Squaring the Culture

"...and I will make justice the plumb line, and righteousness the level;
then hail will sweep away the refuge of lies,
and the waters will overflow the secret place."
Isaiah 28:17

05/07/2009 (4:53 pm)

Oops, Can't Prosecute Those Bad, Bad Bush Lawyers

Patterico drew attention yesterday to a fine article by Andrew McCarthy, the US Attorney who prosecuted the 1993 WTC bombers, at NRO, discussing the legal reasoning early in the Bush administration that undergirded the Enhanced Interrogation Techniques. Jay Bybee was head of the White House Office of Legal Counsel, and John Yoo was his deputy, back in 2002 when the Bush administration needed advice concerning what could be done legally to question detained terrorists who might know something about imminent terror attacks. They produced the now-famous (to some, infamous) “torture memos” that the Obama administration released to the public last week. The far left wants them hauled before their state bar associations for malpractice.

According to McCarthy, making a case against them is going to be a bit difficult. You see, on April 23 of this year, just a day after Attorney General Eric Holder announced his intent to investigate Yoo, Bybee, and others, the US Justice Department filed a brief in a case in the US Sixth Circuit in Ohio, making exactly the same legal argument as was made by Yoo in the memos. The plaintiff in Demjanjuk v. Holder, a former Nazi jailer who’s been detained in the US and is fighting extradition to Germany, claims that he’ll be mistreated if he’s returned to Germany. Holder’s Justice Department argues that the UN’s Convention Against Torture (CAT) only applies if it can be proved that the Germans actively intend to do him harm. (In typical fashion for the “transparent” Obama administration, the brief disappeared from the Sixth Circuit’s web site after McCarthy aired it. But he still has a .pdf of it, if you want to read it.)

This is precisely the argument raised by Yoo and Bybee in their legal brief to the President, for which the leftie legal hounds want a pound of flesh, and it creates a problem for anybody who wants them disbarred. Apparently a legal opinion can only be called “malpractice” if the lawyers proffered an opinion that no lawyer could possibly have offered as a sound analysis. If the Justice Department is offering the same analysis, then it’s clearly not that.

It gets worse. It seems that not only is the Justice Department using the argument, but the Third Circuit has already ruled on the same argument in a case called Pierre v. Attorney General, and decided that the argument is correct. The Third Circuit heard the case en banc in 2008 (all 13 judges heard the case at the same time) and voted 10-3 that the Convention Against Torture only applies if the defendant actively intended to do the plaintiff harm.

Since the memos were all about how to conduct these practices in such a way as to cause no harm, it’s obvious on the face of things that the CAT cannot be invoked against any of the acts used by the US to interrogate its detainees. End of prosecution. Let’s all go home.

madbobBy the way, I finally located some documents describing the prosecution of Japanese officers for war crimes during WWII, in which their version of waterboarding was discussed. An acquaintance who used to post here was fond of pointing out that we prosecuted the Japanese for doing the same things we were doing. To say this was inaccurate is far too polite. The man lied to me, pure and simple. The Japanese version included waterboarding each prisoner for an average of four to six hours, while beating the prisoner; sometimes they filled their stomachs with water and then pounded on them to make them vomit. They were also prosecuted for truly heinous murders, decapitations, removal of limbs, and other vicious acts. Ann Coulter addressed this topic today in her column at Human Events, and observed correctly that

The Japanese “water cure” was to “waterboarding” as practiced at Guantanamo what rape at knifepoint is to calling your secretary “honey.”

The attempt to find something for which to prosecute the Bush administration is a dishonest game that’s been proceeding for almost 9 years now, and has absorbed literally hundreds of thousands of hours of official government time. They have found nothing in all that time. Any administration that can withstand that level of scrutiny and have nothing turn up that’s prosecutable, must have been unusually clean. It’s time to call a halt to it; if it continues, I’m in favor of prosecuting the people who are wasting government money pursuing it. Witch hunts are evil, and the people performing them are evil, too.

04/21/2009 (11:27 am)

Another Good, Meaty Prosecution Down the Drain

In a turnaround that has to have leftists around the world weeping into their Starbucks lattes, the Attorney General of Spain has decided against investigating war crimes allegations against six members of the Bush administration — for a reason people who read my comments will recognize.

In fact, I almost reported this development as an update to the War Crimes Trial for King Mohammed VI!!! post from yesterday, because reality, in this case, makes the same point that I made in the comments section following that post. It seems that prosecuting war criminals only works if you prosecute the people who actually committed the crimes.

Via Moe Lane, who scarfed it from Ed Morrissey (with my emphasis):

Spanish prosecutors will recommend against opening an investigation into whether six Bush administration officials sanctioned torture against terror suspects at Guantanamo Bay, the country’s attorney-general said Thursday.

Candido Conde-Pumpido said the case against the high-ranking U.S. officials — including former U.S. Attorney-General Alberto Gonzales — was without merit because the men were not present when the alleged torture took place.

“If one is dealing with a crime of mistreatment of prisoners of war, the complaint should go against those who physically carried it out,” Conde-Pumpido said in a breakfast meeting with journalists. He said a trial of the men would have turned Spain’s National Court “into a plaything” to be used for political ends.

As I explained to my friend Jim (darkhorse,) the entire topic — and I mean everything in the last eight years where the world “torture” was used — is a political game from the left. They’re using the consciences of good men against them as a weapon, a favorite tactic of World Socialists for the past 80 years. There are folks who genuinely care that torture is used around the world, and I believe that darkhorse is one of them, but these good-hearted folks are the unwitting dupes of very, very bad people, and are being used in a decades-long strategy aimed at killing American liberty by a thousand cuts.

The best way to deflect attempts at manipulation is to make sure the manipulators obtain none of their goals. To quote a very bright computer from a fascinating, old-school movie called War Games: “The only way to win is not to play.” For this reason, I firmly oppose any attempt to prosecute American officials for their conduct of the War on Terror, which is, in my mind, a model of American resolve, decency, and ingenuity.

So, it turns out that a real court in Spain noticed the same thing, and decided not to involve itself. Good for them. I would have preferred, though, along with Ed Morrissey, that they had decided not to get involved for an even better reason, namely that the conduct of American officials is no damned business of Spanish prosecutors, and that even raising the question is a serious insult to the sovereignty of the US, which declared its independence from European interests some two centuries ago.

Morrissey gets a nod from Lane regarding the invention of the term “Spainmas,” a reference to “Fitzmas,” the pre-Christmas giddiness that possessed leftists as they contemplated the coming gift of prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald “frog-marching Karl Rove out of the White House in handcuffs,” a Christmas that, sadly for these demented children, never came. I’m no fan of adding “gate” to the end of every scandal, either, and “Spainmas” does not have the same ring to it as “Fitzmas,” but he’s nailed the left’s emotional state, sure enough.

04/20/2009 (9:18 am)

War Crimes Trial for King Mohammed VI!!!


King Who?

King Mohammed VI, of Morocco. Let me explain.

The blog chatter late last week came mostly from the Left, and mostly concerned the release by the Obama administration of four, previously-classified memos from Bush administration officials regarding the use of harsh interrogation techniques to question highly-placed al Qaeda detainees who might have knowledge of imminent attacks. The memos documented in some detail the specifics of the techniques that were used, most likely rendering them useless for future interrogations since America’s enemies will now be prepared for them.

