Camus, Obama & Torture: That Right There is Hell Breakin’ Loose

8 June 1972: Kim Ph?c, center left, running down a road near Trang Bang

after a South Vietnamese Air Force napalm attack.


Last week, I couldn’t figure out why the issue of torture

was consistently being presented in the media
. I have
been busy, writing about
other things, and preparing to
go to graduate school.


I turned to my colleague, Matthew Birkhold and was like

“Dude, why are they tripping of the torture documents
and the pictures, I don’t recall
torture being
made illegal. Is it in the Constitution?”

He then turned to me, and stared for a minute.

Then I said, “Oh, snap, the Geneva Conventions!”
You see, none of the articles I read mentioned
The Geneva
Convention, so I was unsure as
to scope of the implications
of a charge of torture. In
the article
What is a War Crime?, Tarik Kafala describes
the history and historical context of War Crimes. He writes,

The concept of war crimes is a recent one. Before World War II, it was generally accepted that the horrors of war were in the nature of war.

But during World War II the murder of several million people – mainly Jews- by Nazi Germany, and the mistreatment of both civilians and prisoners of war by the Japanese, prompted the Allied powers to prosecute the people they believed to be the perpetrators of these crimes.

The Nuremberg trials in 1945 and 1946 led to 12 Nazi leaders being executed.

A similar process started in Tokyo in 1948. Seven Japanese commanders were hanged, though the Allies decided not to put Emperor Hirohito in the dock.

These trials were essentially the precedents for the cases that the modern-day tribunal in The Hague hears.

In addition, individual governments, feeling that justice has not been done, have acted on their own initiative.

…Article 147 of the Fourth Geneva Convention defines war crimes as: “Wilful killing, torture or inhuman treatment, including… wilfully causing great suffering or serious injury to body or health, unlawful deportation or transfer or unlawful confinement of a protected person, compelling a protected person to serve in the forces of a hostile power, or wilfully depriving a protected person of the rights of fair and regular trial, …taking of hostages and extensive destruction and appropriation of property, not justified by military necessity and carried out unlawfully and wantonly.”

To cover his behind, President Bush provided retroactive
immunity
for himself and his entire administration for
war crimes. What an amazing move in light of the information
that is being revealed.

I then began to put the pieces to together.
The alleged terrorist have to be housed outside of American
soil, less they be granted due process and a
a trial within the
United States court system. So long as they are housed in
unknown prisons around the world, they will not be charged
and there is no incentive to proceed with due process and give
them their day in court.

President Obama made a campaign promise to close
Guantanamo, however, Congress is saying, no can do,
unless he has a plan.

While writing this, the just reported that President Obama
has decided to transfer
Ahmed Ghailani to New York and
try him in civil court.
The main issue is that some members
of the Senate don’t want
alleged terrorist’s housed in
American prisons.
The fear seems to be rational and I
am unsure as to why.

Andrew Sullivan (aka Mr. Cantankerous and awesome) of
The Atlantic.com,
has eloquently summed up President
Obama’s reversal on releasing the
torture photos. Sullivan writes,

Slowly but surely, Obama is owning the cover-up of his predcessors’
war crimes. But covering up war crimes, refusing to prosecute
them, promoting those associated with them, and suppressing
evidence of them are themselves violations of Geneva and
the UN Convention. So Cheney begins to successfully coopt
his successor.

The rationale for the suppression is fatuous:
“their release would endanger the troops.”

You mean releasing evidence of war crimes would
render US soldiers more vulnerable to attack? How?

This IS a Democracy. There is due process.

I was sort of excited to write this piece, not because of
the topic,
but because so many elements that I have been
thinking about
this year have coalesced in this issue.

For instance, back in December, Thaddeus Clark sent
me
an Esquire article, The Falling Man, by Tom Junod,
about
photos of taken of folks who jumped out of the
World Trade
Center. Thaddeus and I started having a
conversation on
Twitter about Camus, whom I was
reading a lot
of at the time.

Camus was notoriously anti-death penalty. In his era, folks
decapitated using a guillotine.
Camus’s rationale was
that in order for the death penalty to
be exemplary and
actually discourage other people
from
committing crimes, then the
heads of the the decapitated
folks should be displayed for the
entire town to see.

