Saturday, February 17, 2007

No Innocent Bystanders

Via Mickey Z:
The next time you're feeling "free," see how far you can walk without being legally compelled to stop to let cars drive past. The light turns red and, voila, you are no longer free to continue walking because in America, the car culture rules. This essentially invisible totalitarian salvo was recently complicated when a big white SUV crept up into the crosswalk, making it virtually hopeless for yours truly to cross the damn street even when the light changed to green. I fixed my gaze on the mechanized monster before me and immediately saw all that is wrong with America.

No, I'm not just talking about how the gas guzzling properties of that SUV directly result in military interventions, human rights violations, global poverty, rampant war crimes, and everything else on that lurid laundry list. This is not just another screed about the myriad highways that crisscross America, draining tax dollars, shattering communities, and devastating eco-systems. No, this is all about dissidents finally blaming everyone who deserves blame (including ourselves).

The neatly dressed man in the passenger seat -- "Dad" -- was talking loudly on a cell phone. Global demand for columbite-tantalite (a.k.a. "coltan"), a common cell phone component, is fueling war and environmental destruction in the Democratic Republic of Congo . . . but leftists aren't supposed to acknowledge their complicity. We don't reproach everyday Americans for their callous indifference because, well . . . .it's all Bush's fault, right?

The woman driving this death machine --"Mom" -- sported diamond earrings. Although we're aware how the diamond trade exploits both humans and the landscape, Mom's given a free pass based solely on her ignorance. It's Bush's fault.

Both Mom and Dad proudly call themselves "liberal" and voted for Kerry in 2004. Their participation in the two-party farce and their acceptance of lesser evilism, however, are not seen as the problem by those in the know. It's all Bush's fault.

In the backseat of that SUV sat a teenage boy wearing Nike sneakers, a Gap shirt, and eating a Big Mac. I'm not supposed to point the accusing finger of blame at his family's willingness to financially support sweatshop labor and factory farming because it's Bush's fault.

Next to Big Mac boy was his older sister, drinking Coke (sorry India and Colombia) and putting on nail polish (too bad for the animals it was tested on). This girl's compliance is not the problem. She's merely a product of the times. Besides, it's all Bush's fault.

The light that temporarily halted this SUV went green and Mom put the pedal to the metal. As she drove away, I saw a bumper sticker that reads: "Our son is a U.S. Marine." Ah, here we have the Holy Grail of free passes. Condemn the war but support the troops, we're told, and the SUV owner's progeny only joined for the educational opportunities. It's not his fault. Leave him alone. He's only following orders. He had no choice. He has no culpability. It's Bush's fault that poor sonny boy is stuck in Iraq.

Reality check: The excuse of ignorance is not valid when graphic images are available within minutes. It's not lack of knowledge; it's denial . . . or perhaps even acquiescence. There are no innocent bystanders when our money and/or rhetoric support the world's most powerful military and the corporate status quo. But if we just keep telling ourselves it's all Bush's fault, we can sleep better -- our innocence wrapped around us like a big white SUV.
Said it before, and will say it again: Bu$hCo is a symptom, not the disease. This particular White House regime did not come out of a vacuum, but a social and historical context (a Zeitgeist if you will) - one in which it is assumed that "America" (or more specifically the White, European contingent thereof) is superior to the rest of our aching planet, and by some form of manifest destiny has the right and obligation to colonize anything and everything around it. Of course such a Zeitgeist includes an "exceptionalist" mindset that "we" are "good," "civilized," "cultured," et al., who are merely misunderstood by all those "savages" in these distant Southern lands with names we have no desire to even learn how to pronounce. Their natural resources and labor belong to "us."

Hell, I have no qualms about seeing the whole lot of the Bu$hCo regime, its Congressional enablers, and yes, their media apologists shipped over to the Hague to ideally be sentenced to life before a firing squad. That would even be too good for them. Good riddance, I say.

That said, unless as individuals and as a society we seriously challenge the cultural myths to which we subscribe, we'll merely maintain the conditions necessary to create yet another Presidential monstrocity - perhaps worse than the one we already suffer with.