It’s possible that the dollar may collapse in the wake of the current administration’s grotesque overspending; it’s also possible that the US economy could collapse. Either would probably cause the world’s economy to collapse, resulting in the loss of millions of lives worldwide due to poverty and disease. Islam as a religion perpetrates the killing of hundreds of people worldwide regularly (318 killed in Islamic terrorist attacks worldwide so far this April), and Wahabist terrorists routinely threaten mass killings around the world; they continue to hunt for weapons of mass destruction with which to perpetrate larger murders. Irrational tyrants are testing intercontinental ballistic missiles possibly carrying nuclear weapons, which they might just fire at a major city someday. If global warming alarmists are correct, the world faces ecological calamity, and if they are not correct (as current research suggests,) the world faces deliberate crippling of its economic power, which will result in vast and permanent global poverty. And if none of that is bad enough, there’s a growing disaffection among American citizens regarding whether their government is behaving according to its Constitution, and a wave of immigrants threatens to undermine the ability of border states to maintain civil services. There are real, serious threats facing the world, and the nation.

And so, surrounded by very real, very frightening threats, the hard Left in America is screaming like agitated, feces-flinging gorillas about some two dozen individuals, who helped plot major terror attacks, being deliberately slammed against a soft, flexible wall designed to make a loud noise that would startle them — after having that specific technique approved for that particular detainee by some highly-placed official, with monitoring of the detainee’s vital signs to make sure there would be no permanent damage. Or having them squat in an uncomfortable position for no more than four hours. Or making them stand undressed in a room with temperature certified to be no less than 64 degrees Fahrenheit, making them feel embarrassed. This is the defining issue of the Bush administration, to these moral and intellectual giants — whether 28 individuals were treated in this manner.

Have they gone insane?

I’m pretty sure they have, and I’m not using hyperbole. The agitation with which the hard Left regards the possible mistreatment of some two dozen anti-American terrorists in our custody over the past 8 years constitutes a moral inversion of truly astonishing proportions. I’ve read portions of the memos, including the descriptions of the techniques. Americans are pussycats. The first, general definition of “torture” mentioned in the memos rests on the phrase, “acts that shock the conscience.” The only thing about the techniques in these memos that shocks my conscience is how much effort the Bush administration spent evaluating whether it was proper to do these things, and when, and under what circumstances. It’s shockingly decent. It’s virtue in unheard-of proportions. Can you imagine any other government of any nation anywhere in the world, at any time in human history, writing hundreds of thousands of words, spending hundreds of hours evaluating laws, investing thousands of hours of psychologists’, doctors’, and engineers’ time designing techniques that would not hurt anybody, but would achieve the desired result of making them tell us what they knew of plans to harm us? What sort of people fret over when and whether it’s permissible for a questioner to slam one of their sworn enemies against a wall — a fake wall, carefully engineered to prevent him from bumping his head — to thwart a deadly calamity like the WTC attack? The Bush administration was careful in a manner practically unheard of in human history.

After reading these memos, I am deeply, deeply proud of my country, and of my government. These are good men who did the right thing with a very difficult problem. There is still much good in America.

There is simply no rational explanation for the level of anger on the political Left regarding this topic. The only plausible explanation is irrational hatred gone out of control; they wanted so badly for so long to find something, anything, with which to justify their inner, uncontrollable hatred for this one man, President George W. Bush, that they are now pretending that something unusually decent is something unusually indecent — in a world filled with real indecency. The people who engaged in this charade, and who continue to engage in it, need help. They’re simply and completely insane; and because their insanity is pushing them, by the thousands, toward insisting on world-approved war crimes prosecution for some of the most morally sound leaders in human history, they’re extremely dangerous.

So, what’s all this got to do with King Mohammed VI of Morocco?

Well, one of the more alarming incidents that people point to who want to prosecute the Bush administration for war crimes is the case of one Binyam Mohamed, whose case is currently being heard in British courts. When people I know were challenged to produce evidence of torture, it was Binyam Mohamed’s case to which they pointed. Mr. Mohamed was detained in Pakistan while boarding a flight to the UK bearing a legal passport belonging to somebody else, but with his own picture inserted over the photo. He’d been weapons-trained by al Qaeda operatives at a camp in Afghanistan, and is alleged to have been involved in a “dirty bomb” plot. Mr. Mohamed testifies that he was questioned improperly in Pakistan by MI5 operatives, then rendered by the CIA to Morocco, then to Afghanistan, and finally to Guantanamo Bay in Cuba, courtesy of the US government. And while imprisoned in Morocco, testifies Binyam Mohamed, he had his penis sliced with a scalpel 30 times.

Now, let’s ignore for the sake of argument the fact that we have in writing instructions given to al Qaeda members training them to make horrific claims of torture if they’re captured and held, for the sake of propaganda. And let’s ignore for the sake of argument that the British court has not even evaluated the evidence supporting this man’s claim yet, they’ve simply ruled on whether certain evidence is going to be allowed. And let’s ignore for the sake of argument the fact that there’s no public evidence supporting the claim that this man’s manly bits have been damaged, or that if they were, they were damaged where and by whom he’s accusing. And let’s ignore for the sake of argument the fact that the man has no legally supportable reason to infer that any of this has the slightest to do with the US. Let’s ignore all that, and assume he’s telling the truth (and let me be plain, I don’t think any rational person should believe that for a millisecond.)

It was in the Moroccan prison that the penis slicing allegedly occurred. If the most outlandish claims of the Leftist Torture Poo Flingers are correct, the CIA deliberately transferred this poor, innocent British subject to Morocco specifically for the purpose of letting the Moroccans do what Moroccan torturers do. This means that it’s known that in Morocco, you get tortured in prison. This would also be true of other, barbaric places to which the CIA deliberately transferred prisoners.

So, there are prisons all over the world where the keepers engage in acts like slicing prisoners’ penises with scalpels, and everybody seems to know it.

exaspbobAnd for this reason, the Poo Flinging Geniuses want to prosecute… drum roll, please… George W. Bush.

Will somebody please explain to me why these Protectors of the World’s Conscience are not calling for the war crimes prosecution of the King of Morocco, under whose inspiring leadership prisons have been constructed in which Bad Cops around the world can count on prisoners having their favored bits sliced thin? Or for the prosecution of Hamid Karzai, President of Afghanistan, under whose leadership Binyam Mohamed was mistreated? Or for the prosecution of Pervez Musharraf, the Prime Minister in Pakistan under whose leadership Mohamed had interrogators play Russian roulette with him, claiming out loud “the Americans told us to treat you this way,” and then had them turn him over to the CIA? (The assertion about the Americans is particularly hilarious. Seriously — can you imagine an interrogator informing his subject who told him what to do? or a subject believing it even they did? or one remembering that specific detail? Binyam’s claim about this was alleged by the raving communist loons at theworldcantwait.net, who you can read about at discoverthenetworks.)

My conscience is shocked by penis-slicing prison keepers. That’s repulsive. And yes, there are plenty of places in the world where humans do such shocking things to other humans. I have no argument whatsoever with people who genuinely, in good conscience, want to go to places where people are treated in this manner and convince them not to do it. If I believed that the American left genuinely had the eradication of world mistreatment of prisoners in mind with their activism, I would at least applaud that concern; and if I thought they had a legitimate means of making it happen, I’d probably support them, both financially and verbally. Furthermore, if it were the case that the US had willfully sent prisoners to Morocco for the express purpose of being tortured, I’d favor the prosecution of those who sent them — as accessories to the actual crimes committed by the Moroccans, and after the Moroccans had been duly prosecuted and convicted. And if it were the case that the US had sent prisoners to Morocco for sound reasons but discovered after the fact that they’d been tortured, I’d argue against sending any more prisoners to Morocco — and call for the prosecution of the Moroccan jailers.

