Innocence of Tamir Rice

Twelve-year-old Tamir Rice was playing in a park across the street from his home in Cleveland. Video shows young Tamir picking up snow with both hands and throwing it in the air. Kicking at piles of snow. Tamir was also playing with a toy gun. A 9-1-1 call was made. Three times the caller suggests that he thinks the gun might be fake. And states that it’s wielder was a juvenile. But that people were concerned. Video shows a patrol car pull up feet from Tamir. Officers exit from each front seat. Tamir was shot and killed within two seconds. His sister was on the scene within moments. She was handcuffed and placed in the rear of the patrol car with her brother laying dead just yards away. Tamir’s mother was warned that she would wind up next to her daughter if she wasn’t calm. By the killers of her child.

Police said that they had instructed Tamir to drop the gun three times, before he reached into his waistband. In two seconds time. And that he looked 20. Tamir Rice was 12. He was a child at a park doing the things that children do at parks. And they said that he looked 20. Twenty? They mentally took his childhood from him, in assuming his adulthood. Before they literally took his childhood, in the taking of his life.

No charges filed.

African_slave_ship_diagramLook a’here, fellow pasty-Americans. We have a real, substantive and systematic problem with racism in this country. And it’s on us. We literally started it. We’ve perpetuated it. And even now, we either deny it still exists, or simply blame black people for all that ails their community.

Homeless_-_American_FlagAnd does it ail. Black people die young. Shorter life expectancies than whites by 3.8 years. Now that probably has more to do with socioeconomic status than race. Speaking of, average white household wealth is over 20 times that of blacks. The unemployment rate of blacks is roughly double that of whites. Black people make up just 12% of the population, but comprise 39% of the prison population, including 40% of death row. Less likely to graduate, to own a home, or a business. More teen pregnancy. Less likely to marry. Et cetera.

thugs w gunsSome us of look at these things, and it only reinforces stereotypes. That blacks are particularly violent. Inherently dangerous, sometimes with super-human strength. Sexually insatiable. Unusually slothful. And always fucking late (see what I did there?).

But why? What is it about black people that makes them that way? The answer is – nothing. Nothing at all.

wiggerWe have to talk to each other. When you talk to people who seem totally different from you, you learn that you have a lot of things in common. We all have the same problems and the same joys. We all have families we love and bills to pay. We’re all the same. It has been asserted that we are all within about 50 cousins of one another. All of us. On the planet. Seven billion of us are basically one big family. Race is just a social construct. We are different colors only because our ancestors lived in different climates. There was more or less sun, so we have more or less melanin in our skin. That’s it. We are all homosapiens.

And yet, Tamir Rice was gunned down in two seconds, presumed to be an adult.

Dennis_the_Menace_promoThere was a study which people were shown pictures of various individuals, and asked to guess their age. Black children were assigned an extra 4-and-a-half years. We as a society take the innocence from black children at a much younger age than white. We assign more culpability to black children. Children.

There was another study, like a video game an individual would appear on the screen, and if they have a gun, you pull a trigger. On-screen black characters were shot in the study both far more often, and much more quickly, than white. Or a similar study in which random faces are shown along with the word good/bad. It takes far longer to press keys associating good with black faces. There have been studies which have shown that black hands holding an item return lower bids on ebay. And shown that otherwise identical resumes with black sounding names are far less likely to receive a response.  And that teachers have lower expectations for black students…

Zimmerman,_George_-_Seminole_County_MugWe have to get past the stereotypes. And it’s not easy. It’s everywhere. There are no black imoji (for now, at least). Who cares, right? Until fairly recently, all of the dolls were white, too. Most all of the characters in the movies and on television screens were white. All of the comic books. All of the heroes. White. The hero even wears a white hat. The villain wears the black hat. Has a black heart. White is purity and light. Black is evil and darkness.

Will_Smith_Le_Prince_De_Bel_AirEven today, black men are rarely leading men. Often cast as the thug, the gentile giant, or the jester. Black women? Jezebel, Mammy, and the strong black woman.

Biggie Coogi_Blk_&_WhiteThe media is a big driver of stereotypes. And the music doesn’t help. Don’t get me wrong, I love Tupac. Love Biggie. I even listen to some Brotha Lynch Hung from time to time, which is about the most violent and honestly sadistic music one could possibly produce. Thought Eminem’s most despicable songs were hilarious, too. It’s entertainment. These artists (with rare exception) aren’t actually the kinds of people who do the violent things their songs depict.

2Pac-thuglifeAs Tupac once said, he was communicating the fables of his community. Telling the stories of people and things he saw. Not what he necessarily did or thought personally. As violent as Hit ‘Em Up, and as sexually explicit as Thug-N-U, Thug-N-Me – juxtapose those with the tenderness and affection of Keep Ya Head Up and Brenda’s Got a Baby.

