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Karen Greenberg, Crimes Against Humanity, American-Style

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[Note for TomDispatch Readers: TD will, as always, be taking the Memorial Day weekend off and will return next Tuesday. In the meantime, just a small reminder that, if you want to keep following the world according to TomDispatch and you can afford it, I hope you’ll consider visiting our donation page and contributing something to keep this site afloat. (A series of striking books, signed and personalized, are always available for anyone who donates $125 or, if you live outside the U.S., $150.) I hate to regularly bother you this way, but the truth is that you’re all that stands between TD and The End. Tom]

In January 2005, I began my introduction to the first piece Karen Greenberg ever wrote for TomDispatch this way: “Pick a week, any week, and you can now be guaranteed that yet more gruesome news will seep out about the global torture regime the Bush administration has set up around the world.” And I described the prison President George W. Bush and crew had established at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba, for those it captured in what was then called the Global War on Terror as “our Bermuda Triangle of injustice.” I added that “the paper trail already made public on torture, abuse, and other crimes against humanity is unprecedented.” The Torture Papers: The Road to Abu Ghraib, a groundbreaking book by Greenberg and Joshua Dratel (who co-authored that 2005 dispatch), was, in fact, just about to be published.

In that long-ago piece, Greenberg and Dratel posed 37 — yes, 37! — questions to then-Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld on the Bush administration’s torture policies, starting with “Does torture work?” More than 18 years later, we certainly know two things, as reflected in Greenberg’s latest TD post: first, torture most distinctly does not work; and second, despite all the efforts of Greenberg (including her 2010 book, The Least Worst Place: Guantanamo’s First 100 Days), Dratel, and others like them, the horrific American record of torture at CIA “black sites” across the planet and at Guantánamo Bay has yet to be fully revealed. Today, TomDispatch regular Greenberg puts her years of devotion to uncovering the nightmare that has long inhabited the very heart of this country’s disastrous war on terror in context and considers when, if ever, we’ll truly know the full story of the horrific global torture regime the American government established in these years.

In a world in which the Supreme Court ruled (in a split decision) in 2022 that a detainee at Guantánamo could not obtain information from two former CIA contractors involved in torturing him at a black site in Poland for fear of revealing state secrets, all too sadly, a story still remains to be told. Tom

Blindman’s Buff

America’s Continuing Quest to Hide Torture

In the Blindman’s Buff variation of tag, a child designated as “It” is tasked with tapping another child while wearing a blindfold. The sightless child knows the other children, all able to see, are there but is left to stumble around, using sounds and knowledge of the space they're in as guides. Finally, that child does succeed, either by bumping into someone, peeking, or thanks to sheer dumb luck.

Think of us, the American public, as that blindfolded child when it comes to our government's torture program that followed the 9/11 disaster and the launching of the ill-fated war on terror. We've been left to search in the dark for what so many of us sensed was there.

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Priti and Stan Cox, Two Great Powers, Too Much Violence

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Let me offer a small prediction: between this moment when I’m writing the introduction to Priti Gulati and Stan Cox’s new piece and the moment, a few days from now, when it’s actually posted at TomDispatch, the question isn’t whether there will be another mass shooting in America, but how many of them there will be.  In a country where an estimated one of every 20 people, or some 13 million of us, owns not just a gun but an AR-15 semi-automatic rifle, it goes without saying that carnage lies ahead. After all, 2023 is already proving a record year for both mass shootings (in which at least four people other than the gunman — and yes, they are almost always men or boys — are killed or wounded) and mass killings (in which four or more people other than the gunman are slaughtered).

By early May, there had already been more than 200 mass shootings in this country and we’re on target (so to speak) for at least 60 mass killings by year’s end. (There were “only” 36 in 2022.) It’s long been the case that ours is the sole country on planet Earth where there are more privately owned guns than people. With just 4% of the world’s population, we possess something like 40% of the globe’s guns.  Imagine that!

