Talk Nation Radio: Jonathan Landay on War, Politics, and Media

https://soundcloud.com/davidcnswanson/talk-nation-radio-jonathan-landay-on-war-politics-and-media

Jonathan Landay is a reporter for McClatchy. His reporting at Knight Ridder during the marketing of the 2003 invasion of Iraq was virtually the only skeptical reporting in the corporate press. He discusses current wars and politics.

Total run time: 29:00

Host: David Swanson.
Producer: David Swanson.
Music by Duke Ellington.

Download from Archive or LetsTryDemocracy.

Pacifica stations can also download from AudioPort.

Syndicated by Pacifica Network.

Please encourage your local radio stations to carry this program every week!

Please embed the SoundCloud audio on your own website!

Past Talk Nation Radio shows are all available free and complete at
http://TalkNationRadio.org

and at
https://soundcloud.com/davidcnswanson/tracks

Send Me to Cuba to Report on U.S.-Cuba Relations

I hope to travel to Cuba in February with CodePink and to report on U.S.-Cuban relations. To do so I need to raise the funds fast to pay for the trip. If the funds come in, I'll go, and I'll publish what I report in various outlets as well as at http://davidswanson.org

Please chip in what you can here http://bit.ly/1JXNGqQ

Please spread the word whether you can personally help or not, on Facebook and Twitter.

Thanks! Peace! Happier New Year Than the Last!

 

Renaming Afghan War, Renaming Murder

The U.S.-led NATO war on Afghanistan has lasted so long they've decided to rename it, declare the old war over, and announce a brand new war they're just sure you're going to love.

The war thus far has lasted as long as U.S. participation in World War II plus U.S. participation in World War I, plus the Korean War, plus the Spanish American War, plus the full length of the U.S. war on the Philippines, combined with the whole duration of the Mexican American War.

Now, some of those other wars accomplished things, I will admit -- such as stealing half of Mexico. What has Operation Freedom's Sentinel, formerly known as Operation Enduring Freedom, accomplished, other than enduring and enduring and enduring to the point where we're numb enough to completely overlook a new name as Orwellian as Freedom's Sentinel (what -- was "Liberty's Enslaver" already taken)?

Well, according to President Obama, over 13 years of bombing and occupying Afghanistan has made us safer. That seems like a claim someone should request some evidence for. The U.S. government has spent nearly a trillion dollars on this war, plus roughly 13 trillion dollars in standard military spending over 13 years, a rate of spending radically increased by using this war and related wars as the justification. Tens of billions of dollars could end starvation on earth, provide the globe with clean water, etc. We could have saved millions of lives and chose to kill thousands instead. The war has been a leading destroyer of the natural environment. We've tossed our civil liberties out the window in the name of "freedom." We've produced so many weapons they've had to be shuffled off to local police departments, with predictable results. A claim that something good has come and is coming and will continue to come for many future years from this war is worth looking into.

Don't look too closely. The CIA finds that a key component of the war (targeted drone murders -- "murders" is their word) is counterproductive. Before the great opponent of war Fred Branfman died this year he collected a long list of statements by members of the U.S. government and military stating the same thing. That murdering people with drones tends to enrage their friends and families, producing more enemies than you eliminate, may become easier to understand after reading a study that recently found that when the U.S. targets a person for murder, it kills 27 additional people along the way. General Stanley McChrystal said that when you kill an innocent person you create 10 enemies. I'm not a mathematician, but I think that comes to about 270 enemies created each time someone is put on the kill list, or 280 if the person is or is widely believed to be innocent (of what it's not exactly clear).

This war is counterproductive on its own terms. But what are those terms? Usually they are a declaration of vicious revenge and a condemnation of the rule of law -- albeit dressed up to sound like something more respectable. It's worth recalling here how this all began. The United States, for three years prior to September 11, 2001, had been asking the Taliban to turn over Osama bin Laden. The Taliban had asked for evidence of his guilt of any crimes and a commitment to try him in a neutral third country without the death penalty. This continued right into October, 2001. (See, for example "Bush Rejects Taliban Offer to Hand Bin Laden Over" in the Guardian, October 14, 2001.) The Taliban also warned the United States that bin Laden was planning an attack on U.S. soil (this according to the BBC). Former Pakistani Foreign Secretary Niaz Naik told the BBC that senior U.S. officials told him at a U.N.-sponsored summit in Berlin in July 2001 that the United States would take action against the Taliban in mid-October. He said it was doubtful that surrendering bin Laden would change those plans. When the United States attacked Afghanistan on October 7, 2001, the Taliban asked again to negotiate handing over bin Laden to a third country to be tried. The United States rejected the offer and continued a war on Afghanistan for many years, not halting it when bin Laden was believed to have left that country, and not even halting it after announcing bin Laden's death.