Maya_Angelou_connected_with_countless_people_through_her_powerful_poetryMaya Angelou’s words continue to inspire generations. I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings. Oprah built an empire. Jordan owns the team now. We celebrate MLK from coast to coast. We even have a black president, Barak Hussein Obama. Hussein! See? Haven’t we come so far? This is America. Anyone can make it. All it takes is hard work and discipline.Oprah_Winfrey_and_Barack_Obama & Michelle (Just ask folks like Charles Barkley, Bill Cosby, LL Cool J, Stacy Dash, Ben Carson…)

In fact, these are the exceptions that prove the rule. That our black brothers and sisters are as talented and gifted as any. That given opportunity, they are certainly as capable.Chris_Rock_2014

As Chris Rock recently (and brilliantly) put it – it’s not that black people are making progress in America, it’s that white people are making progress in accepting that we are equal.

And this is where we start talking past each other.

Emmett Till
Emmett Till

When I say that black kids are far more likely to be suspended or expelled from school. That we are arresting kids at school, the school-to-prison pipeline. And as with the criminal justice system writ large, blacks are disproportionally involved. That black kids are far less likely to graduate from high school, or to earn a degree. Which makes it more difficult to get a job. Harder to get a decent-paying job. Without property or much income, you can’t get any credit. Can’t get a loan to start a business. The strains of poverty are difficult on relationships. Especially when suitors are in-and-out of jail and often unemployed. When young men see the stereotypes, and see them played out in real-time. See talent in themselves and in people around them, who couldn’t catch a break. Or made that one mistake and could never recover. Worse, were cut down before their time, and whose efforts could never be realized.

Sean Taylor
Sean Taylor

Martin_Luther_King_Jr_NYWTS_2The future might not seem like it has much to offer, and playing it straight has no guarantees. Tupac_grafitti,_Vlasotince,_SerbiaOur War on Drugs pushes industry onto an extremely profitable black market. And pushes large sums of money onto the streets (even legal cannabis dispensaries have this problem). We target the black community, who use and deal drugs at roughly the same rate as whites, yet are far more likely to be charged. Black-on-black crime? Everyone is far more likely to be victimized by someone of the same ethnic background (save Native Americans). Blacks are aggressively charged by prosecutors, and given harsher sentences by judges if found guilty, usually by majority-white juries. When they get out, we make felons check a box on job applications in many states. Won’t let felons vote in many states. We only reinforce the stereotypes. That they aren’t fully equal. Aren’t sufficiently American or human. Don’t deserve the benefit of doubt. These are problems we need to address.Inmates_Orleans_Parish_Prison

The response from a lot of white folks is: Don’t blame me! I have black friends at work. I smile and hold the door open for elderly black people. A lot of that stuff is just things that poor people have to deal with, not just blacks. I’m not rich, either. Life isn’t easy on anybody. I earned everything that I have. I worked for it. I stayed out of trouble. Why are you telling me about black people problems? White privilege? I didn’t do it. I don’t use the n-word. I’m not racist. Are you calling me racist? Are you calling America racist? Racism against blacks is over. Slavery was a long time ago. Blacks have rights, too. Make better decisions. Pull yourself up by your own bootstraps. Oprah and Obama.

Well, here’s the thing. Either black people, by virtue of their skin tone, are simply inferior. Or, we have a system which suppresses their efforts. It has to be one or the other.

peace_dove_graffitiAdmitting that we systematically oppress the black community does not mean you hate America or think all white people are racist. It’s not blacks v whites. And it’s not blacks v US of A. Admitting that whites are more likely to be given the benefit of doubt, does not mean that white people haven’t earned anything. We just need everyone to be afforded the same privilege. We all have to live together, and we must strive to make things better for all of us. But we have to diagnose what ails us before we can find remedies. We have to face the truth. It cannot be ignored.

Pro-Choice Jesus


Bob McDonnell
Bob McDonnell, aka Governor Ultrasound

Since 2010, we’ve passed more abortion restrictions in the United States than during the entire previous decade. Some states have banned abortions past a certain number of weeks. Some now require invasive and unnecessary medical procedures (vaginal probes). Or waiting periods. Require women to be counseled by religious organizations. Or require doctors to read scripts with false medical claims. Some states are criminalizing miscarriages. Some of these new laws nothing at all to do with women. Some target family planning clinics. Unnecessarily extravagant building codes. Others target abortion doctors themselves. TRAP laws. Targeted Restrictions on Abortion Providers. Federal courts have said that shutting down clinics for hundreds of miles is not an undue burden on a woman’s right to choose. The Supreme Court recently decided that private corporations have religious beliefs, and can deny contraception coverage in healthcare plans.scotus

Legislators have attempted to pass personhood bills, which would ban certain forms of contraception (including IUDs). Rape insurance bills, which would require additional insurance coverage for abortion, even for rape victims. Fetal-heartbeat bills. Some states have attempted to jail abortion providers. Some states (GA) have tried to ban clinics from doing abortions, only in hospitals. Other states (PA) have have tried to ban hospitals from doing abortion, only in clinics.

boehner2While some claim that these efforts are meant to protect the health of women, others are more truthful. House Speaker John Boehner has said that “one of our most fundamental goals” is to “make abortion a relic of the past.” In fact, the 2012 Republican party platform insisted upon a Constitutional ban on all abortions.

popesThe stance of the Catholic church, and of many Christians, is that the bible instructs believers to be anti-choice. I’m going to explain why this doesn’t have to be the case.

Albrecht_Dürer,_Adam_and_Eve,_1504,_EngravingAccording to Genesis, God created Adam & Eve. When there were only two people on the planet, God instructed them to be fruitful and multiply. Again, after the flood, the planet was inhabited by just Noah and his extended family. As before, God instructed them to be fruitful and multiply, to inhabit the earth. Those were very specific cases. Which made sense. Human existence was in peril. This situation has long since been remedied. There are over 7 billion people on the planet these days. Multiplying humans is exceedingly more a hindrance than a virtue.Duggar_Family_2007-1

Later in Genesis came the story of Onan. His brother, Er, was evil in the sight of the Lord, so God killed him. Onan’s father, Judah, instructed him to marry Er’s widow in order to conceive an heir. Onan knew that an heir would truly be his brother’s, and not his own. Onan married Tamar, but spilled his seed on the ground. So God killed Onan, too.

anticonceptivasThe story of Onan needn’t be interpreted as anti-contraception. It could just as easily be taught as a story of obeying your parents and respecting elders. Common biblical themes. Better still, the story of Onan was in line the Old Testament law that a man was to take his brother’s widow if they had yet to conceive. Onan was running afoul of this and was punished.

Fetal_face_profileThou shalt not kill came in Exodus. Seems pretty cut and dried, except that zygotes are not people. How can I say this? Especially when we have sonograms? Well, what does the bible say? Adam was created, but wasn’t alive until he was given the breath of life. Again in Revelations 11:11, breath signifies life.

AbortusExodus also lays out restitution for accidental death. A woman could be killed for half-price. And no payment is necessary unless the deceased is at least one month of age. The bible says that you aren’t alive until you take a breath of life, and you don’t count until one month.

jesus6The Old Testament shows just how pro-life God isn’t. It’s not just Sodom & Gomorrah. Jews were commanded to kill all non-believers. The Canaanites were to be completely destroyed, from women and children to pets and livestock. Everything. The first-born sons of the Egyptians were murdered by God. God once got so mad at humans, that he murdered all but a few of us. Shoot, Revelations says that Jesus will eventually torch our entire planet, including all non-believing inhabitants (for New Jerusalem). Does that sound very pro-life?

Moses_with_his_rod_and_his_brazen_serpent._Engraving_by_J._H_Wellcome_V0034280In fact, Moses gave a recipe for an infertility potion in Numbers 5. If a man is jealous, a priest mixes holy water in an earthen jar with dirt from the floor of the tabernacle, ashes of paper transcribed with damning statements, and burnt grains of jealousy. If God knows that the wife was faithful all along, she avoids the curse of infertility from the potion, and being cast out. Not very pro-life.

Vatican_StPaul_StatueWho are we fooling here? This is not about what the bible teaches. The bible can just as easily be interpreted to require abortion as condemn it. SadHousewife

This is about control over women. Jesus spoke against placing undue burdens upon people. Said that mercy is greater than sacrifice.

Abortion_Law_Reform_Society_campaign_leaflet_Wellcome_L0022773Forcing women to carry every pregnancy to term is an undue burden. Contraception means that women control their own lives. That they are free to have an uninterrupted career if they choose. To choose the most appropriate time to start a family. To be able to decide when they’ve had enough kids. Aside from the basic right of autonomy over their own bodies.

This is a problem for some. The bible says that wives should be submissive. The Catholic church refuses to allow female priesthood to this day.

wethepeopleThis is where we see the greatest need for the separation of church and state. The Constitution (let alone common sense) mandates that women are equal. Who are we to demand control over women’s lives and bodies? Because someone told you that the bible says so? Read it yourself. And don’t skim over the bad parts. The bible also supports slavery. Instructs slaves to be faithful to their masters. Which we know is also completely and utterly disgusting. Are pro-lifers also pro-slavery? Should we still ban shellfish and mixed fabrics? Should we still have a ban on collecting interest? Are we unclean if we sit where a woman on her menstrual cycle had previously sat? Should sexually-active women be cast out of cities? Should children be murdered for cursing at their parents? That’s what the bible says. And we don’t believe any of that.

Donald_Spitz_holds_anti-abortion_signNow of course, America is not a theocracy (we were the first secular nation, to intentionally have no official religion). And not all believers are anti-choice. But that doesn’t stop the restrictions from happening from coast to coast. And the fact that six of nine Supreme Court justices are Catholic, most of whom seem amenable to overturning Roe.

