Sunday, April 19, 2009

Deliberately Obfuscating To Deny That We Tortured

Once again the   Wall Street Journal editorial page has allowed their newspaper to be used for propaganda purposes by another pair of torture apologists. This time we have the team of David Rivkin, who's made a career lately out of defending torture, and Lee A. Casey, Rivkin's frequent sidekick for defending the indefensible.  Rivkin has defended torture so much lately that one has to wonder if he is currently on retainer by one or more of the former Bush officials who authorized torture (I wish a reporter would ask him about that).

The Red Cross was completely wrong about 'walling'

Disingenuous pieces like this one from Mr. Rivkin and Mr. Casey and Friday's WSJ piece by Hayden and Muskasey make it even more necessary than ever to have a full investigation into the Bush torture program, so that the American people can finally see just how much we've been lied to by Bush administration officials and their lackeys. 

When I read this Rivkin/Casey piece I noticed at the end of it that they falsely claim that the Obama administration concluded that the "dedicated public servants" at the "Justice Department" should not be prosecuted. 

The dedicated public servants at the CIA and Justice Department -- who even the Obama administration has concluded should not be prosecuted -- clearly cared intensely about staying within the law as well as protecting the American homeland. 
As you can see, President Obama said nothing in his statement about not prosecuting public servants at the Justice Department.

In releasing these memos, it is our intention to assure those who carried out their duties relying in good faith upon legal advice from the Department of Justice that they will not be subject to prosecution. The men and women of our intelligence community serve courageously on the front lines of a dangerous world. Their accomplishments are unsung and their names unknown, but because of their sacrifices, every single American is safer. We must protect their identities as vigilantly as they protect our security, and we must provide them with the confidence that they can do their jobs

Attorney General Eric Holder also made no mention about  not prosecuring Justice Department public servants.

Holder also stressed that intelligence community officials who acted reasonably and relied in good faith on authoritative legal advice from the Justice Department that their conduct was lawful, and conformed their conduct to that advice, would not face federal prosecutions for that conduct.    

This false claim by Rivkin and Casey, where they say that the Obama administration has concluded that officials at the Justice Department should not be prosecuted, is at best wishful thinking on their part and at worst a deliberate attempt to mislead. In fact, Rivkin and Casey's entire op-ed is so filled with false assertions that I won't even give it any credibility here by wasting my time discussing their specific, specious claims. 

Quite frankly, I don't believe for a moment that this Rivkin and Casey piece was written to legitimately analyze the Bybee and Bradbury legal memos, as it pretends to do. Nor do I think that Rivkin and Casey actually believe what they wrote. I think it's pretty clear to anyone, who's actually read the memos, that this op-ed is nothing more than their attempt to deliberately distort the devastating content contained in these memos, in order to try to defend the Bush administration officials from legal exposure and to provide "talking points" to comfort the people, who continue to cling to the false hope that we didn't torture.

Let's face it, people like Dick Cheney and other Bush administration officials need rank and file Republicans to unquestioningly stand behind them in order to help them defend against calls for holding them legally accountable for their actions. But because most rank and file Republicans are against torture, people like Rivkin and Casey are cynically sent out to deliberately obfuscate what we did, in order to manipulate the rank and file into continuing to believe that we didn't torture just so they'll continue to protect Cheney and friends. 

This "formula" for holding the rank and file together to stand behind the Bush administration officials has worked pretty well up until now, primarily because a large number of our media personalities, who don't favor accountability for torture, repeatedly characterized the torture issue as a "liberal" issue. For instance, people like David Ignatius at the Washington Post labeled anyone who wanted accountability for torture as "liberal score-settlers." Ruth Marcus, also from the Post, joined him by painting this as an issue of the left. But they were not alone, there were many others in print and TV who did the same thing. I think they all thought that if they could make everyone believe that this was only something that liberals cared about that they could divide and conquer in order to ensure that pressure for accountability would gain less traction.

So with the media helping to reinforce the false idea that this was nothing but "partisan politics" at play, a lot of rank and file Republicans, who probably hadn't read the government documents themselves, thought that there was no truth to the torture charges, and that it was all just "political posturing" as the Bush administration officials claimed. But now that the ICRC report and the "legal" memos have come out, a lot of rank and file conservatives and other Republicans are starting to look at the actual evidence instead of taking the word of their party leaders or media personalities and they don't like what they see. They're finally starting to realize that they've been lied to and they don't like that either. 

While it's very encouraging that the Republican rank and file are beginning to question the lies they've been told I sure wish they were at the point where they too were calling for a Special Prosecutor to investigate the torture program because we need to have this investigation under way as soon as possible. Like a lot of people I worry that if another attack comes before an investigation into the torture program is completed that the radical, torture zealots like Rivkin, Casey and others will take advantage of the attack by playing the fear card. They will claim that we got attacked because we stopped torturing and sadly the traditional media will probably be right there to help them with their deception.

I don't know if Malcom Nance, founding Director of the International Counterterrorism Center for Excellence is a Democrat or a Republican but I do know that he's another voice rightfully calling for prosecution on torture. His piece in the NY Daily News is one that is well worth reading.

If America wants to win the war against al-Qaeda, we have to start anew. The Obama administration will have to forget about the pressure they are getting from Bush administration officials and Republicans to hide all further releases of torture memos they themselves defended for years.

Then, Alberto Gonzales, Jay Bybee, John Yoo and Steven Bradbury - who, as Bush administration legal officials, have documented their own complicity to explicitly authorize crimes - will have to be calmly prosecuted, based on the evidence, with all the due process rights to which they are entitled. Who knows, they may well be acquitted.

Update: After I posted this piece I found out in an article in the Washington Times that Rahm Emanuel has muddied the waters about who should not be prosecuted when he appeared on This Week with George Stephanopoulos. Read it and weep.

STEPHANOPOULOS:  What about those who devised policy?

EMANUEL:  Yes, but those who devised policy, he believes that
they were should not be prosecuted either, and that's not the
place that we go as he said in that letter, and I would really
recommend people look at the full statement not the letter,
 the statement in that second paragraph, "this is not a time
 for retribution."  It's time for reflection.  It's not a time to use
 our energy and our time in looking back and any sense of
 anger and retribution.

We have a lot to do to protect America.  What people need to
know, this practice and technique, we don't use anymore. 
He banned it.

**In light of this update that I was unaware of at the time I wrote this piece I will have to extend my apology to Mr. Rifkin and Mr. Casey for falsely accusing them of making a false claim. However, I still stand by my other comments about their piece.

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