Interrogation Buddies: Cheney, Bush and … Obama?

Well this is a nasty surprise.  Cheney apparently likes parts of Obama’s record:

“Cheney has kind of backed away lately, largely because Obama has met Bush and praised him when it comes to things like Afghanistan, the use of drones and interrogation,” said Bruce Buchanan, a political scientist at the University of Texas.

Cheney and Bush’s record on interrogation was illegal, brutal, and pro-torture.  For Obama to be even remotely on the same page as these men is a truly saddening day for human rights.  It also offers a starker view of a president in danger of permanently alienating anyone in the Democratic party to the left of the Clintons.

When Religious Insanity Maims and Kills Children

Religion – throughout history – has on occasion stoked the fires of ignorance, hate, and violence.  The attacks on witchcraft – often a cover for overt misogyny or the elimination of competing religions – are a particularly brazen example.  Witch hunts continue to this day in NigeriaSpecifically targeting children (nytimes – may prompt you for registration – if so visit bugmenot.com):

Those disturbed by the needless immiseration of innocent children should beware. “Saving Africa’s Witch Children” follows Gary Foxcroft, founder of the charity Stepping Stones Nigeria, as he travels the rural state of Akwa Ibom, rescuing children abused during horrific “exorcisms” — splashed with acid, buried alive, dipped in fire — or abandoned roadside, cast out of their villages because some itinerant preacher called them possessed.

some have read her book “Unveiling the Mysteries of Witchcraft,” where she confidently writes that “if a child under the age of 2 screams in the night, cries and is always feverish with deteriorating health, he or she is a servant of Satan.”

in her sermons, Ms. Ukpabio is emphatic that children can be possessed, and that with her God-given “powers of discernment,” she can spot such a child. Belief in possession is especially common among Pentecostals in Nigeria, where it reinforces native traditions that spirits are real and intervene in human affairs.

Since “Saving Africa’s Witch Children” was first shown in Britain, in 2008, Mr. Itauma’s home state has adopted a law against accusing children of witchcraft. But Ms. Ukpabio went on the offensive by suing the state government, Mr. Foxcroft, Mr. Itauma and Leo Igwe, a Nigerian antisuperstition activist.

In the lawsuit, Ms. Ukpabio alleges that the state law infringes on her freedom of religion. She seeks 2 billion naira (about $13 million) in damages, as well as “an order of perpetual injunction restraining the respondents” from interfering with or otherwise denouncing her church’s “right to practice their religion and the Christian religious belief in the existence of God, Jesus Christ, Satan, sin, witchcraft, heaven and hellfire.”

In other words, in the name of religious freedom, Ms. Ukpabio seeks a gag order on anyone who disagrees with her.

This is Christianity at its very worst.  The strategies employed by Ms. Ukpabio mirror those we see in the US from conservative Christians – claim persecution and vigorously defend their “right” to persecute and vilify others – often with violent results.

In general one wants to say people have a right to preach and spread ignorance.  One’s will to defend this right begins to erode when that ignorance clearly leads to violence.  What is absolutely clear is that we do have a right to criticize that ignorance and do our best to counter it.  That means everything from explaining the difference between autism and witchcraft to tackling a belief system that was founded on bronze age fears of the unknown – and fears of competing belief systems.

What Police Murder Says About Us

The Police Officer who murdered an innocent man on San Francisco’s public transit system gets a lenient verdict – essentially concluding that the fear of black people is legally defensible.  As Digby notes:

He was just trying to teach the little bastard a lesson by swearing at him and then shooting him full of electricity while he was already on the ground. People have to learn to obey transit police officers unquestioningly and when they curse you out and threaten you out of the blue you have an obligation as a citizen to take whatever they mete out — including death if they accidentally pick up their torture device instead of their killing device. Shit happens.

Its not enough that we live in a police state.  We live in a racist, sadistic police state.  What does that say about us as a country?

Republicans Lieberman and Graham to Block Torture Evidence

Republicans Joe Lieberman and Lindsey Graham vowed to block torture evidence by “any means necessary” (HuffPost).

Wonder if they’d resort to torture?

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Obama Watch: The Human Rights Litmus Test

Crossposted at Revolutionary Act

Now that we’ve successfully elected Barack Obama, we need to make sure he stays honest and true to his campaign.  This article from the Wall Street Journal uses an interview with his transition team to suggest he might not be.  When running for office:

On the campaign trail, Mr. Obama criticized many of President George W. Bush’s counterterrorism policies. He condemned Mr. Bush for promoting “excessive secrecy, indefinite detention, warrantless wiretapping and ‘enhanced interrogation techniques’ like simulated drowning that qualify as torture through any careful measure of the law or appeal to human decency.”

