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Nederlog

Sep 12, 2016

Crisis: Fooled Again, CIA & Torture, War Crimes, Terror and "Law"
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Introduction

1.
Fooled Again
2. How the CIA’s Darkest Torture Secrets Were
     Exposed—and Covered Up

3. Censoring Our War Crimes
4. 
‘Terror’ and Everybody’s Rights
Introduction: 

This is a Nederlog of Monday, September 12, 2016.

This is a crisis log with 4 items and 4 dotted links: Item 1 is about the latest article by Chris Hedges (I partially disagree, partially agree); item 2 is about how the CIA's tortures were mostly covered up, by the CIA, with lots of help from Eric Holder; item 3 is about the censorship committed by Facebook (that is now - at long last - undone, but will not be the last time Facebook censors history, I'm sure); and item 4 is about torture, the Constitution, the courts of law and democracy in the USA: it is far from optimistic, but it seems right.

I have decided that most of my site has been corrected now. Here is the link to Rewriting my site, that shows I have reformatted "everything", although there is still some to do in five directories. Most of that will be done in September, though the Multatuli section probably will last longer.

And in case you wonder why I did not do much with it since 2012: My eyes were quite painful. They are not healed yet, but they are a lot better now, and that is the main explanation I could do it now.

In any case, the site should look a lot better to many, and it certainly does to me.

O, in case you visit my Dutch site: I do not know, but it may be you need to click twice to see any changes I have made. This certainly held for me, but it is possible this was caused by the fact that I am also writing it from my computer. (But it didn't do so before. And as to asking my provider: I am sorry, but most of the things they told me the last nearly twenty years were lies. I've given up on them, and I only am there because (i) I was there nearly 20 years, and because (ii) the competition in Holland probably is equally bad.)

1. Fooled Again

The first item today is by Chris Hedges on Truthdig:

This starts as follows:
The naive hopes of Bernie Sanders’ supporters—to build a grass-roots political movement, change the Democratic Party from within and push Hillary Clinton to the left—have failed. Clinton, aware that the liberal class and the left are not going to mount genuine resistance, is running as Mitt Romney in drag. The corporate elites across the political spectrum, Republican and Democrat, have gleefully united to anoint her president. All that remains of Sanders’ “revolution” is a 501(c)(4) designed to raise money, including from wealthy, anonymous donors, to ensure that he will be a senator for life. Great historical events happen twice, as Karl Marx quipped, first as tragedy and then as farce.
No, and this portrayal of Sanders is far too simpleminded and also too caricatural.

First, while the summary of what Sanders tried to do - "
to build a grass-roots political movement, change the Democratic Party from within and push Hillary Clinton to the left" - is correct, it seems quite false to me to characterize this as "naive".

Sanders might have succeeded (though I grant Clinton's opposition was both tricky and dishonest, and in the end won), and he certainly won far more voters, and also inspired far more voters, than he would have had he run as an independent.

Second, if Hedges is right that "
the liberal class and the left are not going to mount genuine resistance" then nothing will work, and that includes Hedges' own calls for a revolution or for supporting Jill Stein.

I might agree with Hedges that the left is mostly dead and that "the liberal class" consists mostly of academics trying to keep their positions and their incomes
[1] (but I don't know, and I also do not pretend to understand over 300 million Americans), but if so, there certainly will not be sufficiently many votes for leftist candidates to win - and that is also no fault of Sanders, if true.

Third, I don't like it that Sanders seems to be portrayed as being interested in his career ("he
will be a senator for life") nor do I dislike the disdain for money from the wealthy.

I don't think Sanders is or was a careerist (if he were, his whole career would have been quite different), and I totally disagree with disdaining money from the wealthy: In fact, given the enormous riches of the opponents, any wealthy supporter should be welcomed and told that his money and support are welcome, but that he will not buy any influence or special access: he or she must support the ends, and not try to buy personal power, and if they do they will be refused.

