Saturday, July 08, 2006

What would you do if you were tortured?

A war is lost when atrocities begin.
Fascism is not defined by the number of its victims, but by the way it kills them.

—Jean-Paul Sartre

Even if whatever had been said about Saddam had been true, it is now equally true of Bush; but, of course, what was said of Saddam was not true. What is said of Bush now is! As Bush conned the American people into complicity, Deputy Defense Secretary Paul Wolfowitz painted a rosy picture of "the first Arab democracy". It would be a secular society, he said, ignoring the fact that it already was. The new Iraq would be oil rich and middle class. Aside from the fact that Wolfowitz might have been describing the GOP, Iraq had already been all of those things. The other more well known reasons for war —WMD, for example —have likewise proven to be either bald-faced lies or irrelevant nonsense. There were numerous ex post facto justifications. They, too, have been overtaken by events.

It was hoped that the US army in Iraq would moderate Iran, isolate Mullahs, weaken Hezbollah and other so-called "radical" groups. In every case, the opposite has occurred. Shiites in Iraq are the "government" and have formed an alliance with Iran. If Bush attacks Iran, "his" new Iraqi government will ask the US to leave. Radical groups —flagging prior to the US attack and invasion of Iraq —gain new converts daily. Just as Bush used radical Islam to rally the Christian right, "radical Islam" need only raise the spectre of Christian crusaders or Abu Ghraib to draw a sympathetic crowd.

Marc Lynch, Assistant Professor of Political Science at Williams College, has concluded that so dramatic are Bush's reversals that the administration is no longer promoting democracy in the middle east:

On al-Arabiya last week, Hisham Milhem led a discussion on "Bush and democracy in the Arab world."....I was most struck by a remark by Amr Hamzawy. He pointed that the fact that most of the Arab media and political class were now discussing the "retreat" of American commitment to democracy demonstrates that at least at one point they were prepared to entertain the thought that there had been some credibility to that campaign. No longer, Hamzawy argued — America's turn away from democracy and reform had badly hurt its image and its credibility with this Arab political class....This seemed to be a well-received notion.

Abu Aardvark

Even moderate regimes now feel threatened. The US may have only one friend in the Middle East —Israel. And, lately, that friendship is problematic.

Professor Marjorie Cohn states unequivocally: “Israel’s brutal retaliation against Palestinian civilians constitutes collective punishment. Attacks on a civilian population as a form of collective punishment violate article 50 of the Hague Regulations”, “The Fourth Geneva Convention also prohibits collective punishment. Article 33 …” and “Collective punishment is likewise forbidden by Article 75 of Protocol I to the Geneva Conventions. As four US Supreme Court justices agreed in Hamdan v. Rumsfeld last week, Article 75 is “indisputably part of the customary international law.””[see:Marjorie Cohn Israel Creates Humanitarian Crisis].

Complicating the US position is the sheer hypocrisy of it all. The rising tide of atrocities has turned the middle east irrevocably against the US even as secular nations now associate US troops with Abu Ghraib, Haditha and the CIA with an eastern European gulag. We have yet to reap the full effect of the gathering storm.

Most startling of all is Sartre's advocacy of violence as a legitimate response to repression, motivated by his belief that freedom was the central characteristic of being human.

—From a review of Colonialism and Neocoloniam by Jean-Paul Sartre

GOP propaganda —while working for awhile —is transparently hypocritical:
If certain acts in violation of treaties are crimes, they are crimes whether the United States does them or whether Germany does them, and we are not prepared to lay down a rule of criminal, conduct against others which we would not be willing to have invoked against us.

—Justice Robert Jackson, Chief Prosecutor for the United States, Nuremberg Tribunals

When the rich wage war, it's the poor who die.

—Jean-Paul Sartre

Citizens of a sovereign nation may resist an occupying force in any way they can including armed resistance. It's a principle of international law. Resistance to the US occupying force in Iraq is, therefore, not an "insurgency". The word 'insurgent' implies illegitimacy.

The recent Supreme Court decision is a step in the right direction. As more cases reach the high court, it will become clear that the US presence violates Nuremberg, Geneva, and the UN Resolution that was often incorrectly cited by Bushco.

"Freedom fighters" are never called "insurgents" —even if they are. One can only conclude that like "supply side economics", the word "insurgent" was chosen at the end of a GOP focus group session for its propaganda value, its ability to frame the issue. In the meantime, I will support in any way I can an international movement to bring the entire Bush gang of war criminals and mass murderers to justice at the Hague!

I have vague recollections of the struggle for Algerian independence and upon a quick refresher, I was impressed yet again by the strenuous opposition to the French position from Jean-Paul Sartre.

I know that we are accused of treason. But I ask, who and what do we betray? Judicially we are plunged in a civil war, since the Algerians are considered full French citizens; we thus don’t betray France. In fact, the national community no longer exists; where are its great axes, where are its lines of force, where are the fixed points of its structure?

...

And now, what? There is no longer one family in Algeria that hasn’t had a member of its family join the maquis or been tortured or killed by the French. Hundreds of thousands of men, women and children of that country eat the grass on the Tunisian and Moroccan borders. 15%-20% of the Algerian population, nearly two million inhabitants of this “French province” are concentrated in camps where an average of one child a day among a “regroupement” of 1000 people dies every day, which comes to about 1500 children a day in total. Must we console ourselves by noting that in these camps there are neither gas chambers nor crematory ovens? And should we feel any scruples about rising up alongside the Algerians against those who inflict this on them, or who content themselves with deploring the fact that others inflict it on them? When things have reached such a point there is no longer room for a third camp; one is either with one side, or with the other.