In thinking a bit about our role in preserving or changing our planet's circumstances, I'll drop a little Jean-Paul Sartre on ya:

Man is condemned to be free; because once thrown into the world, he is responsible for everything he does.

I also recall something him writing something to the effect of "when I act, I choose for all." It's somewhere in Being and Nothingness, if one cares to look.

Anyhoo, when I was this particular essay by Mickey Z, part of what came to mind was the individual's responsibility for the choices made in whatever circumstances that he/she is thrown into; the impact that those choices may have on others on another corner of the planet; the notion of living in bad faith (another Sartrean concept) to the extent that one attempts to escape accepting responsibility for one's choices to act (or not to act).

We ain't talkin' purity, folks. We're all going to leave a footprint on the planet. That was never in doubt. The question is the nature of that footprint. That's for each of us to figure out. The choices we make now will be far-reaching for generations to come.

Friday, February 16, 2007

Freedom

George Hanson: You know, this used to be a helluva good country. I can't understand what's gone wrong with it.

Billy: Man, everybody got chicken, that's what happened. Hey, we can't even get into like, a second-rate hotel, I mean, a second-rate motel, you dig? They think we're gonna cut their throat or somethin'. They're scared, man.

George Hanson: They're not scared of you. They're scared of what you represent to 'em.

Billy: Hey, man. All we represent to them, man, is somebody who needs a haircut.

George Hanson: Oh, no. What you represent to them is freedom.

Billy: What the hell is wrong with freedom? That's what it's all about.

George Hanson: Oh, yeah, that's right. That's what's it's all about, all right. But talkin' about it and bein' it, that's two different things. I mean, it's real hard to be free when you are bought and sold in the marketplace. Of course, don't ever tell anybody that they're not free, 'cause then they're gonna get real busy killin' and maimin' to prove to you that they are. Oh, yeah, they're gonna talk to you, and talk to you, and talk to you about individual freedom. But they see a free individual, it's gonna scare 'em.

Billy: Well, it don't make 'em runnin' scared.

George Hanson: No, it makes 'em dangerous.

Dialog from the movie Easy Rider. It's been ages since I saw that flick - one that as I recall not only captured the authoritarian vibe that existed in the US around the time I was born, but would be timely today. Hat tip to Ezekiel.

What he said:

Editors don't want to be seen hiding the truth; they give lots of other rationales for why they don't show the photos. Privacy. Not supportive of the troops. Bad taste. Possible desensitizing. The children might see. Embolden the enemy. Bad for morale. All good reasons, but also all dancing around the truth. If we were exposed to the images of the limbs ripped off children, soldiers with brains spilling down their worthless body armor, a lot more people would say, "Enough! This must stop!" The press understands the simple act of showing an image is antiwar, so in any attempt to be "fair and balanced" about the war they must NOT show real horrific images.

This administration is selling a product that no sane person would continue to buy if they knew the horrible truth about it. They might tolerate it for awhile if they can hold in their heads either fear for their own safety or good, noble reasons to kill humans and bomb children. But if the fear doesn't really exist and the noble reasons are shown to be a sham, a steady diet of gruesome images will quickly weaken any residual resolve.

Bush and Cheney keep the focus on abstract "truths" like freedom and independence. The media will use numbers, bar charts, and still photos of people in uniform to symbolize the dead. But you will never see the image of their faces contorted from a violent painful death.

Can an image change your mind about how you feel about something and then how you act? Yes. That is deepest reason real war photos are not printed in the mainstream press.

Wednesday, February 14, 2007

Ya think?

Sez Matt Stoller:
It's pretty obvious at this point that the Democratic leadership isn't serious about ending the war in Iraq. They won't defund the war, and keep repeating the meme that cutting off funding for the war means cutting off funding for the troops.
File under "coulda seen this one coming a mile away." I imagine that after the dust settles, the smoke clears, [any of a number of lame metaphors of your choice], we'll find plenty o' partisan Democratic bloggers, activists, and apologists bragging about the great 2008 strategy of doing nothing and hoping the GOP implodes. Expect more pep talks about "keeping our powder dry" ad nauseum from now til the pro wrestling match that we call the Presidential election ends in a frenzy of election night revelry. If the loonies running the asylum in DC haven't managed to drive the nation off the financial cliff, maybe they'll luck out once more without too many voters catching on. Never mind the additional dead who will have accumulated between now and then. Appearing "resolute" is of prime importance in this New Age of Eternal War on Terror.

