Tuesday, April 21, 2009

The Best Kept Secret in Washington: Conservatives Against Torture

Photo: Two men on springboards with saw felling tree 1900. John Fletcher Ford photographs

In my previous post I talked about how I think the establishment media has deliberately tried to characterize the torture issue as a left vs. right, conservative vs. liberal and Republican vs. Democrat issue.  
...I've noticed for a long time that our establishment media has tried to sell the public on the false idea that the torture issue is all about liberals vs. conservatives, left vs. right  or Republicans vs. Democrats. They are doing this so that citizens of all political persuasions, who are horrified about what our government has done in our names, will not band together to force our government to hold these war criminals accountable.  Our media and political elite want us to continue squabbling with each other, just like the guests do on the "crossfire" type shows, in order to divide us so that our power to demand accountability will be diluted. That's why they don't want us to know that there are conservatives who favor accountability (more on that in my next post) or liberals who don't advocate  prosecutions of Bush administration officials just because they hate Republicans. That's also why they don't want us to know that there are more people who favor accountability for torture than those who don't. 
Our establishment media and political elites know that if we know the truth about all of these things that there will be no way for them to stop us from forcing our government to hold our leaders accountable. They also know that once we stop viewing each other as the "enemy" that we will all discover who our "real" enemies have been all of these years. And once that happens then the chummy club of insiders, who have had a stranglehold on our country for decades, will no longer be running the show and calling the shots. And the thought of having a true democracy positively scares them to death.

Back in March of this year, Glenn Greenwald wrote a blog post about an Evan Thomas cover story in Newsweek that sheds even more light on the attitude of our establishment media.
In his just-released cover story on Paul Krugman's status as Obama critic, Newsweek's Evan Thomas includes these observations: 

By definition, establishments believe in propping up the existing order. Members of the ruling class have a vested interest in keeping things pretty much the way they are.  Safeguarding the status quo, protecting traditional institutions, can be healthy and useful, stabilizing and reassuring.

Thomas then acknowledges what is glaringly obvious not only about himself but also most of his media-star colleagues:  "If you are of the establishment persuasion (and I am) . . ."

That's right, our establishment media is all about protecting the status quo. They don't want anyone (including the American people) rocking the boat which is why I think they've gone to such outrageous lengths to keep us divided on the issue of torture.

So in order to begin challenging the inside-the-beltway establishment mentality on this issue I think we must first tackle their use of stereotypes about the views of conservatives and liberals on torture.

Despite what the media would have us believe all conservatives do not favor torture and all liberals are not "liberal score-settlers."  These claims are just false.

Yesterday I ran across a piece by Michael van der Galien called Christian Conservatives Against Torture that appeared on the PoliGazette website. 

We have all heard a lot about Christian conservatives in recent years. We know the standard talking points by now. They are radically right, in favor of a total war on Islam, intolerant even hateful towards those with unorthodox sexual preferences (hey, is that the political correct expression of the day or what?), and support torture.
Or not

In Mr. van der Galien's piece he links to an excellent piece by David P. Gushee at the Christianity Today website where Gushee authored a piece called 5 Reasons That Torture is Always Wrong. 

Say what? Conservatives against torture? But I thought according to the media all conservatives favor torture? Don't they?

I also ran across several pieces by conservative Rod Dreher where he talked about Bush lying to us about torture and about how those who tortured should be held accountable.  
One thing that nobody should ever be permitted to say again, after reading these memos: "The United States didn't torture." When President Bush said it, he was a liar. The only question is whether or not he was lying to himself, so that he could sleep at night, or consciously lying to the public for reasons of political expediency.

I disagree. Those who approved of torture should be made to defend what they did. The public should be forced to confront these things, and to learn what our government is capable of, so that we might prevent it in the future. I'm inclined to former Reagan Justice official Bruce Fein's view.


How is it that even after the CIA station chief on the ground told his superiors that the terrorist being tortured had said all he knew that the CIA kept on torturing the guy? What does that tell us about what we were really up to? Was it really a "necessary evil"?