The fact that they’re going absolutely berserk over this topic here in America, and using it to insist on the prosecution of George W. Bush, proves beyond even unreasonable doubt, let alone reasonable doubt, that their goal in all this has Abso.Bloody.Lutely nothing to do with concern over torture, and everything to do with irrational hatred of George W. Bush. Real torture regimes have existed all along, and not anywhere controlled by the US. These activists should be calling for King Mohammed’s head, not George Bush’s. They’re not, ergo torture is not their concern. QED.

It’s really fairly simple, and it’s been clear for at least 40 years. The one government that stands in the path of World Socialism is the United States government, and really, it only does so when it’s in the hands of Republicans. For this reason, socialists worldwide have been systematically, consistently attempting to demonize American government, and especially Republican American government, in any way possible for most of our lifetimes. The agitation over “torture” (which is, truly, anything but torture) is part and parcel of that effort, and to the extent that any citizen in the United States has participated in the agitation, they are either dupes of World Socialists, or partners with them. The Democratic party of the United States as a whole has absorbed more of the assumptions of World Socialism than most Democrats realize, and for that reason most American Democrats cooperate unconsciously with World Socialism, but that’s what this is about. Otherwise, we’d be banging the drum for sanctioning of Morocco, Pakistan, and Afghanistan at the UN, not banging the drum for lynching George W. Bush and John Yoo. Who the hell is John Yoo, anyhow?

We cannot allow the legacy of Bush Derangement to simply slide unremarked into the past. This is the era during which political partisanship took on horrific and dangerous proportions in America. Seemingly ordinary folks became obsessed and enraged with irrational hatred, and used that hatred to tear the nation to pieces. This is beyond ordinary, allowable disagreement. They’re calling for war crimes trials, not just for the Innocent, but for the Good. To continue to pretend that what separates us in the American body politic is simply disagreement between ordinary citizens of equivalent good will is delusional. We need to recognize the level of insanity, and we need to protect ourselves, and it cannot be done within the existing American republic. They’ve gone nuts over there on the left, and they’re going to harm us with it.

02/02/2009 (1:30 pm)

Obama Embraces Extraordinary Rendition

It was during the Clinton years that America began the practice of sending international prisoners — prisoners detained because of their connection to international terrorists — to foreign nations so they could be interrogated regarding what they knew about their own network of co-terrorists. This practice, called extraordinary rendition, has always been troubling because the nations to which we send these prisoners are far more likely than we are to torture or simply murder their prisoners. The Bush administration asserted rules regarding rendition, and constructed interrogation facilities of its own to handle prisoners captured during the worldwide war against Wahabist radicals.

Now the Obama administration has announced its plans to close the detention facility at Guantanamo Bay and all the secret CIA detention facilities around the world. Over the weekend, however, reporters noticed that Obama’s Executive Orders regarding the handling of prisoners left open the possibility of extraordinary rendition.

From the LA Times:

Under executive orders issued by Obama recently, the CIA still has authority to carry out what are known as renditions, secret abductions and transfers of prisoners to countries that cooperate with the United States.

Current and former U.S. intelligence officials said that the rendition program might be poised to play an expanded role going forward because it was the main remaining mechanism — aside from Predator missile strikes — for taking suspected terrorists off the street…

“Obviously you need to preserve some tools — you still have to go after the bad guys,” said an Obama administration official, speaking on condition of anonymity when discussing the legal reasoning. “The legal advisors working on this looked at rendition. It is controversial in some circles and kicked up a big storm in Europe. But if done within certain parameters, it is an acceptable practice…”

Despite concern about rendition, Obama’s prohibition of many other counter-terrorism tools could prompt intelligence officers to resort more frequently to the “transitory” technique.

Rightward blogs that picked up on it are commenting wryly about the inconsistency, or in Moe Lane’s case at Red State, practically screaming in rage. I understand the irony here, but my concern touches problems beyond the mere inconsistency of leftists.

Simply put, we’re stuck with using the worst of our interrogation tools, and we’re increasing rather than decreasing the likelihood that our detainees will be mistreated.

From the LA Times again:

CIA veterans involved in renditions characterized the program as important but of limited intelligence-gathering use. It is used mainly for terrorism suspects not considered valuable enough for the CIA to keep, they said.

“The reason we did interrogations [ourselves] is because renditions for the most part weren’t very productive,” said a former senior CIA official who spoke on condition of anonymity because of the sensitive nature of the subject.

The most valuable intelligence on Al Qaeda came from prisoners who were in CIA custody and questioned by agency experts, the official said. Once prisoners were turned over to Egypt, Jordan or elsewhere, the agency had limited influence over how much intelligence was shared, how prisoners were treated and whether they were later released.

“In some ways, [rendition] is the worst option,” the former official said. “If they are in U.S. hands, you have a lot of checks and balances, medics and lawyers. Once you turn them over to another service, you lose control.”

CIA seems to know pretty well how to interrogate prisoners. It’s not clear that our foreign neighbors are as good at this as we are. If they are, though, they don’t always tell us what they’ve discovered. Either way, it’s hit or miss regarding whether we get intelligence back.

More troubling is the torture aspect. The notion that the Bush administration chose to engage in full-scale torture is laughable; as far as we know, the total amount of time prisoners have spent on the waterboard while in US custody is around 5 minutes. That’s not five minutes per prisoner; it’s five minutes total for the entire program. On the contrary, most of our interrogation tactics are completely benign. One of the more common tactics involves sitting the prisoner in a La-Z-Boy recliner, giving him cold drinks, and having a grandmotherly woman ask him questions. I know this sounds like “the Comfy Chair” from Monty Python’s Spanish Inquisition skit, but I’m not joking; the La-Z-Boy is offered as a reward for cooperation, and apparently works pretty well on some detainees.

I’m sure President Obama is sincere regarding his concern that prisoners not be tortured, or at least, as sincere as he knows how to be; it seems likely to me, though, that he’s naive about foreign nations’ willingness to keep their word regarding treatment of prisoners we turn over. When we’re interrogating prisoners ourselves, we have control of the process, and can limit the cruelty. We lose that control when we send prisoners elsewhere. This is why the humane policy of a humane nation required that we build the detention facilities; the Bush administration was protecting civility.

I know there are those among us who don’t care about prisoners being tortured by American personnel, who point to the suffering of the victims of the terrorists’ plans and say the prisoners should suffer as much as the victims. I’m not among them. My own position is that we’re justified in doing what we need to do in order to keep ourselves safe, but wise and moral to put in place the checks and balances that prevent excesses. The danger that we could someday become as cruel as our adversaries is real, and the restraint built into the system is the proof that we’ve not fallen so far.

It’s ironic that the liberal policy that claims to be restoring civility is actually likely to result in greater brutality to the detainees, while providing less information with which to secure our safety. This is hardly an unusual irony from liberal policies, though; it’s unfortunately the rule rather than the exception that liberal policies produce the opposite of that at which they aim, but make liberals feel morally superior in the process. With the left, it’s all about appearances, whereas with the right it’s more often about results.

