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The Jehoshua Novels


Voting For A Torture Coverup

Here’s a timely reminder of why I cannot support or endorse Barack Obama’s re-election; because voting for someone who covers up torture, orders the murders of innocents and assigns himself the right to carry out extra-judicial killings crosses an absolute moral red line for me no matter what the other benefits of an Obama second term might be.

Categorical assertions by the Obama and Bush administrations that only three detainees were ever waterboarded are, not to put too fine a point on it, crap.

The investigation by Human Rights Watch had its origins in a trove of documents related to detainees transferred to Colonel Qaddafi’s prisons, including several by the United States. The papers became available last year as a result of the uprising against the Libyan leader, which was supported by the United States and other NATO allies.

…A particular focus of the report is the account of Mohammed Shoroeiya, who was reportedly detained in Pakistan in April 2003 and held in American custody in Afghanistan before being transferred to Libya. Mr. Shoroeiya gave Ms. Pitter detailed sketches of what he said were prison facilities and techniques.

Mr. Shoroeiya told Human Rights Watch that at one point in Afghanistan, his American captors had put a hood on his head and strapped him to a wooden board, then poured water over his face until he felt as if he was asphyxiating. An American man who appeared to be a doctor was present during the sessions, he said. While he did not use the term ”œwaterboarding,” the description matches that technique.

”œThey start to pour water to the point where you feel like you are suffocating,” Mr. Shoroeiya said. He was asked questions between sessions, he added, and ”œthey wouldn’t stop until they got some kind of answer from me.”

The Libyans also detailled other tortures at US hands – all techniques which had been OK’d by the Bush administration and which the Obama administration refuses to prosecute for.

[Being] stripped naked and chained to walls; being left in diapers in dark cells for weeks or months at a time without being allowed to bathe; being forced into painful stress positions; being slammed into walls while their necks were protected by a foam collar; being forced into a small box; and being subjected to continuous, loud music.

Being moral is about doing the right thing even when it is tough to do so, and I’m entirely unconvinced by “but Romney would be worse on this as well as for the economy” arguments. The first part ignores the difference between someone who has committed these crimes and someone who at least so far only has the potential to do so – that is, bluntly, the difference between guilty and innocent. The second – well, excusing such criminality simply because someone will put money in your back pocket reminds me of the anecdotal Churchill quote: “We’ve already established what you are. Now we’re just haggling over the price.”

42 comments to Voting For A Torture Coverup

  • Steve Hynd

    Gaius Publius at Americablog has some thoughts:

    crossing lines of conscience. At what point does a generally good office-holder lose your support? What if they*:
    â– Stole from the office lotto pool?
    â– Had sex with a colleague in the back room?
    â– Had sex with an intern in the back room?
    â– Tortured frogs?
    â– Hit a spouse?
    â– Committed murder?
    At the lesser “crimes” you overlook the bad for the good. But at some point in that list, if your candidate were guilty, you would not be able to support them*. He or she has crossed your “line of conscience.”

    Back to Obama. I’ve written many times:

    Barack Obama is crossing lines of conscience, one Democrat at a time.

    It’s obvious, true on its face. And whether your line has been crossed or not, he seems to be testing us all, one step at a time. FISA betrayal? No? Bush tax cuts? Not yet? NDAA perhaps? No? Let’s try this one then…

  • Lex

    presented such a humanizing speech and think of how much worse it would be under Romney.

    It’s rather a shame that the American people have descended into such ignorance and learned helplessness that they only recognize the choice between bad and worse. A great many who consider themselves good people will enthusiastically go to the polls for Obama, campaign for him, donate their hard earned money to him. A great many more will accept the false choice and vote for him as the lesser of two evils candidate.

    Every four years i’m reminded that the United States is not a great country. If it was, these farcical shams would be held in absolute spite by the citizens of the republic, who would demand political parties that actually represent their interests (it’ll take more than two).

    Since they don’t, i consider each and every Obama voter a supporter of torture, assassination, imprisoning non-violent drug users, turning non-compliant brown people into a fine red mist, etc. etc.

    Romney voters may have more be more guilty if it turns out that way, but that does not make Obama voters better in any sense of the word.

