Thursday, April 30, 2009

Torturous Email to Family

You really have to watch what you say. For example, I sent a heated email to family about United States torture depicted in Taxi to the Dark Side. If there is any question about America torturing detainees, the film answers it: Yes, we do. In my email I was attempting to “clear up” the loud opinions arguing over the question on cable news, as if there is a question about the techniques we used. Man, was that the wrong email to send! One family member responded with a biblical lesson on “vengeance,” which of course I wasn’t suggesting. Another email responded that “our soldiers deserve” our thanks, and I wasn’t suggesting that they didn’t. That same email said, “I can’t imagine what you live with each day,” referring to my Vietnam service. I wasn’t asking for pity, either. Obviously, I was not clear in my email. So, for the record, here is what I was saying in the email.

·         As to the question whether we (America) tortured or not, the answer is yes. So, this question is settled. You can turn off the talking heads that defend the techniques we used or deny that we used them. You need not go any further. The talking heads are wrong so many times they will simply lead all to an undesirable end.

·         Should we investigate and indict those who authorized the torture? Yes. We are strong enough to take a trial, even if it involves the highest office in our land and even if it doesn’t result in a guilty verdict.

I went on to say that Taxi to the Dark Side made me think of those “flag-waving” emails I frequently get and of the people who “thank me for my service” and how, at a minimum, these made me uncomfortable, and at most, angry. I have a Vietnam memory that comes when I get those emails and when I am “thanked” for my service from people who are not “qualified” to send the email or give their thanks. I explained that “qualified” Americans are those who don’t break their promise to our military; they do not allow us to go into unjust wars, they do not allow our leaders to dictate unjust causes, they do not allow us to use unjust techniques and, lastly, they don’t vote for people who do unjust wars. But, the uncalled memory, I suspect, brought on the pity. The memory wasn’t the point, however. The “promise” was the point.

The military returning from Iraq deserve all of the thanks we can muster. But, there are so few in America who are “qualified” to thank them. The real question is do we deserve them? Did we, as a nation, object when our misguided leaders sent them to Iraq based on lies? I saw a few peace marches and demonstrations around the world and I marched myself in San Francisco. World-wide the marches consisted of a few million people; a small number. I saw a few Congressmen and women objecting, but the majority was eager for war. I saw churches across the nation hold rallies of celebration on the day we invaded Iraq. I heard silence when news of rendition and torture surfaced from the “Dark Side;” so few spoke out against this injustice that their voices could not be heard. And, when John McCain sponsored an anti-torture bill through congress, President Bush added a “signing statement” that the techniques they used were not considered torture, a blatant lie. Hardly anyone complained.

So, much like the Vietnam war, the citizenry of our country did not keep its promise to the military; they allowed, without protest, soldiers to be sent into an unjust war. Frankly, I preferred the greeting I got when returning from Vietnam, somewhat scornful, over that received by the Iraqi veteran; adoration from an unfaithful and hypocritical nation. We broke our promise. We didn’t do enough to stop the war. We sent those young people into a lifetime of nightmares. “Thank you” is not enough.

Lastly is the response I got suggesting that holding our politicians responsible in a court of law is “vengeance.” The biblical quote used, of course, was “Vengeance is mine, sayeth the Lord.” This suggests that our courts are established for vengeance and that we should let the Lord deal with our criminals. Of course, nothing could be farther from the truth. We must hold those responsible for breaking the law. My sister not only misapplied the verse to our courts of law, she also used the biblical quote out of context, as usual. In context, here is Romans 12 17-21 from the International Standard Version:

Do not pay anyone back evil for evil, but focus your thoughts on what is right in the sight of all people. If possible, so far as it depends on you, live in peace with all people. Do not take revenge, dear friends, but leave room for God's wrath. For it is written, “Vengeance belongs to me. I will pay them back, declares the Lord.” But “if your enemy is hungry, feed him. For if he is thirsty, give him a drink. If you do this, you will pile burning coals on his head.” Do not be conquered by evil, but conquer evil with good.