That can't be undone, obviously, but if we don't try to understand how and why that happened, what will our refusal to look at our deeds, and what was done in our name, say about the American soul? "Yes, but they are terrorists," is not much of a defense.

What a conservative calling for accountability on torture? But that can't be or I would have heard about it on TV, wouldn't I?

Mr. Dreher also alerted his readers to another gentleman by the name of Mark Shea, a social conservative, who has been regularly posting critical commentary about torture on his blog. I visited his website last night and found a piece called That's the thing about committing war crimes and this one The Awesome Human Capacity for Rationalization of Evil where he says this:

So, according to the Rubber Hose Right it's *not* torture *because* it was done 183 times. Now, I recall back in the day, when torture apologists were explaining that it was not torture because it was so brutal and effective that KSM cracked instantly. "A couple of dunking and it was all over. What's the big deal?" Now we are told that he didn't crack instantly by the same apologists for torture--and that this proves it's not a big deal too. 
And this:

But yeah. Sure. Waterboarding somebody 183 times. That's not torture. 

Enjoy the bubble.

Today I went back to visit his blog again to see what other pieces he wrote and I found one called:

Now and then, there has been talk of prosecuting the Bushies who ordered the creation of our torture regime and the commission of war crimes. I'd be completely in favor of that since I'm one of those people who thinks the US remains a nation of laws under God even when it is inconvenient to the fortunes of Movement Conservatives.

However, as some of the Left are now discovering, the big problem facing those who would like to pursue this course is not primarily GOP opposition (though it, of course, exists) but rather fellow lefties (including their very own President) who, having now seized the One Ring as suddenly reluctant to just give up all that reckless unilateral power.

I haven't gone through his entire archives but I'd be willing to bet that there are other pieces on torture that I've missed. But the point is that he's a social conservative and his view is not represented in the media just like Dreher, van der Galien and Gushee's views are not represented in the establishment media.

Quite some time ago I also ran across a piece by Becky Akers, a member of the John Birch Society, entitled Mainstream's Media Moral Meltdown where Ms. Akers advocated for accountability for Bush administration war crimes. I even sent several members of our media a link to her piece but because it also criticized the media I guess they weren't interested in it for multiple reasons.

We've also seen quite a few pieces  by conservative Bruce Fein, who eloquently argues for accountability for both the Bush administration and the Obama administration.

With the exception of Bruce Fein, who appeared on TV a couple of times and had a few op-ed's published,  we don't see these other  conservative voices represented in the establishment media.  All we see are the conservatives who represent, as Mark Shea calls them, the Rubber hose Republicans - people like David Rivkin, Andy Card, Dick Cheney and a whole host of other low level professional politicos (the usual suspects) who appear on cable talk shows. 

Recently we saw two pieces in the WSJ where you had Mukasey and Hayden team up and Rivkin and Casey team up to argue for torture. 

Just like in the photo above, where it takes two men to fell this tree, maybe anti-torture conservatives and liberals need to start teaming up in order to take down the media barriers that prevent all of our voices from being represented on the issue of torture? Maybe it's time for anti-torture conservatives and liberals to team up and start demanding accountability from our Department of Justice and inclusion in the national conversation on torture.

Update:  Gene Healy at the Cato Institute is clearly not buying David Rivkin's claim that we didn't torture. Check out his latest piece: Of Course It Was Torture

Update 2: QuietObserver posted an interesting post at Daily Kos about Shepherd Smith. The post includes this video that shows Shepherd Smith and former Judge Napolitano on Fox News appearing to be challenging the "Rubber Hose Republicans" and hopefully in the coming days they will do even more of it.


  1. Thanks for this. I hope that at some point the M$M begins to hear these conservative voices. With the huge shift in momentum we saw yesterday, it's not all that far-fetched that these people will be heard.

    I love your analogy of the tree. We still have a lot of sawing left to do, but definite progress is being made.

  2. Thanks, Jim. I had the TV on most of today (background noise) and we got the usual comments about this being "the left" who want accountability. I hope more Republican rank and file start speaking out and start challenging this narrative. I also hope they start telling people like John Ensign to stay off the TV if he can't tell the truth.


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