Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Can We Talk About Torture Now?

Two blog posts that I've read today really got to me. The first was posted by Matt Taibbi on True/Slant. The other was posted by Andrew Sullivan at The Daily Dish. I enjoy reading both men. Yet, their posts today reminded me of the damage that I believe the Bush years in particular have wrought on this country.

Taibbi reminds people that being against torture is not the same as being for the terrorists. Sullivan realizes that the current administration seems to be moving into an awkward neo-conservative pose (complete with cheers from the sycophants who led the way to the mess we find ourselves in right now).

How did we get to this point? When did torture, which is against the law, and supported by the conservative deity himself Ronald Reagan, move to legally questionable ground? When did we start making arguments based on fictional scenarios from a popular television program? Why are we watching an administration not really take up the mantle of openness and justice, when it is painfully clear that laws were broken by the last administration?

I was asked if it mattered to me that there is a possibility that Democrats might be implicated. It does not in the least. I've watched my country become afraid of its own shadow. I've watched my country become a mean-spirited place that has abandoned reason for madness, like Saruman.

From 2001 through 2009, we were a nation governed from a position of fear, not strength. That is the legacy of the Bush administration as I see it, and it is a shame. His could have been a transformational presidency, but George W. Bush, and many of those who worked for him, were not up to the task. So here we are listening to Americans question the patriotism of other Americans, simply because some disagree with Bush and Cheney. We also are treated to weekly complaints and fear mongering by the former VPOTUS (and his daughter). All of this continues as we watch the current administration waffle on what to do to move forward, even though the paths are fairly clear.

I am trying to maintain hope that all of these things will be investigated and brought to light, regardless of where it will lead. Or are we now too afraid of a thorough self examination even to save our own reputation?


Chris said...

It is and will always be a tricky subject. Either side can produce experts who will present reasoned and passionate arguments why either view of "harsh interrogation"/"torture" is effective, or not effective. Cheney is now (and has been for a few weeks) calling for the de-classification of documents that detail the circumstances that lead to waterboarding, and the quality of the intelligence that was gained as a result. The President has declined to do so. I suspect that the reluctance to pursue investigations may be due to an acknowledgement that in these cases, waterboarding produced valued that could not be produced by less aggressive means.
I won't speculate as to whether the President is declining to release the information for fear of hurting his anti-torture position, or because he wants to preserve the clandestine use of harsh measures, without taking the PR hit of acknowledging the fact. Either way, I have no problem with our country's record on this particular subject.

hscfree said...

@Chris: And therein rests the change that I was talking about. I thinkt that there was a time when the very notion of torture would have been sickening to the vast majority of Americans. Your having "no problem" with our record on torture simply affirms my point about how far we have gone.

Micheal Sisco said...

Love you more than my luggage, Free ... and as much as I agree with you on a LOT of issues, this one, I think is better left dead and buried.

1) I think if you polled 100 percent of Americans, I doubt that you could get 10 percent of us to get lathered up about the concept of Osama bin Laden with a cattle prod up his you-know-what. That being said, I think its more the way we went about it -- waterboarding first, then finding out whether or not he was an actual insurgent -- than the harsh interrogation methods.

2) I don't think we, as a nation, are any worse off as far as torture goes as we were 50 or more years ago. Now, we just have the 24-hour news cycle. It's reported (and sometimes over-reported) more.

3) One of the dangers of fighting this war is that we face an enemy that is extremely adaptable as far as the "softer" side of American culture -- the legalisms, the victimology (to paraphrase Mark Steyn, who makes a few rock solid points). That our nation would divide itself over the question of what is or what is not harsh interrogation techniques -- divide itself in front of the whole world -- tells them (rightly or no) just how weak the Giant is.

So, at the end of the day, I think Obama is RIGHT on track. Call the Joint Chiefs, develop a strategy for what is and what is not torture, but for God's sake, don't involve the whole world in the conversation.

Scott said...

I've been watching Mr. Cheney telling everyone who will listen that what his Administration did was NOT torture and did NOT violate any domestic or international law.

So is it fair to assume that if an American soldier is captured by the Taliban (or any other adversary we may face in the future), and our soldier is subjected to waterboarding, face slapping, sleep deprivation, insects in a "confinement box" and other such "enhanced" techniques...can we assume that Mr. Cheney would have no problem with that? He would consider that "legal?"

Or maybe it's only legal so long as the Taliban follow the "guidelines" set forth by the Bush Adiministrations lawyers like Mr. Bybee and Mr. Yoo? It's ok to waterboard our soldier so long as the water temperature is not too long as the Taliban has a doctor standing by if our soldier's heart should stop...? Is that ok with you Mr. Vice President?

And Free, you are right when you say, "I that there was a time when the very notion of torture would have been sickening to the vast majority of Americans."

Insects in "confinement boxes?" Is this really my country?

Chris said...

I doubt that any thinking person would really expect Taliban captors to stop at those methods...

hscfree said...

Ultimately, this issue is not about our enemies. This is about us, and who we say we are. We are better than the Taliban, period. They don't even compare. Why stoop to their level?