Tuesday, February 13, 2007

The revolution will probably be blogged,

but I won't be at a computer. One will have to wonder about the priorities of those who think the place to be is podcasting or live-blogging the revolution when/if it does happen. One has to be equally skeptical and suspicious of those who feel the need to be part of a "small clique, coterie or circle that identified the possibility for massive change and precipitated its manifestation," and who view past revolutions with a sort of romantic glance. History is littered with the corpses left behind by such folks, and I would advise watching your back if you run with that pack.

My hunch is the conditions that would precipitate revolution in any meaningful sense of the term in a nation known more for being fat and complacent will be ones completely foreign to the experience of contemporary (mostly) white, predominantly middle-class Americans. With no more running tabs (at 30% interest) to fuel the consumption of disposable consumer goods, the mood is likely to be dark indeed, and given our culture of violence, there will be a bloodletting the likes of which will make the aftermath of the French Revolution look like a schoolyard fight. It will not be the sort of santized "revolution" advertised by Howard Dean or Barack Obama. That "small clique" will no doubt be waiting like vultures at a massacre, as have other "small cliques" before them. Don't say you were not warned.

So it goes.

The war did wonders, all right:

Sez Richard Cohen, Iraq War apologist:
I thought the war would do wonders for the Middle East and that it would last, at the most, a week or two. In this I was assured by the usual experts in and out of government. My head nodded like one of those little toy dogs in the window of the car ahead of you.
Yeah, that war did "wonders" for the Middle East. How many hundreds of thousands are now dead? How many more have been maimed physically and/or psychologically? How many more will have to suffer the ill effects from unexploded cluster bombs and toxins such as "depleted" uranium? The real wonder is why folks like Cohen aren't explaining themselves at Nuremberg.

Monday, February 12, 2007

How do you wish to be viewed 100 years from now?

David Baake sez:
Imagine that, somehow, you are transported forward in time. You find yourself in a history classroom; the year is 2107. What sort of things do you think the teacher will be saying about our time? Personally, I think that if society has undergone any sort of ethical progress by then, the teacher will probably be saying things like this: "In 2003, the United States government invaded Iraq in order to advance the political and economic goals of its ruling class, massacring thousands of civilians in the process. Historians estimate that the invasion caused 655,000 excess civilian deaths between 2003 and 2006 alone. This was one of worst cases of mass-murder of that era, and yet, few Americans took action to stop it." I can imagine the children being horrified and perplexed by the fact that anyone ever tolerated such atrocities. I can imagine them identifying with the anti-war protesters, as students now identify with the anti-fascist movement in Europe when they study the Second World War.

I can imagine the teacher saying: "In the early part of the 21st Century, the United States had the largest prison population in the world, even greater than the prison population of totalitarian states such as China. Over 2 million people were incarcerated, mostly for nonviolent and victimless offenses, and were forced to live in extremely degrading conditions. The government would also execute some of its prisoners. Sometimes, they would execute completely innocent people by accident." Again, children would be horrified, and wonder how decent people could have tolerated such abuses of human dignity.

[snip]

If you really could visit a history classroom of the future, if you were really forced to think rationally about the injustices of our time in a place where the mythology that justifies them no longer exists, how would you live your life differently? Would you still be complacent? Would you still be indifferent to the atrocities that are occurring all around you? Or would you find the courage to stand up for what is right, even in the face of adversity?

The choice is yours. Do you want to go down in the history books next to Thomas Paine, Harriet Tubman, Martin Luther King, Caesar Chavez, Susan B. Anthony, Malcolm X, Mahatma Gandhi, and Nelson Mandela, or next to the millions of decent people who were complicit in horrible atrocities?
Certainly these are questions that each of us will have to wrestle with as we continue our lives. Each of us will have a day of reckoning, a moment where someone, somewhere, will hold us accountable for what was done or for those failures to act. There truly is no exit.