Yes. Displayed. Camus was no joke. He was a big believer
in the transparency of death, if the purpose of the death was
deter folks from committing future crimes or vicious acts.

In the essay, Reflections on the Guillotine, Camus
writes about the death penalty and watching his
father return home and
throwing up, after witnessing
a public execution. He writes,

When the extreme penalty simply causes vomiting on the part of the respectable citizen, it is suppose to
protect,
how can anyone mistaken that it is likely, as it
out to be, to bring
peace and order into the community.

….People write about capital punishment as if they are a whisper… But when silence or tricks of language contributes to the maintaining abuse that must be reformed or a suffering that can be relieved, then there is no solution but to speak out and show the obscenity hidden under the verbal cloak

In the article, Falling Man, Tom Junod discusses a
comment
left on the website, Here is New York, which
speaks to the discomfort
that we have with death and
photos of dead bodies. Junod writes,

.….on the Here Is New York Website, a visitor offers this commentary: “This image is what made me glad for censuring [sic] in the endless pursuant media coverage.” More and more, the jumpers — and their images — were relegated to the Internet underbelly, where they became the provenance of the shock sites that also traffic in the autopsy photos of Nicole Brown Simpson and the videotape of Daniel Pearl’s execution, and where it is impossible to look at them without attendant feelings of shame and guilt. In a nation of voyeurs, the desire to face the most disturbing aspects of our most disturbing day was somehow ascribed to voyeurism, as though the jumpers’ experience, instead of being central to the horror, was tangential to it, a sideshow best forgotten.

American’s are interesting. We enjoy death as entertainment
but are incapable of being a witness to the actual death’s in
the
Iraq and Afghanistan wars, death committed in our name.

If those photographs are released, the entire tone and scope
and conversation around the Iraq and Afghanistan war’s will change.

The men and woman (are their any women in Guantanamo)
who are being held in Guantanamo will be seen as both
human beings and as alleged terrorists. If they are tried
and found guilty of these awful acts, then they need to be
punished.

The American men and women, the American troops, who
have died will go from being abstract entities, in the minds
of the mainstream public, to human beings who have
died in our name.

We are all human beings.

We all have a mother.

We have all been children.

Someone changed all of our diapers.

The same way the photos of the My Lai Massacre
and of Kim Phuc significantly changed public opinion on
the Vietman war, the release of the torture photos will
change how we feel and hopefully inform our choices
around the Iraq and Afghanistan
wars.

It is time to release the photos.

Should the president release the photo’s?

What kind of country has one set of rules for its
citizens
and another for its prisoners?

Did President Bush plan on keeping the detainees
there
forever? It seems like it, as there was no plan
to deal with them via release?

What kind of Democracy holds alleged criminals
indefinitely?

The Curse of Being a Black Artist

Ice Cube helped me in ’92


I think I have fallen in love with Camus (a dead white Algerian
philosopher who argues that the death penalty is premeditated
murder
) and Anthony Hamilton simultaneously.

What does this have to do with being an artist? Everything,
simply because over the last few days I have been apart of
a few conversations on the tension between art and commerce.

Two days ago, on Twitter, Indieplanet and I were having a discussion
about art, commerce, Joe Budden/Vlad flap up.

indieplanet @mdotwrites Its a bigger issue of basic ethics.
Too many blogs/video sites decide at some point to exchange
ethics for page views.

indieplanet @mdotwrites Re: Budden/Vlad – What are your
thoughts on the whole situation. I think its a bigger picture that
video sites should consider.

indieplanet @mdotwrites Shouldnt it be possible to make a
contribution AND get paid?? It is possible (not common)
to change the game & have morals

Yesterday, Dart Adam’s sent me a link to an essay of his which outlined,
amongst many things, how the The Telecommunication’s Act
spearheaded mergers and acquisitions in radio and how these
changes impacted hip hop.

To cap it off, yesterday, Brooklyn Bodega posted a Facebook note asking
“Does Money Ruin it All?” He wrote,

the other day one of our family posted a comment that he was no fan of ‘Notorious’ because too many people had profited from its production. He cited Memebrs of Junior Mafia, Puff and I assume he also had a problem with Ms. Wallace as she looks to have been in charge and arguably received the largest check.

