Sunday, March 9, 2008
George W. Bush Hates America
Thanks to the Bush Regime, the spirit of the Axis has triumphed: To paraphrase an eminently quotable line from a pretty decent film, We have become what we once beheld.
Treating someone with contemptuous condescension is surely one of the most effective ways to express hatred. Soothing insincerity rarely provides adequate cover for flagrant insults to the intelligence, especially when they are coupled with oblique references to the subject's presumed shortcomings.
Deploying insults of this variety requires a certain flair for the language. This is why we can be sure that George W. Bush's use of that tactic in justifying his veto of a legislation banning the use of torture followed a script composed by hireling wordsmiths paid to transmute Bush's primate grunts and snarls into something approximating refined English.
Before describing the specifics of this controversy, I must make it quite clear that the "War on Terrorism" is an entirely stage-managed exercise. Our nation does not confront an existential threat from abroad, in the form of "Islamo-fascism" or anything else -- apart from the prospect of foreclosure by the foreign regimes that own the paper on Washington's debts.
Our troops should not be in Iraq, Afghanistan, or any of the other foreign countries they occupy, and as illegal intruders they have no moral right to interrogate anybody for any reason. Yes, I understand the security challenges confronted by troops as they deal with indigenous populations who don't overflow with gratitude for the occupation.* But the best way to provide for the security of our troops in Iraq would be to get them the hell out of that country immediately, and the same can be said of Afghanistan.
If this seems a trifle harsh, remember: Unctuous flattery may flow freely from someone who hates you, but a genuine friend may sometimes express his affection by sternly speaking of your shortcomings.
That being said, it must be acknowledged also that the military's interrogation standards are much higher than those of the Bush-era CIA and the spooked-up "contractors" who have been given free rein by Bush and Cheney over the past six years.
Granted, this hasn't always been the case: During the sanguinary "liberation" of the Philippines a century ago -- a "humanitarian" occupation that eerily prefigured the current missions in Iraq and elsewhere -- water torture was widely used by military personnel, and just as widely defended here at home. But in recent years, the military has taken commendable steps away from the efforts of the Bushian Reich to legitimize torture.
Perhaps torture is only evil when the Enemy does it.
No, the military isn't pure. But for the most part it has been the "Intelligence Community" -- or, more specifically, a select element within that cohort -- that has worked to institutionalize torture, both the variety carried out directly by American operatives and the even more gruesome trade plied by the foreign intelligences services used as sub-contractors for Washington.
"Were it not for this program," lied Bush with reference to his Regime's torture apparatus, "our intelligence community believes that al-Qaida and its allies would have succeeded in launching another attack against the American homeland.... I cannot sign into law a bill that would prevent me, and future presidents, from authorizing the CIA to conduct a separate, lawful intelligence program, and from taking all lawful actions necessary to protect Americans from attack."
By this, the Simian-in-Chief means a program "separate" from the interrogation methods approved for use by military interrogators, and "lawful" in the sense that the CIA's torture program has received the imprimatur of the president, in whom dwells the fullness of the law.
Regarding these triumphs of preventive counter-terrorism, we have only the word of a Regime run by people who have never told us the truth about anything. Contradicting the claim that torture is a reliable means of gathering valid intelligence are centuries of relevant experience and the views of people with relevant experience in the field of interrogation.
Scores of retired admirals and generals opposed Bush's veto, as did nearly a score of "national security experts" (regarding the contribution of the last group, my reaction is: Preserving the ban is a good idea anyway).
Military opposition to torture reflects the influence of an honorable enemy whose methods made him the most effective interrogator of World War II: Hanns-Joachim Scharff, the German Luftwaffe's "master interrogator."
Scharff, who held an unprepossessing rank akin to that of lance corporal, was slated for deployment to the Russian Front when he was conscripted in 1943. His wife -- obviously not someone easily intimidated -- barged into the office of her husband's would-be commanding officer to excoriate the German military for wasting the life of a well-educated man who spoke perfect English.
The general agreed that this would be a poor use of Scharff's gifts, and in short order Hans found himself assigned to the Dulag Luft, a prison camp holding many American and Allied POWs.
There were some German interrogators who beat and otherwise abused POWs (although the Germans were rarely, if ever, anywhere near as brutal as the Japanese in this respect). Scharff never did -- and his results were extraordinary. Rather than using the practice or threat of duress to compel a prisoner to talk, Scharff simply got them talking, and used his wits and powers of observation to extract morsels of vital information from them. In due time, those morsels would aggregate into a feast.