Tip o' the hat to Mickey Z.

In His Own Words: Dr. Sami Al-Arian

“Much of the government’s evidence against me were speeches I gave, lectures I presented, articles I wrote, magazines I edited, books I owned, conferences I convened, rallies I attended, interviews I conducted, news I heard and websites no one accessed...In one instance, the evidence consisted of a conversation that one of my co-defendants had with me in his dream,” he said. “It was reminiscent of the thought crime of Orwell’s ‘Nineteen Eighty-Four.’ The scary part was not that these were offered into evidence, but that a federal judge admitted them. That’s why I am so proud of the jury, who acted as the free people that they were and saw through Big Brother’s tactics.

“I’ve been to nine prisons in nine months,” he explained. “I spent the first 23 months in Coleman Federal Penitentiary, where the conditions were Guantanamo-plus, that is they were like those of the detainees in Guantanamo Bay ‘plus’ one phone call a month and visits with my family behind glass. I was in a nine-foot-by-eight-foot cell, where I was held under 23-hour lockdown. During the first few months, they wouldn’t even allow me to exercise unless I was strip-searched, which I refused to submit to, so I was inside 24 hours. During the first month, I was allowed only one 15-minute phone call, and for six months after that I was not allowed to make any calls.

“I was shackled and handcuffed every single time I left my cell for any reason,” he said. “When I needed to take my legal papers for meetings with my attorney, the guards would not carry them for me, even though they did for other prisoners. Though I was shackled, they forced me to carry them on my back, as I was bent over. I had to walk like that for half a mile. I should also mention the use of fire alarms in trying to disrupt life. In the Special Housing Unit [SHU], a punitive section of the prison where I was the only pretrial detainee, alarms and emergency sirens would go off 15 to 20 times every single day, at 12 a.m., 2 p.m., any time of the day. It was a deafening noise that would continue for five to 10 minutes. It was clearly deliberate. In the SHU, commissary was almost nonexistent. All they offered was potato chips, whereas in the general compound everything was available. The SHU was designed for disciplinary purposes, not for housing a pretrial detainee.

“Not only did they place me in the SHU, but they imposed additional restrictions on me,” he went on. “For instance, everybody else was granted contact visits, while I had to see my family behind glass. They also insisted on strip-searching me before and after these behind-the-glass visits. In May 2003, my wife drove two hours to see me, but they denied her the visit when I would not submit to a strip search.”

By Chris Hedges (via Earthside). As Hedges notes, Dr. Al-Arian is currently on hunger strike. Hedges also reminds us that after the prison-industrial complex is finished with those "on the margins of our society", the rest of us are fair game. That's life in post-Habeas Corpus America. Bet on it.

How to stop Bu$hCo without firing a shot

Paul Craig Roberts sez: "Dump the dollar." The "old-school" conservative explains as follows:
The Bush Regime's ability to wage war is dependent upon foreign financing. The Regime's wars are financed with red ink, which means the hundreds of billions of dollars must be borrowed. As American consumers are spending more than they earn on consumption, the money cannot be borrowed from Americans.

The US is totally dependent upon foreigners to finance its budget and trade deficits. By financing these deficits, foreign governments are complicit in the Bush Regime's military aggressions and war crimes. The Bush Regime's two largest lenders are China and Japan. It is ironic that Japan, the only nation to experience nuclear attack by the US, is banker to the Bush Regime as it prepares a possible nuclear attack on Iran.

If the rest of the world would simply stop purchasing US Treasuries, and instead dump their surplus dollars into the foreign exchange market, the Bush Regime would be overwhelmed with economic crisis and unable to wage war. The arrogant hubris associated with the "sole superpower" myth would burst like the bubble it is.

The collapse of the dollar would also end the US government's ability to subvert other countries by purchasing their leaders to do America's will.

The demise of the US dollar is only a question of time. It would save the world from war and devastation if the dollar is brought to its demise before the Bush Regime launches its planned attack on Iran.
Can't put a price tag on the lives saved, of course. The economic turmoil that a dollar dump would create would pale in comparison to the massive death and destruction caused by a nuking of Iran (and let's say that even if limited to so-called "depleted uranium" bombs, the amount of radiation released into the atmosphere and groundwater would kill millions over time).

