Archive for the ‘Torture’ Category

Must Read Smackdown of "Dick Cheeny"

This post by David Rees has got to be one of the funniest, most appropriate, reactions to Dick Cheney’s recent speech on national security his own insecurity that I’ve seen anywhere.

My favorite line:

As far as I could tell, his speech was actually some weird kind of mouth-yoga where you keep returning to “9/11” position every thirty seconds

Brilliant!

I Suspect That Dick Cheney Loves International House Of Pancakes!

For a long time, it’s been considered somewhat unacceptable, even among prominent critics of the Bush administration, to suggest anything remotely resembling a conspiracy theory regarding 9/11.

No elected Democrat will touch the issue. Liberal talking heads on cable TV and left leaning columnists in mainstream publications routinely go out of their way to avoid even pondering the possibility of anything more insidious than a massive coordinated effort by radical Islamic terrorists.

In fact, on Daily Kos – which is usually considered to be one of the most liberal of the progressive political blogs – mentioning the mere presence of questions about the cause of the terror attacks on 9/11 is enough to get you banned from posting on the site.

But as more and more information trickles out about the extreme lengths the Bush administration, and particularly Dick Cheney, were willing to go in order to try to create a justification for war in Iraq, somebody has to at least ask this:

If you’ll torture people to get false confessions to justify a war, what else would you do – or not do, despite ample warning that you should – to get justification to start that same war?

With all due respect to the serious liberals who don’t want to be lumped in with the “tin foil hat” crowd in trumpeting the political equivalent of alien abductions stories, at some point in the stream of revelations about our despicable use of torture, we must at least recognize that every actual conspiracy, and in fact every crime, that is ever solved – begins with a theory!

Note: For those unfamiliar with the acronym, LIHOP stands for the theory that, when faced with warnings about an imminent terrorist attack that might have prompted preemptory action, members of the Bush administration let it happen on purpose! It’s not quite as dramatic as the various “inside job” scenarios that are widely thrown around on the Internets, but it also doesn’t require the same kind of “headgear” to imagine, particularly after hearing more and more evidence regarding how torture was actually used!

Why Cheney Speaks!

There’s lot’s of discussion and speculation lately over the fact that after spending eight years of secretly running the government from an impenetrable bunker, Dick Cheney is now all over the television defending his torture program.

Many people are scratching their heads and wondering why the most unpopular member of the previous administration wouldn’t just fade off into the sunset and hope to be forgotten as the country looks “forward and not backward” with it’s charismatic new President.

If I had to venture a guess as to why Cheney keeps talking, it’s this:

The only thing standing between Dick Cheney and criminal prosecution is the facade that torture was a policy decision, and that prosecution represents the “criminalization of politics.” In order to maintain that facade, there must be a continuous debate over whether or not it was “good policy” – that is, whether or not it helped to “keep Americans safe.”

To Cheney, it doesn’t matter whether or not people think that argument has merit. What matters is that both sides are continuously being aired, because in his mind, this means that the Obama Administration and the Democratic Congress have to prioritize it among all of the other policy debates; and with the wide range of stated goals put forward by the Obama administration, investigating and prosecuting torture will never move to the top of the “to do” list.

On the other hand, if public opinion is allowed to crystallize around the idea that the Cheney/Bush torture policies were illegal and immoral, as might happen without Cheney’s constant bleating about how proud he is of those very policies, then it becomes much more feasible to investigate and prosecute without getting in the way of other priorities.

And it becomes more likely that the conversation shifts from the debate about policy, to a discussion and eventual public understanding of what really happened, which increasingly seems to have been something like this:

At the time when Cheney/Bush were in charge and had plenty of warning about an impending terrorist attack, they did not “keep Americans safe.” Instead, they were too preoccupied with the politics of trying to create “a permanent Republican majority!”

After the 9/11 attacks, instead of going after the terrorists who were actually threatening the safety of Americans, they immediately began to line up all the ways they could use fear of terrorists to rationalize and gain acceptance for policies that were criminal! Torture, the war in Iraq, warrantless wiretapping, rushed no-bid contracts to political cronies, were all rolled out immediately, using the pretext of being the only policies the President thought would “keep Americans safe.”

And they did it all with the expectation that they could always avoid prosecution by forcing the debate into being about policy, if ever the debate started to turn toward being about criminality!

So that’s why Cheney feels he has to keep yapping about how torture was good policy. He knows he’s not convincing anybody, but he’s keeping the fire burning on the appearance of a political debate, because that’s the only thing keeping him from being frog marched to prison!

