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OPINION: The Truth – Can We Handle It?

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Are we ready for the truth?

Given the stream of current issues before us: CIA Abuses; Ongoing US Presence In Places That Hate Us; Supposedly Gun-Happy Cops; Open Defiance of Authority Figures and, last but not least – Magnum PI Tailing Kids In Orinda, we thought we’d serve up one last hard-shelled Op-Ed piece before we succumb to Holiday Reverie here at NEWS24-680.

We could not help but lean on Jack Nicholson’s portrayal of hard-charging Col. Nathan Jessup to deliver the central message of today’s piece: that Americans may not want to give up on their belief that angels exist and that Thanksgiving is an unfortunate roadblock to the real American Holiday – Black Friday, and aver that truth is something you have to mine and sift like an Argonaut over his sluice box, preferably after spending time in a soldier’s boots in order to truly understand that point of view.

We have, frankly, been staggered by the apparently willful acceptance of the masses to adopt and embrace misperception as fact, and be willing to march or even riot over it. This misdirected angst and stunned surprise over preexisting conditions known to anyone who cared enough to seek out information – and answers – is off-putting to say the least. With this in mind I’ll lay out a few scenarios that have come to fruition in recent days, infill with what I know about the issue and let you folks fill in the blanks or flame away.

CIA Interrogation Practices Post 9/11

Even those who missed the starkly realistic interrogation scenes in Zero Dark Thirty may have heard, had they sought out information about how America was fighting its enemies after the Sept. 11 Terror Attacks, that the country – specifically the Central Intelligence Agency and military intelligence sectors – came out swinging and continued to play hardball with not only suspected terrorists but Congress, our President(s), and, by extension, the American people about how they were dealing with Al Qaeda suspects in the wake of 9/11.

Despite Dick Cheney’s repeated statements to the contrary, the CIA and other intelligence sectors were busy snatching and transporting suspected terrorists to “friendly” nations where the old Mexican soda pop-up-the-nose interrogation technique was considered child’s play in the weeks and months after the towers were brought down. It was at these CIA-run Black Sites that prolonged and escalating abuse and, I’ll say it, torture techniques were used against suspected terrorists – and without any apparent result.

THE TRUTH: As much as it pains me to say it, the United States intelligence community has felt it necessary to torture people in my name, with the only result being disinformation provided by men undergoing “rectal feeding” and “prolonged movement and sleep deprivation” and who, as unschooled in the ways of torture as I am, would have said anything to make their interrogators stop. Granted, this is not as extreme as driving a power drill through a man’s knee or beating them with a pipe as they hang, upside down, from a hook in the ceiling, as some of our enemies have done – but it doesn’t matter, we’ve known from our own citizens who have undergone torture that it doesn’t work. And we should all know that the United States in particular is not supposed to resort to this kind of thing.

THE RESULT: A black eye for the United States, already criticized by friendly nations for its practices, and a hardening of position by those committed to bringing our country to its knees. Far from uncovering essential information needed to find and kill our enemies, we further fueled their hatred for us, handed them a huge propaganda victory, and – for me, at least – created further doubt about the ability of our leaders to lead us effectively.

Ferguson, New York, Oak/Berkeley, And The Killer Cop T-Shirt Revolution

Anyone who has spent any amount of time riding the radio in a police car in tough neighborhoods where an incoming Malt Liquor bottle was considered a way of saying “Good Morning, Officer!” will tell you that the relationship between citizen and patrolling body is usually tense, to say the least. People with little or nothing and hoping to get something often resort to a variety of innovative methods to do so, some of them illegal. With the police on hand to enforce our laws, and sometimes generations of families committed to flouting them, a “people vs. oppressor” relationship is most often inevitable.

And even though crime in these areas may be wholesale, with far more lives lost to conflict within those communities than with police – contacts that end with a police shooting take on lives – and agendas – of their own. This is not to say these shootings, when they happen, should not be scrutinized. They should. But using tragedies of this sort as a pivot point for politicization of an agenda over resolution of a broader, more acute issue is wrong-minded and leads to the sort of misguided furor we have seen in cities across the country in recent days.

