The cult of tough decisions

Sully revisits one of the most shameful chapters in the Bush-Cheney torture saga:

The critical thing to remember is that the first person to be subjected to the torture program was not the person Bush and Cheney thought he was, gave up lots of useful (and accurate) information under traditional interrogation techniques, had no information that came close to the “ticking time bomb” criterion used to justify the torture program … and was brutally tortured anyway. More to the point, the idea that CIA officers were begging to use these torture methods is nonsense. They were forced to do so by higher ups.

[….]

Part of the problem is that the president had already bragged in public that Zubaydah was a central figure, and Ron Suskind has argued that the torture was ordered in part to save Bush’s face. Tenet denies that strongly. If it’s true, then president Bush, if he still has a conscience, must have a hard time sleeping at night.

Of course, it was reported again and again that Bush claimed to have no trouble sleeping during the war, that he did not give the appearance of having aged as LBJ did, and so on. It’s very unlikely that Bush has any trouble sleeping over torture.

And I don’t think the media infrastructure that remained silent about torture, when it wasn’t actively promoting it, has much trouble sleeping either.

You see, torture is a “tough decision.” The fact that it offends some moral sensibilities only makes the decision to torture that much “tougher” and more “courageous”. Choosing not to torture is just too easy. Privatizing Social Security is also a tough decision, whereas modifying it so that middle class Americans can continue to have a little dignity in old age, well, that’s just too easy. Similarly, raising taxes on those who can afford it while keeping them the same on the middle-class is an easy decision, while raising them a bit on the middle-class as well is a smart, tough one, even though it makes very little economic sense. Asking middle-class Americans to sacrifice more is always tough and courageous. Asking the wealthy to pay a little more is not.

“Tough decisions” have to come at least a little bit from the gut. They can’t be reasoned out with facts and figures. And they certainly can’t be the product of the “Hamlet-like” indecision that often plagued Bill Clinton. Most importantly, making tough decisions can’t bother the decision-maker too much, else they are more Carter-like than tough.

Bush’s decision to torture is regarded as tough, both by himself and by most of the Village. So there’s no need for anyone to lose any sleep over it.






119 replies
  1. 1
    Lilly von Schtupp says:

    So for these people “wrong” equals courageous.

  2. 2
    Punchy says:

    And these disingenuous lying fucks like Fran Townsend telling the Village how Obama revealing war crimes HURTS America makes me really, REALLY hope for their place in hell.

  3. 3
    Cat Lady says:

    If by tough, you mean cowardly bullying.

  4. 4
    gnomedad says:

    Great post, perfectly titled.

    These guys are all about behaving like alpha Neanderthals and packaging it as “toughness” and “courage”. Which is probably an insult to alpha Neanderthals.

  5. 5
    Davis X. Machina says:

    Pres. Clinton himself was aware of this gut-worship, this cult of toughness: “When people are insecure, they’d rather have somebody who is strong and wrong than someone who’s weak and right.”

  6. 6
    Singularity says:

    God, that’s fucking infuriating. Mainly because of how true your description of their mindset is. We need to be pushing for war crimes investigations more.

  7. 7
    gizmo says:

    As awful as those torture memos are, I wonder how much stuff the Bush gang shredded before they left town? My guess is that we’re only seeing the tip of the iceberg.

  8. 8
    Incertus says:

    @Punchy: Me too–I’m watching George Will argue against releasing the memos because to do so is to allow the terrorists to prepare for our “techniques.” But those techniques are illegal, and the Obama administration has said we’re not going to use them, so what is there to prepare for?

    Fuck George Will–he ought to go back to bitching about blue jeans.

  9. 9
    gnomedad says:

    @Incertus:

    I’m watching George Will argue against releasing the memos because to do so is to allow the terrorists to prepare for our “techniques.”

    Does this make any sense to SERE vets? Can you prepare for “techniques” or do you basically practice suffering?

  10. 10

    The torture is now prima facie.

    Will we do anything about it?

    Enjoy.

  11. 11
    WereBear says:

    More proof that these neocons are out of touch with the real world. It’s image that matters; results do not.

    I can’t help but see it having roots in their childhood, a sort of “When Dad got the belt, we cleaned the bbq grill with our tongues,” view of human nature.

  12. 12
    asiangrrlMN says:

    @Incertus:

    I’m watching George Will argue against releasing the memos because to do so is to allow the terrorists to prepare for our “techniques.”

    In addition, we have released many suspects already who can already give that information first-hand.