In a country where gun “control” remains essentially a fantasy, given the Trumpublican Party (and the present Supreme Court), the AR-15 has become the slaughter weapon of choice, whether of the young man who entered a Buffalo supermarket and killed 10 Black customers or of Kyle Rittenhouse, the young man who killed two Black Lives Matter protestors at a Wisconsin rally and was later invited to Mar-a-Lago by Donald Trump. And keep in mind that, while a few states have tried to impose restrictions or bans on assault rifles and President Biden has indeed supported a national ban, some Republican members of Congress now proudly sport AR-15 pins on their lapels as a sign of their commitment to the “right to bear arms” in America.

With that in mind, let TomDispatch regulars Priti Gulati and Stan Cox tell you something about where our all-too-well-armed country and Priti’s homeland, India, could both be heading, politically speaking, in this all-too-murderous moment of ours.  Tom

Between a Yoga Mat and a Hard Place

The Violent Urge for Supremacy in the World’s Two Largest Democracies

Are you worried about the rising political power of violent white nationalists in America? Well, you’ve got plenty of company, including U.S. national security and counterterrorism officials. And we’re worried, too -- worried enough, in fact, to feel that it’s time to take a look at the experience of India, where Hindu supremacist dogma has increasingly been enforced through violent means. While there are striking parallels between both countries, India appears to have ventured further down the road of far-right violence. Its experience could potentially offer Americans some valuable, if grim, lessons.

As a start, let’s look at two recent incidents, one in India and the other in the United States.

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Clarence Lusane, For Trump and DeSantis, Different Paths, the Same Destination

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How strange! Once upon a time, the men who wrote the Constitution were only worried about how young a president could be. They set a bottom age limit of 35 but never considered a top limit of any sort. How things have changed! When I was boy, the oldest president ever — and that was almost 200 years into the “American Century” — was Dwight D. Eisenhower who, on leaving office in 1961, had just turned a staggering 70. In doing so, he had outlasted Andrew Jackson, who left the presidency at age 69. Later in my life, Ronald Reagan, after his second term, was almost 78 (my age now).

Joe Biden, on taking the oath of office in January 2021, was already a record-breaking 78. Were he to win again in 2024, he would take that oath at 82 (unlike the youthful Donald Trump, who would be nearly 79). How strange then that no significant younger Democrat is challenging the president even as Ron DeSantis, a mere 44, is taking “our” former president on a trip to the GOP version of hell — without as yet, as TomDispatch regular Clarence Lusane, author of the riveting Twenty Dollars and Change: Harriet Tubman and the Ongoing Fight for Racial Justice and Democracy, notes today, much luck. Before you consider Lusane’s cogent thoughts on the mad Republican contest to turn this country into an authoritarian hell on earth, let me just fret a little about a Democratic candidate already older than creaky old me.

Joe Biden clearly has no intention of not running a second time — he’s already announced — and so is preparing to potentially set an oldest-yet record that may never be broken. It seems to matter little to him that a large majority of American voters, according to the latest polling, would like anything but a Biden-Trump repeat.

And honestly, facing the increasingly authoritarian Republican right that’s Lusane’s focus today, it scares this old guy to imagine scenarios in which Biden’s age could effectively hand this country and democracy itself over to the all-too-dangerous Donald Trump or another younger Republican intent on taking us into an authoritarian hell. Just a single Biden health crisis (especially if the U.S. economy were also to undergo one) and we could all be heading for genuine nightmare territory. Tom

Donald Trump and Ron DeSantis

Two Peas in a (White Nationalist) Pod

He appointed three conservative Supreme Court justices who shocked the nation with rulings that dramatically took away rights. He sided with the racists who used "states' rights" to push through undemocratic policies locally. And he's the only American president who lost a reelection bid but returned to office in the following election.

Yes, I'm thinking of former New York governor and Democrat Grover Cleveland who first won the presidency in 1884, lost his reelection bid in 1888, only to successfully regain the presidency in 1892 against then-incumbent Benjamin Harrison.

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