Why I Fight Against Torture

by: Chacounne

Fri Jan 11, 2013 at 05:49:51 AM EST



I have been asked to write about why the fight against torture and for accountability is so important to me, so I thought I bring you the series of diaries I have written on "Why I Fight Against Torture". Aside from this first dairy, it gives the first hand account of what has been done to real live human beings by or assisted by the United States since 9/11.

It is VERY important that we stand up and tell the President and the senators on the committee who will hold the confirmation hearings that Mr. Brennan, who defended the torture authorized by the Bush Administration should not be the next head of the CIA, the organization which committed much of the torture inflicted by the US since 9/11.

On the diary :

My husband, Dan, was a Vietnam Vet who survived torture. He came home with injuries that lasted for the rest of his life. Dan had scars all over his body, where they had cut him, and a trench in the back of his neck, where they had beaten him. His toenails had to be taken off three times when he got back to the US, because the bamboo poisoning was so bad where they had inflicted pain to get him to give them the answers they wanted. Even after the third removal of all of his toenails, the infection was so insidious that it came back and stayed for the rest of his life.

Chacounne :: Why I Fight Against Torture

More importantly, Dan came back with his personality changed. He was given badly cooked or undercooked rice to eat during his captivity with occasional pieces of badly cooked fish or vegetables, so food was a huge issue for the rest of his life. There was never enough food to satisfy his psychological hunger. For the last two years of his life he was on dialysis, which is a long, slow, difficult road, but the worst part was the diet. Dialysis doesn't take all the excess potassium or phosphorus out of your blood like your kidneys do, so you have to be very careful about how much of these nutrients you consume every single day or you can die. This was, and I use the term advisedly, torture for Dan; he became completely miserable and I became his warden, having to enforce the rules. His mind was so consumed by what it felt to be the deprivation of this diet that it rebelled and he began to eat in his sleep. He literally had no idea that he was doing it until I showed him the evidence. Even then, he was powerless to stop.

The nightmares were the worst though. He would scream out in pain many nights, even all these years later. In fact, they became more prevalent after the current war started, probably because the news brought it all back again. Often, he would speak urgently in Vietnamese in his sleep, which he had been taught as part of his training. It seemed as though he was trying to convince whoever he was talking to of something. There was a sense of desperation in his voice that was chilling and agonizing.

Seven and a half years ago, after four years of being disabled with diabetes and congestive heart failure, and two years on dialysis, Dan had a heart attack and didn't come back. It has become my mission to try to live up to his legacy.

I need your help.

I need each and every one of you to stand up and tell the President, the Congress, and the Attorney General, that those responsible for torture MUST be held accountable, legally accountable. That you will accept nothing less.

I need each and every one of you to stand up and tell the President and the senators who will hold the confirmation hearings that Mr. Brennan should not be the next leader of the CIA, the organization which committed much of the torture inflicted by the US since 9/11.

Please stand up and give Dan the legacy that he deserves.

       With gratitude and standing for justice and accountability,
                            For Dan,
                            Heather

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Thank you for presenting this, Chacounne. (2.00 / 34)
Even if it were morally defensible, torture does not "work": it does not produce reliable intelligence.  

If the Brennan nomination restarts a national conversation about torture, that is a good thing. Many of us were sickened by Bush's defense of torture including the Yoo-ian pretzel logic employed by his legal team. I guess we hoped that was the end of "we need to torture" as a national policy.

I don't know enough about the Brennan nomination yet but if he was party to torture, I think that is a blemish on his soul that can't be fixed.


Words have meaning. Our words will reflect what is in our souls.


Thanks, Jan. (2.00 / 18)
It will also never be over unless the United States prosecutes those at the top who authorized torture since 9/11.

I know many people don't want to hear that, but it is the truth. Future perpetrators are watching the fact that Bush, Cheney, Rumsfeld, and the rest are being rewarded for authorizing the torture and they are just waiting for their chance. The reason Cheney and Rumsfeld were in a position to do what they did during the Bush 11 admin, was because they were not prosecuted for their part in Iran Contra.

         To be clear,
          Heather

Torture is Always wrong, no matter who is inflicting it on whom.


[ Parent ]
Excellent point. (2.00 / 11)
The reason Cheney and Rumsfeld were in a position to do what they did during the Bush 11 admin, was because they were not prosecuted for their part in Iran Contra.

Americans have short memories, politically speaking.


[ Parent ]
While I agree that statement is likely true I am not so convinced that (2.00 / 6)
someone else in the position to do so would have acted any differently in the aftermath of 9/11.  The whole "whatever it takes" mentality after an attack of such magnitude was pervasive and continues to this day in some quarters.

That's not to suggest we shouldn't prosecute only that I'm not sure it necessarily stops the behavior.

