Another Update on the Torture Debate

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By Senator Arlen Specter’s calculus, the inextricably intertwined issues of the Bush administration’s embrace of torture and whether Michael Mukasey should be confirmed as the successor to the attorney general who issued secret legal opinions endorsing its use comes down to this:

If Mukasey says that waterboarding is torture and if torture is illegal then some CIA agents could get sued.

Now Specter is about as infuriating as any senator on Capitol Hill, legendarily infamous for his chameleon-like behavior, including threats to do the right thing followed by back-room deal making that is the wrong thing. But in this instance the Republican from Pennsylvania is dead on.

So this is what it comes down to, America:

The nominee to replace Alberto Gonzales will stand not on principle (and for all we know he may be impaired in that respect) because it is more important to save a few CIA asses (although not Valerie Plame’s).

By all rights the Mukasey nomination should be as dead as a beaten and bloody Abu Ghraib detainee. But my prediction is that he’ll be approved because principle always is in short supply inside the Beltway and is notably hard to find these days.

17 Comments

  1. Shaun – I think we just discovered common ground! I agree with you, on both of your conclusions.

  2. Are you willing to wait until march 2009 for the next Attorney General? Are of your comments say that you are? I guess the job is not really that important is it can be filled with an acting Attorney General for 17 months.

    Is scoring political points on an issue that you gone in 18 months really that important to the left?

  3. superdestroyer:

    Your concerns, which you have brought up previously, are misplaced.

    The republic will not founder without a political appointment atop a department that substantially consists of independent-minded career lawyers and other functionaries who are on the job year in and year out without respect to whomever the president is and his political agenda.

    The Justice Department is avowedly apolitical and a president would never try to influence its work by imposing his political agenda on it. A good example is voter fraud investigations, and a president would never meddle in such work, let alone punish U.S. attorneys and Main Justice staffers who believe in having a modicum of independence.

    So you can just set that fevered mind to rest, my man. All is okey-dokey.

  4. I agree with your analysis, and it makes me want to scream./cry/hide.

    The lesson from the Nuremberg trials was about individual responsibility.
    The lesson from our government is that the lesson applies only very selectively-where it says it applies.

  5. If a terriorist was captured who had information that would prevent a nuclear attack to NY city would you not torture him via waterboarding to try and get the information? Of course you would. Especially if you were President, because if you did not, and the bomb went off, you would be in front of a firing squad. Shaun and the rest of you live in a dream world where everyone shares your moral code. NPR just had a major story from Irag that was developed via torture.

  6. Shaun,

    The Justice Department is a revolving door of assistant U.S. attorneys who work for a host of political appointees. Remember then the Democrats made a big deal out of the firing of political appointees and how it slowed investigations.

    Now, the left is claiming that stopping the Justice Department until the next Administration is the most important thing. I guess with the era of big government run by Democrats coming back that crime levels will go back to the 1970′s level.

    Since all three of the main Democratic candidates said that it position should stay open until they appoint someone, then they should come out and say who they would appoint. Ii doubt if any of them would answer. Thus, the Democratic party is selling the proverbial pig in a poke when they claim that it is best to wait until March 2008. I doubt if the future President Clinton’s nominees will face any hard questions from the last few Republicans in the U.S. Senate.

  7. “NPR just had a major story from Iraq that was developed via torture.”

    (1) you can’t confirm that

    (2) that still doesn’t make it right

    “dream world”? How about the real world. There are other, more reliable ways to get information. Torture is an excuse for haters to be hateful.

    Sorry, man, you won’t win this debate.

  8. In case there’s any confusion, my comment (#7) was related to dwolf’s comment (#5).

  9. dwolf=

    Someonw being waterboarded is as likely as not to give any ‘information’ to stop the agony. He could tell you the bomg is on Park Ave, when, it fact, it’s in Chicago. The Pres. is back in front of the firing line for getting the wrong information because of wrong techniques.

    I can imagine doing extraordinary things in extraordinafry circumstances, but I can’t imagive needing assurances about being protected from the consequences in order to do them. If you’re tough enough to do something, then you’ve got to be tough enough to take the consequences,-or, step aside for someone else who is.

  10. Arguing over whether or not water boarding is torture, or even over whether torture is excusable under certain circumstances, is to miss the point entirely.

    The question should be whether torture helps or hinders us in the long war we are now engaged in against those who attacked the country on 9/11.

