Friday, October 19, 2007

Torture notes

It's a waking nightmare, this ongoing discussion of torture. Adult people...otherwise normal, loving, everyday people who think of themselves as Christian...are engaging in polite conversations that approve of torture. There is no easy way to say it. What in the world are we coming to?

This morning NPR reported on a CIA employee's reaction to Rendition, a movie depicting the torture of a US citizen (with "reason to believe" he was a terrorist, don't you know) by agents in a fictional third country in North Africa. The description was bad enough, but the reaction of the former CIA guy was chilling. Absolutely chilling.

In a neutral, clear, academic manner he betrayed no inclination to disapprove of what he had seen in the film, commenting that he was glad they got most of it right!

This is insane. Unspeakably crazy.

Hilzoy picks up a similar theme in a post echoing the Senate's initial examination of Alberto Gonzalez two years ago. His answers to their questions made him sound like an Eagle Scout.

“Senator, if I might respond to that, the president is not above the law. Of course he’s not above the law....I want to emphasize to the committee how important I think treaties like Geneva are for America, because they do represent our values, and in many ways and at many times, they have protected our troops. And it is true that part of winning the war on terror is winning the hearts and minds of certain communities.”

Comes now another nominee following the ignominious fall of the first. This time the Senators are falling all over themselves to embrace him. Maybe they think he can't cause too much trouble in the short time left in a lame duck administration. We'll see.

Emily Bazelon has reservations about the new nominee in
Rebound Relationship --The Senate runs into the arms of Michael Mukasey.

...the Mukasey-Senate love match doesn't go all that deep. Leahy next asks about the secret February 2005 memos signed by Gonzales, which re-loosened the reins on interrogators. (According to the New York Times, which broke the story, the memo approved tactics including head-slapping, freezing temperatures, and waterboarding again.) Unlike the Bybee memo, the 2005 opinions are still law. And here Mukaskey won't say he's planning to change that. "I'm certainly going to examine the underlying memos and the underlying facts," he answers. "But I have not been read in—I think that's the Washington expression—to any of the classified information" relating to interrogation.

This is a punt. It is also exactly the right move for him, because the senators can't do anything about it. Many such moments follow. etc., etc.

I feel like the kid in the story of the Emperor's New Clothes. I've been pointing at a naked king for a long time.

Lindsay Beyerstein comments on the hearings...

I think it's safe to assume that Mukasey is lying when he says that he's "not familiar with the technique" of waterboarding--either that, or he's so sheltered as to disqualify himself for the job of the nation's top law enforcer.


October 22
A post at VC strains to minimize the importance of the film Rendition by undercutting the main theme with lawyerly rhetoric and prissy string of comments. Points are scored on both sides, but it's a smoking room discussion, more cerebral than visceral.

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