    As many other blogs have pointed out, this isn’t really new information–just clarification that, yes, we did it–now we have to justify it.

    It’s sickening, and John summed it up perfectly.

  13. 13
    Mike in NC says:

    Bush, if he still has a conscience, must have a hard time sleeping at night.

    Nah, sleeps just fine. Never looks back. Didn’t do nuance. “All hat, no cattle” kinda guy.

  14. 14
    John Cole says:

    How do you prepare for the gag reflex? How do you prepare to go without sleep for almost two weeks? How do you prepare to be beaten?

    And besides, if they do magically find a way to “prepare” for the gag reflex, won’t it all be in vain SINCE WE ARE NO LONGER USING THESE METHODS.

  15. 15
    Incertus says:

    @asiangrrlMN: Over at my place I theorized that what Chertoff and the rest of the Bush folk who are potentially in hot water over this are trying to do is reframe the conversation as one of a betrayal of national secrets, because otherwise they’re potentially in the same boat Henry Kissinger is in. It doesn’t matter that their argument is nonsense–what matters is that their argument is loud and repeated enough times that it becomes conventional wisdom.

  16. 16
    MattF says:

    Is it really possible that the torture-enthusiasts don’t see what they’re admitting to? I hated it when the wingers offered psychological diagnosis instead of arguments when dealing with the Clintons… but it does seem like we’re getting into personality disorder territory here, and I don’t mean that metaphorically.

  17. 17
    smiley says:

    @Incertus: @John Cole:

    And besides, if they do magically find a way to “prepare” for the gag reflex, won’t it all be in vain SINCE WE ARE NO LONGER USING THESE METHODS.

    They got nothing. The argument is stupid but they got nothing else. I’m really getting tired of people making arguments, on all sides, solely because of partisanship.

  18. 18
    El Cid says:

    The way you know it’s a media-admirable “tough decision” is that (1) the decision, no matter the subject, has to go against what is believed to be “liberal” preferences, and (2) the decision has to at least conceivably been made or inspired by steely, manly conservative figures gritting their jaw, squinting their eyes, and deeply muttering something like “It’s not a nice world, but somebody’s gotta do what has to be done.”

    So, Obama going against all the screaming mimi’s of the national security toughness torture establishment and their squealing admirers in the lapdog media and releasing the Bush Jr. torture policy memos is not a “tough decision”.

    Had Obama decided to repress the information and screw over the U.S. citizenry’s access to knowing what the hell its own government had done, then it would count as an admirably “tough decision”.

  19. 19

    It would be interesting to argue an appeal of a speeding ticket with Bybee as your judge.

  20. 20
    tom.a says:

    WereBear:

    More proof that these neocons are out of touch with the real world. It’s image that matters; results do not.

    Yep. In 2012 when Obama runs again the Conservatives will hold up images of how much Bush aged and how much Obama aged and declare Obama’s still rather youthful appearance as stock proof that he didn’t work hard and thus achieved nothing.

  21. 21
    El Cid says:

    By the way, small miracle from the Latin America summit.

    Yesterday Venezuela’s president Hugo Chavez gave a book as a present to Pr. Obama yesterday, which made it into all the photos of the handshake.

    The book was the (Spanish-language version) of the Uruguayan journalist, historian, and commentator Eduardo Galeano’s searing indictment in narrative form of 500 years of the exploitation of the ordinary peoples of Latin America by domestic and foreign elites.

    Published in 1971 in Spanish and then in English in 1973, The Open Veins of Latin America: Five Centuries in the Pillage of a Continent is an astoundingly amazing book, heart-breakingly well written, with more dark humor than you could imagine.

    Before the gifting and news story, the book sat at around #60,000 on the Amazon best-seller list, and that level of sales was probably sustained by college-class assignments.

    As of today Open Veins is now the 2nd best-selling book on all of Amazon.com.

    A previous book Chavez held up at the United Nations by Noam Chomsky zoomed to 7th best-selling.

    Galeano is not only a great journalist and historian, but a great writer and a great human. Open Veins was his last narrative work; after his flight from numerous right wing coups and dictatorships and personal tragedy, he adopted a more short-form, poetic collection style, and has maintained that ever since.19

  22. 22
    gwangung says:

    @John Cole:

    How do you prepare for the gag reflex? How do you prepare to go without sleep for almost two weeks? How do you prepare to be beaten?

    Well, you could use the inner tubes to research this stuff, SINCE THIS IS ALL KNOWN TECHNIQUES FROM TOTALITARIAN REGIMES.

