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“A Future Cheney Could Do It All Again”: The U.S. Will Torture Again—And We’re All To Blame

Reliably enough, out came Dick Cheney to trash the Senate torture report and to say of the use of torture: “I’d do it again in a minute.” None of us doubt that he would. But the more interesting and challenging question is: Could he?

More precisely, could a future Cheney, after a future terrorist attack on the U.S. mainland, get away with it? Could a future administration set up the whole fraudulent and immoral apparatus—a Department of Justice defining torture so narrowly that it somehow magically doesn’t include sleep deprivation or rectal hydration or waterboarding, followed by a CIA and military saying “Hey, what’s the big deal? It’s all legal!”? (Even in his press conference Thursday, CIA chief John Brennan acknowledged that it all could happen again: “I defer to the policymakers,” he said, as to what might occur.)

People like me are supposed to say something like: No, we’re better than that. Alas, I say we are not better than that. It could happen again. Easily.

In fact, let’s go further. Cheney is a figure of horror and ridicule these days (although by no means to everyone—to the Fox News audience to which he spoke the above words Wednesday, he’s oracular). But can we honestly say that back in 2002, 2003, 2004, he wasn’t carrying out the people’s will? We get the government we deserve, de Tocqueville said. And in the Bush-Cheney regime, we got exactly that.

There exist four mechanisms in our democracy by which the state can be compelled to live up to what we call, rather farcically in a gruesome week like this one, “our ideals.” There is the will of the people; the resolve of the political class; the courage of the media; and the authority of the courts. With regard to our torture regime, all four failed, and failed completely.

The people were, in theory, against torture. I have on my screen here a study from Reed College (PDF)  that asserts that from 2001 to 2009, majorities of public opinion consistently opposed torture, by averages of about 55 to 40 percent. That may be, in the abstract. But were Americans ever so worked up about the practice that they demanded it not be undertaken in their name? Never.

In fact, for most of the Bush era, the opposite was the truth. I remember very clearly the public mood after the 9/11 attacks. There was appropriate anger and shock and sorrow. But it bled into other less honorable manifestations, a paradoxical combination of, on the one hand, a lust for revenge in any form among a certain segment of the populace, and on the other hand a tremulous fear among a different segment that sanctioned anything being done in its name. Too many people reverted to a childlike state, and they wanted a daddy-protector. And no, this wasn’t understandable under the circumstances.

As for the political class, I doubt I need to give you a very hard sell on its failure. It was thoroughgoing and bipartisan. The timorous Democrats, with a few noble exceptions like Robert Byrd, largely bought into the global war on terror. The Republicans, well, you know about them. The foreign-policy establishment of Washington and to some extent New York lined up behind the administration on nearly every important question. The urge among this class is always to swim with the tide: In 2003, when the Council on Foreign Relations was casting about for a new leader, it settled on Richard Haass, who had been in Bush’s State Department. He has said since that he was 60-40 against the war, but one would have been hard pressed to know that then, back when his boss, Colin Powell, was warning us about those weapons of mass destruction that didn’t exist. On the torture question, this class was outraged when it was easy to be outraged, like when the Abu Ghraib story broke, but the outrage was never sustained.

Among the media, there were to be sure many brave journalists—Jane Mayer, Robin Wright, many others—who broke story after story about torture. We’re in their debt. But their great work was more than balanced out by the equivocation caucus—well, we can’t really be sure it’s torture. And then there was the segment of the media that actively cheered it all on. More broadly, the media as a whole were afraid to break ranks. I have had a number of conversations with prominent media people—in TV and radio, names you’d know—who, by way of trying to defend their lack of zeal and confrontation in those post-9/11 days, tried to explain how many furious emails they got when a report diverged modestly from the accepted line.

And the legal system? Again, there were some courageous judges who tried. A Virginia federal judge named Gerald Bruce Lee ruled in 2009  that four Abu Ghraib detainees could sue CACI, the private military contractor in Iraq. But overall the legal system has done little to say “this was against the law.” Much of the fault for that, of course, lies with Barack Obama, who chose early on not to seek prosecutions of Bush administration officials. And even now, in the wake of this report, what is your level of confidence that anyone will be prosecuted as a result of the release of this report? I thought so.

Failures top to bottom. Now, one would like to say that we as a society have learned the lessons of these failures and would not permit this to happen again. Don’t count on it. If there is another terrorist attack on the U.S. mainland, the odds are strong that we will reenact this grim tragedy from start to finish, if a neoconservative regime happens to be ensconced in the White House. The people would respond with the same fear, which would give license to the same behavior, and the political class and the media and the courts would probably go along.

So yes, it’s a moral horror that Cheney says he’d do it all again. But it’s also all too likely that a future Cheney could do it all again. That’s the far greater moral horror, and the one we don’t want to face, because it implicates us.

