Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Torture: The Media, Obama, and the Establishment

Glenn Greenwald:
Jesse Ventura was on CNN with Larry King on Monday night and this exchange occurred, illustrating how simple, clear and definitively non-partisan is the case for investigations and prosecutions for those who ordered torture (video below):

VENTURA: I don't watch much TV. This year's reading, I covered Bush's life. I covered Guantanamo and a few other subjects.

And I'm very disturbed about it.

I'm bothered over Guantanamo because it seems we've created our own Hanoi Hilton. We can live with that? I have a problem.

I will criticize President Obama on this level; it's a good thing I'm not president because I would prosecute every person that was involved in that torture. I would prosecute the people that did it. I would prosecute the people that ordered it. Because torture is against the law.

KING: You were a Navy SEAL.

VENTURA: That's right. I was water boarded, so I know -- at SERE School, Survival Escape Resistance Evasion. It was a required school you had to go to prior to going into the combat zone, which in my era was Vietnam. All of us had to go there. We were all, in essence -- every one of us was waterboarded. It is torture.

KING: What was it like?

VENTURA: It's drowning. It gives you the complete sensation that you are drowning. It is no good, because you -- I'll put it to you this way, you give me a waterboard, Dick Cheney and one hour, and I'll have him confess to the Sharon Tate murders.

Let's just repeat that: "I would prosecute the people that ordered it. Because torture is against the law." That is the crux of the case for investigations and prosecutions. That's it. Can anyone find a "liberal" or ideological argument anywhere in what Ventura said? It's about as far from a partisan or "leftist" idea as one can get. Yet our establishment media has succeeded (as Digby recently argued) in converting this view into a "Hard Left," "liberal" or "partisan" argument because that's the only prism through which they can understand anything, and that's their time-honored instrument for demonizing any idea that threatens their institutional prerogatives and orthodoxies (only the Hard Left favors this).


This is not a partisan argument. It's not an ideological one. It's not a question of values or of opinions. Those who ordered torture and those who tortured broke the law.

That this has become a partisan argument shows the complete fecklessness of the media and the total cynicism of the Republican party. And it doesn't speak too well of Obama, Pelosi, or the other Democrats who've decided this isn't that big a deal, either.

If Obama doesn't want these people to go to jail, he should be forced to issue pardons. None of this "I want to look forwards, not backwards" garbage. The government is not a human being with a neck injury. It *can* look forwards and backwards. I understand that he'd rather focus on other priorities, but what does that say to the world? Everybody's going to think -- perhaps correctly -- that we're just like dictatorships all over the world that claim to oppose torture while giving their interrogators a nod and a wink? We can't just pretend it never happened. We need to find out exactly what did happen, and we need to punish those who made it happen. And then we need to make sure it never happens again.

26 comments:

Jack said...

One of the things that I am greatly concerned with is the amount of partisanship that we have seen over the past 16 years or so.

And I wonder what happens if the Obama admin prosecutes officials from the prior admin.

Will we see retribution taken against his admin down the road. It is very troubling to me because I think that it is conceivable.

Holy Hyrax said...

>that we're just like dictatorships all over the world that claim to oppose torture while giving their interrogators a nod and a wink?

Ok, seriously, I can understand people against torture, but can we just put aside the constant dictatorship analogy. It's as disturbing as when people compare people they don't like with Nazis.

Jewish Atheist said...

HH:

If there were more major democracies that did it, I'd point to them. But they tend to be dictatorships. I didn't compare Bush to a dictator, I was just comparing our use of torture to other countries' use of torture. It's not my fault most of them are dictatorships.

Also, the specific countries I was thinking about were Saudi Arabia, Pakistan (until recently), etc. That's who we're supposed to be better than, otherwise what's the point?

Holy Hyrax said...

>It's not my fault most of them are dictatorships.

Most dictators also drive cars. So what. The distinction that must be made is the ends that both sides use torture. That is a fundamental point that I don't see address ever. And it DOES make the world of a difference.

