Tuesday, May 12

Why prosecuting torture matters.

Lots of blogs today will express outrage and disgust over Harold Ford's stupidity yesterday on Hardball. We in Left Blogsylvania (yeah that's for you Tweety) have said the same thing about Rice and Cheney. How can they defend torture, and even say it was a good thing? Liars.

Couple things we have to remember in all of this:

1. None of these torture defenders have any accountability to the voters of this country.

2. By publishing and discussing their positions in the name of 'fair and balanced' the news media is legitimizing the torture "debate."

3. Most importantly, the world is watching.

I am worried for our country and its position in the world. I actually hope it becomes necessary for the current leadership to denounce in world court the words of Cheney, Rice, and Ford specifically as not speaking for the United States of America. There is a historical precedent here: one of the reasons Brown versus Board of Education came into being was the international pressure on the United States to be better on race relations versus the Soviet Union. Derrick Bell's book on the case has a chapter on "Brown as an Anti-Communist Decision," and this page is worth reading in the context of world opinion on America's torture policy under Bush.

If we are not better on human rights than so-called Islamic extremists, the terrorists win. We can't let Dick Cheney be an alternative voice in this country. This is not about his free speech, it is about legitimizing an idea at once abhorrent, vicious, and damaging to the United States.

Chris Matthews was right to call out Ford, but it's not enough. Matthews would not allow some Klansman to come on his show and talk about race relations in the interest of giving equal time to all ideas. "Fair and balanced" does not include the N word. It should not include the "torture was justified" words, either. It's time for corporate media to step up and silence this fake debate for the sake of, well, patriotism.

UPDATE: Ted Koppel agrees. Be aware, this is fucking hard to watch.

The really essential question is at 6:17. What does Cheney represent? We can't let him represent us on any level. Koppel is of course wrong that a Justice Department memo justifies any legality of torture. But I suppose if MSNBC / Olbermann / Matthews / Maddow are going to cover this obscenity, the discussion should happen now instead of when the nation is out of its mind again. But it's not a debate. There is no other side in this that deserves consideration.


  1. No legal consequences this time around because they had the DOJ telling them it was OK? That's nonsense.

    If Dick Cheney can order some partisan hack to give him a legal excuse for genocide (if nobody's left outside the US, nobody outside the US can threaten the US), then it's just a matter of making it clear that there'll be consequences next time?

    What Yoo and Bybee did was part of the crime, not a get out jail free card for the crime.

  2. There was not, is not, and will not be the slightest excuse for torture; if we establish a precedent by failing to prosecute and enforce the appropriate legal penalties, we will get what we deserve.

    The United States alone at the moral peak of the world is, and always has been, counter-factual. Nonetheless, the Cheney-Rumsfeld administration made a significant and highly dangerous step towards the bottom by designing and implementing a government wide torture policy, then demanding sycophantic lawyers write justifications.

    I have seen Americans torture people, and dealt with other torture victims from our "allies". One way to skirt laws against torture is to make it clear to a foreign government dependent on the U S for its survival what you want.

  3. Anonymous1:43 PM

    Your video was excellent!

  4. I'm not buying the specious rationale that Koppel offers for non-prosecution of previous violations.

    Anyone capable of adult logical processes can see that, similarly to the Iraq war run-up, 'facts' needed to be fixed around policy...A high-level decision was made and a DOJ imprimatur was required, thus a sympathetic set of inputs was procured in order to give plausible deniability to what came after.

    It's gaming the system, and anyone who attempts to give credibility or the benefit of the doubt to such actions is a useful fool at best and a co-conspirator at worst.

  5. Excellent vid and article, BG.
    And a salient point regarding Koppel's otherwise clear remarks, that no piece of paper from a lawyer blinded anyone who administered torture from knowing it was torture. Every man knows, religious or not, the superior wisdom of "Do unto others as you would have them do unto you." Following an unlawful order in the military gets you court-martialed; end of story.

    Law is life itself; not the rules of it's conduct.

  6. The thing is, we know we waterboarded. We helped prosecute Japanese for waterboarding after WWII as war crimes. I don't know if you guys read all the torture memos that were released, but the feeling I got was Bybee and all found a loophole in the war crimes bills. In other words, since the torturing occured in black sites, in countries outside of US control, then it was okay.
    I have a feeling, though, once the annuls of history are written, we will find that this argument over whether or not waterboarding was torture will be a specious one compared to other atrocities that were committed. Obama stated that the reason he released these memos is because the techniques were already known and well-reported.
    I have a feeling that what we don't know is far worse.

  7. If the people who ordered torture aren't prosecuted, we are no longer a nation of laws. Oh, and it is legal if the president does it. Christ.

  8. best piece yet on why the torturers must be prosecuted

  9. Right on Blue Gal and Ted Koppel. We should have a completely simple policy, and it should be set up now (if not enshrined into our Constitution) so that future Bush/Cheney wannabe's have fair warning.

    In addition, it's a known fact that information that is received through "enhanced" interrogation techniques is notoriously unreliable. See Carol Tavris and Elliot Aronson's work for confirmation.

    Finally, for Cheney to assert that "thousands" if not "hundreds of thousands" of lives were saved is as convincing as his previous assertions that Iraq was hiding weapons of mass destruction. Who still believes anything this guy has to say?


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