Saturday, May 30, 2009

"Just A Child With A Temper"

Caveat lector: This post contains some subject-appropriate unsavory language.

Nothing to see here -- just move along:
Irma Marquez, who was not abused by Yonkers Police Officer Wayne Simoes, recuperates from the non-abuse she didn't experience at his hands. At the time this photo was taken, in fact, Marquez stood accused of "disorderly conduct" and second-degree obstruction of governmental administration.

He's drunk again, it's time to fight; she must have done something wrong tonight....

"Hey, it's no big deal -- I just slipped and hit my face on a doorknob," said Joy by way of explaining the huge contusion discoloring her face.

This wasn't the first time she had shown up to work with a black eye or other suspicious injury she insisted was the product of some bizarre accident growing out of her incurable clumsiness. Curiously,
Joy was not noticeably maladroit when tending to her duties as a waitress for a chain restaurant where I worked while going to college.

A plain but very nice woman on the wrong side of 35, she was easy to work with and put in long hours to help keep her household afloat. She lived with an unemployed, live-in "fiance," or what I called a "degenerate freeloader."

Whenever Joy would come to work bearing the visible evidence of a beating and urging us to believe some elaborate tale of innocent self-inflicted misfortune, none of us believed her. But none of us had evidence sufficient to justify prying into her domestic affairs, and she reacted so badly to the broad hints several of us dropped that we didn't persist.

Another view of the aftermath of the non-abuse experienced by the oddly unfortunate Irma Marquez.

Just tell the nurse you slipped and fell; it starts to sting as it starts to swell....

Unlike many episodes of suspected domestic abuse, there is no ambiguity in the case of Irma Marquez, a 45-year-old woman from Yonkers, New York. She was physically assaulted, in public, in front of several witnesses; the incident was captured clearly on a surveillance videotape.

The abuse resulted in "a head injury with related loss of consciousness, memory loss, jaw fracture, two black eyes, facial contusions, severe swelling and bruising, hemorrhaging in both eyes, lacerations to the nose, chin and mouth, neck and back pain, bruising and/or lacerations about the back, arms, hands, right knee, right leg, right hip, [and] right breast...."

Were we to take seriously a verdict by a federal jury, the injuries sustained by Marquez were immaculately inflicted. No other human being is responsible -- according to that jury -- for the wounds that disfigured the 44-year-old home health worker.
That's because she was injured at the hands of a police officer, who was never charged with criminal assault.

On Wednesday (May 26), a federal jury ruled that Yonkers Police Officer Wayne Simoes didn't

violate Marquez's civil rights when he lifted her from her feet and slammed her face-first into the floor of the La Fonda restaurant on March 3, 2007.



Simoes was one of several police officers dispatched to deal with a drunken melee at La Fonda. When they got there, Marquez -- who had obviously had a bit too much to drink -- was concerned about her niece, who had been injured in the brawl.

As medical workers attended the young woman, Marquez -- out of understandable concern, but with dubious judgment -- stooped down to get a better look. She was pushed away, stumbling into a couple of officers, including Simoes.

Marquez, who was unsteady on her feet and visibly uncooperative, should have been escorted out of the room. There was no reason to arrest her. A generation ago a conscientious police officer would have displayed sufficient patience and self-restraint to remove her from the room without strong-arm tactics.

Simoes, on the other hand, clearly subscribes to a doctrine of more recent vintage under which any lack of immediate, servile compliance by a civilian is to be treated as a criminal offense and grounds for arrest -- if not potentially lethal force, as in eletro-shock torture administered via Taser.

The videotape shows Simoes starting to jack Marquez's arm behind her back in order to handcuff her. Given the lack of legal justification for the arrest, this was an act of criminal battery.

He then compounds that offense by bear-hugging her from behind, shifting his footwork under perfect control, and then picking her up and face-slamming her to the floor.
This was a move Simoes had probably practiced on many occasions, and most likely was simply dying to use on someone. What better subject than a small, drunken, middle-aged female?

Notice the reaction -- or the lack thereof -- by the other police officers on the scene: A woman has just been violently face-planted into the floor, and she lies bleeding at their feet, yet
none of them moves to render aid, or to rebuke her assailant. Simoes followed up his attack on Marquez not by checking to see if she was all right, but by placing his knee in her back and handcuffing her.

Testifying at the trial, Officer John Liberatore stated that Simoes clearly used excessive force against Marquez. He also recalled asking his partner, Officer Todd Mendelson, "What the f*** just happened?" Mendleson's reaction was an indifferent shrug.

When the defense pointed out that Liberatore hadn't offered the same account to internal affairs investigators prior to the trial, he replied, quite plausibly, that he was reluctant to "point a finger at a fellow officer." It's hardly surprising that Liberatore's reluctance disintegrated when he was compelled to testify under oath and liable to perjury charges if he withheld the "whole truth."

Captain Edward Geiss, the on-scene commander, testified that although he didn't "think he intended to hurt her the way he did," his first reaction after seeing Marquez's bloodied face was to summon an Internal Affairs team to the scene.

Simoes' defense counsel, which mocked the prosecution's case as a matter of "just press play," enlisted the help of "expert witness" Grant Fredericks, a former FBI analyst, whose job was to provide a "narrative" for the video compatible with the defense's argument. In plainer terms, his job was to obfuscate what was clearly shown by laying down a dense fog of double-speak.

