Friday, May 22, 2009
On Further Review
Following up on yesterday's posts: the reviews are coming in and there seems general agreement among those with eyes and ears and matter behind/between them that Cheney's speech was, at best, the same old sh*t, and, at worst, full of omissions, lies, and distortions. (Which, of course, is the same old sh*t. So I repeat myself.) Not everyone loved Obama's, naturally; some civil libertarians were disappointed, and the RWS™, unsurprisingly, were unable to process such depth and thoughtfulness at all. But there weren't lies.
Giving Cheney the benefit of the doubt, I'll assume that 9/11 scared the crap out of him. How terrifying must it have been -- especially for a guy who (unlike me) managed five deferments to avoid serving in Vietnam -- to sit in a bunker somewhere not knowing what was going on and wondering if you might die. (Been there, done that. Not the bunker part, but the die/fear part: daily, nightly, for months on end. He didn't have time to get used to it, like I did.) So, okay. Bad guys, need to fight back. Yes.
I'll even forgive him, in his moment of panic, for turning to torture as his brain, drained of blood, scrabbled for protection. His hero, after all (the one on the right), when he was Cheney's age, couldn't distinguish between movies he'd been in or life experiences he'd had. So let's assume he tortured people (for it's now clear that the approvals came from him) for higher purposes, believing it works. But can we really swallow the idea that he considered it legal?
The tortured memos he demanded (yes, that's an assumption, but the evidence is that the torture began well before the memos, which smells of an attempt at retroactive cover) simply made up rationales for calling a pig a princess. What was done was torture. Torture is illegal.
But, okay, you want to save lives, you break the law. No big deal. If it works, who cares? Right?
Wrong. First of all, the way torture has always worked is in extracting false confessions. Ask John McCain. And as the evidence accumulates that most of the information obtained from captives was from legal methods, and that torture produced false information that was used to justify war (even after it was suggested that the info was false), and that torture was further used to try to get people to confess to links between al Queda and Saddam Hussein, it has become clear to all but the the deadest of dead-enders that torture is a bad thing. And that it was used, deliberately, by the United States of America, in exactly the way it had been used by despots and dictators for centuries: to force false confessions. Why doesn't that scare the crap out of everyone, even (especially) the RWS™?
Cheney insists we got useful information from torture. Maybe we did. What we still don't know is, first, whether it could have been gotten in other ways; second, how much false information was obtained (we know there was some, and it led to disaster); third, how, in a time of crisis, you can tell whether you're getting good or bad information, since it's undisputed that torture gives bad information (or desired answers, true or not); fourth, how much damage to the nation was done as the rest of the world found out what we'd done?
Listening to him yesterday, I wondered what he's really up to. Does he believe what he says? If so, is it because he's truly delusional, or because he knows things we don't? If that, does he simply discount the known failures? Is he trying to justify a program for his own protection, or because he still believes it was a good thing? Is he trying to change the subject from illegality and deliberate dredging for falsehoods to efficacy alone? Seems shaky ground either way, given what we're learning.
So he's a real puzzle, putting it mildly. Trashing his predecessor while claiming dissent gives comfort to our enemies. Making a case based on omissions and distortions. Can he not know?
There's one thing he says for which I'm all: release the documents. All of them. And, sure, let's find out about what was said to Pelosi. All of it. Let's have a full-fledged investigation of the whole program of torture, all of it.
Of course, that's not what he really wants. Like the Congressional Republicans, he wants to be highly selective and hide the ball. But let's not. Lets dig it all out, and let the chips fall. Where ever. Because if torture works, I want to see the data; and then, I want there to be a full discussion. Should we reject the Geneva Conventions, the agreements on torture, go it alone for our own safety? Should we be using it in our legal system? On guys like Timothy McVey? Serial murderers? Is there a line? Where? Why? I know what I think: no. It degrades us, it endangers us. It gives unreliable information. It makes us no different from those over whom we claim to have the higher ground.
Torture is illegal for good reasons, not the least of which is that it's too damn easy. To guys like Dick Cheney. Panicked, in his bunker. Looking for ways to feel unafraid. Looking for ways to feel tough, damn the implications, damn the dangers of falsehood it produces. Because of the falsehoods.
That's why I say no. And why I think it's time for Dick Cheney to return to Wyoming and lecture cows or whatever they have there. And for the media to stop acting like he has credibility equal to Barack Obama's.
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