More to the point, the building of our own interrogation mechanism was a hard decision that needed to be made, and President Bush had the courage to make it; first President Clinton, and now President Obama, display cowardice by avoiding the hard decision and simply pawning the responsibility for harsh interrogation onto foreigners.

All that said, I am curious to see whether the leftists who shrieked for Cheney’s head on a platter will raise a finger of objection to Obama’s hedging on rolling back the “regime of torture.” I’m not holding my breath, though. In the discussion I had with a progressive blogger on the subject, he acknowledged that Democratic Congressmen were hypocrites to have privately approved the interrogation regimen and then publicly to have denounced them, but he failed to notice that this made those Congressmen liable for prosecution along with the Vice President. If Cheney actually committed war crimes or violated American law by endorsing “torture,” then the Congressmen providing oversight surely made themselves accessories to those crimes by approving the procedures, and should likewise be prosecuted. I’ve heard no calls for prosecuting Democrats, though, and I don’t expect to.

01/12/2009 (6:34 pm)

Obama Punts on "Torture"

JustOneMinute has a revealing recitation of President-elect Obama’s recent statements concerning “enhanced interrogation” and the prisons for captured terrorists at Guantanamo Bay. It seems that reporters asking direct questions are not getting direct answers. Here’s a clip from George Stephanopoulos’ interview with Obama from Sunday:

STEPHANOPOULOS: Vice President Cheney has been giving a series of exit interviews and he told Mark Nolan(ph) of CBS that the Bush counterterrorism policies have definitely made the United States safer. And he added this piece of advice for you.


DICK CHENEY: Before you start to implement your campaign rhetoric you need to sit down and find out precisely what it is we did and how we did it. Because it is going to be vital to keeping the nation safe and secure in the years ahead and it would be a tragedy if they threw over those policies simply because they’ve campaigned against them.


STEPHANOPOULOS: Are you going to take it?

OBAMA: I think that was pretty good advice, which is I should know what’s going on before we make judgments and that we shouldn’t be making judgments on the basis of incomplete information or campaign rhetoric. So, I’ve got no quibble with that particular quote. I think if Vice President Cheney were here he and I would have some significant disagreements on some things that we know happened.

STEPHANOPOULOS: You would say for example?

OBAMA: For example, Vice President Cheney I think continues to defend what he calls extraordinary measures or procedures when it comes to interrogations and from my view waterboarding is torture. I have said that under my administration we will not torture.

STEPHANOPOULOS: How about them taking that to the next step. Right now the CIA has a special program, would you require that that program — basically every government interrogation program be under the same standard, be in accordance with the army field manual?

OBAMA: My general view is that our United States military is under fire and has huge stakes in getting good intelligence. And if our top army commanders feel comfortable with interrogation techniques that are squarely within the boundaries of rule of law, our constitution and international standards, then those are things that we should be able to (INAUDIBLE)

STEPHANOPOULOS: So no more special CIA program?

OBAMA: I’m not going to lay out a particular program because again, I thought that Dick Cheney’s advice was good, which is let’s make sure we know everything that’s being done.

The President-elect offers an obligatory recitation of the mantra — “I will not torture” — but does not say he’s going to change a single thing about the existing interrogation regime. Similarly, he says he’ll move immediately to close the prison at Guantanamo Bay, but does not say precisely what he’ll do with its prisoners, and leaves himself an indefinite time period to figure it out.

STEPHANOPOULOS: You also agreed on Guantanamo when you say you want to shut it down. You say you’re still going to shut it down. Is it turning out to be harder than you expected, will you get that done in the first 100 days?

OBAMA: It is more difficult than I think a lot of people realize and we are going to get it done but part of the challenge that you have is that you have a bunch of folks that have been detained, many of whom who may be very dangerous who have not been put on trial or have not gone through some adjudication. And some of the evidence against them may be tainted even though it’s true. And so how to balance creating a process that adheres to rule of law, habeas corpus, basic principles of Anglo American legal system, by doing it in a way that doesn’t result in releasing people who are intent on blowing us up.

This is actually pretty good news. My one hope for the Obama administration was that the job would change the man, and that actually appears to be happening here. He’s got his smokescreen in place regarding terrorists, but behind it, it looks as though he’s letting the professionals tell him what’s needed, and he doesn’t have the cojones to buck them, not when the outcome might be another 9/11-type incident, or at least another USS Cole. As JustOneMinute predicts, I expect we’ll see a “no water boarding” law (which is a useless, symbolic gesture since water boarding has not been used since 2002) but a continuation of existing interrogation policy in the background. Watch for the issue to simply and quietly vanish, as Democrats will not want to prove out in the open that they never really believed the horse manure they were throwing.

Oh, and did you notice how Cheney accused them of not knowing what they were talking about? I always liked him…

12/28/2008 (7:47 pm)

Harsh Interrogation

An exchange that began on 12/17 or so with a progressive blogger has had me tied up with the question of whether, and how, harsh interrogation of prisoners is justified in the ongoing war on terror. There’s a lengthy discussion attached to the post entitled “Those Who Make the Hard Decisions.” I’m recounting here the final argument of that discussion, making the case that the government’s choices have been responsible and properly within the bounds of moral behavior.

Two articles are necessary to understand this part of the discussion. The first is an outstanding but occasionally snarky analysis of the ambiguity attached to deciding which interrogation techniques are appropriate and which are not, by a professor (he does not say what subject he professes) who describes himself as a liberal Democrat. I reproduce the core of his argument in my own words, but his discussion is worth reviewing.

The second recounts two instances of harsh interrogation, one by a German Police Chief who afterwards got tried by the European Court of Human Rights on a torture complaint, the other requested by CIA interrogators at Guantanamo Bay but denied by higher-ups. One important thing to notice in the article is the fact that the German policeman, while convicted on a lesser charge of “inhuman treatment,” was not punished by the Court. The fact that he applied a rough tactic to obtain in seconds the whereabouts of a boy’s body from a kidnapper who had been lying to the police for hours under less stressful questioning, apparently convinced the Court that his behavior was not the sort of thing they wanted to punish. Another important feature is the detail about the formal categories of harshness in the US’ interrogation regimen at Guantanamo, even as early as 2002. These categories will play a role in the argument, below.

When we speak of illegal acts that are immoral by their very nature, we’re talking of things that are usually pretty clearly defined. Murder, for example, is relatively simple (but still not without it’s gray areas.) The act in question is deliberate killing. The victim is either dead, or not. The person killing the victim either has a legal right to do so, or not. Most of the disputable areas can be settled by clear findings of fact.

The same is true of theft. The act in question is taking possession or ownership of an item. Either the person takes possession, or he does not. He either has a right to possession, or he does not. There are gray areas, but the act can be clearly defined, and usually clear findings of fact settle the gray areas.

When leftists speak of US interrogation techniques, they invariably use the term “torture.” Torture is not an act like murder or theft, and in fact is not even the subject of the discussion; it’s a red herring. There is such a thing as deliberate infliction of pain on, say, kidnap victims, for the sake of pain or entertainment. The act of deliberately detaining someone and causing them pain for pain’s sake is certainly torture, and is certainly illegal. Inasmuch as US military personnel practice such things (as occurred at Abu Graib,) they are prosecutable, and ought to be. I will not defend such behavior; it is indefensible.

