Thursday, April 23, 2009


Back in the days of the Spanish Inquisition, the infamous Torquemada didn't have to bother producing the "metrics" or data that would prove the productiveness of torture. This is because the confessions of so-called heretics had no intrinsic significance. Nearly everyone confesses under torture, regardless of whether they have anything important to confess. Torture, after all, is an instrument of terror. Former Vice-President Cheney was an advocate of torturing prisoners in US military custody. He still crows about it; he is still quoted on cable news, saying that we need more waterboarding, more criminal mistreatment of our prisoners, more and more of the inhumanity--and only then will we be safe as a nation.

Whatever it is that makes civilization so civilized went missing during the Bush and Cheney administration. Admittedly, there have been crimes tucked away from sight by this National Security State, since the Vietnam War ended; but the vulgarisms and the crimes committed wantonly by the past administration have represented such a break with traditions and law, as to leave most of us dumbfounded or in a state of shock. With torture policy released through the chain of command, these leaders severed all ties with decency, soiling themselves and their country.

It was frankly disconcerting to see how wildly the staff at Langley, CIA Headquarters, cheered President Obama, when he paid them a visit recently, and gave assurance that none of their interrogators would be brought up on charges for "following orders". On the other hand, our new president, to his credit, has signaled his willingness to let justice take its course, if evidence points toward the architects, major figures in the former administration. Those who manipulated and subverted the law, and the decision makers who threw in their lot with the torturers, will need lawyers if they hope to make a defense in court.

The Bush White House was at war with law, against both US law and international legal norms, which were the law of the land under treaty obligations the US government had supported and signed.

Sam Stark's 2007 February essay in Harper's, Flaming Bitumen, Romancing the Algerian War, builds upon Alistair Horne's historical account of the Algerian war of independence in the 1950s.
[Historian Alistair Horne] shows the psychological trauma [torture] imposes on those ordered to commit it, as well as the corrosion of military discipline and morale that spreads as exceptions to the laws of war become the norm. Donald Rumsfeld, it is reassuring to know, received a personal copy of A Savage War of Peace, alerting him to such relevant passages as the chilling words of Paul Teitgen, a former hero of the Resistance, who, as secretary-general of Algiers, recognized in Algerian prisoners "profound traces of the cruelties and tortures that I personally suffered fourteen years ago in the Gestapo cellars." "Once you get into the torture business,' Teitgen told Horne in an interview, "you're lost...All our so-called civilization is covered with a varnish. Scratch it, and underneath you find fear." " (my bold)
Fear, wearing a mask of bravado and daring, could be seen on the faces of those French colons who were proud to have their pictures taken for the bloody news stories, standing in front of heaps of Arab corpses, men whom they had tortured and executed. French men and women reading the stories, absorbed in the photos, were horrified at the cost of "victory" in Algiers. How could they live in a world with their Arab brothers, those who presumably belonged to the same culture, the same language, after such crimes had been committed? The conclusion, the consensus in metropolitan France, was that such a victory could never be worth the cost.

Americans still have to live in the same world with populations its military is regularly mutilating and killing. This is a war in which no end is predicted. A war that has included torture of captives: waterboarding, beatings, extreme sensory deprivation for men in solitary confinement, sleep deprivation, stress positions, terrorizing with dogs, sexual humiliation, anal rape with broomsticks and other objects;...and the list goes on.

America's leaders have yet to explain how a war waged at such a cost, a war that is never contained, but always expanding, can either be won, or end.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009


CNN simplifies it for you: civilized nations si, pirates no. The human interest story of an American merchant captain tossed into the lifeboat and his voyage through dread in the hands of three Somalian pirates, in waters off the Horn of Africa, is one of those stirring soap operas you won't forget until a few days have passed. Watching CNN and Fox News, it becomes more and more evident that the public is being constantly doped up on yellow journalism, fear, and sentimentality. And news anchor, Wolf Blitzer, is titillated by the suggestion that news broadcasts are not so much about informing the viewers, as in making sure they take a timely delivery on all the things they would be pleased to learn. For instance, the saga of the Portugese Waterdog that the Obama children have named, Bo.

