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May 01, 2005


Hilzoy asked:
* What has happened to our country?
* How can we make it stop?
* How long will we go on having leaders who make us so profoundly ashamed?

1) We started facing enemies who are hard to fight with armies and don't respond to the peaceful pressure tactics of modern democracies, either. Furthermore, we elected a president who talks about freedom and democracy, but doesn't give much evidence of really making that his top priority.

I'd like to blame it all on Bush, but it started before him, and will, unfortunately, likely continue so long as we face a struggle in which intelligence is so crucial and so hard to get.

But most crucial in this is that most Americans don't care. So long as this only happens to people who can be accused of being terrorists, there will be little public outcry.

2) So long as the current administration stays in power, unless the American public starts caring and putting on the pressure, there is absolutely nothing that can be done. The Republican party controls every branch of government; until they can be thrown out, there isn't much that can be done to change their minds on an issue where most Americans don't care.

3) I fear this will likely continue so long as we have to deal with terrorists, since such struggles tend to inspire ruthlessness among those who fight it. But in the short term, at least until 2008, when Bush leaves office, hopefully in disgrace. Unless some giant smoking bullet shows up, like Bush jabbing cattle prods into the eyes of prisoners, we can expect that he'll keep on doing it until he's gone.

If we're lucky, someone better will replace him, but the temptation to cross that line will, unfortunately, still be there.

In brief:

* What has happened to our country?

We've lost our soul to fear. And to a lesser extent, anger and indifference.

* How can we make it stop?

Part of it is to vote the enablers of this madness out of office. Part of it is the free and full disclosure of what happened so that we may viscerally know all that was committed in our name. And part of it is to convince those who do not find this troubling that it is, in fact, a sin that cannot be tolerated.

* How long will we go on having leaders who make us so profoundly ashamed?

Until we're worthy of something better.

Wait until 2008 isn't an answer. We have to show there's a constituency of people who are upset about this. It won't change Bush or Rumsfeld's mind, but it will awaken some Democratic politician, who will make a persuasive speech, who will convince other regular citizens to care, etc. It is much too early in the day to admit defeat; most people hadn't heard of rendition until this March.

And we are, frankly, lucky, that one of the first people to get out & tell the story seems very likely to be innocent, speaks fluent English, has American coworkers who were shocked about what happened to him, is a Canadian citizen, etc. etc. There's at least one other person who's certainly innocent. It only happens to terrorists just doesn't cut it.


1) has everyone written their congressmen (& women) about H.R. 952 and S. 654?

That Senate bill in particular ought to have way more cosponsors than it does among the Democrats. Right now it's just the original four (Leahy, Dodd, Kennedy, Durbin) & Russ Feingold. There are plenty of Senators--John Kerry, Carl Levin, Barbara Boxer, Jon Corzine, Barack Obama--who I really doubt have any ideological objection; some good old-fashioned constituent nagging might really have an effect.

2) Jay Rockefeller of West Virginia has been pushing for an intel committee investigation of this, but the GOP chair--Pat Roberts of Kansas--has been absolutely stonewalling; he won't even allow a committee vote. So it may be worth mentioning that as well, especially if your Senator's on the committee. GOP members: Roberts, Hatch, DeWine, Lott, Snowe, Hagel, Chambliss. Democrats: Rockefeller, Levin, Feinstein, Bayh, Wyden, Mikulski, Corzine.

They just need to turn one Republican--with both Snowe and Hagel it's far from impossible. That may be why Roberts is being such a jerk.

3. the section on Uzbekistan happens to be the second to last part of my paper before the conclusion. I'll post some of it in comments tonight or tomorrow.

What has happened to our country?

Dear Hilzoy,

The dream is now, officially, dead.

Hail Caesar, btw.


On a vaguely related note: PM decided on conflict from the start. Blair told war illegal in March 2002. Latest leak confirms Goldsmith doubts.

Of relevance to American politics:

The minute reveals the head of British intelligence reported that President Bush had firmly made up his mind to invade Iraq and overthrow Saddam Hussein [in July 2002], adding that "the intelligence and facts were being fixed around the policy".

Katherine, are you sure of those bill numbers? I get a medicare bill with s654 and hr952 doesn't have text up yet. What are the titles?

Oh, here's the relevant document (courtesy of the Times Online).

Yeah, I just double checked. Are you doing a bill # search in Thomas or a keyword search? Either should work but bill # works better.

The House bill is called the "Torture Outsourcing Prevention Act". The Senate Bill is called the "Convention Against Torture Implementation Act of 2005"

Sorry, I used a search option from Patty Murray's Senate page. I didn't notice that it was for the 108th Congress, not the 109th. I should have gone straight to Thomas I guess.