Sally_Ride,_First_U.S._Woman_in_Space_-_GPN-2004-00019
Sally Ride

Rosie_the_Riveter_(Vultee)_DSThink about how things actually play out in real life. Why would a woman want to get an abortion? Think about it. Being pregnant means taking time off from work. We don’t have guaranteed maternity leave in the US. For a single woman/mother, taking such time off not only greatly diminishes pay, but hinders career advancement. If she is in a low-paying job, or is a student – the cost of having children is impossible to afford without significant assistance. Forcing government-mandated pregnancy-outcomes can represent a severe economic punishment.

Woman_as_Sex_ObjectMaybe the father went kaput. The family was split before it began. Maybe she’s thirteen and was raped. Maybe she’s sixteen, and doesn’t feel like she’s ready to raise a child. Maybe she’s twenty-four, and her birth control failed. Look, people have sex, it’s only natural. We should not impose punishment upon those who want to share intimacy with another human being. Slut-shaming is wrong. If you believe that God intended for sex to feel good, why would we want to attach punishment to such a gift?

ClassroomRestrictions on abortion are nonsensical. I challenge anyone to find women who have abortions for fun. Who whimsically and frequently find themselves pregnant, only to abort the proceedings. Like drive-thru abortions. That’s what contraception is for, so you don’t get pregnant in the first place. And that’s what sex-education is for.

Silhouette_or_a_pregnant_woman_and_her_partner-14Aug2011Abortions are not gleeful, not celebratory. With heavy hearts and much deliberation are these decisions made. And made for specific and valid reasons.

pregnant Geschenk_fig.1Access to abortion should not be restricted in any way. (Aside from coercion.) Especially late-term abortions. And these are the most despised. Yet I say again, why would a woman make such a decision? Why would a woman have a late-term abortion? Think about it – she’s already carried the fetus for months on end. Already gained the weight, with possible marks to show. Already dealing with the pains of pregnancy. Sickness, swollenness and tenderness.  Why would she suddenly decide not to follow through?

George_Tiller_cropped
George Tiller aka Tiller the Baby Killer, late-term abortion provider, assassinated at his church.

She wouldn’t. It would be because doctors have informed her that the fetus is not viable, and/or that her that giving birth would be a significant risk to her health.

You don’t think women should have abortions? Don’t have one. Think that fetuses should have rights over women? Women are not incubators. They are human beings.

Crochet
Crochet

Not only are abortion restrictions morally reprehensible in their disrespect for women. But they push women in need of care into the hands of despicable individuals like Kermit Gosling. Into back-alley abortions. Bathtub abortions. Kitchen table abortions. Back to hangers. To women dying everyday in failed amateur abortions. We are headed in the wrong direction.

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holly fisher hobby lobbyjihadi chickswatposingcrips gunsopen carrythugs w gunsgunnutkidsak-muslimkidsrick perry gunthug guns solomilitiamilitantswhite guyssaggers blackA_Sailor_kisses_his_wife.Gay_dads_life_magazinecongregationmuslim prayerCliven_Bundy_(14536232017)mike brownWigger_bling2Pac-thuglife

War on Terror

ground zero2Nine-eleven. Seemingly ordinary Tuesday morning. Television channels turned their coverage toward a tragic spectacle in New York.  An airliner had struck the New York Trade Center. Circling news choppers transmitted images of a skyscraper with a hole in it’s side, smoke bellowing from within. The tragic spectacle of an assumed accident turned tectonic plate-shifting catastrophe once the second plane struck. And the Twin Towers crumbled to what we now know as Ground Zero. Foreign terrorists had unthinkably attacked the homeland. Everything changed.

911respondersWe were broadcast images of Americans leaping from windows of skyscrapers to certain death. Entire crews of first responders were wiped out. Stories of heroism and tragedy were etched into American history. 2,996 people died that day. Thousands more have died since from complications.

Michael_Melgar_LiquidArt_resize_dropletAs significant a victory for the terrorists, are the myriad ways in which a single, tragic day of terrorism sent repercussions through American life which continue to reverberate.

It started as an inconvenience. My car had belonged to my grandad, who was a CW3 and had served in WWII, Vietnam (x3), and the Korean War. Before 9/11, that sticker on my car not only got me on post, but with a friendly salute to boot. There was a turf football field on Fort Lewis. Swimming in American Lake on McChord AFB. And if anyone had a military ID – we could get signed in, and buy tax-free goodies from the AAFES. Since 9/11, everyone has to show an ID at the gate. No more shopping/swimming/playing football. Seemed a reasonable sacrifice. Things change.

Tsa_backscatter_resizeNow I’m poor folk, so I don’t fly much. I haven’t even been through the x-rated scanners and pat-downs. Maybe leaving liquids and sharp objects at home isn’t such a big deal. I once snuck an entire pizza into a Seahawks game. Under my jacket, held in place by my backpack, which needn’t be removed pre-9/11. No more sneaking on post, or sneaking pizzas into sporting events, with bothersome flight rituals. White people problems. But that’s just scratching the surface.

We wanted the people behind 9/11. We wanted blood. We were shocked that terrorists dare come into our house. We were united in patriotic outrage.

