Well I did it again, I fell asleep watching The Rachel Maddow Show replay. And by now we all know what that usually means...a horrible start to my morning and an increased heart rate. I woke up to Morning Joke and I couldn't find the remote.
This morning was no different. My morning started with Liz Cheney demonstrating her families inherited trait of lying through their teeth with a straight face, finding ill-prepared journalists to debate, and talking over anyone who remotely opposes them.
There they were, 4 alleged journalists, Mika Brzezinski , Mike Barnicle, Eugene Robinson, and Andrew Ross Sorkin. But yet, for the 10 minutes (I don't know how much I missed) that I was exposed to a toxic debate about torture, they seemed like kindergartners getting lectured by the principal. If I didn't know better after that interview, apprently waterboarding isn't torture and you can do whatever you want if you tell someone the country is in danger, and have a lawyer sign off on it.
I felt compelled to write the following letter to Mr. Robinson out of pure, unmitigated frustration.
Update [2009-5-12 14:23:22 by justmy2]: Shorter video with key moments...
The full interview is here...
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I love your work and congratulations on the Pulitzer. However, I implore you to never go on TV again and let someone like Liz Cheney walk all over you like she did this morning. You only need three questions to shut torture defenders down.
1. Does homicide constitute torture?
She said these techniques were carefully crafted and executed and were not torture. She then proceeded to continually reiterate that we never tortured anyone. THAT IS A LIE!!! 100 people died during interrogations, some of whom were clearly tortured. There are pictures for goodness sake.
You may or may not know that, but always, ALWAYS, keep this fact in mind as it directly contradicts the points that Liz Cheney and her ilk continuously try to represent to the public. And she knows that, which is why she doesn't bring it up.
- Would you want foreign citizens or US citizens for that matter, to be prosecuted for waterboarding US troops?
Whenever someone brings up SERE techniques which were created by untrained interrogators, ALWAYS respond with this question. If they want those engaging in torture prosecuted, they are a hypocrites that are willing to break the law when convenient. If not, they should be ashamed of themselves and do not support our troops. It is that simple.
- What lead did we not have on 9/10?
Cheney said "we had a different mindset on 9/12". SO WHAT!!!. You weren't torturing people on 9/12. The record shows torture occurred at least until 2005. That is a strawman pure and simple, and illegal regardless. They had memos flying all over the place saying arrest people that were ignored, they had flight instructors screaming that something is wrong, George Tenet with his hair on fire, and a memo saying Bin Laden determined to attack America with planes. All without torture. But, we did have a President on vacation clearing brush and a National Security Council determined to attack Saddam Hussein and the net result is that we have to resort to war crimes? Give me a break.
I am severely disappointed by the pundits on TV, like yourself, who go on TV unprepared to counter the absolute lies (I don't use that word lightly) that people like Lynn Cheney are willing to say on national TV. You can not bring a knife to a gun fight. You simply can't do it.
Please, step your game up. I know you want to do the right thing, but you have to do your homework. This is not a debate that our country can afford to lose.
The saddest part was that none of these people were willing to forcefully say the we shouldn't torture people in any case. Apparently, according to Mika and Mike, if polls say Americans are willing to torture people, that means the President has the right to act illegally. Apparently, we are no longer a nation of laws, we are nation of polls and our leaders can do anything as long as they can convince the public that the end justifies the means.
I have a suggestion for Mika, Joe, Mike, and the rest of the torture apologists. Instead of interviewing Liz Cheney who really only has the goal of keeping her dad out of jail, I recommend that the hosts of Morning Joe interview some of the detainees.
Many men were handcuffed or tied to a stool as a means of slow torture. The [detainee] sat in one position, day and night. Each time he would fall over, the guards would sit him upright. He was not allowed to sleep or rest. Exhaustion and pain take their toll. When the [detainee] agreed to cooperate with his captors and acquiesced to their demands, he would be removed. Here, I have pictured a guard named "Mouse," who liked to throw buckets of cold water on a man on cold winter nights.
You're always sitting either on the floor or on a stool or concrete block or something low. The interrogator is always behind a table that's covered with cloth of some kind, white or blue or something. And he sits above you and he's always looking down at you asking you questions and they want to know what the targets are for tomorrow, next week, next month. You don't know. You really don't know. But he doesn't -- he's going to have to have an answer of some kind. Now the back of the room comes the -- the torture. And he's a -- he's a big guy that knows what he's doing. And he starts locking your elbows up with ropes and tying your wrists together and bending you.
Some men were tied to their beds, sometimes for weeks at a time. Here, I have drawn a picture showing the handcuffs being worn in front, but the usual position was with the wrists handcuffed behind the back. A man would live this way day and night, without sleep or rest.
The guards come around the middle of the night just rattling the lock on your door. That's a terrifying thing because they may be taking you out for a torture session. You don't know.
Oh, sorry. My mistake. Those illustrations and some of the comments are by former POW Mike Mcgrath about his time in the Hanoi Hilton. Other comments are from the transcript of Return With Honor, a documentary about the POW's during the Vietnam War. How silly of me to compare the US torture scheme with North Vietnam's.
