Thursday, April 23, 2009

Sex Scandals and Torture: A Case of Misplaced Moral and Legal Outrage

So let me get this straight: when Clinton had inappropriate sex in the White House, people (and by "people" I mean Beltway journalists along with Republicans of all stripes) were willing to spend tens of millions of tax dollars to investigate (I believe Ken Starr spent in the ballpark of $75 million on his investigation). No laws were broken, but it was relentlessly covered in the media and the impeachment hearings were broadcast live.

And yet the Bush administration broke the law by authorizing torture on enemy combatants, and now many of the same people who wanted Clinton thrown out of office are saying we need to let this go. "No need to bring up the past. Let's look forward in the name of post-partisanship." Never mind that, effective or not, torture was -- and is -- a felony in this country.

I'm not giving Clinton a free pass. His actions were deplorable. But not felonies. And you couldn't pick up a paper or turn on a TV without hearing the latest about it.

Of course the torture stuff is all over print and broadcast media these days, but for some reason the Beltway press is playing it as Obama's problem. Never mind that guy who had the job before him who actually approved the illegal interrogation techniques.

I'm not going to argue the effectiveness of torture. Many people say that it worked, but I've seen more evidence that the most useful information was gleaned from subjects before they were waterboarded. Still, let's ignore this and go back to my original point: torture is a felony, and we're just supposed to shrug our shoulders and let it pass?

I don't think the grunts who administered the waterboardings should be prosecuted; they were just following orders. I think the people who approved the use of those techniques should be, however. Their twisted logic justified techniques that, once shown the light of day, are not standing up to the rule of law, and those people should be held accountable no matter what their prior status or title was.

Why are so many people -- especially the Press -- suggesting that high-level government officials aren't subject to the same laws as everyone else? For more on this topic, see Glenn Greenwald.

Where is the moral outrage? I'm pissed that the previous administration authorized this barbaric treatment of prisoners, and I'm pissed that it looks like they'll be allowed to get away with breaking the law without facing any consequences. How can this be less worthy of investigation and prosecution than a president having an extramarital affair? Between this and the free pass on the illegal wiretapping, I just don't know what to say anymore.


At 4/24/2009 10:25 AM, Anonymous Steph Mineart said...

Rachel Maddow pointed out an interesting fact Wednesday night - that the program of torture had to have come from the top down. The CIA prisons and the Military prisons are two separate institutions with their own rules and regs, and they don't particularly talk to or interact with one another, especially since some of the prisons are on completely different continents. But the recent evidence shows that both institutions were doing the same types of interrogations and following the same methods. That almost certainly came from above.

She had a guest on last night that also drew some timelines out- and it become apparent that the tortures occurred at some key times that correspond to the hunt for WMDs in Iraq. And some of the questions that the interrogators were asking were specifically about connections between Al-Qaeda and Iraq and WMDs. So it's a reasonable speculation that they weren't hunting for the other terrorist cells or Al-Qaeda operatives (national security interests). They were torturing to find excuses to invade Iraq.

I'd highly recommend watching Wednesday night's Rachel Maddow show, if you haven't seen it.

At 4/24/2009 1:13 PM, Blogger paulo said...

Great points Steph and right on Dustin. A common denominator for almost all of that is Geoffrey Miller. He ran Gitmo in the early days before going to run the Iraqi prisons. He is most likely the link between Gitmo and Abu Ghraib.

Secondly, there are some great articles on the web (many of which have been around for quite some time) regarding a legal analysis of the many criminal and civil trials regarding the use of waterboarding. (here). The people who are arguing that waterboarding is not torture completely flies in the face of the extensive legal history on the subject.

The NYTimes had a very interesting op-ed that contradicts General Hayden's claims in the WSJ (here) (as also repeated by Cheney) about how we caught some cell members like KSM. here

The Bush Admin house of cards is finally crumbling before our very eyes thanks to the light of day finally being shined on it. I feel like we are regaining our soul as a nation.


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