Tag "torture"

According to Sullivan, Obama = Bush now:

In what can only be seen as a stunning reversal, the president is now refusing to release photographs that would help prove that the abuse and torture techniques revealed at Abu Ghraib were endemic in the Bush military. [...]

Slowly but surely, Obama is owning the cover-up of his predcessors’ war crimes. But covering up war crimes, refusing to proscute them, promoting those associated with them, and suppressing evidence of them are themselves violations of Geneva and the UN Convention. So Cheney begins to successfully coopt his successor.

I’m actually feeling pretty meh about this.  It’s not like we don’t know what happened.  We tortured people.  A lot.  In a lot of places.  I don’t really see how releasing these photos really changes any of that, other than producing shock value.  To me, this isn’t really value-added, considering what the cost might be.  Sullivan responds to this with a purely principled argument, ignoring context, which is what I would expect from a conservative:

The reason is pretty simple. Without photos, we would never have heard of the mass abuse and torture at Abu Ghraib. Bush and Cheney would be denying today that any of it happened at all. When the photos were uncovered, revealing clearly what the anodyne words “stress position”, “mock execution”, “forced nudity” etc actually meant, we finally were able to hold the government accountable for the abuse it authorized.

Of course, they lied to us and to the Congress about this, declaring that these techniques, meticulously crafted in Washington, had been improvised by a few “bad apples” on the night shift  whom the Weekly Standard believed should be jailed or executed (that was before they discovered that their friends were deeply implicated).

We now know that these Abu Ghraib techniques were imported from Gitmo and were used in every theater of war as Cheney constructed a secret war machine that used the capture, torture and abuse of prisoners as its central intelligence-gathering tool. But we only have the photos from Abu Ghraib and so people can continue to pull a Noonan and pretend that this didn’t happen no a much wider scale. From my understanding, the photos would prove very similar techniques spread across the globe. And so it would be clear that any Muslim anywhere, upon seeing US troops, could be Abu Ghraibed. The photos would reveal more powerfully than the impressive documentation in countless reports that Bush and Cheney’s torture and abuse machine was everywhere, in every theater.

His argument is basically that, had we not known what we already know, we’d learn a lot.  And, even though we already know what these benign terms actually mean, these photos would re-affirm what we already know.  And also we’d know that we tortured people in Afghanistan, which we already knew.

Now let’s examine the cons.  People in the Middle East get to see photos of us torturing Arabs 24/7 for about 2 weeks.

The way I see it, there’s no gain, and a lot of cost by revealing these photos.  And while I’m generally a “consequences be damned” type when it comes to transparency, I just don’t see the value here.  It’s not like the Administration is denying what’s in the photos, or denying that we tortured people.

I’m not going to get bent out of shape over this one.

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Salt Lake Tribune:

In its damning totality, the memorandum is an indictment of Bybee himself, evidence that he is morally, ethically and legally unfit to serve on the federal bench. His continued presence there is an affront to the integrity of the judiciary, to a nation founded on laws and ideals protecting human dignity, and to all Americans who once believed their government would never indulge in the same human rights violations we have long condemned in other countries.

Bybee, a graduate of Brigham Young University and its law school, should show himself capable of better judgment — and of remorse — by resigning his lifetime appointment. If he does not, Congress should begin impeachment proceedings to force him from the bench.


[h/t Sullivan]

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As always, hilzoy and I are on the same page:

The difficulty with prosecution is establishing intent. When a lawyer makes a stupid legal argument, it’s always possible that s/he is not malicious, just a terrible lawyer. When you’ve narrowed the options to criminal intent or complete ineptitude, you have not got enough to prosecute. You have, however, got enough to disbar someone, since while total ineptitude is not an indictable offense, it is a good reason not to let someone go on practicing law.

If Yoo, Bybee, and Bradbury did not write their memos in order to provide a shield for criminal activity, then I think they had to be completely inept as lawyers. Their job, remember, was to interpret the law for their clients, and to advise them on what was legal and what was not. By getting the law spectacularly wrong, they exposed their clients to serious legal liability, and in so doing completely failed to meet their obligations to their clients. Moreover, they made some fairly stunning mistakes, like failing to cite any of the cases in which the US government had prosecuted people for waterboarding when those cases were plainly relevant. [...]

Yoo, Bybee, and Bradbury had a series of professional obligations. They had obligations to their clients: to inform them accurately of what the law required, and to err on the side of caution so as not to expose their clients to liability. They had obligations to the courts: to uphold our system of laws, and to represent those laws faithfully. In addition to those professional obligations, they had obligations to humanity: not to countenance torture. They violated all three, and made a mockery of the ethics of their profession. They deserve to be disbarred.

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I think it’s fairly reasonable at this point to move forward with the impeachment of Jay Bybee, who, after penning the original torture memo in 2002, has since made his way to being a federal judge in the Ninth Circuit.  Rep. Pete King (R-NY) apparently feels differently:

Not sure if any of our New York-based Juicers out there have anything going on in 2010, but I think making your way out to Long Island and helping out whoever challenges King in NY-3 wouldn’t be a complete waste of your time.

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Cliff May:

We now know that Islamists believe their religion forbids them to cooperate with infidels — until they have reached the limit of their ability to endure the hardships the infidel is inflicting on them.* In other words: Imagine an al-Qaeda member who would like to give his interrogators information, who does not want continue fighting, who would prefer not to see more innocent people slaughtered. He would need his interrogators to press him hard so he can feel that he has met his religious obligations — only then could he cooperate.

You see, we weren’t doing anything bad for these people by torturing them, we were actually doing them a favor.

Why does this sound so familiar to me?