    Or is WIll arguing that we need to keep these things secret because the US are such “innovators” in torture techniques?

  23. 23
    me says:

    I’m sure Dick Cheney sleeps like a baby, he never had a conscience to start. David Addington, on the other hand, probably loses sleep worrying over whether Iran is going to nuke Israel tomorrow.

  24. 24
    AhabTRuler says:

    @El Cid: Thx for pointing that out.

  25. 25

    I want to share something with my fellow commenters who thought President Obama leaving out the people who ordered torture in his statement meant he was going to go after them at some point.
    .
    http://abcnews.go.com/ThisWeek.....038;page=3
    .

    STEPHANOPOULOS: Final quick question. The president has ruled out prosecutions for CIA officials who believed they were following the law. Does he believe that the officials who devised the policies should be immune from prosecution?
    EMANUEL: What he believes is, look, as you saw in that statement he wrote, and I would just take a step back. He came up with this and he worked on this for about four weeks, wrote that statement Wednesday night, after he made his decision, and dictated what he wanted to see. And Thursday morning, I saw him in the office, he was still editing it.
    He believes that people in good faith were operating with the guidance they were provided. They shouldn’t be prosecuted.
    STEPHANOPOULOS: What about those who devised policy?
    EMANUEL: Yes, but those who devised policy, he believes that they were — should not be prosecuted either, and that’s not the place that we go — as he said in that letter, and I would really recommend people look at the full statement — not the letter, the statement — in that second paragraph, “this is not a time for retribution.” It’s time for reflection. It’s not a time to use our energy and our time in looking back and any sense of anger and retribution.

  26. 26
    dbrown says:

    @El Cid: A post like this makes putting up with all the dumb ass trolls worth while.

  27. 27
    Balconesfault says:

    Conscience?

    HAH!

    Beautiful Mind Babs drummed that out of him from birth.

  28. 28
    JL says:

    @sgwhiteinfla: At the very least Bybee needs to be impeached and both he and Yoo need to be disbarred. The medical doctors that assisted should lose their license.
    On one hand Emanuel says

    He came up with this and he worked on this for about four weeks, wrote that statement Wednesday night, after he made his decision, and dictated what he wanted to see. And Thursday morning, I saw him in the office, he was still editing it.

    and then he adds

    Yes, but those who devised policy, he believes that they were—should not be prosecuted either,

    The two statements just don’t jive with me because if Obama really did not want to leave the door open for prosecution, he wouldn’t have.

  29. 29
    El Cid says:

    Andrew Sullivan has another one of those mis-remembered moments in his post on the awfulness of the post 2004-election new improved torture regime.

    He’s trying to make a large point about the inconsistency of the Bush Jr-ites claiming to the world that they were ready to kick ass and bomb the shit out of everywhere out of their love for human rights and democracy, and the commitment to all sorts of sophisticated disappearance (what they were in 1970s Latin America parlance) and torture of prisoners (“detainees”).

    But Sullivan actually says this:

    So we had a public government respectful of the rule of law, and a secret government whose main goal was persuading terror suspects that there was no rule of law at all.

    Does this match anyone else’s recall? Does anyone else look back upon 2004-2005 Bush Jr. era governing, campaigning, and ideologizing and feel that “this is a public government respectful of the rule of law“?

    Really? ‘Cause, I don’t remember that. I remember “Unitary Executive” and speculation that during a time of war we weren’t sure Congressional laws applied to the Executive and that Dick Cheney was actually a supra-legal super-being comprising powers from all 3 branches of government, aka FourthBranch.

    What kind of person for one moment could look back on the Bush Jr-ocracy from 2004-2005 and characterize even momentarily whatsoever as committed to the “rule of law”?

  30. 30
    AhabTRuler says:

    @sgwhiteinfla: I do believe that any movement or pressure on prosecutions will have to come from popular anger. SRSLY. I do think that Obama has taken a position, but is willing to change that position if the popular will is there.
    Write (with paper and a stamp and everything) your reps and senators. Write the Congressional leadership and explain your anger. Write newspapers and bitch more. Get your friends and family to do the same.
    I still believe that a well written and good looking letter makes more of an impact than a phone call or an e-mail. It has Authority. And the Villagers and Congresscritters are still of an age and outlook that values such trappings of authority.
    I know that many people here have already made similar efforts and/or were involved with the election, but if there was ever a subject to go balls to the wall over, this is it.