What happened? Well, I think that the hardening of American consciousness can be put down to a few factors--I think that at least some of it comes from the action movie. Too many action movies to count tell us that They Will Get Away With It unless the Lone Honest Cop goes beyond the pantywaist restrictions that have been placed on him and smacks around the bad guy who everyone knows is guilty anyway. You get thirty years of that sort of thing and it reflexively becomes part of your outlook even if you never set out to adopt such a view.

I posted a couple of my usual vituperations over at Crooked Timber. Filled with innuendo. I get loose over there, somehow I view Henry as a bit of a naif and like to tweek him. I only regret part of the last sentence of second comment. I don't really believe Bush admires and emulates Hitler, Stalin, Mao.

But I am not fit to comment on this subject here tonight. I am feeling really ...bad... about this. Not in complete control.

How bout them Mavericks?

What has happened to our country?
How can we make it stop?
How long will we go on having leaders who make us so profoundly ashamed?

All the power's in the hands
Of people rich enough to buy it
While we walk the street
Too chicken to even try it

Everybody's doing
Just what they're told to
Nobody wants
To go to jail!

What has happened to our country?

We are selfish ,greedy and racist people who have let Corporate America take over our goverment.Corporate America riles us up by appealing to our worst instinct while looting the country blind.

We truly have the best goverment mony can buy.

I only hope the comments here turn out better than the ones on Belle Waring's similar "Just. Stop." post at Crooked Timber.

Anarch gets the prize for answering the question correctly. We have lost our soul as a nation to fear. I think the political operatives of the GOP know this, and see that fear as a useful tool.

Okay, here's the section on Uzbekistan:

"There are no cases of rendition to Uzbekistan where the prisoners’ names are known. But despite the lack of specific charges from individual prisoners, renditions to Uzbekistan have been especially controversial because of the horrific human rights record of Islam Karimov’s government.

The 2001 - 2004 State Department Country Reports on Uzbekistan all allege widespread, extremely brutal and in some cases fatal torture of prisoners. The 2004 report charged,

police and the [intelligence service] routinely tortured, beat, and otherwise mistreated detainees to obtain confessions or incriminating information. Police, prison officials, and the NSS allegedly used suffocation, electric shock, rape, and other sexual abuse; however, beating was the most commonly reported method of torture.

All four reports noted that the worst human rights abuses were committed against those believed to have ties to Islamic extremism, especially accused members of the Islamist group Hizb ut-Tahrir. According to the 2003 report,

Authorities reportedly routinely beat and treated prisoners suspected of extremist Islamic political sympathies, particularly alleged members of Hizb ut-Tahrir, more harshly than criminals, regardless of whether investigators were seeking a confession. A majority of the cases over the past few years in which persons were likely tortured to death while in custody involved suspected Hizb ut-Tahrir members. Local human rights workers reported that common criminals--known as "prison boxers"--were often paid or otherwise induced to beat Hizb ut-Tahrir members.

The 2001, 2002, 2003, and 2004 country reports describe the following specific instances of fatal torture of Hizb-ut-Tahrir suspects:

Emin Usman was arrested on February 21, 2001 on charges of belong to Hizb-ut-Tahrir. He died in custody approximately one week later. Police claimed he committed suicide, but a family member who saw his body “reported that it bore clear signs of having been beaten.”

Shovruk Ruzimuradov, accused of possessing Hizb-ut-Tahrir leaflets, died in custody on July 7, 2001. An official investigation of his death concluded that he committed suicide, but family members said his body showed clear evidence of torture.

On October 16, 2001, police arrested two brothers, Ravshon and Rasul Haitov, on suspicion of Hizb ut-Tahrir membership. On October 17, police returned the body of Ravshon Haitov to his family, which showed clear signs of torture; authorities informed the family that he had died of a heart attack. His brother Rasul was beaten so severely that he became an invalid.

The bodies of Hizb-ut-Tahrir prisoners Mirzakomil Avazov and Khusnuddin Olimov were returned to their families on August 7, 2002. They ”were badly beaten and had burns attributable to scalding water over significant portions of their bodies.” Police claimed “that the men died in an altercation with two other inmates and that in the course of the fight hot water from a tea caldron was spilled on them,” and this was still the government’s official explanation two years later. However “independent analysis by experts in the United Kingdom of photographs taken shortly after their deaths concluded that the men had likely been suspended in boiling water.”

On May 15, 2003, Hizb ut-Tahrir member Orif Ershanov died of injuries suffered during a severe beating by security forces. Relatives’ photographs showed bruises on Ershanov’s chest, legs, and the soles of his feet, broken ribs, wounds on the arm and back, and “evidence that sharp objects had been inserted under the fingernails.”

The Country Reports detail many other instances of severe torture that the victim survived.

Craig Murray, the former British ambassador to Uzbekistan, has told The New Yorker that he knew of “at least three” renditions to Uzbekistan, and later told 60 Minutes, “I know of two instances for certain of prisoners who were brought back” in one of the planes described in Section I(H). Two planes used by the CIA in renditions landed at the Tashkent, Uzbekistan airport on September 21, 2003. It is not clear whether
these are the renditions that Murray described, or others.

Flight records for the planes used in renditions show at least seven to ten trips to Uzbekistan, and Murray has told the Times that in 2003 and early 2004 CIA flights landed in Tashkent an average of twice a week.
Murray has charged that CIA agents told his deputy that they knew Uzbekistan was sending them intelligence obtained under torture. The CIA denies having this conservation."

I could have gone on much longer, from the State Department reports alone. It's just unbelievable.

What really drives it home for me is the ridiculously obvious falsification of the cause-of-death reports: "Sure, Mrs. Haitov I know he was just in his twenties and the body LOOKS like he was tortured and your other son was beaten so badly that he's crippled, but trust us; he died of a heart attack."

I am 95% sure that the picture hilzoy posted, is the body of either Mirzakomil Avazov or Khusnuddin Olimov. Here is the Uzbek government's official explanation for how he got those injuries, one more time:

"the men died in an altercation with two other inmates and that in the course of the fight hot water from a tea caldron was spilled on them."

But it's all right to send prisoners to Uzbekistan, because their intelligence service has promised the CIA they won't torture the suspects we send to them.

I'm sure they would never break that promise. I just hope they have found a way to stop their prisoners from engaging in too many more out-of-control tea fights.

It's Avazov. Google image is a wondrous thing.

We've lost our soul to fear. And to a lesser extent, anger and indifference.

Don't leave out smug self-righteousness, arrogance, and plain lack of conscience.

Don't leave out smug self-righteousness, arrogance, and plain lack of conscience.

Yeah, but we've always had those. It is that dollop of fear and anger that transforms those qualities from kinda embarassing, witless stumbling around to the current inability to do nothing beyond repetitively say 'this is for your own good' without actually being able to explain why.

Hilzoy: The question to be asked is to what extent is our opposition to this morally justified? It irks me to think that my taxes are contributing to an unjust war, let alone the sadistic horrors of "rendition". To what extent does our subsidization of these policies amount to complicity? I am, of course, in some sense coerced to pay taxes. But there are alternatives. I could, for example, leave the country. There is a strong part of me which says simply pleading that I have to follow the law is a cop out, when you are in reality causing injury to others. Unfortunately, I can't pay taxes selectively. I can't wiggle out of subsidizing murder across the globe without shirking responsibilities to contribute my share to local schools. Of course, I can't really conceive of how a democracy would function if everyone could pick their policies and only pay taxes on those. But I do think there is a distinction that can be made between reasonable policies I disagree with and immoral policies which are beyond the pale. Unfortunately, what's a reason for me is a reason for others. If you really, really believe that abortion is murder, what kind of violence are you then morally licensed to do?

I think this is the single worst thing about President Bush: he has a nearly infinite capacity to buy his own bullsh*t--to believe what he wants to believe instead of what's actually true.

Oops. Let's try that again. Hilzoy or Edward, you're obviously authorized to delete the previous post....

Via Andrew Sullivan:

Over the last ten years I have worked very extensively in Uzbekistan, on occasion spending up to a month at a time there on business for banking clients. During this time I became closely acquainted with a number of leading figures at the Uzbek bar and heard many gripping stories of abuse and mistreatment of ordinary citizens at the hands of President Karimov's regime. Last year, a public commission which was looking into the situation there contacted me and I helped arrange a visit by commission members to Uzbekistan to look into freedom of conscience issues. I helped put them in touch with a Lutheran pastor who had been intimidated and mistreated, and several attorneys who represented Muslims who had been imprisoned and tortured. In Uzbekistan it is a grave offense to worship in any religious gathering which is not state-sponsored. As a result of US pressure, some room has opened up for Christians, but for Muslims, being caught worshipping other than at a state-sanctioned mosque is likely to be a life-altering experience. Severe beatings, lengthy "investigatory detention," incarceration in TB-laden workcamps is the norm. A prisoner's likelihood of survival at such camps is not much better than 50-50. And of course the famous cases of torture, such as boiling in water. All this reminds that the techniques of which Col Stoddart wrote so vividly in the 1840's continue, with technological enhancements, under Islam Karimov. One of the commissioners apparently challenged President Bush about this when the commission had a meeting with the president. Couldn't he issue an order prohibiting such renditions? Couldn't he issue an unequivocal order against torture? The president, the commissioner said, reacted with near rage. He angrily snapped "Who said that? We do not practice torture!" The commissioner repeated that the president needed to send a clear message to the government that torture was a taboo. The president scowled and walked away in disgust.

I think this is the single worst thing about President Bush: he has a nearly infinite capacity to buy his own bullsh*t--to believe what he wants to believe instead of what's actually true.

This video at http://www.resist.com.au/comments/c2246.asp shows the british documentary investigating the Maher Arar case and the
Oezbekistan random torturing for the sake of pumping up cia et al intelligence reports


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