The next bit I quote is better (though also propagandistic):

The multibillion-dollar extravaganza of our electoral Circus Maximus is part of the smokescreen that covers the ongoing devastation of globalization, deindustrialization, trade deals such as the Trans-Pacific Partnership, endless war, climate change and the intrusion into every corner of our lives by the security and surveillance state. Our democracy is dead. Clinton and Donald Trump do not have the power or the interest to revive it. They kneel before the war machine, which consumes trillions of dollars to wage futile wars and bankroll a bloated military. To defy the fortress state is political suicide. Politicians are courtiers to Wall Street. The candidates mouth the clichés of justice, improvements in income equality and democratic choice, but it is a cynical game. Once it is over, the victors will go to Washington to work with the lobbyists and financial elites to carry out the real business of ruling.
In brief, and also with less propaganda mixed in:

Elections, especially in the USA with just two parties that may win, are mostly a smokescreen; they are mostly a smokescreen since the electorare is deceived and does not get most of the information it should get to make rational decisions; democracy indeed is mostly dead: the press has been corrupted and the main media are mostly lying, misleading or leaving out things; the leading politicians now are all beholden to the rich, and merely pretend justice, equality and democracy, in which they cannot honestly believe; and mere elections will not change much.

I mostly agree with my own summary, but not with an implication that might seem to follow from the last bit: There is a considerable difference between the two presidential candidates, simply because one is both an incredible crude
and extremely temperamental liar and crook, who also seems mad, in being far too temperamental and stupid to be nominated as the most powerful man on earth by a deceived electorate.

It seems Hedges disagrees with my - psychologically informed - view of Trump, for he doesn't seem to see much difference between Trump and Clinton, but if so, he is mistaken (as Chomsky and others have also pointed out).

What - I think - Hedges is not mistaken about is this:

Political personalities serve global corporate centers of power. They do not control them. Barack Obama illustrates this.
I believe that is correct, and indeed this also one of the reasons I believe that democracy is mostly dead in the USA:

Those deciding many things are no longer elected, but are nominated by the few who are elected, like Obama, and indeed those who are nominated are very often the very rich, who are nominated in positions where they can serve their own interests and those of their own groups best (after which they return through the revolving door to their previous extremely rich positions).

There is also this on political corrruption that I think is mostly correct:

Corruption may be more naked and cruder in Afghanistan or Iraq, but it has its parallel in the for-sale politicians and political parties that dominate the United States and Europe. The common good—the building of community and solidarity—has been replaced through decades of corporate indoctrination with the callous call to amass all you can for yourself and leave the stranger bleeding on the side of the road.
Yes, I think "[t]he common good" was one important end of real democracies, where indeed there also might be much difference about what it is, but not about the thesis that majorities elect politicians who - in a real democracy - do try to realize their version of "the common good", which means among other things that they stop large income inequalities, and try to raise the poor to a higher level of income.

In the false "democracy" that has emerged now, most politicians stopped trying to realize any "common good": Most serve themselves and the rich who
pay them, and what they vote for are lowering the taxes of the rich and destroying the protections and incomes of the non-rich (by deregulation after deregulation, all of which only serve the rich).

This is Hedges expectation of how it will end. I disagree and will explain myself after the quote:

History has amply demonstrated where this will end up. The continued exploitation by an unchecked elite, and the rising levels of poverty and insecurity, will unleash a legitimate rage among the desperate. They will see through the lies and propaganda of the elites. They will demand retribution. They will turn to those who express the hatred they feel for the powerful and the institutions, now shams, that were designed to give them a voice. They will seek not reform but destruction of a system that has betrayed them.
I really don't think so, for the simple reason that only very rarely have the downtrodden seen "through the lies and propaganda of the elites". They may
indeed oppose their exploiters, but it will be very rarely on the basis of any real understanding, which indeed also has been mostly and systematically denied to them by the main media.

Also, while I don't expect that the current capitalist system will survive for a long time, I don't expect it will be brought down by opposition from the repressed and exploited. I expect it will be brought down by economic crisis
and/or radical environmental changes (like the eventual flooding of New York).

Meanwhile, here is the last bit that I'll quote, which is about a real fear I share with Hedges:

Nationalism, buttressed by a deification of the military, will be used to compensate for individual powerlessness and a loss of national identity. Dissent in the U.S. will become “anti-American,” a form of treason. Enemies at home will be vilified along with enemies abroad.
Yes, or rather: It is less nationalism that I fear as totalitarianism, and I agree with Hedges that the USA is growing less and less democratic and more and more totalitarian, which incidentally also seems to suit both presidential candidates and both dominant political parties.