"When Fascism comes to America, it will come wrapped in teh stupid and waving a gun" ~ Esteev on Wonkette


[ Parent ]
yes and no (2.00 / 8)
If we had had real accountability up to and including jail time for those responsible for Iran Contra, then they would not have been the individuals in power or the ones consulted when 9/11 shocked the nation.

I think that while there would have still been an effort to "get" OBL, but it's notable we didn't have that rush to sacrifice our own humanity in WW2.

If we'd had cooler heads in charge on 9/11, our treatment of "the enemy" might have looked more like this:

http://talkingpointsmemo.com/a...


[ Parent ]
Still not convinced. :) (2.00 / 7)
The Bush Administration was full of folks who likely would have acted the same/ordered the same.  With a Congress willing to look the other way.  And an American public willing to ignore.  And Fox News and Right-wing blogs feeding the frenzy.

Not sure, either, the Japanese Americans would completely agree about WW2.

"When Fascism comes to America, it will come wrapped in teh stupid and waving a gun" ~ Esteev on Wonkette


[ Parent ]
You are absolutely correct. (2.00 / 7)
You have a point there. I was thinking of the interrogation of Hess specifically. Should have mentioned that. My apologies.

[ Parent ]
Heh ~ I meant to use that example in an earlier comment and (2.00 / 7)
was bound and determined to get that in somewhere.

I'm a stubborn Taurus.  :)

"When Fascism comes to America, it will come wrapped in teh stupid and waving a gun" ~ Esteev on Wonkette


[ Parent ]
Happy? Stubborn? (2.00 / 6)
Shocked, shocked I am!


John Askren - "Never get into a pissing match with a skunk."

[ Parent ]
Not for nothin'... (2.00 / 8)
I think that while there would have still been an effort to "get" OBL, but it's notable we didn't have that rush to sacrifice our own humanity in WW2.

We were, literally, in no rush to do ANYTHING in WW2. We tried our damnedest to ignore that there was anything worth getting involved in...and once we DID engage, we dropped hell on our opponents (quite literally). We were in an easy(ier) position after the War to avoid torturing the captured because the War was good an over. The fat lady had sung and the stage was cleared before the trials at Nuremberg commenced.

And that is just the history we, the victors, know of.

I am not giving an excuse for torture..I just A) am not so fully convinced that our hands were totally clean of it even during WW2 (not calling the men interviewed in the article liars, but, they are only a small group of an entire military force), and B) I don't think that WW2 and the 'war on terror' (a war with no solid END) can really be compared in much of any way (other than in the folly of mankind).

Dunno if I am making sense or not.

Photobucket


[ Parent ]
our hands have *never* been clean of torture (2.00 / 8)
the US has a pretty deep and consistent history of torture, in both military and law enforcement contexts. from the salem witch trials of 1692 to pre-civil war slavery, and from slavery to police brutality (cf. wickersham commission, 1931).  we tortured in wwii.  we tortured in vietnam. in 1963 the CIA refined torture with the KUBARK interrogation manual. we're sooo good at it, we've actually taught others the best practices (e.g., 70s & 80s latin america, anyone?).  there's a pretty long list of countries we've trained in torture.  bill clinton authorized renditions in the mid-90s.  for many of us, the post 9/11 stuff burns much brighter in our memory, but it's really par for the course.  

this is precisely why diaries like this one are important: they remind us to keep fighting.  eternal vigilance.  believe it or not, i think we're doing better.  the heinous post 9/11 stuff was so quickly and publicly exposed, it changed things and brought the issue into the public consciousness -- EO 13491 didn't come from out of nowhere.

chacounne's message, i think, is that doing better still isn't good enough.  so we keep fighting.  is opposing brennan's appt a good way to fight?  yeah, i think it probably is, given his involvement.  i wrote notes to the prez, difi and boxer, and my rep (mike thompson -- same guy heading the house's new panel on gun control).  keep speaking out.  

i know enough about history (of man, and of america's) to know that we seldom live up to the potential of our ideals, and i accept that we may never end torture, or racism, or sexism, or curb our culture of violence, or fully end any of the million other fucking things that ail us as a culture, as a modern society  -- but we keep trying.  america is not, and has never been, about our ideals. america is about the trying.

#moreperfectunion

Earth is the best vacation place for advanced clowns. --Gary Busey
 


[ Parent ]
"America is about the trying" (2.00 / 9)
Exactly ! Are we really so jaded that we won't even try ?

I say we have the strength to try.

Do we have the will ? I know I do, and I will be spending my life nudging others to also have the will.

            Hugs,
            Heather

Torture is Always wrong, no matter who is inflicting it on whom.


[ Parent ]
Fog's really good at the putting the words together to mean things, um, thing. (2.00 / 4)
america is not, and has never been, about our ideals. america is about the trying.