One could argue, and this is the position I take, that invading Iraq was vengeance; evil for evil. One could argue, also my position, that the torture we used was vengeance; again, evil for evil. It is only when we judiciously decide the innocence that is presumed, or guilt that must be proven of alleged rule and law disobedience that we are not being vengeful. It seems so clear to me.

Monday, April 27, 2009

Taxi to the Dark Side

Taxi to the Dark Side is a documentary on torture. It documents the true story of an Afghan taxi driver to picks up his fare one day and travels into oblivion. He never returns. He is an innocent man and he is brutalized and humiliated by Americans in an Afghan prison camp and he dies from the harsh treatment. He is tortured to death. The film is not pretty. In fact, it is disgusting and offensive, but it shows what our government authorized and it is shameful.

The release of the Bush Administration documents on justifying torture has created a big stink about what torture is, why it is or is not needed and whether it broke laws or not. From the political right, Karl Rove says, “the techniques are ruined” because Al Qaeda now knows our techniques, as if they didn’t know before. Sean Hannity says, “Water boarding is not torture,” and he’s volunteered to receive the treatment for charity. Bill O’Reilly jumped on the same bandwagon spinning his version justifying the “enhanced” techniques. Rush Limbaugh railed his audience about the release of confidential information calling the Obama Administration irresponsible and playing Cheney’s comments over and over. Dick Cheney, still deluded that he personally made America safe by using the techniques, called the release of the documents a “mind set” that will lead to making America unsafe. Congressman Boehner and Senator McConnell are also complaining about the public release of the memos. And, of all the cable news corporations, only MSNBC is taking a position of transparency and justice instead of hiding behind our skirts and denying that “we” torture.

The arguments are being framed and the seeds of doubt are planted to the point that we, the public, doubt that these techniques are torture at all. The answer is “YES,” they are torture. If you have any doubt, please watch the film or listen to John McCain. Yes, they are torture. Were they authorized by the very top levels of our government? Yes, they were. Should we hold those individuals accountable in a court of law? Yes, we should.

I was so incensed by the spin and lies from the Republican right that I sent my family a scathing email suggesting, nearly demanding, that they watch Taxi to the Dark Side too. I also ask them to “pass it on.” Of course, I doubt that they did either of those things. They, too, like to hide their heads in the sand rather than face our collective sins. If I had my way, I would do like Eisenhower did in Germany when the concentration camps were discovered. He ordered that all German citizens living in towns and cities close to the camps to be subjected to personal tours through the camps. In fact, the German citizens were forced to clean up the camps, to bury the dead and to take care of the living. We, the collective American citizens, should be required to see the film.

But, the argument that a trial would be too disruptive will probably prevail. We can’t take it. We would rather hide our heads in the sand. We don’t like our Presidents to be held accountable for their negligence, bad decisions and mismanagement, even when they knowingly flaunt the laws of our country. We are wimps. We would rather someone low in the hierarchy, such as Private Lindley England, a “bad apple,” take the brunt of our outrage instead of put the person responsible for encouraging her behavior in jail, Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld and Vice President Dick Cheney, among a few. As for President Bush, he has an option to plead insanity and, in my mind, he may have a point.

Thursday, April 23, 2009

The Startling Truth in the Torture Lie – Anarchy

It is staggering, mind-blowing to listen to Karl Rove say “…they have ruined the techniques…” in response to the public disclosure of the “Torture Memos.” It is shocking to hear Vice President Dick Cheney sneeringly say that releasing the memos "presumes" that the enhanced techniques “didn’t work” and that "being nice" works, obviously criticizing the traditional techniques. These statements in the face of all of the recent statements by F.B.I. and C.I.A. agents who are publically testifying that torture, indeed, didn’t work. The gradual disclosure of the timeline of actionable intelligence and of arrests made using traditional interrogation methods and the use of so-called “enhanced” methods prove that traditional methods work better and that no useful intelligence was gained by the enhanced methods; that the defense for the enhanced methods is a lie. But, what is it that is so shocking? It is the ignorance of and the deliberate defiance of the law that is shocking. It is the "choosing anarchy" that is shocking.

