimately a non-binding Congressional resolution is completely meaningless. It’s not really going to change anything one way or the other, but it should still be done. We at least need to recognize the horrors of the past, even those who are more directly connected to it do not.

How Not to Fake a Suicide

You don’t start by creating a scenario most fiction writers would avoid due to it being so implausibly obvious.

According to the NCIS documents, each prisoner had fashioned a noose from torn sheets and T-shirts and tied it to the top of his cell’s eight-foot-high steel-mesh wall. Each prisoner was able somehow to bind his own hands, and, in at least one case, his own feet, then stuff more rags deep down into his own throat. We are then asked to believe that each prisoner, even as he was choking on those rags, climbed up on his washbasin, slipped his head through the noose, tightened it, and leapt from the washbasin to hang until he asphyxiated. The NCIS report also proposes that the three prisoners, who were held in non-adjoining cells, carried out each of these actions almost simultaneously.

That’s from an article on Harper’s website. It’s about what are pretty obviously three torture/murder cases carried out in the name of the American people at Gitmo in 2006.

Now I suppose in theory it’s entirely possible these three cases were suicides. Surely all we’d have to do is exhume the bodies to see. Of course looking at the damage to the throats will be difficult, since the throats were removed from the bodies prior to sending them back to their families.

This is a horrible case and lest you think it was brought to light by some liberal do-gooder in the MSM, think again. It was in fact a soldier who is a conservative and thinks Reagan was one of the greatest presidents ever.

Before you stand up and bitch about how these guys had it coming ask yourself this: what if these had been three Americans being held illegally, without charges, in a foreign country and this exact thing had happened to them? What would your reaction be?

There’s so much evil that happened at Gitmo and we really need the DOJ to investigate heavily and prosecute everyone involved at all levels and, yes, that means Bush and Cheney, if there’s enough evidence. It’ll be painful and unpleasant and it’s totally, absolutely needed.

Torture! It’s the American Way!

So apparently we tortured a bunch of people over the last few years. This is clearly illegal by our laws and international law, but we did it anyhow, because, hey, why let laws stand in the way of getting things done?

Turns out not only did we torture people, but at least three were tortured to death at Gitmo. Of course the right wingers out there will say, “Hey, they were terrorists. They got what they deserved. We should torture them all to death and then nuke their countries!” These people would say that because these people are what we call “morons”.

It’s important to remember that none of the people at Gitmo have actually had, you know, trials to prove their guilt. We only have the word of the people who captured them that they’re guilty, and that should never, ever be sufficient to anyone who has even a basic understanding of human nature.

One of the best things Obama has done so far is his efforts at closing down Gitmo. It’s a stain on America’s honor and reputation and needs to be shut down as soon as possible. The people who are there need to be tried so we can find out if they are actually guilty of what they’re accused of. Those who aren’t guilty need to be released.

Don’t like it? Think we should torture them? Think we should hold them forever without charges or a trial? Don’t care if they’re innocent or not, since they’re they wrong color/religion? Tough shit.

Here’s a short list of countries you might find more amenable to your views on law and order.

Saudia Arabia!

North Korea!



Democratic Republic of the Congo!


And many other shit hole nations throughout the world!

We’re supposed to be the best, most excellent country in the world. That comes at a price. There’s certain standards of behavior that we must hold ourselves to. Otherwise not only are we not doing the wrong thing, we’re also coming of as hypocrites, and no one wants that.