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Posted by on May 16, 2009 in At TMV | 38 comments

Faux News Reveals True Motivation Behind Attacks on Pelosi

Not that reality-based bloggers didn’t know this already, but it definitely should be pointed out as frequently as possible (emphasis in original):

For weeks, conservatives have been launching hypocritical and disingenuous attacks on House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) regarding her level of knowledge of the Bush administration’s torture program.

Fox News conservatives are revealing one of the underlying motives for these attacks — to diminish calls for a truth commission on torture. While interviewing Newt Gingrich, and later, Sen. Jon Kyl (R-AZ), Fox host Neil Cavuto wondered whether “both parties will cease and desist” from investigations:

Is it a potential Mexican standoff? And by that, I mean, Senator, that Democrats feel they have the goods on the prior administration to drag out hearings on what they knew about Iraq and when. Now Republicans have the goods, presumably, on Nancy Pelosi about what she knew about interrogation and when. So to avoid mutual self-destruction, both parties cease and desist.

Mike Madden concludes that Dick Cheney’s National Torture Defense Tour is intended to turn everyone’s attention to what the Democrats knew about the Bush torture program, and away from the torture itself: who conceived it, designed it, authorized it, and carried it out:

You might have thought getting torture back in the news would be a bad move for any Republican; after all, it was the Bush administration that authorized the torturing. But the last few days have shown Dick Cheney knew exactly what he was doing when he went on TV last week and started talking about “enhanced interrogation”: It was a masterstroke of bureaucratic warfare.

Because just five days after Cheney admitted that George W. Bush personally signed off on the CIA’s plans to extract information out of detainees by no matter how they got it, the debate in Washington isn’t even remotely focused on the ethical and moral repugnance of torturing your enemies. Instead, the city is buzzing about what House Speaker Nancy Pelosi knew about waterboarding. There’s a little side conversation going about whether torture is effective — but not whether it’s wrong. And the Obama administration, which is trying desperately not to get involved in an endless battle over what Bush officials were doing behind closed doors, is getting dragged into it, too, and infuriating liberal supporters in the process.

Mike Madden doesn’t get it, either. We don’t need a debate over whether torture is wrong. It’s irrelevant, just as it’s irrelevant that torture is ineffective. Torture is illegal. It violates our own statutes, and it violates several international treaties, most notably the Geneva Conventions and the Convention Against Torture. There is no option to torture. It does not exist.

Republicans are very, very good at changing the subject. It’s one of the things they do best. Madden is right that they are playing a game of divide and conquer, and (so far) getting away with it. Reality-based bloggers, and everyone else who believes that criminal acts need to be investigated and prosecuted, should not let them do that. We should not be playing this game of what did Nancy Pelosi know and when did she know it and what did she do about it. Instead, we should be bringing the focus back to the acts themselves, and to everything Republican leaders and senior officials in the Bush administration have done over the last eight years to ensure that Congress would never be in a position to know the full extent of what was going on, and — even more to the point — to ensure that Congress would never be in a position to do anything about the little they did know.

The arguments on the right will continue to be immoral, untruthful, disingenuous, misinformed, irrational, and lacking in either logic or consistency — but that does not mean we on the anti-torture, pro-rule of law side have to accept their irrelevant, manipulative framework.

Here is one example of what I’m talking about. Mark Steyn’s column yesterday in the Orange Country Register (emphasis mine):

Question: What does Dick Cheney think of waterboarding?

He’s in favor of it. He was in favor of it then, he’s in favor of it now. He doesn’t think it’s torture, and he supports having it on the books as a vital option. On his recent TV appearances, he sometimes gives the impression he would not be entirely averse to performing a demonstration on his interviewers, but generally he believes its use should be a tad more circumscribed. He is entirely consistent.

Question: What does Nancy Pelosi think of waterboarding?

No, I mean really. Away from the cameras, away from the Capitol, in the deepest recesses of her (if she’ll forgive my naïveté) soul. Sitting on a mountaintop, contemplating the distant horizon, chewing thoughtfully on a cranberry-almond granola bar, what does she truly believe about waterboarding?

Does she oppose it? According to Speaker Pelosi, yes. In her varying accounts, she’s (a) accused the CIA of consciously “misleading the Congress of the United States” as to what they were doing; (b) admitted to having been briefed that waterboarding was in the playbook but that “we were not – I repeat – were not told that waterboarding or any of these other enhanced interrogation methods were used”; (c) belatedly conceded that she’d known back in February 2003 that waterboarding was being used but had been apprised of the fact by “a member of my staff”. As she said on Thursday, instead of doing anything about it, she decided to focus on getting more Democrats elected to the House.

It’s worth noting that, by most if not all of her multiple accounts, Nancy Pelosi is as guilty of torture as anybody else. That’s not an airy rhetorical flourish but a statement of law. As National Review’s Andy McCarthy points out, under Section 2340A(c) of the relevant statute, a person who conspires to torture is subject to the same penalties as the actual torturer. Once Speaker Pelosi was informed that waterboarding was part of the plan and that it was actually being used, she was in on the conspiracy, and as up to her neck in it as whoever it was who was actually sticking it to poor old Abu Zubaydah and the other blameless lads.

That is, if you believe waterboarding is “torture.”

I don’t believe it’s torture. Nor does Dick Cheney. But Nancy Pelosi does. Or so she has said, latterly.

The sheer dishonesty oozing out of every line in the quote above can drive you mad if you let it. Ah, but don’t you let it. There are really only four distinct points worth addressing:

  1. What do Dick Cheney and Nancy Pelosi think of waterboarding?
  2. Dick Cheney does not believe waterboarding is torture. I don’t believe waterboarding is torture. Nancy Pelosi does believe waterboarding is torture.
  3. But she did nothing about it.
  4. Nancy Pelosi is guilty under the law of conspiring to torture.

We don’t have to allow ourselves to get caught up in the amazing stupidity of these points. The answers are as follows:

  1. It doesn’t matter. Waterboarding is torture, and torture is illegal.
  2. Who cares? Waterboarding is torture, and torture is illegal.
  3. She did nothing about it because she signed an agreement not to disclose anything she learned in the briefings, but set that aside. The only way to get to the bottom of this is to impanel a truth commission to look at all the facts of this matter. Nancy Pelosi has called for such a commission. Do you support her on that?
  4. I’m no lawyer, but I think the legal definition of “conspire” includes taking an active part in planning the crime, but we absolutely need to nail that down. Nancy Pelosi has called for a truth commission that will answer all these questions. Do you support her on that?

That’s all we need to say in response to these points. If Mark Steyn and all the other torture apologists can’t or won’t or don’t want to address these points in a straightforward manner, then they need to shut up.

Cross-posted at Comments from Left Field.