  31. 31

    JL

    So you think the Chief of Staff of the POTUS just lied on national Tee Vee? My goodness man what will it take for people to see whats right in front of their face? There is no bigger fan of President Obama than me. But dammit he is being as blatant as you can be here. No prosecutions for the people who ordered torture. Now its up to us to put pressure on him to change his mind.

  32. 32
    AhabTRuler says:

    @El Cid: It is so hard to remember when what was discovered, but certainly by the election it was quite clear that the Bush admin would manipulate laws endlessly to serve their purposes, and were only consistent in their lust for power.

    Their most obvious contempt for the legistlative process was the use of the signing statement, but I can’t remember exactly when that stuff started coming out. I recall it being fairly early, although I also remember it being a bloggy/hippie subject for a while before hitting the bigs.

  33. 33
    RSA says:

    Let me add an obvious coda: Having considered and made a touch decision is sufficient to become a hero; whether you decided it rightly or wrongly is irrelevant. See also Iraq, invasion of; etc.

  34. 34
    AhabTRuler says:

    Now its up to us to put pressure on him to change his mind.

    Agreed, but I think we need to put pressure on the rest of the population as well.

  35. 35

    “this is not a time for retribution.” It’s time for reflection. It’s not a time to use our energy and our time in looking back and any sense of anger and retribution.

    Rahm did it, too. Every sentence in the President’s statement when he releases the memos, and now this statement from Rahm on “This Week” includes “this is the time” or “this is not the time” or “at this time.”

  36. 36
    valdivia says:

    I have to respectfully disagree with El Cid and impose a sort of intra-Latin argument on this thread. The Open Veins is definitely a book that enlightens–specifically about how Latin American progressives saw the world circa 1971– but to tout Galeano as the most insightful historian of the region is very much a stretch. The dependistas (dependency theorists) of the 60s and 70s have written many similar books, Cardozo and Faleto are even better than Galeano, with much less spleen.

    Also–why go back to a book written in 1971, the height of the Cold War, instead of a book written say, last year or the year before. Galeano is excellent at pointing to the abuses that the US and Europe imposed on the region but has *nothing* useful to say, at least to me, about the internal causes of the plight the region suffers from and very little 21st century insight to what those solutions should be.

    I should note I am not a fan of Chavez at all–even though I think American representations of him are idiotic, he is not what most people think he is–I prefer leaders like Lagos and Lula which is why Galeano, I guess, does not appeal to me as the best example of history lessons to be taken from the area.

  37. 37
    JL says:

    @sgwhiteinfla: You’re right. It needs to originate in Congress with the appointment of a special prosecutor. Bybee should be forced to step down immediately.

  38. 38
    Balconesfault says:

    @JL:

    At the very least Bybee needs to be impeached and both he and Yoo need to be disbarred.

    I had a conversation with an old college roomie a few weeks back – he has had a few public debates over the years with Yoo over the unitary Executive thing.

    I’d always thought that Yoo was just some bootlick ready to write anything Cheney and Addington wrote in order to curry favor. Actually, he’s apparently believed this shit since well before Bush took office, and they went out and found him in the legal academic community.

    As to how such ludicrous viewpoints can gain anyone stature in the legal community? Ex-roomie says it’s what happens when you have 2nd year law students reviewing what gets into the most prestigious law journals, instead of true peer review. They get bowled over by sophomoric arguments, particularly when they have the momentum of multiple publications behind them.

  39. 39
    Redhand says:

    EMANUEL: Yes, but those who devised policy, he believes that they were—should not be prosecuted either, and that’s not the place that we go—as he said in that letter, and I would really recommend people look at the full statement—not the letter, the statement—in that second paragraph, “this is not a time for retribution.” It’s time for reflection. It’s not a time to use our energy and our time in looking back and any sense of anger and retribution.

    What an utter crock! The issue is not “anger and “retribution”; that’s deliberate misdirection. We’re talking about the rule of law.

    I don’t think in American history we have ever before had the spectacle of a sitting president releasing documents showing that his predecessor presided over some of the most heinous crimes on the books, then declaring that he is not going to do anything about it. Why? It makes Watergate’s “What did the President know, and when did he know it?” questions seem quaint. Back then, we actually gave a damn about whether our president acted lawfully. Now, we’re one step removed from a police state.

    Apparently, Obama thinks initiating prosecutions will create a wingnut shitstorm that will detract from his own “agenda.” But doing nothing is worse than useless; it makes a mockery of our Government, and shows Obama up as an equivocating cynic.

