"If Mrs. Pelosi and Mr. Reid believe their own public statements that
waterboarding and other techniques are both torture and ineffective, they ought
to incorporate their words into a law that takes these practices off the table
That, of course, would mean a vote that would force lawmakers to face up to
the real-life consequences of their actions -- and submit those actions to the
judgment of the American people."
McGurn wants accountability, but not in the sense of ensuring we never torture again - more in the sense of, if a terrorist attack happens, it's the Democrats fault, because they didn't let us waterboard.
Among the various right-wing views (the "real assertion" that torture works - oh, and also an ideal world in which "good men and women could present the case for enhanced interrogation without having their words twisted and finding themselves held up in public as latter-day Torquemadas") McGurn also demonstrates no understanding of how torture was actually carried out. I guess he is loath to read the investigative work of those on the other wing. Too bad for him. McGurn writes:
"For the past few years, no word has been more casually thrown about than
'torture.' At the same time, no word has been less precisely defined. That suits
Congress just fine, because it allows members to take a pass on defining the law
while reserving the right to second-guess the poor souls on the front lines who
actually have to make decisions about what the law means.
Unless by "poor souls on the front lines" he means "Alberto Gonzales," his statement is wildly incorrect. We know that torture was carefully tested, carefully planned, and almost every move was triple-checked. It was the top of the chain of command that made decisions:
"Kirakou made the interrogations sound almost like a game of 'Mother, May I?'
He said, 'It was not up to the individual interrogator to decide 'I'm going to
slap him' or 'I'm going to shake him.' Each one of these, though they're minor,
had to have the approval of the Deputy Director for Operations, who during most
of this period was James Pavitt. 'Before you could lay a hand on him, you had
to send a cable saying, 'He's uncooperative. Request permission to do
X.'...There was, however, no known instance of the supervisors denying a request
to use more force." ["The Dark Side," Jane Mayer, p.167]. post here
The law was graphically detailed, as were the demonstrations of "enhanced interrogations" (h/t digby) -
"Highly placed sources said a handful of top advisers signed off on how the
CIA would interrogate top al Qaeda suspects -- whether they would be slapped,
pushed, deprived of sleep or subjected to simulated drowning, called waterboarding.
The high-level discussions about these 'enhanced interrogation techniques' were so detailed, these sources said, some of the interrogation sessions were almost choreographed -- down to the number of times CIA agents could use a specific tactic.
The advisers were members of the National Security Council's Principals Committee, a select group of senior officials who met frequently to advise President Bush on issues of national security policy."
Hayden himself makes the decision-making process clear: “If you create a box, we will play inside the box without exception."
The only thing our agents on the ground need to fear is that the policy-makers and commanders above them abandon them in a time of need, scapegoat them, and make them carry out policies that could cause legal trouble down the line. Poor souls on the front lines indeed.