The Weiner Component V.2 #38 – Money & the Presidents: Part 4

English: Official photograph portrait of forme...

English: Official photograph portrait of former U.S. President George W. Bush. Português: Foto oficial de George W. Bush, presidente dos Estados Unidos da América. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

U.S. President George W. Bush and Afghan Presi...

U.S. President George W. Bush and Afghan President Hamid Karzai appear together Wednesday, March 1, 2006, at a joint news conference at the Presidential Palace in Kabul, Afganistan. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Clinton raised taxes for the very wealthy and lowered them for everyone else.  There was prosperity with deficit reduction for his last three years in office.  George W. Bush lowered taxes for the rich and gave everyone else a token discount on their income taxes.  He also got the U.S. involved in two wars, one of which was unnecessary and the National Debt zoomed to the point of almost doubling.  Over his eight years in office the National Debt went from 5 trillion 792 billion dollars to 11 trillion 898 billion dollars.


In November of 2,000 George W. Bush won the Presidential Election in an extremely controversial election.  His Democratic opponent, Al Gore, had a greater popular vote.  And in Florida they used a punch out ballot in the election.  The problem here was that the punch outs required an additional effort to be totally detached from the ballot.  Numerous ballots contained partially punched out votes.  These were not immediately counted and later had to be considered one by one.  The Chief Justice of the Supreme Court, William Rehnquist, made a negative point over counting individual ballots and the practice was discontinued, giving the presidential victory to George W. Bush.  It was victory by default!


From January 20,Th when he assumed office, until the early afternoon of September 1, 2001 nothing much happened in the country.  On the morning of that day President George W. Bush was reading to a Primary school class from one of their textbooks when news arrived of what had happened at the New York City World Trade Center.


Four large passenger American airplanes, after takeoff from Eastern airports, had been hijacked by groups of Al-Qaeda terrorists.  Two had crashed into each of the two main towers of the 110 story World Trade Center, destroying the towers.  One plane had crashed in the countryside on its way to Washington, D.C. and the fourth plane had crashed into the Pentagon, destroying a section of it.  2,996 people had been killed and over 6,000 people were injured.  There was over 10 billion dollars in property damage.


The leader and founder of Al-Qaeda, Osama bin Laden, had set up the terrorist mission.  He would be killed several years later by navy seals working under the orders of then President Barack Obama.


President Bush’s reaction was to declare War on Terrorism and go after Al-Qaeda and the Taliban, which was then housed in and which also controlled the government of Afghanistan.  The United States, initially supported by Canada and the United Kingdom, and later by a coalition of over 40 countries, all belonging to the United Nations, would attack Afghanistan, the home country of Al-Qaeda and the Taliban.  Their object was to deny the terrorists a safe haven in Afghanistan by removing it from their control.


On October 7, 2001, President Bush launched Operation “Enduring Freedom” with Great Britain.  They were later joined by the Afghanistan Northern Alliance which had been fighting the Taliban in a Civil War since 1996.  In December 2001 the United Nations Security Council established the International Security Assistance Force.  NATO became involved in August 2003.  The U.S. provided the commanding general.  This force included troops from 43 nations.


Osama bin Laden and his forces had been driven out of the country but the Civil War continues today, over 16 years after.  The Afghanistan government, democratically set up by the U.S. and U.N., has never been able to control the country.  This has been done by the United States and its United Nations allies.


In May 2012, NATO leaders ordered an exit strategy.  In 2014 the U.S. announced its major military operations were over and that it would leave a residual force in the country.  In 2014 the British handed over their bases to the Afghan government and on December 2014 NATO formally ended military operations.  In September of 2017 the Trump Administration deployed an additional 3,000 troops to Afghanistan bringing the U.S. presence there up to 14,000 soldiers.  There doesn’t seem to be any end in sight.


