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I want to highlight MSNBC host Joe Scarborough's most recent rant about torture, this time in response to Jesse Ventura's insistence that waterboarding is indeed torture and can be used to extract false confessions:

SCARBOROUGH: Perhaps Jesse should stop smoking whatever Jesse's been smoking and keep his mouth shut about things he knows absolutely nothing about. This is a guy who, by the way -- I must continue to say this -- that got paid two million dollars by this network, did one show and sucked so bad that they sent him back to Minnesota and said "we never want to see you again."

I wish I was that bad. Perhaps I am. Maybe they'll fire me and I'll take my money and go to Florida. [...] Seriously, that's the sort of stupidity -- it's just -- it should seriously be a crime to be that dumb and on TV. [mocking Jesse's voice] We only waterboard Muslims. Oh God.

Let's bring in Rudy Giuliani. Former Republican mayor of New York City, former presidential candidate, Rudy Giuliani. This seems like a great place to start... Why is it that people like Jesse Ventura are so concerned about how we treat people like Khalid Sheikh Mohammed? Why is that?

There's a lot in there to hate, and Heather and Bob Cesca take care of most of it at the link, but the part I'm truly interested in is this:

Why is it that people like Jesse Ventura are so concerned about how we treat people like Khalid Sheikh Mohammed? Why is that?

I've often wondered how people like Scarborough make it this far in life without learning that torture doesn't work, can be counter-productive and even extract false confessions.  But that isn't what Joe's upset about.  What Joe finds truly incredulous is that anyone would have a problem with us torturing 'people like' Mohammed in the first place.  

Of course Joe Scarborough has encountered the conclusions of every single expert on torture that it doesn't work by this point in his life.  It would be nearly impossible not to have encountered it, just as it's impossible to have a discussion about torture without including those findings.  The fact that people like Joe Scarborough absolutely refuse to acknowledge these findings shows that for them, this debate isn't actually about torture, just like their claim of wanting to reduce the number of abortions - while refusing to acknowledge that contraceptives do just that - seems not to be about abortion at all, but about controlling womens' sex lives.  It's the exact same nonsensical pattern.

The reason people like Jesse Ventura are so concerned about how we treat people like Khalid Sheikh Mohammed is because people like Scarborough aren't.  The entire point of a nation of laws is that those laws apply to everyone equally, even 'people like' Mohammed, and that the treatment of prisoners for example is not dependent upon the vindictiveness of the officials in charge; officials like former Congressmen Joe Scarborough.  Joe wants to take his anger, frustration and sense of helplessness about terrorism out on people who he's sure deserve it, just for the hell of it, and is throwing a temper tantrum at being told no.  Yet it is precisely during these difficult times that it is most important to stand by our principles.  As I wrote in 2007:

These laws do not exist to guide us in times of peace but to guide us in times of great strife and difficulty.  Declaring yourself a nation of laws is easy when everyone's your friend but it is during the difficult times when the state's power tends to expand and the rights of the individual tend to diminish.  That is what this is all about.  If America must turn into a dictatorship every time there's trouble then Congress might as well declare Bush King and go home because Democracy is a failure.

I wrote that in regards to the warrantless wiretapping revelations and the telecom immunity that followed, but it just as easily applies today.  It's also why any day now I expect the republicans (or a DINO) to introduce a bill offering retroactive immunity for all those involved in torture, which we didn't do but would have been perfectly legal if we did and therefore requires immunity, and enough Democrats will support it for it to pass.  And people like Joe Scarborough will be free to start this nonsense again on whatever next year's scandal will be.  Someone once said that the real lesson of history is that we do not learn from history and right now I'm finding it hard to disagree.

Originally posted to james richardson on Mon May 25, 2009 at 06:21 PM PDT.

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