Friday, April 24, 2009

It's Evil (But We've Known That - What Will We Do About It Is the Question)

Paul Krugman's blog gives us a partial insight into the "Grand Unified Scandal."

From Jonathan Landay at McClatchy, one of the few reporters to get the story right during the march to war: The Bush administration put relentless pressure on interrogators to use harsh methods on detainees in part to find evidence of cooperation between al Qaida and the late Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein’s regime, according to a former senior U.S. intelligence official and a former Army psychiatrist. Such information would’ve provided a foundation for one of former President George W. Bush’s main arguments for invading Iraq in 2003. No evidence has ever been found of operational ties between Osama bin Laden’s terrorist network and Saddam’s regime. The use of abusive interrogation — widely considered torture — as part of Bush’s quest for a rationale to invade Iraq came to light as the Senate issued a major report tracing the origin of the abuses and President Barack Obama opened the door to prosecuting former U.S. officials for approving them. Let’s say this slowly: the Bush administration wanted to use 9/11 as a pretext to invade Iraq, even though Iraq had nothing to do with 9/11. So it tortured people to make them confess to the nonexistent link. There’s a word for this: it’s evil.
The "banality of evil" in their case in Hannah Arendt's words, but to me it's much more. The Republicans were in deep trouble going into the Congressional elections of 2002 as Wall Street crimes were being exposed, their privatization of Social Security was going nowhere and Bush's history of insider trading as well as his whole seedy background was outed. The lies leading up to the distraction that the "Iraq War" provided should be looked at as treason, which is a crime. Being called evil by the leftwing may be something they actually take a little bit of delight in. They love being evil to their "enemies." And then, of course, there's always going with the Ornery Bastard's view or Urantian Sojourn's (both of which I endorse). And I have to mention that Glen Greenwald is (once again) THE MAN. (Emphasis marks added - Ed.)
Three key rules of media behavior shape their discussions of "the 'torture' debate:"
Karl Rove on torture prosecutions: It is now clear that the Obama White House didn't think before it tried to appease the hard left of the Democratic Party. Gloria Borger on Karl Rove: When Rove speaks, the political class pays attention - usually with good reason. Chuck Todd on Obama's concession that the DOJ decides whether to prosecute: There does seem to be a little bit of a reaction to how this was received on the left. . . frankly this feels like a political food fight now. . . . The hard left, the hard right, fighting over this in the blogosphere. Chris Matthews on the same topic: This whole torture debate is likely to tell us a lot about the kind of president Barack Obama intends to be. Will he buckle to the left, the netroots, and pursue an investigation into torture having said he didn't want to? Or will he go post-partisan and leave the past to the historians? David Gregory on what he calls (with scare quotes) "the politics of the 'torture' debate": What [Obama officials] got on their hands is a highly politicized and very partisan issue about the treatment of 9/11 prisoners. . . . At a time when the administration and the President will already be under scrutiny for being tough enough, is this a fight they really want to have? I would also point you to, if you haven't see this already, the Wall St. Journal Editorial Page today, which I think raises some really tough points about not only what signal you're sending to the rest of the world, but also to potential Terrorists out there, about just what it is that U.S. interrogators would do and not do, but also the point that's raised there is: did the Bush administration go out of its way to make sure they were adhering to the law and not crossing over that bridge when it came to getting into torture?
(By the way: can someone tell me what a "9/11 prisoner" is?; and is there anything less surprising than the fact that Gregory looks to The Wall St. Journal Editorial Page for guidance on such questions?) * * * * * For years, media stars ignored the fact that our Government was chronically breaking the law and systematically torturing detainees (look at this extremely detailed exposé by The Washington Post's Dana Priest and Barton Gellman from December, 2002 to get a sense for how much we've known about all of this and for how long we've known it). Now that the sheer criminality of this conduct, really for the first time, has exploded into mainstream political debates as a result of the OLC memos, media stars are forced to address it. Exactly as one would expect, they are closing ranks, demanding (as always) that their big powerful political-official-friends and their elite institutions not be subject to the dirty instruments that are meant only for the masses - things like the rule of law, investigations, prosecutions, and accountability when they abuse their power. The rules for how media stars behave are vividly evident as they finally take part in what they are calling The 'Torture' Debate. Here are three key rules for Beltway media behavior that, as always, are shaping what they say and do: (1) Any policy that Beltway elites dislike is demonized as coming from "the Left" or - in this case (following Karl Rove) - the "hard Left." Media stars recite that claim regardless of how widely accepted the belief is in American public opinion and regardless of whether there is anything "leftist" about the view in question. For years, withdrawing from Iraq was demonized as the view of the "left" even though large majorities of Americans favored it. Identically, roughly 40% of Americans favor criminal prosecutions for Bush officials -- even before release of the OLC memos - and large majorities favor investigations generally. The premise of those who advocate prosecutions is the definitively non-ideological view that political elites should be treated exactly like ordinary Americans when they break the law and commit serious crimes. Individuals such as Gen. Antonio Taguba, Gen. Barry McCaffrey and former CIA officer Robert Baer