To understand my position on this, though, you have to understand that my focus is the actual progression of that hashtag:

#moreperfectunion

I have not as yet found myself supporting efforts to prosecute US officials for torture, and I am still a ways away from that position. We both know that we agree with the end, but pursuing prosecutions is as yet something that I see as a means.

Do some people at the top deserve it? By my own definition, yes. By legal definitions, and in the context of history? I am not certain, nor do I have the expertise to judge. Is the prosecution of some of those individuals the key to stopping torture? Maybe, but at this point I see the actual prosecutions as less a means to that end than an indication that the public opinion has turned to where the ends can be achieved.

Today I don't see the context around the topic that would support a) successfully filing suit and b) winning the cases. I think if situations were such that a and b were true then we would probably be in a good position to effect the change we both desire. Whether in that context anyone would actually be prosecuted may not even be as important to achieving the end as the fact that we had turned the public conscience toward the proper direction.

I am not checking out of the topic, these conversations you have started have again brought the issue back to the fore for me. This will again be a matter that I pursue more than I have in recent years. Someone has to keep pushing to make keep the topic from sliding off the table and your efforts to that end are very valuable. Thank you for carrying the torch and waving it vigorously.

John Askren - "Never get into a pissing match with a skunk."


[ Parent ]
Here is what the UN Convention Against Torture says is torture: (2.00 / 4)
Article 1

1. For the purposes of this Convention, the term "torture" means 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, punishing him for an act he or a third person has committed or is suspected of having committed, or intimidating or coercing him or a third person, or for any reason based on discrimination of any kind, when such pain or suffering is inflicted by or at the instigation of or with the consent or acquiescence of a public official or other person acting in an official capacity. It does not include pain or suffering arising only from, inherent in or incidental to lawful sanctions.

Clearly, John Yoo's ridiculous assertions aside, waterboarding violates this statute, even the US agreed with that during WWII and Vietnam.

Article 2

1. Each State Party shall take effective legislative, administrative, judicial or other measures to prevent acts of torture in any territory under its jurisdiction.

2. No exceptional circumstances whatsoever, whether a state of war or a threat of war, internal political instability or any other public emergency, may be invoked as a justification of torture.

3. An order from a superior officer or a public authority may not be invoked as a justification of torture.

So, it really doesn't matter that the US was scared following 9/11; that's not good enough to justify the torture that was inflicted.

Allowing those who authorized and ordered torture to be inflicted ensures that it will happen again.

You might want to read or talk with Marjorie Cohn of the National Lawyer's Guild. Along with the panel on Torture in American Prisons, I'm also organizing another panel she has agreed to be on, if it is chosen, on anti-torture and prosecution of those responsible efforts.

I know it is an uphill effort, but allowing them to be rewarded and to go free with impunity is absolutely the wrong thing to do and sends absolutely the wrong message.

     Thanks for not checking out,
            Heather


Torture is Always wrong, no matter who is inflicting it on whom.


[ Parent ]
Ummmm, (2.00 / 4)
That sentence should read:

Allowing those who authorized and ordered torture to be inflicted to go free and to be rewarded ensures that it will happen again.
              Red-faced,
              Heather

Torture is Always wrong, no matter who is inflicting it on whom.


[ Parent ]
I will also say that prosecutions definitely not a panecea (2.00 / 4)
that will absolutely insure there is no more torture. It is going to take a lot of effort at a lot of different levels. One of the others is with the media. I am appalled that a movie promoting the use of torture "Zero Dark Thirty" has been nominated for several Academy Awards.

             Thanks for not checking out,
                    Heather

Torture is Always wrong, no matter who is inflicting it on whom.


[ Parent ]
Hmmm, (2.00 / 4)
You might be right about after 9/11, HOWEVER, I think because those at the top have not, as yet, been prosecuted, and have in fact been rewarded, it will take MUCH less to bring about MUCH worse behaviour the next time. Think about children, when they are not disciplined (and I do not mean corporal punishment) the bad behaviour doesn't just not stop it gets worse. The children are watching ... They are seeing what is being rewarded ...

We MUST prosecute !

       Just my two cents,
           Heather

Torture is Always wrong, no matter who is inflicting it on whom.


[ Parent ]
You and Dan have my help. Thank (2.00 / 30)
you for pointing the way. This is a very powerful diary and am moved to tears. Peace.  

((((((((((((((((((((((((((Portlaw)))))))))))))))))))))))) (2.00 / 16)
Thanks very much, I am grateful.

      Hugs,
      Heather

Torture is Always wrong, no matter who is inflicting it on whom.


[ Parent ]
Torture is wrong. Period. End. (2.00 / 29)
But, if you need reasons.....

I read once (and I cannot remember the exact quote or the source) that all evil springs from treating people as objects instead of as humans.