Fredericks insisted that the video's capture speed was inadequate to capture critical details; this was essentially an invitation to accept his word that he discerned evidence of "things unseen" that prove Simoes had slipped and dropped Marquez, rather than throwing her to the floor.

After planting that suggestion, Fredericks broke down the video clip into into more than one hundred still photos, insisting as he reviewed them that the demonstrated that the officer had lost control once he had taken Marquez off the floor. But neither he, nor any other defense witness, explained why Simoes had picked the woman up in the first place.

Leaving aside the fact that the video clearly shows that Simoes was sure-footed during the entire attack, once he had placed violent hands on Marquez and removed her from the floor, he became responsible for whatever happened to her as a result of his actions. That's how the matter would have been treated if it had involved someone who didn't wear a state-issued costume.

The prosecution countered Fredericks with its own FBI-trained "expert" video analyst, Alan Fuller. Furthermore, the trial judge, Kenneth Karas, instructed the jury to disregard Fredericks' assessment of Simoes' actions. This effectively left the defense without a case.

Nonetheless, the jury of twelve good men and true -- actually, eight men and four women -- acquitted Simoes on the basis that they couldn't determine his intent to injure Marquez on the basis of his documented actions. Again, it's impossible to believe that the jury would have been inclined to draw such sophistical pseudo-Kantian distinctions if the accused had been anyone other than one of the state's consecrated agents of holy violence.

"I have always had faith in the justice system," smarmed Yonkers mayor Phil Amicone following the trial. "In this case, a verdict was rendered by twelve people who found that there was no act of excessive force."

With that in mind, look at Irma Marquez's face once again. Apparently, the injuries she sustained were the product of proportionate force, used to deal with a distraught woman whose "offense" was to take excessive interest in the well-being of her niece.

This brings us to the crowning injury inflicted by Simoes on his victim: While Marquez was bleeding at his feet, Simoes was preparing to file criminal charges against her for "disorderly conduct" and second-degree "obstruction of governmental administration."

The former isn't a crime, in anything other than a positivist sense, unless it interferes with the rights or property of another individual; the latter is quite frequently a moral obligation. Beating a woman bloody is not "proportionate" force for dealing with those "offenses," either jointly or separately.

Even though Westchester County District Attorney Janet DiFiore didn't see fit to file criminal charges against the bully who face-planted Marquez, she zealously prosecuted the victim on spurious criminal charges that were quickly disposed of by a jury in May 2008.

High-gloss hypocrite: Westchester County District Attorney Janet DiFiore.

Before becoming D.A., Janet DiFiore "lectured extensively" on, inter alia, domestic violence. She also served as a family court judge and served on the County Commission on Domestic Violence.
In fact, her campaign literature boasted of the fact that as a family court judge DiFiore had presided over "hundreds" of domestic violence cases.

I sincerely doubt that any of those previous domestic violence cases involved prosecuting the victim for supposed offenses against the assailant.

She looks at you, she wants the truth; it's right out there in the waiting room;With those hands lookin' just as sweet as he can....

As is so often the case when men abuse women, Simoes reserved all of his sympathy for himself. During his trial he was frequently seen weeping -- not over what had happened to Marquez, mind you, but rather over his own predicament as a poor, misunderstood public servant.

Simoes wept again following his acquittal, his chronic lachrymosity yielding to bile as he assailed those unspecified people he held responsible for "all the garbage you guys put me through."

Take Simoes out of his official costume or his well-tailored suit, put him in a wife-beater, and move the scene of the crime from the backroom of a restaurant to the kitchen of a private home, and imagine how that self-pitying statement would be received. No, he wasn't drunk in the conventional sense when he assaulted Irma Marquez, but he was certainly intoxicated with a sense of his own power.

All of this happened in Westchester County, New York -- Hillary Rodham Clinton country, a haven of progressive enlightenment and exquisite sensitivity to "sexism."

It's entirely likely that there are men from that part of New York who have been convicted of, and imprisoned for, domestic abuse charges that don't involve anything nearly as serious as the injuries inflicted on Irma Marquez. There are certainly plenty of such cases elsewhere in this country. But they're different, you see, because the accused in each case wasn't an agent of the state's divine will.

Wayne Simoes, petty thug and unpunished abuser of women, prefers to be called by the supposedly exalted title "Officer." Assuming that there is anything innately honorable in that designation, the term can be appropriately (if somewhat awkwardly) worked into a paraphrase of an entirely appropriate lyric from one of my favorite workout songs:

[Officer]'s a name you haven't earned yet
You're just a child with a temper

Haven't you heard `Don't hit a lady'?

' your ass would be a pleasure.

(Warning: The following performance includes some unfortunate language.)



On sale now.

Dum spiro, pugno!

Thursday, May 28, 2009

Again, May God Forgive Us

The kid was hurting very bad and they covered all the doors with sheets. Then when I heard screaming I climbed the door because on top it wasn't covered and I saw [name withheld] who was wearing a military uniform, putting his [male appendage] into the little kid's [anus] ... and the female soldier was taking pictures."

The eyewitness account provided by Abu Ghraib inmate Kasim Mehaddi Hilas, describing one of numerous episodes of sexual abuse by U.S. interrogators, including rape, homosexual rape, sexual assaults with objects including a truncheon and a phosphorescent tube, and other forms of sexual abuse and humiliation of detainees.