There is a reason the entire military leadership establishment is 100% against torture, at least the ones that have fought a war. Their soldiers will be unmercifully tortured when captured if we set this precedent, and many were in Vietnam.
However, the fix is in. Senator Dianne Feinstein now has the official whitewash investigation underway. Sen. Feinstein has absolutely no reason to provide a fair hearing of the facts. Instead, she has every incentive to "make this go away". Senator Reid's interview with Christiane Brown this weekend makes this goal crystal clear.
Brown: Is it a decision of whether...Isn’t it our obligation if he’s violated the law ... ?
Reid: There are a lot of decisions that are made that are right that may not be absolutely totally within the framework of law. For example with President Nixon . . . I mean . . . should he have been impeached or did President Ford do the right thing?....
Reid must have misspoke at the end there, unless he's among the minority of him and Dick Cheney opposed to the impeachment of Richard Nixon. But basically he's opposed to enforcing the law when it comes to people of a certain stature and power. And as Jonathan Turley notes, his idea that we would be "rushing to judgment" because we lack the critical evidence and must wait for a secret Intelligence Committee report headed by DiFi neglects the voluminous amount of material already in the public domain, including videotaped admissions of torture from the principals involved.
So waterboarding and homicide may be the right thing? That is our current Senate Majority Leader my friends.
This is the legacy that President Obama's "reflection and not retribution" path will take this country down. The only way for this country's soul to be saved at this point is the comprehensive release of all unclassified documentation related to torture and investigation of the war crimes. Unless the people or the U.S. Military rise up, which I don't see happening anytime soon, I truly fear for the well being of the next US soldiers captured in any conflict.
Maybe the drip, drip, drip is the plan. But if it isn't, the decisions made and the debate these past few weeks show a decay of this nation that we may not be able to recover from.
Next time, I will use the sleep timer.
Update [2009-5-12 10:55:14 by justmy2]: Rec list?!? Wow!!! Thanks everyone.
I think it is critical that those on the side of the law come to the debate with facts and figures. The other side is willing to say anything to protect their interests. This is a debate we must have.
Update [2009-5-12 11:45:5 by justmy2]: DocGonzo raises an important issue in the comments:
...They are now well known to have planned, promoted, approved, overseen and operated torture programmes. Torture designed to produce false confessions to be used as corrupt data to persuade Congress and America to invade Iraq, to stay there, and to ignore actual security threats like that in Afghanistan and Pakistan.
Journalists, including Robinson (one of my favorites on TV), continue to treat these people and these sessions as if they're not war criminals. They're "innocent until proven guilty" in a court of law. In the court of public opinion, they have to defend themselves from the facts we already have. If they refuse, let them claim their legal rights, and stay out of the public. Otherwise all that's happening is they're peddling their lies without anyone even mentioning that they're lying to stay out of jail.
I don't know if they are war criminals until they are convicted based on the law, but there have clearly been actions taken that require further investigation. However, to allow this debate to occur outside of this context is beyond the pale and does a disservice to the national discourse.
Update [2009-5-12 11:45:5 by justmy2]: Poochie adds a question in the comments for the next person who has the opportunity to interview Liz Cheney or Vice President Cheney?
What if Liz Cheney, as a former State Dept official was traveling through Tehran, where she got detained under suspicion of espionage. What if she was held without any trial and waterboarded 183 times in a month because Iranian intelligence officials thought she had inside information of a imminent attack on Iran from Israel or the US (especially given that her father is a VPOTUS)?
Would it be torture then or justified?
Update [2009-5-12 13:2:44 by justmy2]: I think it is fair to use the prominence of this diary to point to the historical record, which apparently is either not well known, or conveniently ignored by the traditional media.
Terminus points us to a great documentary, Taxi to the Dark Side, that I highly recommend. Please watch this movie, screen it for Lynn Cheney, or at the very least watch the trailer, and then tell me that we did not "TORTURE".
[T]take a look at HBO's Taxi to the Dark Side. It gives a horrible account of the beating to death of a prisoner, a taxi driver, who was subsequently shown to have been totally innocent.
His legs were "pulpified" by knee strikes from U.S. personnel (a technique approved by commanders), and would have had to have been amputated... if he had lived.
We can no longer willfully ignore these actions if we want maintain our status as the beacon on the hill. Let's prove that WE ARE AMERICA, and we stand up for truth, justice, and the American way. Senator, Congressperson, Mr. President, sunlight is indeed the best disinfectant. INVESTIGATE NOW!!!
Update [2009-5-12 14:23:22 by justmy2]: I have a flight to catch. I will still be following the diary via my mobile phone, but I won't be able to reply as quickly. Please continue the great discussion and thanks again for all of the kind words and recs!!! We have to keep up the pressure. Otherwise, we become complicit. Silence is not an option.
FDR was, of course, a consummate political leader. In one situation, a group came to him urging specific actions in support of a cause in which they deeply believed. He replied: "I agree with you, I want to do it, now make me do it."