Lost in a Dark Fetid Swamp of Nihilism: Why We Still Need Torture Trials in the USA

Hard to look forward when you're being waterboarded

Hard to look forward when you’re being waterboarded

b. traven

After 9/11, Bush/Cheney and an authoritarian national security state ran amok.  Vengeance was the byword, and few in the government were careful about who the enemy was.  Fear of another humiliating attack on the scale of 9/11, combined with a sociopathic disregard for human rights, drove a torture regime that was authorized from the very top of the government.  Clear violations of international laws regarding torture were papered over with “torture memos” from witting fools and toadies in the Department of Justice.  A sneeringly unrepentant Cheney would later admit he authorized waterboarding (and worse), a war crime for which the Allies prosecuted the Japanese after World War II.  A new president, Barack Obama, elected on a mandate of “change” and a promise of “transparency,” would punish no one for these crimes.  Look forward, he said.

But I can’t look forward, not after I read accounts like that of Moazzam Begg, a British Muslim who was illegally kidnapped by our government and tortured at Kandahar, Bagram, and Guantanamo.  His book, Enemy Combatant, is an engrossing and enraging story that details the absolute degradation of U.S. military and national security institutions. Racist, vengeful, stupid people being led, at the national political and institutional level, by the type of venal criminals we hung after the Nuremberg trials for Nazi war criminals. As a nation we should be ashamed of what our elected representatives approved in our name.

Yet shame isn’t enough.  We need a full accounting of their crimes.  Our failure to prosecute political and military leaders implicated in torture is a gross disservice to our Constitution and our ideals.  Yes, a few low hanging fruit were punished for their crimes at Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq, the so-called bad apples.  But we failed as a nation to get to the roots of the system where the rot is worst.  Our tree of liberty is imperiled, its roots rotting, its branches dying, as we collectively fail to get out front on our nation’s accelerating drift into blatant illegality and moral decadence.

From Bush and Cheney to their minions involved in authorizing and administering torture, they should all be sitting before the International Court at the Hague to answer for their crimes.  Of course, that won’t happen (both political parties are implicated, as well as major power players within the national security state) but at the very least we as citizens should seek Congressional hearings so we can get a fuller picture of how our democracy was hijacked and violated.

What I have in mind is something like the “Army-McCarthy” hearings of the 1950s before Congress. They accomplished a lot in educating the American people about McCarthy’s crimes and abuses.  They led directly to his demise and the end of his communist witch hunts. The “Army- McCarthy” hearings were on TV daily and transfixed the nation. A repeat of such hearings on America’s torture crimes would be fitting and just, but the spineless Democrats from Obama on down have robbed us of even that despite those election promises of “transparency” and “change.”

Until a society names and prosecutes those in power who perpetrated these crimes we will be doomed to continue them.  When Obama said we had to look “forward” and then clasped Bush to his breast he was exonerating himself as he continued the atrocities of Bush.

Opposition to the anti-democratic shift by those in power will not succeed until it incorporates naming the offenders of our social contract and demanding their prosecution for their subversion of the U.S. Constitution as well as international law. Until then our society will continue to wander lost in a dark fetid swamp of nihilism.

14 thoughts on “Lost in a Dark Fetid Swamp of Nihilism: Why We Still Need Torture Trials in the USA

  1. “b. traven,” these are my sentiments precisely, as I have expressed on numerous occasions. But I know we will NEVER see any such trials take place. As Pete Seeger sang in the mid-1960s: “We were neck deep in the Big Muddy [fetid swamp], and the big fool says to push on…” Of course the gross violations of international law began the moment the US launched wars against Iraq and Afghanistan on false, trumped-up grounds. Mr. “Change We Can Believe In” Obama says torture has ceased. Since he has proven himself every bit as venal, secretive and deceitful as all the other politicians, I see no basis whatsoever for believing that.

  2. “Our failure to prosecute political and military leaders implicated in torture is a gross disservice to our Constitution and our ideals.” No doubt about it. The problem lies squarely on the two political parties which are resistant to accountability on major issues because the parties do not want to tarnish themselves and each other so badly that their monopoly on power is threatened. Too much money, power and influence are at stake. Therefore, we have a republic that rarely uses its power of checks and balances to insure accountability creating a weak republic despite massive military prowess.

    • … a weak, diminished, disintegrating, disappearing republic, in no small way due to subjugating integrity to military might. Military prowess? Subtract satellite observation stations and other technological advantages currently (temporarily only) held by the latest in a long line of dominant empire nations destined to one day crest before inevitable decline — technological advantages one or more rivals will in time equal, because annual USA Defense Department budgets larger than the next 7 lower defense budget allocations combined are unsustainable. Good thing there are oceans on two borders and non-aggressive neighbors adjacent to the other two. It may provide a safe place to hole up after retreat from failed global dominance policy within the next century or so.