"My dad used to go on a lot of walks with [the POWs]," recalls Chris Scharff. "Close by [Dulag Luft] was a zoo owned by car manufacturer Adam Opel. They had moose and deer. `Would you like to feed a moose today?' he'd ask a person. He found a way to break into one of Opel's cellars and tasted the wine there. So they'd be sitting there drinking wine and he'd say, `So tell me about the bursts of red or white,' and the unsuspecting guy would say, `Oh, that means we've run out of ammunition.'"
Former US Army interrogator Torin Nelson, a professional intelligence officer and (therefore) an Abu Ghraib whistle-blower, "worships at the altar" of Scharff,"a German corporal whose highly effective methods of extracting information from captured Allied pilots in World War II included such techniques as having protracted philosophical conversations with his subjects while strolling through the woods," observes Government Executive magazine.
"He'd get little bits of information each day, so small the prisoners didn't even realize what they'd given up," Nelson points out.
Former Army interrogator David Swanner, who taught interrogation techniques at the US Army Intelligence Center and School at Arizona's Ft. Huachuca, points out that the course on interrogation taught there "was ... based on the techniques that Hanns Scharff developed.... All that seems to have gone out the window in favor of torture now."
However, the model for interrogation today is not the real-life successes achieved by Hanns Scharff -- who went on to become a naturalized US citizen and, as a mosaic artist, helped create some of the attractions at Disney World -- but the fictional exploits of 24's Jack Bauer, a television character who stirs the loins of squishy nationalist herd-poisoners like Rush Limbaugh and Joe Farah.
Yes, Scharff worked for a murderous regime. But in his efforts to question Allied pilots and bomber crews, he was working to defeat a foreign coalition that was actually laying siege to his homeland. Because of Hitler's demented war, Germany actually faced the prospect of annihilation. Allied air attacks were devastating and utterly terrifying. Yet Scharff, in dealing with those who were attacking his country, never needed to resort to mistreatment in order to extract information from captives.
Using skills that would later shape his career as a mosaic artist, Scharff teased critical intelligence from POWs through the application of his wits and careful detective work. One former prisoner told Scharrf's biographer that the Luftwaffe corporal "could probably get a confession of infidelity from a nun" -- a valid one, that is, not one desperately offered in the hope of avoiding or ending torture.
The key to Scharrf's success, notes a recent profile, "was that in most cases, the POWs being interrogated never realized their words—many times seemingly insignificant small talk—were being reconstructed by Scharff for Germany’s benefit. It’s a measure of Scharff’s reputation that after the war, he was not prosecuted for war crimes. Instead, the Pentagon invited him on a postwar lecture tour. Scharff told his military audiences that camaraderie, fair treatment and respect are the indispensable keys to extracting information from the enemy."
While Scharff was using those methods with great success, it was the Gestapo that employed the methods both they and the Bush Regime call "enhanced interrogation" techniques -- thereby earning many of their interrogators places at war crimes tribunals (as was the case with their even more brutal counterparts working on behalf of Imperial Japan).
A translation of an official Gestapo memo outlining that Regime's version of Bush-style "enhanced interrogation" methods. (Courtesy of Andrew Sullivan.)
It is a sobering illustration of what we have permitted ourselves to become that the Bush Regime denigrates as inadequate the methods successfully employed by Hans-Joachim Scharrf, an honorable soldier fighting for a thoroughly dishonorable government, and embraces those employed by war criminals who served in history's most notorious secret police organization.
The injury done to our nation by Bush's torture policy is immense. But the insult resides in his mock-pious insistence that our country would be defenseless if we didn't emulate the Gestapo. That's the kind of thing that could only be said by someone who truly hates our country, and genuine patriots should feel free to reciprocate that hatred in kind.
*The subject of how American troops have worked to engender the trust and gratitude of Iraqis is dealt with in this installment's "Video Extra" (caveat lector: this video contains exceptionally foul language; severe, gratuitous cruelty to civilians; inexcusable cruelty to innocent children; and lethal cruelty to helpless animals):
Doubtless some of these heroic troops are destined for post-war careers as police officers.
One other thing: My enthusiasm for The Untouchables (alluded to in the first caption above) shouldn't be taken as an endorsement of Prohibition (of any kind), or the execrable ATF, of which the real-life Elliot Ness was the founder. It was a good film, however tainted its real-life inspiration. (And how about this for irony: Ness ended his days working as Chairman of the Board for Diebold -- at the time, a manufacturer of locks and safes, and now the corporation charge of rigging elections for the Regime.)
Available for sale now.
Dum spiro, pugno!