*(I like Newt Gingrich… one of the few credible idea men conservatives have that Pres. Bush truly should have had working for him from Day One)
DIA: Do you believe any of the Bush administration’s approved interrogation techniques amounted to torture? Asked another way, why is waterboarding torture when it’s done by the Khmer Rouge, but “enhanced interrogation” when it’s done by America?
Mr Gingrich: No. As a British court noted, waterboarding is not torture. Waterboarding has been routinely used to train American pilots in the military to understand what interrogation techniques they might encounter. The reference to the Khmer Rouge is the kind of moral equivalence President Reagan warned against in his “Evil Empire” speech in 1983. The Khmer Rouge killed millions of people, annihilated the Cambodian intellectuals, and was among the worst inhumane movements in the last century. The United States has used specific enhanced interrogation techniques in specific circumstances against very high-level terrorists for the purpose of saving innocent civilian lives, not for taking them.
The dishonesty of his response is amazing, even for a man known to speak before thinking.
Firstly, is Newt now that rare conservative who puts the ruling of a foreign court before American courts (federal and state) that have ruled waterboarding is torture? Worse, does Newt advocate the breaking of federal laws based on the decision of a foreign court?
Second, does Newt not comprehend the military trains its personnel in SERE in order to avoid being surprised by torture and in order to understand how torture was and is utilized by America’s enemies (North Korea, China, the Soviet Union, Nazi Germany, Imperial Japan) against American forces?
Lastly, Newt dodges the question of why its not always torture in his eyes. Just because our enemies utilize it does not mean we should as well, and it certainly does not make it any less of a crime because we do it too.
Now we see Dick Cheney walking back claims about torture working, instead noting its value as part of a comprehensive program, ignoring still the results of the CIA’s own review of torture techniques which noted they did not work as advertised.
The dishonesty of torture proponents shines through over time, from their willful violation of the rule of law to their baseless claims of its effiacy compared to other, proven methods.
John Yoo, perhaps a tad angry with the hefty historical down payment legal scholars and many of his own contemporaries in the Bush Administration have placed on his exceptionally poor legal scholarship, or maybe even a bit nervous that he may be the fall guy for torture prosecutions, returns to launch a typically shoddy blast against President Obama and the military for reversing Bush’s interrogation policies.
Yoo presents an either/or fallacy argument in the argument that American must torture or expect terrorism. Rather than consider the matter with an open mind and make an honest argument about its potential efficacy as responsible adults such as Robert Kaplan, Dan Abbott (who also helpfully pointed out the problem of the scattered definitions of torture and even provided an arguably excellent definition himself*) and numerous others have done, he asserts with no corresponding evidence that it works and is essentially the only method that does.
He glosses over (as his legal memos tended to) pesky precedents that might impede his argument, such as the multiple productive interrogations of terrorists by FBI agents that were interrupted by the CIA’s lack of patience (and possible need to beat Donald Rumsfeld to the punch in impressing the President and Vice President on detainee intelligence revelations).
Not surprisingly, Yoo degenerates the exceptional service of military interrogators (and FBI white teams) who have used inventive, adapative techniques (along with classic ones that have worked well for decades) to glean useful intelligence from terrorists and insurgents. Yoo seemingly can’t comprehend or can’t believe that their methods work.
Few are under the illusion that a lot of this has been caused by a failure of responsibility and oversight in all three government branches. The extraordinary rendition program accelerated in the Clinton administration and left CIA agents out to dry on exactly what the rules were for their operational behavior and decision-making. Speaker Pelosi and other prominent Democrats screaming about torture were perfectly willing to approve its use or ignore its occurrence when it was convenient for them to do so. The courts have generally avoided this like the plague, save for the military tribunals at Gitmo which have evaluated the outcomes of interrogations with torture and found them illegal under their operating guidelines, partially because some of the methods involved violated federal law.
Neither should people be impressed that the Army Field Manual on Interrogation is now the gold standard of interrogation. Techniques devised and studied that are found to be effective should be considered for adaption, dependent upon the situation. A more reasonable world would allow for the common-sense suggestion from Phillip Bobbitt that intelligence agents and interrogators convinced they must torture a suspect to stop an act of terror or save lives be prosecuted and have their actions weighed by a jury of their peers (fellow professionals) to see if they truly were required.
In the end, Yoo simply can’t admit there could be a better way. He is wedded to his legacy of poor legal scholarship and lawbreaking. Were someone to take the pro-Cheney (potentially pro-Yoo) case and ask for an independent commission to assess (not indict) the claims of Cheney, Yoo and others, perhaps the evidence Yoo and others fail to mention in support of their seemingly baseless claims will come to light.
In the absence of such evidence and patent lies told on a regular basis by this bunch, skepticism is certainly warranted.
*His offered definition: “might be that is painful, harmful, and without interrogative value. “
Dick Cheney with the Weekly Standard:
“And I think on the left wing of the Democratic Party, there are some people who believe that we really tortured.”
Cheney from the same interview:
“He denied that prisoners were tortured.”
Rather than get flustered with the continued lies of Dick Cheney, I find humor in his defiance. He is so out of touch with reality that he seems to ignore the condemnation his actions have produced from such visionary liberals as John McCain, George Will, Jack Goldsmith, military prosecutors at Gitmo and now, the convening authority of the military commissions, Susan J. Crawford.
Cheney violated our own laws, subverted our system of law from the Justice Department to the military, and did so with reckless abandon, not just with the top echelons of Al-Qaeda (who it is at least arguable in good conscience MAY have necessitated torture), but with lackeys and underlings, usually on flimsy evidence and often with lethal effect.
Most of all, he stands proud of what he did, like the drunken fool who crashes his car into a telephone pole, survives and crawls out, smiling and proud of his daring and luck.
I am reminded of the reaction in 2005 of a towering liberal (who slyly titles his blog, “Right Wing Nut House”), Rick Moran*, who without the additional detail uncovered since then in countless books and reports with plenty of government officials and military officers on the record to corroborate the guilt of Cheney, had this to say:
“It’s one thing to be hard in war. It’s one thing to be pitiless in the prosecution of it. But its quite another thing to violate all tenets of civilized behavior in acheiving your objectives. Even in war, the ends cannot justify the means. If you believe that it does, then ask yourself what kind of country you will have at the end of it? Will it be the kind of country you can live in with pride? Or will history itself remember us with scorn and derision for abandoning the very principals we were fighting to protect.”
Given the severity of the various crises engulfing America at this time, we will likely never have any sort of justice for the crimes Cheney, Rumsfeld, Yoo and others committed. In the end, I believe a pardon should be in the works for Cheney and the rest. A pardon for all the crimes we won’t have time to investigate to the extent of indicting and convicting them, but more so, a pardon to ensure rear-guard efforts to salvage their reputations or twist the facts of their crimes fail.
* No disrespect meant to Rick Moran, who is the best conservative blogger I read every morning, as well as one of the most intelluctually honest and reflective writers, given to outright hilarious bouts of stupidity skewering.