Torture treats people as objects. It is evil.

If you need another reason: It doesn't work. That is, torture can get a person to do anything you want. You can make him sign a confession, bow, scrape, whatever. But you cannot get the truth from it with any degree of regularity.

If you need yet another reason, in one of Terry Pratchett's wonderful books, Sam Vimes has a prisoner who has vital information that will save lives. He considers torturing him for that information, but he says to himself "If you do it for a good reason, you will do it for a bad reason".

Bravo to you, Chacounne, and I am glad to see you in purple. This fight should exist in all the colors of the rainbow.

"Most people worry about their own bellies and other people's souls when we all ought to worry about our own souls and others' bellies" Israel Salanter


((((((((((((((((((((((((((((((((plf)))))))))))))))))))))))))))))))) (2.00 / 14)
Thank you so much. The Bush Administration,very successfully to many people, turned real live human beings in "other", which enabled them to do what they did, and to do it without consequence.

                Hugs,

                Heather

Torture is Always wrong, no matter who is inflicting it on whom.


[ Parent ]
This must have been very hard for you to write, (2.00 / 28)
but thank you for sharing what drives your passion.  I admit that I don't know a lot about the subject and appreciate the information.

Shake it like a Polaroid picture.

((((((((((((((((((((((((((((((kirby)))))))))))))))))))))))))))))) (2.00 / 17)
Thanks ! It was hard, and completely necessary to help to humanize those who have been tortured

                 Hugs,
                 Heather
               

Torture is Always wrong, no matter who is inflicting it on whom.


[ Parent ]
Thankyou Heather (2.00 / 28)
Explaining the backstory about you and Dan really helps other Moozog understand your passionate campaigning on this. It makes us think again.  

The p***artist formerly known as 'Brit'

Yup, (2.00 / 16)
I sort of thought everyone who had been a Kossack knew, because I've been so upfront about it, but apparently not. A lesson learned.

             Hugs,
             Heather

Torture is Always wrong, no matter who is inflicting it on whom.


[ Parent ]
It did actually make me think twice (2.00 / 13)
I really feel like there are few more barbaric issues than the kinds of torture that we, as Americans, permit to occur. Good God. I've stood up against our prison systems and how shoddy, unjust, and negligent they are for years upon years. I've never flinched at stating this outright, nor will I ever. American prisons are totally uncivilized and sadly, our justice system is so flawed that it enables these to exist. Here, I stand with Michel Foucault on noting the cold, calculated strangeness of public displays of justice enacted as spectacle rather than reform.

And yet all too often, I have not given much consideration to the situation of torture. Perhaps because it's less immediately visible, less turned into a grand public spectacle, and then too, when I think of it, I think "It happens in other countries, it happens in Nigeria, it happens in Afghanistan, it happens..."

But that shifts us from the panopticon to the Marquis de Sade's private pleasures or Kafka's Penal Colony. No thank you. I do believe it's a prime issue to make known should not be conducted in the name of Americans under any circumstance whatsoever. I mean seriously, who the fuck are we kidding when we give this stuff a pass? Racism, anti-semitism, economic fuckery, the Dominionists, melting ice caps, all of it, we'll be the first to say, "NO" to this, and yet torture remains a topic we don't speak of. I think for me, it's been a lack of seeing it, plain and simple, so it seems less real or less immediate. And I know little about the current political status of it, which is something kysen alludes to downthread. But I think I'd like to. It really seems like one of those things that those who care whatsoever about human rights (and I mean, come on, I've had Human Rights Watch as a top bookmark for years due to immigration facility issues, mainly) should take a very strong stance against.

Yet I think we are, like I am, perhaps underinformed or else have difficulty conceiving of the reality of human bodies being tortured for political reasons, either for information or for retribution: it is stunning to consider the cataract I have in trying to even think on it, like a small thing that won't stay in my visual field, instead struggling to wiggle away because of its sheer hideousness, like trying to think on infinity...


[ Parent ]
(((((((((((mahakali)))))))))))) (2.00 / 6)
Thank you !

One thing I'd like to point out: Torture is happening is US prisons as we speak. One example is that two of the three members of the Angola Three have been in solitary confinement for almost forty years. Think about that. Forty years without real day to day human contact. Think about what that physically does to the brain. Think about what that does to the emotions. I have put together a panel for Netroots Nation for this year in San Jose in June on "Torture in American Prisons". Robert Bell (the released member of the Angola Three) Carter Camp (one of the leaders of the American Indian Movement) and Dr. Craig Bell (one of those who helped with Dr. Philip Zimbardo's Milgram experiments) have all agreed to be on the panel, if it is chosen. I am confirming the fourth panelist.

I agree with you that out of sight is out of mind, and I also think that racism and xenophobia play a part as well in many people ignoring the issue. Would Omar Khadr, the last Western citizen in Guantanamo really have remained there for almost ten years if he was white? My money is on no.