Letter from Francis Jeanson to Jean-Paul Sartre

At the time this letter was written, Sartre had taken a strong stand against torture. In his Critique of Dialectical Reason, Sartre said of torture that it was intended "...to reduce men to vermin". Like the US in Iraq, the French used torture to suppress the Algerian resistance. And like the Bush administration which denies that it tortures even as it defends the practice, the French were equally contradictory; they denied it had ever taken place while declaring its effectiveness against the Algerian Liberation Front. True to his existentialism, however, Sarte had the courage to denounce the practice even as he urged others to ask of themselves as he asked of himself: what would I do if I were tortured!

In his unfinished and never produced play about Sir Thomas More, William Shakespeare urged his audience to "...take the stranger's case"! If we, as Americans, are to retain what's left of our humanity, we simply must take the case of the Iraqi people. We must demand that the atrocities end now! We must rise up and demand that the United States withdraw immediately from Iraq! We must demand full and transparent investigations into every outrage perpetrated by the US military in Iraq. We must ask of ourselves as Sartre asked of himself: What would you do if you were tortured?

A final observation about Sartre who adamently defended the leftist La Cause du Peuple . He might have been in serious trouble had he not been seen as the new Voltaire. In my opinion, there is no greater patriot than one who would —in good faith —criticize his own country when that country is morally, even mortally wrong!

Sartre did not confine his remarks to France. A link supplied to this site by Station Agent, takes you to a speech by Sartre in which he excoriates imperialism, neo-colonialism, and the attempted American genocide in Viet Nam:

The American government is not guilty of having invented modern genocide, nor even of having chosen it from other possible answers to the guerrilla. It is not guilty - for example - of having preferred it on the grounds of strategy or economy. In effect, genocide presents itself as the only possible reaction to the insurrection of a whole people against its oppressors. The American government is guilty of having preferred a policy of war and aggression aimed at total genocide to a policy of peace, the only other alternative, because it would have implied a necessary reconsideration of the principal objectives imposed by the big imperialist companies by means of pressure groups. America is guilty of following through and intensifying the war, although each of its leaders daily understands even better, from the reports of the military chiefs, that the only way to win is to rid Vietnam of all the Vietnamese.

It is guilty of being deceitful, evasive, of lying, and lying to itself, embroiling itself every minute a little more, despite the lessons that this unique and unbearable experience has taught, on a path along which there can be no return. It is guilty, by its own admission, of knowingly conducting this war of ‘example’ to make genocide a challenge and a threat to all peoples. When a peasant dies in his rice field, cut down by a machine-gun, we are all hit.

Therefore, the Vietnamese are fighting for all men and the American forces are fighting all of us. Not just in theory or in the abstract. And not only because genocide is a crime universally condemned by the rights of man. But because, little by little, this genocidal blackmail is spreading to all humanity, adding to the blackmail of atomic war. This crime is perpetrated {364} under our eyes every day, making accomplices out of those who do not denounce it.

In this context, the imperialist genocide can become more serious. For the group that the Americans are trying to destroy by means of the Vietnamese nation is the whole of humanity.

—Jean-Paul Sarte, On Genocide, International War Crimes Tribunal - 1967

Faced with a guerrilla war, misleadingly called an "insurgency" by Bush propagandists, the illegitimate regime of George W. Bush has already involved this nation in numerous criminal acts. Our presence in Iraq is a quaqmire increasingly characterized by mass murder, rape and other atrocities. There is no victory to be achieved. Out of Iraq now! War crimes trials for Bush and his co-conspirators!

And a thanks to Mike's Round up at Crooks and Liars. Mike has linked back to the "Cowboy", adding a couple of enhancing links:
The Existentialist Cowboy: "If certain acts in violation of treaties are crimes, they are crimes whether the United States does them or whether Germany does them, and we are not prepared to lay down a rule of criminal conduct against others which we would not be willing to have invoked against us." —Justice Robert Jackson, Chief Prosecutor for the United States, Nuremberg Tribunals

We’re gonna need a guide to understanding fascism.

Related to the issue of the lawlessness of the Bush regime, this update:

Supreme Court’s Ruling in Hamdan Means Warrantless Eavesdropping is Clearly Illegal

Ever since the Supreme Court in the Hamdan case ruled that the Bush administration’s Guantanamo Bay military commissions violate both federal law and the Geneva Conventions, the President has been paying lip service to his "willingness" to comply with that ruling. But the Court’s ruling goes far beyond the limited question of whether military commissions are legal. To arrive at its decision, the Court emphatically rejected the administration’s radical theories of executive power, and in doing so, rendered entirely discredited the administration’s only defenses for eavesdropping on Americans without the warrants required by law.

Actual compliance with the Court’s ruling, then, compels the administration to immediately cease eavesdropping on Americans in violation of FISA. If the administration continues these programs now, then they are openly defying the Court and the law with a brazenness and contempt for the rule of law that would be unprecedented even for them ...






The Existentialist Cowboy
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