Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Torture memos: We've got us a ballgame!

Smoking gun memos
Wow! I'm taken aback at the furor that is erupting over potential investigations into the Bush administration's "enhanced interrogation techniques." New developments, new data points are coming rapid fire from every corner of Washington: Congress, the Obama administration, the Justice Department, former Bush administration officials.

The frenzy of activity, and the tone of the statements all indicate that something Very Big TM is afoot.

A quick overview of some of the developments:
  • As I wrote yesterday, a report published in Newsweek stated that Attorney General Holder is considering appointing a special prosecutor to investigate whether crimes were committed in the development of the Bush administration's so-called "enhanced interrogation techniques."
  • President Obama said yesterday that, while he is focused on "looking forward," any decision concerning investigations into the matter will fall under the authority of Holder and the Justice Department.
  • On the Rachel Maddow Show, last night, Philip Zelikow, a lawyer for the State Department in the Bush administration, stated that, in response to the legal opinions rendered by White House advisers John Yoo and Jay Bybee, the "torture memos," Zelikow wrote an opinion stating that he found the memos to be legally faulty. He circulated his differing opinion in the White House with the knowledge that it might be ignored. But the Bush White House not only ignored his memo, according to Zelikow, the administration attempted to find and destroy all copies! That's a cover-up, people.
  • Senators Patrick Leahy, Sheldon Whitehouse, Russ Feingold, Carl Levin, and Diane Feinstein have all been suggesting that investigations and prosecutions are on the way. Congress can (and should) investigate the matter independent of the Justice Department. And the Republicans are so weakened that they can do little to stop it.
  • Former members of the Bush administration are all over the airwaves. And they sound frantic. Karl Rove, Ari Fleischer, and Big Dick, himself, have all been on the cable news shows dissembling, obfuscating, stuttering and stammering. But the defenses they put forth are inconsistent.
  • Recall that it is now known that the CIA destroyed 92 videotapes of these "harsh" interrogations, acting against the express orders of then-CIA Director Porter Goss.
  • And, now, the money quote:
    "There was constant pressure on the intelligence agencies and the interrogators to do whatever it took to get that information out of the detainees, especially the few high-value ones we had, and when people kept coming up empty, they were told by Cheney's and Rumsfeld's people to push harder.

    "Cheney's and Rumsfeld's people were told repeatedly, by CIA...and by others, that there wasn't any reliable intelligence that pointed to operational ties between bin Laden and Saddam, and that no such ties were likely because the two were fundamentally enemies, not allies"...
    --Major Charles Burney, in response to questions from Army investigators in 2006
    Get that? The people who pushed for the illegal Iraq invasion, were so determined to establish a link between al Qaeda and Iraq that they authorized torture to get detainees to confess it. Just as the Spanish Inquisitors tortured people to get them to admit they were in league with the Devil.
Things are happening so fast right now that there is simply no telling what is going to happen. The political implications are enormous. If you listen very closely, you'll hear that already, Republicans in congress are starting to distance themselves from the Bush administration on this issue.

In my opinion, President Obama is playing it very shrewdly by keeping as far away from it as possible. There's no need for the president to get further involved. The ball has started rolling now and it's going to go where it goes.

Let's pause for a minute, here, and remember why this is such a big deal. Assume, for a moment, that the detainees who were subjected to these techniques were, in fact, terrorists who had knowledge of future attacks. Further, for the time being, let's put aside the opinions of professional military and law enforcement interrogators and Senator John McCain which hold that torture is ineffective and produces unreliable information. Working from these two, very shaky assumptions, can we justify torture as a legal and acceptable means of protecting ourselves?

In a particularly telling exchange on Anderson Cooper's 360, Paul Begala pointed out to Ari Fleischer that in the aftermath of WWII, the United States tried, convicted, and put to death officers of the Imperial Japanese Army for water-boarding American prisoners. Ari Fleischer, for once in his life, had no response. Watch it. It's amazing.

Junior said repeatedly that "We do not torture." Let's find out if he was telling the truth.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

The Rachel Madcow show!?! Have you and the other 12 people who watch that show been hittin' the Hookah a little hard?