Jewish Atheist said...

So the ends justify the means now?

And you don't even know the ends. There are reports (by a former CIA official) that they were using torture to try to get an "admission" of an operational link between Saddam and 9/11 to justify the war.

http://www.mcclatchydc.com/227/story/66622.html

You just believe whatever Bush and Cheney tell you. First it was just a couple "bad apples" at Abu Ghraib. Then it was only 3 (other) prisoners and they got great intel from it. Yeah right. Why should I believe a word they say? More to the point, why should anybody else?

Besides, torture is the kind of thing that Democracies aren't supposed to do. It's not like driving cars. Democracies are supposed to be more moral than dictatorships.

Holy Hyrax said...

Whether the ends justifies the means is a person issue. But if you compare what a dictator does, and what we did, clearly the means is a principle component to the argument if you ARE going to compare the two.

>You just believe whatever Bush and Cheney tell you.

Oh please, I can accuse you the same thing with anything from the other side.

>First it was just a couple "bad apples" at Abu Ghraib.

Everyone worth a spit condemned that. That was for pure humiliation, nothing more.

>Democracies are supposed to be more moral than dictatorships.

I think we can just put up a link to your last post about torture in regard to morals of torture. There is no need to bring that up again. But if you DO want to make comparisons, then at the very least one should look at the entire picture. This is absolutely no different then when the left compares Bush to Hitler.

Jewish Atheist said...

Whether the ends justifies the means is a person issue. But if you compare what a dictator does, and what we did, clearly the means is a principle component to the argument if you ARE going to compare the two.I'm NOT comparing the two. I'm saying we need to worry that the rest of the world is going to look at us that way.

Oh please, I can accuse you the same thing with anything from the other side.You could, but you'd be wrong. In this very post, I criticized Obama. In fact, I've written more critical posts than positive posts about him since he took the reigns. (Although I do think he's been good overall.)

Everyone worth a spit condemned that. That was for pure humiliation, nothing more. They "condemned" it, but they approved most of the same techniques to be used elsewhere. And they hung Lynddie England out to dry while they pretended they had nothing to do with it. You know, just like the House of Saud "condemns" the torture that their people do.

I think we can just put up a link to your last post about torture in regard to morals of torture. There is no need to bring that up again. But if you DO want to make comparisons, then at the very least one should look at the entire picture. This is absolutely no different then when the left compares Bush to Hitler.But I didn't compare Bush to anybody. I just said that we shouldn't make it look to people like we're no better on the torture issue than your typical Middle East dictatorship.

Jewish Atheist said...

sigh, sorry about the html.

Holy Hyrax said...

>I'm NOT comparing the two. I'm saying we need to worry that the rest of the world is going to look at us that way.

Maybe its my Israeliness, but I could care less about what the world thinks of us. I don't hold the world to have some moral beacon of light.

>You could, but you'd be wrong. In this very post, I criticized Obama. In fact, I've written more critical posts than positive posts about him since he took the reigns. (Although I do think he's been good overall.)

I was talking about your overall approach. You are obviously going to bring up more liberal positions and automatically more inclined to trust them.

>They "condemned" it, but they approved most of the same techniques to be used elsewhere. And they hung Lynddie England out to dry while they pretended they had nothing to do with it. You know, just like the House of Saud "condemns" the torture that their people do.

Like I said, THAt particular incidence was all for humiliation nothing more. It was morally wrong from every angle. Whatever they did to England is also wrong.

>But I didn't compare Bush to anybody. I just said that we shouldn't make it look to people like we're no better on the torture issue than your typical Middle East dictatorship.

Ok, fine, you didn't. But others do. Because its very easy to latch onto something very general that both parties have in common and then comparing them. What we SHOULD be doing is using our precious time in actually explaining the differences to anyone that would actually think that we look like a Middle East dictator instead of having to tippy toe with concern over what others might think.

Holy Hyrax said...

