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Truthdig Radio: Debunking the bin Laden Torture Myth (Update: Transcript)

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Posted on May 4, 2011
Photo illustration from an image by Colin Grey

(Page 3)

Robert Scheer:…you have. How do they respond to that? Why was it possible for the U.S. government to arrange a trial of the most vicious killers of modern history, and yet we flounder in trying to bring these people to account in a public setting?

Mark Danner: I—you know, my experience of Professor Yoo and others is that they simply don’t think of these things in this way. I mean, they believe that the entire system of accountability and, for lack of a better word, justice, should not apply to this class of criminal, who they classify first of all as not under civilian law, as part of military law—that’s one of their big arguments—and then when it comes to military law, they become unlawful combatants. So they’re not subject to that law either; they become subject to no law. And this is a category that’s been created, that was created in the aftermath of 9/11 by the Bush administration, that made it possible to disappear these people, you know? And it’s an extraordinary spectacle that we had these highly trained lawyers in the Department of Justice—all of them Ivy League-educated, very smart—putting their considerable brainpower to work to justify creating a class of person who had no protection of any kind under the law. And that’s one of the legacies here. I couldn’t agree more with you about the Nuremberg Trials. And of course you’re quite right that very eloquent voices were raised against the idea of the Nuremberg Trials—notably Winston Churchill, who felt these Nazis should simply be shot. And I think it’s a source of undying shame to the country that if you look at the bombers of the Madrid train station, for example, which killed a couple hundred Spaniards, the people responsible for that were tried publicly within a year and a half. The people responsible for the Bali bombing were tried within a year, or I think a couple of years. And here we’ve had in custody the so-called mastermind of 9/11, Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, for going on eight years. And the U.S., which prides itself on being a leader in international law and multilateral institutions, has not been able to try this person, and in fact has kept him in secret confinement, tortured him. It’s a source of, I think, great shame to the country. And this is still going on, you know. The Arar case, Maher Arar, a Canadian citizen who was grabbed at Kennedy airport when he was changing flights, and shipped to Syria, and tortured brutally for a year; he came back finally to Canada; the Canadians did an investigation, a full parliamentary inquiry, and they paid him damages of more than $10 million. In the United States, he can’t get into court. Even though this was a clear injustice. So these are very serious disfigurements of our government and of our idea of justice, and we live with them—a decade after 9/11, the country has been altered. And the present administration, notwithstanding the hopes of many people who thought, who took seriously what candidate Obama said, has mostly ducked the question. Not entirely; I mean, if we believe what they say, they’re not actually torturing anymore, which is extremely significant, of course. But in the hard work of changing back to the protections and the principles that this country claims to embody, the present administration has done very little. It’s mostly assumed the mantle that the Bush administration has left it. And you know, so far as we can tell by polls, more people believe that torture is necessary to protect the country—or another way of saying it is more people believe that the country can’t be protected while keeping within the law—now, than did at the end of the Bush administration. The number supporting torture seems to be rising. And that to me is the saddest, most damaging legacy of the war on terror.

Josh Scheer: Well, thank you, Mark Danner, torture expert, a great writer. And you can check out all his work and his books at MarkDanner.com. Thanks a lot.

* * *


Peter Scheer: You’re listening to Truthdig Radio. And now, Holger Keifel speaks to reporter Howie Stier about his new book, “Box.”

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Howie Stier: Hi, I’m Howie Stier for Truthdig Radio. And we have with us on the phone photographer Holger Keifel. Boxing fans in America remain proud of what the sweet science once was. They are less proud of what it is today. But if boxing is no longer part of the American dream, it has moved to the forefront of the dream in other parts of the world. Fighters such as Manny Pacquiao, Ricky Hatton and the Klitschko brothers have stirred passions around the globe. That from the introduction to photographer Holger Keifel’s new book, “Box: The Face of Boxing,” published by Chronicle Books. Holger Keifel photographed all the major figures in the sport—the fighters, managers and referees. His portraits have been exhibited at the Butler Museum of Contemporary Art, have run in The New York Times and Der Spiegel. With the upcoming bout between Manny “Pac-Man” Pacquiao and “Sugar” Shane Mosley, we’re sitting down with Holger to talk about his work and the state of boxing.

Howie Stier: I want to make this clear to our audience. You’re not Annie Leibovitz, highest paid photographer in the world; you don’t have a large crew; you don’t have assistants going with you around the world to photograph these boxers. How did you get these images?

Holger Keifel: Well, you’re absolutely right, you know. I have, like, basically—well, it’s all, the whole project was all self-financed. And well, I just set it up on location, mostly at press conferences. I took everything—as little possible, mostly; I shot with one light—and put it in bags, and then took it on the subway and went to the press conferences. After a while, after a few years, people recognized my work, and then I was able to get them in the studio.
Howie Stier: Your photos have been exhibited in museums. What’s the reaction to portraits of boxing? This is a world that a lot of people in the art world are not familiar with.

Holger Keifel: Yeah, you know, that—it’s also the way I photographed. There’s straightforward, very honest, close-ups. You know, I don’t fake things. I want a clear-shot, honest document of the face. You know, I don’t add anything; I don’t take anything away. I want to do this series about boxers, about fighters, about the face; the faces of boxers after a fight, what happens to the face during a fight. And so that’s how the whole project started. And it took me—well, in the end, after eight years, I published all these photographs, over 250 of my photographs of the boxing scene, in a book.

Howie Stier: We have an upcoming fight with Manny Pacquiao, and a lot of Americans don’t realize how Manny Pacquiao is venerated in his country. And I’m going to read a quote from your book. “  ‘There is bad news all the time in my country,’ said Manny Pacquiao. ‘There is not enough food. We have typhoons. There is corruption in the government and too much crime. So many people are suffering and have no hope. Then I bring them good news, and they are happy. I know that millions of people are praying for me, and that gives me strength. My fight is not only for me, but for my country.’ ” I checked up on Craigslist—people are selling tickets for the upcoming fight—and one advertiser wrote: “This could be Manny’s last fight before he runs for president of the Philippine islands.” Had you heard this? He’s running for president?

Holger Keifel: I haven’t heard that yet, but I don’t know; well, he’s already a governor. And I don’t think he’s going to be much longer in the fighting game.

Howie Stier: Jake LaMotta of the Bronx, New York, famously portrayed by Robert De Niro in the movie “Raging Bull,” is from the Bronx. He lives in Bayo, New Jersey. How come you photographed him wearing a cowboy hat?

Holger Keifel: No, he’s—he lives in Manhattan … but the cowboy hat, you know, he came to the studio; he came for half an hour to the studio, and the picture you’re referring to, when he just took a swing—I love that image.

Howie Stier: Now, there’s a line in the movie “Raging Bull” where De Niro, as Jake LaMotta, says to Sugar Ray Robinson: “You never got me down, Ray, you hear me? You never got me down.” And he of course is referring to the fight that he threw. And Jake LaMotta ended up facing a congressional hearing for that. Does he—does he talk about this, when you were in the studio with him?

Holger Keifel: No, no. He just came in, and he left. He came in for half an hour, was very professional, and he left.

Howie Stier: Now, Holger, I’ll never forget the night I was at the home of newspaperman Jack Newfield, and I watched the infamous Holyfield-Tyson match, where Iron Mike bit off Holyfield’s ear. And that image is the cover of your book.


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