2. How the CIA’s Darkest Torture Secrets Were Exposed—and Covered Up

The second item is by John Kiriakou (<- Wikipedia) on Truthdig:
This starts as follows:

The Guardian published a story Friday on Senate Select Committee on Intelligence (SSCI) investigator Dan Jones and his quest to get to the bottom of the CIA’s torture program. Jones’ hard work resulted in the Senate Intelligence Committee report on CIA torture. The article provides great insight into the day-to-day machinations between the SSCI and the CIA, although no new details on the torture program per se.

LISTEN: Robert Scheer and John Kiriakou Talk Government Double Standards

What the article does provide, however, is proof that then-Attorney General Eric Holder and others conspired to keep the worst news of the CIA’s torture crimes secret. They conspired to protect the CIA’s most notorious torturers. Holder also worked hard to make sure that as little news of the torture program as possible was released to the American people.

Yes, indeed: I agree Eric Holder (<- Wikipedia) is a massive fraud, who probably got to be the head of the DoJ under Obama because he advertised his willingness to be a major fraud for the rich already in 1999. This is from the Wikipedia lemma on Holder:

Holder has also endorsed the notion that prosecutors, when deciding to pursue white-collar crimes, should give special consideration to "collateral consequences" of bringing charges against large corporate institutions, as outlined in a 1999 memorandum by Holder. Nearly a decade later Holder, as head of the Department of Justice, put this into practice and has demonstrated the weight "collateral consequences" has by repeatedly sought and reached deferred prosecution and non-prosecution agreements and settlements with large financial institutions such as J.P. Morgan Chase, HSBC, Countrywide Mortgage, Wells Fargo, Goldman Sachs, and others where the institution pays a fine or penalty but faces no criminal charges and admits no wrongdoing.

That seems to me excellent evidence of major corruption. I quoted it, because I agree with Kiriakou that Holder also did his mighty best to protect the CIA's torturers, and to deny almost any evidence about the CIA's practice of torture (which is deeply illegal, on the basis of international laws signed by the USA).

In November 2005, a senior CIA official named Jose Rodriguez destroyed 92 videotapes depicting the brutal 2002 interrogations of two detainees, Abu Zubaydah and Abd al-Rahim al-Nashiri. Rodriguez’s tapes destruction remained a secret to his congressional overseers for two years, until a 6 December 2007 New York Times article revealed it; they barely even knew the CIA taped interrogations at all.

Note that this was over 5 years after the tortures happened, at a time when few knew that the CIA practised tortures.

This is what happened in the end:

In the end, Jones completed the torture report, documenting in more than 6,000 pages CIA crimes against detainees. Committee Republicans refused to participate in the investigation and denounced the report’s conclusions. The CIA condemned the report, saying the conclusions were “flawed.” Agency leaders also argued that they had never “misrepresented” the torture program. The agency said, “The factual record maintained by the agency does not support such conclusions.”
That is: In fact the CIA, the DoJ, Bush Jr, the CIA's torturers and also Holder got away with denying that the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence's Report on Torture was a proper report, which was also supported by the CIA, in the end - it seems - on the basis of the fact that much about the tortures was in fact successfully kept secret by the CIA.

"Democracy" in the USA!

3. Censoring Our War Crimes

The third item is by Abby Zimet on Common Dreams:

This starts as follows (and I reported on this before: see September 10, 2016):

Facebook has backed down amidst outraged charges of censorship after deleting the iconic photo of a naked burned Vietnamese girl fleeing a napalm attack during the Vietnam War. Demonstrating questionable journalistic standards now being increasingly challenged, the social network deleted the harrowing, Pulitzer Prize-winning image by AP photographer Nick Ut - which shows nine-year-old Kim Phuc running screaming from her village of Trang Bang after she was severely burned by napalm dropped by South Vietnamese planes on June 8, 1972 - in the name of "maintaining a safe and respectful experience for our global community."

I say. Well... I despise Facebook, for I think they steal everything from their customers, and censor or propagandize information they believe the people should hear, or should not hear, and I think both are dishonest and totalitarian practices.

