Tuesday, December 09, 2014


A lot of people are quoting Daniel Drezner's post on the upcoming release of the Senate Intelligence Committee's report on torture in the Bush years. The post is titled "The Insane Narrative You Are Supposed to Believe About the Torture Report"; that scenario reads (in part):
ABDUL: Ahmed, why won't you come with me to attack the infidels? You are not outraged that the United States has invaded Afghanistan and Iraq and caused so much suffering in two Muslim countries?

AHMED: It's not enough for me to take up arms.

ABDUL: You are not outraged that in the past three years the great Zionist oppressor has waged air campaigns against two Arab countries -- Syria and Libya -- and accomplished little but to extend the suffering of our Muslim brothers and sisters?

AHMED: It's not enough for me to take up arms....

ABDUL: You are not outraged about all the stories of infidels torturing our Muslim brothers in Abu Ghraib, in Bagram, in Guantanamo Bay? The stories about infidel soldiers desecrating the Koran?

AHMED: It's not enough for me to take up arms.

ABDUL: You are not outraged by the just-released Senate report about CIA torture?

AHMED: Wait, did you say 'Senate report'? Okay, I will take up arms now.
Drezner thinks this won't be a tipping point for anyone in the Muslim world. I think that's probably true, because Muslims who are angry about America's treatment of Islamic populations and individuals already assume we've done precisely what we're about to acknowledge we've done, or think we've done far worse. And, of course, much of what they already believe is based on reports from people who've experienced it.

To me it's comparable to what happened when one American police force looked into racial profiling, as reported last month in The New York Times:
In Kalamazoo, Mich., a city-funded study last year found that black drivers were nearly twice as likely to be stopped, and then "much more likely to be asked to exit their vehicle, to be handcuffed, searched and arrested."

As a result, Jeff Hadley, the public safety chief of Kalamazoo, imposed new rules requiring officers to explain to supervisors what "reasonable suspicion" they had each time they sought a driver’s consent to a search....

Though the findings demoralized his officers, he said, the reaction from the African-American community stunned him. "I thought they would be up in arms, but they said: 'You're not telling us anything we didn't already know. How can we help?'"
Okay, I don't expect anyone in the Muslim world to say anything like "How can we help?" But "You're not telling us anything we didn't already know"? I think that's likely to be the reaction.

There's also this:
... administration officials said they do not expect the report ... to ignite the kind of violence that killed four Americans at a diplomatic outpost in Benghazi, Libya, in 2012. Such violent reprisals, they said, tend to be fueled more by perceived attacks against Islam as a religion than by violence against individual Muslims.
It could be that if anything inspires violence, it will be material in the report that describes insults to the Koran, rather than reporting on torture.


Meanwhile, there's this, from Anthony Romero of the ACLU:
BEFORE President George W. Bush left office, a group of conservatives lobbied the White House to grant pardons to the officials who had planned and authorized the United States torture program. My organization, the American Civil Liberties Union, found the proposal repugnant....

But with the impending release of the report from the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, I have come to think that President Obama should issue pardons, after all -- because it may be the only way to establish, once and for all, that torture is illegal....

An explicit pardon would lay down a marker, signaling to those considering torture in the future that they could be prosecuted....
It's a bizarre argument, because ordinary Americans don't react to pardons that way. That's not how we reacted to President Ford's pardon of Richard Nixon and it's not how we reacted to Poppy Bush's pardon of six officials involved in Iran-contra. Ordinary people think that when you're pardoned you got away with something. Maybe I'd think the way Romero thinks if I were a lawyer, but most Americans aren't lawyers.

Digby responds to Romero's proposal this way:
President Obama will not do this, I'm sure. It would open the door for some successor to "pardon" him to make a political point.
No way, because, to average Americans, a pardon is not a scarlet letter -- it's a Get Out of Jail Free card.
But it's a very potent statement anyway: the only way we can even acknowledge that a crime was committed is to pardon the people who committed it after the statute of limitations has run out.

And I'm afraid I don't see that it would close the Pandora's box of torture. The minute they get the chance the torture advocates will simply make it legal. The taboo has been broken and banking on the law is a losing propositions in these situations. This is now a cultural problem more than a legal problem.
What it is now is a partisan problem. If Al Gore had become president in 2000 and had never pushed the U.S. over the torture line, it's possible that any subsequent Republican president would have continued the torture prohibition. But now it's something that Republicans generally have to be for because Democrats are against it. Daniel Drezner is wrong about this:
The report should be released as soon as possible for a very simple, bipartisan reason:
[Sen. Lindsey O.] Graham added that the extensive documentation could prevent a future administration from resorting to similar methods.

"At the end of the day, it is important not to repeat these things," Graham said.

"We have to get this report out," [Senator Dianne] Feinstein said, even if she had to give in on some of her demands for transparency. "We will find another way to make known some of the problems."

The interrogations undermined "societal and constitutional values that we are very proud of," Feinstein said. "Anybody who reads this is going to never let this happen again." (Emphasis added.)
That's ridiculous. Most Republicans -- certainly most rank-and-file Republicans, and most Republicans in the right-wing media -- love torture, because they hate Muslims and because they love doing anything liberals hate. Lindsey Graham pals around with John McCain, who gets a pass on torture from wingnuts because he was tortured, but Graham and McCain still have to do a lot of Democrat-bashing (which, fortunately for them, they relish) to make up for this and other apostasies. Graham's is very much a minority opinion on the right.

I suppose the right-wing reaction to the Eric Garner video proves that it's possible for right-wing consciences to be shocked. But it's rare -- and no torture video is being released. So I say nothing's going to change. The next Republican president will probably torture.


Victor said...

A. After the report is released, the Muslim world will think we're still hiding the worst of what we did.
And who's to say we won't be?

B. And the next Republican President won't hesitate to resort to torture.
Hell, if the situation's bad enough, the next Democratic one might too - due to political pressure.

Once the genii's been let out of the bottle...

BKT said...

I agree that the support of torture has become very partisan (what hasn't?), but it's not a Republican-Democrat issue at the executive level. Any future president will almost certainly authorize "enhanced interrogation techniques" (tacitly or overtly), regardless of party.

And the people will likely be fine with it. Sadly, we give a lot of leeway to our "leaders," especially in terms of foreign policy. Even past presidents we tend to hold in high esteem have egregiously violated people's Constitutional rights (Japanese WWII internment, Civil War suspension of Habeus Corpus, our entire history of Native American abuse-- those presidents are so respected they all occupy places on our currency!).

Nothing will change with U.S. policy on torture. We'll still act like it's unthinkable, but be fine when it's done to people who don't look like us.

Ten Bears said...

Karma is a mother-fucker.

Philo Vaihinger said...

We won't be teaching Muslim fighters anything in the way of how to torture people, either.

Teach your grandmother to suck eggs.

Dark Avenger said...

The Muslim governments in those countries didn't have to teach us how to torture, either.

Ten Bears said...

You would do well to recall, Philo, that your kind is no longer in the majority, and that by The Founders' intent the Second Amendment provides remedy for the tyrannies of the minority imposed upon the majority.

mlbxxxxxx said...

Having a republican president is itself torture, so that point is moot.

Unknown said...

"... John McCain, who gets a pass on torture from wingnuts because he was tortured ..."

And that really doesn't make them stop and think for a second. Unbelievable.

Unknown said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
KenRight said...


You can pick from a dozen condemnation of torture from this
"isolationist" leaning(God forbid) right magazine.
Now, how many liberals want to get out of the Mideast and cut off aid to Israel especially?
Nader, Kucinich, that's about it.