And we got it all wrong.

bin ladenThe first thing to know about 9/11 is of course, Osama Bin Laden. Osama was the very black sheep of his family. An extremely powerful family intertwined with politics in Saudi Arabia. Saudi Arabia produces more oil than any other country, save Russia. They are the closest of US allies. It would have been nice if we could have maybe asked one of Osama’s relatives if they had known of his whereabouts. Unfortunately, they left the United States shortly after the attacks.

barbara leeruss feingoldPoliticians wanted to get tough, though. President Bush went on tv to declare a War on Terror. Dubya wanted congress to give the executive branch sweeping new powers to get the bad guys. Like, yesterday. Anyone questioning this response was brow-beaten into submission. Was called unpatriotic, un-American for questioning the President in such a critical moment. The Authorization for Use of Military Force passed through congress with but a single dissent – Congresswoman Barbara Lee (D-CA). And the Patriot Act was passed with but a single no-vote – Senator Russ Feingold (D-WI).

This was the root of our problems. The War on Terror and the Patriot Act have been used to justify myriad despicable, often unconstitutional tactics that have been done in our name. With our tax-dollars. And the Authorization for Use of Military Force is now being used to justify a US war in Syria, over a decade later.

President Bush suspended habeas corpus. Jose Padilla – American citizen – was detained in Chicago (May02).  Labelled an enemy combatant and subjected to Enhanced Interrogation Tactics – tortured. Held for three-and-a-half years without charge. Before eventually being found guilty and sentenced to 21 years.

Abu_Ghraib_39Abu_Ghraib_53Abu_Ghraib_17aabu ghraib Sabrina-HarmanWe used extrajudicial rendition to put prisoners into overseas black sites. Abu Ghraib and the like. Locked them up without warrant. Tortured them. Without intention to charge them with crimes or to ever let them go. And that is still the case to this day (minus the torture, unless you count the disturbing forced feedings, of course) at Guantanamo Bay (GTMO). Which is why ISIS prisoners are also dressed in orange.

Saddam_Hussain_Iran-Iraqi_war_1980sRemember the nineteen 9/11 hijackers? Well, they were also Saudi Arabian. Not Iraqi, and not Afghani. Saudi. Same as the Bin Laden family. So why did we go to war in Iraq, again? That’s where the torture came in. Not to find Osama (we passed up an opportunity to get Osama in Tora Bora in 2001), or stop another nonexistent attack. Torture was necessary in our effort to link Saddam Hussein to al-Qaeda.

Ibn al-Shaykh al-Libi admitted to taking part in planning 9/11 while in Egyptian custody, before being renditioned.  He spoke English. Was cooperative and anticipated going through due process of the US justice system. To the point he requested his wife be allowed into the United States for the proceedings.

The CIA literally swifted al-Libi from FBI custody and began torturing him. They starved him. Had him sleep on cold concrete. Put him in a coffin-shaped box for 17 hours. And finally beat him in the face for a quarter-of-an-hour until he fabricated the story that Iraq was providing al-Qaeda nuclear weapons training.

Al-Libi had already confessed, and then we started torturing him for more. He had to provide new information to make the torture stop. Eventually he sang the tune we wanted to hear. Al-Libi later was transferred into Libyan custody. Where he finally died. Either from suicide or tuberculosis or… something.

bush defenseWith the Iraq/al-Qaeda link (falsely) established, the Bush administration  – Dick Cheney, Donald Rumsfeld, Condoleeza Rice, George Tenet, Colin Powell et al – needed to establish an imminent threat from Iraq. Aluminum tubes. We intercepted a shipment of aluminum tubes in Jordan bound for Iraq. And claimed that they were intended for use in developing nuclear weapons. Done and done.Powell_UN_Iraq_presentation,_alleged_Aluminum_Tube_for_Uranium_Enrichment

Powell-un-2003We had to attack Iraq, before we were attacked again. And next time – the smoking gun would come in the form of a mushroom cloud. 9/11 on steroids. Weapons of Mass Destruction. The Pentagon. The intelligence community. The White House. They all told us we had to go to war. Be very afraid. And we were. Public opinion agreed with starting another war with Iraq. We bought the line that we were fed.

amputee vetBut why did they do it? Why did they lie us into a war in Iraq? A war that has killed hundreds of thousands of Iraqi civilians? Thousands of US service members? Thousands more to suicide, and life-altering injuries? Trillions in initial costs, with VA costs yet incalculable? Was Dubya just following in the footsteps of Poppy Bush?dubya

Of course not. Bush was kept in that dark on some things. Plausible deniability is a common strategy utilized administrations. By all accounts, Bush was Dick Cheney’s puppet for the first 6 years, before he realized what had happened. After meetings with cabinet members, Cheney would be the one person left in the room. He would basically summarize the meeting to Dubya, framing it as though everyone had actually agreed with Cheney’s point of view. The useful idiot.

Not that Bush was innocent. He is a war criminal. He even invoked old testament biblical prophecy in defense of going back into war with Iraq. Told Tony Blair that he saw Gog and Magog at work there.