Blog Amnesty

Just a quickie: If you have a blog that links to me and I have not reciprocated, let me know and I'll add you to the blogroll.

Okay Dems, When Are You Going to Defund this Stupid War?

Good question indeed. Folks from all sides of the political spectrum have been asking that question since the latest Congressional session began. Let's face it. The Dems were swept into majorities (solid in the House, paper thin in the Senate) largely on the premise that the Bu$hCo policy had been a miserable failure, if not entirely immoral from the get-go. Certainly Pelosi and Reid (et al.) would have known that the rubber would meet the road, and the voters would expect some action. So what do we get? Nonbinding resolutions - maybe, as even that has been in doubt. The A-list liberal bloggers seem perfectly content with the state of things, as near as I can tell (after all, the great hopes for 2008, such as Clinton, Obama, etc. will no doubt lead the charge against Iran, who were after all the "real" threat, ho ho).

Where's MoveOn and similar organizations? Nowhere to be found. As I said before, folks, the fix is in. The addiction to war and power is far too ingrained to be stopped by millions of voters or marchers. No. A more serious intervention will be needed, I'm afraid. I'm guessing that intervention date is drawing near. Bet on it. In the meantime, a few words from one of the few Dems worth a damn, Russ Feingold (via Glenn Greenwald):
As Russ Feingold explained in a Daily Kos diary announcing his opposition to the Warner/Levin "anti-surge" resolution:
We owe it to ourselves to demand action that will bring about change in Iraq, not take us back to a failed status quo.

Democrats in Congress have seemingly forgotten that we were in power when Congress authorized the President to go to war in Iraq. . . . We also have to remember that in November, Americans sent over 30 new Democratic Representatives and eight new Democratic Senators plus a very progressive Independent to fix a failed Iraq policy. The public is craving change in Iraq and a resolution like this one will not cut it. Now is the time for strong action.
Those are the type of arguments which one expects to find among anti-war activists and bloggers, yet one sees relatively little dissatisfaction, and almost no anger, directed at the Democratic leadership for its refusal even to force a vote on genuine war-ending measures. It is unclear why that is -- perhaps there are good reasons for it -- but those reasons are difficult to discern, and these seem like questions worth examining.
Food for thought.

Sunday, February 11, 2007

Say hello to

Torture Survivors: Let's Talk. There's just one post up as of now.

Stating the obvious

For the last two decades, the mass media in the US have not acted in the public interest. Thank the Raygun administration for that. Prior to 1987, broadcasters were required to offer programming in the public interest (meaning that every once in a while such programming occurred). Since 1987, fuggedaboutit.

Said it before, will say it again

When it comes to potential war against whoever happens to be the designated "Enemy of the Month," don't believe the hype:

I first debunked this pathetic lie 11 months ago (a few days after Bush unveiled it):

While President Bush was threatening Iran on Monday, he blamed the Iraqi Shiites and Iran for the insurgency. According to the AFP, Bush said that:

“Tehran has been responsible for at least some of the increasing lethality of anti-coalition attacks by providing Shia militia with the capability to build improvised explosive devices in Iraq.”

I know what you’re thinking: President Bush is so stupid that giant mistakes like this should just be taken with a grain of salt. Even if he’s lashing out at Iran for intervening in the affairs of the Iraqi Shia, surely he’s not blaming the “improvised explosive devices” that are killing American soldiers and Marines in Iraq on the Shia. … Wrong. That’s exactly what he was doing.

“Asked about the linkage to Shiite forces, two US officials who declined to be named pointed to previously reported ties between the government of Iran and radical Iraqi Shiite cleric Moqtada Sadr.”

The first problem is that the next day General Pace said he had no evidence whatsoever to back up the president’s false assertions and Secretary Rumsfeld just dissembled. The second is that the last time al-Sadr’s Mahdi Army was in violent conflict with the US was back in August of 2004 and the roadside bomb was not their tactic, those have been the tool of the home-grown Sunni insurgency which is led by the ex-Ba’athists and the recently under fire foreign fighter jihadist types.