    Obama needs to grow a pair and turn this whole stinking mess over to a special prosecutor. That way he can say he’s being non-partisan. But he’s equivocating, because he doesn’t have the nerve.

    I think the problem is not simply that the corrupt Bushco lawyers are criminally culpable; it’s obvious that they are Lyndie Englands compared to the bigger criminals: Bush, Cheney and Rummy. Obama clearly fears going after them. After all, they were just trying to “protect America.” And I guess it would hurt “consensus” and “bi-partisanship.”

    Again, what a crock of shit. Bring on the special prosecutors!

  40. 40
    Corner Stone says:

    @gwangung:

    because the US are such “innovators” in torture

    If we “innovate” in torture like we “innovate” in financial instruments – the bad guys are well and truly fucked.
    Or maybe it’s us that are fucked? I can never tell anymore.

  41. 41
    smiley says:

    @valdivia:

    even though I think American representations of him are idiotic

    Please enlighten us. I have no strong feelings about him one way or the other. However, given the people here in the US who so strongly condemn him, I have no doubt you’re probably right.

  42. 42
    Corner Stone says:

    @El Cid: El Cid is there nothing you can’t do?

  43. 43
    AhabTRuler says:

    why go back to a book written in 1971, the height of the Cold War, instead of a book written say, last year or the year before.

    Huh?

    I mean I understand your broader point, but aren’t old books good too?

  44. 44
    Incertus says:

    @sgwhiteinfla: There are other avenues–the Congress can go after these people as well, and while President Obama no doubt has some pull, he can’t order them not to do it. Leahy and Conyers, just to name a couple, are some pressure points as well.

  45. 45
    AhabTRuler says:

    Obama thinks initiating prosecutions will create a wingnut shitstorm that will detract from his own “agenda.”

    It would. The Republican party was eyebrow-deep in a pile of R. M. Nixon’s very pungent feces before they recognized that Drunk Dickie had to go.
    Even if Obama has broad public support, prosecutions would (please god, will) cause a wormsign shitstorm the likes of which even God has never seen.

  46. 46
    Corner Stone says:

    @El Cid:

    Does this match anyone else’s recall? Does anyone else look back upon 2004-2005 Bush Jr. era governing, campaigning, and ideologizing and feel that “this is a public government respectful of the rule of law“?

    I think I can adequately sum up the Bush admin’s view regarding the rool O law right here:

    What is best in life?
    To crush your enemies, see them driven before you, and to hear the lamentation of their women.

  47. 47
    Corner Stone says:

    @RSA: Goes without saying. Being right has absolutely no bearing on the decision. In fact, the more consistently wrong you are, yet your decisions remain tough, the better a leader you are.
    QED. Or something.

  48. 48
    Corner Stone says:

    @valdivia:

    I have to respectfully disagree with El Cid

    Get out! Get out afore I take a broomstick to ye backside! Blasphemer!

  49. 49
    John Cole says:

    @El Cid: El Cid, I read that. His point was that they were pretending to respect the rule of law while in actuality they were not, not that they were actually respectful of the rule of law.

  50. 50
    Corner Stone says:

    @Redhand:

    Back then, we actually gave a damn about whether our president acted lawfully. Now, we’re one step removed from a police state

    Do you think it’s a little like being a frog in a pot maybe? They’re slowly cranking up the temp but we don’t notice before it’s too late?

  51. 51
    El Cid says:

    @valdivia: I did not claim Galeano was the most insightful historian of the region — just that his narrative version of the history of exploitation was possibly the most powerfully written.

    Professional and academic historians might justifiably object to the “Open Veins” Galeano being described as a historian in the technical sense, which is fair, but the word historian is often used in a more broad context. The same is done by the U.S. media, which often refers to journalists who complete historically-minded narrative works as “historians”.

    I’ve read Cardoso. I wish President Cardoso had read more of what he himself had written.

    And although I am no idolizer of Chavez, similarly it says absolutely nothing to me for one to declare one’s preference for Lagos or Lula or, to more parallel Galeano, Jorge Castañeda, a writer who veers wildly between insight and bland and even false homilies wrapped in some fetish of “centrism” or what he thinks the latest most fashionable modern Western economic thought is.