Early in the Afghan War President Bush, his Vice President, Dick Chaney, and his Secretary of Defense, Donald Rumsfeld, met in Texas to discuss with the Commanding General Tommy Franks “Desert Storm II,” the invasion of Iraq which Bush considered part of the “axis of evil.”  Presumably, under Saddam Hussein, Iraq contained “weapons of mass destruction” and was a threat to the United States.


Iraq, at that time was allowing U.N. experts to examine their military facilities searching for illegal weapons.  The United Nation inspectors complained that Bush’s invasion cut their investigation short.  In fact the CIA had mixed feelings about Iraq having these weapons.  They mostly felt that there were “no weapons of mass destruction.”  It turned out they were right.


Why did Bush and his coterie insist upon invading Iraq?  There was no evidence that they had in any way participated in the destruction of the Twin Towers.  Bush was creating another war that was not really necessary.  Two reasons emerge here.  One was that they believed they could remake Iraq into a small version of the United States.  All they had to do was get rid of its dictator, Saddam Hussein.  Then they could hold a Democratic Election and the new Iraq would live happily ever after.  They did not understand anything about the Middle East.  They were either totally naïve or completely ignorant.


The other reason was the fact that Saddam Hussein had attempted to have George W. Bush’s father, former President George H.W. Bush assassinated and the son wanted to punish him.  It could have been a combination of the two reasons.  They saw it as a win, win situation.  In any event the cost of this decision was over 3,000 American soldier’s lives and about ½ million Iraqi lives.  In addition it destabilized the Middle East and forced us to continue to keep troops in Iraq as the government there was never able to maintain control of the country.


During Bush’s last year in office, 2008, the Real Estate Bubble, which the banks had been creating since the 1980s, burst.  People had been encouraged to use their homes as bank accounts.  They could always refinance their home whose value kept increasing  largely because of the continual refinancing.  In essence the banks had gradually created money in the trillions of dollars throughout the country by continually refinancing homes at ever increasing value.  By 2007 the problem became obvious but the majority of bankers were in denial.  In fact some of them began refinancing homes at 125 percent of their appraised value.  The entire system collapsed in 2008, Bush’s last year in office.  Many homeowners suddenly owed more on their houses than they were worth.  Bush and his Secretary of the Treasury bailed out the banks with multi-million dollar loans.  This was the state of the union that George W. Bush handed over to his Democratic successor, Barack H. Obama.


In essence George W. Bush, who had initially won the Presidential Election over a quirk, the Florida punch ballots, had brought about an unnecessary war, in all probability, to punish a dictator for attempting to have his father killed.  In this process innumerable people, both American soldiers and Iraqis had lost their lives.  The financial cost of this action would double the National Debt and put an unnecessary financial burden thereafter upon the United States.


He would also pass on to his successor a country on the verge of a depression great than that of 1929.

The Weiner Component #142 – Terrorism in the World Today

September 11, 2001 attacks in New York City: V...

September 11, 2001 attacks in New York City: View of the World Trade Center and the Statue of Liberty. (Image: US National Park Service ) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

FBI mugshot of Timothy McVeigh.

FBI mugshot of Timothy McVeigh. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Terror is to be afraid of or fearful of something.  Terrorism is, for a group or population, to be intensely frightened of something equally unpleasant.  Usually what is being considered here is some form of death or mayhem!


It is a weapon that has been used innumerable times over the centuries to attempt to achieve a political goal usually by minorities over a much larger population.  Usually within a society a group or groups that are not powerful enough to make their will or position known will use the tactics of terror to propagate their beliefs.  In Elizabethan England during the 16th Century, Catholics in this country that had decades earlier reluctantly turned Protestant under King Henry VIII secretly used this strategy to voice their objections during the reign of his daughter, Queen Elizabeth.  During the late 19th Century in Russia and Austria-Hungary, whose population was a polyglot of different Balkan ethnic groups, protest was illegal.  Revolutionaries in both these countries used terror as a form of protest, forcing their will upon the Central Governments by assassinating government officials.  This included rulers in both nations.