However, most of what’s being discussed with respect to US detention of prisoners has nothing to do with such excesses. The act we’re talking about is “interrogation,” not “torture.” There is simply no question that interrogation is legal; it is. It’s also necessary. Nobody disputes this. There is a valid discussion to be held regarding what techniques are appropriate for interrogation, and in what circumstances. To speak of “torture,” in this context, does nothing but obscure the relevant questions — which is why leftists do it. People who speak of “torture” are usually attempting to co-opt reasonable debate by using emotionally-charged language, which is the opposite of sound reasoning. Calling this a discussion about “torture” actually commits the fallacy called “poisoning the well,” since much torture has nothing to do with interrogation, and most interrogation has nothing to do with torture.

To understand the issue at hand, one should imagine making a scale of interrogation techniques in order to decide which are appropriate and which are not. We can start at “1” with seating the detainee in a comfy chair with a glass of scotch, and asking him sly questions. Something like chopping off a foot and threatening to chop off the other if the victim won’t talk lands somewhere near 90; we’ll call beating to death 100.

Now, let’s draw an arbitrary point in the middle — say, 50 — and say that higher numbers are immoral, and lower numbers are not. The reasonable question to ask is, what act would we call “49” on this scale? No, saying “Whatever you think, waterboarding is 65 and immoral” begs the question, and the people who jump to this are deliberately trying to avoid the discussion. What, precisely, constitutes 49, and what constitutes 51, and what’s the difference? The ambiguity of the problem becomes immediately apparent to the objective observer when they consider such questions. Clearly, there’s an increasing continuum in the direction of harshness, and at some point somebody has to draw an arbitrary line and say “This is far enough.” The continuum might pass through seating the prisoner on a hard chair facing a bank of bright lights, to denying him water for two hours, to making him stand for four hours, to slapping his stomach with an open palm, to shouting dire threats into his face, to extended periods in a cold, wet room, and so on. Somebody has to decide which acts are more harsh than which; the order, like the line which constitutes the harshest permissible tactic, is arbitrary.

International treaties do make an attempt to define where these marks are, but they’re necessarily vague, using phrases like “cruel, inhuman, or degrading” to describe prohibited treatment. It’s frequently up to the court to decide whether a particular act fits the category. Moreover, the recent German case mentioned at the top of the article illustrates that there are other factors that can affect the criteria. For instance, the urgency of the situation changes the equation; techniques that are higher up the “improper interrogation” scale become more acceptable when, say, a kidnapped child’s life might be in the balance, as in the German case. Also, the importance of what’s being saved affects the equation; more violent techniques that would not be appropriate when attempting to find, say, some Wall Street broker’s secret bank account, become more appropriate if there’s a plot to murder tens of thousands of people. The fact that waterboarding probably prevented a 9/11-style attack on the Library Tower in Los Angeles obviously mitigates whatever might be said about the barbarity of waterboarding.

There are good examples of attempts to identify which acts an interrogator might use fall into which spot on the scale. One such example exists in the CIA’s interrogation regimen that they’re using on terrorists. The linked article illustrates a case where Category I and II acts are permitted, but Category III acts require special approval — and are denied. The scale that they’ve implemented traverses a whole range of increasingly rough tactics, and comes complete with levels of oversight and responsibility; the higher on the “hard interrogation” scale, the greater the degree of oversight.

The existence of the hierarchy and the oversight, as well as the clear record of a discussion within the current administration to answer the question posed by CIA interrogation experts, “What are we permitted to do, and what are we forbidden?” makes it clear that the administration has been thoroughly responsible regarding this topic, attempting to devise a balanced system that protects the rights of the prisoners but permits more stringent interrogations when demanded by the circumstances. The fact that the most extreme tactics, like waterboarding, have only been used on a few occasions demonstrates that the system works to limit harsh treatment, and testifies to a good-faith effort to remain within the bounds of humanity. The administration, far from deserving condemnation and prosecution, should be commended for holding to high standards while successfully protecting the nation.

In order to be cogent in their criticism, critics of the Bush administration must believe that they drew the line between acceptable and unacceptable questioning in the wrong place. It is entirely fair to ask them where they, the critics, believe the line should have been drawn, and then to make them explain in legal and moral terms the difference between their endpoint (let’s say, 42 on our 1-100 scale) and the CIA’s endpoint (say, 55). Of course, they seldom answer such questions, as many of them have never considered the matter as a continuum of increasingly harsh treatments, some of which are acceptable and some not.

On the contrary, they’re actually claiming something a lot more unbelievable than just “They drew the line in the wrong place.” Not only do they think the line was drawn in the wrong place, they believe there exists an absolute moral precipice between where they, the critics, would draw the line and where Cheney & Co draw it. They think that at their safe 42, they’re strolling in moral purity, earning the kudos of the moral universe, but that somewhere between that point and 55, Cheney has fallen off an immense cliff, from moral purity into the deepest depths of degradation so obviously immoral that nations cannot tolerate the very thought of it. Once we’ve taken pejorative terms like “torture” out of the picture and explained the progressive scale of interrogation we’re examining, the claim simply becomes a joke; they can’t possibly be serious, no such precipice exists. Some harsh acts are permitted, others forbidden, but the line between them is more or less arbitrary, and the differences are differences only of degree. And if the cowards among them retreat their line to an obviously safe spot — like, anything beyond the Comfy Chair and the glass of scotch is over the cliff — we snort and put them on “ignore”; again, they can’t possibly be serious, and no nation on the planet adheres to such a standard, nor should they.

What’s obvious here is that they’re not engaging in sound thinking at all, but playing some sort of game. The Back Talk blog that I linked to at the top of this article calls their position “moral exhibitionism,” asserting that they’re simply trying to buttress their own egos by asserting moral superiority. Tammy Bruce makes a similar diagnosis, calling these folks “malignant narcissists.” For many, I think, that’s all it is — they’re infants in adult bodies, playing at “I’m better than you, nyah nyah.”

But for others, it’s something a lot more sinister. These began a process about 8 years ago that said this: “The Republicans have made our Democratic President look like a moral cretin. We have to make theirs look worse.” I recall dozens of progressives saying precisely that, in writing (ignoring the simple fact that it was the Democratic President who made himself look like a moral cretin, and the Republicans were simply doing their jobs.) The process has proceeded without ceasing for the last 8 years, with a clear intent to criminalize any normal aspect of governance that could possibly be made to look criminal. Phrases like “a secret legal cabal” to describe the President’s ordinary consultation with his private attorney makes it clear that that’s what’s being done. This is not analysis, nor principled opposition (though such opposition is possible and does exist). The fact is that the Democrats in Congress were briefed more than 30 times on the interrogation regimen, and most of them approved it heartily; their moral preening on the subject today is rank hypocrisy, and an exercise in political theater aimed at fooling the voting population into voting Democrat. It’s the rot at the heart of the tree of liberty. Such people are dangerous. This, and not Cheney’s responsible governance, is an evil worth opposing.

12/19/2008 (6:45 am)

Those Who Make the Hard Decisions

Watch the video, above, from a few days ago, in which Vice President Dick Cheney acknowledges that he was consulted concerning the procedure for questioning Khalid Sheik Muhammed.

I got engaged in a conversation with a progressive about Barack Obama’s habitual lying and his possible involvement in Gov. Rod Blogojevich’s Senate seat auction, and the fellow pointed to this event and suggested that I was focused on fairly ordinary human failings when there was significant evil afoot. The man is a Christian, and accused me of “straining at gnats, and swallowing camels;” for those of you not familiar with the New Testament, he’s quoting Jesus’ indictment of religious hypocrites from a sect called the Pharisees, and accusing me of a pretty serious moral failure. It led me to ruminate for a day or two, prayerfully, over what we mean when we use the word “evil,” and how it applies to national leaders. Joe, if you’re reading this, please understand that I did not take your challenge lightly at all, nor is this a reflexive response; but you’re wrong.

Progressives around the country are practically exploding because Vice President Cheney acknowledged that he was involved in the discussion regarding what could and could not be done to the terrorists in custody in order to discover what they knew about al Qaeda’s plans and operations. The discussions were carried out according to the law of the land, with oversight by the appropriate Congressmen, and the program of interrogation was approved, waterboarding and all. Cheney observes correctly that the Bush administration has achieved remarkable success in preventing further attacks against the US by terrorists, once having been delivered a cataclysmic wake-up call on Sept. 11, 2001.

Did the approved procedure include acts that could properly be called evil? I think so.

Harry Truman, as President, ordered men to fly over a foreign city in an airplane and throw an object out of the plane that immediately incinerated the entire city — men, women, children, pets, dolls, hairbrushes, taxicabs, everything burned to a crisp. Thousands of survivors died of horrible diseases in the aftermath, and were continuing to die for about the next 25 years. Truman did this twice. He decorated the individuals who performed this act on his behalf, raising them to hero status.

Was that evil? Ignore the context for the moment, and just look at the act. Was it evil? I hope there’s no question about it. It was an unspeakable evil. Angels wept. So did millions of men and women around the globe. It was so stark an evil that succeeding generations have bent themselves into pretzels to make sure such a thing never happens again. Allow yourselves to feel the enormity of it for a moment.

Franklin Roosevelt, as President, engaged in the planning of acts that included things like this: an American man walked up to a concrete building full of men on the beach in France, stuck a pipe into the room and filled it with jellied gas, and then lit the gas, burning the men slowly and painfully to death (think flame-throwers and concrete bunkers.) Was that evil? If you didn’t think so, I would think you were not civilized.

Abraham Lincoln had somewhat less advanced technology to work with. He planned events that included Americans running up to other Americans on American soil, screaming like banshees, and jamming 18-inch-long stakes of sharpened metal through the other man’s body, causing the victim to die slowly of internal injuries over the next several hours (think of a bayonet charge.) Was that evil? Of course it was. When I think about things like this, I thank God — seriously — that I’ve never had to do such a thing to another man.

Adding the context does not necessarily help, especially if you’re trying to make it sound monstrous. Lincoln ordered this atrocity a hundred thousand times over, simply to prevent several states from carrying out a political decision they had every right to make. He had no Constitutional authority to prevent the southern states from leaving the Union. He ordered men by the hundreds of thousands to burn, pillage, stab, shoot, pulverize, route, and imprison other Americans simply to prevent a political divorce. We celebrate his birthday because he did that. Roosevelt ordered those millions of atrocious acts to stop one European leader from coercing other European leaders. The Germans never attacked us directly, nor were they any sort of immediate threat to us; we could easily have let the Europeans settle their own disputes, and made a treaty with Hitler to keep him on the other side of the Atlantic Ocean. Truman ordered his atrocity to avoid the unpleasantness of invading another country’s homeland. We could have blockaded them, and continued to engage their vanishing navy indefinitely, rather than incinerate hundreds of thousands of civilians.

It’s easy to make these things sound monstrous because, in fact, they are monstrous. War itself is evil. Never mind the necessity; God weeps when men go to war. The suffering produced by human violence, even violence justified by political necessity, creates an eternal weight of shame so great that God, Himself, had to suffer and die to atone for it. And even among those men whom God accepted, the Old Testament records that God would not permit King David to build a temple for Him because David was a man of war, and had too much blood on his hands. God does not take war lightly.

We do things inside ourselves to accommodate these evil acts, because at some level we believe the causes in which they were committed were just. We elevate the moral necessity of protecting our homes and families. We recognize our obligation to serve the nation that protects our liberties and permits our prosperity. We erect elaborate moral constructs to ennoble liberating enslaved or oppressed fellow-humans in other countries, and imagine that we hope they would do the same for us if our roles were reversed. Soldiers who have served in combat sometimes testify that they committed their unspeakable acts of violence mostly to honor their brotherhood to the man standing next to them. Is this enough? As a civilization, and possibly to our eternal shame, we believe that it is.

For the men at the time of the Civil War, there was a national covenant before God that made the preservation of the Union worth fighting for. We may not understand that sense of urgency from our modern point of view, but we can honor their commitment and devotion (no, the Civil War was not fought to abolish slavery; that was a military tactic and a side effect.) We certainly understand, from our modern point of view, the corrosive evil that Nazi Germany represented, and do not regret the atrocious acts we committed attempting to free the world from that terror (and, yes, American servicemen committed acts like waterboarding, and worse.) The Japanese did, in fact, threaten and attack us, and needed to be pushed back. The bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki probably prevented an invasion that would have resulted in casualties numbered in the millions.

None of this eliminates the evil of the acts committed in the pursuit of those ends. Sometimes we call on our Presidents, Vice Presidents, Congressmen, or Secretaries of Defense to engage in evil acts on our behalf, or to order us to commit evil acts. Sometimes it’s necessary. That’s part of living in a fallen world. Ultimately, we permit such evil in order to prevent even greater evils from occurring. As Ernest Hemingway once observed, there are worse things than war, and they happen after defeat.

If Dick Cheney, or any other American for that matter, engaged in acts of cruelty solely for the sake of enjoying the cruelty — if, say, they ordered that Khalid Sheik Muhammed’s fingers be cut off with a pruning shear just because they did not like him — I would want them punished severely. There’s never any reason for sadistic pleasure; schadenfreude is deep sin. That’s not what happened, though. Allowing fierce interrogation of prisoners, as part of a larger program of interrogation aimed at preventing Muslim radicals from hijacking airplanes full of civilians and flying them into buildings, I regard as a sensible part of the conduct of war. Yes, it’s evil. War is evil. I wish we didn’t have to do it, but the 1990s showed us what would happen if we avoided the evil of war; we suffered an escalating pattern of violence against ourselves that was only going to get worse. Those of us who read history recall the Muslim invasions of Europe and North Africa, and recognize that what we’re facing is not so different from what they faced. We’re protecting our homes and our civilization.

There are those tender-hearted souls among us who cannot make themselves watch the horrors of war, and who lack the inner fortitude to do the necessary things to protect home, country, virtue, or humanity from the corrosive evils that attack us. Rep Jane Harmon (D, CA) was the only Congressperson to object to the program of interrogation outlined by the CIA during the legal evaluation of the War on Terror; she is one of those tender-hearted persons, and she has my respect for her stand of conscience. There are others who, out of religious conviction from traditions that condemn violence, refuse to participate in the conduct of war. There must remain a place among us for those whose soul or conscience cannot stand the violence necessary for sound national defense. These people are honorable.