Dick_Cheney_at_the_2003_State_of_the_UnionWhy was (is) Dick Cheney such a Darth Vader-esque creature? Even with the knowledge that war in Iraq would be doomed to failure? (Watch the video.) Why was (is) he the main cheerleader for war? Why else? Money.

war at all costsHalliburtonNorthHoustonDick Cheney left politics in 1995 to become CEO of Halliburton, major US defense contractor. In 2000, Bush asked Cheney to lead a search for his running mate. Cheney looked long and hard, and found the perfect candidate. In the mirror. Halliburton gave Cheney a hefty $30+million exit bonus, so that he could focus on the campaign. Halliburton was awarded nearly $40billion, mostly in no-bid contracts, for the war in Iraq. Quite an investment. And that’s why and how the travesty of 9/11 turned into the imbecillic nincompoopery of Iraq II. Money and politics. Amend the constitution.

ksmThe terrorists wanted blood, and we gave it to them. After the initial attack, we sent even more Americans to die in the Middle East. Still to this day. They wanted us to come to them. And they wanted to bleed us of our treasure. To follow in the example of the Soviets, and the British before. And we played right into their hands. As is happening with ISIS today.

Mahatma_Gandhi_GhpThat’s not all the terrorists wrought. Our most invaluable of resources are our values. We are supposed to be exceptional. The shining city on the hill. We are supposed to lead by example. To wear the white hat. We don’t get to be the police of the world when we can’t be trusted to follow the most basic of international and humanistic norms.

bin ladin war roomNot only did we suspend habeas corpus, and violate a bevy of international treaties by torturing our prisoners, never charging them with crimes or letting them go. Not only did we illegally invade a country that had done nothing to us. And leave another a shambles (Afghanistan) when it was SEAL Team Six who eventually got our man. In Pakistan.

drone1We have secret drone wars in Pakistan, Yemen, Somalia. The numbers are a bit fuzzy, but we kill dozens of civilians for every successful kill of known targets. If such collateral damage of civilian lives (which fuels anti-American sentiment, providing willing recruits for terrorist organizations) wasn’t bad enough – we lie about who we kill.  We claim that we rarely if ever kill civilians. Label anyone of military age an enemy combatant. Have destroyed wedding parties. Funeral processions. We’ve attacked first responders in terroristic double-taps. We do signature strikes, when we kill based upon behavior. Say, callisthenics or being in a large group (say, a wedding party or funeral). We don’t even know who our targets are. We just kill them, and whomever else happens to be around at the time. We target cell phones. Who is holding the phone? Who knows? We target cell phones based upon metadata, and drop hellfire missiles.

NSA fake logoMetadata? Did someone say metadata? The Patriot Act was also used to justify numerous domestic spying programs. In 2005, the New York Times James Risen reported that the NSA was intercepting Americans communications from directly inside telecommunication companies. Secret rooms inside private companies to which only the gov’t had keys. And given the go-ahead by the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court.

Snowden_HeroGreenwald_and_Miranda_(cropped_to_Greenwald)The PRISM program was the first of the Snowden revelations, which unconstitutionally seizes communications metadata of suspicionless Americans. Blatant 4th Amendment violation. We were assured that it was only metadata, that we needn’t worry if we weren’t doing anything wrong. Yet metadata is used to target and kill…cell phones.

nsa utahThen we learned that the NSA et al are collecting far more than simply metadata. They are lapping up phone calls and texts, emails. Taking screen shots of the internet. And storing it all just in case they want to go back and look later. We built a humongous storage facility in Utah. They are spying on everything from our communications, to web searches and video game chat rooms, and embarrassing dating and pornography habits. They can access devices unconnected to the internet, through the motherboard. They exploit vulnerabilities in our devices, internal flaws and lax encryption. Keep those flaws a secret from manufacturers, and use it to access our communications.The_U.S._Army_-_Official_Army_iPhone_app

We need our sleuths to have the most advanced of capabilities. We have active cyber warfare with China and Iran, at the least. Aside from thwarting conventional terror attacks. But it is unconstitutional to turn those technological advances on the American people without first having suspicion of them. The American people are not enemy combatants, and the United States is not a war zone.

Anwar_al-Awlaki_sitting_on_couch,_lightenedUnfortunately, our government does not seem to agree. As our spying programs have been turned inward, so has our drone program. Anwar al-Awlaki was an American citizen, and we purposely targeted and killed him with a drone strike (along with Pakistani-American Samir Khan). His 16-year old, Denver-born son, Abdulrahman al-Awlaki (along with two cousins) was also killed by drone strike two weeks later. Sitting at an outdoor table at a cafe in Yemen, while searching for his already deceased father. How, pray tell, does one surrender to a drone?

Barack_Obama_with_a_portrait_of_Robert_Gibbs_youngHe should have (had) a far more responsible father – Former White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs. We were later told that Abdulrahman was not the actual target of the strike that killed him. Oh, and the actual target is classified. Sorry.

