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« Obama's Doppelgänger | Main | The End of the Electoral College: Later, If Not Sooner? »

April 14, 2008

Torturing the Truth

posted by Alan Greenblatt

BushOne consistent public relations response of the Bush administration when bad news leaks out is to deny the accuracy of the story and then later, when firmer confirmation is obtained, to dismiss this as old news. This is a strategy that has worked well, given the media's obsession with reporting what is new and novel, as opposed to trying to depict what is.

Think about torture. Remember how, when the photos from Abu Ghraib came out, the administration dismissed this as the work of a few bad actors on the night shift? Just a couple of weeks ago, the 2003 torture memo written by John Yoo, giving Justice Department approval to a wide array of highly specific torture techniques for Department of Defense use, was released to the public.

Last week, ABC broke the story that such torture policies were approved in a series of national security "principals" meetings that included Dick Cheney and Condoleezza Rice.

Highly placed sources said a handful of top advisers signed off on how the CIA would interrogate top al Qaeda suspects -- whether they would be slapped, pushed, deprived of sleep or subjected to simulated drowning, called waterboarding.

The high-level discussions about these "enhanced interrogation techniques" were so detailed, these sources said, some of the interrogation sessions were almost choreographed -- down to the number of times CIA agents could use a specific tactic.

Reportedly, President Bush was carefully excluded from such discussions. In an interview with ABC on Friday, however, Bush said that he was aware of the discussions and approved them:

"Well, we started to connect the dots in order to protect the American people." Bush told ABC News White House correspondent Martha Raddatz. "And yes, I'm aware our national security team met on this issue. And I approved."

The president's top advisers, with his consent, approved the use of torture. Now, is that news? The Bush administration knew it might be, which is why Bush had always been careful about refusing to say what techniques were being used when issues such as waterboarding rose to the surface. Bush himself has been fond of saying, as he did in a 2006 interview with Bill O'Reilly, "I have said all along to the American people we won't torture."

It seems to me clearly to be news in terms of defining the epoch we're living in and how the country is responding to new types of security threats. And it's certainly confirmation that this went all the way up to the top and was not "hazing" performed by a few rogue soldiers.

But then, since we all "knew" this already, the latest torture policy revelations have gotten almost no play. A quick Nexis search of "Bush and torture" on "US Newspapers and Wires" since Friday, when Bush gave his interview to ABC, returns just 30 stories, some of them duplicates and not all of them related to this story.

By contrast, a search for "Obama and bitter" over the same period turns up 174 stories.

Ask yourself, which is the more important story?

Comments

section9

One of the things liberals don't get, and never did, that Bush understood about the American people was that rank and file voters wanted information extracted from Al Qaeda personnel by any means necessary. The idiocy of liberals astounds me on this issue.

Abu Ghraib was deeply shameful to Americans because it was happening to Iraqis who were covered by Geneva. They couldn't understand why Bush didn't fire Rumsfeld after that. Neither could I. But the point is, even a member of the 1920's Brigades was covered by Geneva after being captured planting an IED just as much as a former member of Saddam's Army.

Al Qaeda is stateless and deliberately targets civilians. They are under no such protection. The Administration was basically making rules of its own. So the Congress had to pass a law after Hamdan.

Aside from the fact that Daschle and Jane Harman were briefed on all of this, nobody's going to Code Pink War Criminal Court in the Hague. The American people understand that AQ is capable of causing them great harm, and they wanted them stopped. That's what the Bush Cabinet was trying to do.

This is only a scandal among people who already hated Bush before the Iraq war made him unpopular with most of the country; i.e.: the liberals.

Obama hasn't said much about this for one reason: he thinks he should have the same power.

Alan Greenblatt

I understand this point -- torture has polled surprisingly well. That doesn't obviate my point, that the fact that this is official administration policy is still news.

Still, leaving aside the question of whether an issue such as this should be determined based on polling, or the cheap logic that says since our enemy would do it we're entitled to do it, there are other underlying questions.

People who make the point section9 makes never seem to offer up evidence that torture works -- that the information provided under torture is reliable.

The other point about having a secret torture regime with no procedural safeguards -- pre-9/11 as it may be even to raise such an issue -- is the question of whether we ever might torture the wrong people. In other words, just because there are bad guys at loose in the world doesn't mean we should be able to torture everyone we feel like.

Or is the idea that we might torture the wrong people just another misguided marquis of Queensbury, Bush-hater concern?

poetryman69

Dubya is the torture president and he heads the torture administration.

And always by Dubya's side was his faithful dog, I mean companion, the VP FUtus of Borg.

Their motto: semper quiritatio. Always screaming.

For of you who are not in the know, here is a scoop.

Neoconservatism is a Satanic cult. Why do you think they seek

100 years of death of maiming in Iraq that will result in a Shiite state

and very rich oil companies? Did you ever stop and think: what's in this

for us? Nothing, unless you are a member of a Satanic cult. After all,

Al Queda was not in Iraq until chief Satanist Dubya attracted them with

an illegal, immoral, unnecessary war.

To Dubya, you are the enemy. That's why he reduced your constitutional

rights to a fair and speedy trial, your right to counsel, and curtailed

your freedoms against search and seizure, rather than putting up a

fence on the border and checking everything and everyone that crosses the

border. Did anyone notice that all the terrorists come from Saudi Arabia

which Dubya did not attack?

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