Though al-Sadr has openly threatened war if America were to bomb Iran, he had been known as the leader of the least Iran-loyal faction among the Iraqi Shia, denouncing the federalism in the new constitution, and insisting on Iraqi nationalism regardless of religion and ethnicity. Recently, his political fortunes have been said to be on the rise, and though that may be in conflict with some genius’s plan to spread the war, a leader of the Iraqi insurgency he is not.

Is it possible that Iran is supplying bomb material to the Sunnis, seeing advantage in keeping America bogged down in its fight against the insurgency and forced to allow for expanded Iranian influence in Iraq? Sure, as far as I know, but I’ve seen no evidence of that, and it wasn’t the accusation in this case.

Professor Juan Cole thrashes that lying, tape recording, Judy Miller-wannabe, David Gordon of the New York Times about this same garbage today:

Over all, only a fourth of US troops had been killed Baghdad (713 or 23.7 percent of about 3000) through the end of 2006. But US troops aren’t fighting Shiites anyplace else– Ninevah, Diyala, Salahuddin–these are all Sunni areas. For a fourth of US troops to be being killed or wounded by Shiite EFPs, all of the Baghdad deaths would have to be at the hands of Shiites!

The US military often does not announce exactly where in Baghdad a GI is killed and so I found it impossible to do a count of Sunni versus Shiite neighborhoods. But we know that Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki was running interference for the Mahdi Army last fall, and it seems unlikely to me that very many US troops died fighting Shiites in Baghdad. The math of Gordon’s article does not add up at all if this were Shiite uses of Iran-provided EFPs.

So the unnamed sources at the Pentagon are reduced to implying that Iran is giving sophisticated bombs to its sworn enemies and the very groups that are killing its Shiite Iraqi allies every day. Get real!

Moreover, there is no evidence of Iranian intentions to kill US troops. If Iran was giving EFPs to anyone, it was to the Supreme Council for Islamic Revolution in Iraq and its Badr Corps paramilitary, for future use. SCIRI is the main US ally in Iraq aside from the Kurds. I don’t know of US troops killed by Badr, certainly not any time recently.

Do ya’ll think that anyone in congress besides Dr. Paul understands what any of this means? The Democrats’ new head of the House Intelligence Committee doesn’t even know what Hezbollah is or that al-Qaeda is made up of radical Sunnis. Could these idiot so-called “representatives” of ours even assemble a coherent thought on this topic in their tiny little brains? Coherent enough to counter the Cheney regime on the eve of war?

Update: MSNBC reports:

“U.S. officials said there was no evidence of Iranian-made EFPs having fallen into the hands of Sunni insurgents who operate mainly in Anbar province in the west of Iraq, Baghdad and regions surrounding the capital.”

Okay, Iran is supplying bombs to who then? Not, they admit, to America’s enemies in Iraq – the “Sunni Insurgency” – but,

to what the military officials termed “rogue elements” of the Mahdi Army militia of anti-American Shiite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr. He is a key backer of Shiite Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki.

The U.S. officials glossed over armaments having reached the other major Shiite militia organization, the Badr Brigade. It is the military wing of Iraq’s most powerful Shiite political organization, the Supreme Council for the Islamic Revolution in Iraq, whose leaders also have close ties to the U.S.

So: Iran is arming the AMERICAN-BACKED SHI’ITE GOVERNMENT.

S0-F%#*ing-what?!

And how do we even know this much is true?

“‘We know more than we can show,’ said one of the senior officials, when pressed for tangible evidence that the EFPs were made in Iran.”

We have to trust them because they have secret information we don’t know about.

Just remember, we've been down this road before (let's just say that if you don't recall the road to the Iraq debacle, all those years on Thorazine have been most unkind to you).

NYT on the Iraq War: Over Four Years Late and 360 Billion Dollars Short

I know that some will think of this editorial as the shizznit. I see it as just so many empty words in light of all the carnage that the Iraq War debacle has wrought.