I hold that in the present state of civilization, where two races of different origin, and distinguished by color, and other physical differences, as well as intellectual, are brought together, the relation now existing in the slaveholding States between the two, is, instead of an evil, a good a positive good. [...]

I might well challenge a comparison between them and the more direct, simple, and patriarchal mode by which the labor of the African race is, among us, commanded by the European. I may say with truth, that in few countries so much is left to the share of the laborer, and so little exacted from him, or where there is more kind attention paid to him in sickness or infirmities of age. Compare his condition with the tenants of the poor houses in the more civilized portions of Europe look at the sick, and the old and infirm slave, on one hand, in the midst of his family and friends, under the kind superintending care of his master and mistress, and compare it with the forlorn and wretched condition of the pauper in the poorhouse.

All we need now is for someone to slap the “positive good” label on torture.

[h/t Sullivan]

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I wanted to read the recently released torture memos before I posted about them, but I’ve been tied up with wedding stuff and haven’t had time to read them in full.

Instead, I’ll just point you to hilzoy’s posts here, here, here, here, here, here, here, and here.

The only thing I’d add is that it is completely astonishing to me that there are actual cheerleaders out there for this type of treatment.  It’s truly disgusting.  I really can’t take it, and I fucking blow my top whenever anyone tries to defend this garbage.  It’s just so wrong that it’s literally stupid.  For once, Shep Smith and I are on the same page:

It’s good to see that John McCain is back in the saddle also. Unfortunately, he didn’t have the balls to keep the CIA in his DTA legislation that he cites because he was too busy appeasing the wingnuts for his presidential run:

My general feelings about all of this are summed up in my review of The Dark Side.

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This formerly confidential ICRC report from February 2007 is easily the most damning blow to the Bush legacy.  It details, at length, from perhaps the most legitimate and trusted source for reporting treatment of captive persons, the harsh ill-treatment of the what the report calls “the fourteen,” or the highest value detainees in US custody.  These include Abu Zubaydah and Khalid Sheikh Mohammed.

While most of what is contained in this report comes as no surprise to me, and probably most of you, it is important because of its source and its intended audience.  Drafted as a summary report for the CIA, this is far from an attention-seeking expose designed to grab media headlines, and furthermore, the ICRC is far from a left-wing media outlet.  Indeed, they are the gatekeepers of the Geneva Conventions.  This is about as legit as it gets.

The conclusion?

Moreover, and in addition to the continuous solitary confinement and icommunicado detention which itself was a form of ill-treatment, twelve of the fourteen alleged that they were subjected to systematic physical and/or psychological ill-treatment.  This was a consequence of both the treatment and the material conditions which formed part of the interrogation regime, as well as the overall detention regime.  This regime was clearly designed to undermine human dignity and to create a sense of futility by inducing, in many cases, severe physical and mental pain and suffering, with the aim of obtaining compliance and extracting information, resulting in exhaustion, depersonalisation and dehumanisation.

The allegations of ill-treatment of the detainees indicate that, in many cases, the ill-treatment to which they were subjected while held in the CIA program, either singly or in combination, constituted torture.  In addition, many other elements of the ill-treatment, either singly or in combination, constituted cruel inhuman or degrading treatment.

Now, out with those memos.  Let’s see the twisted logic and slimy opinions of Yoo, et al, that rationalized this torture.

Let them be laid bare for all the world to see.

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In a word, The Dark Side by Jane Mayer is shocking.  It’s shocking even for the hardest cynic and fiercest Bush critic.

Jane Mayer has compiled the most comprehensive and damning exposé of detainee treatment during the Bush Administration.  The level of detail and inside knowledge that was presented on the inner workings of the CIA, DoD, State, DOJ, and the White House is nothing short of astounding.

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After the stink over Brennan and Hayden, Leon Panetta is a refreshing choice.  Here he is writing in Washington Monthly:

We have preached these values to the world. We have made clear that there are certain lines Americans will not cross because we respect the dignity of every human being. That pledge was written into the oath of office given to every president, “to preserve, protect, and defend the Constitution.” It’s what is supposed to make our leaders different from every tyrant, dictator, or despot. We are sworn to govern by the rule of law, not by brute force.

We cannot simply suspend these beliefs in the name of national security. Those who support torture may believe that we can abuse captives in certain select circumstances and still be true to our values. But that is a false compromise. We either believe in the dignity of the individual, the rule of law, and the prohibition of cruel and unusual punishment, or we don’t. There is no middle ground.

We cannot and we must not use torture under any circumstances. We are better than that.

Damn right.

(h/t Ambinder)

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This is disgusting:

Support for the unequivocal [rules against torture] position was highest in Spain (82%), Great Britain (82%) and France (82%), followed by Mexico (73%), China (66%), the Palestinian territories (66%), Poland (62%), Indonesia (61%), and the Ukraine (59%). In five countries either modest majorities or pluralities support a ban on all torture: Azerbaijan (54%), Egypt (54%), the United States (53%), Russia (49%), and Iran (43%). South Koreans are divided.

Glad to see we’re right up there with the greats. Nothing like hangin’ out with Russia, Egypt, Iran and Azerbaijan. Ooo, it gets better; from a separate poll:

A new poll released Thursday (Sept. 11) finds that nearly six in 10 white Southern evangelicals believe torture is justified, but their views can shift when they consider the Christian principle of the golden rule.

The poll, commissioned by Faith in Public Life and Mercer University, found that 57 percent of respondents said torture can be often or sometimes justified to gain important information from suspected terrorists. Thirty-eight percent said it was never or rarely justified.

Apparently, Jesus got what was coming to him…

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