Death and torture made 'simple'

By Kevin Uhrich, Pasadena Weekly, 6/2/2005

The latest information from Amnesty International on the nearly 600 men and juveniles being held by the military at Guantanamo Bay was issued as part of a broader report on torture tactics, including the continued use of capital punishment in nations around the world, including the United States.

On Tuesday, according to Reuters news service, President Bush said the report, which described Guantanamo Bay as a modern American "gulag," was "absurd," primarily because it came from information provided by people who know what's actually happening htere: former detainees.

"It seems to me like [Amnesty International] based some of their decisions on the word of, and the allegations by, people who were held in detention, people who hate America, people that have been trained, in some instances, to dissemble -- that means not tell the truth -- and so it is an absurd report [from Amnesty International]. It just is," Bush said, according to Radio Free Europe and Radio Liberty.

As it turns out, Bush is also a big fan of the death penalty, with his home state, Texas, still leading the way in the number of people executed each year. Although the president did not comment on that portion of the AI report, which shows a total of 59 people were executed in the US last year, 23 from Texas, Bush might have said something like this: "Keep it simple, stupid."

But Bush didn't say that, at least not this time around. LAPD Detective Andrew Monsue said that to Los Angeles Times reporters Scott Glover and Matt Lait, who were investigating the possibly wrongful conviction and subsequent life imprisonment of Bruce Lisker, a former meth head from Sherman Oaks who in 1982 was arrested by Monsue and charged with the bludgeoning and stabbing death of his mother, Dorka Lisker.

Had a confused teenage Lisker not capitulated to authorities and eventually confessed to a crime that he now claims he did not commit, he might have been eligible for the death penalty. After all, America still kills juveniles, with 70 kids under 18 presently sitting on death rows around the country, a third of them in Texas, according to AI.

But Lisker's case was anything but simple, and nobody knew that better than Monsue, who, as it happens, let go of another prime suspect who had motive and opportunity to kill Lisker's mother, was planning to do so, according to witnesses, and even probably left his shoeprint on Dorka Lisker's bloodied head. We say it was that person because a subsequent investigation by forensics experts have determined that it wasn't Lisker's shoe that made those marks. Even the county prosecutor who threw Lisker in the clink for life is now having second thoughts.

And what does now-Lt. Monsue have to say about these revelations?

"We've got a lying, cheating, murdering son of a bitch in prison that's making these allegations... and you're sitting here questioning my credibility. ... That upsets me."

Sound familiar?

Bush said that when accusations are made about actions taken by Americans they are "fully investigated in a transparent way," much as Monsue has said he is comfortable with the end result of his investigation into the death of Dorka Lisker.

We think the comments of William Schulz, executive director of Amnesty International, could apply to both Bush and Monsue on the absurdity of their reactions to both cases.

"What is 'absurd' is President Bush's [and now Monsue's] attempt to deny the deliberate policies of his administration [which in Lisker's case meant Monsue keeping things 'simple' by foregoing other evidence pointing to his innocence]. ... What is 'absurd' and indeed outrageous is the Bush administration's [and now the LAPD's] failure to undertake a full independent investigation," Schulz said, according to Reuters, aside from the bracketed portions.

We agree, only we think these words apply not only to Gitmo and Bush and now Lisker and Monsue, but also to all of the growing number of incidents in which unmitigated power shamelessly lies in the face of truth in life and death situations -- and gets away with it.


In an unrelated matter, we heartily endorse Justin Chapman, a dedicated journalism student at Pasadena City College, for a seat on the Altadena Town Council. Justin is a bright 19-year-old who has plenty of fresh ideas, many of which you've been reading about in these pages over the past few weeks. We believe Justin is the right person to get in touch with today's kids, who, as we all know, need more of our attention than ever.

Vote for Justin Chapman on Saturday.