It seems that Rove, Cheney, Hannity, O’Rielly, Limbaugh and all the others speaking out against traditional interrogation methods are deliberately choosing to be ignorant of the law; that the United States doesn’t have to abide by the international law against torture. Even Peggy Noonan says the memos should not have been released, saying “…some things should be kept hidden…” Senator McCain, who has said the enhanced techniques is torture, is saying that prosecution would be "counter productive." Astonishing! We made that law. We, the United States of America wrote that law. We, the United States of America prosecuted Japanese war criminals and put them to death because they violated the international law against torture that, by the way, we wrote and was ratified by our Congress and the parliaments of all like-minded nations only months before we prosecuted those Japanese war criminals. Do we now "choose" to disobey the law as a matter of political "convenience?"

Our country “promised” to obey that law in the Geneva Convention. Our military take an oath to uphold that convention and to protect and defend the Constitution of the United States. All of our national elected officials and our appointed national leaders take an oath to protect and defend our constitution and to obey our laws, including our international obligations.

It is startling that the Republican “gang” is choosing to be stupid, that they are choosing anarchy over the rule of law, that they find the words to justify ignorance. It is now being “nice” or “a pansy” to use traditional interrogation methods. The only thing that comes to my mind is that they are simply and astoundingly stupid. The ONLY choice we who wish the rule of law to prevail is to use the rule of law to prosecute, convict and jail those who authorized torture.

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Les Miserables – And a Winner

Occasionally an event, a person or a situation moves my heart unexpectedly. It is at that moment that the heart moves the most, from Les Miserables to a warm comfortable peace; glad even, that astounding changes happen to turn an apparent underdog into a winner.

So, I didn’t expect Susan Boyle to cast such a spell. She walked onto the Britain’s Got Talent stage a little too cocky, she was a little too uncultured in her introduction and the audience and the three judges’ faces said everything about their expectations. They were, as Amanda said, cynical and even a little aghast at Susan’s audacity to dream to be a singer.

Susan sang “I Dreamed” from Les Miserables. Man, did she sang! Every heart in the audience changed from cynical to something far more good than words can explain. I’ve watched the YouTube video several times and each time it is a pleasure to watch.

Good for you, Susan!

Thursday, April 9, 2009

Letter to Senator Evan Bayh

April 8, 2009

Honorable Senator Evan Bayh
131 Russell Senate Office Building
Washington, D. C., 20510

Dear Senator Bayh:

I am writing you as a Hoosier at heart; for I still call that small Indiana town where I was raised, Owensville, home after leaving some 45 years ago for a U.S. Navy career. I visit family and friends in Indiana frequently. It is for those that I write to you to voice my disappointment in your latest endeavors in forming a coalition to oppose the majority in our Senate. From what I’ve read and heard, you are taking positions with ideology and myths that got us into the mess we are in and that ignored America’s real needs for forty years. Ideology and myth that stand in direct opposition to the opportunity we have today to set things right. Ideology and myth most frequently shouted by Republicans and their army of pundits. You claim to be “centrist,” but you are anything but centrist. You’ve taken an extreme right political stand.

There is overwhelming proof that our economic meltdown, the state of our dilapidated infrastructure and our dependency on foreign energy is directly caused by Republican “deregulation,” “no government” and “government is the problem” ideology. In fact during Republican administrations over the past 40 years, government was the problem because they, the Republicans, were in power and didn’t govern. President Reagan began the deregulation culture that carried through the Bush II Administration. Bush II, the worst and most expensive presidency of our history, was the final straw. I didn’t see you opposing his “debt doesn’t matter” agenda.