Once You Boil It All Down . . .

Paul Krugman summed it up in three simple sentences:

Let’s say this slowly: the Bush administration wanted to use 9/11 as a pretext to invade Iraq, even though Iraq had nothing to do with 9/11. So it tortured people to make them confess to the nonexistent link.

There’s a word for this: it’s evil.

And the evidence has begun to filter out that the perpetrators not only knew it was evil, but tried to cover it up!

First, there’s the Zelikow memo objecting to the legal basis used to justify torture that he says was deliberately rounded up and destroyed.

Then there’s Janis Karpinski, who is outspoken in her disdain for high level Bush officials who allowed U.S. Military personnel at Abu Ghraib – whom they now maintain to have been following orders deemed to be legal and justifiable – go to prison, rather than stick up for them at the time the abuses at Abu Ghraib first became public.

In my earlier post on this topic, I suggested that one of Obama’s multiple goals was to maximize the ability to “shake the trees” and bring out whistleblowers in order to build widespread public support for any future prosecutions.

At least one expert, former federal prosecutor Elizabeth De La Vega, agrees – explaining in this piece how appointing a special prosecutor now might cause those with important information about what actually occurred at the highest levels of the Bush administration to clam up.

For the torturers, I’m afraid the genie is out of the bottle, and there’s no way they are going to force it back inside . . . and fortunately for the country, it’s not the torturers’ three wishes the genie is going to grant!

To put it bluntly, with all the evidence that the Bush administration carefully assembled a set of “legal” documents to justify “harsh interrogation techniques,” how can they possibly stick to their story when they were willing to let U.S. soldiers rot in prison to avoid telling it four years ago?

And for Dick Cheney, who remains the leading voice of belligerent defiance regarding Bush torture policies, and who now wants to declassify documents that would save his ass when he was perfectly happy to let them stay classified when they might save the asses of the enlisted men and women who went to prison for performing techniques he now says were “necessary,” the response is both completely reprehensible and completely transparent!

Dick Cheney is a grown man, behaving like a child who would let his own dog be beaten, or even euthanized, for repeatedly “eating his homework!”

Image Credit: Vanity Fair, May, 2008

Limbaugh: “Waterboarding Just Like Kiteboarding with Richard Branson!”

In his ongoing effort to defend the Bush administration’s “enhanced interrogation” methods, Rush Limbaugh on his radio show today, compared techniques involving nudity and stress positions, as well as being repeatedly doused with water while clinging to safety from a forced supine position, to recent photos of Sir Richard Branson kiteboarding near his private island.

“How are the so-called torture pictures at Abu Ghraib all that different from what this supermodel is happily doing during her little island vacation with Richard Branson?” Limbaugh railed.

“These liberals,” he said, “are soooo outraged about what they call ‘torture’ that they forget the fact that a slap or two on a choice part of the body is just what many people desperately crave.” At which point, he demonstrated by slapping himself several times (in an unidentified, but loudly resonating and likely jiggling, location) and crying out “There, I’m torturing myself!”* – presumably while ogling the Branson pictures and reminiscing about his Viagra-fueled Dominican adventure spent with the fellow torture buffs who happen to produce Fox Television’s 24*.

*True

Jonathan Turley is a Stand-Up Guy, but He May Want to Sit Down Regarding Obama’s Response to Torture.

For many months, George Washington University Law Professor Jonathan Turley has been a leading voice for the rule of law and the importance of prosecuting war crimes related to torture. He’s very compelling, clearly a man of principle, and probably someone I would be proud to see some day sitting on the U.S. Supreme Court.

But when talking about President Obama’s response to Bush era torture, Turley seems quite prone to slipping into spin, rather than fact. Here’s Turley talking to David Schuster about Obama’s decision to release the memos used to justify torture and simultaneously announce that CIA agents who followed the memos in good faith would not be prosecuted. Turley’s conclusion, that Obama is “blocking” an investigation, seems to be a pretty clear example of stretching to find the worst possible interpretation of a mixed set of facts.

While Turley has the luxury of focusing on only one, admittedly noble, goal – holding the perpetrators accountable for war crimes – President Obama has a couple of other goals as well. He needs to avoid the appearance of an overtly partisan investigation that might further incite the racist, gun toting, loonies associated with the recent teabagging phenomena from moving even closer to irrational violence. Second, he needs to maximize his ability to “shake the trees” and get good witnesses who can provide iron-clad evidence that results in irrefutable convictions that have widespread public acceptance (in order to achieve the desired “cleansing effect” on the soul of the nation).

