Tag Archives: Cheney

Faith Based Security

There’s a reason Sadam Hussein was good at security. He had everyone killed that he suspected. He also carried out pre-emptive murder. Ditto Hitler, Stalin, Pol Pot, Milosevic, Idi Amin, Jean-Paul Akayesu, Abdul Hamid II and more than you would tolerate listing here. It still works today in way too much of the world – China, Saudi Arabia, Russia, North Korea, Zimbabwe, Darfur, Burma, Iran and others.

We, in America, practice faith-based security. We believe (or choose to pretend) that we are safe. That democracy works. That we count all the ballots. That capitalism isn’t rigged. That justice is best served in courts. That civil rights, privacy, liberty and the right to own guns, trump a more absolute form to guarantee public order. That obeying our laws makes us safer. When something goes wrong – 9-11, Pearl Harbor, Firing on Fort Sumter, etc. as examples – our government has special powers to temporarily suspend these rights so that our faith can be restored.

airport securityOur government spends hundreds of billions of dollars each year to protect us and keep us believing while enjoying the fruits of freedom – intercepting phone calls, spy satellites, agents on the ground, interdicting suspected evil doers, and the like. When the Clinton administration foiled a planned millennium bombing attack on Los Angeles, it was luck and the system worked. When they didn’t in Oklahoma City; the 1993 World Trade Center; Centennial Olympic Park; the Birmingham, Pensacola, Brookline, Amherst abortion clinics; or Columbine; they weren’t lucky and the system didn’t work. Ditto the Bush years: 9-11; anthrax mailings, LAX, Beltway sniper; Riyadh compound, and all those bombings in Iraq, they weren’t lucky and the system failed. When they stopped the shoe bomber, they were lucky and the system worked.

No matter what Dick Cheney says, short of suspending all basic freedoms, imprisoning, or executing all we suspect, there is little we can do to stop it all. It takes luck. We spy, x-ray, screen, watch our lists, take our shoes off and wait endlessly in line; take names and invade countries harboring evil doers, but it is just part of making us believe we are safe so we can live out our lives normally and free. Our chemical plants, the water we drink, our power plants, grid, and ports are unguarded, or barely guarded. Were Omar Farouk Abdulmutallab to have chosen to take out thousands at a football game instead of a couple of hundred on an airliner, he would have had no problem.

Sure, when the Christmas terrorist was reported by his father, we should have put his name on the No-Fly list along with 3,400 others; or on  the Selectee list with 14,000 others; or the Terrorist Watch list with 400,000 others; instead of just the Terrorist Identities Datamart Environment list with 750,000 others; but we didn’t.

The bomb didn’t work – not because he was stopped when he went through airport security in Nigeria. We just had made it difficult enough that it didn’t work – this time. Sure, we need to do better. Be more vigilent. Get the huge database lists to work more effectively. But the system worked just as it does most of the time when we are lucky. The system we have used since the beginning. The faith-based security system. We believe, therefore we are. I depend on the same system each time I get behind the wheel of a car.

Terrorism is nothing new, not even to us. For a list of terrorist attacks dating back to 1800, click here.

Gitmo facts before jumping to conclusions

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I had planned to announce today that I would pay the $80 million that President Obama needs to relocate the remaining 245 prisoners held at Guantánamo. My plan was to borrow the money from a TARP bank, take over the facility and develop a golf course, casino, hotels and some condos. This all fell through when I found out that the US doesn’t actually own Gitmo and is just renting. Imagine my disappointment.

How could it be, you ask? Just four years ago, we paid Halliburton a billion dollars to build the “detention center” on land we don’t even own? Wait a minute, we paid a billion dollars for that? Stop. Go back. Why does Obama need $80 million for relocation? That’s $326,530 a prisoner. For that, couldn’t he check them in to the Ritz for the next 4 years and forget about them? Yes, but stop interrupting.