So, in opposition to the rule of law, the United States and its accomplices have conducted a record-long killing spree that could have been avoided with a trial in 2001 or by never having armed and trained bin Laden and his associates in the 1980s or by never having provoked the Soviet Union into invading or by never having launched the Cold War, etc.

If this war has not accomplished safety -- with polling around the globe finding the United States now viewed as the greatest threat to world peace -- has it accomplished something else? Maybe. Or maybe it still can -- especially if it is ended and prosecuted as a crime. What this war could still accomplish is the full removal of the distinction between war and what the CIA and the White House call what they're doing in their own reports and legal memos: murder.

A German newspaper has just published a NATO kill list -- a list similar to President Obama's -- of people targeted for murder. On the list are low-level fighters, and even non-fighting drug dealers. We really have replaced incarceration and the accompanying torture and law suits and moral crises and editorial hand-wringing with murder.

Why should murder be more acceptable than imprisonment and torture? Largely I think we're leaning on the vestiges of a long-dead tradition still alive as mythology. War -- which we absurdly imagine has always been and will always be -- didn't used to look like it does today. It did not used to be the case that 90 percent of the dead were non-combatants. We still talk about "battlefields," but they're used to actually be such things. Wars were arranged and planned for like sports matches. Ancient Greek armies could camp next to an enemy without fear of a surprise attack. Spaniards and Moors negotiated the dates for battles. California Indians used accurate arrows for hunting but arrows without feathers for ritual war. War's history is one of ritual and of respect for the "worthy opponent." George Washington could sneak up on the British, or Hessians, and kill them on Christmas night not because nobody had ever thought of crossing the Delaware before, but because that just wasn't what one did.

Well, now it is. Wars are fought in people's towns and villages and cities. Wars are murder on a massive scale. And the particular approach developed in Afghanistan and Pakistan by the U.S. military and CIA has the potential advantage of looking like murder to most people. May that motivate us to end it. May we resolve not to let this go on another decade or another year or another month. May we not engage in the pretense of talking about a mass murder as having ended just because the mass murderer has given the crime a new name. Thus far it is only the dead who have seen an end to the war on Afghanistan.

Resolved: To Stop Imagining that Anything's Been Resolved

Things that humans are probably stuck with: eating, drinking, breathing, sex, love, friendship, anger, fear, joy, death, hope and change.

Things that some humans used to commonly claim humanity was permanently and inevitably stuck with (but have stopped thinking about in those terms, even if the thing is still around): monarchy, slavery, blood feuds, dueling, human sacrifice, cannibalism, corporal punishment, second-class status for women, bigotry toward GLBT, feudalism, Eric Cantor.

Things that humans illogically, baselessly, shortsightedly, and absurdly assume must always be with us, as if nothing had ever changed before: environmental destruction, war, mass-incarceration, capital punishment, police forces, religion, carnivorianism, extreme materialism, nuclear energy and weaponry, racism, poverty, plutocracy, capitalism, nationalism, the U.S. Constitution, the U.S. Senate, the CIA, guns, the NSA, Guantanamo prison, torture, Hillary Clinton.

The year 2014 will be remembered as yet another year in which we inched closer toward environmental and militarized catastrophe, but also perhaps as a year in which crisis and enlightenment combined to open a few more eyes to the full range of possibilities available.

How often have you heard things like "We can't end war, because there is evil in the world, but we can end unjust wars" or "Renewable energy is a nice idea but can't actually work (even though it works in other countries)" or "We need police -- we just need accountability when certain police officers perform badly" or "We could legalize drugs but we'd still need prisons or we'd all be raped and killed" or "If we don't kill murderers we'll have more murder (like all those countries that have abolished capital punishment and have less murder)" or "We need reforms but we can't survive without the CIA or something like it -- we can't just not spy on people" or "Ever-increasing environmental destruction is inevitable"?

That last one could be true if feedback loops have already taken the earth's climate to a point of no return. But it can't be true in terms of human behavior. Nor can any of the others. And I suspect a lot of people see my point and agree with me on it. But how many view all of the above sentences as ludicrous?

