During a hunger strike at Guantanamo Bay in Cuba, the U.S. military strapped an inmate in a chair and force-fed him with a nutritional supplement through a tube in his nose. This inhuman behavior was videotaped by military guards.
A coalition of 16 news organizations filed a lawsuit. In the subsequent court proceedings, 28 video tapes of the cruelty were revealed. In federal district court in Washington, Judge Gladys Kessler rightly ruled that the government must disclose them.
But the Obama administration, holding the White House in 2013 when the case arose, won on appeal. A three-judge panel in the Washington Circuit of Appeals ruled that disclosure would endanger national security.
Judge Raymond Randolph wrote for the panel that the videos could be used for propaganda against America and recruit terrorists. He concluded that “images are more provocative than written or verbal descriptions.”
The Randolph ruling was typical court connivance with government coverup. The videos are not damaging national security nor posing any risk.
Jon Eisenberg, lawyer for the man depicted in the videotapes, called the ruling “a loss to the American people.”
Indeed it was. Americans will never see what Eisenberg correctly labeled “shocking images of force-feeding in Guantanamo.” (Guantanamo is an ugly prison that should have been closed many years ago. President Obama wanted to close the prison but was baulked by Congress.)
The journalists appealed, leaving the final decision to the Supreme Court. Scotus, however, is hardly a bulwark of liberty.
CAMBODIA: ‘YOU OWE US’
The United States keeps insisting Cambodia repay a loan of $274 million it got in 1973, amounting now to more than half a billion dollars with interest. Actually, it is the U.S. that owes both a financial and MORAL debt to Cambodia for the devastation it caused in that country.
Between 1965 and 1973 the U.S., while fighting what proved to be a losing war in neighboring Vietnam, the U.S. carpet-bombed the Cambodian countryside with B-52s. The planes dropped 500,000 tons of explosives on eastern Cambodia.
Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen, an admirer of President Trump, has appealed to him to forgive the debt. “Oh, America, and President Trump, how can this be?” the Cambodian Daily reported Hun Sen saying.
In 1969, under President Nixon, the U.S. undertook intensive carpet-bombing, hoping to buy time for its troops to withdraw from South Vietnam. At the same time it hoped to halt the advance of the communist Khmer Rouge rebels into Phnom Penh, the Cambodian capital.
Because of the fighting, the rice farmers fled to the “big city” of Phnom Penh. A shortage of food developed. At this point, the U.S. loaned Cambodia $274 million because the Cambodian government was backing the anti-communist regime led by Lon Nol.
The point of all this “ancient” history: the United States does anything to pursue its policies, totally unmindful of harm to people it calls “primitives.”
CHURCH AND STATE
It’s hard to believe that the Supreme Court still adjudicates church and state issues imbedded in historic American tradition. Yet a recent Scotus hearing dealt with precisely that.
Missouri law provides state grants to replace hard surfaces with rubber to assure child safety. But the state refused to provide such funding to the Trinity Lutheran Church in Columbia for a playground at its day-care center.
Its rationale: the state constitution bars spending “directly or indirectly for any church.” Thirty-eight states have versions of that law in their constitutions.
James Madison, who wrote the First Amendment, was emphatic: he said government should not “force citizens to contribute even three pence to support religion.”
EXCEPTION TO JURY SECRECY
Ruling recently, the Supreme Court declared that biased deliberations can nullify the sacred privilege of jury secrecy.
“Racial bias overrides historical and constitutional concerns,” Justice Anthony Kennedy wrote for the majority in a 5-to-3 decision.
In a 2010 sexual assault trial, a juror said of a defendant: “I think he did it because he’s Mexican and Mexican men take whatever they want.”
Such obvious bias obviates the right to privacy of jury deliberations.
TRUMP SHOW BROADWAY BOUND
Michael Moore has been an “aginer” since he began filming documentaries in 1989 with the acclaimed “Roger and Me” and then the Oscar-winning “Bowling for Columbine” in 2003.
Now he is taking his shtick to Broadway.
His one-man show, “The Terms of My Surrender,” will preview in the Belasco Theater eight times starting July 28 then run for 12 weeks starting Aug. 10. His target: President Donald Trump.
If it’s anything like the combination of humor and outrage he has shown in film, TV and books, the show should be a smash at the box office.
Jake Highton is an emeritus journalism professor from the University of Nevada, Reno. (firstname.lastname@example.org)