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I wish Castro were my landlord, or it’s about clean coal technology. Since 1934, the US has “rented” the 46.8 square miles around Guantánamo Bay for the purpose of coaling1 and naval stations with annual payments of $2,000 in gold (currently, $4,085 per month in check) – from 18982 until 1934, we didn’t pay anything. Since the Cuban Revolution (1959), all but one (an accident of the revolution) of the checks have gone un-cashed and are reportedly stuffed in Castro’s desk. Cynically, we continue to make the checks out to the “Treasurer General of the Republic” since we still don’t recognize the new (60 years) government.

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For 60 or 80 centuries, Cuba was inhabited by the Taíno and Ciboney peoples. They were peaceful farmers and hunter-gatherers. In 1492, when Christopher Columbus landed, it all went to hell and, except for a brief period after WWII, has pretty much been there ever since. The Spanish brought with them infectious diseases and Christianity. Those indigenous people who didn’t die from one, died from the other. For 400 years, the Spanish colonized Cuba and developed a plantation economy on the backs of African-descended slaves.

When the desperately poor finally rose up and looked like they were going to overthrow the Spanish, we stepped in. For the next 110 years, we have cruelly dominated this poor island country. By US law, we are required to leave “control of the island to its people.” Yet, we have invaded. Propped up dictators. Funded insurrection. We have forced unfair trade and have decimated Cuba economically by military blockhead and embargoes. We’ve dumped toxic waste and broadcast toxic radio. 040825_cubabaseball_hmed_2phmediumjpgIn spite of this, Cuba is a diverse country with a stable government and no lobbyists. It has free elections, universal healthcare, a strong education system, freedom of religion, low crime, wonderful food and great baseball players. All things that we aspire to.

There is that nagging “socialist” thing. According to Wikipedia, in 2006, Cuba’s economy was 78% public-sector employment and 22% private sector (compared to 91.8% to 8.2% in 1981). Ours, on the other hand, is about just about opposite those figures, but moving the other direction.

It is time to give notice on our lease. Of course, we’d have to recognize their “new” government.

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So what to do about Gitmo? Of the 775 detainees who have been our guests, only three3 have been convicted; 420 were released without charge by the Bush administration; 69 are now hosted by other countries; 41 are either in US prisons or have been misplaced; and 245 remain. Of these, we want to release about 185 when we can find a country to take them, which requires the bribe that Congress has yet to fund. That leaves us with what to do with the remaining 60 or so.

These 60 men so terrify our governors, representatives and senators that they are afraid to run for re-election if the prisoners are on our soil in their states. Closing of Gitmo is the issue that our alpha-male ex-veep came out of hiding to describe as “unwise in the extreme” and “recklessness cloaked in righteousness.” This is the issue President Obama says is “the toughest issue we will face.”

Doesn’t sound so tough to me. These worst of the worst are no match for the vicious criminals in our prisons – certainly, not in the showers. They are friendless, penniless and powerless. Many have been tortured and are incapacitated. Most don’t even speak English (except those who take our English language courses and enjoy some of the 7,500 books in the Gitmo library). These “masterminds” aren’t. They have long since been replaced by new recruits – many of which were likely recruited because of our internment policies and torture. Gitmo prisoners aren’t coming back here. Chances are, they aren’t going to be welcomed anywhere. No matter what we do, there are risks. But the risk to our system is greater if we don’t act.

We are a nation of laws. It is time to trust them. Trust the courts. Charge them or let them go. Take them back to where we found them (or, release them in Texas – they wouldn’t last a week).

Suggested reading:

Links:

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1 Our Navy ships used to burn a lot of coal – almost a thousand tons per day per battleship, which explains why we might want Guantánamo, Puerto Rico, Guam and the Philippines. We started switching to oil in 1910.

2 Remember the Maine, to Hell with Spain! Sure. The state that gave us the two senate votes to pass Obama’s stimulus. No, the other Maine. The USS Maine sank in Havana Harbor (1898). Even though the explosion that caused the Maine’s sinking was in dispute, President Bush at the time, played by William McKinley, cited it as a reason to start a war with Spain and take over Cuba, Puerto Rico, Guam and the Philippines. While the Republicans were waiting for a reason to pick a fight, disappointingly, Spain had already lost Mexico, Paraguay, Chile, Peru, Santo Dominto, Columbia, etc.

