Saturday, April 21, 2012

Torture, Romney and the Republican Radical Right-wing

More American torture and its connection to Romney

This is a story posted by Mother Jones last Tuesday. (Hat Tip Digby this morning.)

On the world stage, Guantanamo may well stand as the epitome of American human rights abuses. But when it comes to torture on US soil, that grim distinction is held by two aging African American men. As of today, Herman Wallace and Albert Woodfox have spent 40 years in near-continuous solitary confinement in the bowels of the Louisiana prison system. Most of those years were spent at the notorious Angola Prison, which is why Wallace and Woodfox are still known as members of the Angola 3. The third man, Robert King, was released in 2001; his conviction was overturned after he'd spent 29 years in solitary.

Wallace and Woodfox were first thrown into the hole on April 17, 1972, following the killing of Brent Miller, a young prison guard. The men contend that they were targeted by prison authorities and convicted of murder not based on the actual evidence—which was dubious at best—but because they were members of the Black Panther Party's prison chapter, which was organizing against horrendous conditions at Angola. This political affiliation, they say, also accounted for their seemingly permanent stay in solitary.

For four decades, the men have spent at least 23 hours a day in cells measuring 6 feet by 9 feet. These days, they are allowed out one hour a day to take a shower or a stroll along the cellblock. Three days a week, they may use that hour to exercise alone in a fenced yard. Wallace is now 70; Woodfox is 65. Their lawyers argue that both have endured physical injury and "severe mental anguish and other psychological damage" from living most of their adult lives in lockdown. According to medical reports submitted to the court, the men suffer from arthritis, hypertension, and kidney failure, as well as memory impairment, insomnia, claustrophobia, anxiety, and depression. Even the psychologist brought in by the state confirmed these findings.

Consider this in light of this revelation from Slate By Larry Siems (author of the website and then of the book The Torture Report: What the Documents Say About America’s Post-9/11 Torture Program.) yesterday. Larry read nearly 140,000 formerly classified documents about America’s abuse of prisoners since 2001 to extract this summary:
On Sept. 17, 2001, six days after the terrorist attacks in Washington, D.C., President George W. Bush sent a 12-page Memorandum of Notification to his National Security Council. That memorandum, we know now, authorized the Central Intelligence Agency to set up and run secret prisons. We still don’t know exactly what it says: CIA attorneys have told a judge the document is so off-limits to the courts and the American people that even the font is classified. But we do know what it did: It literally opened a space for torture.


Here is what I learned.

Our highest government officials up to and including President Bush, broke international and U.S. laws banning torture and cruel, inhuman, and degrading treatment. Worse, they made their subordinates in the military and civilian intelligence services break those laws for them.

When the men and women they asked to break those laws protested, knowing they could be prosecuted for torture, they pretended to rewrite the law. They commissioned legal opinions they said would shield those who carried out the abuses from being hauled into court, as the torture ban requires. “The law has been changed,” detainees around the world were told. “No rules apply.”

Then they tortured. They tortured men at military bases and detention centers in Afghanistan and Iraq, in Guantánamo, and in U.S. Navy bases on American soil; they tortured men in secret CIA prisons set up across the globe specifically to terrorize and torture prisoners; they sent many more to countries with notoriously abusive regimes and asked them to do the torturing. At least twice, after the torturers themselves concluded there was no point to further abuse, Washington ordered that the prisoners be tortured some more.

They tortured innocent people. They tortured people who may have been guilty of terrorism-related crimes, but they ruined any chance of prosecuting them because of the torture. They tortured people when the torture had nothing to do with imminent threats: They tortured based on bad information they had extracted from others through torture; they tortured to hide their mistakes and to get confessions; they tortured sometimes just to break people, pure and simple.

And they conspired to cover up their crimes. They did this from the start, by creating secret facilities and secrecy regimes to keep what they were doing from the American people and the world. They did it by suppressing and then destroying evidence, including videotapes of the torture. They did it by denying detainees legal process because, as the CIA’s Inspector General put it in a 2004 report, when you torture someone you create an “Endgame” problem: You end up with detainees who, “if not kept in isolation, would likely divulge information about the circumstances of their detention.”

Like Digby I was angry at the torture of the Black Panthers in Louisiana's Angola prison. Digby points out that the Angola Warden Burl Cain is responsible for keeping the two men in solitary for four decades and intends to keep them there until they die for fear that releasing them from solitary will let them "infect" the younger Black prisoners with their Black Pantherism. But Cain also runs the prison to convert criminals to fundamentalist religion. Convert and you live well. Don't convert and you get the well-known Angola Hell. Needless to say the radical religious right-wing in America knows Cain well and applauds his actions to bring the criminals to God.

But Cain has been Warden since 1995. He was simply an early warning of the radical christianists well before they got George W. Bush close enough to election that the Supreme Court Federalist Catholics appointed him President over the rightful President, Al Gore. This is the culture the tea party Republicans and the religious right want to inflict on America with the election of Mitt Romney.

I have already concluded that the Bush Cheney administration will be one of the darkest recorded periods of American history, similar to Andrew Jackson's Trail of Tears. Just look at the Mother Jones article. Where has this come from? Andrew Jackson was a slave-holding frontiersman. Burl Cain is a Southern plantation master Louisiana Prison Farm Warden. The Republican Party today is the party of Louisiana, South Carolina and the rest of the Confederate South.

Mitt Romney is not simply a flip-flopper. He is the man the Republican Party has long ago selected to be the Presidential nominee they wanted to put up against Barack Obama in 2012, and he is a conservative Bishop of an extremely right-wing evangelical religious denomination. He is also a Zelig with a strong aristocratic set of core beliefs. Why did Romney react so harshly to Obama's mere comment that he and Michele were not born with a silver Spoon in their mouths?

Because it hit too close to home. Like Shrub, Romney was born on third base and thinks he hit a triple. And like Shrub, Romney is the representative of the very wealthy, very conservative radical right-wing Republicans who want to take America back from the Black/Muslim/Communist/Democratic usurper who might actually just rebuild the American economy from the very low level the Bush/Cheney administration left it.

Romney has been practicing his life-long talent for being a zelig in order to obtain the Presidency. Once he has done that he will hand this nation over to the militarists, the evangelical right-wing, and to the Wall Street free traders who make their money whether America prospers or declines as long as they remain unregulated.

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