Generally when a political group is too strong to be forcibly obliterated but not powerful enough to openly influence the existing government they seem to resort to the use of terror.  The direct cause of World War I was the assassination of the heir to the Austro-Hungarian throne, Frances Ferdinand, in 1914.  Later in the 20th Century the concept of war was broadened to include the entire population of a nation and terror then covered the entire population.


In the case of the world today we are dealing with total war, this can cover the entire population of a nation or a group of nations.  Mayhem/ human destruction, terrorism anywhere in a nation is an act of war.  The action can be caused by some individual or groups within the nation or by people from other countries or areas of the world.


In the United States in 1995 Timothy McVeigh, an American terrorist detonated a truck bomb in front of a federal building in Oklahoma City on April 19th, killing 168 people and injuring over 600 others.  Presumably McVeigh was getting even with the United States for the Waco siege in 1993.  At that time the Branch Davidians, a sect that separated in 1955 from the Seventh-day Adventist Church, was led by David Koresh and lived at Mt. Carmel Ranch in Elk, Texas.  The group was suspected of weapons violations and forcibly refused to allow a search and arrest warrant by the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives.  Because of armed resistance, and the presence of women and children at the Ranch, a 51 day siege resulted.  It ended with a tear gas attack by the FBI, in which a fire engulfed the Ranch.  76 people died that day, including David Koresh.  Timothy McVeigh had been driving to Waco to show support for the Branch Davidians.  Two years later he would explode his home-made bomb.


Terrorists can be either citizens of the country where the atrocity is perpetrated or come from other parts of the world to punish a particular nation.  McVeigh was an American citizen seeking revenge for the Branch Davidians.  Whether this was because he had mental problems or not is academic.  He was at heart a terrorist who resented his own government and his killing of people was an act of terror.


A number of the mass shootings that seem to become commoner and commoner in the United States seem to be perpetrated by people who have mental problems and should have no access to weapons.  According to an article in the L.A. Times as of Friday, December 4, 2015, there were up to 353 mass shootings in 2015 in the nation.  The problem seems to be that In the U.S. every state has different gun laws, and weapons that are illegal in one state can be easily acquired in another state, particularly at gun shows where no background check is ever required.


It should be noted that in the case of the world today al-Qaeda, ISIS and other groups from the Middle East and North Africa, make up the majority of the terrorist groups. Their rational is that they are punishing the world for not giving in to them.  In fact the President of the United States and the government of a number of European nations have declared war upon ISIS.  Most of these groups come from nations that until shortly after World War II were colonies or protectorates of Europe and or the United States.  Among the reasons for the uses of terror this fact seems to be one of the causes for their actions.


The colonial imperialist empires continued after the Second World War.  It was from the 1950s on that these countries/colonies began rebelling and it became too expensive for the European nations like England, France, Holland, among others, to keep their possessions.  It was far more practical to give them their independence and trade with them.  In this way most of these nations suddenly became ready for independence.


In the United States on September 11, 2001, the Twin Towers in New York City, the tallest buildings in the world were destroyed killing 2,700 people in the collapsed two buildings, the Pentagon in Washington, D.C. was also hit killing 184 individuals, and in a plane crash in Pennsylvania where 40 people died trying to take back control of the jet.  The fuel on the airplanes were the bombs that burst into flames and exploded when the jets crashed into their targets.  Each plane carried as passengers a crew of suicide terrorists, nineteen on all of them, who took over the planes shortly after takeoff on the East Coast and piloted the jets to their targets crashing them, in the first two cases, into the structures.


Osama bin Laden the leader of al-Qaeda chose these targets because he believed the United States was a “paper tiger, an easy and inept target.”  His reasoning followed the pattern of U.S. withdrawal from Viet Nam in 1975, leaving Lebanon after a bomb in Beirut in 1983 at the marine barracks killed 241 servicemen, and the withdrawal of American forces from Somalia in 1993 after the deaths of 18 servicemen in Mogadishu.


While al Qaeda was highly functional after the attack on the Twin Towers it wasn’t until after the election of Barak Obama as President of the United States that it was effectively gone after.  Using drones the U.S. continually went after its leaders, killing a large number of them.  What eventually became the dominant militant terrorist force was ISIS or ISIL.