A serious argument could be made that a human utopia should be policed by a police force. But no serious argument can be made that a police force is an inevitable accompaniment of our species, a species that saw 99% of its existence unpoliced. Most people in the small number of places that are at war take no part in it. Nations go for centuries without war. Homo sapiens went most of our existence without war. Massive institutions cannot be inevitable. Hunger and love are the kind of things that are inevitable. We ought to start hearing assertions of inevitability for institutions as ridiculous nonsense. Doing so might be the most serious action we can take.

Of course reforming a criminal justice system a little bit is the proper first step whether you think another step can follow or not. But the direction of the step may vary if you have a different final destination in mind. There's a difference between ending a war in order to be better prepared for other wars, and ending a war because it kills people and exemplifies an institution that should be dismantled and eliminated. Both efforts can have the same short-term result, but only one has the potential to go further and help avoid the next war.

An argument -- I hesitate to call it serious -- could be made that pretty much everything is going well, and that nothing much should be altered. Not only can such an argument be made, but it is subtly and powerfully made by just about everything that is ever said on our televisions and in our newspapers. It does not, however, add up to any argument that everything must inevitably continue unchanged, that nothing can be slowly or rapidly made over into a different sort of world.

We need to resolve to realize that nothing has been resolved, history has not ended, questions of politics have not been settled -- and that they never will be, that the very idea is incoherent. And isn't that what makes life worth living?

Talk Nation Radio: Jonathan Newton on Ending Police Brutality

https://soundcloud.com/davidcnswanson/talk-nation-radio-jonathan-newton-on-ending-police-brutality

Jonathan Newton is founder of the National Association Against Police Brutality ( http://naapb.org ). He discusses steps that can be taken to address the problem, including eliminating the conflict of interest involved in police investigations of themselves.

Total run time: 29:00

Host: David Swanson.
Producer: David Swanson.
Music by Duke Ellington.

Download from Archive or LetsTryDemocracy.

Pacifica stations can also download from AudioPort.

Syndicated by Pacifica Network.

Please encourage your local radio stations to carry this program every week!

Please embed the SoundCloud audio on your own website!

Past Talk Nation Radio shows are all available free and complete at
http://TalkNationRadio.org

and at
https://soundcloud.com/davidcnswanson/tracks

No More Khirbet Khizehs

"Fields that would never be harvested, plantations that would never be irrigated, paths that would become desolate. A sense of destruction and worthlessness. An image of thistles and brambles everywhere, a desolate tawniness, a braying wilderness. And already from those fields accusing eyes peered out at you, that silent accusatory look as of a reproachful animal, staring and following you so there was no refuge." -- Yizhar Smilansky, Khirbet Khizeh

On the day in 2014 that I read the new English translation of Khirbet Khizeh, Tom Engelhardt published a blog post rewriting recent news articles on the U.S. Senate's torture report as a 2019 Senate report on drone murders. The 2019 "news" media in Tom's believable account is shocked -- shocked, I tell you -- by the rampant murder discovered to have been committed using missiles from drones of all things.

The point is that most of what's been discussed as news from the recent torture report, and certainly all of the fundamental moral points -- has been known -- or, more accurately, knowable for years. For the past several years, the U.S. establishment has been repeatedly "banning" torture. It has also been repeatedly discovering the same evidence of torture, over and over again. Leading torturers have gone on television to swear they'd do it all again, while radical activist groups have demanded "investigations."

The point is that at some point "truth and reconciliation" is lies and reconciliation -- the lies of pretending that the truth needed to be unearthed, that it was hidden for a time, that the crimes weren't committed in the broad daylight of television spotlights on a sweaty old man assuring us he was about to start working on the dark side.

Illustrated at right, from the iNakba app, are villages that were destroyed in 1948 to create Israel. Generations of Israelis have grown up not knowing, not wanting to know, pretending not to know, and knowing without confronting the Catastrophe. Israelis are discovering what happened, unburying the hidden truth, filming aging participants' distorted confessions, and hunting out the outlines of disappeared villages on GoogleEarth.

But what if the truth was always marching naked down the street with trumpets sounding?

In May 1949, Yizhar Smilansky published Khirbet Khizeh, a fictional account of the destruction of a fictional village much like many real ones. Smilansky knew or hoped that he was ahead of his time, so much so that he began the tale by framing it as a recollection from the distant future. The narrator, like the reader, was known by the author to be unable to see for years to come.

