Wednesday, March 25, 2009


Sometimes, I just need a little break from the stress caused by spewing out my guts!
by Charlie Leck

A few of my most faithful readers – and these also happen to be good friends – gave me a lot of grief about my blogs over the last few days.

Leck, are you kidding me? A recipe for Chinese Steak? Instructions on how to compost? A few of your favorite photographs? My Lord, man, I go to your blog to see how close you’re getting to cracking a significant artery and finally having done with it? I don’t go there to find out how to cook. And, I already know how to compost. Anyone who wants to know how, can just google it, for God's sake. Cut it out, okay?” [Ralph, Galveston, TX]

“What’s up, Charlie? Have you taken some time off? Have you some two-bit sissy writing your blogs lately. I think it would be better just to tell us you’re worn out and
have flown to Antigua for some rest. Whoever has been writing lately isn't worth a spit – not even close!” [Susan, Geneva, Suisse]

“Jesus, Leck! What are you doing? Throw a piece of crap out for one day every once in awhile, but not for three days running. What’s this all about? I can’t afford to waste my energy, clicking my index finger on a mouse a couple of times, only to arrive at your blog and find some two–bit recipe for NY Strip steak. For cryin’ out loud, man. You take a strip steak, throw it on the grill and pelt it with a little
salt! Every guy knows that! Where’s your anger? Where’s the profanity? I can’t handle this nice-guy stuff. I know you. Some nice-guys are good friends of mine. And you ain’t no nice guy! Either rev it up or I’m not coming back!” [George, Manchester, NH)
What can I say? When I started to blog, I never really expected readers. I did this as a discipline to write everyday – to write something that could become a record for my grandchildren. I envision them, twenty years from now, showing a little interest – showing a little curiosity about who their slightly dingy grandfather was. Then I discovered I had readers and it became more of a mission to express my rage about this and that. Eventually, I felt like I got trapped into writing for a larger general public and not for those sweet, little kids.

One gets tired of ragging all the time and I do feel, sometimes, like I’m going to burst a blood vessel.

Hiding my rage!
This particular time, however, I just want to vent on the revelations released last week by Mark Danner, a professor of journalism at Berkeley. Danner is one of the leading experts on what happened at Abu Ghraib – the Iraqi prison – while it was under American control.

Recently some documents came into his hands in a rather mysterious manner. They were highly classified reports from the International Red Cross (IRC) regarding its interviews of 14 detainees who had been transferred to Guantánamo from Abu Ghraib. There are plenty of reasons to bank on the validity of these testimonies. The IRC itself believes they are credible because of the element of consistency in the testimony of 14 different individuals. Danner chronicles these cases in a long article, US Torture: Voices from the Black Sites, in the most recent issue of the New York Review of Books [read it]. I’ve read it thoroughly and carefully.

Prosecution of Bush, Chaney, Rumsfeld and others
Here’s something I’ve been avoiding for a long time even though I have known, way back in my mind, that it was inevitable that I would come to this conclusion. The former President, George W. Bush and his Vice President, Dick Chaney, and a number of other high ranking Bush administration officials ought to be prosecuted for serious war crimes.

I don’t think it will happen in my life time, but it ought to.

Danner provides this firm quote from the IRC and says that it “has the power of a legal determination.”
“The allegations of ill treatment of the detainees indicate that, in many cases, the ill treatment to which they were subjected while held in the CIA program, either singly or in combination, constituted torture. In addition many other elements of the ill treatment, either singly or in combination, constituted cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment.”
The case by case accounts of the treatment of these human beings made me want to vomit. It is the kind of thing I grew up, as an idealistic child, believing that the United States never did. We might be tortured as prisoners of other nations, but America is too great and believes too firmly in the dignity of the human being to ever do such a thing. Now can you believe it? I actually was sucked into a bunch of the cockamamie bullshit.

Under George W. Bush, and with his approval, prisoners were subjected to the following treatment
  • Deprivation of sleep
  • Starvation
  • Conditions of extreme cold or extreme heat
  • No movement from a single position
  • Kept naked for long periods of times (days and weeks)
  • Forced standing with hands shackled above head
  • Covered with icy cold water for periods of time
  • Painful beatings
  • Extremely loud noise levels
  • Constantly threatening, dangerous sounds

Now this is low level stuff. The really nasty, vicious stuff is yet to be listed. It is important to know that the report says that all of these things were approved by high-level figures in the U.S. government. Dick Chaney and Condoleezza Rice and John Ashcroft often attended meetings of the National Security Council at which these treatments were discussed and approved.

How about having a towel wrapped around your neck that could be used as a sling to swing you around and smash your head against hard walls – repeatedly? It happened and it was approved treatment. This particular treatment appears to have been refined over time so that a specially fitted plastic collar was created and used for the slinging.

How about being put into a coffin-shaped, coffin-sized, small box for long periods of time? What if the box provided very little amounts of oxygen?

What if wounds and injuries went untreated?

What if sensations of drowning were created during periods of oxygen deprivation?

Of course, the ultimate was the water boarding – the creation of the sensation of drowning.

“What we can say with certainty, in the wake of the Red Cross report, is that the United States tortured prisoners and that the Bush administration, including the president himself, explicitly and aggressively denied that fact. We can also say that the decision to torture, in a political war with militant Islam, harmed American interests by destroying the democratic and constitutional reputation of the United States, undermining its liberal sympathizers in the Muslim world and helping materially in the recruitment of young Muslims to the extremist cause. By deciding to torture, we freely chose to embrace the caricature they had made of us. The consequences of this choice, legal, political and moral, now confront us. Time and elections are not enough to make them go away.”

Until now, I have not favored criminal prosecutions of the former President and Vice President and those other members of the administration who gave approval to this treatment. Now I do.

If anger burns in you, as it does in me, be sure to read the entirety of the Danner article.

It appears Congress may now act. I have asked my U.S. Senator and my Representative in the House to support an investigation that might lead to criminal indictments. I hope you’ll do the same.

There you are Susan, Ralph and George! No pabulum today. Our nation is guilty of the utterly inhumane treatment of prisoners. Nasty! Will the U.N. have the guts to punish us? No! The only hope is that we do it through our own system and that will need to start with Congress.

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