 

By: Michael Tomasky, The Daily Beast, December 12, 2014

December 14, 2014 Posted by | Bush-Cheney Administration, CIA, Torture | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Realism Or Politics: The Council On Foreign Relations Richard Haass Has A Credibility Problem

Meet The Press had a very interesting cast of characters today for their round table discussion on the events occuring in Libya. Panelists included Helen Cooper, White House Correspondent for the New York Times; Andrea Mitchell, NBC News Chief Foreign Affairs Correspondent; Michael Hayden, Former Director of the NSA and CIA; John Miklaszewski, NBC News Chief Pentagon Correspondent; and Richard Haass, President of The Council on Foreign Relations.

None of the input by these elitist panelist’s came as a surprise. In fact many of their responses were predictable. Cooper, Mitchell and Miklaszewski obviously wanted to use their airtime to promote their next story..to keep the news cycle going. That’s their job so more power to them. Hayden, as a George W. Bush appointee, surely would not suddenly have a change of heart and say anything contrary to the proven failed policies of that administration. Richard Haass, in symphony with Hayden, played his “bad cop” role to the hilt. Haass never seemed to miss a step in his criticism of the Obama administrations handling of Libya (excerpted comments):

David Gregory, the host (and I use that term lightly) of Meet The Press, Began the discussion:  I want to talk, however, about how much is on the president’s plate right now. You talk about crisis management and a confluence of crisis.  We’ve pulled together some cover stories from Time magazine–I want to put it up there on the screen–“Target Gaddafi.” The next one, “Hitting Home:  Tripoli Under Attack.” And the next one, “Meltdown.”

MR. RICHARD HAASS:  It’s a lot to manage, but also it raises the importance of an administration having its priorities.  You’ve got a lot to manage with Japan, you’ve got a lot to manage with what’s going on in the broader Middle East, you’ve got a lot to manage what’s going on in the United States in terms of our economy and our deficit.  So one of the real questions is why are we doing as much are we are doing in Libya?  So many of your guests are talking about too little too late.  Let me give you another idea, David, too much too late.  In times of crisis and multiple crisis, administrations have to figure out their priorities.  They got to do some triage.  The–to me, the big problem is not what we haven’t done, it is what we are doing.

MR. GREGORY:  Richard, you, you just have broad concerns as you, as you penned a piece in the Wall Street Journal earlier this month, “The US should keep out of Libya.”

MR. HAASS:  Again, our interests aren’t vital.  We’re talking about 2 percent of the world’s oil.  Yes, there’s a humanitarian situation on, but at the risk of seeming a bit cold, it is not a humanitarian crisis on the scale say of Rwanda.  We don’t have nearly 100–a million people, innocent men, women and children whose lives are threatened.  This is something much more modest. This is a civil war.  In civil wars, people get killed, unfortunately.  But we shouldn’t kid ourselves.  This is not a humanitarian intervention, this is U.S. political, military intervention in a civil conflict which, by the way, history suggests, often prolongs the civil conflict.  And, as several people have already pointed out, what is step B?  Whether Gadhafi complies with what we want or whether he resists successfully, either way, we are going to be stuck with the aftermath of essentially having to take ownership of Libya with others.  And just because others are willing to share in something, as so many people point out, doesn’t make it a better policy.  It just means the costs are going to be distributed.  But the policy itself is seriously flawed.

MR. GREGORY:  The big ideas and are we getting them right?

MR. HAASS:  Mike Mullen says the big idea, the biggest single national security threat facing the United States is our economy, it’s our fiscal situation.  This will not make it better.  Instead, we are ignoring a previous secretary of state, John Quincy Adams, someone you haven’t had on the show in awhile.  We are going abroad in search of monsters to destroy.  There’s any number of monsters.  But is this, right now, something that’s strategically necessary and vital for the United States, given all that’s happening in places like Egypt, Bahrain, Saudi Arabia, around the world, with all that we need to repair at home?  The answer, I would think, is not.  And that’s the big idea the administration’s missing.  It’s not enough to simply want to do good around the world wherever we see bad.  We’ve got to ask ourselves, where can we do good, at what cost, against what else we might have to do?

All of Haass’ comments gave me a flashback. Iran immediately came to mind. Haass, Iran..Haass, Iran. When is enough actually enough..when is enough not enough?

The answer is Mr. Haass, you’ve got a credibility problem. The following article appeared in Newsweek on January 22, 2010. It was written by none other than Richard Haass:

Enough Is Enough

Why we can no longer remain on the sidelines in the struggle for regime change in Iran.

Two schools of thought have traditionally competed to determine how America should approach the world. Realists believe we should care most about what states do beyond their borders—that influencing their foreign policy ought to be Washington’s priority. Neoconservatives often contend the opposite: they argue that what matters most is the nature of other countries, what happens inside their borders. The neocons believe this both for moral reasons and because democracies (at least mature ones) treat their neighbors better than do authoritarian regimes.