We need to dispense immediately with the idea that releasing the second batch of photos depicting torture and other abuse at Abu Ghraib and six other installations would create an unacceptable danger to U.S. troops in the region.

Though it seem callous of me to point out as much, we should recognize that people who enlist in the military are paid, trained, and equipped to confront danger. We should also recognize that we do the cause of liberty no favors if we make it easier to invade and occupy foreign countries; indeed, we ought to do everything we can to accentuate the difficulty of carrying out criminal enterprises of that sort.

While we should focus most of our hostile attention on the policymakers responsible for sending the military on imperial errands of that sort, we shouldn't ignore the moral responsibility of every individual who enlists in the military and carries out the killing business such immoral policies entail.
Given the pervasive stench of imperial corruption exuded by all of our public institutions, I cannot understand how anybody possessing the moral equivalent of the sense of smell could enlist in the military, or remain therein -- as if that particular organization enjoys some peculiar immunity from the decadence that afflicts the rest of the Regime.

Conservatives and others who revere the founders of our late Republic might recall that the men who won our independence and wrote the Constitution opposed a standing army, not only because it could be employed as an instrument of domestic tyranny, but also because it would offer irresistible opportunities for foreign adventurism. In this, as in so much else, the Founders' wisdom has withstood the passage of time.

Yes, it's entirely likely that releasing the photographs of torture and sexual assault -- including homosexual rape and, God forgive us, the defilement of children -- would lead to dangerous and potentially lethal complications for armed government employees who are killing people and destroying property in Iraq, Afghanistan, and elsewhere, countries they invaded and continue to occupy by force.

If our rulers were genuinely concerned about danger to "our troops," they would release the Abu Ghraib documents and bring the troops home. There -- problem solved! Instead, they are illegally suppressing the photos and keeping the troops in the field -- and now letting it be known that the U.S. military will remain mired in Mesopotamia (which is the more tractable of the two ongoing conflicts) for another decade or longer.

I suspect that the "danger" that preoccupies the ruling Establishment is not that
confronted by the troops (about whom that Establishment cares little), but rather the danger potentially posed by those troops if enough of them escape the mental dungeon of official indoctrination and take a good, critical look at the people, institutions, and causes for which they're hired to kill and die.

Exposure to the abuse photos, and the battlefield consequences that would ensue, would tend to focus the mind in that direction. An observation by Maj. Gen. Antonio Taguba, who investigated the Abu Ghraib abuses, seems to underscore my point. "I am not sure what purpose [releasing the 2,000 additional photos of prisoner abuse] would serve other than a legal one and the consequence would be to imperil our troops, the only protectors of our foreign policy --"

Hold it right there: Taguba said "protectors of our foreign policy," not "defenders of our independence" or "guardians of our liberties." The foreign policy referred to entails open-ended entanglements in the affairs of nearly every nation on earth, as well as plundering huge sums from taxpayers to sustain a grotesquely huge military establishment and bribe political elites abroad. That foreign policy cultivates misery and harvests war and terrorism.

Why in God's Name would any decent human being defend that foreign policy in the abstract, much less spill blood to implement it?

Although I wish harm or death on no human being, it seems to me a good idea to adjust the current set of incentives in such a way that at least some American military personnel, as they deal with another gust of blowback, will have an overdue confrontation with their conscience and decide unilaterally to end their service of the world's largest criminal enterprise, the government of the United State (spelling intentional).

Am I trying to incite desertion? Reducing the matter to terms simple enough for Sean Hannity to understand them -- yes, I am, where desertion is the only way to avoid upholding an immoral, unsustainable policy and serving a depraved Regime. Desertion is a moral imperative when continued service implicates a soldier in crimes against God and mankind.

Yes, American enlistees
swear an oath in God's Name. Then again, so do Mafiosi. Nobody outside of that criminal fraternity considers it improper for a Mafia footsoldier to renounce his oath. No oath of service can sanctify participation in a criminal enterprise. What should distinguish a republican military from an armed gang is a sacred commitment to the rule of law -- meaning the defense of individual liberty and property, and the enforcement of measures that limit the power of government.

At least some military and law enforcement personnel (or do I repeat myself) have come to understand that the oath they swore requires that they be willing to disobey certain orders. In exceptional circumstances, fidelity to constitutional principles would require wholesale repudiation of military service, rather than selective refusal to comply with illegal orders.

We applauded the courage of those who "defected" from the Red Army during its occupation of Afghanistan. (Interestingly, I don't recall the correct term, "deserted," being used to describe such cases.)

Apart from nationalistic special pleading, I can't think of a way of framing an argument to justify the Soviet deserter while execrating an American stationed in Iraq or Afghanistan who follows the same course of action for the same reason: The triumph of conscience over programming.
For those whose conscience can withstand such an assault, another motive might prove effective.

Those who have seen the film Braveheart remember its depiction of the Battle of Stirling Bridge: Huge, serried rows of British infantry, archers, and heavy cavalry assemble across the field from a large, poorly armed, and indifferently motivated throng of Scottish footsoldiers, all of them hapless conscripts forced by their feudal lords to fight.

Near the front of the Scottish host, the lords -- whose allegiances are divided by favors dispensed on them by the English King Edward I -- are seen frantically discussing a negotiating strategy. The camera then pans to a conversation between two serfs, who in disgusted terms discuss the impending sell-out, which will follow the same blueprint as several before it: The armies will briefly skirmish, then a negotiation will ensue leaving the lords richer and the serfs paying more in taxes.