Then again, few users of Facebook agree with me, it seems. I am glad the present attempt of censoring the historical truth - it is much worse to see a naked girl of 9 who was severely burned by napalm in Vietnam then to relay
the truth about what was happening in Vietnam, according to Facebook's censors - failed because of repeated loud protests, but I am quite certain this will happen again, simply because the essence of Facebook is that it is
dishonest and totalitarian.

Here is what happened:

Phuc survived. Despite years of ongoing pain and surgeries related to her burns, she now lives in Canada, runs a foundation dedicated to help other child victims of war, and sometimes speaks about the powerful impact of one of the most famous war photographs of all time taken by the Vietnamese, then-21-year-old Ut. The recent uproar came after Norwegian author Tom Egeland included it in a Facebook post about photos that changed the history of wars, and in this case perhaps helped end one. Facebook removed the picture, Egeland protested, Facebook banned him and then proceeded to remove the image several more times when it was defiantly re-posted by other high-profile Norwegians - including Prime Minister Erna Solberg, who charged, "If you edit past events or people, you change history, and you change reality."

Yes, indeed - although it is not so much "changing" history as falsifying history (which the above quote shows Facebook's minions tried to do again, and again, and again, presumably on the ground that the truth was offensive to the USA).

There is also this, that seems to me also to be too friendly to Facebook (which I agree is very powerful):

In the case of Ut's famous photo, critics cited their ludicrous inability to figure out that the nude child in the photo is not what's obscene or pornographic; the war and its atrocities are.
My reasons that this is too friendly are the repeated, and repeated and repeated attempts to falsify history on Facebook by Facebook's minions:

Perhaps one of their twenty-year olds didn't know what "Vietnam" is, but if
you persist, and persist, and persist in falsifying history, it is not because
you detect "child pornography" in a worldfamous photo, but it is because
you abuse child pornography (that has not been an issue for 44 years) because you want to falsify history, and namely to a form that is less
painful to American illusions and pretensions.

And indeed here is Orwell, who saw this very clearly:
In the end, he notes, the ever-cogent George Orwell said it best. "If liberty means anything at all," he wrote in his preface to Animal Farm, "it means the right to tell people what they do not want to hear."
And if honesty means anything at all, it means that people who try to falsify history so that it apparently tells what they want others to hear are stinking totalitarian frauds.

4. ‘Terror’ and Everybody’s Rights

The fourth item is by Jed S. Rakoff on The New York Review of Books:

This starts as follows, and is basically a review of Owen Fiss's "A War Like No Other: The Constitution in a Time of Terrror":

Say the word “war” and the rule of law often implodes, with courts frequently employing sophistry to avoid any interference with governmental conduct. To take an obvious example, during World War II the Roosevelt administration interned thousands of American citizens of Japanese descent solely on the basis of their ancestry, and the Supreme Court, in an opinion by Justice Hugo Black, upheld this patently unconstitutional confinement by simply repeating the mantra that, in time of war, total deference (unchecked and unbalanced) is due the military.

During the same war, the US troops fighting Nazi racism were, without judicial interference, segregated by color. Even the 1940 draft law, which stated that “in the selection and training of men under this Act,…there shall be no discrimination against any person on account of race or color,” was held by the Second Circuit Court of Appeals not to prohibit separate draft quotas for whites and blacks, since “the Army executives are to decide the Army’s needs.”

Indeed both examples are excellent examples how the law ceases to operate properly when a nation is at war - indeed even precisely about those themes (racial equality, of Jews, Blacks and Japanese) that are important to the war.

But then there is a very important difference or set of differences between WW II (which also did have its secrecies) and the supposed "war on terror":

The so-called “war on terror” declared by President George W. Bush soon after September 11, 2001, has already lasted more than three times as long as American involvement in World War II, with no end in sight. By its shapeless and secretive nature, it tends to generate amorphous fears and shrouded responses that compromise our freedoms in ways we may only dimly recognize but that create troubling precedents for the future. And so far, the federal courts have done precious little to challenge these incursions.

The "war on terror" is done mostly in secret; it is a war that is not approved by Congress but nevertheless goes on and on, in quite a few countries as well; it is a war in which there is widespread use of torture by the Americans (by themselves or by their "partners"), but this is hardly investigated and the
investigation is disturbed in all possible ways by the government that should be be investigated (but mostly refuses); it is a war on "terror" that killed less people than are killed by lightning or cows, but where the "terror" is supposed to have justified that all Americans (and everyone else with a computer or cellphone connected to internet) are secretly stolen all their information from, even of the most private details - but all these things
are mostly kept secret by the government that does them, also without much opposition from the House, and indeed are also hardly discussed in the main media.