  • Chris in London

    You know, this is a severe case of Ralph Nader disease

    I couldn’t agree more with the objections, but if you put 4-8 years of these republicans in, good luck with the fallout. I couldn’t disagree more with the false equivilency and withdrawal of support

    Romney will do no better on whistleblowers/Bush-era clean up, and will do a fuck ton worse on so many other things and you can bet your house on that. You can’t say that you don’t know how much more guilty a R admin will be SURE to be than what this one has been, which is mostly right on most stuff except the Bush era clean up/back track, and who knows how much ANY leader would practically be able to have done

  • Anonymous

    because I just could not vote for him the first year I could vote for anyone after the police riot in Chicago and his support for the Vietnam War. Nixon got in.

    I’m not sure I would do it again;, it’s very hard to calculate consequences and conscience. Everyone does it differently.


    The origin of the universe has not as yet been shown to be a conspiracy theory

  • Anonymous

    Actually, that person would be LBJ who neutered Humphrey. So you’re off the hook. Let’s celebrate!

    I share Steve’s dilemma. Libya and Syria are simply and unbelievably appalling. 60-70% public opposition, had it been recognized and honored, would have stopped the destruction, injuries, and death. But Obama and his “oh so much smarter than we are” cadre forged ahead.

    The role of HRC makes her totally unacceptable for the remotest consideration for any office. She should be fired immediately.

    Someone should say to each new president and the various power brokers in every administration:

    “You are responsible for every single death and injury you cause in the exercise of your power. There will be an accounting.”

    If Obama launches another of these illegal death carnivals, particularly going after Iran, he will be hounded out of office. Regardless, he will hit about 30% popularity within months after the election (which he will win).

    The Money Party RSS

  • Anonymous

    refuses to support, but who judge “each and every Obama voter [as]a supporter of torture, assassination, imprisoning non-violent drug users, turning non-compliant brown people into a fine red mist, etc. etc.”,
    any better either–?

    that’s for someone who says that non-rhetorically to ask themselves offline.


    The origin of the universe has not as yet been shown to be a conspiracy theory

  • quiet Bill

    If one believes that a Romney administration would do all of the above TO A GREATER EXTENT than an Obama administration, it make perfect sense to cast a vote (and to encourage others to do the same) designed to prevent that (Romney administration) from happening.

    In such a scenario, the case could be reasonably made that to withhold a vote from Obama would be ethically and/or morally wrong, because it would facilitate an administration which would do far more extensive harm/evil in the same areas.

    /just saying.

    I am not posting this “meme” to contradict the “red line” point of view either, just to point out the validity of the other side.

  • Anonymous

    The problem with what Lex says isn’t that it goes too far – the problem is that it doesn’t go far enough. It’s not that everyone who votes for Obama supports torture, assassination and the killing of brown people – it’s that everyone who drives, everyone who doesn’t encourage their kids to join the Peace Corps so that American foreign policy has better tools, everyone who doesn’t militate to make USAID something more than a dysfunctional contracting clearing house, everyone who sits at their conflict minerals laden computers pounding out earnest missives about the wickedness that walks in the world, etc., etc. enables all of those things. [Lest anyone think from my tone that I am being sarcastic, let me assure you that I am not - I am deadly fucking earnest about every single one of us bearing responsibility for this.]

    It’s often said that the first step to resolving a problem is to recognize that one has a problem. Well, the second step is to stop simply characterizing the problem as being caused by everyone else and do what one can to stop it.

    Everything around you that you call life was made up by people that were no smarter than you and you can change it, you can influence it, you can build your own things that other people can use.” ~ Steve Jobs

  • matttbastard

    It’s often said that the first step to resolving a problem is to recognize that one has a problem. Well, the second step is to stop simply characterizing the problem as being caused by everyone else and do what one can to stop it.

  • matttbastard

    isn’t blinded by severe ODS.

  • Anonymous

    one of your philosophical correction posts.

    In my reading, Lex -was not just saying “enabling” , the descendent of that old Catholic concept “occasion of sin”, but “supporting” torture etc, the more active involvement word he chose.

    I bowed, reluctantly, out of a similar dispute on Marcuse’s
    “repressive tolerance” long ago when it started to make my head ache.

    I prefer to believe Lex is rightfully furious at what Obama has done,but also striking out at those who will, while saying they agree on how bad Obama’s been, reluctantly pull the Democratic lever, instead of :

    what exactly, on Election Day? (whether or not they are otherwise “working for change”) :

    not voting at all,
    voting for the GOP,
    voting for any other candidate available
    writing in “none of the above”
    setting the voting booth on fire

    Everyone’s on their own to choose here.
    You, as a Canadian, don’t have to.

    He will still have to live with those of us who reluctantly choose “the lesser of two evils”, as he shares the air supply. and I will have to do that with wingnut Republicans.