advocate investigations and/or prosecutions of Bush officials. But no matter: the Beltway opposes the idea, and it is therefore dismissed by media stars as coming from the "Hard Left." (2) Nobody is more opposed to transparency and disclosure of government secrets than establishment "journalists." Richard Cohen wrote of the Lewis Libby prosecution: "it is often best to keep the lights off." ABC News' Peggy Noonan said this week of torture investigations: "Some things in life need to be mysterious. Sometimes you need to just keep walking." The Washington Post's David Ignatius, condemning Obama for releasing the OLC memos, warned: "the country is fighting a war, and it needs to take care that the sunlight of exposure doesn't blind its shadow warriors." And the favorite mantra of media stars and Beltway mavens everywhere - Look Forward, Not Backwards - is nothing but a plea that extreme government crimes remain concealed and unexamined. This remains the single most notable and revealing fact of American political life: that (with some very important exceptions) those most devoted to maintaining and advocating government secrecy is our journalist class, of all people. It would be as if the leading proponents of cigarette smoking were physicians, or those most vocally touting the virtues of illiteracy were school teachers. Nothing proves the true function of these media stars as government spokespeople more than their eagerness to shield government actions from examination and demand that government criminality not be punished. (3) The single most sacred Beltway belief is that elites are exempt from the rule of law. Amidst all the talk about how prosecutions would destroy post-partisan harmony and whether torture "works," it is virtually impossible to find any media star discussions about the fact that torture is illegal and that those who order, authorize or engage in torture are committing felonies. That is because - other than for fun sex scandals and other Blagojevich-like sensationalistic acts - the overriding belief of the political class is that elites (such as themselves) have the right to break the law and not be held accountable. Amazingly, when it comes to crimes by ordinary Americans, being "tough on crime" is a virtually nonnegotiable prerequisite to being Serious, but when it comes to political officials who commit crimes in the exercise of their power, absolute leniency is the mandated belief upon pain of being dismissed as "shrill" and extremist. Can anyone find an establishment media pundit anywhere - just one - who is advocating that Bush officials who broke the law be held accountable under our laws? That view seems actively excluded from establishment media discussions. The OLC memos that were released last week reflect a deeply corrupted, criminal and morally depraved political class (see this video clip for a strangely affecting demonstration of that fact . . . ), but our media stars are a vital reason why that has happened. It cannot be overstated the extent to which they are nothing but appendages of, servants to, political power (as one Twitter commentator said today about this painfully vapid video from the painfully vapid David Gregory: when media stars say "my reporting," what they usually mean is: "this is what I was told to repeat"). These three media rules repeatedly shape how they talk about government actions, and these rules are particularly pronounced as the establishment media now is finally forced to discuss what to do about the fact that our highest political leaders repeatedly broke our most serious laws. * * * * * As a testament to the positive effect media criticisms can have, Columbia Journalism Review's Charles Kaiser has been tenaciously criticizing The New York Times for failing to challenge - and instead mindlessly adopting - the claim of Bush officials that torture "worked" by producing valuable intelligence. Yesterday, a NYT Editor told Kaiser that he agreed that more attention needed to be paid to this issue, and today, the NYT published a very potent Op-Ed from an FBI interrogator at Guantanamo who aggressively disputes the claim that torture "worked." . . . Jane Harman is so shrill and angry today. She sounds like some sort of unhinged leftist blogger. As The Washington Post's Dana Milbank so insightfully asked this week, what could any Democrat possibly have to be angry about? After all, they won. I wonder how long it's going to be before Harman joins the ACLU? What's that old saying - a "civil liberties extremist" is a former Bush-enabling, Surveillance State-defending Blue Dog who learns that their own personal conversations were intercepted by the same government that they demanded be vested with unchecked power?
Right on! Suzan _____________________


Michael Hart said...

Hey Suzan,
Thanks for including our link in this really excellent critque of the media wags; the torture issue may be the single most potent and effective revealer of media's failure to provide the constant vigilance our freedom requires. And the ones who can't, or refuse to, should disappear down the shitter of history with all of the self-serving politicians in government today.

PS: Been meaning to tell you that your site always bogs down my browser and scrolls very sluggishly. It even slows down other pages if I jump around with your page open; don't know what to suggest, but it's constant here. :-\

Suzan said...

Sorry, Michael.

I've done all the maintenance I've been made aware of on my site (no videos or large pixel users, etc.), and it downloads fine usually for computers with good broadband connections and cleaned-up hardware. Do you run your System Tools programs every week? It might help. Just sayin'.

You are not the first to tell me this and I do thank you for the heads-up. I just wish I knew what I could do to improve it for you.

I've touched base with lots of other readers who say it downloads fine for them.

I always enjoy reading your blog. Keep up the good work.

Thanks for the comment. I'm always looking for ways in which to improve the user experience.

I wholeheartedly agree with you when you wrote that:

the torture issue may be the single most potent and effective revealer of media's failure to provide the constant vigilance our freedom requires.

Let's hope it gets that desaparecidos Peace Train back on the tracks.