I am a card-carrying realist on the grounds that ousting regimes and replacing them with something better is easier said than done. I also believe that Washington, in most cases, doesn’t have the luxury of trying. The United States must, for example, work with undemocratic China to rein in North Korea and with autocratic Russia to reduce each side’s nuclear arsenal. This debate is anything but academic. It’s at the core of what is likely to be the most compelling international story of 2010: Iran.

In the wake of 9/11, the Bush administration judged incorrectly that Iran was on the verge of revolution and decided that dealing directly with Tehran would provide a lifeline to an evil government soon to be swept away by history’s tide. A valuable opportunity to limit Iran’s nuclear program may have been lost as a result. The incoming Obama administration reversed this approach and expressed a willingness to talk to Iran without preconditions. This president (like George H.W. Bush, whose emissaries met with Chinese leaders soon after Tiananmen Square) is cut more from the realist cloth. Diplomacy and negotiations are seen not as favors to bestow but as tools to employ. The other options—using military force against Iranian nuclear facilities or living with an Iranian nuclear bomb—were judged to be tremendously unattractive. And if diplomacy failed, Obama reasoned, it would be easier to build domestic and international support for more robust sanctions. At the time, I agreed with him.

I’ve changed my mind. The nuclear talks are going nowhere. The Iranians appear intent on developing the means to produce a nuclear weapon; there is no other explanation for the secret uranium-enrichment facility discovered near the holy city of Qum. Fortunately, their nuclear program appears to have hit some technical snags, which puts off the need to decide whether to launch a preventive strike. Instead we should be focusing on another fact: Iran may be closer to profound political change than at any time since the revolution that ousted the shah 30 years ago.

The authorities overreached in their blatant manipulation of last June’s presidential election, and then made matters worse by brutally repressing those who protested. Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei has lost much of his legitimacy, as has the “elected” president, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. The opposition Green Movement has grown larger and stronger than many predicted.

The United States, European governments, and others should shift their Iran policy toward increasing the prospects for political change. Leaders should speak out for the Iranian people and their rights. President Obama did this on Dec. 28 after several protesters were killed on the Shia holy day of Ashura, and he should do so again. So should congressional and world leaders. Iran’s Revolutionary Guards should be singled out for sanctions. Lists of their extensive financial holdings can be published on the Internet. The United States should press the European Union and others not to trade or provide financing to selected entities controlled by the Guards. Just to cite one example: the Revolutionary Guards now own a majority share of Iran’s principal telecommunications firm; no company should furnish it the technology to deny or monitor Internet use.

New funding for the project housed at Yale University that documents human-rights abuses in Iran is warranted. If the U.S. government won’t reverse its decision not to provide the money, then a foundation or wealthy individuals should step in. Such a registry might deter some members of the Guards or the million-strong Basij militia it controls from attacking or torturing members of the opposition. And even if not, the gesture will signal to Iranians that the world is taking note of their struggle.

It is essential to bolster what people in Iran know. Outsiders can help to provide access to the Internet, the medium that may be the most important means for getting information into Iran and facilitating communication among the opposition. The opposition also needs financial support from the Iranian diaspora so that dissidents can stay politically active once they have lost their jobs.

Just as important as what to do is what to avoid. Congressmen and senior administration figures should avoid meeting with the regime. Any and all help for Iran’s opposition should be nonviolent. Iran’s opposition should be supported by Western governments, not led. In this vein, outsiders should refrain from articulating specific political objectives other than support for democracy and an end to violence and unlawful detention. Sanctions on Iran’s gasoline imports and refining, currently being debated in Congress, should be pursued at the United Nations so international focus does not switch from the illegality of Iran’s behavior to the legality of unilateral American sanctions. Working-level negotiations on the nuclear question should continue. But if there is an unexpected breakthrough, Iran’s reward should be limited. Full normalization of relations should be linked to meaningful reform of Iran’s politics and an end to Tehran’s support of terrorism.

Critics will say promoting regime change will encourage Iranian authorities to tar the opposition as pawns of the West. But the regime is already doing so. Outsiders should act to strengthen the opposition and to deepen rifts among the rulers. This process is underway, and while it will take time, it promises the first good chance in decades to bring about an Iran that, even if less than a model country, would nonetheless act considerably better at home and abroad. Even a realist should recognize that it’s an opportunity not to be missed.

Which is it Mr. Haass…Is the humanitarian crisis in Libya too small or is there just too little oil? Are you a realist or just another political hack?

By: raemd95: Excerpts are quotes from Meet The Press, March 20, 2011; Enough is Enough: By Richard N. Haass, originally published in Newsweek, January 22, 2010

 

March 20, 2011 Posted by | Democracy, Dictators, Egypt, Foreign Governments, Foreign Policy, Ideologues, Iran, Libya, Military Intervention, Muslims, National Security, Neo-Cons, No Fly Zones, Obama, Politics, Qaddafi | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

   

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