The Boston Marathon is held yearly on Patriots Day.  It is open to anyone from 18 years on who qualifies.  On April 15, 2003 the brothers Tamerlain and Dzhekhar Tsarnev placed two separate backpacks in separate areas near the finish line.  They exploded killing 3 people and wounding 264 others.  Both brothers were born in a Muslim area of Russia and migrated to the United States.  One died in a shootout with police and the other was taken prisoner, tried, condemned to death and executed.  At one point he publically apologized to his victims.  It would seem from the evidence released that these two acted on their own; they were not affiliated with any terrorist organization.


To my knowledge there has been one other cases of foreign terror in the U.S. since then, the recent shooting by the young terrorist couple in San Bernardino, California. This couple also largely acted on their own.  The reason, as I understand it, for this small amount of foreign terrorism has been the relentless protection provided by the F.B.I. and other law enforcement services.  Unfortunately there has been assorted terrorist killing in the United States but these have been by our own deranged citizens.  There are no real restrictions, as we’ve seen, on anyone acquiring automatic assault weapons. Freedom to buy guns seems an axiom of Republican Congressmen who will not even require background checks upon the purchasers.


In the United States the Caucasian population no longer makes up the majority of the population.  They are one of the large ethnic groups but no longer one that is the majority.


In terms of religion there are today a multitude of largely different beliefs now existing in the United States.  Traditionally the country was mainly Christian, having mostly Protestant Sects, some Roman Catholics, with a relatively small Jewish population.  There was also a nonreligious group operating as a religion, Ethical Culture.  Today there are also Hindu temples, Moslem mosques, plus numerous other groups existing in the country.  The country has undergone a large number of people coming from other parts of the world for political or other reasons.


One of the major causes for the problems that currently exist is that society has gotten complex.  Unfortunately today to economically function successfully in our society one needs a decent education; people need to understand that nothing is simply black and white; that societal and other problems do not have just simple “common sense” solutions.


Not too long ago a young, high school dropout, Dylann Roof, who apparently found high school too difficult but who admired former South African apartheid, at age 21, went into a Black Church in South Carolina and, after sitting and watching a Bible class for a while, shot nine people, killing them; then stated that he had to do it because Black people “rape our women” and “are taking over our country.”  His lack of intelligence created a simplistic bigot who, incidentally at the shooting, mostly killed women.


Over the last fifteen years there’s been a goodly increase in hate crimes, and at the same time it has become more difficult for a large number of people, with low or no specific skills, to become gainfully employed.  It is easy to find such a reason in demographic change, particularly in a country with a Black President.  The U.S. has had an increase in homegrown domestic terror.  But the Jihad still exists.  ISIS has declared war on all opposing nations in the Middle East, Africa, Europe, and on the United States.  Evidence of their behavior is evident, practically every day.  There are acts of terror around the world or ISIS is beheading people, both Muslim and non-Muslim in areas it controls.


Probably in 2015 the most devastating Terrorist attack or attacks were in Paris, France on November 13th.  Since then the governors of 20 states in the U.S. have stated that they will not accept refugees from Syria.  Legally they don’t have that power but they may forcibly try to stop the process.  President Obama has committed the U.S. to bringing in 10,000 Syrian refugees.  Donald Trump wants to stop any Moslems from coming to the U.S.


It is important to remember that Syria has a multi-sided Civil War that has been going on for a number of years with no solution in sight.  ISIS is only one of main rebel groups that controls a fair section of the country.  The current president of the country holds a fair section of the nation and currently has the support of Russia and Iran.  The population has been caught in-between all this fighting and well over a million citizens have been killed.  A percentage of the civilian population has and is continuing to flee the country and flooding Europe.


In Paris, late Friday, November 13th three well-coordinated simultaneous terrorist attacks in different areas of the city killed 130 people.  There were six random shootings of anyone who happened to be in range by three teams of suicide killers who wore sophisticated explosive vests.  There was no way they could or would be taken alive.