As to the use of torture, there is this:

Most directly applicable, in 1988 the United States signed and in 1994 ratified the United Nations Convention Against Torture, which thereby became a binding part of our law. Article 1 of the convention defines torture to encompass, among other things, “any act by which severe pain or suffering, whether physical or mental, is intentionally inflicted on a person for such purposes as obtaining from him or a third person information or a confession.” Article 2 requires each signatory state to “take effective legislative, administrative, judicial or other measures to prevent acts of torture in any territory under its jurisdiction” (emphasis added). Article 2 also provides that “no exceptional circumstances whatsoever, whether a state of war or a threat of war, internal political stability or any other public emergency, may be invoked as a justification of torture.”

All of these laws, which the United States agreed to, are arbitrarily broken, broken again, denied, or regarded as inapplicable. And while the United States itself may have stopped torturing, it still delivers people it wants information
from to its torturing partners.

There also is the following, with which I partially disagree:

Since, however, it is up to the judiciary to make the final determination of what a law means, one might have imagined that once the CIA’s waterboarding was made public, a court would then have decided whether or not it constituted torture under section 2340A. But this did not occur, in part because the government also took the position that the CIA’s water- boarding, as an instrument in the war on terror, was exempt from judicial review.

First, it is - in a real democracy, to be sure - not "the judiciary to make the final determination of what a law means": It is the people who ought to determine what kinds of laws - moral restrictions upheld by the state, in the end - they want, and it is also the people who ought to decide what laws work well and what laws don't. (The law exists or should exist to serve the people; the people do not exist to satisfy any particular set of laws.)

Second, it is true that the courts failed, and it is quite ridiculous (or a show of either how little competent the law is in the USA or else how corrupt it has grown) that they admitted the completely illegal argument (see here) that
a torturing nation may torture if it feels like torturing, even while it signed agreements and laws it would not torture.

And as I said,
while the United States itself may have stopped torturing, it still delivers people it wants information from to its torturing partners:

Regretfully, however, President Obama’s ban on waterboarding did not put an end to US involvement in the use of torture as part of the war on terror. Instead, within the past decade the US has repeatedly made use of the device known as extraordinary rendition, by which suspected terrorists detained by the US are turned over to police authorities in other countries that regularly employ torture as an interrogation technique.

So the tortures went on, also under the "liberal", "progressive" Obama, though he does seem to have taken care that the tortures now are done by friends of the USA rather than by people from the USA.

I say. There is a lot more in the article, that is recommended.

---------------
Notes

[0] Incidentally: I do want to keep my sites to look reasonable on the monitors (and computers and OSs) that I use, and I am trying to do so for
the new monitor I have, but I gave up (by 2012) trying to please everyone:

I do take care it works well on Firefox, on Ubuntu, on a normal sized squarish monitor, but I will not check anymore how my site is displayed on other monitors, other OSs and other screens: Too much work for my health. (I guess it works on most systems, since it is html that ought to work the same everywhere, but I lack the health to check and repair.)

[1] As to Dutch academics (and scientists): I am certainly right - to the best of my knowledge, based on 25 years of experiences with that class - that no one can trust the majority, and most are in it for the money and the soft and well paid jobs. Most also are conformists and careerists, at least in Holland.

I know about Holland because I am Dutch, and I know about the - honestly considered - quite breathtaking dishonesty of the Dutch academic species  because in the 25 years that I studied and visited, most of the time all Dutch universities were in the hands of the students, who were very leftist, and mostly communists till 1984 or so, which made very many Dutch academics pretend to be much more sympathetic to Marx than they really were.

There certainly are a few academics who are mostly interested in real science, and I know or knew some, but they are in a small minority: Most academics are academics (in Holland) not because they are vastly intelligent (most are not) nor because they are much interested in science (few really are), but because they earn more money than most, because their jobs are easier, and because they have a lot of (very ill understood) status.

In other words, most academics are just like ordinary people: driven by egoism, conformism and careerism. (And yes, I think this holds also outside Holland, and as in Holland: There are exceptions.)

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