Curt Wechsler, The World Can't Wait: March 2018 Archives

United States of Denial

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stateofdenial.jpgFrom the American "foundational atrocity" of slavery to the ascendance of German Nazification in the 1930s, a refusal of collective responsibility hindered a national reckoning for state-sponsored terror. It also enabled the forced displacement of millions of "undesirables," a policy now embraced by President Trump, along with the hideous programs advocated by his new cabinet-designates: preemptive war and torture, both war crimes.

The impunity afforded Trump's coterie of badass advisors facilitates the normalization of reactionary policies that threaten humanity and imperil the earth itself, notes Michael Canavan at

What if we had seen CIA operators perp-walked, lawyers disbarred, generals forced into disgraced retirement? What if journalists who uncritically passed on sham intelligence found themselves unemployable? What if W. and Cheney actually couldn't visit Europe for fear of justice in the Hague? Would that have failed to turn the country towards repentance? Would that have shaken the endowed chairs of the war's most unashamed defenders? Would John Yoo be teaching at Berkeley?

"What year is it?!" exclaims Canavan, "how were these monsters [Gina Haspel and John Bolton] even in a position to show their faces in polite society, much less achieve high office?" Decades of US imperium demand the kind of public contrition and retribution manifest in massive, sustained resistance to illegitimate government.

The challenge has never been greater. The nightmare of a Fascist America must end. The Trump/Pence Regime Must Go! 

graveyard.jpgThose who perpetrated the Iraq War are still at large, we are reminded by Attytood blogger Will Bunch. "The good people who made a few tiny mistakes back in those crazy post-9/11 times [haven't] turned over a new leaf."

How did America get to this state of amnesia?

CIA Director nominee Gina Haspel allies say she has learned from her mistakes (torture of Cat's Eye detainees). George W. Bush's Iraq War cheerleader John Bolton insists he's not that guy anymore. The former president channels his "inner Rembrandt" to rehabilitate his image by painting portraits of military veterans. Barack Obama turned a blind-eye to prosecution for war crimes in the interest of partisan harmony.

A boundless faith in American exceptionalism--the belief that the United States is a uniquely virtuous nation that "loves peace, nurtures liberty, respects human rights, and embraces the rule of law"--doesn't help to acknowledge the dearth of accountability for crimes of government in our name. Nor does the "collegiality among elites who all went to the same overpriced universities--people who could never acknowledge that the guy at the next table at the Capital Grille who looks just like them might have committed war crimes." 

The 20th century philosopher George Santayana wrote "those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it." In this sense America truly is exceptional, concludes Bunch. We, in our time, cannot ignore the lessons of history. That which we will not resist and mobilize to stop, we will learn--or be forced--to accept.

We must not reassure ourselves that a form of radical authoritarian nationalism seen in 1930s Germany couldn't happen here. 

"The different strains of fascist demagogues and movements in this country see in Trump and Pence their 'last chance' to achieve their reactionary program," says the Call to Action by "They will not listen to facts or reason; they have already and will continue to change rules and manipulate elections, and they will not give up...

"We must confront the reality that the world as we have known it is being torn asunder. This requires getting out of our comfort zones and not allowing our differences to stand in the way of rising together in an unprecedented, unrelenting mass struggle to confront the danger of a Trump/Pence fascist America." Sign up here.

Few people have paid a professional price for involvement in America's torture program, notes Rogue Justice author Karen Greenberg. John Yoo, the author of the infamous 2002 memos declaring torture legal, remains a tenured professor at Berkeley. Steven Bradbury, who authorized "enhanced" interrogation techniques, now serves as General Counsel of the United States Department of Transportation. Disgraced Attorney General Alberto Gonzales eventually landed a job as Dean of Belmont University College of Law, in Nashville, Tennessee, where he currently teaches Constitutional Law. Former Bush and Obama administrators found senior posts in business and academia (universities, think tanks, foundations, corporations, law firms) and serve to arbiter public opinion on the crimes of the Trump/Pence regime.  

gina-haspel-mgn.jpgThe President's selection of Haspel for CIA director "is a slap in the face to those who embrace the rule of law," says Greenberg. It "was not a casual gesture. It reveals a stubborn defiance of civilized norms about permissability of torture, and builds upon the indefensible secrecy that still surrounds the program." But it could prompt a public reckoning with the nominee's administration of one of the most notorious of the CIA's "black sites," in Thailand, known as Detention Site Green, where the most brutal interrogations of two suspected al-Qaeda operatives, Abu Zubaydah and Abd al-Rahim al-Nashiri took place. 

"Bloody Gina" also played a role in destroying videotaped evidence of what occurred at that site. Former CIA counterterrorism officer John Kiriakou recounts the torture: "They waterboarded Abu Zubaida 83 times. They later subjected him to sleep deprivation; they kept him locked in a large dog cage for weeks at a time; they locked him in a coffin-size box and, knowing that he had an irrational fear of insects, put bugs in it with him."  

The confirmation hearings for Trump's CIA pick should prompt an examination and unequivocal repudiation of torture policies uncovered by the U.S. Senate Intelligence Committee's investigation into the CIA's post-9/11 program of detention. "We must condemn the deceptions that have been visited upon the American people," says Greenberg. "Only when the details are made public will the country be able to accept responsibility for what happened, to declare it wrong, and in so doing to move forward -- decisively away from torture."

images.jpgIf confirmed as secretary of state, the former Kansas congressman "would become the first person to have served as both the United States' top spy and top diplomat," notes The New York Times reporter Scott Shane. "In the new job, Mr. Pompeo would no longer be constrained by the strictures of impartial intelligence analysis...

"He has not moderated his messaging at the CIA. Five months ago, he called Iran a 'despotic theocracy' and 'a pernicious empire that is expanding its power and influence across the Middle East.'" Dangerous words; Pompeo shares the President's disdain of the US nuclear agreement with Tehran, but Pompeo's attachment to torture (shared by the woman favored to inherit his job) is equally troubling to human rights defenders.

A commenter at The Northern Echo suggests "Mr. Trump... continues to dominate the international news agenda by stirring up fear, hatred and small-mindedness. The President appears hell bent on creating a world where all nations stoop to the most base behavior, where nothing is off limits, where no one upholds decency, human rights and the rule of law." 

Trump appears to have selected the ideal candidate to serve his nationalist vision. The opening for protest of this latest shuffling of the imperialist deck may prove brief; White House officials say the President indicated it was important to confirm the appointment before his possible high-stakes talks with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un.

The Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR), the nation's largest Muslim civil rights and advocacy organization, was quick to urge opposition to promotion of the former CIA director and his deputy. "Those, like Mr. Pompeo, who have expressed Islamophobic views and have been associated with an anti-Muslim hate group, or like Ms. Haspel, who personally oversaw the torture of detainees, should have no role in our nation's government, let alone at the highest levels of policy-making," said National Executive Director Nihad Awad. "These appointments have the potential to harm our nation's image and our relations with key players in the international community."

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Detention and torture in Guantanamo

About this Archive

This page is a archive of recent entries in March 2018.

Curt Wechsler, The World Can't Wait: February 2018 is the previous archive.

Curt Wechsler, The World Can't Wait: April 2018 is the next archive.

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