As far as we know the Paris attacks were planned in Syria and organized in Belgium.  ISIS has claimed credit for the killings and has promised that the next raid and killings will be in Washington, D.C.  Apparently their actual next raid in the U.S. was in San Bernardino, California.  On December 2, 2015 a married couple attacked an end of year company party, where the man worked, killing 14 people and wounding 22.  They were both killed in a car chase.  The man had been born in the United States of Moslem parents and the woman, his wife, was born in Pakistan.


In terms of France the November 13th killings were not the first attacks in France.  Nearly a year earlier there was an attack on the French satirical publication “Charlie Hebdo” that had come out with one edition that had a representation of Mohammed on its front page.  Several staff members were killed.  Not too long afterwards a Jewish Supermarket was attacked either by al-Qaeda or ISIS members.  Several people were killed before the French police assaulted the facility, freed the hostages that were being held, and killed the suspects.  In addition people who swore allegiance to ISIS in several instances ran their automobiles into crowds killing and maiming numbers of people.  There seems to be a strong animosity between extreme Muslim radicals and the French government.


Most of the people killed in al-Qaeda or ISIS attacks have been and are Muslims, both in the Middle East and in North Africa.  ISIS (Islamic State of Iraq and Syria) or ISIL (Islamic State of Iraq and Levant) is a Sunni sect.  The other major Islamic sect is the Shiites, which ISIS considers anathema or blasphemous.  The Middle East is divided mostly by these two sects, of which Shiites are in the majority.  The Shiites are the civilians in ISIS areas who are usually beheaded.


Sunni ISIS considers the Shiite and most other interpretations of their religion blasphemous.  They see nothing wrong with attacking their co-religionists as infidels, even during their religious services, with suicide bombers.  If the prophet, Mohammed, were to come back today he would be both shocked and appalled at much of what ISIS is doing in his name.


The United Nations holds ISIS responsible for human rights abuses and war crimes.  Amnesty International has charged the group with ethnic cleansing on a massive scale in northern Iraq.  Around the world Islamic religious leaders have condemned ISIS’s ideology and actions arguing that the group has strayed from the path of pure Islam and that its actions do not reflect Islam’s true teachings or virtues.  The U.N. has designated it a terrorist organization.  The European Union and all its member nations, the United States, India, Indonesia, Israel, Turkey, Saudi Arabia, Syria, Iran and other countries, over sixty in all are directly or indirectly waging war against ISIS.


As a result of the last Paris attack the French and also the British have joined the United States in bombing attacks on ISIS strongholds.  Will all this be effective?  ISIS, the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria is holding large tracts of land in both Syria and Iraq.  The Iraqi government has not been able to mount strong enough ground offensives against them to force them out of their country.  In Syria there well are over a dozen revolutionary groups fighting President Assad and his government, plus each other.  They all have, including ISIS, different versions of what they want for their country.  It is an impossible situation that has been going on for five years.  ISIS holds large tracts of land in the country.  Both Russia and Iran support Assad’s government as the legitimate one.  The United States wants to remove Assad and work out some sort of compromise between a number of the less radical Revolutionary groups.  Millions of Syrian citizens have left the country looking for safety by going west into Europe as refugees, looking to start life over again where they can be safe.


For the United States or a European nation or nations to send an army in to help either Syria or Iraq is not a good idea.  There are too many people there who remember the colonial era.  And ultimately which group or groups do they support in Syria?  For that matter which of the Revolutionary group or groups do they really approve of or can trust after they arm them?  It is currently an impossible situation.


For the United States or any other Industrial country to send in troops would be an act of utter stupidity as we saw in Iraq where the U.S. sent in any army to dispose of one dictator only to generate another corrupt government that just about expelled the American army.  U.S. troops were not popular no matter what they did.  The same was true for Afghanistan where a small number of Americans were shot by their allies.


