Bell Curve The Law Talking Guy Raised by Republicans U.S. West
Well, he's kind of had it in for me ever since I accidentally ran over his dog. Actually, replace "accidentally" with "repeatedly," and replace "dog" with "son."

Saturday, April 25, 2009

We Don't Need a Truth Commission. We Just Need the Truth.

There are solid political reasons why President Obama would rather not publicly investigate further the former Bush administration's policy of torture. I get that. While it would be satisfying to hold former Bush administration officials to account for their role in this appalling story, however, it is far more important for President Obama to tackle personally the underlying cultural attitude that torture can be justified--and I am disappointed he has not done so in a more forceful and unambiguous manner. I would like to see him deliver a prime-time, Presidential address where he makes the following five points.

1. Torture is wrong. Torture is always wrong. Torture is never justified under any circumstances whatsoever. Torture is not necessary; it is just evil. Anyone who tells you otherwise is trying to sell you something.

2. Torture is surprisingly ineffective, and when it does work, it is slow. Case in point: they waterboarded Khalid Sheik Mohammed 183 times over the course of a month and they still got little or no actionable intelligence from him. In the real world, if you need information from someone quickly, the last technique you would want to employ is torture, especially in those concocted "ticking time bomb" scenarios of "24."

3. There are better interrogation techniques that produce faster, more reliable results than torture. For obvious reasons one should not go into details, but as an example there are certain clever psychological tricks that work very well to get people to talk, typically by playing on their emotions. And you would be astonished how much one can learn simply by providing a conducive setting and a sympathetic ear. Many fanatics have an overdeveloped sense of self-importance: They are secretly eager to brag about what they know and privately desperate justify themselves to anyone who will listen.

4. Torture is bad policy. Al Qaeda was never afraid of Abu Ghraib or Guantanamo Bay. Instead, those became Al Qaeda's best propaganda, their best recruiting posters. Torture has tarnished America's reputation around the world. An American policy of torture also greatly increases the likelihood that captured American soldiers will be tortured in retaliation. Torture is also highly illegal under both American and international law and has been so for decades.

5. Former President Bush lied to you about torture. Although in these difficult times we know we cannot afford squander the nation's effort and attention on hearings and prosecutions, we cannot afford to mince words either. Under President Bush's direct orders, Americans tortured hundreds of prisoners at Guantanamo Bay, at Abu Ghraib, at Baghram Air Force Base, and at secret CIA prisons around the world. Hundreds if not thousands more were sent to be tortured in other countries under a policy of "extraordinary rendition." As memos, facts, and figures come to light we will publish them. Only by doing so can we put an end to this dark chapter in American history.


Anonymous said...

I agree for the most part. President Obama has said a lot of what you would like him to say. I think anybody who has followed him this far, knows his position of torture. Also, I think he needs to insulate himself from this process as much as possible and he was doing so during his campaign, knowing this would happen. He has to leave it to the justice department and that is the best process because he has to 'force' the renewal of the separation of powers and restore the checks and balances back into the system as originally intended. In addition, he has his plate very full and I applaud his tremendous work ethic. I don't think we can ask a lot more of him and it also becomes somewhat hypocritical if you will allow me. One of the reasons we got here today is because we look to political leaders for moral guidance and we should never really do that. I understand more is involved in this issue than just morality, it is our very identity and being humane. However, we have to de-politicize moral issues like abortion. Also, I think we are all naive if we believe subscribe to a false fact that we have never tortured...

The Law Talking Guy said...

I actually disagree, Dr.S., about a prime-time address at this time. I think it would be viewed as partisan. Such a speech would be better after a commission uncovered more of the facts. Just as it is true that such a speech would be more effective now with the memos released than it would have been four weeks ago. The facts are changing public perceptions, no doubt about it. The defenders are shriller and fewer. John Yoo appeared on PBS many times; not anymore. Most conservatives are turning, as Cheney is, to defending torture as necessary and effective rather than denying it happened. This is another stage of the mental development we must pass through as a country. We can't get there in a single cathartic night, I don't think, as much as I would love to see that.

We need to build a consensus that this was wrong, as we (largely) did for the internment of the Japanese or Jim Crow. The process - and it is a process begins with surprising facts and images that shake the mind awake out of its slumber and conventional ways of thought. We're moving past "we don't torture." We're starting to see that more clearly now. Even those of us who knew about torture are shocked at the scope and scale being revealed. Over the next 6-12 months of hearings we will see the Loyal Bushies repeatedly discredited. Already McCain has (foolishly) said that, like Nixon's pardon, we must move on as a nation without a truth commission. Good on you, McCain. You're still sounding the GOP avoidance tactic, but you've ceded the narrative to the Democrats. That's the endgame.

Raised By Republicans said...

I think LTG may be right. It would be cathartic to have full disclosure right away. But I think there is some tactical and strategic sense in what LTG is saying. It helps our long term cause to let people like Dick Cheney make high profile arguments in favor of torture on TV and then release documents that show he's full of it. Then we move on to another step and gradually - over the course of months or so - we can reestablish the traditional American opposition to torture. But if Obama tries to do it all at once we risk provoking a backlash from the Republicans that will turn this into a partisan thing in which Republican identity is based in part on support for torture for the next 20 years.