The most significant deregulatory action over the past 40 years was Republican Senator Phil Gramm’s amendment, done in secret by the way, that eliminated the Glass-Segal act’s oversight and restrictions on banks. Senator Gramm snuck the amendment into an appropriation bill at night after the appropriation Bill had already been passed by the Senate. Senator Gramm’s change was not approved by either legislative branch. President Clinton signed the bill without knowing of the mid-night, backroom change. Thereafter, commercial banks were allowed to merge with investment banks creating “to large to fail” financial behemoths. That change also allowed insurance companies, such as A. I. G., to enter the financial business without regulatory oversight and we know what AIG has done.

But, that was just one of many such changes in regulatory law that led to our current economic collapse. It was the culture of deregulation and lax oversight that crept into government regulatory agencies and Congress that perhaps contributed most. For example, the Federal Trade Commission allowed more and more mergers that created larger and larger monopolies that created companies to large to fail; they ignored anti-trust laws. Congress watched the FTC do this without one word of criticism let alone action to hold the FTC accountable for its laziness. It was the culture of deregulation that created an environment where a Bernie Madoff was allowed to exist for years, causing hard working investors to lose sixty-three billion dollars. It is absolutely mind-boggling that any politician would now argue in favor of laissez faire free self-regulating market in the face of the overwhelming evidence of its utter failure and devastating effect on the American society. You seem to be on that path.

Your “anti-earmark” and so-called “anti-pork” stance is equally contradictory. I notice in your press releases millions of dollars of earmarks you sponsored for one reason or another; from $50 million for the International Atomic Energy Agency, who by the way said there were no WMD in Iraq BEFORE Bush II invaded it, to a $2 million grant to reduce tobacco use in Latino communities in Indiana. That’s irony magnified to the nth degree. Why only the Latino community, that is less than one-percent of Indiana’s population? Why not all Indiana tobacco users? But, it’s your stance on the Alaskan “Bridge to Nowhere” that shows your complete lack of understanding of what it takes to grow local economies. You jumped on the same band wagon Sarah Palin and all other self-serving, opportunistic politicians jumped on. You simply do not know the facts about that bridge, or you are ignoring them to impress your constituents and to distort the facts about that bridge.

The so-called bridge to nowhere does not connect the mainland to an island, as you and Palin say. It actually was intended to connect the city of Ketchikan, AK, to Gravina Island where the city could continue to grow. Ketchikan is a city of approximately 11,000 built on the side of a mountain on an adjacent island. While the population continues to grow and several industries, fishing, tourism, mining, etc., have grown to multi-million dollar industries, they have literally run out of room to grow. Their only viable solution is to expand to Gravina Island. They built an airport on Gravina island and it services approximately 200,000 passengers per year, but their only way of getting to the airport is by boat or ferry over a treacherous sea channel running between Ketchikan and the island. Several people die every year just going to the airport. Transportation over the channel in winter is sometimes impossible, so industry and community services shut down, costing Ketchikan, Alaska and America millions in revenue. So, the bridge to nowhere was, in reality, a bridge to the future for Ketchikan. It’s too bad that politicians didn’t stand up for Ketchikan, including Ketchikan’s own favorite daughter running for vice-president.

It’s ironic that the new bridge being built that connects Gibson County to Mt. Carmel, Ill, is not a bridge to nowhere or at least “pork” since there already is a bridge. But, the new Mt. Carmel Bridge is long overdue since the old one is falling apart and the new one will continue and improve services, both industrial and social, to and from Gibson County. The Mt. Carmel Bridge was also an earmark probably costing around $80 to $100 million dollars. Was that your earmark? I know of another bridge costing $5 billion (BILLION!) that is equally important; it spans the San Francisco Bay from Oakland to San Francisco. It, too, is needed because the old bridge will collapse in the next strong earthquake and there are literally billions of dollars of industry revenue at stake if it isn’t replaced. The cost of these bridges depends on the span to be crossed and traffic it serves. A $223 million dollar bridge in Alaska doesn’t seem so expensive considering the treacherous span it has to cross, the lives it will save and the industrial and social growth it will provide. The Bridge to Nowhere was in fact a Bridge to Somewhere. You should have supported it.

