Monday, December 15, 2014


The New Yorker's Amy Davidson watched Dick Cheney on Meet the Press yesterday. As she notes, it's futile to argue with him about torture on the basis of morality:
Basically, in Cheney’s world, nothing Americans do can be called torture, because we are not Al Qaeda and we are not the Japanese in the Second World War (whom we prosecuted for waterboarding) and we are not ISIS. "The way we did it," as he said of waterboarding, was not torture. In other words, it was not really the Justice Department that "blessed," or rather transubstantiated, torture; it was our American-ness.
Cheney is clearly not alone in this. Bill Kristol was so delighted by one exchange on Meet the Press that he declared Cheney's words the "2014 Answer of the Year":
I hereby nominate Dick Cheney's answer to Chuck Todd's question about a United Nations official who's called for the criminal prosecution of U.S. interrogators, as the 2014 Sunday Show Answer of the Year:

CHENEY: I have little respect for the United Nations, or for this individual, who doesn't have a clue and had absolutely no responsibility for safeguarding this nation and going after the bastards that killed 3,000 Americans on 9/11.

Short and sweet.
Power Line's Steven Hayward agrees with Kristol and wishes Cheney would run for president:
So what if Cheney has a bad heart. He's obviously better than the clown show we have in the White House right now. Cheney 2016!
Cheney's not going to do anything like that, but I suspect he could clear the primary field if he ran. Nobody makes liberals angrier, and nothing pleases Republican voters more than the ability to make liberals angry. And, as a recent YouGov poll notes, no one likes torture as much as Republicans:

Back at The New Yorker, Davidson portrays Cheney and CIA director John Brennan as a matched set of torture denialists, and speculates that torture is just on hold in America:
On "Meet the Press" on Sunday, Dick Cheney, the former Vice-President, made it clear that he, for one, given the chance, would seize waterboarding paraphernalia, and get to it. "I'd do it again in a minute," he told the host Chuck Todd. John Brennan, the director of the Central Intelligence Agency, made it just as clear, in a news conference on Thursday, that the C.I.A. would not stand in the way of future White Houses: "I defer to the policymakers in future times when there is going to be the need to make sure this country stays safe if we face a similar type of crisis." Neither man would call what the C.I.A. did torture. Each, in his own way, suggested that American torturers have not faced a reckoning so much as a lull in their business.

... if this past week has proved anything, it's that the legacy of torture is not quiet repentance but impunity. This President has told his agents not to torture, and Brennan says he can work with that, while the C.I.A. waits for instructions from the next one.
An article in The New York Times today portrays Brennan differently -- as someone who, like Obama, sincerely opposes torture, but who feels he needs to walk on eggshells when dealing with the CIA:
"The quandary that Brennan faces is similar to the quandary that Obama faces," said David Cole, a national security scholar and law professor at Georgetown University. "Both are personally opposed to what went on and deeply troubled by what went on and agree that it should never happen again. And both are ultimately dependent on the C.I.A. for important national security services."

... Current and former colleagues said Mr. Brennan had an institutional responsibility to guard his building. "If John were retired and had a few drinks in him, he might have a different tone to him," said William M. Daley, Mr. Obama's former chief of staff.
The career agents are defiant, and are ready to do this again if asked. A lot of Republicans would be delighted to give them the opportunity. I don't know if the gloves are going to come off again on the first day of the next GOP presidency, but if we have a Sydney siege with a Republican in the White House and any of the perpetrators are captured alive, it seems likely to me that the waterboarding equipment is coming out of mothballs.


Ten Bears said...

Of course he/she will, though it will be "civilized" torture, "humane" torture, because 'Murika Fuck Yeah!

Though it isn't Fascism when we do it, and it's looking more and more every day that Hitler actually won the war, Germany never-the-less got its ass kicked.

Victor said...

We are now a lawless, rogue nation.
A pariah.
And when our troops are captured, there's no reason why they can't be tortured.
Another nation or group will just say that they're acting like the US.
And that's why there was an international convention where torture was outlawed.

We may soon find out how not-special or exceptional we are.

I hear Argentina's a good place to be an ex-pat.
I may try that in a few years.

I'll try to learn Spanish in that time.

Hell, if I can handle Russian, Ukrainian and German, there's no reason I can't learn Spanish.
Ok - maybe age.
But I can still try.

Egypt Steve said...

Smash the CIA into a thousand pieces and scatter them to the wind. That was what JFK had planned for them before they killed him.

Never Ben Better said...

Booman's thoughts are well worth reading, if you haven't already:

"The Danger of Lowered Standards"

Unknown said...

Dick Cheney was he leader of the pack that came into office in Jan 2001 and downgraded anti-terrorism functions. It was all about Saddam, remember?

Cheney is a bastard who facilitated 9-11. So why not torture him on his own "principles"?

Philo Vaihinger said...

>> if we have a Sidney [sic] siege with a Republican in the White House and any of the perpetrators are captured alive, it seems likely to me that the waterboarding equipment is coming out of mothballs.<<

Well, there was only the one perp, and was a nutcase.

Sure, if all you have is a hammer everything looks like a nail, but nah.

On the other hand, if we had a Peshawar siege and any of the attackers survived, for sure their interrogation would be harsh, even if they had to be flown to Saudi for it under a new outburst of extraordinary rendition.

And about 80% of Americans would be fine with it, not only as a means of gathering information but as pure revenge and pure intimidation aimed at other possible attackers.

Much like what the CIA did under GW's watch.

Steve M. said...

Sidney [sic] siege

Misspelling fixed.

Steve M. said...

On the other hand, if we had a Peshawar siege and any of the attackers survived, for sure their interrogation would be harsh, even if they had to be flown to Saudi for it under a new outburst of extraordinary rendition.

Pakistan already tortures plenty of people, including Taliban commanders. Didn't prevent Peshawar, did it?

Procopius said...

I think the thing that horrifies me the most is the majority of Americans who say, maybe without realizing it, that the next time something like this happens we should just grab any passing moke on the street and waterboard him. Cheney says he'd do it in a minute. Of course he says he would do it "if it meant we reached our objectives," but we still haven't reached our objectives as he stated them. We didn't "get" the perpetrators or 9/11, because they all died in the crashes. We certainly haven't destroyed al Qa'ida, they're still in business under new management, and their franchise seems to be growing, not shrinking. Most of the people in Guantanamo not only had nothing to do with it, they didn't know anything about the tactical or strategic military situation that was used to justify paying the bounties for them. So, as I understand it, the torture is just part of a ritual, like sprinkling blood from the sacrificed chicken around the altar. The purpose is symbolic, not practical.