      Thanks for being you,
            Heather

Torture is Always wrong, no matter who is inflicting it on whom.


[ Parent ]
Beautiful. (2.00 / 27)
I won't try to comment at length until I can carve the time to do it properly, but your story plumbs the depths of this issue. The leadership of those with those like yourself on this issue is critical if we are to retake the moral high ground this country once held on the humane treatment of those we have the most power over.

The over-use of the word "hero" in recent years to describe any person who has ever served the country is something that I believe subtly denigrates those who truly deserve the title. Dan served and suffered and paid a price that all of his compatriots in arms would recognize as the true definition of heroism. I am humbled by the sacrifices he made and that you made with him, and thank both of you sincerely.

John Askren - "Never get into a pissing match with a skunk."


(((((((((((((((((((((((((((((Chris)))))))))))))))))))))))))))))))))) (2.00 / 16)
Thanks ! Dan certainly was a remains a hero. It still amazes and humbles me to know what he went through.

I appreciate that you will take your time to comment at length.

               Hugs,
               Heather


Torture is Always wrong, no matter who is inflicting it on whom.


[ Parent ]
The most beautiful part is that more than anything, (2.00 / 17)
it is a love story.

I can see in you and Dan what Donna and I share. It is not in my capacity to say whether your experience in total together was more tragic or wonderful, but I hear in your voice something that does not come from tragedy alone.

Dan was a very lucky man, and you are a very lucky woman. Health and the blessings of safety or wealth cannot bring to a couple the depth of feeling that you obviously had for each other. That is a gift that many lifetimes do not include.

Thank you for the hug, Heather. I have the feeling that you and Dan shared many, and that they were perhaps the most satisfying form of contact. I recognize those hugs, and those who are fortunate enough to know what they are.

John Askren - "Never get into a pissing match with a skunk."


[ Parent ]
(((((((((Chris)))))))))) (2.00 / 6)
You get it !

Dan knew each other for twenty years before he turned around one day and told me he'd been dreaming about me since I was 17. I was gobsmacked !

I was the most fortunate of women :)

We did share many hugs, and you are right that they were the most satisfying form of contact for us. He was the BEST hugger, and it is those hugs, along with having someone who knew everything about me, someone I could say anything to, someone who spoke the same "language" as me, that I miss the most. (Well, I also miss his handyguy skills, to be honest :) ) I am a person of faith, so I await the day that we will hug again.

I would not have missed one moment of our time together.

I am so thankful you share such a love with Donna :)

       Hugs,
       Heather

Torture is Always wrong, no matter who is inflicting it on whom.


[ Parent ]
heather, i am so glad to see you've posted this diary (2.00 / 24)
it is very hard to read, though. No one should have to go through what you and Dan have endured.

(((((((((((((((((((((((Bubba))))))))))))))))))))))))))))))))) (2.00 / 15)
You are absolutely right; no one should have to go through what Dan endured. THAT is the point of my mission: to do everything I can to make sure no one else does have to go through what Dan endured.

              Hugs,
              Heather

Torture is Always wrong, no matter who is inflicting it on whom.


[ Parent ]
I'm going to preface my comment by saying that I am not trying to rehash (2.00 / 19)
the comments that led to you posting this.  But the issue with Brennan is exactly why we cannot simply trust a president of either party on his nominations.  By the same token this nomination might be the most important in that it can shine some light on the issue of torture and rendition.  And I would suggest contacting our Congresscritters to demand/encourage they ask the tough questions.  Although, frankly, I trust the CIA about thismuch.

"When Fascism comes to America, it will come wrapped in teh stupid and waving a gun" ~ Esteev on Wonkette

Yup, (2.00 / 17)
and it is our duty to vet nominations and tell the White House and our senators what we think about nominations. Citizenship doesn't end at voting, as I'm sure you agree.

                Hugs,
                Heather

Torture is Always wrong, no matter who is inflicting it on whom.


[ Parent ]
an excellent and forgotten point! eom (2.00 / 14)


[ Parent ]
I want to give this ample response (2.00 / 18)
and don't have the time, but I want to say now, before I do properly reply, that I think this diary makes something that many find abstract very concrete.

There is no justification -- ever -- for torture in any civilized society.


(((((((((((((((((((((((((((((((((((((mahakali)))))))))))))))))))))))))))))))))))))))) (2.00 / 13)
Thank you for taking the time to respond more fully :)

Yup, and absolutely its purpose, and the whole purpose of the series. I'll try to post one a day for a bit.

              Hugs,
              Heather

Torture is Always wrong, no matter who is inflicting it on whom.


[ Parent ]
Thank you for posting this, Chacounne.... (1.94 / 16)
it is an always important conversation to have...and your personal experience with the subject matter lends weight to your views.