    I honestly haven’t a guess how the next four years will play out.
    It’s pretty scary here south of the border.


    The origin of the universe has not as yet been shown to be a conspiracy theory

  • Steve Hynd

    the case could also be made that, on a longer scale, perpetuating the duopoly of the big two parties only makes it more likley that worse Republicans and worse Democrats will come to office. In which case the moral duty would be to withdraw support from that duopoly, live with the unfortunate short-term consequences as a necessary component of your decision, and bend your efforts to creating an acceptable alternative.

  • Anonymous

    How, minus violent revolution (in which the non-existent USian left & its progressive technocratic fellow travellers would be kinda-sorta totally outnumbered/outgunned by wingnuts, white nationalists, and premillenial dispensationalists trying to hasten the rapture) do you propose this be undertaken?

    The modern conservative movement has provided a blue-print for progressives who want to take back the Democratic Party: take siege of the party, literally from the bottom up. 40 years on, Goldwater has essentially won the revol (even if it is somewhat of a Pyrrhic victory). Credit where credit is due: right-wingers did the long, hard goddamn work to leverage their power within the Republican party (and outside of it) and turn it into control. They had a long-term vision and a viable strategy to make it a reality.

    Most importantly, they had the patience to see it fully through.

    I don’t see that same kind of solidarity, concerted will and willingness to do what’s necessary (even *GASP* compromising!!1) on the left. Neil Gaiman wrote a one-off once about a prophetic cat who claimed a new world could be created if only 1000 felines would simultaneously dream it.

    Yeah. Good luck herding those motherfuckers.

    I quoted Sam Goldman yesterday re: Obama’s “conservatism,” but perhaps clipped it prematurely:

    The most important feature of this election is that Obama is running as a “conservative.” Not, of course, a conservative in the ideological sense. But rather as a defender of the long-term and generally bipartisan status quo.

    I’ve always maintained that Obama represented a reset rather than a revolution post-W/Cheney, not a tabula rasa but a system restore after severe corruption. The long-term damage wrought to institutions by W & Cheney’s Fourth Branch is still being felt (how are those hundreds of Regent Law grads doing in the justice department? Oh, and what was the original topic again?). To interrupt this reset midway would put us right back to where we were in 2007.

    And no, that’s not MOST IMPORTANT ELECTION EVA!!ing. But elections do have consequences. A vote for Mitt Romney is also a vote for Grover Norquist, for Cofer Black, for Robert Bork, for John Bolton, for Karl Rove, for a party that has adopted an almost pathological hostility to the very concept of government itself — and it will be from that talent pool Romney & co. draws those who will staff the massive Borg-like entity that is the US federal government & dole out pork with blithe impunity(remember the Young Republicans & wingnut welfare cases who helped “reconstruct” Iraq? Yeah.)

    It’s easier to build progressive institutions when operating from a position of (relative) power. Under Obama, young progressive interns, activists, lobbyists and journalists have more resources at their disposal to leverage change (witness the progressive hiring boom post-2008) and, as you say, create an acceptable alternative to the status quo.

    Steve, I honestly believe you are sincere in your ethics; but I also believe that, without an almost alchemical transformation and a feasible, long term plan, they are clearly a recipe for failure.

    If nothing else Obama has reminded us that hopes and dreams alone are not enough to make meaningful change.

  • Anonymous

    I talk to some Republicans, and none of them see their party as monolithic as you do, Matt. There’s always a tendency in human nature to see the Other as monolithic and Us as fractured – it’s a tendency politicians have been capitalizing on since forever. But I’ve explained my plan – essentially the same as Keir Hardie’s plan, which worked. I’ve only been in the US a decade and some change but for that entire time Dem progressives have been saying that they must work within the party and change it – even though in all those years that hasn’t worked. At this point, I’m OK with agreeing to disagree, however. I just don’t see disagreeing over the relative evuul of Mitt and Co over Barry & Co as worth the effort. I don’t see Obama as a reset – I see him as an American Tony Blair. Call it a Scottish persepective if you like and write it off if you will. I figure if a nation can endure the most right-wing leadership in any democratic country in the post-war period (Thatcher) being imposed on it from outside for a decade and more, then rise from it to reject the faux-left and elect actual indigenous democratic socialists, then America can endure four years of Mitt and survive.

  • nihil obstet

    “Most importantly, they had the patience to see it fully through.”