What would keep the book alive until that distant day?

Poetry.

It's not a Senate report. Khirbet Khizeh is a work of masterful insight and storytelling that grips you and compels you to enter the experience of its narrator and his companions, as they do what the author had done, as they imitate Nazis before all the ashes had fallen from the skies above the ovens in Europe.

This book was planted and grew. It's been taught in Israeli schools. It was a movie on Israeli television in 1978. And now, with a sense that perhaps sleepy eyes are stretching open at long last, the book has had itself translated into the language of the imperial homeland, English.

But how could poetry keep heresy alive?

Several ways, I think. Absolute failure to pay attention, for one. Think about how literature is taught in many U.S. schools, for example. The ability of people to hear the poetry without the meaning, for another. Think about people singing John Lennon's Imagine without having the slightest idea they've just proposed to abolish religions, nations, and private property, or how people throw around the phrase "peace on earth" in December. Perverse but predictable and perhaps predicted misinterpretation, for another. Think about how viewers of the propaganda film Zero Dark Thirty read accounts of torture, for example -- as a dirty job that needed doing for a greater cause.

It's a strain, to me at least, to read Khirbet Khizeh as a celebration of genocide or mass-eviction. And the book not only suffered but also benefitted from being ahead of its time. It pre-existed the mythologies and rhetorical defenses that grew up around the Catastrophe in the decades that followed. When the narrator makes a slight resistance to what he is engaged in, no reader can find anything but humanitarian motivation in his resistance. The idea that this soldier, questioning his fellow soldiers, is engaged in anti-Semitism would literally make no sense. He's revolted by the cruelty, no more no less -- cruelty that every adult and child has to have always known was part of any mass settlement of ancient lands in 1948.

When I was a child, in elementary school, I wrote a story about an eviction of a family from its house, complete with plenty of tear-jerking details. As a good American I wrote about British redcoats evicting patriotic U.S. revolutionaries. My teacher suggested to me that I had a talent for writing. But that wasn't writing. Had I written of the Native Americans, the Hawaiians, the Filipinos, the Vietnamese, of Diego Garcia or Vieques or the Marshall Islands or Thule or Okinawa or any of the many places about which silence was expected, that might have been writing.

Let us wish no more Khirbet Khizehs on the people of Palestine and many more Khirbet Khizehs on the world.

Putin Shot Down a Plane! Putin Shot Down a ... What? Never Mind

Search for "Malaysian Airlines Flight 17" on the New York Times website and you'll find a page promoting three articles from July, two hyping the idea that Russia did it and one just focused on the horror of it.

Below that you'll find 109 articles arranged from newest to oldest. The newest is from December 10th and consists of 4 sentences that convey little. The next is from November and all about an inappropriate tweet. The next half dozen take us back through September and we're little the wiser for it.

Yet the world outside of the U.S. media is full of evidence suggesting that Russia did not do it.

The silence is deafening. Dutch plans to produce a dubious report by next summer are being outpaced by steps toward war.

Here's a petition that concerned people are signing:

Call For Independent Inquiry of the Airplane Crash in Ukraine and its Catastrophic Aftermath

To: All the heads of states of NATO countries, and of Russia and the Ukraine, to Ban-ki Moon and the heads of states of countries on the UN Security Council

With the U.S. and Russia in possession of over 15,000 of the world’s 16,400 nuclear weapons, humanity can ill-afford to stand by and permit these conflicting views of history and opposing assessments of the facts on the ground to lead to a 21st Century military confrontation between the great powers and their allies.  While sadly acknowledging the trauma suffered by the countries of Eastern Europe from years of Soviet occupation, and understanding their desire for the protection of the NATO military alliance, we the signers of this global call to action also note that the Russian people lost 20 million people during WWII to the Nazi onslaught and are understandably wary of NATO expansion to their borders in a hostile environment.   Russia has lost the protection of the 1972 Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty, which the US abandoned in 2001, and warily observes missile bases metastasizing ever closer to its borders in new NATO member states, while the US rejects repeated Russian efforts for negotiations on a treaty to ban weapons in space, or Russia’s prior application for membership in NATO. 