"That's it lads," one of the serfs exclaims. "I'm not fighting for these bastards!"

At some point, if liberty is to have a fighting chance, American military personnel are going to have to experience an epiphany and decide that they're no longer going to fight on behalf of the bastards running the Regime.

A not-entirely-inappropriate video extra

I've been blogging at Lew Rockwell's website for the past several weeks, and my most recent entry deals with this outrage:

On sale now.

Dum spiro, pugno!

Monday, May 25, 2009

The "Water Cure" for Mancow Disease

Doing "God's work" in the Philippines:
U.S. troops on a mission to suppress an independence movement inspired by American ideals apply the "water cure" -- a form of torture now commonly called "waterboarding" -- to a captured Filipino rebel. This method of interrogation proved too useful to abandon once the troops came home, so it was adopted by police agencies across the country.

It took all of six seconds to exorcise the unearned and unwarranted self-regard that had possessed Chicago rant radio personality Erich "Mancow" Muller: All that was necessary was a brief application of the "water cure," a torture protocol now commonly referred to as "waterboarding."

Mancow (as we'll refer to him) insists that he underwent the procedure, in its most benign form -- he could call it off on his own terms at any time, and the purpose was to conduct a demonstration, not to break his will -- in order to prove that it is relatively harmless, and that critics of its use are exercised over nothing.

Six terrifying seconds later, Mancow emerged from the experience a chastened and wiser man.
"It is way worse than I thought it would be," Mancow admitted while the horror was still freshly imprinted in his mind and body. For him, the sensation -- however brief -- of being helpless as water filled his mouth and sinuses summoned palpable memories of a near-drowning he experienced as a child.

The Chicago radio personality is one of several media figures who have undergone a relatively domesticated and benign form of waterboarding.

Each of them experienced merely the mechanics of this torture method; in fact, Mancow's hands were left unbound and he was able to sit up and leave the table without the aid of others.
As the subject of a "demonstration and exercise," Mancow and each of the other media figures who have undergone the "water cure" could end it at any time, and was surrounded by people who wanted to ensure that they avoided serious injury. None of them was helpless in the hands of a professional torturer who regarded them as a thing to be broken and humiliated.

The practice of torture reveals the elemental nature of the State even more effectively than does the summary killing of innocent people.
The State is an entity claiming a monopoly of force over a given geographic region. And force, as Simone Weil so poignantly observed, is that mysterious influence “that turns anybody who is subjected to it into a thing. Exercised to the limit, it turns man into a thing in the most literal sense: it makes a corpse out of him.”

It is possible for an individual to lose his life at the hands of those who enforce the State's will without losing what makes him human: Sovereignty over his individual choices, a sense of self-ownership, and self-possession, even in the hands of his enemies. This is precisely what the torturer seeks to strip from the individual, particularly when he leaves the victim alive.

Owing to its status as the world's largest and most powerful government, the Regime ruling us must also be regarded as the world's pre-eminent practitioner of torture. Yes, horrible things are done in the dungeons of Pyongyang, Beijing, Havana, Riyadh, and Tehran. But none of those governments can project its power halfway around the globe, or operates a global archipelago of "black sites" in which hired torturers -- often foreign subcontractors from satellite regimes -- ply their trade.

Compounding that grotesque irony is the fact that the most outspoken advocates of torture in the world today -- perhaps in all of recorded human history -- are Americans who profess to worship Jesus of Nazareth.

An atrocity committed during an unjust war: U.S. troops "waterboard" a captured Viet Cong guerrilla.

As a man, Jesus was subjected to every fiendish method of torture devised by the perverse ingenuity of professional sadists.

While Jesus was willing to endure those torments, including an ignominious death through torture on the cross, it is impossible to extort from His teachings, or the moral instructions of those who knew Him first-hand, anything resembling an endorsement of torture for any purpose, or so much as a hint that the practice may be morally acceptable.

Exercising a lamentable gift for casuistry, some "Christian"
apologists for torture describe contemporary methods -- such as controlled drowning, sleep deprivation, the use of stress positions, and the occasional beating -- as relatively mild forms of "corporal punishment" meted out to captured "terrorists."

Sanctified sadism:
The "Holy Office" of the Spanish Inquisition administers El Tormento de Agua (water torture) in an effort to "purify" a person suspected of heresy.

"The terrorist, worthy of death but given the plea-bargain of corporal punishment in exchange for life-saving information, should be awfully glad just to get beaten silly for plotting genocide, instead of being killed outright in the same way he was going to murder civilians," sneers one "Christian" defender of Torquemada's fraternity.

"Corporal punishment for capital crimes is only immoral if no valuable, life-saving information is ever gleaned," he continues. "If the United States were handing out beatings because we were too scaredy-cat to administer firing squads, yes, I would have a problem with it and call it immoral. But if we are negotiating a plea bargain by pummeling the guy who was going to set off a truck bomb at Chuck E. Cheese's, then I'd say the terrorist ought to be awfully grateful to us for, whack, being such gentle negotiators."

In his derangement this individual assumes that everyone accused or suspected of involvement in terrorism is guilty of that offense, and no proof beyond the accusation is necessary. This definitive question is similarly left begging by other "Christian" torture advocates, at least some of whom rummage through the severe penalties prescribed in the Law of Moses in the misguided belief that, first, the terms of the Old Covenant are still in force; and second, that we're discussing punishment for proven crimes, as opposed to the interrogation of people yet to be convicted of an offense.