The orchestra sat on its hands; there was no crescendo of Victory at Sea when three pirates were shot dead, in a combined operation of Navy Seals and the US ships and aircraft that supported the operation. One is breathless, nonetheless. And who isn't impressed at such a daunting rescue? And all snark and sarcasm aside, who is unmoved by a beaming, bearded American sea captain, who is relieved that his ordeal is over?-- not to mention the sight of his wife in tears, in the grips of laryngitis, barely able to speak, to stammer out her thankfulness to the heroes who saved her husband?-- and flanked by older children, a daughter and a son, with stunned expressions on their faces? And then the mood of grandeur, the pièce de resistance: to make it an affair of state, to ennoble it, the report cuts to the president of the USA, Barack Obama.

But what have we not been told? What is the backstory? What events preceded this week's episode of Heroes? Well it's only been a short while since the Bush administration basically hired the Ethiopian army to invade Somalia, and topple its Islamic government. The Ethiopians have withdrawn, leaving the nation prostrate and in the grip of political anarchy. Then there is the consideration of what so-called civilized nations have been doing in the waters off the coast of Somalia.

London Independent Columnist, Johann Hari, writes in Huffington Post that European nations have abused the fishing grounds off the coast of Somalia; and since an earlier collapse of government in that nation, have polluted its sea lanes and coast.
In 1991, the government of Somalia - in the Horn of Africa - collapsed. Its nine million people have been teetering on starvation ever since - and many of the ugliest forces in the Western world have seen this as a great opportunity to steal the country's food supply and dump our nuclear waste in their seas.

Yes: nuclear waste. As soon as the government was gone, mysterious European ships started appearing off the coast of Somalia, dumping vast barrels into the ocean. The coastal population began to sicken. At first they suffered strange rashes, nausea and malformed babies. Then, after the 2005 tsunami, hundreds of the dumped and leaking barrels washed up on shore. People began to suffer from radiation sickness, and more than 300 died. Ahmedou Ould-Abdallah, the UN envoy to Somalia, tells me: "Somebody is dumping nuclear material here. There is also lead, and heavy metals such as cadmium and mercury - you name it." Much of it can be traced back to European hospitals and factories, who seem to be passing it on to the Italian mafia to "dispose" of cheaply. When I asked Ould-Abdallah what European governments were doing about it, he said with a sigh: "Nothing. There has been no clean-up, no compensation, and no prevention."

At the same time, other European ships have been looting Somalia's seas of their greatest resource: seafood. We have destroyed our own fish-stocks by over-exploitation - and now we have moved on to theirs. More than $300m worth of tuna, shrimp, lobster and other sea-life is being stolen every year by vast trawlers illegally sailing into Somalia's unprotected seas. The local fishermen have suddenly lost their livelihoods, and they are starving. Mohammed Hussein, a fisherman in the town of Marka 100km south of Mogadishu, told Reuters: "If nothing is done, there soon won't be much fish left in our coastal waters."

This is the context in which the men we are calling "pirates" have emerged.
To summarize this little pocket of history, it seems that at the very moment that the Islamic Courts government had brought some stability to Somalia, in the belly of the beast that was Bush/Cheney, was brought forth the cunning plan to push the people of that country back into chaos, using a little Ethiopian muscle. Most Americans are sadly unaware of the chain of events; and cable news and the big network establishments are nothing if not scrupulous at keeping them dumbed down and barefoot, as they stare vacantly at the latest action thriller, while Wolf Blitzer holds the simple script for simple minds. The power and majesty of the United States of America.

Thursday, April 09, 2009

copeland morris DRAWING WATER

A belief in words is like water captured,
What you drew from the well, whatever
The sketch became under your hand. It was
Dressed up like a raincloud. It lay in the swells
Of the ocean. It had as many moods
As the seasons reveal, shifting as I longed
To be near you. There is a rhythm in what
I would say; though when I heard your voice
My own words were paralyzed. Years become
Reservoirs into which thoughts have pooled.
There is a Hausa saying--"It is with the body's
Water that one draws water from the well."

copeland morris ENTWINED SONNET

Her shaded eyes, her necklace black velvet, onyx. Anguish she spoke; and he carried on, obsessed As only a young man could. An odd harm...