For these reasons, we the peoples, as members of Civil Society, Non-Governmental Organizations, and global citizens, committed to peace and nuclear disarmament, demand that an independent international inquiry be commissioned to review events in Ukraine leading up to the Malaysian jet crash and of the procedures being used to review the catastrophic aftermath.  The inquiry should factually determine the cause of the accident and hold responsible parties accountable to the families of the victims and the citizens of the world who fervently desire peace and a peaceful settlement of any existing conflicts.  It should include a fair and balanced presentation of what led to the deterioration of U.S. –Russian relations and the new hostile and polarized posture that the U.S. and Russia with their allies find themselves in today.

The UN Security Council, with US and Russian agreement, has already passed Resolution 2166 addressing the Malaysian jet crash, demanding accountability, full access to the site and a halt to military activity which has been painfully disregarded at various times since the incident.   One of the provisions of SC Res 2166 notes that the Council “[s]upports efforts to establish a full, thorough and independent international investigation into the incident in accordance with international civil aviation guidelines.”  Further, the 1909 revised Convention on the Pacific Settlement of International Disputes adopted at the 1899 Hague International Peace Conference has been used successfully to resolve issues between states so that war was avoided in the past.  Both Russia and Ukraine are parties to the Convention. 

Regardless of the forum where the evidence is gathered and fairly evaluated, we the undersigned urge that the facts be known as to how we got to this unfortunate state of affairs on our planet today and what might be the solutions.  We urge Russia and Ukraine as well as their allies and partners to engage in diplomacy and negotiations, not war and hostile alienating actions.   The world can little afford the trillions of dollars in military spending and trillions and trillions of brain cells wasted on war when our very Earth is under stress and needs the critical attention of our best minds and thinking and the abundance of resources mindlessly diverted to war to be made available for the challenge confronting us to create a livable future for life on earth.

Why is this important?

It’s important because there is so much misinformation and disinformation in the media that we are careening towards a new cold war with Russia over this.

Initial Signatories for petition:
(Organizations for Identification Only)

Hon. Douglas Roche, OC, Canada
David Swanson, co-founder, World Beyond War
Bruce Gagnon,  Global Network Against Nuclear Power and Weapons in Space
Alice Slater, JD, Nuclear Age Peace Foundation, NY
Professor Francis A. Boyle, University of Illinois College of Law
Natasha Mayers, Union of Maine Visual Artists
David Hartsough, co-founder, World Beyond War
Larry Dansinger, Resources for Organizing and Social Change
Ellen Judd, Project Peacemakers
Coleen Rowley, Women Against Military Madness
Medea Benjamin, Code Pink
Brian Noyes Pulling, M. Div.
Anni Cooper, Peaceworks
Kevin Zeese, Popular Resistance
Leah Bolger, CDR, USN (Ret), Veterans for Peace
Raymond McGovern, former CIA analyst, VA
Margaret Flowers, Popular Resistance
Gloria McMillan, Tucson Balkan Peace Support Group
Ellen E. Barfield, Veterans for Peace
Cecile Pineda, author. Devil's Tango: How I Learned the Fukushima Step by Step
Jill McManus
Steve Leeper, Visiting professor, Hiroshima Jogakuin University,Nagasaki University
Kyoto University of Art and Design
William H. Slavick, Pax Christi Maine
Helen Caldicott, Helen Caldicott Foundation
David Krieger, Nuclear Age Peace Foundation
Brigadier Vijai K Nair, VSM [Retd] Ph.D. , Magoo Strategic Infotech Pvt Ltd
Kevin Martin,  Peace Action
Carol Reilly Urner, Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom
Ann E. Ruthsdottir
Kay Cumbow
Steven Starr, Senior Scientist, Physicians for Social Responsibility
Tiffany Tool,  Peaceworkers
Sukla Sen, Committee for Communal Amnity, Mumbai India
Joan Russow, PhD, Coordinator, Global Compliance Research Project
Rob Mulford, Veterans for Peace, North Star Chapter, Alaska
Jacqueline Cabasso,  Western States Legal Foundation, United for Peace and Justice
Ingeborg Breines, Co-president International Peace Bureau
Judith LeBlanc, Peace Action
Felicity Ruby
Jerry  Stein,  The Peace Farm, Amarillo , Texas
Michael Andregg, professor, St. Paul, Minnesota
Elizabeth Murray,  Deputy National Intelligence Officer for the Near East, National Intelligence Council, ret.: Veteran Intelligence Professionals for Sanity, Washington
Robert Shetterly, artist,  “Americans Who Tell the Truth,” Maine
Katharine Gun, United Kingdom
Dave Webb, Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament, UK
Amber Garland, St. Paul, Minnesota
John Feffer, Foreign Policy in Focus
Beverly Bailey, Richfield, Minnesota
Joseph Gerson,  Convener, Working Group for Peace & Demiitarization in Asia and the Pacific
Stephen McKeown, Richfield, Minnesota
Dominique Lalanne,  France
Bill Rood, Rochester, Minnesota
Tom Klammer, radio host, Kansas City, Missouri
Barbara Vaile, Minneapolis, Minnesota
Mali Lightfoot, Helen Caldicott Foundation
Tony Henderson, spokesperson for universal humanism, Hong Kong
Darlene M. Coffman, Rochester, Minnesota
Sister Gladys Schmitz, Mankato, Minnesota
Edward Loomis, NSA Cryptologic Computer Scientist (ret.)
J. Kirk Wiebe, NSA Senior Analyst (ret.), MD
William Binney, former Technical Director, World Geopolitical & Military Analysis, NSA; co-founder, SIGINT Automation Research Center (ret.)
Jill Stein, Green Party 2012 Presidential nominee
Cheri Honkala, Green Shadow Cabinet
Ed Asner
Norman Solomon, Fairness and Accuracy in Reporting
Agneta Norberg, Sweden
Rick Rosoff, Stop NATO
Kathleen Sullivan, Hibakusha Stories
Michael Eisenscher, US Labor Against the War
Clare Coss, playwright
Jean-Marie Matagne, President, Action des Citoyens pour le Désarmement Nucléaire (France)
Carolyn Rusti Eisenberg, United for Peace and Justice

