Saturday, November 30, 2019

The best and the brightest war criminals

By Robert Jackson
International Law Correspondent

The President is a corrupt Russian stooge who glorifies war crimes.

The Secretary of State devotes himself not to advancing the national interest, but to said corrupt Russian stooge's personal political gain.

Immigration policy is in the hands of a deranged white supremacist.

U Bum's nominee had a tough
confirmation hearing
So why exactly should we be surprised when the U Bum Administration nominates a war criminal to head the State Department's human rights operation?

Answer: we're not.

The only surprising bit is that President PAB is having an unusual amount of difficulty getting his Republican enablers in the Senate to rubber-stamp the appointment of one Marshall Billingslea, according to The Washington Post. 

Marshall Billingslea, come on down:

From 2002 to 2003, Billingslea served as the Pentagon’s point man on military detainees housed at Guantanamo Bay under Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld. In that position, according to a 2008 Senate report, he played a role in promoting interrogation techniques that Congress later banned as torture — including the use of hoods or blindfolds, sleep deprivation, prolonged standing, the shaving of beards, the removal of clothing and the use of military dogs to intimidate detainees.

According to a report prepared by that well-known terrorist front organization, the United States Senate Armed Services Committee:

On March 28, 2003, the Secretary of Defense met with a number of senior advisors
including Deputy Secretary Paul Wolfowitz, DoD General Counsel Jim Haynes, and Chairman
of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen Richard Myers, to discuss the interrogation techniques being
considered by the Working Group. 1003 After that meeting, the Secretary decided to expressly
authorize 24 interrogation techniques, including five that were not listed in the Army Field
Manual (one of these five was classified as an "exceptional" technique). 1004

Technique #22: The pig pile
And which worthies were on this committee that approved torture, uh, excuse me, “exceptional” techniques?  Let's look up footnote 1003 and find out:

1003."According to the Secretary's daily schedule, the advisors at the meeting included Mr. Haynes, Gen Myers,the Deputy Secretary of Defense, Paul Wolfowitz, the Undersecretary of Defense for Intelligence, Stephen Cambone, the Under Secretary of Defense for Policy, Douglas Feith, the Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for Special Operations and Low Intensity Conflict, Marshall Billingslea, and CAPT Dalton." Church Report at 136. By the time the Secretary met with his advisors, the Working Group had removed waterboarding from consideration. Ibid. at 135-6.

Well, maybe he voted against pouring water over the faces of fettered detainees to induce an unendurable sensation, if not the reality, of drowning.  That's something.

On the other hand, when General Richard Meyers, then Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, only approved 24 torture techniques, Mr. Billingslea dissented:

On April 5, 2003, Gen Myers forwarded a memo proposing that the Secretary of Defense 24 of the interrogation techniques reviewed during the Working Group process.  In response, Marshall Billingslea, the Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for Special Operations/ Low-Intensity Conflict sent a memo to the Secretary of Defense raising concerns about the omission of certain techniques and recommending that the Secretary approve all 35 techniques "endorsed by the Working Group.

But torturers never sleep.  A couple of months later:

On July 24, 2003, Marshall Billingslea, . . . forwarded a memo notifying the Secretary of Defense that JTF-GTMO intended to isolate Slahi and recommending that he approve the use of "sleep deprivation" and "sound modulation at decibel levels not harmful to hearing.  A handwritten note on the memo stated that "OGC concurs that this is legal. We don't see any policy issues with these interrogation techniques. Recommend you authorize. Deputy Secretary of Defense Paul Wolfowitz approved the memo on July 28,2003 and forwarded it to Secretary Rumsfeld, who added his approval on August 13, 2003.

Technique #17: Execution cosplay
Victims of sleep deprivation at the hands of the Nazis and the Communist secret police in East Germany and other places will be happy to tell you that it's unendurable torture.  Too bad Billingslea didn't get the memo.

What's the problem with putting a war criminal in charge of this country's advocacy of human rights?  Human Rights Watch sums it up with admirable clarity:

Should Billingslea be confirmed by the U.S. Senate as undersecretary of state for civilian security, human rights and democracy, he would be tasked with upholding the same international laws that he disregarded when advocating for the use of torture under Bush. 

It would be his job to ensure that U.S. foreign policy aligns with international human rights law, and to encourage U.S. partners and foes to abide by human rights standards. But how could he carry out these duties effectively if he can’t, or won’t, see the severity of the human rights violations that he himself advocated? 

A fuller list of organizations who oppose the nomination of a war criminal to the human rights post can be found here.

The point of nominating a war criminal to the position of America's leading advocate of human rights is not just to give an otherwise unemployable hack a job (he has one at Treasury); it is to subvert the entire enterprise of trying to promote a freer and more just world. 

But every war criminal deserves a robust defense, and sure enough Billingslea has no shortage of defenders, including himself.  He told the Senate Committee reviewing his nomination that “he was merely a bureaucratic functionary relaying decisions up the chain of command . . . .”

Why does that defense sound so familiar?   We're not going to tell you, but if you're curious, try typing into your favorite search engine “banality of evil.”

Whether or not this morality-free functionary is confirmed, it's only the continuation of a trend that began even before Billingslea and his buddies were sitting around a conference table at the Pentagon munching on doughnuts and deciding which illegal forms of torment and brutality would be included in the options paper for Rummie.  At the same time, the CIA had its own process for approving torture, which led them to beatings and anal rape with turkey basters.

Technique #39: The Memory Hole
We remember learning that our country was using tortures formerly applied only by Nazis, Reds, and grotesque Third Wold tyrants.  It felt like we had been hit with a blackjack.  We also remember how few of our fellow Americans were bothered by the news, and how many hailed torture as a manly and necessary response to the war crimes inflicted upon us.

If you want to know who loved it, just check out today's Republicans With a Conscience © (Billy, Toronto Dave, Homewrecker Dave, Ana, Ricky, Steve, Nicolle, etc. etc.).  Now they say we are better than President U Bum.  But in 2003 they weren't better than anal rape and simulated drowning.

And if we still don't know how to choose between on the one hand a corrupt bigot who pardons war criminals that targeted innocent civilians for pleasure and nominates other war criminals to high office and on the other a Democrat who might raise taxes on the insanely wealthy, we're not better now.

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