Most of those who are calling Dick Cheney “evil,” however, are not honorable in this fashion. On the contrary; they participated in an 8-year-long, full-throated, whole-hearted attempt to make every ordinary act of governance seem criminal. The biblical name for this behavior is “perverting justice,” and I cannot respect the moral sense of anyone who regards such wholesale perversion of justice as small potatoes. Their goal was partisan; some wanted power or office for Democratic politicians, others wanted to persuade the culture to abandon the Western tradition of virtue in order to produce a different world. Theirs is not conscientious objection; on the contrary, theirs is an act of bald treason. They deliberately, knowledgeably, and systematically, by means of propaganda, attempted to cause our nation to be defeated morally and politically before our enemies in the eyes of the world. They defend their treason by pretending they belong to the group I described in the last paragraph, but they lie; they are as different from those honorable people as night is from day. They are our enemies, and in a sane world, they would be punished.

I honestly don’t know to which group the fellow belongs with whom I was holding the discussion. I hope for his sake that it’s the former, and not the latter. I simply know that there’s no shame, nor sin, in defending the hard decisions leaders have to make in order to protect a nation from its enemies. Sometimes their decisions result in armies committing acts of violence that make the angels weep. Sometimes they make mistakes. Always, the innocent suffer. War is a horrible thing; but wars are fought among men, and not only should we honor the men who have to fight them, we should honor the leaders who surrender their clear consciences to make the hard decisions during those wars. Attempting to make criminals of them perverts justice, and endangers us all.

08/08/2008 (4:37 pm)

Cause for Civil War

Byron York on Wednesday wrote about an interview he noticed from this year’s Netroots Nation convention last month in Austin, TX. David Kurtz from leftist blog Talking Points Memo interviewed Dahlia Lithwick of Slate.com concerning a serious discussion that had taken place at the conference about how to hold the Bush administration accountable for “war crimes” and “violations of the law.”

I’ve embedded the YouTube video of the interview, but you might not want to watch it. Personally, I couldn’t get through any 2 minutes of it without pausing it and having to leave the room to go vent somewhere. It’s about 10 minutes long. Two intelligent-sounding individuals are discussing calmly how to go about prosecuting the Bush administration for the heinous act of carefully examining the law and attempting to pursue sound defense policy without violating it. Lithwick actually claimed that the most pernicious aspect of the Bush administration’s behavior was how they deliberately chose locations for foreign combatants that were outside the jurisdictions of US courts, and appointed District and Circuit Court judges who were friendly to their interpretation of the law, as though this was a prosecutable war crime. How this differs from the behavior of Democrats (discounting for the moment the clear violations of law under Democratic leadership, like the 1996 campaign finance scandal) is beyond me. And then they discuss how the nation will be “unrecognizable” if McCain appoints two or three more judges like Scalia and Roberts, who actually believe that the Constitution’s authors meant precisely what they wrote.

This is just the tip of a very ugly iceberg that’s been floating into the harbor for a while now. The Left, if it gains power, seriously intends to prosecute the Bush administration for what amount to policy differences. Barack Obama actually stated his intent to at least consider doing so in an interview with the Philadelphia Daily News back in April, when he was still trying to outflank Hillary Clinton on the left. The American Thinker wrote about it a few months later, and quoted Obama at length, including this:

…one of the things we’ve got to figure out in our political culture generally is distinguishing between really dumb policies and policies that rise to the level of criminal activity.

Hey, I’ve actually said that I thought certain Democratic policies are “criminally stupid,” but I didn’t actually mean I wanted to prosecute them for it. Obama, however, means exactly what he says. Discussions here at The Blue Voice, here at Salon.com, and here at LegalSchnauzer all advocate prosecution of imagined wrongdoing, and the Lithwick interview tells us that they’re seriously discussing the options.

It’s not as though there have been no investigations during the Bush administration. The Left started hurling false accusations before Bush even took office, and has never stopped. They’ve investigated apparent links between the Bush administration and oil vendors in Texas, and found none. They’ve investigated pressure by the Bush administration to alter intelligence reports during the run-up to the Iraq war, and found none. They’ve investigated an alleged attempt to harm a private citizen by exposing his wife’s alleged covert status publicly, and found nothing (although one official was arrested for lying during the investigation). They’ve investigated alleged “lies” in the administration’s public argument for the Iraq war, and found that all statements conformed to the available intelligence. They’ve been investigating the perfectly legal firing of 8 US attorneys during the President’s 2nd term, and have found nothing but some low-level officials preferring to hire Republicans. They’ve been attempting to prove that Karl Rove orchestrated a witch hunt against the felony-convicted governor of Alabama, Don Siegelman, and found nothing. They even attempted to prove the President skipped the last few months of his Air Force Reserve tour 35 years ago, for cryin’ out loud — and got caught forging documents trying to prove it. When Nancy Pelosi took over leadership of the House of Representatives, the Democrats launched three hundred separate investigations into the Bush administration, resulting in the subpoenas of more than 1 million documents. Have you heard of any wrongdoing found? At all? (This is as opposed to the four serious investigations into the last Democratic administration in the White House, investigations having nothing to do with policy choices, wherein all four produced significant evidence of very real criminal activity.)

We already know the truth about the Bush administration; they have been scrupulous about attempting to conduct national defense aggressively while keeping the law in mind. They’ve pushed right up to what they consider the limits, and willingly stopped there. Where they could, they’ve actually accommodated the demands of their adversaries. There have been some instances of patronage jobs being handed out, which is disappointing but hardly surprising among politicians. The Bush administration has been the most corruption-free administration in my lifetime, bar none. It’s also been the most scrupulously examined.

But that’s not good enough for the “Progressives.” We’ve made jokes about Bush Derangement Syndrome, but this is no joke. This is Stalinista-style hearings, “Truth Panels,” aimed at making examples of those who dared violate Progessive orthodoxy. They cannot abide by the facts found by properly appointed agents of the law, so they will produce show trials with guaranteed results. How can we expect otherwise? The legally constituted inquiries that produced no evidence of criminal activity did not satisfy them; they know the Bush administration is criminal despite the flood of evidence to the contrary, and will not rest until a panel has produced that result.

A blogger named Jerry Pournelle foresees war as the inevitable response to such an attempt. He’s quoted by Instapundit (read the Instapundit post, Prof. Reynolds excerpts the only relevant comment from Pournelle’s meanderings.) The emphasis is mine:

Democrats seem to be drifting toward the concept of prosecution of former office holders by criminalizing policy differences. That’s a certain formula for civil war; perhaps not immediate, but inevitable. The absolute minimum requirement for democratic government is that the loser be willing to lose the election: that losing an election is not the loss of everything that matters. As soon as that assurance is gone, playing by the rules makes no sense at all.

Reynolds follows this with a comparison to the Roman Civil War, which is worth reading. Once the line of co-laboring under a common Constitution is crossed, there’s no saving the republic; there’s only survival, and attempting to reconstruct something workable after the fighting.

A comment by one J. E. Dyer after Commentary’s brief blurb about Byron York’s article makes my case succinctly. He concludes:

Anyone can declare that he perceives a “gray area,” but his perception should be no more actionable by government than another’s perception that someone he dislikes is a horse’s ass. Our constitutionally-appointed checks and balances have already kicked in on the Bush administration: Bush’s policies and executive actions have been the subjects of a special prosecutor, Congressional inquiries, and lawsuits. We have results from those processes. The fact that some partisans would have preferred different results doesn’t render any territory in this history “gray.”