THE TRUTH: I have seen bodies – black, white, brown – lay uncovered in public places for hours after shooting incidents. While this was taken as a sign of disrespect in Ferguson, and drove much of the furor behind the shooting of Michael Brown, I recognized the officer’s movements that day as an effort to preserve the scene and keep valuable evidence intact and in place. Once disrupted, it is gone forever, and that is why a relative was stopped when he ran to Brown’s body. Draping a sheet over the body, which was eventually done but not soon enough to please a gathering crowd of onlookers, can disturb hair, fiber, and gunshot residue evidence that could prove critical to the investigation down the road.

I’ve also seen thousands of arrests. Very few of them were “pretty.” Most are very, very ugly, of the type depicted in recent video of an Oregon football fan declining to be taken into custody by a puffing trio of security guards or police officers – one of whom breaks what looks like a rosewood baton on the man while a crowd stands around chanting and cell-taping. The chokehold used to subdue Eric Garner in New York was a banned hold and should not have been employed. The officer should be held up to examination for use of that hold. But you try to take down someone who is bigger, and angry, and not willing to let you put handcuffs on him. I’ll videotape it.

THE RESULT: A growing divide in the unsettling rift between civilians and police, which the police shored up by bringing out the Big Guns and other hardware during the unrest in the days after the shooting. Mistakes were made, many of them after Michael Brown pushed past a store manager with stolen cigarillos and had a last, fatal contact with a patrolling police officer, most recently as members of those bellwethers of moral turpitude – the NFL and NBA – chose to show their support for Brown and Garner with t-shirts and “hands up, don’t shoot” pre-game gestures. While antecedent examples of the conflict between police and policed are many, it is clear that police need to re-think their approach and that many in the mobs currently looting stores in the name of Michael Brown or Eric Garner just need to think. Is that likely? In my view, it isn’t, so look for and expect more of the same insanity.

A Little Girl, Big Issues, and Private Detectives

A residency verification case blew into a national controversy last week after school district officials in Orinda admitted they’d used a private detective to determine the residency of a little girl whose mother worked as a nanny for an Orinda Mom. The mom wanted to keep her nanny, obviously, considered the child part of her family, and was displeased the district had moved to dis-enroll the child from second grade because she spent part of her time with a relative in East County.

The district forgot one mega-truth: never, ever anger an Orinda Mom. They have lawyers, they contribute mightily to the area’s educational funds and they know how to get things done. In this case newspapers were called, cute pictures of the cute little girl were taken and the words “Latina” and “private detective” were used in a story on a practice in place for years. Pretty soon, the TV trucks were outside the school district offices and press accounts began to surface likening the district’s attempt to establish the residency of one of its children to the Inquisition.

THE TRUTH: While hardly transparent and fair game for even greater scrutiny than they have been given in the past, local school district’s have attempted to vet the residency status of pupils for years. Students we know who lived in the leafy borderlands of Canyon and who wanted to attends Oakland schools with friends they had made in their community were returned to Campolindo High – over their objection – after district officials pinpointed their residency. That was many years ago and the practice has been ongoing as some parents, understandably wanting the best for their children, resort to all manner of gymnastics in order to get their children educated here. And while Orinda schools may have the ability to hire an investigator, all districts use a variety of methods to vet the residency of their students.

THE RESULT: Uncomfortable time in the spotlight for school district officials, who no doubt would like to concentrate on educating children rather than answering questions from reporters, and a deluge of negative press from across the country for the district and even for Orinda, which suddenly got lumped into the racist purge to expel brown-skinned people from its schools. Ultimately, the district apologized for the way it handled the affair and the child was allowed to stay in second grade. The Orinda Mom who raised the issue criticized the district for not asking her about the child’s ties to her home in the first place – a practice which has been proven not to work in the past. The whole affair was not very pretty to watch as manipulation was rampant and buzzwords sure to get a more favorable ruling were used while the cameras whirred.

To answer Col. Jessup’s question: we think Americans – most Americans anyway – can handle the truth. But we also think we need it in all its un-redacted, unvarnished and often hard-to-take starkness. Is that likely given the current state of affairs in America? We think not, but we can always hope.