Questions for the U.S. Presidential Candidates

Numerous questions always come to mind that would be worth asking the rapidly-declining major-party presidential candidates in the States (among the Republicans, Mike Huckabee, John McCain, and Ron Paul; and Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama among the Democrats).

Here are some — with the caveat that wherever the "As a Christian" line appears, one ought to regard its use purely for dramatic effect.

In case anybody ever wants to use them — feel free.

(1) In his February 6 testimony before the Senate Armed Services Committee, Secretary of Defense Robert Gates complained that he "[worries] a great deal about the [NATO] alliance evolving into a two-tiered alliance in which you have some allies willing to fight and die to protect people’s security and others who are not."  Secretary Gates added that he fears that "if this [problem] is to endure and perhaps even get worse," it "puts a cloud over the future of the alliance…." 

My questions to the candidates are these:

First, do you believe that the U.S. Government has any right to demand that the citizens of the other NATO member states should "fight and die" in Afghanistan? 

Second, more broadly, do you believe that the war now being waged over Afghanistan by the United States and the other NATO member states is a just war, and that the NATO alliance has any real right to wage it, let alone to win it?

("Afghan row may make NATO two-tiered alliance — Gates," Kristin Roberts, Reuters, February 6, 2008; "Gates Urges Action to Bolster NATO Effort in Afghanistan," Sgt. Sara Moore, American Forces Press Service, February 6, 2008; "Senate Armed Services Committee Opening Remarks As Delivered by Robert M. Gates," U.S. Department of Defense, February 6, 2008.)


(2) As a Christian, I know that I could never vote for a candidate for any public office in the United States — but especially a high office, with its great powers — who believes that the United States and the other NATO member states happen to be engaged in anything other than wars of aggression against Afghanistan and Iraq, and therefore supreme international criminal enterprises, in the Nuremberg Judgment’s sense of the phrase.

My question to the candidates is this: If elected to the presidency, what steps do you promise to take to bring to justice the civilian leaders of the U.S. Government who launched these criminal wars?

("The charges in the Indictment that the defendants planned and waged aggressive wars are charges of the utmost gravity. War is essentially an evil thing. Its consequences are not confined to the belligerent states alone, but affect the whole world. To initiate a war of aggression, therefore, is not only an international crime; it is the supreme international crime differing only from other war crimes in that it contains within itself the accumulated evil of the whole."  See Final Judgment of the International Military Tribunal for the Trial of German Major War Criminals (September 30, 1946), specifically "The Common Plan or Conspiracy and Aggressive War," from which this passage derives.)


(3) When coming to grips with the vastness of the American Gulag — and it really is an old story, if largely ignored until the rise of the "Neocon" – con — don’t lose sight of the forest for the trees. For example,  when the names Khalid Sheik Mohmmed, Zayn al-Abidin Muhammed Hussein, and Abd al-Tahim al-Nashiri happen to find their way into Senate committee chambers and establishment news sources, remember to keep your feet planted firmly on the ground: These few iterations are the exceptions that prove the rule. Talk these days about how particular individuals may or may not have been abused is almost always irrelevant to fundamental real-world facts about the country we call home. 

With this caveat in mind, one question worth posing to each of the remaining major-party presidential candidates would be this:


As a Christian, my conscience instructs me to deplore all forms of torture, regardless of the excuses my government gives in its defense.  The evidence is overwhelming not only that the U.S. Government practices torture on an administrative basis (i.e., the phrase Amnesty International used to use back in the 1970s when it decried torture in the Soviet domains as well as the dictatorships of Central and South America), but that it operates a vast, illegal, and unaccountable gulag of prisons with which it has deprived tens-of-thousands of individuals of their rights as well as inflicted untold human suffering. –


If elected to the presidency, what steps do you promise to take to bring an end to these criminal practices?  And what steps do you promise to take to bring to justice the civilian leaders of the U.S. Government who have crafted the policies behind their perpetration?


("Justice Dept. ‘Cannot’ Probe Waterboarding, Mukasey Says," Dan Eggen, Washington Post, February 8, 2008; "How the Press Covers Waterboarding," Anthony DiMaggio, CounterPunch, February 8-10, 2008. — On the ubiquity of torture to the U.S. imperial project, see Alfred W. McCoy, A Question of Torture: CIA Interrogation, from the Cold War to the War on Terror (Metropolitan Books, 2006); Darius Rejali, Torture and Democracy (Princeton University Press, 2007); Alfred W, McCoy, "The U.S. Has a History of Using Torture," Alfred W. McCoy, History News Network, December 6, 2004; and Tom Engelhardt, "Do We Already Have Our Pentagon Papers?" October 19, 2007. — For a great website devoted to the theory and practice of torture, see Psyche, Science, and Society, as maintained by the psychiatrist Stephen Soldz. — And for some major documentation on the vastness of the American Gulag, see Christos Pourgourides et al., Enforced Disappearances (Doc. 10679), Council of Europe, September 19, 2005; Dick Marty et al., Alleged secret detentions and unlawful inter-state transfers of detainees involving Council of Europe member states (Doc. 10957), Council of Europe, June 12, 2006, Annex, "The global ‘spider’s web’." and Dick Marty et al., Secret detentions and illegal transfers of detainees involving Council of Europe member states: Second report (AS/Jur/2007/36), Council of Europe, June 7, 2007; Deborah Pearlstein et al., Ending Secret Detentions, Human Right First, June, 2004; Deborah Pearlstein and Priti Patel, Behind the Wire: An Update to Ending Secret Detentions, Human Rights First, March, 2005; and Guantanamo and beyond: The continuing pursuit of unchecked executive power, Amnesty International, May 13, 2005.)   


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