Monday, March 30, 2009

David Ignatius: Opinions and Facts

Funny how these things work out! Maybe David Ignatius didn't know his asinine editorial would appear on the same pages as Peter Finn and Joby Warrick's report "Detainee's Harsh Treatment Foiled No Plots" on March 29. Unfortunately for him, it did.

Ignatius' editorial reassures us that Obama's detention and interrogation policies are not some "new left-wing experiment." And he makes it known that if he chooses to, Obama can bring torture back. Ignatius writes:

"In drafting the new policy on interrogation, Obama and his advisers recognized
that there could be extraordinary situations -- say, a suspect with information
about nuclear terrorism -- where the president could decide to waive the
executive order banning harsh techniques. 'Everybody understands that if the
nation faces a severe threat, the president can do what's needed to protect us.
But he has to explain it. The problem with Bush was doing it all in secret,
which leads to abuse,' argues [Jeffrey] Smith."

This is pretty glib. On the same day that his paper declares that torturing Abu Zubaydah produced "no specific leads" and sent federal agencies on a million dollar goose-chase to discover plots fabricated out of torture (including imaginary plots about WMDs!), Ignatius just wants you to know - yes, we could do that again if we wanted to flex some muscle. Even though it doesn't work.

Further substantiating the Finn/Warrick article, Scott Horton quotes David Rose interviewing Bush-era FBI Director Robert Mueller:

"I ask Mueller: So far as he is aware, have any attacks on America been
disrupted thanks to intelligence obtained through what the administration still
calls 'enhanced techniques'? 'I’m really reluctant to answer that,' Mueller
says. He pauses, looks at an aide, and then says quietly, declining to
elaborate: 'I don’t believe that has been the case.'”

And as far as ex-CIA Jeffrey Smith goes, no, dear reader, we're not in hell, it's just that you're feeling a lot of hot air right now. The notion that a CIA that is completely adverse to a public investigation, similar to the one conducted by the Senate Armed Services Committee, would like us to publicily announce our return to torture is crazy. (Remember - this guy helped advise Obama and Craig on these decisions!) And how does this picture square with what we now know of the Obama Administration - that they like the state secrets privilege, and that they have no interest in pursuing investigations into Bushco's misdeeds? You think Obama would step up to podium and tell America he's authorized waterboarding? And that that would make it all better? As Big Tent Democrat notes regarding another torture op-ed, making torture "okay" would be more complicated than simply saying it is so:

"Drum begs the question - since no such vote took place, torture remained
illegal. And of course, if an open vote was held - torture could not have been
'kept out of sight.' The United States would have had to opt out of the UN
Convention on Torture and repeal its codification of the Convention. Would we as
a people have approved of this when forced to say 'we approve of torture?' I do
not know, but the illegality, indeed, the criminality, of what occurred remains
manifest. In our names. The stain will never be removed."

Instead of acknowledging what is found in another section of his own paper, that torture doesn't work, Ignatius takes up (without dispute) Cheney's notion that torture is an important tool. In the process Ignatius uses the imaginary concept of the "ticking time bomb," itself as fear-mongering a device as any Cheney would employ to defend torture. Note to Ignatius - it's no longer 2003, and you don't have to simply entertain Cheney and his ghoulish, false notions. Years behind his own paper, I guess Ignatius didn't see the need to incorporate a few facts into his editorial - namely, that torture doesn't work.

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