02 September 2009

The torture party?

Andrew Sullivan has a thought-provoking, albeit very hard-hitting and somewhat disagreeable, post here. Regardless of whether you agree with his policy positions, Sullivan is unquestionably one of the best bloggers on the internet, uses his intelligence like a buzzsaw and often is impossible to peg politically.

At the risk of shamelessly self-promoting myself a la The Other McCain, I wrote here that it is disingenuous for Dick Cheney or any other conservative leader to frame the entire torture debate around the ticking time-bomb scenario. If you think this is a simple debate, you need to read more. What Cheney and the likes of Bill Kristol have argued for is effectively a carte blanche on executive branch discretion on national security matters. I have read the original torture memo by Bush administration attorney John Yoo and have examined the U.N. Convention Against Torture, which President Reagan made the U.S. a party to in 1987.

I've also read the Federalist Papers and am a Burkeian. And the notion that any governmental official -- whether it is the Bush administration asking for a blank check and a blind eye to stamp out what they believe to be tyranny around the world, or the Obama administration asking to spend us into oblivion in order to achieve the increasingly vague notion of "health care reform," I'm not willing to buy what anyone is selling.

It's disappointing to me that the bottom layer of the right-wing noise machine -- Limbaugh, Beck, Hannity, et al. -- automatically pegs any opponent of "enhanced interrogation techniques" as somehow un-American, or an ACLU ally who is ambivalent about protecting the homeland. That's wrong. Do you really think President Obama, Vice President Biden or Gen. Jim Jones, Obama's national security advisor, wishes to see a repeat of 9/11? If you do, I'd ask that you find the nearest city bus and jump in front of it.

I voted for George W. Bush in 2004 and John McCain in 2008. I blast the present administration more than I did the prior one. Yet I can't bring myself to agree with Dick Cheney. There's a reason for this.

The movement which Cheney leads has one thing in common with the Obama administration: It's intellectually lazy. As I noted on May 19, I want Cheney to tell me, "We tried X, and it didn't work; so we tried Y, and we got valuable information." That hasn't been Cheney's argument (or, for that matter, Cheney's disciples on the far right who still afford the former vice president the same slobbery adoration that spongy-kneed liberals reserve for President Obama). His point has simply been to waive the ticking time bomb scenario around as a magic wand and demand that the administration's critics leave him alone, regardless of the factual circumstances presented.

Much like the health care debate we wrote about here, the emptiest cans have made the most noise in the torture debate. In spite of Cheney's intellectual laziness, the far left, led by the ACLU, has been equally if not more egregious.

The ACLU demanded that the Justice Department release classified photographs of the Bush administration's enhanced interrogation policy in action. The organization claimed that the American people deserved to see the alleged abuses inflicted on terror suspects. In reality, it was a way to score some cheap political points with their benefactors and make a scene.

What has been most disappointing to me has been the president's attitude, approving the appointment of a special investigator to go after the Bush administration, after the torture debate has raged on for more than a year. Again, the president in this regard -- who, very quietly, has moved very little from the policies of the Bush administration that he so vociferously opposed during the general election -- is intellectually dishonest. He's attempting to score political points and distract the country from his own political comedy of errors. I have no other explanation when he has been in office now for eight months.

Additionally, while Cheney, et al. demand absolute discretion, the liberals at MoveOn.org and the Huffington Post demand that terror suspects be treated like they are on vacation. Waterboarding is torture. But loud music? Wall-sits? Sleep deprivation? Refusing to let prisoners read the Koran?


I genuinely would like to sit down with Keith Olbermann, Arianna Huffington or other harsh critics of enhanced interrogation and ask them to outline their own interrogation policy. Olbermann in particular expresses outrage -- outrage! -- anytime Cheney pops into the news. I slam Cheney because he uses tortured logic. But Olbermann slams Cheney because he genuinely seems to believe that the definition of "torture" is wide and sweeping. Additionally, and more notably, I've never once heard him articulate a sound, realistic interrogation policy that simultaneously ensures homeland security is protected and manages to keep the U.S. within the bounds of international law (and the governing international law can be found here).

At the most basic level, I genuinely doubt that the likes of Olbermann, et al. are able to formulate such an idea. It likely hasn't even crossed their minds.

As long as Cheney remains in the news, the likes of Limbaugh, et al. will continue to support him. The noise of the conservative talkers will inevitably rouse the loony left, and another food fight will be on yet again.

We've stated here before, many times, that much of our national discourse could not get much more embarrassing.

Where have the adults gone? The McCains, the Powells, the Liebermans and the Webbs have seen their voices drowned out by the inane shrill partisan drivel from either side.


I'm sick of all of you.

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