Monday, May 25, 2009

Cheney Unbound

I’ve been happy to see Dick Cheney taking the lead in contradicting the presidential/media libels about torture and the enhanced interrogations of the al Qaeda terrorists. For years I wished the Bush administration would put Cheney out there as a spokesman to explain Iraq and what we were doing to stop domestic terrorism, but it never happened.

For all the partisan emotion he draws from the left, Cheney is an outstanding speaker. Better, forensically, than President Obama, who speaks in airy generalities and is allergic to facts. For example, Obama said about Gitmo, “We are cleaning up something that is quite simply - a mess - a misguided experiment that has left in its wake a flood of legal challenges.”

Which really is just so much bullshit. The mess was created when Obama paid off an I.O.U. to Daily Kos by ordering Gitmo closed within a year. Even Senator Jim Webb, who hates Bush’s guts, said Gitmo was an “appropriate facility” that should stay open to try these cases.

When Cheney speaks, in contrast, he puts out the facts, always quite specifically, then he links them together with airtight logic. That's why they want him to shut up.

Here’s a sample of what Cheney said during his AEI speech last week:

Yet for all these exacting efforts to do a hard and necessary job and to do it right, we hear from some quarters nothing but feigned outrage based on a false narrative. In my long experience in Washington, few matters have inspired so much contrived indignation and phony moralizing as the interrogation methods applied to a few captured terrorists.

I might add that people who consistently distort the truth in this way are in no position to lecture anyone about “values.” Intelligence officers of the United States were not trying to rough up some terrorists simply to avenge the dead of 9/11. We know the difference in this country between justice and vengeance. Intelligence officers were not trying to get terrorists to confess to past killings; they were trying to prevent future killings. From the beginning of the program, there was only one focused and all-important purpose. We sought, and we in fact obtained, specific information on terrorist plans.

Ever since President Obama released the interrogation memos, the media has gleefully been embroidering its tapestry of legends drawn from the “torture memos,”or more accurately, from the idea of the “torture memos,” which the media can be confident hardly any one will actually read. The legends tell of how the Bush administration commanded its minions in the Department of Justice, the CIA, and the Pentagon to abandon law and institutional morality in favor of a torture regime limited only by the imaginations of its cruellest practitioners.

One idiotic example of, literally, hundreds I have seen in the past few weeks, is Brian Dickerson in the Detroit Free Press this weekend, declaring that “It's true that Cheney. . . has been defending the unbridled use of torture since 2001.”

Think about that for a moment. What would torture look like, what has it looked like, where it’s been “unbridled”?

Apparently, for one of Dickerson’s rose-petal soft conscience, the unbridled use of torture runs the range between being yelled at by interrogators at the easier extreme to being waterboarded at the harsher extreme: waterboarded, by the way, after being medically cleared for fitness by a physician and then having it explained to you in advance that the interrogators have no intention of killing you. No wonder Zubaydah could take 83 doses.

You want unbridled torture? I ran across this passage from Solzhenitsyn describing only some of the techniques practiced by the Stalinists in Russia:
In the intellectuals in the plays of Chekhov who spent all their time guessing what would happen in twenty, thirty, or forty years had been told that in forty years interrogation by torture would be practiced in Russia; that prisoners would have their skulls squeezed with iron rings; that a human being would be lowered into an acid bath; that they would be trussed up naked to be bitten by ants and bedbugs; that a ramrod heated over a primus stove would be thrust up their anal canal (“the secret brand”); that a man’s genitals would be slowly crushed beneath the toe of a jackboot; and that, in the luckiest possible circumstances, prisoners would be tortured by being kept from sleeping for a week, by thirst, and by being beaten to a bloody pulp, not one of Chekhov’s plays would have gotten to its end because all the heroes would have gone off to the insane asylum.
In our American drama, it’s not the detainees but the media who’ve gone off to the insane asylum, whence they submit their turgid editorials about how America lost her values at Guantanomo but might regain them if we accept queer marriages.

That's when I have to keep reminding myself, these are the people who’ve had forty years to define when human life begins and still haven’t gotten started, or who bled barrels of ink about a “Duke rape case” where there was no rape, and about the lynching victims know as the “Jena Six” who not only weren’t lynched, but committed attempted murder against a kid they didn’t know because he was white.

I’m not one of those guys trying to suggest that the enhanced interrogation techniques aren’t horrible, even brutal. I don’t care for Hannity trying to minimize waterboarding by offering to submit to it for charity. There’s no question these techniques are tough examples of the use of force against known enemies. Still, considering that other examples of the use of force include being shot dead by a Marine rifle squad or getting a cruise missile down your chimney, I have to say KSM and his fellow waterboarding alumni got off pretty easy.

The only question is whether or not the enhanced techniques are unlawful torture. And as usual the media has left that question in the dust in their stampede for the higher ground from which they’ll sermonize the rest of us. And answering that question for a concerned CIA was the whole purpose behind drafting the interrogation memos. The hell of it is the only guys in the country who actually made the effort to answer the critical question whether or not these techniques were torture or not--I’m talking about the Office of Legal Counsel attorneys--now have the cloud of prosecution hanging over them.

Meanwhile, moral paraplegics like Dickerson and Maureen Dowd and hundreds of others get to throw around expressions like “torture” and “broke the law” as if they’ve actually defined those terms--which they haven’t, and dare not.

Which is why they want Dick Cheney to shut up.

Fortunately, he's got eight years of shutting up to make up for.

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