The situation in the Middle East is a mess.  The only real solution is to have the countries of the Middle East come to the rescue of their own people.  But they don’t seem to want to do that.  But then again they don’t have to with the United States and other Western nations continually intervening.


In Iraq incidentally the government, which the U.S. helped to set up, seems to be largely corrupt and very pro-Sunni; about 95% of the country belongs to this Muslim sect of Islam.  The government doesn’t necessarily have the support of its own people, at least not to the point of dying while militarily fighting its enemies, like ISIS for example.


If the United States or France or England and Germany, for that matter, were to send troops in either or both Iraq and Syria they would risk keeping them there indefinitely without the support of the people in either of these countries.  The people’s sense of values is completely different from those of the Western nations.  In both Pakistan and Iraq, when the U.S. had a presence in those countries during the administration of President George W. Bush, some of the local military ended up shooting some of the Americans.  It is quite a frustrating dilemma!


Currently President Barak Oboma stated, in a national speech made on television in early December of 2015, that the bombing raids by the U.S., that have been going on now for well over a year, in coordination with local military operations have kept ISIS from gaining additional territory in either Syria or Iraq.  The President stated that the Islamic State militants have not waged a single successful major offensive operation since 2014 in either of the two countries.  Currently France and England are also conducting bombing raids against ISIS targets.  Saudi Arabia is also involved in air raids against the Islamic State.


ISIS has threatened that its next attack will be in Washington, D.C.  Of the American born man and his Pakistani born wife who killed 14 people in San Bernardino, California on Wednesday, December 8, 2015, in a shooting rampage at the Inland Regional Center.  The man, Syed Rizwan Farook, aged 28, attended a party with his fellow workers; he quietly slipped away   his jacket draped over a chair.  Then he returned with his wife, Tashfeed Malik, aged 29.  Both were dressed with body armor and unleashed a terrorist attack.  They were at the Center for Disabled People, where his company had rented a large room for their yearly social event.  They killed 14 and injured 21 people.  They were both killed in a police chase, leaving a 6 month old baby with his mother.


The annual event was known as a GEM (general education meeting), run by the San Bernardino Health Department.  It began at 8 a.m. and would end about 4 p.m.  It was held in a conference room that was designed to hold around 500 people.  Mr. Farook was there from the start of the meeting.  He had worked for the Department for five years.  At some point he got up and went out.  When he returned with his wife the drama began.


They had automatic weapons which had been legally purchased.  The man’s parents had been born in the Middle East and immigrated to the United States, becoming citizens.  His wife was born in Pakistan.  Both were college graduates and both were radicalized enough so that they left a six month old baby with his mother.  Presumably the mother, who lived with them, was told by the woman that she had a doctor’s appointment.


What emerges here is an interesting point.  In the United States if we compare terrorist shootings, killings and woundings with American shootings, killings and woundings, the mayhem caused by the terrorists numerically is barely noticeable.  Terrorist acts get lots of publicity while American shooting are statistics barely covered by the media.  Republican Congressmen and many others are very conscience of terrorist acts but ignore other shootings because in order to limit American shootings they would have to limit the availability of guns.


A solution among many Republicans is to keep Muslims, followers of Islam out of the country.  The problem here is that there are a large number of followers of Islam already in the country.  This is in addition to the number children of immigrants who were born in this country.  There are also the Black Muslims who converted or whose parents converted in the last half of the 20th Century.  They are largely the descendants of slaves that were brought to this nation as prisoners and sold as slaves in the 18th and early 19th Centuries.  They converted originally as a protest to Christianity, the major religion of white America.  How will the Republicans handle them?  By putting them into reeducation centers?


There is a legitimate fear with the terrorists.  That is that somehow they will smuggle into the U.S. bacteriological disease creating materials that can be easily put into the water supply.  Another possibility is that a stolen atomic bomb can be brought in and exploded in the center of a major city.  All this makes a good plot for Hollywood films.  But is this danger real?  Currently, it seems that the FBI has 900 open cases it is investigating.  This does not include all the other cases that are being worked on by other law enforcement agencies.  Also the possibility of acquiring any of these weapon is almost nonexistent.