Eric_Holder_at_Press_Conference_over_GuantanamoDue process does not require judicial process – US Attorney General Eric Holder. Too bad for Anwar, Samir, & Abdulrahman. How is this justified? That our government claims to legal authority to assassinate an American citizen (by drone or otherwise) without any sort of charges, let alone trial and conviction?

Sixteen pages of white papers released by the Obama administration (Feb13) lay out the broad legal framework. Though as per usual, the most disturbing and damning portions are kept classified.

An American citizen can be killed if they are deemed to be an imminent threat. Sounds reasonable enough, until the definition of imminent threat turns out to be ongoing threat. Or, not imminent. If continually involved in planning or recently been involved. And thus, does not require the United States to have clear evidence that an attack on U.S. persons and interests will take place in the immediate future. Basically, pre-crime.justice

Why not simply detain an American suspect if they need to be brought to justice? Depends upon whether the capture remains feasible throughout the process. Which also sounds reasonable, until unfeasible turns out to be when there is undue risk to U.S personnel.Accident_warning

I would submit that there is risk in getting out of bed in the morning. And I know what some of you are thinking – don’t go to Yemen, don’t get droned.

Rand_Paul_FilibusterMr. Holder asserted in a 4-page letter to Senator Rand Paul (R-KY) that it could hypothetically be necessary and appropriate under the Constitution for the US government to apply these standards to target and kill a US citizen on US soil (Mar13).

wethepeopleI’m not a terrorist, why should I care? We didn’t establish the rights that guarantee our freedoms simply so the best of us can be free. That’s the easy part. Free speech doesn’t mean much when everyone agrees with the opinion. Westboro Baptist are despicable and deplorable individuals, yet they are free to spew their hatred without fear of imprisonment. Anwar al-Awlaki was a bad, bad guy. And Jose Padilla was found guilty. But our true character and our true freedoms are revealed in how we handle the worst of cases.

Two-thousand, nine-hundred and ninety-six innocent people were not all that was lost that fateful Tuesday morning in September.

Torture Report





Five years after it’s completion. After five years of legal and political wrangling between the Senate Intelligence Committee, the CIA, and the Obama administration. The Torture Report has at long last been made public.

Senate Intelligence Committee Chairwoman Diane Feinstein (D-CA)
Senate Intelligence Committee Chairwoman Diane Feinstein (D-CA)

And ohhh did the tussle get good. At one point, senators were allowed to review the CIA’s (Former CIA Director Leon Panetta’s) internal review of the torture program. But were only allowed to look in a secure room by themselves – sans staffers – and not even allowed to take any notes. They were given access to a less-redacted version than they had originally expected. The CIA was then caught spying on the senators personal devices, and those of their staffers. Yes, the CIA was caught spying on the Senators specifically tasked with oversight of their agency. To the point that Senators considered liberating classified documents from the CIA for safekeeping, in fear that they would be destroyed. Constitutional crises.

obama fingerThe White House withheld nearly 10,000 documents from the Senate. The most juicy of details, one would imagine. That’s the overarching, the meta, angle to keep in mind. None of them are guiltless. And they are all trying to deflect blame. To point fingers at one other.

Mark Udall, outgoing senator who threatened to leak torture report if not released
Mark Udall, outgoing senator who threatened to leak torture report if not released

The Bush White House gave permission, and Dubya lied about when he knew the details. The Senate, including many current members, reiterated permission numerous times. The CIA carried out the torture, and lied about it’s efficacy to everyone, including the White House.  And Obama doesn’t want the precedent of going too far up the totem pole. Saying from the get-go that we should “look forward, not backward.” And sending Secretary of State John Kerry just this week to try and convince Feinstein to delay release of the report, days before it’s eventual release. As if ignoring our past makes it go away. As if there will ever be a perfect time when everyone in the world loves us enough to ignore war crimes.

This is not an option. We have to confront our mistakes, so that we never make them again. Inaccountability is precedent. Is ratification of blanket immunity. At this point, the only person punished is the guy who exposed what we did. Ex-CIA officer – and American hero – John Kiriakou pled for 30 months in federal prison.

Good Guy Jon Kiriakou
The report released to the public is a mere 600 pages. But the original report approved by the Senate Intelligence Committee in 2012 was over 6000 pages. And was made from over 6,000,000 CIA documents. (6,6,6. Sometimes it seems they purposely make things sound far-fetched.)

Gory details? Rectal feeding, and rectal rehydration became instant hashtags. Yes. We shoved tubes up our prisoners asses. Some would get rough enemas. Others got food…enemas. We raped men in their asses with as big of hoses as we could find, and shoved food inside to pretend we weren’t simply raping them.

Majid Khan
Majid Khan

Majid Khan was presented a plate of hummus – yes, hummus -, nuts, raisins, and pasta with sauce. Which was pureed and inserted into his anus. He was abused until he had anal fissures, and his rectum was prolapsed.