I am one who believes that things are actually getting better. I believe that our government has ALWAYS been using torture (in one guise or another) and that it is only recently becoming something that light is being shone upon. I think as long as light continues to be directed upon it...and more people are aware of it...it will happen less and less.

I think that, to some degree, it seems as though 'more' is happening because of the increase in open knowledge. The internet and global communication have each in their way brought to light that which was once easier to 'hide'. It is not that torture is new...but that the open discussion of it is.

It is not, nor has it ever been, something that 'just the bad guys' did. The sooner we accept the fact that 'our side' did it too...whether condoned by law or not...the sooner we can prevent it from happening again.

Just my take on it.

(on a side note, will you please check your email?)

Photobucket


Thanks, Kysen, (2.00 / 4)
I apologize that my huge hugs have been causing a problem :(

Actually, the US prosecuted and executed Japanese soldiers who waterboarded US troops during the Second World War, and prosecuted US troops who waterboarded Vietnamese people during the Vietnam War. Now the US has allowed those at the top who ordered people to be tortured to not just get off scott free, but to be rewarded for their illegal acts. In many ways, you are correct, but no, I don't believe it is better, and I truly fear when those who ordered and condoned torture (leaving aside the issue of the Obama administration) get back in power.

                  Just my two cents,
                      Heather

Torture is Always wrong, no matter who is inflicting it on whom.


[ Parent ]
My Thoughts on Torture and the American Ideal (2.00 / 14)
I was a young child during the Vietnam War, watching Johh Wayne movies and reading war comics. The reality of war was lost on me until the Big Kid in the neighborhood who had babysat me earlier returned from Vietnam where he had been a war correspondent. He had smuggled back a few reels of film and showed one to a few of us younger kids.

In the film he was in a chopper, documenting an attempt to raise another from a river using a third helicopter. As the sunken machine cleared the water fire erupted from a tree next to the one lifting it. The crew released the wreck, swiveled and sawed off the top of the tree with the sniper in it with a door mounted gun.

I remember thinking: "This isn't a movie. John, sitting next to me, whom I have known all my life, was filming this. There was a real person hidden in that tree, and he died." The reality of what war was sunk in for me sitting on that couch.

From about the time of John's film I started getting bullied horribly by a group of kids at school. For two years I put up with harassment then beatings which progressed into something much like torture to my small mind. I got very good at running because if I was fast enough I could get to and from school unscathed. During recesses and lunches, however, I was helpless and at their mercy.

The kids who had been my friends never intervened. Nobody did, they just watched or mocked or just ignored. The image that most sticks in my mind was lying in the dirt with the fat bully on my chest while the mean small one kicked me in the head and looking up and seeing the teacher responsible for monitoring the playground watching. I felt a moment of hope, but as I looked into her eyes she looked away.

As a childhood story we can feel pity for the poor kid but it is harder for you to understand the actual emotions. I can recall being ten and sprinting to school or lying on the ground as clear as if it was yesterday, and the abiding and constant terror I carried with me every moment. By far the worst part was not the pain or the humiliation, it was the helplessness. There was nothing I could do, nobody I could turn to, and no hope in sight for it to ever end. I contemplated suicide often as the only way out, and being unable to take that step into traffic just made the hopelessness worse, since I could not even do that to make it stop.

During this time I got a Christian comic telling the story of a American soldier captured and tortured in Vietnam. I read it a thousand times, reflecting on both the similarities between his captivity and my own life as well as taking strength from his refusal to let go of who he was.

In the end I stood up to the bullies and it was remarkably simple to make it stop. As some who know me very well have noted, that period was the defining crux of my life and made me who I am. All of my life I have been unable (and uninterested, frankly) to avoid walking directly into a confrontation, rather than allow an implied threat to shadow me for a moment. I would never be helpless again.

But more than just reflecting that use of force and control back at other people, which is very common for bullied kids, I had decided during that period that I would not let them turn me into them. That if I did, I would lose the one thing that was left of me. No matter what anyone did to me for the rest of my life I would not allow myself to resort to their methods, to become them, to use my power over someone helpless.

Many years later, a friend of mine was on a plane that hit the Pentagon at the speed of sound. Next to her was a five year old girl. I was a parent now, and the shock of the event in its entirety shattered me as much as it did anyone. In the early days after that event my country started 'interrogating' terrorist suspects. My thoughts at the time, I am not proud to admit, were: "good, fuck them".

But time passed, and it became clear that my country was doing a number of stupid things in response. Going to war in Afghanistan was obvious and had to be done, you cannot lay on the ground and hope unreasonable people stop because they will not. But after the first steps we were doing it the wrong way. Going to war in Iraq was foolish from first principles. Our treatment of prisoners had crossed the line of civilized behavior. We had lost our moral compass.