Another torture apologist and professed Christian insists that torture is a valid wartime interrogation method, and that in any case waterboarding and other "enhanced interrogation methods" institutionalized by the Bush junta don't amount to torture.

"`Torture' has been defined through the ages by the Mongols to the Spanish Inquisition to the Nazi Gestapo to the brutal Japanese of World War II,"
he writes, as is his wont, with much greater certitude than knowledge. Handicapped by an unremarkable mind filled to capacity with talk radio-caliber slogans and buzzwords, and eager to insulate his prejudices from exposure to uncongenial facts, this fellow dutifully regurgitates the Bush Regime's euphemism for torture -- "enhanced interrogation" -- in blissful ignorance of the fact that the phrase is the exact English translation of the same phrase used by the Nazis (verscharfte vernehmung) to describe almost exactly the same collection of torture methods.

Likewise, he is either unaware of or indifferent to the fact that waterboarding, known by its Spanish name
El Tormento de Agua, was widely employed by the Spanish Inquisition, or that the use of water torture was among the war crimes for which many of the "brutal Japanese of World War II" were executed.

"The nationalist not only does not disapprove of atrocities committed by his own side," observed Orwell, "but he has the remarkable capacity for not even hearing about them." In some cases, like the one presently under examination, the nationalist is vividly aware of atrocities only when they are committed by the "other side," and is hopelessly blind to them when they are carried out by the government he worships.

"[M]ake no mistake: We have non-fatal techniques available to scare the bejabbers out of those Muslim maniacs and get them to blabber, but that is not `torture,' folks,'" he insists. "We do not hack the heads off innocent prisoners like Daniel Pearl on videotape while those maniacal butchers chant, `Allah is great!'"

Another beneficiary of Washington's benevolence: A young Afghan girl following an airstrike on Farah City.

Indeed not: "We" -- meaning the government ruling us, and those foolish enough to identify with it -- drop high-yield explosives from high altitude, or fire cruise missiles at targets thousands of miles away, or deploy remote-controlled unmanned killer drones against targets halfway around the world, and the resulting carnage never makes a public impression, at least over here. "We" don't make and circulate videotapes of the civilian casualties -- including women and children -- that result whenever such selectively antiseptic methods of mass murder are employed.

Yes, the murder and mutilation of the heroic Daniel Pearl illustrates the utterly demonic depravity of which Jihadists are capable. How does that fact mitigate the murderous proclivities of the government ruling us, which -- unlike Jihadism -- is a tangible present threat to us, rather than an entirely hypothetical one? Are we to assume that the beheading of Daniel Pearl represents the outermost benchmark for permissible behavior, and that anything short of videotaped decapitation of helpless hostages is acceptable?

The eagerness to advertise such exploits as the murder of Daniel Pearl demonstrates that Jihadists can at least be candid about exactly what they are. They don't indulge in sanctimonious prattle about such episodes not reflecting their ideals, or issue stern admonitions against releasing images that will put their "troops" at risk -- as some American defenders of aggressive war insist in
opposing publicity of atrocities at Abu Ghraib and elsewhere.

The practice of torture, in the American experience, is usually an outgrowth of aggressive foreign war. It does nothing to enhance the safety of the country. And whether or not it is openly acknowledged and publicized, it undermines the safety of American troops on the battlefield.
U.S. Army Major Matthew Alexander, who was among the most successful military interrogators in Iraq, asserts that torture and other abuses at Guantanamo and Abu Ghraib, not Islamic ideology, served as the main recruiting theme for foreign Jihadists who gathered in Iraq. By his reckoning, torture contributed directly to the death of more Americans in Iraq and Afghanistan than occurred on September 11, 2001.

Assuming that the "Long War" abroad ever ends, torture will continue to exact a price from Americans unless it is definitively repudiated and its practitioners and enablers properly punished. It fell to
Jesse Ventura, of all people, to underscore the reason why countenancing torture by U.S. officials anywhere threatens the rights of Americans everywhere.

During his recent Smackdown '09 Media Tour, Mr. Ventura devoted his imposing physical presence and testosterone-saturated rasp to their best and most commendable use: Pushing back against the official bullies who promote torture and the media lickspittles who parrot the official line. As someone who underwent waterboarding during SERE training as a Vietnam-era
Navy SEAL, Ventura would abide no dishonest dissembling as to whether or not the practice constitutes torture.

As to whether the practice can be justified as a cruel but effective interrogation technique, Ventura asked a critical question: If it works so well, why don't police use it against criminal suspects?

What Ventura may not know is that
roughly a century ago, following America's near-genocidal war to "liberate" the Philippines from the burden of self-government, water torture became a very commonplace method of administering the "third degree" in police departments from Los Angeles to New York, with special emphasis in Chicago and various parts of the Deep South.

The "water cure,"
notes Dr. Darius Rejali, author of Torture and Democracy, "migrated here after American troops returned from the Philippine insurgency in the early 20th century. By the 1930s, the water cure was favored by the Southern police." Police in Chicago preferred a variation they called the "ice-water cure," in which they sought to extract confessions from prisoners "by chilling them in freezing water baths."

During World War I, "American military prisons subjected conscientious objectors to ice-water showers and baths until they fainted."
Indeed, prior to release of the report by the National Commission on Law Observance and Enforcement (the so-called Wickersham Commission) in 1931, the methods now known as "enhanced interrogation" were commonly called the "Third Degree" -- "the infliction of physical or mental pain to extract confessions or statements," in the words of the report.

The practice was found to be "widespread throughout the country" and "thoroughly at home in Chicago." Third Degree tactics ranged from "beating to harsher forms of torture," reported the Commission. "The commoner forms are beating with the fists or some implement, especially the rubber hose, that inflicts pain, but is not likely to leave permanent visible scars.... [A]uthorities often threaten bodily injury ... and have gone to the extreme of procuring a confession at the point of a pistol."

Interestingly, these abhorrent practices thrived in large measure because of the policy the Wickersham Commission was assembled to review -- alcohol prohibition, the early 20th Century version of the War on Drugs. And it may be the case that the wartime atrocities in the Philippines grew out of common practices in police departments, which were refined in foreign battlefields before being imported, in greatly amplified form, to the homeland.

In 1902,
the Army convened a court-martial of Major Edwin F. Glenn (among other officers and enlisted soldiers) for war crimes, including the use of the "water-cure" against captured Filipino insurgents. Among Glenn's victims were a Catholic Priest named Fr. Bartolome Picson, who was "water-cured" to death under his supervision, and Fr. Picson's sister, who was bayoneted to death on his orders. Major Glenn's defense attempted to submit evidence showing that Brig. Gen. Frederick D. Grant (the son of Ulysses S. Grant), who presided over the trial, had employed or authorized water torture and similar practices in 1894 as a police commissioner in New York City.

In an example of self-serving institutional hypocrisy comparable to that depicted in the film
Breaker Morant, the court-martial refused to allow evidence that would impeach the authority of its president.

Things worked out a bit better for Glenn than for Harry Morant and his comrade Peter Handcock: Glenn was convicted of war crimes, and sentenced to a one-month suspension and a fifty-dollar fine.

Following the counter-insurgency war in the Philippines, it took nearly three decades to purge the practice of officially sanctioned torture from America's law enforcement system. That war lasted about two years. The current conflict began more than seven years ago. The bi-partisan Establishment considers the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq to be parts of a "Long War" that would last a generation or more.

What the government is permitted to do to suspected terrorists and insurgents abroad, it will eventually inflict on civilian criminal suspects here at home. This principle is clearly illustrated by the experience of the Philippine counter-insurgency war.

The prospect of a nationalized law enforcement system infused with a Cheneyite perspective on torture should be enough to cure any thinking person of what we might call "Mancow Disease": A crippling lack of moral imagination that leaves the victim unable to recognize torture for what it is until he has personally experienced the mildest possible sample under the gentlest possible conditions.

Video Extra -- "Well, Peter -- this is what comes of empire-building":

On sale now.

Dum spiro, pugno!

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Accusers as "Victims": A Case Study

The Reign of the Accuser, Salem 1692: Mary Warren, one of six young female "victims" whose allegations propelled the Salem Witch Trials, points the lethal finger of accusation at a village resident. Even a brief acquaintance with contemporary child abuse prosecutions is enough to disabuse one of the notion that the mass derangement at Salem was unique: It is recreated somewhere in the United States every day.

One witness shall not rise up against a man for any iniquity .... [A]t the mouth of two witnesses, or at the mouth of three witnesses, shall the matter be established. --

Deuteronomy 19:15

(The first in an occasional series.)

It would hardly be difficult to convict any man of child sex abuse if the prosecutor were provided with the following advantages:

*The accuser would be designated a "victim," and referred to as such in pre-trial hearings and during the trial, thereby leaving jurors predisposed to accept her allegations as fact;

*The trial judge grants a prosecution
motion in limine (a request to exclude "prejudicial" evidence) forbidding the defense to call witnesses whose first-hand testimony would impeach the credibility of the accuser;

*In similar fashion, the judge prevents the defense from "prejudicing" the jury against the "victim" by referring to at least one previous occasion on which she made a false allegation of abuse;

*The accuser/"victim" is permitted to change critical, materially relevant details of her story without being accused of perjury or simply impeached as unreliable;

*Even as the judge carefully shields the "victim" from adversarial scrutiny, he permits the prosecution to mention that the defendant had previously been the subject of an abuse investigation, without being charged, prosecuted, or convicted of any offense;

*Most egregiously, the judge permits the prosecution to present an "expert" witness to explain how the critical piece of exculpatory evidence in a child rape trial -- a gynecological examination of the accuser showing perfectly normal physical development, including an intact hymen -- was actually a common finding in child sexual abuse cases.

Indeed, just as the notorious "magic bullet" of Daley Plaza managed to defy established laws of physics, changing directions several times without losing its lethal velocity, the accuser's virginal membrane possessed magical properties that permitted it to survive repeated episodes of full intercourse forced upon the girl by her step-father, which supposedly began when the accuser was 12 and the accused was in his late 20s.

It is
possible, albeit monumentally improbable, that a young girl could endure multiple sexual violations, including incestuous intercourse, without enduring physical trauma of the sort revealed in a detailed gynecological examination.

In the absence of corroborating evidence, however -- such as eyewitness testimony, photographs, video, or perhaps an item of intimate apparel infused, Clinton-style, with DNA from the accused -- a normal examination should be enough to shut down a prosecution cold. All that would be left is the word of the accuser, which -- under the tenets of Western law as old as Moses -- is not enough to secure a conviction.

