Friday, May 15, 2009

Regarding Pelosi and Torture

1.) Weren't those briefings covered by security clearances containing a restriction by law on spilling the beans on their content? If Pelosi had said anything, wouldn't she find herself a defendant in a Federal Court? If she had outlined the content of the briefings publicly at the time, wouldn't Republicans branded her as a traitor ... and in this case, rightfully so (for a change)?

2.) In that no notes were taken by anyone at those highly secure briefings and there are no transcripts, it seems to me there is some doubt about the exact content of the briefings. Is it even remotely possible that Pelosi might be actually telling the truth and that "torture" was discussed in the abstract or hypothetical rather than the real, here and now? It seems to me that the CIA has traditionally had some level of disdain for civilian oversight and I personally find it very plausible that an agency dedicated to secrecy would couch a briefing for civilians in the most vague and ambiguous terms possible. Isn't there a "need to know" unwritten rule around here somewhere? Isn't there a Jack Nicholson, "You can't handle the truth!" attitude in some quarters? No, I guess not. Everyone always plays it straight.

3.) As for the Republicans, it seems to me they have taken the unenviable position that, on one hand, "It wasn't torture! It was nothing more than a fraternity hazing!" while on the other hand, maintaining, at the same time and with equal vigor that, "It most certainly WAS torture and Nancy Pelosi was complicit!" When you come right down to the bottom line, it seems to me that the Pelosi "scandal" is just another distraction from the important issues - in a similar vein to the Republican discussion of whether or not Monica swallowed.

Torture is an interesting topic. If we used torture in order to gather honest, actionable intelligence, it would set a precedent of historic proportions because torture has never before in the history of man been used to get honest answers. It HAS been used throughout history to get people to say things they didn't want to say, regardless of the truth because, under torture, people will say whatever it is they think will make it stop ... truth is not an issue .... getting it to stop is the issue.

McCain was tortured by the North Vietnamese. They wanted a list of names of the people in his squadron and in his chain of command. He gave them the names of members of a football team (though now it seems he can't keep straight just which team). They wanted names; he gave them names. The torture stopped .. at least temporarily. But it stopped .... not because he gave them the truth but because he gave them what they wanted to hear. But of course, McCain was a whole lot tougher, smarter and more dedicated than those brown skinned, ill-educated, religious fanatics, counting their virgins due as they face their martyrdom.

Jessie Ventura got it right the other night on Larry King. "Give me a waterboard, Dick Cheney and a half hour and I'll have him confessing to the Tate murders."

Torture has had one and only one purpose throughout history. That purpose has been to get the answers the torturer wants to hear, whether it be a conversion from one religion to another or a list of other "witches" in the village. Getting the honest, objective truth has never been the issue. Has the "intelligence" gained been actionable? Absolutely! Jews, Polish resistance fighters, Salem Massachusetts "witches" and a lot who weren't got swept up, tortured and killed as a result of that kind of actionable "intelligence".

Evidence is mounting that the purpose of torturing al Qaeda captives (the three that we admit to torturing) was not to defuse a ticking time bomb but to create a link between Saddam Hussein and al Qaeda ... whether or not such a link truly existed. It was necessary to the "selling" of the war, both here and abroad. If was a political end, not a security concern. One hundred eighty three waterboard sessions over the course of a month, six months into captivity does not speak to a ticking time bomb a'la "24"! And, if it took 183 sessions, was it really working? It seems to me that somewhere after five or ten the motives for inflicting that level of terror come into question.

We have a serious mess and we have, to my mind, two choices ... and only two. Either we clear it up, find out the who, what, where and when of the situation, determine which laws were broken and whodunit ... and bring those people to justice under the law. -OR- Someone from some other country (Spain leaps to mind, given at least three Spanish citizens got swept up in this fiasco) will do it for us (as was done in the case of Pinochet and Milesovich, Eichmann and others) ... creating an even greater embarrassment for us than if we take care of it properly ourselves.

Do Republicans and Conservatives still think they're in favor of strong enforcement of the law? Or is the new motto, "Sure I robbed a bank, but look at all the bills I paid off!"