Ya, whats with the html?

you are the only one having problems with it. Maybe i should talk to management and have you replaced with a newer model atheist.

Peter L. Winkler said...

The debate over torture actually ended weeks ago, when President Obama said we will look forward, not backward, euphemistically expressing his decision to refrain from punishing the torturers and those who auhorized torture. Obama won't even allow additional photos of torture at Abu Graib to be published. Rock the boat, don't rock the boat, baby.

No one will be prosecuted. These people walk between the raindrops. They don't get touched. They are above the law.

Obama is just another politician, albeit a smooth, crafty strategist. He's all for enforcing the law, except where it may impede his ability to stay in office.

Scott said...

Most dictators also drive cars.Actually I'm sure most dictators have people drive their cars for them. JUST LIKE OBAMA, OMG!

The dictatorship comparison is totally fair because the true mark of a dictatorship is not torture or oppression, but a total disdain for the Rule of Law. Which is exactly what Bush and now Obama have shown.

Torture is still a crime.

Holy Hyrax said...

>The dictatorship comparison is totally fair because the true mark of a dictatorship is not torture or oppression, but a total disdain for the Rule of Law.

Oh please. You are just tying this into your own pre conceived conclusions. Lately I have been seeing your opinions are so extreme that they are hardly apt for anything in the real world (like your military is evil comment). Bush nor Obama have a disdain for law. The reason they do is simply because of a higher moral end. This is not at all in the equation for a dictator. There is simply no comparison.

But then again, I guess we can call Bush Hitler, since both did not care that young children were dying.

Scott said...

Yes, the extremist position is that torture is a crime that should be prosecuted. Welcome to America!

Theresa said...

Yeah, and the liberals aren't helping by trying to reinforce the idea that it is a conservative value to support torture, as if this is what the party stands for and supports.

They try and make it seem as if the Republicans do support torture.

Holy Hyrax said...

>Yes, the extremist position is that torture is a crime that should be prosecuted.

Thanks for ignoring the substance of the comment.

E-Man said...

If we noticed what Jessie "The body" Ventura said it had a basic premise of why he was against water boarding.

He said, "It's drowning. It gives you the complete sensation that you are drowning. It is no good, because you -- I'll put it to you this way, you give me a waterboard, Dick Cheney and one hour, and I'll have him confess to the Sharon Tate murders."

Basically, he is against water boarding because it will induce a false confession. From what we know the information that they received from the 3 guys they water boarded ended up being good intelligence and saved a lot of lives.

All I am saying is that it seems like he is against its use because he thinks it is useless, but that has been shown to be false. It got us a lot of useful information. In that case maybe he would say it is necessary.

E-Man said...

Here is a link that shows the info helped and wasn't useless. http://www.cnsnews.com/public/content/article.aspx?RsrcID=46949

Scott said...

Thanks for ignoring the substance of the comment.The substance of your comment was that A) my opinions are invalid because they are radical and B) American President's cannot be dictators because they have good intentions.

To address B I'd have to know Barack Obama's inner intentions, to which I can only guess. You guess that they are good and that all the other dictators are bad. My guess is that there is no such thing as good guys and bad guys and that human beings act to satisfy their own needs and wants, be they dictators, the Pope, or a janitor.

It doesn't do me a lot of good to try and convince you that you're wrong though, does it? I mean I'm not likely going to since your position is based entirely on your faith in the unknown intentions of individuals that you know only through your TV. Not only that, but as you stated in point A you don't accept my opinions because they are "extreme". So why would I spend a lot of time addressing the substance of your comment when you've already dismissed my opinions because they don't line up with your perceptions of the "real world"?

Scott said...

E-Man,

Your point, that torture produces good information, do you have any evidence to support this other than the press release of the criminals who actually did/commanded the torture?

But taking your point at face value, that torture is not a crime if it achieves it's stated goals, I wonder if you feel the same about other crimes? For instance, it is a well known fact that rape works. I mean if the stated goal of the rapist is achieved during the act of rape does that then negate the crime? Does that mean the rapist should not be prosecuted?