After the Spanish-American war, the Cuban-American Treaty gave us Guantánamo Bay and the surrounding land in perpetuity for the purpose of coaling and naval stations in exchange for our recognition of the sovereignty of the Republic of Cuba, their prohibition from negotiating treaties with country but us, and our agreement to preferential sugar tariffs, which allowed the US to dominate the government and the economy so long as we both shall live. This treaty was a requirement of the Platt Amendment to the Army appropriations bill (1899). While the treaty was rejected by the Cuban assembly, it was accepted by the government du jour (del día) and integrated into the Cuban constitution. One note: we signed the Vienna Convention on the Law of Treaties (1969) which voids treaties obtained by force, but we ignore it in this case.

3 The Austrailian kid, who after torture, pleaded guilty and received a suspended sentence; the former chauffeur who was released for time served; and a man who received a life sentence for making a video celebrating the attack on the USS Cole.

Why are they torturing us?

smilingdickSeeing Dick’s crooked smile again on talk TV. Watching Nancy parse, fumble, flip, fluster, clarify and accuse. Hearing the Newt call for a leader to step down for something other than sex, racism or corruption. Watching liberal pundits be interrogated night after night by the gleeful wing nuts.

It was cruel. I just wish it was unusual for there to be more outrage at someone who is presumed guilty of not doing than those proven guilty of the most heinous crimes.

House Majority Leader, Nancy Pelosi (D) of California, stands accused of having attended a highly classified intelligence briefing in September 2002  (Republicans held the majority in the House at the time and she was not in the minority leadership) that included a description of the “enhanced interrogation techniques” (EITs) used by the Bush Administration – and not doing much as a result. Further, at different times this week, she denied she was briefed on water-boarding, accused the CIA of not being truthful about the information presented, and had great difficulty describing her role without betraying the secrets of the briefings.

pelosiandbushWhat did she not do and when? Who else knew and didn’t act?

Beginning in 2002, the CIA held 40 separate intelligence oversight hearings that included information on EITs.  It is believed that at least 65 members of the House and Senate attended at least one of these meetings including John McCain (R, AZ), Pat Roberts (R, KS), John Rockefeller (D, WV), Carl Levin (D, MI), Dianne Feinstein (D, CA), Evan Bayh (D, IN), Barbara Mikulski (D, CA), Russ Feingold (D, WI), Lamar Alexander (R, TN) and Richard Shelby (R, AL).

Pelosi was included at one of those briefings along with Porter Goss (R, FL)) who later became head of the CIA. The subject of the briefing was the interrogation of Abu Zubaydah who had been captured in Pakistan in 2002. The interrogation techniques used on him were discussed and the representatives were reassured that was legal. Most of the focus is presumed to be about Zubaydah’s confession (later proved to be phony) that Al Qaeda terrorists use chemical weapons, helping justify invading Iraq.

I’m not here to be an apologist for any of them. What they did not do is disgusting.  It was September of an election year. The first anniversary of 911. The Rove propaganda machine was at full tilt. Bush, the decider, had decided to go to war. No one in Congress had facts. The Misleader-in-Chief and his dark sidekicks, Dick and Don, had threatened the patriotism of any one that wasn’t for them. It is easy to look back and see how convenient it was for our leaders to be informed, but not have the courage to martyr themselves just because it was the right thing to do.

Even if she knew of the water-boarding, just remember the controversy that surrounded Pelosi after her election two months later as the first female Minority Leader (of the lame duck session). It is pretty easy to see why she would might been reticent to stand up in January as House Majority Leader and throw away the Democrats’ promised agenda by announcing the Bushies were war criminals.

Bring on the Truth Commission. The tortured truth needs it.

Where Do They Belong in Hell?

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The Bible tells us that all evil doers will just die a second death by being thrown into a lake of fire (Revelation 20:13-15). That’s a shame because I don’t feel all sinners are equal. It just doesn’t seem fair that Hitler, who started World II killing 72 million people including exterminating at least six million Jews should be treated the same way as someone like Mohandas Gandhi who resisted tyranny through peaceful civil disobedience and whose sin was being Hindu (more technically, for not being baptized).

