mykeystrokes.com

"Do or Do not. There is no try."

“Will We Torture Again?”: The Willingness To Face An Ugly Truth And Say ‘Never Again’

Can we now say with confidence that our government will not use torture again and that Americans in the future will rise up to prevent it from doing so? In light of the reaction to the Senate Intelligence Committee’s report, I fear that we can’t.

Sen. Dianne Feinstein persisted in releasing the document in the face of opposition from the CIA and attacks by some of her colleagues because she felt a moral calling. The 81-year-old California Democrat believed she had an obligation to leave behind a sturdy ethical roadblock to the use of extreme brutality in pursuit of information — even information seen as potentially saving American lives.

“There are those who will seize upon the report and say ‘see what the Americans did,’ and they will try to use it to justify evil actions or incite more violence,” she said on the Senate floor. “We can’t prevent that. But history will judge us by our commitment to a just society governed by law and the willingness to face an ugly truth and say ‘never again.’”

Yet what might have been a moment of national reflection immediately turned into what everything becomes these days: a carnival of partisanship. Making the truth public, Feinstein’s critics argued, could endanger our nation.

“She will have to live with the consequences,” Sen. Richard Burr (R-NC), who becomes chair of the Intelligence Committee next year, said darkly.

A moving exception was Sen. John McCain (R-AZ), who has denounced torture in season and out. His biography as a prisoner of war has been a standing rebuke to those who choose to play down the consequences of these techniques for our own men and women in uniform. He dismissed the idea that the report itself would be responsible for new attacks on Americans. “Violence needs little incentive in some quarters of the world,” he said. Terrorism should be blamed on terrorists, not Feinstein.

The real objection to the release of the report, McCain argued, was that it calls into question the claims by defenders of these techniques that they produced vital information. “We gave up much in the expectation that torture would make us safer,” he said. “Too much.”

One would like to think that this is now a consensual view, and it is the formal position of our government. But the pushback against Feinstein makes clear that many involved in “the program,” as they so delicately call this departure from our own norms, would do it all over again. John McLaughlin, former CIA acting director and deputy director, took to the pages of The Washington Post to list the intelligence breakthroughs of the interrogators. McLaughlin also joined with five other former CIA directors and deputy directors in a Wall Street Journal piece that denounced the Senate report as “a poorly done and partisan attack.”

But condemning the report as “partisan” is a way of evading its implications. If the issue is partisan, why did President Obama’s CIA director, John Brennan, defend the agency by declaring that “EITs” — that would be enhanced interrogation techniques — “did produce intelligence that helped thwart attack plans, capture terrorists, and save lives”? What’s striking here is the bipartisan unity among intelligence officials.

My friend and Washington Post colleague Michael Gerson saw partisanship in the committee’s focus on the CIA interrogations that took place under President George W. Bush, but not on the drone program, which Obama has embraced and expanded. Gerson is right to note that many who oppose torture are also concerned about the extensiveness of the drone program and I, for one, would have no objection to Congress investigating the ethical and practical problems it raises.

But legitimate questions about drones do not discredit either this legitimate inquiry into the use of torture or the obligation that Feinstein and her fellow committee Democrats felt to bear witness.

Defenders of the CIA make a point that should unsettle all of us because it’s true: In the wake of 9/11, the country was so scared that it tolerated or at least entertained a variety of extreme steps to protect our security, including torture. By November of 2001, there was already a public debate about the legitimacy of torture, even if brave voices (the blogger Andrew Sullivan has been admirably persistent) pushed back in those dark times.

Feinstein, McCain and their allies are hoping they can draw a line now that can strengthen such voices in the future. I wish that the response to their efforts inspired more certainty that their line will hold.

 

By: E. J. Dionne, Jr., Opinion Writer, The Washington Post; Published in The National Memo, December 11, 2014

December 13, 2014 Posted by | CIA, Diane Feinstein, Torture | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“From A Failed And Flawed Man”: Dick Cheney’s “Second-Rate” Personnel Assessments

It struck me as amusing last week when former Vice President Dick Cheney, complaining about proposed measures to reduce gun violence, complained there “isn’t adequate regard for the rights of law-abiding citizens.” Given Cheney’s track record while in office, it seemed like an odd thing to say.

But these remarks from the weekend were even more striking.

Former Vice President Dick Cheney said Saturday night that President Barack Obama has jeopardized U.S. national security by nominating substandard candidates for key cabinet posts and by degrading the U.S. military.

“The performance now of Barack Obama as he staffs up the national security team for the second term is dismal,” Cheney said in comments to about 300 members of the Wyoming Republican Party.

Cheney, a Wyoming native, said it was vital to the nation’s national security that “good folks” hold the positions of secretary of state, CIA director and secretary of defense. “Frankly, what he has appointed are second-rate people,” he said.

There is a certain oddity that underpins Cheney’s whining. For many political observers, the fact that so many national security policies from the Bush/Cheney era are still in place is cause for alarm, though Cheney himself seems eager to suggest this administration has departed radically from his predecessor.