What should our attitude be toward the current Syrian refugee problem?  Currently under the Obama administration it takes from eighteen months to two years of investigation for any Syrian refugee to be able to settle in the United States.  To the Republicans in the House of Representatives and the Republican governors of twenty some states this screening is inadequate, they want to extend it even further.  One of the terrorists from San Bernardino was born in the United States and was a citizen.  France despite its recent attack has overwhelmingly voted to take in Syrian refugees.  It seems that the Republicans who overwhelmingly believe in all kinds of gun ownership and availability would change our principles about refugees because they do not trust their government to properly monitor refugee immigration from the Syria and the Middle East.  They seem to be fearful for the sake of being fearful.

The Weiner Component #111 – Dick Cheney & Torture

George W. Bush

Cover of George W. Bush

Dick Cheney, Vice President of the United States.

Dick Cheney, Vice President of the United States. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

On December 9, 2014 the Senate Intelligence Committee released a 500 page summary of a 6,000 page investigation done over a six year period of enhanced interrogation or torture used by the CIA to elicit information from prisoners during the Administration of George W. Bush. This process began directly after the destruction of the Twin Towers in New York City by suicide squads of Al-Qaeda terrorists under the leadership of Osama bin Laden on September 11, 2001.

It was important to Senator Diane Feinstein, the chairperson of this committee, to get this information out before the December 2014 Congressional session ended. The following year the Republicans will have a majority in the Senate and Republicans will chair all committees. She felt that the report would never see the light next year, that the Republicans would in all probability suppress it. And apparently she felt that the American people should know what was done during the Bush years.

When I was a young lad during the days and years of World War II in the early 1940s I remember hearing about how the Nazis and Japs used torture on their prisoners to get information from them. At that time the U.S. Military trained their men, if they were taken prisoner, to give only their name, rank, and serial number, but the Japs and the Nazis did all sorts of pain inflicting things to them to find out what they wanted to know. Years later I learned that the Japanese taught their people the same thing about the Americans. I imagine a certain amount of force was intermittently used by both sides. Did it work? That’s another question.

As I understood the issue from childhood on, the United States always represented the good side of every issue. We were always honest and fair with everyone. We never engaged in any type of skullduggery. Somehow I grew up believing this.

John Brennan, the Director of the CIA, for the first time in the history of the agency, in an unprecedented news conference from CIA headquarters, in Langley, Virginia, admitted that some officers had engaged in “abhorrent” conduct in their questioning of terrorism suspects. After he finished his presentation he took questions from a group of reporters.

In general terms he seemed to largely agree with the Intelligence Committee’s summary, stating that some of the information gotten from the “enhanced interrogation” did help in the fight against the terror groups. He spoke very generally, giving no specifics about how it helped. What he did not mention was that private contractors were hired to enforce this torture.

Listening to him one felt that he didn’t want to totally invalidate anything the agency did. Torture was something that had emerged from the fears engendered after 9/11 and which the agency gave up with the ascension of Barak Obama to the Presidency in 2009.

No one accepted or was given the responsibility for beginning the process of torture. Interestingly the CIA had no direct knowledge of “enhanced interrogation,” consequently private contractors were hired, at what turned out to be a cost of 81 million dollars, to apply this operation. These people, while they had no experience with any methods of interrogation, did have some background in psychology. They were given total freedom to invent their system of torture. The impression from the summary was that they followed what they believed the Japanese did in World War II.

How effective were they? That’s another interesting question. It would seem that if one is undergoing intense pain or discomfort then one would do whatever is required to lessen this misery. If one was being questioned he would say whatever he believed the interrogator wanted him to say. Truth would not be important here; lessening the pain would be primary. Outside of the beliefs of the interrogator how valid would any of this information be? I would imagine that John Brennan was saving face in his statement about the sometime value of enhanced interrogation.