The fact is that investment in infrastructure improvement and development in America has been ignored for so long, led by Republican dogma, that there is great concern about our country becoming just another banana republic like our southern neighbors in Central and South America. From coast to coast and border to border, our highways, airports, railways, bridges and cities are dilapidated and failing. It’s time to pay the pauper or we won’t continue to be the most powerful and innovative nation in the world.

It is equally fact that we ignored our nation’s energy investments. It has been Republicans that repeatedly fought gasoline tax and ALL OTHER environmental restrictions on industry. Repeatedly, Republicans have taken billions of dollars over the past 40 years from corporations to create laws that allow them to ignore environmental laws and continue making high-energy using appliances, vehicles, manufacturing plants from A to Z that have made us the number one polluter and gas-guzzler of the world. It is fact that we send trillions of dollars to other countries to support our energy consumption while those countries support the very terrorist that fight against us. We are supplying the rope that will hang us, thanks to the position you are taking. You are on the take and following the same path. Had we not followed industry special interest and Republican dogma, we would now be an economic dynamo leading in energy conservation and innovation.

Your latest push, of course, is to jump on the “new” Republican fiscal responsibility and tax cut shouting band wagon. I notice that you, and nine other Democrats, are supporting the estate tax cut initiative that will allow the super-rich to avoid estate tax. The small business already avoids estate taxes. And, of course, your argument is that this cut will provide more employment. It won’t do that and you know it. You’ve picked a hell of a time to get on that wagon now that the bill for our societies’ excess and greed has come due. Somebody has to pay for our past sins, but a tax cut just delays the bill for the next generation. It is simply counterintuitive to say that we can defray paying taxes for ourselves when we know that our children are going to have to pay them. We have run out of time and we can no longer pass on our responsibilities or burden to our children. If we are not willing to do it, then we’ve completely lost our sense of what it means to be American. If we don’t step up to the plate and pay our bill and invest in our country, then we are guilty of overwhelming irresponsibility.

It is very obvious that Republican fiscal responsibility is not really fiscal responsibility. It is really a failure to be responsible for what we have to do. Republicans, and you, are being opportunistic, grabbing national notoriety to get national recognition of your name for the next election. I know you’ve taken money from Goldman Sachs, over $200,000, and over $1 million from other investment banks and interests. I’m sure you are being pressured to vote against regulation of these industries, to sponsor anti-regulatory legislation that they write or to make sure the super-rich owners avoid taxes. I hope you don’t do that. I hope that Indiana can put an honest Senator in the U.S. Senate that really is for Indiana, America and good government, not Goldman Sachs. I encourage you to be that Senator. I encourage you to speak out against Limbaugh, O’Rielly and Hannity instead of listening to them, because you’re beginning to speak their language. Indiana needs a Senator who takes the position serious, including the Senate oversight duty of regulatory agencies without the bias of Industry.

According to the latest at, you’ve collected $4,454,286 for your 2010 election, including $24,500 from investment bankers including Morgan Keegan, Inc. These are the same people who duped Tennessee towns and cities in a municipal bond scheme similar to the subprime mortgage schemes. See today’s New York Times’ article. Morgan Keegan Inc. was also accused of fraud in cheating an Indiana Children’s Wish Fund and has lost numerous arbitration cases in Indiana for false and fraudulent statements and representation in investments peddled in Indiana. If it is true that you’ve accepted money from this gang of thieves, then you should voluntarily give the money back… quickly and get away from Morgan Keegan as soon as possible. Morgan Keegan appears to be another Bernie Madoff, albeit more sophisticated and hiding in plain sight since all cases are settled through arbitration instead of court.

You’ve been a favorite of my family that still resides in Indiana. They’ve said good things about you that convinced me that you stood for good government. But, your latest diversion does not point in that direction. I am going to send a copy of this letter to family members still living in Indiana to make them aware of what I’ve learned. They are your constituents and they will not be pleased if their Senator is on the take. It is time to make corporations responsible to the United States and long past time that Senators cease to grovel to corporate special interest.

Sincerely – a Hoosier at Heart,

Dave Clark