Or is that example bad because no one but the rapist benefits from the act, where in torture the logic is that innocent people are saved due to the act? Well then what of theft? If a thief steals from a wealthy man, he could conceivably give that money to a charity that distributed it to starving kids or some such other favorable victim. Does that then "morally justify" the thief's actions? Does that immunize the thief from prosecution? OR, in more of a parallel to the *REAL WORLD* case in point (cause you know, we wanna stay all realistic and shit), should the thief be immune from prosecution if he releases a press release that *SAYS* he donated the money to a charity that helped save a lot of starving children, even if he can't actually prove it since that would sacrifice the security of the children?

E-Man said...

"But taking your point at face value, that torture is not a crime if it achieves it's stated goals, I wonder if you feel the same about other crimes? For instance, it is a well known fact that rape works. I mean if the stated goal of the rapist is achieved during the act of rape does that then negate the crime? Does that mean the rapist should not be prosecuted?"

My point was not this at all. I was pointing out that Jessie "The Body" Ventura would not be against it. I was not discussing the legality issue. Thanks for trying to compare me to a disgusting person though. That is a great arguemtn. twist my words so you can mock me. You make discussions worthless with that attitude. I as pointing something out about Venturas position do not discuss legality with me, that is not my point nor did I mention it.

E-Man said...

So I will make a comparison also. Are you allowed to kill someone to save someone else's life. If you were being held hostage by a guy and he is threatening to kill you if he doesn't get his money or if a guy was running after you with a gun just because you insulted him lets say, can I shoot him to save your life? If yes isn't it illegal to kill someone or even shoot someone else? But I was saving your life from a murderer. But it is illegal to save your life? How do you win that argument?

How can a police officer kill someone on the job? That is illegal isn't it? If they get into a gun fight they can;t shoot him, that is illegal isn't it?

Holy Hyrax said...

>My guess is that there is no such thing as good guys and bad guys

Well then, this is really the crux of our disagreement, not the torture or anything else

clem said...

Completely OT, JA, but I've just left some comments in response to your comments on a posting at Inductivist earlier this week (regarding what multiculturalism is, and why it doesn't work), which I think you would benefit from reading:

http://inductivist.blogspot.com/2009/05/who-is-more-likely-to-be-socialist-jew.html

Anonymous said...

"I was just comparing our use of torture to other countries' use of torture"

Loony. Dictators use torture to punish political opponents and terrorize innocents. We used torture to prevent the deaths of innocents.

You argue that waterboarding is against the law. Thats nice. There are folks who argued and still do, that it is legal when used against terrorists to prevent the massacre of thousands of innocents. In fact, some are talking about prosecuting people for even HAVING THAT OPINION. Loony.

Also, it amazes me that liberals always choose the rights of the guilty over the deaths of the innocents. The immorality is breathtaking.

Tigerboy said...

---"Also, it amazes me that liberals always choose the rights of the guilty over the deaths of the innocents. The immorality is breathtaking."

Funny thing about that breathtaking immorality of honoring the "rights of the guilty" (actually, the law would call it the "rights of the accused"), it is one of the pillars of a civil society. Due process is a bitch.

So, then, in your little let's-torture-the-evil-doers scenario, guilt has already been determined by a court of law?

Or, are we torturing to find out whether there is some possibility that information might be known?

Or, we think he's probably guilty, so let's punish him, based on stuff that is probably true, that we're pretty sure is true (like WMD's).

If we torture every single criminal suspect, before all those pesky trials, we might get a lot of valuable information! Why even allow them access to a lawyer? Screw Miranda Rights!

How about if we torture people whom we know to be totally innocent, but still, they might know some valuable bit of something? It might save lives.

How about children? They hear things. Torturing children could save lives.

Or, here's an idea! We could honor our commitment to the Geneva Conventions, and to the Constitution of the United States.

Yeah, that sounds better.