Why John McCain Really Wasn’t Tortured & Other News On The Bush Torture Regime
Don’t expect the Bush administration’s embrace of Nazi-like torture techniques to be a talking point as the presidential campaign heads into the home stretch. As despicable as the practice has been — and made worse by the cover-ups, obfuscations and junk-law opinions justifying its use — torture simply isn’t on the radar screen of most voters.
That so noted, and overlooking any mental torture that previous presidents may have suffered at the hands of their First Ladies, John McCain becomes the first potential president to have been physically tortured by an enemy while serving his country. As he has written in his memoirs, his North Vietnamese jailers withheld medical treatment, forced him to stand for long periods of time, put him in stress positions, beat him and deprived him of sleep during five and a half years of captivity.
All are clearly torture techniques, right?
Not according to Dick Cheney, the architect of the torture regime. Not according to his feckless boss, who long denied that he approved of torture and then publicly embraced it. Not according to the former concierge of the eponymously named Rumsfeld Gulag, a global system that includes Guantánamo Bay and secret prisons in foreign countries and aboard U.S. Navy ships. Not according to David Addington, who has proudly served as Cheney’s dungeon master.
It is the view of all of these cowards, smugly reinforced in John Yoo’s ethically- and morally-impaired Justice Department memos, that McCain was not tortured because the techniques employed against him were merely used to extract accurate information.
And so, as Andrew Sullivan wryly notes:
“The false confessions that McCain was forced to make were, according to the logic of the Bush administration, as accurate as the ‘intelligence’ we have procured from ‘interrogating” terror suspects.
McCain’s service during the Vietnam War must be honored on its face. That is in no way diminished by the fact he was, by many accounts, the spoiled brat son and grandson of admirals and an underachiever at the Naval Academy and in the cockpit. He destroyed no fewer than three fighter jets (or four or five, depending upon the account) in the months before he was shot down, quite possibly because of the trademark impetuosity we saw in his selection of Sarah Palin.
But that is where I draw the line as a fellow veteran, albeit one who was never war hero material.
McCain has flipped and flopped on torture since the Bush administration’s mischief first saw the light of day and hasn’t spoken out forcefully against it — let alone commented on it — since he launched his campaign. Meanwhile, he has shamelessly played the POW Card when he doesn’t want to answer a question.
Does this diminish McCain’s stature as a war hero? No. Does it diminish his stature as a presidential wannabe? Absolutely.
Because in the end, accruing power and prestige has been more important to McCain than standing up for veterans, let alone standing on principle, which makes his newly minted claim that he is an agent of change so patently false.