The bottom line here is that the leftists who advocate a “truth commission” approach don’t like the outcome of due process of law, in the case of Bush’s executive. What they want is a do-over using a wholly unaccountable process from OUTSIDE the Constitution, one through which they can try to destroy people with accusation and innuendo, strung out in the public eye for as long as possible. They are behaving exactly like Bolshevik cadre, and they should be called out as such. There is no room in constitutional, rule-of-law government for hijacking the forms of government to perform Soviet-style purges, complete with show trials.

The most complete discussions I found were at American Power and Wolf Howling; you’ll find lots of links at both places to what the Leftists are up to. Jimmie at The Sundries Shack rounds us out with this observation:

I can almost guarantee you that if the Democrats take untrammeled control of the Federal Government, they will make Joseph McCarthy look like an elderly nun on Thorazine.

My reaction is, “They already have. What they’ll do next will do Stalin proud.”

Allow me to point once again to the sober reminder of our responsibility under our social and political contract to provide new guards for our future security if our form of government becomes destructive of our God-given liberties. We who understand the central importance of liberty of conscience cannot walk away from our responsibility to resist tyrants, even if the tyrants are our neighbors and speak our language. This responsibility is not going to go away, and we need to be ready to step up.

Progressives: is criminalizing policy differences worth the violence that will inevitably follow the attempt? Please be assured that I am serious; you will not be permitted to prosecute politicians who disagree with you without incurring violence.

01/03/2008 (10:04 am)

A Real Prosecutor Takes On the CIA

Good. And, it’s about time.

Attorney General Michael Mukasey appointed US Attorney John Durham, a federal prosecutor from Connecticut, to head up an investigation into possible criminal violations arising from the CIA’s destruction of videotapes recording harsh treatment of al Qaeda detainees. Durham was called when the US Attorney for Virginia’s Eastern District, the prosecutor having local jurisdiction over the matter, recused himself to avoid “any possible appearance of a conflict with other matters handled by that office.” A lawyer’s partial explanation (with some leftist cant) can be seen here.

Durham earned a reputation for toughness and ironclad integrity while investigating alleged cooperation between the FBI, Boston police, and the mob. He is reputed to be completely apolitical, extremely thorough, fanatical about detail, and very, very effective.

Here’s a remarkable description of his work in the Boston FBI case from the Hartford Courant, and for what it’s worth, listen to this lefty lawyer’s breathless admiration:

All I know is, if I were being investigated by John H. Durham, I’d probably save him the trouble and commit suicide.

Durham is the First Assistant United States Attorney in the United States Attorney’s Office for the District of Connecticut. Durham shaves with a .45 and brushes his teeth with a wire grille brush. He is so incorruptible that when Angelina Jolie propositioned him he immediately jumped out of the window and deliberately fractured both his knees so he couldn’t do anything. Then he called his wife and made her drive him to confession.

Okay, I made that up. But it’s true that when the city of Boston got caught discovered that its FBI office was in bed with the mob and had been murdering people and framing other people for the murders, they called in John H. Durham. Within five minutes all the bad guys were in maximum security.

This pissed off the mob and they tried to kill Durham, but the cops loved Durham so much they volunteered by the dozen to stake out his house. Cops generally love Durham. Hell, even defense lawyers love Durham. He’s Dudley Do-Right but somehow he manages not to be a jerk about it. Nobody can figure out how.

Of course, the lefties are drooling over the prospect of finally nailing Crime Boss Bush to the wall. But we’ll leave our diagnosis of Bush Derangement on the curb for the moment, because, for the first time since the Bush inauguration, there probably was a genuine crime this time. From the AP story cited at the beginning of this post:

In June 2005, U.S. District Judge Henry H. Kennedy ordered the Bush administration to safeguard “all evidence and information regarding the torture, mistreatment and abuse of detainees now at the United States Naval Base at Guantanamo Bay.” Kennedy was overseeing a case in which U.S.-held terror suspects challenged their detention.

Five months later, the CIA destroyed the interrogation videos.

There are possible legal dodges, but they may not wash. There seems to have been deliberate intent to obstruct Judge Kennedy’s order, and that would be obstruction of justice.

Tom Keane and Lee Hamilton, who headed the 9/11 Commission, argue in the Times today that their investigation was also obstructed by the CIA. (See, also, Philip Zelikow, former Executive Director of the 9/11 Commission, on Power Line this morning.)

This action is long overdue. There should have been a criminal investigation when the New York Times published classified details of CIA operations in Europe back in 2006; somebody from the CIA has been passing privileged information to the press in a deliberate attempt to derail Bush administration foreign policy. There should have been a criminal investigation of the CIA’s complicity in the outing of Valerie Plame; instead, Special Prosecutor Fitzpatrick focused on the White House, and uncovered nothing. (Recall my posts regarding the Shadow War being carried out by the CIA.) While those specific acts will not be under investigation, the same attitude of exemption from the law of the land is behind this affair, and will be targeted. I repeat: it’s about time.

I hope US Attorney Durham’s reputation for integrity is warranted. Corruption of every kind needs to be excised from government, regardless of party. If the Attorney General was culpable, or if the President’s private attorney was culpable, they should be tried.

“The Justice Department went out and got somebody with complete independence and integrity,” said former Connecticut U.S. Attorney Stanley Twardy, who worked with Durham. “No politics whatsoever. It’s going to be completely by the book and he’s going to let the chips fall where they may.”

Cue the applause.

Added 10:15 AM:

While the political Left has descended into vitriolic delusion over the Bush “crime family,” this action once again signals the consistent willingness of the Bush administration to work within the bounds of the law, and to do whatever can properly be done to satisfy opponents that they uphold the rule of law.

12/09/2007 (4:00 pm)

I'm Shocked. Shocked!

We discover today that Congressional leaders have been briefed all along about waterboarding and other aspect of the CIA’s interrogation techniques, and never objected. There were as many as 30 briefings over a 2 year period, with only one objection filed by Rep Jane Harmon (D, CA). Most of the reactions from Congressional leaders were positive, and included concerns that the interrogation tactics might not be aggressive enough. Democrats present at the briefings include House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senators Bob Graham (D, FL) and Jay Rockefeller (D, WV).

Two reactions:

1) The report was probably released by the CIA to the Washington Post to divert attention from the scandal of torture tapes having been destroyed. They knew the Post would print it because the Post had been caught uninformed when the Times released its story about tapes being destroyed. It’s a good story, and an effective tactic, but let’s not forget — somebody in the CIA obstructed justice, and an investigation should, and will, take place.

2) The story indicates that Democrat leaders’ objections to the Bush administration’s “torture” policy is partisan opportunism, not genuine conviction. Democrat leaders knew that water-boarding was used exactly THREE times, and the CIA has not used it since 2003. Democrat leaders received 30 briefings on interrogation techniques with only the one objection.

There were Democrats who sincerely objected to specific practices after they heard about them, which was several years after the CIA had stopped waterboarding prisoners. They were not told by their leaders that the practice had been terminated. Nor were we. This is a manufactured objection to the Bush administration. We don’t even know if the leading Democrats object to the practices at all; we have reason to believe they do not.

Nancy Pelosi should step down as Speaker of the House, but probably will not. Jay Rockefeller, who has been implicated in numerous leaks of classified information to the press, should also step down, but certainly will not.

Good commentary on the matter at Captain’s Quarters.