Sunday, 6 January 2013

Okay to torture, not okay to expose it

Okay, let’s review: torture is a tough job, but someone’s gotta do it, according to Kathryn Bigelow, director of (“it’s just a movie”) Zero Dark Thirty, because otherwise we would never find and assassinate bin Laden. And people who illegally tortured defenseless detainees under George Bush should not be prosecuted for doing so, according to one Barack Obama, because we have to ‘turn the page’ on this history, i.e., forget about it.

But wait! We can resuscitate said history for one purpose: to prosecute ferociously anyone who dared to leak news of torture to reporters. Thus we have the scene of former CIA employee John Kiriakou heading off to a 30-month prison term after being intimidated into copping a plea to avoid the Draconian charges leveled at him under the Espionage Act. (He could have got 50 years.)

What does it mean to prosecute insider whistleblowers under a law meant to stop espionage> Espionage is giving state secrets to foreign agents, i.e. spying. But Kiriakou has never been accused of handing anything to foreigners or to representatives of foreign powers. He is charged exclusively with TELLING US things the government does not want us to know, i.e., details of prisoner torture through leaks to reporters.

As former Justice Department lawyer Jesslyn Radeck, herself a persecuted whistleblower, explains, Bush II’s record on protecting those who expose government wrongdoing was miserable, but Obama’s has been far worse. The shameful torture of Bradley Manning and the possibility that our modern Daniel Ellsberg could face life in prison for exposing war crimes outdoes even the Bush team’s reckless disregard for the safety of those who blew the whistle on Abu Ghraib. And she notes that Obama’s relentless and ruthless campaign against leakers is a direct assault on our precious right to know what the fuck is going on.

Only dictatorships or authoritarian regimes equate journalism with disloyalty. But while we are not allowed to know anything that Obama doesn’t want to let us in on, he and his NSA/CIA/Homeland Security buddies, by contrast, get to read ALL our emails, record ALL our telephone conversations and store ALL our text messages from here to eternity, without any judicial oversight or warrant process, and with any gross illegality promptly covered up. This is one of the worst betrayals by Obama who mouthed all sorts of pious sentiments while portraying himself as a liberal and getting himself elected, only to promptly jettison all that civil liberties crap once in office.

During his first campaign, for example, Obama said this: ‘Such acts of courage and patriotism [whistleblowing], which can sometimes save lives and often save taxpayer dollars, should be encouraged rather than stifled’. Ha ha, good one.

Kiriakou’s prosecution and now jailing is the final blow to our national moral compass, which was thrown off by 9/11, undermined by the ‘ticking-time-bomb’ debate (which enabled people to start thinking that maybe torturing people was sorta, kinda, sometimes okay), further decimated by ethical horror shows like Kiefer Sutherland’s 24, and finally blown up for good by Bigelow’s channeling of Leni Riefenstahl. When decent men go to jail for objecting to torture, and torturers are officially protected from the merest inquiry, something is very wrong.

Oh, and just one question for all the liberals so eager to re-elect Obama last November: did you raise this issue with his campaign before sending in your donations?


Lezak Shallat said...

i sure didnt donate!

Anonymous said...

Neither did I. Though I many times sent back the requests for money with my objections to Obama's actions and policies. Mind you, I gave more money, more frequently to his 2008 campaign than I ever did in connection with any other candidate. This time, like about a million other people, I voted for a third party candidate. I knew Romney would never win in my home state of New York, and wanted to send a message to the President that he must earn my vote (and hadn't done so). Sadly, too many good people I know are convinced that the wishy-washy Obama is our only hope. Actually, I take that back. He may not be as wishy-washy as he appears. Cornel West calls Obama a Rockafeller Republican. It may be that Obama's core philosophy, if he has one, is just way to the right of where many Democrats think it is, and he's getting pretty much what he wants.