    And the patience comes from money. On one side you had rich (predominantly) men who were convinced that putting out the equivalent of tip money for so-called think tanks, high enough salaries for media figures to make them identify with the rich, a revolving door for politicians and the like. I had “patience” throughout all my jobs — never said, “Gee, I’m tired of doing this. I think I’ll just take a break.” Something to do with money, you know.

    On the other hand, you had people for whom work and organizing was indeed a daily choice that involved daily sacrifice.

    It’s not surprising who won.

    I just don’t see it as most importantly a moral failure or fecklessness on the part of those who have to do in their spare time what professionals are paid to do year after year.

  • Anonymous

    “actual indigenous democratic socialists” right after dismissing BHO as “an American Tony Blair”?

    Pull the other one. Please. ;)

  • Anonymous

    comparing a constitutional republic with a longstanding antipathy to anything resembling collectivism to a parliamentary democracy with a strong, vibrant, firmly-established leftist tradition and institutions is veering into serious apples & oranges territory.

  • JustPlainDave

    …but the Republican *candidates* who manage to hop over the purity test barriers put in place by the folks Matt speaks of are pretty damned homogenous. Not surprisingly, so too are the policies that they propose…

    Everything around you that you call life was made up by people that were no smarter than you and you can change it, you can influence it, you can build your own things that other people can use.” ~ Steve Jobs

  • JustPlainDave

    …seeking to work within the party and it hasn’t worked – is that because the strategy is impossible, or because those working at change within the party aren’t as good at it as the right wing of the Republican party was? If it’s the latter – and I generally tend to think that it is – what makes any reasonable person believe that they’d be any more effective working outside a party structure?

    Everything around you that you call life was made up by people that were no smarter than you and you can change it, you can influence it, you can build your own things that other people can use.” ~ Steve Jobs

  • matttbastard

    if Jane Hamsher and Lambert Strether represent the post-Democratic future then we might as well pack it in now.

  • Steve Hynd

    Don’t be daft – I’m talking about the SNP.

  • Steve Hynd

    Keir Hardie was not working in a country with “a strong, vibrant, firmly-established leftist tradition and institutions”.

  • Anonymous

    will not a Labor party make. Agreed on that much.

    And to answer JPD – perhaps because outwith the Dems those progressives wouldn’t face entrenched and monied interests from the corporatist center-right trying to stymie their building at every step. Truthfully, the biggest challenge to any new party on the Left may not be doing it outside the Dem tent and nor is it the latte-sipping Left – it may be keeping the movement from being infiltrated for recruitment purposes by, and inevitably then fractured by the infighting egotism of, the various groups of the Old-Marxist Left in all its various
    “People’s Judean Popular Front vs Judean People’s Front” manifestations. I’ve been told by knowledgeable insiders in more than one lefty org that’s something that has more to do with the problem of herding lefty cats than many realise.

  • Steve Hynd

    after 8 years of Bush the social hard-Right had no significant portion of their agenda turned into legislation and still complain long & loud about being as used and abused for votes as the Dem left does.

  • JustPlainDave

    …and on who got named to key posts. Just because they were checked on the overt front, doesn’t mean that they didn’t make a lot of hay below the surface.

    Everything around you that you call life was made up by people that were no smarter than you and you can change it, you can influence it, you can build your own things that other people can use.” ~ Steve Jobs

  • JustPlainDave

    …is that they rely heavily on the existence of what might be described as a pre-revolutionary social and economic environment. I’ve seen enough of people dying badly in the streets because they thought that environment existed when it in fact did not to not put my chips down on that one. Incrementalism is boring, but it works.

    Everything around you that you call life was made up by people that were no smarter than you and you can change it, you can influence it, you can build your own things that other people can use.” ~ Steve Jobs

  • JustPlainDave

    …and the proposed policies down to the level of nuts and bolts. All the rest of it was fantastically expensive and did require a lot of money to operationalize – 40 years ago. Now, the modern media environment? Key thing needed isn’t money any more.

    Everything around you that you call life was made up by people that were no smarter than you and you can change it, you can influence it, you can build your own things that other people can use.” ~ Steve Jobs

  • JustPlainDave

    One thing that I would point out is that much of the rest of the world actually views this decision not as us “not having to” make a decision, but rather as us “not getting a chance” to make a decision about something that greatly affects us. Seriously, to many of us outside observers, the notion that there’s any debatability about the choice between Obama and Romney* is absolutely laughable and we’re frankly appalled that the guy’s in the race at all. Being shackled to a crazy political system that affects us without being able to affect it is not a huge amount of fun.