Some coverage of the Watada mistrial

Noticed that The Nation had something worth looking at:

The Army maintained that the duty to refuse an illegal order, established at the Nuremberg Trials and enshrined in the Universal Code of Military Justice, applies only to orders to commit particular criminal acts like executing a prisoner. But in Watada, Resister, a January 27 video by New America Media's Curtis Choy, Watada says that responsibility "doesn't just include individual war crimes. It includes the greatest crime against the peace, which is, as they determined after Nuremberg, wars of aggression, wars that are not out of necessity but out of choice for profit or power or whatever it may be."

Watada's dissent was intended to spark a movement of civil resistance on the part of the American people. As he told the Veterans for Peace annual convention in Seattle recently, the peace movement needs a change of strategy.

"To stop an illegal and unjust war, the soldiers can choose to stop fighting it.... If soldiers realized this war is contrary to what the Constitution extols--if they stood up and threw their weapons down--no President could ever initiate a war of choice again," he said.

But the young officer's appeal is not only to people in the military. He told the Veterans, "Should citizens choose to remain silent through self-imposed ignorance or choice, it makes them as culpable as the soldiers in these crimes." In the Watada, Resister video, he added, "No longer can any American citizen or organization simply sit on the fence and say, Well, we don't take a position on the war, because the war in itself is unconstitutional in many forms, and we as Americans have to step up and say either we agree with what's going on or we disagree with what's going on.... If you disagree...then you are going to have to ask yourself what are you willing to sacrifice of yourself in order to correct the injustice and wrongs of this government in regard to the Iraq War."

"We all take part in it--if you pay your taxes, you're taking part in this war. We all have a responsibility, as they determined after Nuremberg, whether you're the lowest soldier or the highest ranking general, or just a regular civilian, we all have responsibility...to resist and refuse enabling and condoning this criminal behavior," he said.

Sparking Resistance

Indeed, Watada's stand is helping spark resistance in many walks of American life. More than 1,000 active-duty soldiers have now signed the Appeal for Redress, asking for an end to the Iraq War. Appeal founder Jonathan Hutto made the connection between Watada's case and the soldiers' action. "The Appeal for Redress stands in solidarity with all those who resist the current occupation of Iraq, the mass murder of the Iraqi people, the harm and destruction done to American service members and their families, and the ill use of American tax dollars.... We hope that Lt. Watada is successful in his defense of his actions. We further hope that his actions inspire other service members to look deeply into the cause of this conflict and to follow their moral conscience."

[snip]

Watada has also inspired a growing movement of civil disobedience against the war. Ying Lee, a former member of the Berkeley City Council, wrote in the Berkeley Daily, "Watada is a young man with extraordinary clarity about his moral responsibility and I am grateful for his principled and clearly articulated thoughts about his obligation to defend the Constitution, the UN charter, and the Nuremberg Principles.... My gratitude to him is expressed in committing civil disobedience by blocking the doors of the San Francisco Federal Building."

[snip]

Watada's reasoning provides a pivot for redirecting America's understanding of what has happened to us and what we must do about it. He challenges us to confront a chain of implications that starts with the truth about the criminality of the Iraq War, moves through the principles of the Constitution and US and international law, and ends with our personal responsibility.

Watada also provides a living example of what it means to step up to personal responsibilities. "There was a long time when I went through depression because I told myself I didn't have a choice," he told New America Media. "That I joined the military and I had only one duty and that was to obey what I was told, regardless of how I felt inside. It really hurt me for a long time because I imprisoned myself by telling myself I didn't have a choice. It didn't matter that I might be sent to prison. I was already in prison, my freedom was already gone.

"When I told myself that I do have a choice, I have a choice to do what is morally right, what is in my conscience, and what I can live with for the rest of my life--even though that comes with consequences, I do have that choice. When I realized that, and when I chose what was right for me, I became free again. And I think everybody has to remember that and to realize that is what is important in life."

Food for thought.

In His Own Words: Eric Fair

The following was written by a former contract interrogator who worked in Iraq in early 2004:
An Iraq Interrogator's Nightmare
By Eric Fair
Friday, February 9, 2007; A19

A man with no face stares at me from the corner of a room. He pleads for help, but I'm afraid to move. He begins to cry. It is a pitiful sound, and it sickens me. He screams, but as I awaken, I realize the screams are mine.

