What’s Pissing Me Off Today?

At a time when I, like a lot of the country, was starting to suffer from outrage fatigue, it seems that today brought a higher-than-usual number of news stories in the “You’ve got to be fucking kidding me” department.

One of Erik Prince’s companies (no, not Blackwater; another one) invokes Shari’a law when it’s convenient:

RALEIGH – To defend itself against a lawsuit by the widows of three American soldiers who died on one of its planes in Afghanistan, a sister company of the private military firm Blackwater has asked a federal court to decide the case using Islamic law, known as Shari’a.

Last year, they tried arguing that the airline was a government contractor, and individuals can’t sue the government, but judges didn’t buy that. So now they’re arguing that since the crash was in Afghanistan, the case is subject to Afghan law, which is basically Shari’a.

Remember when questions like “Is it okay to torture people as a matter of government policy?” were no-brainers?

Ah, those were simpler days. Yesterday, John Yoo, the guy who came up with the legal rationalization for Gitmo and torture, in testimony before Congress wouldn’t say whether the president has the right to order that someone be buried alive.

In a blast from the past, Cheney’s chief of staff David Addington regales us with last year’s hit single, “The Vice President Isn’t In the Executive Branch“.

Those Who Do Not Remember the Dictionary Definition Are Condemned to Mangle It

I’ve started hearing the phrase “actionable
being used as a five-dollar synonym for “useful information”, particularly in the context of the debate on how to rebrand torture to make it seem acceptable.

Am I the only one to have noticed the irony here? In case everyone forgot, the first definition of
means “something you can get sued over”. This is not generally considered a Good Thing.

USA: Now, With Less Torture!*

* Some restrictions may apply. The definition of torture is subject to change without notice. Incarcerators’ decision may be final.

So anyway, we now have
a shiny new law that outlaws torture.

With a few caveats.

Like, the president gets to define what constitutes “torture”, so as long as he can rationalize that something is just high-spirited hijinks or “tough interrogation techniques” or approaches but does not exceed the pain of organ failure, or even if God just told him to do it, then hey, it’s not torture.

And what if you’ve been locked up when you haven’t done anything? Well, if the administration says you’re an unlawful combatant (at their discretion, natch), then you don’t even have the right to have a judge tell you WTF you’re locked up. In other words, if you think you’re being tortured illegally, who are you gonna complain to? And if you think you should have the right to habeas corpus because you’re not an unlawful combatant, well, the people who have you locked up say you are, so who are you gonna complain to?

Another sad and ironic part is that this certainly isn’t going to help our troops in the field. Not that this is news to anyone, except possibly the people at the head of this administration.

Back in the 4th century BC, Alexander the Great introduced a new wartime strategy. Unlike previous conquerors, when he captured a city, he didn’t slaughter the inhabitants and burn the city to the ground. Rather, he would execute the king and spare the population. This meant that the defenders were fighting to defend their king, their city, and their wealth, but not their lives, so they had less of an incentive to fight to the bitter end.

More recently, during WWII, Joseph Stalin decreed that any Soviet soldier taken prisoner by the Germans obviously hadn’t fought hard enough, and was therefore a traitor. Any POWs who were returned to the Soviet Union were executed for treason. Consequently, faced with a choice between possible death in combat, and surrender to the Germans, followed by months or years in a POW camp, followed by execution by firing squad, the Soviet army put up a hell of a fight.

Now we have become a nation that, shocked by the photos that came out of Abu Ghraib and Guantanamo, looked deep into its soul, and said, “I don’t think we should do anything like this… but why don’t you decide for us, Mr. President?”

In other words, we are a country that tortures.

And now, in Iraq and Afghanistan, any insurgent, terrorist, or poor schmuck caught at the wrong place at the wrong time and staring down the barrels of a dozen marines’ rifles is going to have to ask himself, “do I want to surrender, and probably be tortured, and spend the next forever chained naked to a cell door in a pool of my own shit, or do I want to risk fighting my way out, and maybe take a few of them with me?”

News flash: that’s not what we want them to think. What we want them to think is “Fuck this shit. This isn’t worth dying for. I’ll just surrender, and have some war stories to tell my kids.”

Is this really that hard to grasp?

(Crossposted to daily Kos.)