No Associated Press content was harmed in the writing of this post
Some thoughts for the last post of the current president. For the last year or so I’ve deliberately tried to avoid even using his name, and while I’ve slipped on it a little the last couple weeks (maybe out of joyful anticipation) a scan of my posts will show almost no mentions by name. I haven’t wanted to dignify him by naming him. Good riddance.
A few links, though. Just a scoop of the horror, not the whole bucket. Prairie Weather tipped me to Frozen Scandal, a good look at how the wrongdoing of our time never gets resolved, but frozen in place. If you’ve never read this about our secret prisons now might be a good time if you’re feeling nostalgic. Or this. It’s a measure of the damage the man has done to our country that legislation passed to help deal with Reconstruction - the aftermath of the goddamn Civil War - is now being put back into play.
Moving on. I missed this initially, but president-elect Obama “announced that he would at least partially rely on the guidance of the current [Director of National Intelligence], Mike McConnell. McConnell will ‘continue to offer his counsel through my Foreign Intelligence Advisory Board,’ Obama said.” Will his counsel be along these lines?
I queried McConnell again, later, about his views on waterboarding, since this exchange seemed to suggest that he personally condemned it. He rejected that interpretation. “You can do waterboarding lots of different ways,” he said. “I assume you can get to the point that a person is actually drowning.” That would certainly be torture, he said. The definition didn’t seem very different from John Yoo’s.
I have no idea what our incoming president is thinking, but he is sending an absolutely horrible signal.
I’ve written before about the influence of uber-villagers like Stuart Taylor and how his noxious views on torture are likely to affect policy. And now we see the results of his handiwork. Yesterday, the Washington Post vomited up an egregiously one-sided pro-torture article in its news pages (effectively rebutted by Robert Parry, here.)
God I wish I could write like that. The frustrating aspect of the Newsweek article she mentions is that it isn’t just wrong on many facts, but it’s wrong in its philosophy too. It attempts to frame the issue of torture as just another Washington tug of war between liberals and conservatives instead of one that distinguishes civilized from uncivilized people. It’s one thing to bat down plainly incorrect reporting (e.g. “Reportedly, Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, under intense interrogation, corroborated al-Marri’s identity” should read “Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, under torture, told his tormentors what they wanted to hear”) but how do you rebut a wholesale recasting of reality?
I continue to loathe the bailout.
Bonus Jane Mayer Fanboy Item: She gets a shout out in 24. Her reaction is intelligent, witty and thorough. Priceless. I’m beginning to secretly hope her personal life is a complete train wreck because it seems deeply unfair for someone to have such an obvious advantage in intelligence over the rest of us. We need something as compensation to make us feel better.
I’ll leave you with a happier note, though. In a sane political environment Russ Feingold would be considered one of the only legitimate voices left. As it stands he is still eclipsed by those who have profited enormously by being wrong at every turn. And plenty of those folks are sticking around after Inauguration Day.
UNPACKING JANE: From pp. 129-31:
Maher Arar, a Canadian telecommunications engineer, had occasion to experience the CIA’s largesse firsthand. On September 26, 2002, American officials, suspecting Arar of being a terrorist, apprehended him on his return to Canada from a family vacation in Tunisia during a layover at John F. Kennedy Airport in New York…Arar, who at the time was a thirty-four-year-old graduate of McGill University whose family had emigrated to Canada when he was a teenager, was detained because his name had been placed on the terrorist watch list. He was held for the next thirteen days, as American officials questioned him about possible links to two other suspected terrorists. Arar said that he barely knew them, although he had worked with the brother of one suspect. Arar did not know it at the time, but he had been falsely implicated when these subjects were tortured in Syria.
[Arar is rendered to Syria], where interrogators, after a day of threats, “just began beating on me.” They whipped his hands repeatedly with two-inch-thick electrical cables and kept him in a body-sized slot of a windowless underground cell - his cell was no. 2 - which he likened to being buried alive in a casket. “Not even animals could withstand it,” he said. Although he initially tried to assert his innocence, he eventually confessed to anything his tormentors wanted to say. “You just give up,” he said. “You become like an animal.”