That dream, along with a host of other nightmares, has plagued me since my return from Iraq in the summer of 2004. Though the man in this particular nightmare has no face, I know who he is. I assisted in his interrogation at a detention facility in Fallujah. I was one of two civilian interrogators assigned to the division interrogation facility (DIF) of the 82nd Airborne Division. The man, whose name I've long since forgotten, was a suspected associate of Khamis Sirhan al-Muhammad, the Baath Party leader in Anbar province who had been captured two months earlier.

The lead interrogator at the DIF had given me specific instructions: I was to deprive the detainee of sleep during my 12-hour shift by opening his cell every hour, forcing him to stand in a corner and stripping him of his clothes. Three years later the tables have turned. It is rare that I sleep through the night without a visit from this man. His memory harasses me as I once harassed him.

Despite my best efforts, I cannot ignore the mistakes I made at the interrogation facility in Fallujah. I failed to disobey a meritless order, I failed to protect a prisoner in my custody, and I failed to uphold the standards of human decency. Instead, I intimidated, degraded and humiliated a man who could not defend himself. I compromised my values. I will never forgive myself.

American authorities continue to insist that the abuse of Iraqi prisoners at Abu Ghraib was an isolated incident in an otherwise well-run detention system. That insistence, however, stands in sharp contrast to my own experiences as an interrogator in Iraq. I watched as detainees were forced to stand naked all night, shivering in their cold cells and pleading with their captors for help. Others were subjected to long periods of isolation in pitch-black rooms. Food and sleep deprivation were common, along with a variety of physical abuse, including punching and kicking. Aggressive, and in many ways abusive, techniques were used daily in Iraq, all in the name of acquiring the intelligence necessary to bring an end to the insurgency. The violence raging there today is evidence that those tactics never worked. My memories are evidence that those tactics were terribly wrong.

While I was appalled by the conduct of my friends and colleagues, I lacked the courage to challenge the status quo. That was a failure of character and in many ways made me complicit in what went on. I'm ashamed of that failure, but as time passes, and as the memories of what I saw in Iraq continue to infect my every thought, I'm becoming more ashamed of my silence.

Some may suggest there is no reason to revive the story of abuse in Iraq. Rehashing such mistakes will only harm our country, they will say. But history suggests we should examine such missteps carefully. Oppressive prison environments have created some of the most determined opponents. The British learned that lesson from Napoleon, the French from Ho Chi Minh, Europe from Hitler. The world is learning that lesson again from Ayman al-Zawahiri. What will be the legacy of abusive prisons in Iraq?

We have failed to properly address the abuse of Iraqi detainees. Men like me have refused to tell our stories, and our leaders have refused to own up to the myriad mistakes that have been made. But if we fail to address this problem, there can be no hope of success in Iraq. Regardless of how many young Americans we send to war, or how many militia members we kill, or how many Iraqis we train, or how much money we spend on reconstruction, we will not escape the damage we have done to the people of Iraq in our prisons.

I am desperate to get on with my life and erase my memories of my experiences in Iraq. But those memories and experiences do not belong to me. They belong to history. If we're doomed to repeat the history we forget, what will be the consequences of the history we never knew? The citizens and the leadership of this country have an obligation to revisit what took place in the interrogation booths of Iraq, unpleasant as it may be. The story of Abu Ghraib isn't over. In many ways, we have yet to open the book.

The writer served in the Army from 1995 to 2000 as an Arabic linguist and worked in Iraq as a contract interrogator in early 2004. His e-mail address iserictfair@comcast.net.

My emphasis added. The nightmares that seem to plague Mr. Fair appear to be fairly common among torturers as well as those who witnessed torture (see, for instance The Wretched of the Earth by Frantz Fanon, as well as the various books and journal articles by Haritos-Fatouros regarding the experiences of Greek torturers from that country's last military junta). This man has had the guts to speak out and remind us of the role that our government has played in committing heinous war crimes during this particularly wretched decade.

Update: See also Stephen Soldz' take on Mr. Fair's essay.