We had allowed ourselves to make us become them. Defeated ourselves in finding victory, though our adversaries could not.

The measure of civilization is neither pacificity nor strength. It is having the courage to stand against unreasonable force while simultaneously being able to extend a hand the moment your adversary is no longer a threat. It is being able to maintain your own humanity even when you have to resort to force, to restrain it at the moment it is no longer needed and revert immediately to being the better person, the better culture.

In Afghanistan we should have used all the force that was needed to start and end the violence with dreadful swiftness, and we should have pivoted on that moment to providing an equally overwhelming demonstration of who we believe we really are. Who I think we really can be. We should never have gone into Iraq, the fact that we forfeited our ability to do both what was necessary as well as what was right in Afghanistan so we could be the bully in Iraq just showed how much we had let ourselves lose to bin Laden and his twisted world view.

And we should never, ever, have tortured anyone. Not even if it worked.

Because this is what they do. This is how our adversary behaved, using horrific force against helpless individuals. Much more important than not being OK even if they do it, it is the most fundamental defeat if we do it because they do it. We are supposed to be the ones who do not terrorize the helpless, not even if they "deserve" it, not even if it saves us, not even if there is no other hope left. Because, if we do, we become them. We lose our civilization, we lose our moral anchor, and we replace it with the morals of our enemies and we become them.

Kysen may be right, maybe we have always used torture, though I would like to believe we did not. At least that we did not do it with the full will of our culture. Giving up our belief in ourselves and condoning our use of our enemies' methods is admitting that they have won, and that we have become them.

John Askren - "Never get into a pissing match with a skunk."


(((((((((((Chris))))))))))))) (2.00 / 6)
Oh, Chris !

I am so sorry you were bullied :(  As someone who was bullied in elementary school, I identify. I am so proud of you, because are completely right about this:

I had decided during that period that I would not let them turn me into them. That if I did, I would lose the one thing that was left of me. No matter what anyone did to me for the rest of my life I would not allow myself to resort to their methods, to become them, to use my power over someone helpless.

Because this is what they do. This is how our adversary behaved, using horrific force against helpless individuals. Much more important than not being OK even if they do it, it is the most fundamental defeat if we do it because they do it. We are supposed to be the ones who do not terrorize the helpless, not even if they "deserve" it, not even if it saves us, not even if there is no other hope left. Because, if we do, we become them. We lose our civilization, we lose our moral anchor, and we replace it with the morals of our enemies and we become them.

I think a lot of people like to turn their heads and ignore the reality.

We MUST prosecute those at the top who authorized the torture committed by the US since 9/11, because not only is it the right thing to do, but because the people who did it, and those who are watching them, will come back and do worse and more openly.

        Hugs,
        Heather

Torture is Always wrong, no matter who is inflicting it on whom.


[ Parent ]
What can one say about a country that frets (2.00 / 12)
about looking silly in some imaginary public eye for issuing a coin but thinks nothing of violating international conventions that it not only signed but largely wrote. Faced with naked evil we obsess on the irrelevant and the frivolous.

(((((((Melvin))))))))) (2.00 / 3)
So, so, so true.

   Thank you !
    Heather

Torture is Always wrong, no matter who is inflicting it on whom.


[ Parent ]
((((((((((((((Heather))))))))))))))))))) (2.00 / 14)
For me Dan is now one of the angels who inspires a fierce battle against injustice and you are his voice.

Much love and respect.

Dee

"If you're in a coalition and you're comfortable, you know it's not a broad enough coalition"

Bernice Johnson Reagon


(((((((((((((((((Sis Dee)))))))))))) (2.00 / 4)
(Apparently, my huge hugs have been causing a technical problem, for which I apologize, so I have to make them smaller :( Sheesh to the technology, but thanks to those who have been wrangling it.)

Thank you, Hon. I try to remain worthy of being his voice. (Being human, I don't always succeed, but I try hard.)

      Much love and enormous respect back,
                Heather

(Bernice Johnson Reagon's quote is so important, and is something I struggle with.)

Torture is Always wrong, no matter who is inflicting it on whom.


[ Parent ]
okay from now on I'll just write BIG Hug! (2.00 / 5)


"If you're in a coalition and you're comfortable, you know it's not a broad enough coalition"

Bernice Johnson Reagon


[ Parent ]
Dear Heather, (2.00 / 9)
I'm almost glad we had our "difference of opinion" now, because you posted this as a result of my request to do so. Thank you. As I pointed out in the "Cabinet" diary, my intent was certainly not to condone the selection of Brennan as head of the CIA, because I know nothing about him, but generally entrust the decision to the President alone. Now I admit in retrospect that is the easier way out, and I don't have an excuse, but an explanation: I've been an expat for 27 years now, and politics in the US are far removed from my daily reality, so the only way I keep in touch is through the blogs. None of my friends where I live is particularly interested in US politics, so I can't really talk about it to anyone, so some important subjects drop off the radar, unfortunately. I need to keep being reminded, and you are a very effective advocate on the topic of torture, so keep up the good work.

