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10 April 2012


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William R. Cumming

An excellent post but the only way citizens and residents of the USA will know their rights is when SCOTUS definitively rules yet the cited memorandum may help the US public diplomacy efforts with respect to the rest of the world. Some lawyers differ from my conclusions stating that "torture" and its application is now authorized or prescribed under existing law. I disagree. But for those with interest in the matter the postings and comments on LAWFARE.com might well be of interest.

As to SCOTUS note that they recently approved Strip Searches for arrestees and I would assume that means body cavity searches. This SCOTUS is not squeamish when it comes to protecting the STATE meaning the UNITED STATES or its federal system when threatened as to its individual or collective security. There is a UN Convention against Torture among other formal bars. I believe the US is a signatory.

WE have almost no clue on where the Administration is going on the issues and policies raised by the GWOT nor his likely opponent Mr. Romney. And we probably will know even less by November because of the spin meisters for both parties.

James ben Goy

Brutality brutalizes the brutalized and the brutalizers, apologies for the clumsy construction. That is what is so insidious about torture. The episodes cited served the dual purpose of conditioning society towards tolerance of it, based on so-called ever-broadening 'exigent' circumstances, and establishment of the unaccountable, imperial executive. Acquiescence to official violence against fellow citizens has never been higher. Against foreigners? Forget about it! US history is replete with incidents of barbaric and vicious attacks by state & federal officers, and no accountability, from the Bonus Army killings, to take an early example, to the beatings and assaults of the Occupy protesters today. The default response in this country, local to federal, to any perceived challenge to authority, be it ever so innocuous, is violence. Until that cowboy attitude changes, our nation will continue to produce the kind of 'leadership' that utilized torture. All others need not apply.


I enjoyed the read and the comments.

However, I would like to know if the author could elaborate on "...the uglier aspects of the 'global war on terror'..." that the President would have put behind us?
I've been regularly reading Glenn Greenwald's blog, and I'm not sure he would agree with the author on that part?


So the Mr. Zelikow 'courageously' opposed torture - three years after the fact? He was appointed by Condolezza Rice to help write the National Security Strategy of the US. He certainly didn't oppose the war in Iraq - he helped write the doctrine of 'pre-emptive' war.




I am not a "fan" either. pl


Too little outrage, and way too late Mr. Zelikow. America is headed for neo- feudalism, and will take much of the world with it. There is no other explanation for the assertion of unfettered executive power to do exactly what it likes when it likes, coupled with continuous attacks on civil liberties. You and your ilk, Mr Zelikow were, are(?) one of its facilitators.

It makes no matter which party is in power. Both parties are for sale to the highest bidder. The Obama/Romney choice matters not. The process will continue to accelerate.

If Americans were perhaps as inefficient and corrupt as the Russians in building and operating an authoritarian regime, it might not matter, but I fear that good old American know how is going to produce a repressive machine, the likes of which have not been seen before.

Mr. Greenwald and numerous others have catalogued the fall in excruciating detail.

Robert c

Is this the same Mr. Zelikow (it is) who oversaw the 9/11 commission report? A credible report would have acknowledged significant errors by Rice, Bush, and Cheney. He facilitated a report that was a white wash. He was rewarded by Rice with a State dept job.


Larry Kart

Reading through my copy of the recently issued Vol. 1 of Roy Crane's great adventure comic strip "Captain Easy Soldier of Fortune":


I discovered on page 97 a quite explicit depiction of waterboarding -- this from May 5, 1935.

John Kirkman

Torture, defined To:

a must read.....

I got shot down over N Vietnam in 1967, a Sqdn. Commander.
After I returned in 1973...I published 2 books that dealt a lot
With "real torture" in Hanoi . Our make-believe president is
Branding our country as a bunch of torturers when he has
No idea what torture is.

As for me, I was put thru a mock execution because I would not respond...
Pistol whipped on the head....same event.. Couple of days later...
Hung by my feet all day. I escaped and a couple of weeks later, I got
Shot and recaptured. Shot was OK...what happened afterwards was not.

They marched me to Vinh...put me in the rope trick, trick...almost
Pulled my arms out of the sockets. Beat me on the head with a
Little wooden rod until my eyes were swelled shut, and my unshot,
Unbroken hand a pulp.

Next day hung me by the arms...rebroke my right wrist...wiped
Out the nerves in my arms that control the hands....rolled my fingers
Up into a ball. Only left the slightest movement of my L forefinger.
So I started answering with some incredible lies.

Sent me to Hanoi strapped to a barrel of gas in the back of a truck.