    To anyone with an ounce of sense the answer is obvious- it hinders.

    Post 9/11 and pre the Iraq invasion the world saw our response as a just one. Those who had planned the attack on the twin towers were hiding in Afghanistan and our ultimatum to them was not only understandable, but it was the only logical next step.

    At this stage, despite protests from certain quarters, the nations of the world supported America to such an extent that even our sworn enemy, Iran, was prepared to help.

    Today our government has reduced our options to nil. Our military is bogged down in a war it cannot win and our true enemy is growing stronger by the day. Throughout the middle east one rallying cry is heard- America is torturing Muslims.

    As Britain learned in Northern Ireland, torturing those who oppose you strengthens them and weakens you.

    The Bush Administration threw away whatever chance we had of truly defeating Al Qaeda by turning away from our historical allies and embracing the tactics of our old enemies.

    Obviously the idea that, somewhere, by someone, supposed enemies of America are being treated brutishly brings a certain amount of comfort to our president’s supporters, but as a strategy it is hopelessly dumb and continues to isolate us from those who might have been used to help us in the real war- the one on the terrorists who attacked us. Remember it?

  11. How do you know the tortured guy is telling you truth?

    Maybe he’s just telling you what you want to hear to slow you down.

    Maybe he’s giving conflicting information to slow you down.

    Maybe he’s been trained to withstand torture as long as needed to run out the clock.

    Because–remember?–the clock is ticking.

    Wouldn’t running out the clock be the best option for the tortured guy?

  12. The folks doing the interrogating know how to pose questions that reveal if the subject knows nothing, something or everything. And if they know nothing, what is the harm. No lasting physical or mental damage John McCain notwithstanding.
    If someone had a gun to my wife’s head and I could waterboard his wife to get him to stop him -GUESS WHAT-turn on the hose. You posters against torture pre-suppose that we are going to win the fight against terrorism with our rules. Apparently, you have not seen the live beheading of Nick Berg. That is the enemy and they would laugh at all of you trying to make nice as they destroy our cities, rape your wives and kill your children.
    As to NPR, they admitted this AM that the story came from being invited to interview tortured prisioners. Of course, listeners wrote in to say that they were agahst that NPR would use the material-cowards are always agahst at the brutality of the enemy, as they are being killed.

  13. Dwolf, you’re the one in the dream world and its called “24″. Torture is against our values, american values and sometimes not only soldiers have to die for those values. If I or my loved ones had to die or allow torture back in the the American playbook I would die rather than let that stain my soul.

    Also, you misunderstand the corrosive effect it has on those in power, those doing the torturing. Its breed sadism and authoritarianism. The reason we’ve collectively decided torture is bad is more than just wishy washy goody twoshoes ideals that have no underpinnings. Its bad for many reason not the least of which is its overall ineffectiveness. Take some pride in being one of the good guys and understand you’re not just a good guy because you think you are. Actions determine what we are.

  14. Also, to those who would adopt the ways of our enemies I’d ask you to take a good long look at them. See what their brutality has earned them. Nonstop warfare, living like rats hiding from the “weak” westerners, utter chaos that is the reward of the mindset they have adopted that anything goes on the road to victory.

    We will leave Iraq when we are tired of kicking them around and not until then. We will ultimately leave on our terms, not because 40,000 marines got slaughtered by insurgents in the Battle of Baghdad and our armies got pushed back into the sea. The kind of methods they use does only one thing, perpetuate more of the same and prevents the stability that true power, that of the west, stems from. And yet you would call cowards those who still believe in our ways and ideals because what, it doesn’t seem manly enough for you? Gimme a break.

  15. Sam, let me remind you heroes die one death, cowards a thousand. FYI our soldiers tortured enemies in every war and I know this personally. War brings all combatants to the animal level, white hats or not. The terriorists would accuse us of torture true or not.
    What I read in the postings is that you are all against war in general because it is ugly. It is. With luck REAL MEN will be around to defend you and your ilk-that will be the break you need to stay alive.

  16. You read wrong. And there is a difference between soldiers breaking under the strain of war and it being official policy, i.e. the way we do business. I just like my wars to be of necessity and not choice, stem from need and not the reactive fear that seems to come from folks that justify torture to make themselves feel better about something beind done. Selling out our ideals doesn’t make you a real man, its doing the work of the enemy for him.

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