Yet it's likely that every week, if not every day, people (usually men, although women are hardly immune) are convicted of sex crimes and sent to prison following "trials" that follow the template described above.

The word of a single accuser is considered the self-ratifying testimony of the "victim"; exculpatory physical evidence is suppressed or explained away; the defense is forbidden to impeach the credibility of the accuser, while the prosecution is free from any similar restrictions in assailing the character of the accused; and a presumption of guilt informs the entire proceeding.

Often such trials partake of "magical thinking" of the sort that led credulous officials in 17th Century Salem to accept "spectral evidence" -- dreams and visions in which the disembodied spirits of the accused supposedly committed vile acts while their physical bodies were in another location -- as a valid rebuttal to an otherwise unassailable alibi.

Once those convicted in such "trials" serve their sentences, most of them -- including at least some people who are victims of grotesque injustice -- can be designated "sexually dangerous persons" who will never fully regain their freedom. In fact,
a law enacted in 2006 permits the open-ended "civil confinement" of paroled sex offenders within the federal prison system. This amounts to a potential life sentence inflicted on the basis of crimes yet to be committed, since "civil confinement" only begins after the detainee has served the prescribed sentence for the crimes of which he was convicted.

Some innocent people caught in the coils of this system find themselves in a uniquely painful predicament: To obtain parole and a chance to rebuild their lives, they must allocute to the offense for which they were convicted.

In some cases, this confession is coupled with a polygraph examination, which puts genuinely innocent people in an inescapable double-bind: If they assert their innocence, they will be denied parole; if they falsely confess to the charges, they'll most likely fail the polygraph examination, with the same result.

Happier times: David Dutt with his son before being unjustly convicted of sexual misconduct with a child. He is currently serving a 30-year prison term.

Boise resident David Shawn Dutt has lived every element of that nightmare since being accused in 2001 -- along with his then-wife Terry -- of sexually abusing his ex wife Terry's daughter, S., for more than two years, beginning in 1999.

At the time the abuse supposedly began, S. -- Terry's child from a previous marriage -- was 12 years old. David was charged with three counts of lewd and lascivious behavior with a minor, including full-fledged intercourse. Terry was arrested on charges of sexual battery, sexual solicitation of a minor, and failing to report abuse (the first charge was dropped before trial).

The prosecution presented the same evidence against David and Terry. David was convicted on all counts; Terry was acquitted. That disparity of outcome is sufficient -- but hardly the only -- reason to entertain misgivings about the soundness of the verdict, since the prosecution was permitted to full use of the tactics discussed above.

No diary or journal entries by S. describing abuse were entered into evidence. And S.'s testimony during the trial differed in numerous small but significant ways from the story she had previously told to the police and social workers.

Most importantly, a detailed medical examination carried out when S. was 14 and a half years old, and had supposedly endured several years of sexual molestation -- including numerous episodes of full intercourse -- found no anatomical evidence of abuse of any kind.

That examination (described in an official report to which I have been given access) revealed that S.'s private anatomy was normal, the hymeneal membrane fully intact.

All of this adds up to a very compelling case for reasonable doubt -- unless, of course, one is possessed of the sort of mind-set that considers "spectral evidence" to be credible. Regrettably, the Ada County Prosecutor's office has just such a person in its employ: Deputy Prosecutor Jean Fisher, who has been handling sex crime cases for that office since 1989.

The entire case against David rested on the "disclosures" -- that is, allegations -- made by the "victim" -- which is to say, the accuser.
And Fisher's opening statement was built around a trope quite common in child abuse prosecutions: The jury must honor the "courage" of the "victim" by believing her testimony.

"[I]t takes a very brave child to come forward in a case such as this to escape specific ... fears," such as the "fear of not being believed," insisted Fisher in her address to the jury. "But she's a brave girl and she's here to tell you what has happened to her. And, Ladies and Gentlemen, when you hear the descriptions, when you hear what comes out of her mouth as she describes these acts you will have no doubt in your mind that this defendant systematically sexually abused her over and over and over again...."

Of course, in the Anglo-Saxon system of justice, the precise duty of the jury is to doubt the word of an accuser until that burden of doubt is overcome by a suitable preponderance of evidence. That duty is the same even when the accuser is a winsome, sympathetic young girl claiming to be the victim of unspeakably vile acts.

In her opening statement, Fisher obliquely admitted, in an elliptical and artfully dishonest fashion, that there was no evidence S. had been involved in any sexual activity, whether consensual or abusive: "[Y]ou'll hear about ... the medical condition which involves the her, the estrogenization of the hymen and those sorts of things, and Miss Henbest will be able to explain for you the process of -- of how that works, and that there aren't physical findings in a case such as this."

"Miss Henbest" was the prosecution's star "expert witness," Margaret Henbest -- a nurse practitioner, not an M.D., and a former member of the Idaho Legislature. She was the medical professional who conducted the medical examination of S. immediately following the youngster's first abuse allegation.

It was Ms. Henbest -- not S. -- whom the prosecution chose as its lead witness, and in cross-examination she admitted that there was no evidence that abuse had occurred.

The admission is recorded on page 459 of the trial transcript, lines 3-7, in an exchange between Henbest and defense counsel Dennis Weigt:

Q. The hymen was actually normal genitalia and didn't -- your physical examination didn't reveal any indication of sexual abuse; isn't that correct?