Hanoi ..on my knees....rope trick again. Beaten by a big fool.

Into leg irons on a bed in Heartbreak Hotel.

Much kneeling--hands up at Zoo.

Really bad beating for refusing to condemn Lyndon Johnson.

Several more kneeling events. I could see my knee bone thru
Kneeling holes.

There was an escape from the annex to the Zoo. I was the Senior
Officer of a large building because of escape...they started a mass
Torture of all commanders.

I think it was July 7, 1969...they started beating me with a car fanbelt.
In first 2 days I took over 300 strokes...then stopped counting
Because I never thought I would live thru it.

They continued day-night torture to get me to confess to a non-existent
Part in the escape. This went on for at least 3 days. On my knees...
Fan belting...cut open my scrotum with fan belt stroke. Opened up
Both knee holes again. My fanny looked like hamburger...I could not
Lie on my back.

They tortured me into admitting that I was in on the escape...and
That my 2 room-mates knew about it.

The next day I denied the lie.

They commenced torturing me again with 3- 6- or 9 strokes of
The fan belt every day from about July 11 or 12th..to 14 October
1969. I continued to refuse to lie about my roommates again.

Now, the point of this is that our make-believe
President has declared to the world that we (U.S..) are a bunch of
Torturers...Thus it will be OK to torture us next time when they
Catch us...because that is what the U.S. Does.

Our make-believe president is a know nothing fool who thinks
That pouring a little water on some one's face, or hanging a pair of
women's pants over an Arabs head is TORTURE.. He is a meathead.

I just talked to MOH holder Leo Thorsness, who was also in my squadron,
In jail...as was John McCain...and we agree that McCain does
Not speak for the POW group when he claims that Al Gharib was
Torture...or that "water boarding" is torture.

Our president and those fools around him who keep bad mouthing
Our great country are a disgrace to the United States . Please pass
This info on to Sean Hannity. He is free to use it to point out the
Stupidity of the claims that water boarding...which has no after
Effect...is torture.
If it got the Arab to cough up the story about how he planned the attack on the twin towers in NYC ...
Hurrah for the guy who poured the water.

"Bud" Day, Medal Of Honor Recipient

George Everett "Bud" Day(born February 24, 1925) is a retired
U.S. Air Force Colonel and Command Pilot who served during the
Vietnam War. He is often cited as being the most decorated U.S.
Service member since General Douglas MacArthur, having
Received some seventy decorations, a majority for actions
In combat. Day is a recipient of the Medal of Honor.
Calling Obama a meathead is extremely mild.

The Twisted Genius

Back in the early 80s, 10th Group did an in depth study of East Germany and our ability to operate there in the event of war in Europe. That regime saw its population as a malignant infestation needing to be kept under pervasive surveillance and under an iron fist. The environment was so toxic that our Group Commander recommended that we do not attempt to operate there. This change in our war plan was approved.

We obviously had sympathy for the East Germans who had to live under that soulless regime. Some of us also felt a measure of pity, along with revulsion, for that sorry regime so afraid of its people.

What does this have to do with our use of torture? I see a lot of similarities in the actions and attitudes between Honecker's regime and our own government since 9/11. The same attitude that can justify torture, can justify the creation of an ever expanding surveillance society, strip searches of anyone taken into police custody, warrantless phone searches and tracking, FBI entrapment of so called terrorists, and the list goes on. Member's of this "regime" point with pride to the apparent inability of terrorists to operate here, just as Honecker's henchmen were proud of their iron control over the East German society. Zelikow's memo reads more like a clinical discussion of why certain forms of torture are not a good idea. It is the work of a national security state apparatchik. I prefer McCain's visceral and emotional rejection of torture.

The East Germans eventually lost their fear of the regime... or decided to act in spite of their fear. It wasn't a bloody insurrection. The people simply called bullshit and the regime disintegrated. I think we may be headed down that same road.

Chris Bolan

Bruno: I might actually further qualify my original statement by saying that the President at least made an effort to put some of the uglier aspects of the GWOT behind us. I do give him credit for entirely abandoning the strategic framework of GWOT that fostered a 'gloves off' approach in a forever war against enemies anywhere and everywhere. This change at least allows for the possibility of a more reasoned and restrained approach to American security policies. He also signed an executive order to close Guantanamo, has thinned the ranks of those held there, and attempted to establish a process for bringing the cases remaining to civil trial. He also has ordered an end to the worst of the enhanced interrogation techniques.