But really, that’s just scratching the surface of what’s wrong with Cheney’s odd perspective.

Whether you agree with their positions or not, there’s nothing even remotely “second rate” about John Kerry, Chuck Hagel, and John Brennan. These are experienced, capable individuals, with considerable expertise in their areas. Indeed, Kerry has a broad diplomatic background and was very nearly the president; Hagel is a decorated veteran and sage voice on the use of force (Cheney never got around to serving in the military before becoming the Pentagon chief); and Brennan actually served in the Bush/Cheney administration.

If the former V.P. has specific complaints about these nominees, I’d love to hear them.

But the real kicker here is Cheney’s confidence in his ability to make personnel assessments. Obama’s team, in Cheney’s mind, is “second rate,” but his team — filled with notorious names like Rumsfeld, Addington, and Libby — which oversaw some of the most spectacular failures in recent memory, was top tier?

Seriously?

 

By: Steve Benen, The Maddow Blog, February 11, 2013

February 12, 2013 Posted by | Dick Cheney | , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Bin Laden Death Photo Coverage Is Media’s New Birther Moment

On Tuesday morning, counterterrorism official John Brennan was interviewed by NPR’s Steve Inskeep  about the death of Osama bin Laden. For about eight minutes, listeners were  treated to a serious and in-depth exploration of the circumstances surrounding  bin Laden’s discovery and demise.

But then, right at the  end, Inskeep couldn’t help himself. “In a few seconds, Mr. Brennan, why haven’t  you released photos of Osama bin Laden?” Inskeep asked. Over the final  minute of the interview, he repeated that important question four times.

And you couldn’t help  thinking: Here we go again.

Wasn’t it just, like,  hours ago that the media had assumed a posture of deep introspection about  their role in fueling outlandish conspiracy theories?

On one hand, there were  people like Shepard Smith of Fox News urging the media to “look in the mirror”  because questions about President Obama’s birthplace were “a load of crap” and  journalists “knew it from the very beginning.” (Amen.) On the other, there  was Bob Garfield of NPR’s On the Media arguing that the attention paid  by the media to Donald Trump’s birther claims was necessary to help the public  distinguish between a “carnival barker” and a “responsible leader.” (Oh, I get  it: Loons raise loony questions, the media repeats them over and over  again, and, in so doing, exposes them to an audience far larger than the loons  ever could have dreamed of reaching on their own, and thus we need the media to  help us identify the loons. Wow, what an indispensible service.) No consensus,  perhaps, but at least they were grappling with the question.

Not anymore, evidently.

Just  hours after President Obama addressed the nation, no less than J. Michael Waller  posted a blog entry opining that bin Laden should be displayed naked in lower  Manhattan, then chopped into bits and dumped into the New York City  sewers because while he may be dead “I’ll believe it when I see it.”  Who’s J. Michael Waller you ask? Who cares! Questions have been raised!  The public needs help identifying the carnival barkers! Summon the media!

So, there was Inskeep  pressing Brennan. The Chicago Sun Times editorialized that a photo should  be released to stop the conspiracy theories. The Associated Press moved a  story headlined “Wanted: Visual Proof that the U.S. got him.” (Though you might  reasonably ask why, given that the proof detailed in the story included DNA  evidence, photographic identification, bin Laden’s wife apparently calling out  to him by name during the firefight, and “[t]ellingly” an al Qaeda spokesman  calling bin Laden “a martyr” and offering “no challenge to the U.S. account of  his death.” Mighty suspicious!)

In fairness, there are  differences between the birther stories and whether the United States should release a  photo of bin Laden. To be sure, the latter has actual foreign policy and  national security implications, and, now that the administration has decided not  to release a photo, it may be that serious issues, rather than the increasingly  hairbrained ideas of conspiracy theorists, will drive the media’s coverage  but … I’ll believe it when I see it.

If the media would like us  to believe it has serious, as opposed to sensationalistic, intentions when it  covers a story like this, the nature of the coverage has to change.  Raising a baseless charge again and again, day after day, and concluding that  you’ve done your job if “both sides” of the story are represented does everyone  a remarkable disservice. The reason: It gives the media’s imprimatur of  legitimacy to a charge that is baseless, and it leaves the impression that  there are two sides to an issue that is, in fact, indisputably settled.

Instead, if the media is  going to give such issues any coverage at all, it should turn its camera in the  opposite direction, focusing on the people who cling to preposterous beliefs  and asking what that tells us about them, our culture, and our country.  That may be a worthy journalistic pursuit, but we’ve seen very little of it.

Of course, there may be a  bright side to all of this: The secret to getting media coverage has been  revealed.

Therefore, I would like to  announce the following: I believe the moon is made of elephants.

Media: Come and get me.

By: Anson Kaye, U.S. News and World Report, May 5, 2011

May 5, 2011 Posted by | Birthers, Foreign Policy, Homeland Security, Journalists, Media, National Security, Politics, President Obama, Press, Pundits, Terrorism | , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

   

%d bloggers like this: