Friday, February 22, 2008

I'm so hungry I could eat a horse...

The Donner Party has always induced a grisly fascination around here. The lineage of my wife's family goes back centuries in the heart of Pennsylvania Dutch Country. Her family name is close to Donner, but not exactly.

Her father did a good deal of research and satisfied himself that there was a distant familial connection. He also gave thanks that his immediate ancestors apparently declined the opportunity to go west with the others.

So...even though this particular item on the bill of fare is to adults what fart jokes are to six year olds, I've decided to serve it up on Water Blogged.

Check out Randall Munroe at xkcd Don't let the stick figures fool you. You may get to liking them more than you'll believe.

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Col. Patrick Lang, U.S. Army, Ret.

This Washington Post Op-Ed was written over two years ago.

It was written--according to Lang--at a time that John McCain brought a proposal to the Senate which would have forbid the use of torture in interrogations by intelligence personnel. Cheney opposed this. McCain wanted the "limit" in what can be done to prisoners to be the US Army Field Manual on the subject.

Col. Lang has been described as a "soldier's soldier". His resume is beyond impressive. He's a Virginian with a long career and even longer devotion to the Army.

As a pacifist, I make a point of reading his blog regularly. His thinking and rationale for writings such as this keep me grounded in a world in which--I concede--it is unlikely that I will persuade many to embrace a principle position against war in any form. I admire his fundamental humanity and steadfastness in keeping his principles alive and intact.

He uses the last paragraph of this to praise Senator John McCain USAF, Ret. But, remember, this was written at a different (flip) time under different (flop) circumstances .

Cheney and the "Tormenters"
People often ask me at public events if I think it is "all right" to torture prisoners if that is necessary in order to obtain information needed to prosecute the "Global War on Terror." (GWOT)
I routinely tell them that it is NOT "all right" to torture people for any reason. The assembly expects that result from the question and they also expect that I will then give them the standard lecture which holds (correctly) that the tortured will tell you anything that they think you want to hear in order to get you to stop what you are doing. Therefore, information obtained through torture is logically suspect and worthless. Intelligence interrogators are supposed to be skilled at their trade. Their trade is about applied psychology, not about beating confessions out of people.
The audience is usually a little more surprised to have me tell them that "torture" is a dishonorable and immoral thing to do and that a decent person, especially a decent soldier, will have nothing to do with such things and will not allow it to happen around him or her. (At this point I can expect to hear from someone whose PTSD induced fantasy life will have encouraged a great story)
With the conversation having progressed to this point, a look of dramatic, and cynical world-weariness comes over some members of the audience and someone (often a woman) asks me what I would do if the "authorities" had captured "Fulaan Abu Shuismuh" (so and so, the father of what's his name) and this creep has the secret information needed to prevent a terrorist outrage, and won't talk. "Isn't it right to do whatever it takes....." That is the question that is always asked, often with a kind of dreamy, far off look in the eyes. I have gotten tired of this Sado-Masochistic day-dreaming, so, in response I ask them how far they would go in "whatever it takes?"
"All the way," is what these usually liberal, often academic, middle class Americans normally say. "OK," says I. "Let's say he is really obdurate and the clock is ticking on said 'terrorist outrage,' so we bring him in here and you and you will hold him down while I take his fingers and toes off one at a time with garden shears until he talks? Are you "in" for that?" Shocked silence follows. "Ah, I get it," says I. " You mean that it would be 'all right' for people like me to do these things." At that point it can be seen from the faces that this is the case.
Ah," says I as a "follow up," "then how far are you willing to go in 'immunizing' the tormentors from prosecution once the GWOT is a memory?" This does not get an answer. So, this is all BS, a fantasy for everyman and everywoman (complete with guilty frisson of titillation).
The danger is that Cheney and all the other political obsessives on this subject in and out of government encourage those among us who are quite capable of any bestiality that their furtive imaginations contrive. They hold out to the "dark ones" the possibility of accomplishing their dreams of power and domination. There are such people in any society, among any people, anywhere, and at any time. By creating a climate of permissiveness toward abuse of prisoners "for interrogation" the Cheney/Rumsfeld crowd have enabled a release of the demonic forces that, to some extent, lurk in all of us.
Now the Congress is deliberating a proposal by Senator John McCain of Arizona (who knows something about torture) which would forbid the use of torture in interrogations by intelligence personnel Cheney opposes this.
McCain wants the "limit" in what can be done to prisoners to be the US Army Field Manual on the subject. I think that would be most appropriate.

Pat Lang
Washington Post, Nov 7, 2005
Read Lang at his Blog: Sic Semper Tyrannis

Colonel W. Patrick Lang is a retired senior officer of U.S. Military Intelligence and U.S. Army Special Forces (The Green Berets). He served in the Department of Defense both as a serving officer and then as a member of the Defense Senior Executive Service for many years. He is a highly decorated veteran of several of America’s overseas conflicts including the war in Vietnam. He was trained and educated as a specialist in the Middle East by the U.S. Army and served in that region for many years. He was the first Professor of the Arabic Language at the United States Military Academy at West Point, New York. In the Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA) he was the “Defense Intelligence Officer for the Middle East, South Asia and Terrorism,” and later the first Director of the Defense Humint Service.”

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Of the biblical allotment of three score and ten I have lived only three of them more than a bicycle ride from one of the Great Lakes. I grew up ten blocks from Lake Erie in the (once Irish/Italian ghetto, now newly-hip) "Near West Side" of Cleveland. I can still cycle to the Milwaukee lakefront in an hour and a half; but, a round-trip has always been more than I would (noror ever did) attempt. -0- I'm a "...somewhat combative pacifist and fairly cooperative anarchist," after the example of Grace Paley (1922-2007). -0- I'm always cheerful when I pay my taxes (having refused--when necessary--to pay that portion of them dedicated to war). -0- And I always, always vote.