Never a Better Time to Talk Personal Responsibility in the Face of Evil
a friend of mine expressed the
worry that The Picket Line was losing its focus and
was in danger of becoming yet another blog featuring an underqualified amateur
pundit giving his unsolicited opinion on current events.
The core focus of The Picket Line is my experiment
with tax resistance. And so I cover news and historical reviews of tax
resistance and tax resisters, various tax resistance methods and their pros
and cons, and tax law changes of possible interest to resisters. Along with
this I hit some tangential issues, for instance: tax law and tax policy in
general, frugal living, the trials and tribulations of the
various other forms of protest and rebellion.
Sometimes I can’t help but just point out an example of just how bad this
government is and what it’s spending our money on — in the hopes that for
someone, somewhere, this will be the final straw, and they’ll stop feeding the
machine. I’ve given into this temptation on a few occasions, although I’m
trying to resist turning The Picket Line into My
Daily Rant About Politics and Current Events.
So you can’t blame me for pouncing on these recent stories of torture and its
official imprimatur. There’s just too much material in this story that has a
direct and concrete bearing on this same set of issues.
I can’t get past the fact that this is the product of a “working group” of
lawyers, all of them highly educated, presumably intelligent, decent
hardworking Americans who love their country. And, not one of them resigned
their post rather than participate in creating a legal justification for
torture. And, it was not just an abstraction to them; they went into great
detail about the precise amount of pain that was to be allowed. There are
long passages in which the meaning of “severe pain” is discussed, the effect
of long term mental damage is assessed and where the justification of the
infliction of long term damage is defined as a matter of intent rather than
Maybe it’s true that “not one of them resigned,” but there were some people
who were very aware of the horror they were being asked to participate in.
That’s how these memos got leaked to the press and to human rights groups.
What was the process by which they came to these dry legalistic definition of
when, how and where one is allowed to inflict terrible pain as long as it
doesn’t reach the level of intensity that would accompany serious physical
injury or organ failure? Did they discuss this around a conference table over
a take-out Chinese dinner? Did they all nod their heads and take notes and
write memos and have conference calls and send e-mails on the subject of what
exactly the definition of “severe pain” is? Did they take their kid to school
on the way to the meeting in which they finalized a report that says the
president of the United States has the unlimited authority to order the
torture of anyone he wants? Did they tell jokes on the way out?
The prosecution accuses the Gestapo of having employed the third degree
method of interrogation. I had already spoken about this when I discussed
the question whether the methods employed by the Gestapo were criminal. At
this point I have the following to say with reference to this accusation:
The documents submitted by the prosecution made it perfectly clear that it
was only permissible to employ third degree methods of interrogation in
exceptional cases, only with the observance of certain protective guarantees
and only by order of higher authorities. Furthermore, it was not permissible
to use these methods in order to force a confession; they could only be
employed in the case of a refusal to give information vital to the interests
of the State, and finally, only in the event of certain factual evidence.
Entire sections of the Gestapo, such as the counter-intelligence police and
frontier police, have never carried out third degree interrogations. In the
occupied territories, where occupation personnel were daily threatened by
attempts on their lives, more severe methods of interrogation were permitted,
if it was thought that in this manner the lives of German soldiers and
officials might be protected against such threatened attempts. Torture of any
kind was never officially condoned… [T]he officials of the Gestapo were
continuously instructed during training courses and at regular intervals, to
the effect that any ill-treatment during interrogations, in fact any
ill-treatment of detainees in general, was prohibited.
Dubya joins Ashcroft
in the disingenuous practice of responding to questions of “do you approve of
torture” with answers like “we always follow the law:”
Q: Mr. President, I wanted to return to the
question of torture. What we’ve learned from these memos this week is that
the Department of Justice lawyers and the Pentagon lawyers have essentially
worked out a way that
U.S. officials can
torture detainees without running afoul of the law. So when you say that
you want the U.S.
to adhere to international and
U.S. laws, that’s
not very comforting. This is a moral question: Is torture ever justified?
BUSH: Look, I’m going to say it one more time.
Maybe I can be more clear. The instructions went out to our people to adhere
to law. That ought to comfort you. We’re a nation of law. We adhere to laws.
We have laws on the books. You might look at these laws. And that might
provide comfort for you. And those were the instructions from me to the