Abu_Zubaydah
Abu Zubaydah

Abu Zubaydah suffers from entomophobia – fear of insects. We put him in a coffin-shaped box filled with bugs. Put one of his eyes out for good measure. Coffins were widely used, as mock executions were commonplace. As were threats of rape and murder against family members. Especially mothers. We put prisoners in ice-water baths. Walling – we would put a collar attached to a chain around the neck of a prisoner, used to repeatedly slam them against the wall. Inverted suspension. Of course, slapping of the face and body. And as a reward for good behavior, we would supply the prisoner a bucket for excrement. Are we not merciful?

sesameThere are lighthearted moments, too. We tortured people with the Sesame Street theme song. The Barney theme song. The Meow Mix jingle. The Bee Gee’s Staying Alive. Rawhide – Rolling, rolling, rolling. Metallica’s Enter Sandman. Eminem’s Kim, and White America. See? Even state-sanctioned torture can be pop-culture relevant. Fun, right?

Even given this report, there is still a lot we don’t know. Some if it is on purpose. Because they don’t want us to know. It’s classified. And some because the CIA isn’t even sure themselves exactly how many people they had in the torture program. At least 119. They lost some detainees. Some mistaken identities. Thus, they can’t even say exactly how many people we accidentally (…) tortured to death. Only that it was at least one.

We stripped Gul Rahman down to just a sweatshirt, and chained him down so that he would be seated on the cold concrete. He died of hypothermia. And he was found to be innocent.

We would chain naked prisoners in stress positions. In standing positions for days at a time. Give IVs and blood-thinners for their swollen legs, and stand them back up again. Abu Hudharfa was forced to stand for 66 consecutive hours. Some were kept awake for days at a time, allowed to sleep for just an hour, and kept awake for days again. That’s where the Sesame Street came in. And buckets full of near-freezing water for extended periods.

ksm
KSM

Khalid Sheikh Mohammed was kept awake for seven-and-a-half days straight. He was also waterboaded at least 183 times. As well as the rectal rehydration treatment. He was ran through the gamut of enhanced interrogation tactics. EITs, the new Orwellian term for torture. And yes, that KSM.

Which brings us to the moral of the story. The immorality of torture. It seems a given that torture is wrong. Yet there are many defending it’s use.

We’ve been over this subject in the past. We have the 8th Amendment – no cruel & unusual punishment. The Nuremberg Trials. The Universal Declaration of Human Rights in 1948. International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights in 1992. The Convention against Torture or Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment in 1994. All of which ban torture altogether. Whether in war time or peace. No matter the threat, nor fear of threat. Torture is illegal in any and all circumstances. Period. (Yet even now, our gov’t says that it might be okay under certain circumstances on foreign soil.)

jack bauerSo why is it even a question? The big hypothetical. The nuclear bomb under Los Angeles, and the prisoner who can tell us where it’s at. We have to be able to torture a single person, if it means saving thousands or millions of American lives. Well, that’s just bull mess. An  action movie fantasy scenario. And that’s not what we did.
We tortured at least 119 people, including many innocents. The Senate report says that at least 26 of the men we tortured were completely innocent. Over one-in-five. We tortured people who we thought were telling the truth, just to make sure. We tortured people before we even asked them anything. We tortured people without even knowing who they were. And it didn’t work. How do we know that it didn’t work?

bin ladenThe CIA gave 20 specific examples of when torture led to actionable intelligence. When it had worked. Each and every one of the 20 claims were found to be false. Yes, including the claim that torture led us to Osama Bin Laden. It did not. Zero Dark Thirty was a lie. The courier who gave up the information, did so before he was tortured. Before he was even transferred into our custody. We tortured him as soon as we got our hands on him anyway. So he stopped cooperating.

Because torture doesn’t work. Torture only causes someone say something. They will say what they think you want to hear. They will say whatever they think they must in order to make the torture stop.

Brennan
Brennan

Even CIA Director John Brennan – while defending the use of torture, and while refusing to rule out more torture – said that what we did was “abhorrent” and a “mistake”. Even admitting that he can’t know if it worked. Unknowable, as he put it.

Well, it is knowable. Torture did not work. Torture does not work. And even if you want to believe that it did – do chemical weapons work? How well do nuclear weapons work? Does a guillotine work? Slaves built the pyramids and the White House. Did slavery work? It certainly got results.

Jessen, 1989
Jessen, 1989

And one last bit. The dual psychologists we hired (Jim Mitchell & Bruce Jessen, $81m) to devise our torture program? They basically copied the tactics used against American POWs in the Korean War. Now, ISIS is using the same tactics against us. ISIS is water-boarding it’s prisoners. Because we did. ISIS is dressing prisoners in orange. Because we do (Guantanamo).

There are consequences for our actions. When we torture people, not only the tortured are injured in the process. Screams in terror. Fluids flowing from various orifices. And not just the tortured. The Senate report tells of interrogators puking, and quitting for the demented & deranged things they had done. What we did. To human fucking beings.

putinWe surrender moral authority when we act like the villains. And the worst of actors get to point at us. Not only for our hypocrisy. Not only for our immorality. But because it gives them the excuse to do wrong, too. Precedent. To do worse. Down, down the spiral of immorality.