Add your name.

Talk Nation Radio: Taif Jany on #SoccerSalam

https://soundcloud.com/davidcnswanson/talk-nation-radio-taif-jany-on-soccersalam

Taif Jany, director of #SoccerSalam, discusses the need for humanitarian aid in Iraq this winter and how people can help. See http://soccersalam.org

In addition, 12-year-old Hallie Turner explains how she became a climate activist with http://imatteryouth.org

Total run time: 29:00

Host: David Swanson.
Producer: David Swanson.
Music by Duke Ellington.

Download from Archive or LetsTryDemocracy.

Pacifica stations can also download from AudioPort.

Syndicated by Pacifica Network.

Please encourage your local radio stations to carry this program every week!

Please embed the SoundCloud audio on your own website!

Past Talk Nation Radio shows are all available free and complete at
http://TalkNationRadio.org

and at
https://soundcloud.com/davidcnswanson/tracks

The Case Against Re-Banning Torture Yet Again

Senator Ron Wyden has a petition up at MoveOn.org that reads "Right now, torture is banned because of President Obama's executive order. It's time for Congress to pass a law banning torture, by all agencies, so that a future president can never revoke the ban." It goes on to explain:

"We live in a dangerous world. But when CIA operatives and contractors torture terrorist suspects, it doesn't make us safer -- and it doesn't work. The recent CIA torture report made that abundantly clear. Right now, the federal law that bans torture only applies to the U.S. military -- not our intelligence agencies. President Obama's executive order barring all agencies from using torture could be reversed, even in secret, by a future president. That's why it's critical that Congress act swiftly to pass a law barring all agencies of the U.S. government, and contractors acting on our behalf, from engaging in torture. Without legislation, the door on torture is still open. It's time for Congress to slam that door shut once and for all."

Why in the world would anybody object to this unless they supported torture? Well, let me explain.

Torture and complicity in torture were felonies under U.S. law before George W. Bush moved into the White House, under both the torture statute and the war crimes statute. Nothing has fundamentally changed about that, other than the blatant lack of enforcement for several years running. Nothing in those two sections of the U.S. code limits the law to members of the U.S. military or excludes employees or contractors or subcontractors of so-called intelligence agencies. I emailed a dozen legal experts about that claim in the above petition. Michael Ratner replied "I don’t see where they get that from." Kevin Zeese said simply "They're wrong." If anyone replies to me with any explanation, I'll post it as an update at the top of this article on davidswanson.org -- where I can be contacted if you have an explanation.

For the past several years, the U.S. Congress, White House, Justice Department, and media have gone out of their way to ignore the existence of U.S. laws banning torture. When silence hasn't worked, the primary technique has been proposing over and over and over again to ban torture, as if it were not already banned. In fact, Congress has followed through and banned it a number of times, and done so with new exceptions that by some interpretations have in fact weakened the war crimes statute. This is my best guess where the nonsense about applying only to "intelligence agencies" comes from: laws like the Military Commissions Act of 2006 that claimed to pick and choose which types of torture to ban for whom.