I much prefer Dante’s Hell. (Damn. Just for writing that, I’m going to end up with Hitler and Ghandi.) Where things are divided into circles or levels spiral down with increasing pain and nastiness. With punishments so much more inspiring than the just being thrown into a a lake of fire. So let’s start at the top and consider where some of the famous and more notorious among us might end up in Dante’s vision.

Upper Hell

Circle 1. Limbo, but with green fields, a castle and filled with philosophers and poets. For the non-baptized and virtuous pagan. Sounds a lot like heaven.

Circle 2. For the lustful and adulterous. Windy and you never get to rest. Guarded by Minos.

Circle 3. For the gluttonous. Freezing rain, black snow and hail. Guarded by the three-headed Cerberus.

Circle 4. For the avaricious and prodigals (the greedy and wasteful). Here, you have to push really big rocks. Guarded by Pluto who makes no sense when he talks (like listening to Fox forever).

Circle 5. The wrathful and sullen are submerged in a dirty swamp-like river here and guarded by Phlegyas.

Lower Hell – High walls guarded by devils, the Furies and Medusa.

Circle 6. For heretics who must live in this huge cemetery filled with open tombs with fire coming out of them.

Circle 7. This circle is for the violent and has three three rings. The outer ring is for tyrants and murders who are submerged in a river of boiling blood to a level commensurate with your sin. In the middle ring, those who committed suicide are turned into thorny bushes and leafless trees and are joined by squanderers who are constantly chased by bitches (me thinks, the dog kind). The inner ring is for violence against nature and usurers (bankers, mostly) where they live in a desert of flaming sand and where fiery flakes rain from the sky.

Circle 8. This circle is for those guilty of deliberate, knowing evil and contains ten stone ditches. Ditch 1 is for pimps and seducers are driven to march by demons for all eternity. Ditch 2 is for flatters who are steeped in human excrement. Ditch 3 is for simony (paying for offices or positions) and these guys are stock head-first in a rock while flames burn the soles of their feet. Ditch 4 are for sorcerers and false prophets who have their heads on backwards. Ditch 5 is for corrupt politicians who are immersed in a lake of boiling pitch. Ditch 6 is for hypocrites who have to wear lead cloaks and keep asking other hypocrites for directions. Ditch 7 is for thieves who eternally are chased by snakes and lizards and when bitten, mutate and undergo various nasty transformations. Ditch 8 are for fraudulent advisors who are encased in individual flames. Ditch 9 is for sowers of discord and disseminators of scandal who are hacked over and over again by sword-wielding demons. Ditch 10 is liars, counterfeiters, perjurers and impersonators who afflicted by different diseases.

Circle 9. This level is special. It is for those who betray someone with whom they a special relationship with (ex: a priest to a parishioner; a politician to a voter; a soldier to an enemy; etc.). They are encased in ice to different depths dependent upon the gravity of their sin. Some only up necks so their tears will freeze their eyes shut. Some possessed by demon. Some completely encase in distorted and painful positions. In their center is Satan who is waste deep encased in ice so his beating wings create an icy wind that adds to the overall discomfort (hmm, hell has seemed to freeze over).

As I was researching and writing this, I expected that parsing morality (aka: guessing a divine justice) would be difficult. I had planned to list the 911 terrorists and Osama; Sadam and Kim Jong-il; Juvénal Habyarimana and Slabodan Milosevic; W and Cheney; Limbaugh and O’Reilly; Elliot Spitzer and Mark Foley; Tom Delay and Rod Blagojevich; Jack Abramoff and Dick Cunningham; Ted Stevens and Bill Jefferson; the governors who might refuse the stimulus and those bankers who caused the need for it; the lobbyists and Haliburton; the power companies and the oil companies; the pundits and the spinsters; and so on. But it seems that for simple crimes and misdemeanors, Hell’s levels are all to easy to place the sinners. And while we might be disappointed that we can’t mix and match the punishments to fit our ideals of pain, for the terrorists and Osama, they go to Hell’s circle number 7 (murderers and suicide) and 8 (false prophet and sower of discord) respectively. For all the rest, they clearly belong right next to Satan in the lowest level of Hell for they have betrayed their special relationship with the people they were to have served.