I will try to do better, but I - and others, I'm sure, need to keep being reminded that the John Yoos and Alberto Gonzaleses of the Bush era were never made accountable for breaking international law and ignoring the Geneva Conventions in justifying "enhanced interrogation techniques". It is truly an outrage, and I can understand your anger and frustration better, now that I have read your heartbreaking story. I'll send a note to the White House right now, using the handy-dandy link at the top of the page, and let them know I do not approve of a potential Brennan appointment to the CIA.



Wer kämpft, kann verlieren. Wer nicht kämpft, hat schon verloren.
                       - Bertolt Brecht


((((((((((((Moozmuse))))))))))))) (2.00 / 5)
Everything happens for a reason, and I am very thankful you made the suggestion. Sometimes, because I have been very open about my history and mission, I get blinders on that not everybody does know why I am the way I am. Sorry for my blinders.

Entirely entirely understandable that being not in the US, and not being immersed in the subject, you had missed the nuances. My list of people who need to be prosecuted starts with Bush, Cheney, Rumsfeld, Tennant, Rice, and the others in the Principals Group, who authorized specific torture to be inflicted on specific people, the commanders who authorized the general guidelines which authorized methods of interrogation which are torture,including Miller and Sanchez, and continues with Yoo, Stephen Bradbury and the lawyers who conjured up the legal justification.

Thanks for sending that note.

      Hugs,
      Heather


Torture is Always wrong, no matter who is inflicting it on whom.


[ Parent ]
Thanks, everyone ! (2.00 / 8)
I was with Idle No More in a drum circle and then marching to Parliament Hill yesterday, so was exhausted, soaked, sore, exhilarated, and inspired when I got home. Slept through until just now.

I am so grateful for your comments, and the front-paging. I am going to make food now, and then will come back and reply to everyone.

             With a full and glad heart,
                    Heather

Torture is Always wrong, no matter who is inflicting it on whom.


Never compromising one's humanity (2.00 / 8)
http://talkingpointsmemo.com/a...

Our moral trajectory over the Bush years could not be better dramatized than it was by a reunion of an elite group of two dozen World War II veterans in Washington this month. They were participants in a top-secret operation to interrogate some 4,000 Nazi prisoners of war. Until now, they have kept silent, but America's recent record prompted them to talk to The Washington Post.

"We got more information out of a German general with a game of chess or Ping-Pong than they do today, with their torture," said Henry Kolm, 90, an M.I.T. physicist whose interrogation of Rudolf Hess, Hitler's deputy, took place over a chessboard. George Frenkel, 87, recalled that he "never laid hands on anyone" in his many interrogations, adding, "I'm proud to say I never compromised my humanity."

Lessons that the Reagan/Bush contingent were too cowardly to learn from. Bolding is mine.


That's the whole point of not torturing. (2.00 / 6)
You have to do it when it isn't easy. Like when the opposition is, I don't know, a crazed Nazi overlord bent on taking over the world and doing a good job of it.

If it is OK to do when it's really important to us, it's OK to do when it is really important to anyone. Like to Al-Qaeda, or Iran, or anyone.

You don't do the wrong things even when it they would help. Because they are wrong. And nothing is more wrong than torture.

John Askren - "Never get into a pissing match with a skunk."


[ Parent ]
EXACTLY ! (2.00 / 4)
Precisely !

Torture is ALWAYS wrong, no matter who is inflicting it on whom.

       Standing with you,
        For justice and accountability,
                 For Dan,
                 Heather

Torture is Always wrong, no matter who is inflicting it on whom.


[ Parent ]
A quotation from Abraham Lincoln seems apropos (2.00 / 4)
Whenever I hear any one arguing for slavery I feel a strong impulse to see it tried on him personally.

The Collected Works of Abraham Lincoln edited by Roy P. Basler, Volume VIII, "Speech to One Hundred Fortieth Indiana Regiment" (March 17, 1865), p. 361.  

"Most people worry about their own bellies and other people's souls when we all ought to worry about our own souls and others' bellies" Israel Salanter


Very much so. (2.00 / 4)
Right Wing radio host Mancow had the cajones to give it a shot, and it changed his opinion 180 degrees.



John Askren - "Never get into a pissing match with a skunk."


[ Parent ]
A story that needs to be told (2.00 / 2)
Thank you for sharing Dan's story again. It is powerful.

It just seems right to be able to click "Fierce" for you. That's the word I've always used to describe you and your mission to end torture.

Fierce!


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