When President Obama took President Bush's place he produced an executive order purporting to ban torture (again), even while publicly telling the Justice Department not to enforce any existing laws. But an executive order, as Wyden seems to recognize, is not a law. Neither can it ban torture, nor can it give legal weight to the pretense that torture wasn't already banned. In fact the order itself states: "Nothing in this order shall be construed to affect the obligations of officers, employees, and other agents of the United States Government to comply with all pertinent laws and treaties of the United States governing detention and interrogation, including but not limited to: the Fifth and Eighth Amendments to the United States Constitution; the Federal torture statute, 18 U.S.C. 2340 2340A; the War Crimes Act, 18 U.S.C. 2441 . . . ."

Senator Wyden says he will introduce yet another bill to "ban torture." Here's how the Washington Post is spinning, and explaining, that:

"Torture is already illegal, but Wyden notes that protections can be strengthened. To oversimplify, the U.S. is a signatory to the U.N. Convention Against Torture, in which participating states agreed to outlaw intentionally inflicting severe pain for specific purposes. The Bush administration obviously found a (supposedly) legal route around that."

In other words, because it was done by a president, it was legal -- the worldview of the Post's old buddy Richard Nixon.

"After the Abu Graib revelations, John McCain helped pass a 2005 amendment that would restrict the military from using specific brutal interrogation tactics — those not in the Army Field Manual. (This didn’t preclude intel services from using these techniques, which might explain why CIA director John Brennan felt free to say the other day that future policymakers might revert to using them). In 2008, Congress passed a measure specifically applying those restrictions to intelligence services, too, but then-President Bush vetoed it. Senator Wyden would revive a version of that 2008 bill as a starting point, with the goal of codifying in law President Obama's executive order banning the use of those specific techniques for all government employees, those in intelligence services included."

But let's back up a minute. When a president violates a law, that president -- at least once out of office -- should be prosecuted for violating the law. The law can't be declared void because it was violated. Loopholes can't be created for the CIA. Reliance on the Army Field Manual can't sneak into law the loopholes built into that document. Presidents can't order and un-order things illegal. Here's how the United Nations Special Rapporteur on counter terrorism and human rights, Ben Emmerson responded to the release of the Senate's report summary:

"The individuals responsible for the criminal conspiracy revealed in today’s report must be brought to justice, and must face criminal penalties commensurate with the gravity of their crimes. The fact that the policies revealed in this report were authorised at a high level within the U.S. Government provides no excuse whatsoever. Indeed, it reinforces the need for criminal accountability. International law prohibits the granting of immunities to public officials who have engaged in acts of torture. This applies not only to the actual perpetrators but also to those senior officials within the U.S. Government who devised, planned and authorised these crimes. As a matter of international law, the U.S. is legally obliged to bring those responsible to justice. The UN Convention Against Torture and the UN Convention on Enforced Disappearances require States to prosecute acts of torture and enforced disappearance where there is sufficient evidence to provide a reasonable prospect of conviction. States are not free to maintain or permit impunity for these grave crimes."

Now, one could try to spin the endless re-banning of torture as part of the process of enforcing an international treaty that under Article VI of the U.S. Constitution is the supreme law of the land. But banning a practice going forward, even when you ban it better, or ban it more emphatically for the 8th time, does absolutely nothing to fulfill the legal obligation to prosecute those crimes already committed. And here we are dealing with crimes openly confessed to by past officials who assert that they would "do it again" -- crimes that resulted in deaths, thus eliminating any attempt at an argument that statutes of limitations have run out.

Here's a different sort of petition that we've set up at RootsAction.org along with Witness Against Torture and the Bill of Rights Defense Committee: " We call on President Obama to allow the U.S. Department of Justice to enforce our laws, and to immediately appoint a special prosecutor. As torture is a crime of universal jurisdiction, we call on any willing court system in the world to enforce our laws if our own courts will not do so."

The purpose of such a petition is not vengeance or partisanship or a fetish with history. The purpose is to end torture, which is not done by looking forward or even by pardoning the crimes, as the ACLU has proposed -- to its credit recognizing that the crimes exist. That should be a first step for anyone confused by the endless drumbeat to "ban torture."