Interestingly Senator John McCain was a naval aviator who was shot down over Hanoi in 1967 during the Vietnam War. He was a prisoner of war until 1973 and went through episodes of torture. He has stated more than once that torture as a means of gaining valid information is of no real value.

Claims have been made, such as some of this information helped to locate Osama bin Laden who was killed by Navy Seals on May 2, 2011. I would wonder how torture which ended in 2008 elicited information that allowed Navy Seals to raid bin Laden’s compound in May of 2011, two and a half years after torture as a means of gathering information from prisoners ended.

President George W. Bush’s comment about “enhanced interrogation” was that he didn’t want to know about it because he might accidentally mention it in a public speech. In essence what you don’t know you can deny as Bush did and go through your presidency innocent of any negative implications.

Dick Cheney when interviewed about this investigation on Fox News stated that even though he had never looked at the 6,000 page study or its 520 page summery he knew it was flawed. To him enhanced interrogation (torture) was a sure way of receiving accurate information. He said that given a choice he would do it again, “I’d do it again in a minute”. He stated on “Meet the Press” on Sunday, December 14, 2014, that “enhanced interrogation” was not torture.

When asked by Chuck Todd if “involuntary rectal feeding” detailed in the Senate Intelligence Committees report as being done to numerous individuals met the legal definition of torture, Cheney stated that “What was done here apparently certainly was not one of the techniques that was approved. I believe it was done for medical reasons.” Cheney has no problem believing what he wants to believe regardless of any evidence that exists.

Cheney’s definition of torture is “an American citizen on a cell phone making a last call to his four daughters shortly before he is burned to death in the upper levels of the Trade Center in New York on 9/11.”

Anything short of that according to our former Vice President is not torture. He refuses to call the enhanced interrogation, authorized for and used by the CIA, torture. “We were very careful to stop short of torture”. Apparently water boarding, having an individual physically feel he was drowning or forcing someone to stand in an awkward and highly uncomfortable position for 14 hours, or any other device used in the interrogation was not torture according to Dick Cheney’s definition.

Watching or reading a transcript of the Cheney interview on “Meet the Press” leaves one wondering what sort of individual the ex-Vice President is. He came out with regal statements many of which made no sense. There were no examples of anything given, just pronouncements of what he considers absolute truth, regardless of any evidence.

Dick Cheney seemed to work from a base of absolute knowledge that didn’t necessarily relate to the real world or to be based upon any factual knowledge. In essence he knows what he knows and anything or anyone who disagrees with him is flawed or just plain wrong. My impression of this is that he is amoral, there is no right or wrong behavior, just what works.

This is the man who was second in command of this nation, followed by a leader, George W. Bush, who didn’t want to know much of what was happening around him. With men like these running the country it amazing that we’re still here. There must be many aspects of this nation that function despite the level of the leadership. Apparently Will Rogers, the cowboy philosopher of the 1920s and early 1930s, was right in his comments about the government. During the Calvin Coolidge Administration he stated during his one man lecture tours that Congress and the President were like a bunch of children in a China shop with hammers. You just hoped they didn’t do too much damage. It would seem that the same can be said about George W. Bush and Dick Cheney. You hoped they didn’t do too much damage in the eight years they ran the government.

This seems to be particularly true since Bush told the American Public that his Higher Father (God) told or inspired him to go to war with Iraq and destroy their weapons of mass destruction (which didn’t exist) and the fact that Dick Cheney considers that the destruction of the Twin Towers on 9/11/02 was torture for everyone who died in the tragedy but that none of the enhanced interrogation done to our Muslim prisoners was torture. He considers all the evidence, none of which he has examined, flawed and inaccurate.

We should be thankful that our government seems to work despite the people who occasionally run it and the nonsense often passed by Congress.

I remember, over the years, hearing the term: The American way. I always understood that term to mean the right way, the honest way, the most honorable and fair way. This is what I was taught this country stands for. For what is best for everyone. Bush and Cheney attempted to change that, to bring us to a level of dishonor. Hopefully this was a phase that is now gone and will never return in the future.