Tuesday, May 05, 2009

John Brown's Public Diplomacy Press and Blog Review

A visit to John Brown's blog is better than a whole evening of late night tee-vee.He gets more content into a single blogpost than most bloggers cover in a week and his ability to see around, under and behind the radar screens is uncanny.

Check out his link to Princess Sparkle Pony's Photo Blog which posted a cute little story about Condoleeza Rice's visit to an elementary school during which a fourth grader brought up a question about torture.

But it seems that all anybody wants to ask Condi about these days is torture, which is icky and totally rude because it makes her uncomfortable. This time it was a fourth grader who wanted to ask the question newspapers refuse to ask, and as you can see, it made Condi's meet-children-cute thing a little tense:

So the kid was all, like, "OMG, which Jonas Brother is your favorite and why did we, like, torture 'n' stuff?" Condi then scrunched up her forehead and gave her standard response, which is, "OMG, we were so scared after 911 that we made sure to declare everything legal so that the President wouldn't break any laws." See? Such a simple answer! Why do people keep asking about it? Sheesh! Look, it's a simple logic problem:

==> We didn't torture.
==> We DID use the technique called waterboarding.
==> Therefore waterboarding isn't torture.

Even a child should be able to unravel understand that logic.

John Brown's blog is on Princes Sparkle Pony's blogroll as "John Brown's smartypants Georgetown cocktail party elitist diplomacy blog."
And they say Washington is dry and boring. No way.

Scroll down far enough to study the "Syrian Sexing" image (NSFW)

Despite the breezy carelessness of the form, the content of this post is bitterly serious. How else are we to deal with the ugly underside of modern American international relations and its tawdry connection with torture? A link toward the end of the post takes us to an LA Times column by A.J. Langguth. Brace yourself.
Brazil's political prisoners never doubted that Americans were involved in the torture that proliferated in their country. On their release, they reported that they frequently had heard English-speaking men around them, foreigners who left the room while the actual torture took place. As the years passed, those torture victims say, the men with American accents became less careful and sometimes stayed on during interrogations.

One student dissident, Angela Camargo Seixas, described to me how she was beaten and had electric wires inserted into her vagina after her arrest. During her interrogations, she found that her hatred was directed less toward her countrymen than toward the North Americans. She vowed never to forgive the United States for training and equipping the Brazilian police.

Flavio Tavares Freitas, a journalist and Christian nationalist, shared that sense of outrage. When he had wires jammed in his ears, between his teeth and into his anus, he saw that the small gray generator producing the shocks had on its side the red, white and blue shield of the USAID.

Still another student leader, Jean Marc Von der Weid, told of having his penis wrapped in wires and connected to a battery-operated field telephone. Von der Weid, who had been in Brazil's marine reserve, said he recognized the telephone as one supplied by the United States through its military assistance program.

Victims often said that their one moment of hope came when a medical doctor appeared in their cell. Now surely the torment would end. Then they found that he was only there to guarantee that they could survive another round of shocks.

CIA Director Richard Helms once tried to rebut accusations against his agency by asserting that the nation must take it on faith that the CIA was made up of "honorable men." That was before Sen. Frank Church's 1975 Senate hearings brought to light CIA behavior that was deeply dishonorable.

Before Brazil restored civilian government in 1985, Abourezk had managed to shut down a Texas training base notorious for teaching subversive techniques, including the making of bombs. When OPS came under attack during another flurry of bad publicity, the CIA did not fight to save it, and its funding was cut off.

Looking back, what has changed since 1975? A Brazilian truth and reconciliation commission was convened, and it documented 339 cases of government-sanctioned political assassinations. In 2002, a former labor leader and political prisoner, Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva, was elected president of Brazil. He's serving his second term.

Fernando Gabeira went home to publish a book about kidnapping the American ambassador and his ordeal in prison. The book became a bestseller throughout Brazil, and Gabeira was elected to the national legislature. In an election last October, he came within 1.4 percentage points of becoming the mayor of Rio de Janeiro.

But in our country, there's been a disheartening development: In 1975, U.S. officials still felt they had to deny condoning torture. Now many of them seem to be defending torture, even boasting about it.


John Brown said...

Thank you for your kind words! Much appreciated...

Princess Sparkle Pony said...

I'm always thrilled to see John Brown get credit where credit is due.