    *This is not, BTW, an assertion that folks shouldn’t vote for some other candidate (I do that all the time – woo, someday we’ll break double digits in the popular vote!), but I damned sure think they should speak for it in ways that get people participating in meaningful ways, rather than wallowing in the “all the bastards are the same” disempowering rhetoric.

    Everything around you that you call life was made up by people that were no smarter than you and you can change it, you can influence it, you can build your own things that other people can use.” ~ Steve Jobs

  • Anonymous

    Steve, I need to be educated in how voting for Romney (or not voting for Obama or either of them) is helping the two party system be replaced.

    Bottom line: The oligarchy knows that Obama will not do anything significant to change the way the oligarchy has been running things.

    The oligarchy also knows that a Romney administration will likely actively seek to extend the scope of oligarcy goals.

    So the choice is between an administration that passively allows the status quo, versus one that actively seeks to push the abuses further.

    Either way, the oligarchy knows that they get what they paid for… with Romney they get much much more, and if he doesn’t win they at least get the status quo, but for them it’s worth throwing the money behind Romney just in case they can pull that off.

    Now what is your pipe dream about ending the two party system, again, and how would that happen here in the U.S. realistically? Maybe you should write an article about how that could really be possible. Sorry, I don’t know the Canadian history well enough to just take it on faith that has any chance of happening here.

  • Anonymous

    you could have been less opaque about what exactly you were referring to. Still, I for one look forward to a democratic socialist uprising in a country where even the slightest hint of redistribution reanimates a zombie Red panic (just ask our Marxist Kenyan in Chief) suddenly POOFS! into being.

    Also, disengaging now. Clearly my daftness is too much to overcome.

    Peace.

  • matttbastard

    was a lot more cranky than warranted (or intended). Apologies & please disregard.

  • Scott R.

    Seriously, to many of us outside observers, the notion that there’s any debatability about the choice between Obama and Romney* is absolutely laughable and we’re frankly appalled that the guy’s in the race at all.

    Hey partner…, I would like to explain to you how us “inside observers” feel the same sensation…, but it’s Friday night…, and too many beers affect the “findger funktions”.

    Right on partner…, write on.

  • JustPlainDave

    …pre-revolutionary climate can be said to exist in the United States, I have to say that there might be some basis for this belief. The two obvious ones are the underlying drivers of the Tea Party movement and the Occupy movement. That said, I can’t say that I find either of them particularly attractive ground for a progressive third party alternative – the Tea Party folks are driven primarily by the “old men not being traditionally employable” thing that The Atlantic finally woke up to (and is politically regressive, rather than progressive), whereas the Occupy movement has very consciously striven to develop non-traditional political structures. Between the two of them, those two movements have probably siphoned off all the pre-revolutionary pressures (i.e., I can’t see there emerging some sizeable third movement that could serve as host medium for a progressive third party). Seems to me that the best alternative is to attempt to entangle the Occupy movement in conventional politics with a progressive flavour.

    Everything around you that you call life was made up by people that were no smarter than you and you can change it, you can influence it, you can build your own things that other people can use.” ~ Steve Jobs

  • nihil obstet

    “Key thing needed isn’t money any more.”

    It’s reassuring to know that the Koch brothers, Art Pope, all the super PACs are pursuing outdated, no longer viable strategies..

  • JustPlainDave

    …I’m saying there are ways of doing it now that don’t require that much money that did not exist previously.

    Everything around you that you call life was made up by people that were no smarter than you and you can change it, you can influence it, you can build your own things that other people can use.” ~ Steve Jobs

  • Anonymous

    the centre-left still finds itself at a very troubling structural disadvantage, especially when attempting outreach with constituencies that largely rely on legacy media for info dissemination. Ongoing GOP efforts to disempower/defund public sector unions are largely meant to negate a major progressive/Democratic revenue stream.

    Rachel Maddow broke it down pre-#WIRecall:

  • matttbastard

    that Canada is a constitutional monarchy with a parliamentary system, not a constitutional republic.

    Apples, oranges, etc.

  • nihil obstet

    The point is that the “way of doing it”, patiently building and deploying a major propaganda machine as the right has depends on people paid to do that, year after year. There have always been ways of grassroots organizing. And yes, there are more of them now and they’re easier. But the kind of long-term movement building that the left is blamed for not having develops only through a professional infrastructure. Otherwise, churches would run with volunteer clergy and theologians, and I don’t see a single major religion or denomination anywhere that does so.

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