So the question is does the presence of money make it impossible to produce a work of pure artistic integrity?

The responses ranged from, “as long as the Wallace family is
compensated
then it is all good” to “making money is practical
for everyone including artists”,
and finally “this is a less of an
issue of the evils of capitalism and rather a question
of authenticity.”

Many of the comments reflect a fundamental lack of understanding of
capitalism and both how it has historically impacted art and how it impacts
hip hop and Black artists specifically.
Because capital is productive
property, there will always be a move to
exploit the the property to
obtain the most returns.


This is why we have 5 CSI’s, 6 Indiana Jones’s and Hannah Montana
dish towels.

Quality be damned.

Think about it, art is referred to as intellectual property for a reason.

And here is where the tension arises. If our music, our precious
Hip Hop
music began as a voice for the under represented, what does it mean
for us to be so silent about its current state of affairs?
And, if we are
silent, do we deserve better than what we receive? Why are we
so reluctant
to admit the way in which the market has impacted our art?

I have watched both Saul Williams and KRS rationalize getting
money with Fortune 500’s. And I thought to myself why
be coy, why not just say, “Ya’ll, I got bills to pay.”

Lets be clear, I do not claim to be on a pedestal. If Coke/Sony/Steve
Madden/ came calling and wanted to work with me and I chose to do so, I
wouldn’t turn around and say to you “Well the executives
at Coke/Sony/ like me, so this is a great partnership.” I would
understand that they want to rock with me because they feel that
I may be able to enhance their shareholder value. Simple as that.

So if you see my face and big {teeth} smile on the back of a Brooklyn
Erotica anthology at the end of the year, lets be clear, I had to pay
some bills and I am okay with that
.

I guess, I am really perturbed at the fact that we all clearly understand
the nasty bottom line of the Dope game, but when it comes to
analyzing
the ways in which the nasty bottom line of Capitalism
affects our art
we get shook.

Statement was very similar to another statement that I read by
Camus
(pronounced Cam-moo, like shampoo.) In the essay
The Wager of our Generation, Camus writes,

The aim of art, the aim of life, can only be to increase the sum
of freedom and responsibility to be found in everyman and the world.
It cannot, under any circumstances be used to reduce or suppress that
freedom, even temporarily….

No great work of art has been based on hatred or contempt. There is
not a single true work of art of art that has not in the end addressed the
inner freedom of each person that has known and loved it.

In an interview on Verbalisms, ran by the phenomenal and formidable
(wink) Raquel Wilson, Dan Tres OMi interviews Wise Intelligent of PRT
on the role that
art and music plays in our culture. He writes,

There are quite a few people who feel that music that is created to raise the consciousness of a particular community is irrelevant in the age of what William C. Bansfield calls the post-album age wherein the music created is commercially driven and marketed to a specific segment of society. Wise Intelligent, the front man for the influential hip-hop group Poor Righteous Teacher, always felt and continues to feel that he was galvanized by the spirit of the people to take up the mic to educate the masses. It is a tragedy that Wise Intelligent, who penned one of the best odes to Black women with ?Shakyla,? is forgotten when it comes to bringing knowledge of self beat up and compressed into hip-hop form.


Where does Anthony Hamilton fit in? His album is the first one in
a very
long time, that both instrumentation wise and lyrically, has
helped me make sense
of my life. He has helped me be okay with
my new found freedom
. The irony is that it isn’t Hip Hop,
and because am notoriously
boom bap oriented and it feels weird.
I will add that Q-Tips The Renaissance has been in
rotation as well.

Anthony Hamilton also comes into play because the title of his
album
connects to an essential question asked by Camus, which
is what is the
point of life? While I do not have an answer to that, I
have been thinking about the roll that music plays in affirming
who we are.

In 1992, I had Death Certificate to make sense of what was going on
in LA, in the Streets of Oakland and in my family life.
What music do
the young bucks of today have to help them make
sense of their lives?

What music do they have to help them make sense of the rage that they
feel about the murder of Oscar Grant?