August 5, 2007 at 7:26 pm (books, movies, politics)

I don’t know if that happens to anyone else, but somewhat frequently, I will hear of something (a term, news article, book, etc) that I have never heard of before, but then with very quick succession, that thing will pop up again and again on my radar within the next day or so. This happened last night with the term “Rendition”. David Ignatius of the Washington post defines the term quite well in his article on the topic:

Rendition is the CIA’s antiseptic term for its practice of sending captured terrorist suspects to other countries for interrogation. Because some of those countries torture prisoners — and because some of the suspected terrorists “rendered” by the CIA say they were in fact tortured — the debate has tended to lump rendition and torture together. The implication is that the CIA is sending people to Egypt, Jordan or other Middle Eastern countries because they can be tortured there and coerced into providing information they wouldn’t give up otherwise.

This word came up in the context of two movies last night, a preview for the movie “Rendition” and it was also mentioned several times in “The Bourne Ultimatum”. Then later I happened to read about it in the book I’m still trudging through, “Blackwater; The rise of the world’s most powerful mercenary army” by Jeremy Scahill.

Now to me, the idea of practicing rendition sounds like something that Cheney or Rove would have had a wet-dream about and then presented to their puppet for implementation. I was wrong. Scahill writes:

The rendition program was not born under the Bush administration but rather during the Clinton administration in the mid-1990s. The CIA, with the approval of the Clinton White House and a presidential directive, began sending terror suspects to Egypt, where far removed from U.S. law and due process, they could be interrogated by mukhabarat agents. In 1998 , the U.S. congress passed legislation declaring that it is “the policy of the United States not to expel, extradite, or otherwise effect the involuntary return of any person to a country in which there are substantial grounds for believing the person would be in danger of being subjected to torture…After 9/11, this legislation was sidestepped under the Bush administration’s “New Paradigm,” which stripped alleged terror suspects of basic rights.”

It is of course no secret that the Bush administration, Cheney in particular, is not shy about working through “the dark side” “quietly, without any discussion, using sources and methods that are available to our intelligence agencies” (quotes from Cheney). Part of the reason that anyone stands behind the war still (though there aren’t many left) is that, as Americans, we have enjoyed democracy, equality (well, kinda) and importantly due process of the law, and we want to spread those ideals to other countries. We look with disgust upon other countries who routinely abuse human rights and who treat some groups of citizens with less respect and legal rights than others.

There is a reason why a relatively well-informed citizen like me had never heard of rendition before. Our government does not want us to know about this. We are sending residents and citizens of the U.S. abroad with the clear intent of holding them without due process and torturing them into divulging information, a technique which is vial and ultimately very dangerous in the long run:

Scientific research on the efficacy of torture and rough interrogation is limited, because of the moral and legal impediments to experimentation. Tom Parker, a former officer for M.I.5, the British intelligence agency, who teaches at Yale, argued that, whether or not forceful interrogations yield accurate information from terrorist suspects, a larger problem is that many detainees “have nothing to tell.” …“The U.S. is doing what the British did in the nineteen-seventies, detaining people and violating their civil liberties,” he said. “It did nothing but exacerbate the situation. Most of those interned went back to terrorism. You’ll end up radicalizing the entire population.”

This quote is from a very in depth and complete article on the subject of rendition by Jane Mayer.

Its an unpleasant task, but we as U.S. citizens need to find ways to be aware of what our leaders are doing. They are certainly doing everything in their power to keep us in the dark, which is yet another characteristic of governments that we view as being totalitarian and corrupt.

p.s. I realized that I should say, just so everyone doesn’t think I’m a total dunce, that I did in fact know about the practice of extraditing and interrogating suspected terrorists.  I just didn’t know that it was called Rendition.


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Minds of Children

August 2, 2007 at 1:01 am (movies, opinions, rants, religion)

G and I watched a scary movie last night.  I am admittedly a total wimp when it comes to scary movies, but this one really made me shake in my boots.  It had brainwashing, and religious armies and … Pentecostals!!!  Yes, we watched that thriller “Jesus Camp” – and we’re ready to make our move to Sweden at any moment.

There are just too many subjects to cover with this movie, and I’d really recommend for people to actually watch it, rather than read some lame play by play of it.  And speaking of watching it, G and I both noted that we think either side (anti-religious, like us, or scary-religious, like them) could watch this movie and feel that it was giving them what they came for.  I think the film-makers did an excellent job of presenting the subject matter fairly.  It would have been very easy to vilify the Pentecostals, and to G and me, that’s kind of what it was doing.  But to those who firmly believe in the Evangelical way of life, they would see this as an inspiring call to action.

I would, however, like to comment on the aspects of the movie that struck me the most.  As the title suggests, the movie focuses on children, and the brainwashing (indoctrination, whatever you want to call it) that they undergo at the hands of their parents and youth leaders.  These children are never taught to think for themselves.  They chant and sing and repeat bible verses like little automatons.  At their church services and revivals they cry and break down and speak in tongues, not because they are truly possessed by the holy spirit, but because they receive positive reinforcement from their Pentecostal leaders and parents for doing so.  Like any children, they seek the approval from their superiors.  These children are led to believe that they know all that they need to know, because they have found the lord.  Many of them are home-schooled by similarly under-educated parents who teach them a falsified version of the world, thereby perpetuating their own ignorance and biases.  One of the girls (aged 10) featured in this movie frequently approaches strangers 10, 20, even 50 years her senior, to tell them that Jesus told her to speak to them.  Or she will ask them (with all the condescension a 10-year old can muster) if they really think they are going to heaven.  She is not only allowed to do this by her parents, but is actually encouraged to do so.  She is praised for belittling total strangers and acting as if she, at 10 years old, somehow has more knowledge and life experience than a 60 year old man.

These childrens’ faith is not taught to them by methods of reason and logic, methods preferred by which people who think for themselves.  Instead, they are taught lessons in a manner biased by emotion and fear.  In the movie, they are taught that abortion is murder by a pro-life leader who has visual aids including tiny full sized babies that get bigger and bigger, starting from the size of a large walnut.  Of course these are not accurate, since at 5 weeks post-conception we no more resemble a tiny human than does a chicken.  But do sub-ten year old children know this?  Of course not.  Do most of their parents know this?   Probably not.  These young children are taught about abortion and childbirth in a false and emotionally charged way.  Children who do not even know how conception occurs are taught to criminalize and vilify women whose circumstances they know nothing about.  Children as young as 5 vow to end legalized abortion.

Although I appreciated this movie for what it was, I really didn’t learn a whole lot of new information from it.  One of my biggest gripes with religion has always been its discouragement of free thinking and criticism.  I would also not expect for this commentary to sway any evangelical’s way of thinking.  They would view it as the same old godless liberal rhetoric.  So be it, I am pretty liberal and godless.  But fortunately, I can think for myself.

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