So look at what Obama has actually done:

1) He released a set of memos that he knew would stir public outrage and increase the demand for accountability.

2) He announced that any agents who conducted torture while following orders in good faith would be immune from prosecution.

That’s it! Since we are already starting to see reports of evidence showing that some torture activities exceeded what was authorized by the newly released memos, even Turley would have to admit the likelihood that Obama knew he wasn’t offering immunity to everyone involved in torture.

Now, rather than calling for an investigation of whether or not what occurred was torture, the investigation can be centered on whether activities were conducted “in good faith” according to the rules promulgated in the memos. Even conservatives who insist that the methods currently identified as torture were necessary and justified, would have to condemn those who acted outside of the rules authorized by Bush’s legal “yes men.”

In addition, with those following the “rules” already being given immunity, for those who acted outside of those rules, the natural defense will be to try to argue that whatever they are charged with doing was sanctioned by superiors and thus was “in good faith!” In other words, Obama’s statement of immunity increases the incentive for anyone charged with acting outside of the rules authorized by the torture memos to give up the leaders who authorized them to stretch the rules or act outside of them!

My guess is that Obama knows there are such leaders, and may well be setting up the chess board so that they can eventually be prosecuted in a non-partisan fashion with the widespread public acceptance necessary to avoid derailing the rest of his policy goals.

Eugene Robinson: Never Again!

Eugene Robinson has a great column, A Torture Paper Trail, in The Washington Post, where he chronicles recently discovered documents related to the Bush administrations’ weak rationalizations for torturing people in the name of the American people.

He concludes with a challenge to either man hoping to succeed George W. Bush in the White House:

A clear and urgent duty of the next president will be to investigate the Bush administration’s torture policy and give Americans a full accounting of what was done in our name. It’s astounding that we need some kind of truth commission in the United States of America, but we do. Only when we learn the full story of what happened will we be able to confidently promise, to ourselves and to a world that looks to this country for moral leadership: Never again.

There is also a very thoughtful and detailed analysis of the implications of Robinson’s column by Teacherken at Daily Kos that I would strongly recommend, but I want to use it as a jumping off point for something else that I’ve been thinking about a great deal in recent weeks.

The Democratic majority in Congress are repeatedly willing to dismiss impeachment, while accepting things like telecom immunity. The courts at every level have been stacked with right wing partisans, starting with torture defender, Antonin Scalia, on the Supreme Court. The Justice Department is broken and infested with Regent University Bushies who were selected for their desire to serve George W. Bush, and not their ability to prosecute crimes like those carried out during his two terms. Even Barack Obama is pushing a new culture of bipartisanship, focused on looking forward not backward in order to solve problems rather than exact punishment for creating them.

With the growing likelihood that Bush will issue blanket pardons as he leaves office, short-circuiting the formal legal discovery that might possibly bring criminal accountability, even the most fervent progressive pundits are saying that Bush will likely get away without being prosecuted for anything. They suggest that we must merely take solace in the fact that he (and most likely his party) will be out of power.

At the same time, loyal Bush apologists (and co-conspirators) are raising funds to build the George W. Bush Presidential Library, which will be staffed with phony “historians” whose sole job will be to whitewash Bush’s legacy to the point where he can be canonized, like Ronald Reagan was, by the time of his passing!

And while it’s easy to say that we won’t forget what a horrible president and despicable human being he was (and is), Bush and his small coterie of supporters know that time will pass and people will forget. There will be no formal symbol to crystallize memories of the horrors that the Bush administration unleashed in the name of the American people.

That is, unless the American people create one! Given the surprising fundraising power harnessed by the Obama campaign, it’s clear that people want to contribute to things that are meaningful to them. What if millions of people who detest the things George W. Bush has done to their country were to pool their resources and fund a foundation that would establish a George W. Bush War Crimes Memorial Museum, patterned after the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum, that would serve as a central point of research and documentation of the crimes, whether punished or not, that occurred during the Bush administration?

Now don’t get me wrong. I’m not trying to say that Bush’s crimes are on a par with the holocaust. I’m just saying that if the American people are going to get a George W. Bush Presidential Library serving as a (fraudulent) symbol of Bush’s “greatness,” we should have an equally powerful symbol that helps us remember the crimes he enabled or committed during his presidency, so that we can always remember the phrase appropriately invoked by Eugene Robinson: Never Again!