As a candidate, Mr. Obama said the CIA’s interrogation program should adhere to the same rules that apply to the military, which would prohibit the use of techniques such as waterboarding. He has also said the program should be investigated.

However the word on the street suggests otherwise:

Mr. Obama is being advised largely by a group of intelligence professionals, including some who have supported Republicans, and centrist former officials in the Clinton administration. They say he is likely to fill key intelligence posts with pragmatists.

“He’s going to take a very centrist approach to these issues,” said Roger Cressey, a former counterterrorism official in the Clinton and Bush administrations. “Whenever an administration swings too far on the spectrum left or right, we end up getting ourselves in big trouble.”

Given that this is coming from a single advisor I wouldn’t be surprised if this turns out to be simply wishful thinking on his part, or even playing to the media’s obsessive need to claim that Obama must run a centrist administration when a largely left-wing coalition won him his office.

This is too important an issue to let alone, we need to keep the pressure on.  So I’ve started a petition (which is only a small start).  Any other ideas?

Please sign the petition asking President Elect Obama to Uphold Human Rights.

Open Letter to a PUMA

Dear Ron:

In your letter, you said:

I’ve supported the Democrats for 40 years because the Dem party was also the democratic party. This year, those two things have diverged.

No, they haven’t.  One candidate won the primary with the most votes and the most delegates.  PUMA is standing against democracy in democracy’s name.  Why should the majority of voters be disenfranchised so your candidate (who now supports Obama) can be installed?

I hope I’ll be able to support the Dem party in the future but with different leadership that respects our commitment to democracy. Leftists have taken control of the party, casting our liberal ideals aside, and they need to go.

We aren’t going anywhere.  It is the centrists, the spineless cowards who caved to Bush on every affront to life, liberty and justice, who need to go.  The word leftist should never be a dirty one to a Democrat.

The only way we can get our party back is to make sure they lose in November.

Right, because that worked so well in 2000.  That’s the same reasoning that led people to choose Nader over Gore in states that mattered.  (For the record, that election was lost in the courts, and not by the slim margin of votes that went to Nader).  The point is that viewing defeat as anything is unrealistic.  If the Democrats lose to McCain, it will be a loss, and we will feel it: in the courts and in our foreign and domestic policy.

Loyal Democrats like us who don’t support Obama have been told by Donna Brazile to shut up and stay home on election day. No, we won’t. She also said that the “new” party doesn’t need us, it’s long loyal base. If the “new” Democrats succeed under these circumstances, we won’t even have a party to go to in the future. We’ve been put out and have no place to go right now except to McCain.

I don’t want you to stay home on election day.  I want you to vote.  But keep clearly in mind that if you actually vote for McCain, there is no way in hell you are a loyal Democrat.  Not because you are voting against the party’s candidate in the race.  Because by supporting John McCain you’d be supporting the disaterous foreign and domestic policy of George W. Bush, and joining in an assault on everything Hillary Clinton stood for.

You say you are a loyal Democrat.  Do you support freedom of choice?  An end to discrimination based on sexual orientation?  Peace in the Middle East?  Universal Healthcare?  Economic policy informed by economists, not lobbyists?  Preserving the environment?  Stopping torture and domestic spying by our own government?  Freedom of speech?  Separation of Church and State?  The Rule of Law?  Tackling excessive lobbyist influence and political corruption?

If you actually support John McCain over Barack Obama, recognize you’ll be taking a big step back on all of these issues.  In some cases, even further back than George W. Bush himself has dragged us.

Barack Obama is not the best candidate in the world, but he is a solid candidate.  And he will move us forward on each and every one of the issues above.

Cheney Administration Insiders Defend Illegal Torture

Is there any surprise at all?  Its not like Dick Cheney would ever say “Oh, you caught me.  Yes, I broke the law and approved torture methods.”.  Instead members of the Cheney Administration proved once again they have a little credibility as they have honor or morality ABC News (emphasis mine):

On Dec. 19, 2005, Vice President Cheney told [read: lied to] ABC, “I can say that we, in fact, are consistent with the commitments of the United States that we don’t engage in torture, and we don’t.”

They broke the law and lied to the American public about it.

Three months later, on March 16, 2006, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice echoed that theme in a speech in Sydney, Australia: “I want to emphasize and underscore, because the president made very clear from day one that he would not condone torture.”

She might as well have added “Which is why we didn’t tell him, heh heh heh”.

When caught breaking the law and ordering our citizens to commit one of the most ethically foul acts possible, their response is “It is not against the law!”.

When are we going to arrest these jokers?