A. That's correct.

(Emphasis added.)

At this point, Mr. Weigt should have asked the witness to be excused and made a motion for a summary judgment: The prosecution's star witness had just admitted that there was no evidence to corroborate the accuser's story. Whether or not that motion had been granted, it would have impressed upon the minds of the jury the utter poverty of the prosecution's case.

In fact, Weigt should have made that motion immediately following Fisher's opening statement to the jury, in which she outlined a prosecution case that fell far short of meeting its burden of proof. At the very least, he should have focused with laser-like coherence on the fact that even before any evidence had been presented to the jury, Ms. Fisher was admitting that there was no physical evidence of abuse.

Instead of attacking the prosecution at its most vulnerable point, Weigt offered a diffuse and rambling summation of the defense's theory of the case, which was that S. was "a very mature, very knowledgeable girl" who was angry and frustrated over domestic responsibilities she was given at home, and desirous of living with her maternal grandmother. From this perspective, the abuse accusations were the product of adolescent spite, and the detailed descriptions offered by S. reflected what she had synthesized from vulgar entertainment, material presented at school, and what she had learned in candid discussions of sexuality with her parents.

Weigt did make one telling point in his opening presentation. David Dutt had a flawless alibi on the only specific date offered by S. on which sexual intercourse supposedly occurred: He was in the hospital with his wife while their son was delivered by an emergency c-section; S., on the other hand, went home with her grandmother,where she stayed for the next several days.

Once that allegation was tested in court, however, S.'s specific recollection suddenly became very approximate, at least as far as the date was concerned.

The trial judge, Fourth District Judge Thomas Neville, again proved helpful to the prosecution by instructing the jury that "the State only has to prove on or about these time frames" in which the abuse allegedly occurred.

What this meant, in practical terms, was that the jury not only was to accept S.'s unsupported word that the abuse took place, but give her generous leeway regarding self-contradiction for the specific purpose of nullifying David Dutt's otherwise invincible alibi.

"She knows that she had intercourse with the defendant, David Dutt the night of [the son's] birth," Fisher insisted in her closing statement. "She believes in her heart it was the night [the son] was born. Now, if you think she's confused, that it maybe was the second night or the third night before [the son] came home, or that it's possible she could have been confused, but you are convinced beyond a reasonable doubt that it happened, it [the specific date] doesn't matter."

Oh, yes it does matter -- or it would in any trial held under legitimate rules of evidence. What Fisher was demanding of the jury -- with the support of Judge Neville -- was a standard of proof functionally indistinguishable from the Salem Witch Trial's notion of "spectral evidence." In Salem the prosecutors could dispense with an alibi by insisting that the accused could be two places at once; in the trial of David Dutt, the judge and prosecutor insisted that the accuser could alter critical details of her story in order to get around an alibi.

Jean Fisher's summation to the jury was an Oprah-magnitude onslaught of unalloyed sentimentalism, a blast of unfiltered bathos worthy of a Daytime Emmy.

"Today, S. is a victim," Fisher insisted. "The future will determine if she is a survivor.... After hearing from S., after seeing her pain, after seeing her presentation and how she suffered up here, can there be any doubt in your minds that she has been sexually abused repeatedly by her stepfather?"

The critical word omitted by Fisher is "reasonable" -- that is, the product of logic. "Reasonable doubt" results from a dispassionate examination of provable facts by jurors who understand that the word of an accuser is never sufficient evidence to convict the accused. That quality of intellect called "reason" dictates that accusations are never self-validating, and that this is true even when the accuser undergoes visible distress and "pain" as she makes unsupported accusations.

Perhaps the greatest scandal in this entire affair is that there wasn't a single juror with the intellectual ballast necessary to keep from being swept away by the gale-force blasts of emotion, and the leadership ability necessary to help others recognize the pervasive grounds for acquittal on the basis of reasonable doubt.

"You are a brave girl," gushed Neville to S. as he prepared to sentence David Dutt. "You're a courageous girl." Turning to Dutt, Neville upbraided him for having the temerity to deny S.'s accusations; the very act of doing so, Neville insisted, demonstrated that Dutt's capacity for rehabilitation was unacceptably low.

"You are in denial even after these verdicts," growled Neville at Dutt. "I believe that society does require protection from you. I believe that you are a clear and present and likely to be a future danger to society, and all of those factors militate toward a substantial prison sentence."

In addition to being required to register as a sex offender, Dutt was given a 20-year prison term: ten years fixed, and ten years contingent on his "rehabilitation," which -- as noted above -- requires that he confess to what remain, the verdict notwithstanding, unproven allegations and pass a lie detector test certifying that he believes himself to be guilty.

This relatively brief capsule summary of David Dutt's trial doesn't even begin to address the irregularities, implausibilities, and improprieties that are deployed in dense-pack in this case. It is presently on appeal to the state supreme court, and the persistence of both David and his father Dale in seeking to overturn the conviction has produced some interesting shockwaves within Idaho's criminal "justice" system -- something about which I'll have more to say in future installments.

An attorney and several other qualified observers of the Ada County justice system have informed me that Jean Fisher boasts a conviction rate north of ninety percent. If the prosecution of David Dutt is typical of her approach, and the latitude she is given by trial judges, that claim is entirely believable, and a compelling illustration of the fact that there is no justice to be found in our "justice" system.

On sale now.

Dum spiro, pugno!