  3. What do you guys need, a smack with a two by four between the eyes? America is over, there’s no “getting it back”. Surely the trials you call for ought to have happened and those responsible at the very highest levels of power currently and previously, i.e. the very top, should be -at best- behind bars, which would be far better than they so richly deserve. But as you realize the trials will never happen and the responsible parties will never see the inside of a cell, at least not at the hands of other Americans. Anything that they could possibly have been tried for by Americans, over the last 40 yrs. they have systematically made legal. What’s illegal now is criticizing or resisting policy. Free (ha!) speech is restricted to zones far removed from anyplace where it needs to be heard, or to “lunatic fringe” little websites like this one (sorry, no offense meant) with easily traceable contributors. You’ve already had your Reichstag Fire and your Enabling Acts, and it’s over: the bad guys won. About the only thing lacking is they haven’t kicked your doors in yet in the middle of the night while they round you all up, but keep shooting your mouth off in public and they will. They’ll have to sooner or later. When that day comes you will be desperate to get out but of course it will be too late.

    • Oh, I agree that the day (guess I should say night) when “they” kick in my door to haul me away is coming. I’ve been a public dissident for nearly 50 years now, and “they” certainly know where to find me. But I’m ever so reluctant to give “them” the satisfaction of thinking they’ve intimidated me into silence. But, “Word to the wise,” surely you realize that you’ve placed yourself in jeopardy by commenting here?!? Surely “they” can trace your whereabouts through Internet forensics.

      I’ve stated here previously my desire to relocate to the Republic of Ireland. Perhaps I should launch a Kickstarter campaign to fund such a move?

      • (Apologies in advance if this ends up being a double post, the comment form wasn’t working correctly in my other browser.)

        I’m sure it doesn’t look like it, but I’m not here to criticize. Every line in the article resonates with me. I will admit that I gave up on the United States as hopelessly broken even before I ets’d from uncle sam’s army in 1972. I left the country within 90 days of that, and though it took several tries over the next 28 years I finally managed to make the break permanent. Nothing has happened in the last 43 years to make me think I made a bad call. I haven’t crossed a US border for over 5 years and have no intention of ever doing so again. Being in the US gives me the creeps – it’s maddening and tragically sad at the same time. I know from experience one can’t possibly perceive how far along the transition to police state / rogue state has gone until you’ve lived out from under it for several years.

        Of course I realize I’m traceable. I.T. is my game. Really it’s more accurate to say traced in the past tense as it is already done. The only unknown is whether or not some human has pulled up the data from the stack on a fishing expedition, but surely human intervention is not required to get you on the shit list, it may not even be enough to get you off of one. Unless you’ve managed to live only a limited version of a 19th century or earlier lifestyle, it is no exaggeration to say they have everything on everybody already, and one thing for sure; nobody is innocent. So as you choose, deny them satisfaction and/or go down fighting, but putting some distance between your derriere and the international border will help to keep you in the game for longer. It isn’t a retreat – we’re all stuck on this same tiny planet anyhow and the threat to rights & freedoms is truly global.

      • I’m certainly curious as to where you settled outside US. A musician friend of mine says when she visits Europe to play gigs she finds the atmosphere oppressive and can’t wait to get back to the “freedom” of good ol’ USA. To each their own, as they say. Maybe you could give us a vague geographic hint as to your location. I mean, heck, since “they” allegedly can track you down anywhere if you leave fingerprints on the Internet, why be bashful?

  4. Vague geographic hint? Ok, it isn’t Europe; anything more would be telling. ;-)
    BTW that “You did” posting was meant as a reply to wjastore’s comment about going down fighting.

    • Okay, got it! I know EXACTLY where you are now LOL!! I will not criticize you for a nanosecond for abandoning the USA. As I have stated here previously, this System is way beyond being “reformable.” Revolution is what’s needed, but nowhere visible on the horizon. The further decay of the empire will not be a pretty thing to experience, but for now I’m trapped here physically. In the interim, my sense of human dignity–an illusion? I hope not!!–requires that I continue to fight for what I believe to be just and humane. The day I lose the ability to be outraged by gross injustice and cruelty will be the day I ask a friend to take me behind the woodshed (metaphorically, though I do live in a very rural area) and put me out of my misery permanently.

  5. I don’t believe I said anything about your sense of human dignity. By all means fight on if you must and the best of luck to you. We all gotta do what we gotta do.

    • My rumination on “human dignity” was strictly an aside, not addressing any other commenter here. “No blood, no foul”!

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