It was these actions that I had in mind. These steps aren't enough and many tough issues remain, which is why others will need to continue to fight to restore a healthier balance in the struggle between rights, principles, and security.

Chris Bolan

I too would fault Zelikow for these and other shortcomings. Nonetheless, it takes a degree of personal courage to oppose the policies and decisions of the President when serving in senior political levels of the government. If actions like these were easy, we'd see much more of them (and as I suggested we will need to).

I can personally attest to the fact that Pat Lang did so with senior officials in Vice President Cheney's office in the run-up to the Iraq War (2003), but such candor can unfortunately be a less than common commodity.



While I, too, prefer a visceral rejection of torture, Zeilikow was seeking to persuade a group of people who lacked that degree of humanity. That may account for the clinical emphasis on the lack of effectiveness.


"The people simply called bullshit and the regime disintegrated. I think we may be headed down that same road."

TTG, I hope you are right!

In my lifetime I have seen how in the name of "security" what Jefferson and Madison and all the revolutionary idealists created has been whittled down for all intents and purposes into a parody.

The militarization of our police forces coupled with a judiciary completely aligned with the "national security" state and a government with no checks with an impenetrable argument of "state secrets" leads me to be convinced that we are marching inexorably towards increasing degrees of fascism.

The only bright spot I see for my grandkids is that the current trajectory of our financial system is mathematically unsustainable. Maybe the Millenials will use that opportunity to turn things back to Jeffersonian values. An old man can dream!


I really hope for you folks that calling bs suffices.

Already, dissent is treated as a 'threat' in America. The treatment of the occupy people, like them or not, suggests nothing less. One could already seen the beginnings of this in the herding of protesters in so-called 'free speech zones' (evidently, those who coined the phrase were oblivious to the irony) during the protests Bush 43 era.

Throw in the mindless if well established practice of zero tolerance policies, that appears to have irrestistible appeal in America, and you have a result in which peaceful protesters are being beaten, maced, tasered (which is a ok, because it is 'non lethal') because they may pose a 'threat' (to public order?).

Police efforts to break up Occupy encampments in Northern California and elsewhere have led to investigations, apologies and lawsuits. And now the soul-searching: Why did some officers use what is being described as excessive force, wielding batons and pepper spray, against apparently peaceful protesters?

The tough response to the 2-month-old movement of civil disobedience — particularly in Oakland and on campuses in Berkeley and Davis — is an outgrowth, some say, of factors that include the spontaneous nature of the Occupy protests and two post-9/11 trends: a heightened police sensitivity to threats and a more militaristic approach to police work.

"I think we're talking about a long-term trend accelerated in the post-9/11 era," said George Ciccariello-Maher, a political scientist at Drexel University in Philadelphia. After the attacks, "the federal government began to provide military technology to police agencies, a very clear upping of the stakes."

Former Seattle Police Chief Norm Stamper, who presided over the chaotic and violent response to the World Trade Organization protests in his city in 1999, faults what he calls the militarization of police forces across America in the last 10 years for the heavy-handed crackdowns on Occupy protesters.

"Everyday policing is characterized by a SWAT mentality, every other 911 call a military mission," Stamper wrote recently in The Nation. "What emerges is a picture of a vital public-safety institution perpetually at war with its own people."


How far is that from a Stasi mentality? Too close for comfort I say.

It is little comfort for the victims of police excess in the US that they, unlike people in East Germany, can seek compensation afterwards. It is little comfort because they have no realistic choice but to suffer through even a clearly unlawful police action, since resisting would likely lead to them being subdued with overwhelming force. When peaceful protest is already a potential threat, then resistance is seen as manifest evidence of the potential threat. So whack'em. Better safe than sorry.

Heaven forbid if the exercise of sensible discretion would lead to 'one getting through'. In America that is a career ender, not to mention the problem of litigation. Zero tolerance policies are seen as an effective remedy to that, since they replace individual judgement by policy - i.e the application of a standardised response irrespective of the circumstances - thus absolving individuals from responsibility.

The one percent doctrine is alive and kicking in the minds of the American domestic police, and probably with your private guards at your local mall as well.

And certainly, nobody seriously running for office in the US is going to tell their constituents that they have to live with a certain threat level, that there is no 100% safety, without inevitably being attacked by his opponent to be soft on public safety. It also runs counter to the US mentality I think, that IMO expects some, preferrably technical, fix for such problems, like those body scanners.


In reply to John Kirkman, would you wish your treatment on anyone else ?


John Kirkman,
Mr. Day is entitled to his opinion. He is also wrong.

Permanent disfigurement and lasting physical harm is not a precondition for something to amount to torture. Saying that waterboarding was less than what he endured is perhaps true subjectively, certainly from that old pilot's point of view. I don't think it does take into account the effect that breaking down prisoners with less physical means, in order to deliberately instill learned helplessness in prisoners, has on the minds of prisoners, which appears to have been the objective of the Bush 43 torture program. Also, it doesn't mean that waterboarding is not also torture, andd not also a (war) crime.

And his letter doesn't mean much legally, since water boarding is considered torture legally under US domestic criminal law, not to mention international law. There was iirc the case where a Texas sherrif and a couple deputies in the 1980s were sentenced for torture, after they waterboarded prisoners to coerce testimony or confession. After WW-II, the US executed Japanese soldiers as war criminals for waterboarding US proisoners of war. I could go on. In that regard Mr. Day's views are irrelevant.

The illegality of waterboarding is in dispute only in the US as a result of the highly distorted and politicised public discourse on torture that has become part of the Republican political canon.

It is in that respect similar to the 'enemy combattant' that only saw the light of day when the Bush 43 people needed to coin a phrase to serve as a pretext for sidelining the Geneva conventions.

Outside the American political reality, enemy combatants don't exist legally, since the Geneva conventions, as a result of the WW-II experience, are all encompassing.

Either you're a combattant - then you become POW with thee corresponding statius after capture - or your're a civilian - and are a criminal when you fight anyway (which would, quelle horreur, involve civilian trials - incidentally something the Bush 43 crowd didn't want). So emerged from nothing the enemy combattant, to whom conveniently all that doesn't apply. The construct chosen gives away the intent.

William R. Cumming

Note that the redacted pages of the 9/11/01 Commission report should have been released long ago. Alleged to fully implicate the Saudi Kingdom in the event.



Thanks for the response. I agree that such opposition is rare, however in this case it smells too much of political CYA. The release/de-classification of these documents serve notice that Mr. Zelikow is read to serve a President Romney in just the same way - justify the actions he'd want to take and only oppose them when opposition no longer had any meaning outside of political positioning.


What is your point? That the conduct of the Government of the people of the United States should NOT be governed by our principles?

James ben Goy

The thing I really enjoy about this forum is the high level of expertise of its participants, highlighted by their skillful prose. So thank you for the pithy comments, they gave me the best laugh I've had in days. One seldom sees such effective skewering in so few sentences.



comparative atrocity is the not the basis on which American should judge their behavior.

As to Zelikow, the man's entire career supports the contenion that it was careerism that dictated writing that memo. In addition, it falls under the category of "Grandpa memoes" as in the question posed over a Thanksgiving dinner 20 years hence: "Grandpa, where were you when the torturers disgraced our country? Well dear, let me find that clipping." This has become commonplace in many spheres of American public life


"evidently, those who coined the phrase were oblivious to the irony"

No, they understood what they were doing, just like introducing the phrase "Enhanced Interrogation Techniques".

They create reality and whoever does not bow to it will be intimidated by their subservient sychophants.

The game is changing and calling BS can have a chilling effect as they look to the future and decide to either keep attacking and face criminal trials if the public turns on them or sulk off to live with some freedom and their ill-gotten gains.



Waterboarding, strappado hanging and the homicide of Manadel al-Jamadi attest to the torture taking place at Abu Ghraid.

But what Rushbo and Day consider harmless acts no different than fraternity hazing rituals (some of which do enter the realm odf sick behavior)is aberrant behavior most of us do not want our countries image associated with. The faces of the guards in the photos reflecting the pleasure they derived from sexually humiliating and dominating the prisoners is sadism, pure and simple, displayed for all the world to see and judge, not just the guards, but our country. Condoning sadism, or any form of deviant behavior, as acceptable into the mainstream of the American heart by anybody with a modicum of authority is something that must not be allowed.

John McCain is right on this.

John Kirkman

I consider it pertinent to check with the people who actually fight the wars; Bud Day is very highly qualified to state his opinion which is based on the real world of his experience and training. Chivalry is present in novels, not in the graveyard of active combat, and wars are organized – somewhat – murder. If I knew that someone had the key to preventing the death of compatriots I would not hesitate to do whatever was necessary to get that information, nor would I criticize others for doing so. You do what you have to do to survive.
That said, prisoners should be treated as well as circumstances allow, but they are still the enemy, and you take care for your own people first. The only ones who fully survive war are the ones not involved.
Is there an author here who would hesitate to kill someone by any means if so doing would prevent the events of 9/11?

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