  52. 52
    valdivia says:

    @smiley:

    my problem is that Chavez has been made into a caricature of a communist from the moment he came into the political scene when no one really understood what his Bolivarian movement was about. People here, the right wingers, were making him to be a leftist in the mold of the 60s revolutionaries when he is nothing like that (note that a lot fo the people on the left do the same-they say he is just liek Castro or a new Castro or a new Che). Chavez is the cleverest politician in latin america in a long time, he learned the lessons of the failed left wing movements of the past and the lessons that an electorally democratic system allows you to get away with high concentrations of power that are not democratic. so while the electoral system is hyper democratic (referendums gallore) the governance is *not* democratic. He resembles Putin a lot–this is the easiest analogy I can find–who consolidated his power on a wave of oil wealth and who is very interested in projecting power abroad. The newest move will probably be to have the governors appointed instead of elected. Also–the idea that having *anyone* be president for life is somehow good for democratic governance is obviously false. Chavez has done a lot in terms of social programs for the very poor–who had been horribly ignored since the late 70s–but there has been very little in investment on infrastructure (I have a very close friend who lives in venezuela is an ardent supporter of Chavez and a marxist and he himself tells me everything is crumbling: hospitals, schools, roads). He does not fit the easy frames of authoritarian or democratically elected leader we are used to and that is why the media does not know how to explain him here. Also not easy to say simply: good guy or bad guy. For me the biggest issue is that doing things that are clearly not democratic and clearly bad for democratic governance are not excused by the good intentions of some of his programs for the poor. And to me he is clearly running over all sorts of processes that guarantee rights of his citizens even if a lot of people excuse it because he is ‘one of the good guys’ striking one against the clearly predatory elites of latin america. why does the choice have to be either or? it does not, see chile, brazil costa rica etc as examples of countries where those choices were never binary.

  53. 53
    Meadow Lark says:

    Those that ordered the torture may not have a conscience but those who didn’t sign up to commit torture but ended up being a part of it, are changed. They come home and try to surpress what they have done but their feelings about dehumanizing another human being will come out at a terrbile toll for themselves and their families.

  54. 54
    El Cid says:

    @John Cole: I could have chosen to read it that way too; that, however, would be interpreting the phrase in a way that the words didn’t seem to support, and it also undercuts the newness of the analysis, since every non-Bush acolyte has been pointing out contradictions between claiming the “rule of law” and “human rights” as a core of foreign policy while contradicting them in practice.

    I personally believe that at the time Sullivan truly believed that a dedication to the “rule of law” and “human rights” really did characterize administration aims in Iraq and the Middle East.

    I’m not going to insist on anything. Read it as you think. It’s not a huge point. It just clanked to me.

  55. 55
    LD50 says:

    Me too—I’m watching George Will argue against releasing the memos because to do so is to allow the terrorists to prepare for our “techniques.”

    Yeah, ‘prepare’. I can just see that. “Okay Muhammad, just to let you know, if the Americans capture you, you might well get waterboarded 183 times and stuck in a box full of insects. So be sure and PREPARE for that!

  56. 56
    Jay C says:

    @JL:

    Just a guess, but despite what Rahm Emanuel says (or Pres. Obama, for that matter), I have a feeling that some sort of “official” investigation/charges/payback for the torture-memo gang IS going to be coming down the pike. And probably sooner rather than later (by Washington standards, anyway) .

    It may be a bit of wishful thinking/interpretation, but AFAICT, Obama’s way of dealing with the whole array of Bush Abuse Legacy issues has, so far, seemed to follow a definite pattern. First, a disclaimer against taking any actions (like releasing documents or whatever) ; next, an ostensible “fight” against having to take said action; and finally, “grudgingly” taking the action: which accomplishes the original purpose anyway.

    To me, the Administration’s responses seem to have been a carefully choregraphed political Kabuki: trying to thread the maze between doing the right thing (i.e., not only banning/discouraging torture and abuse henceforward but applying some sort of “punishment” for past actions) and avoiding the inevitable sh*tstorm of bogus “soft on terror[ists]” spittle from the GOP and their media creatures/enablers. Oh, and keeping on the right side of public opinion as well.

    So far, IMHO, the Obama Administration has been doing an impressively efficient job of navigating the shoals: I just hope they will be able to keep up the good work.

  57. 57
    dslak says:

    @Jay C: You’re leaving out an important part of this dynamic: People supportive of Obama’s agenda who have put pressure on him to do the right thing. Without those people, it all goes down the memory hole.

  58. 58
    Ash Can says:

    @WereBear: I agree; I really wonder how many of these pro-torture types, including the ones who excuse themselves by parsing hypothetical situations down to the last detail, were abused as children. Too many parents have fucked-up ideas of what discipline involves and how kids’ minds work. We are products of our environments to a significant degree, after all.

  59. 59
    valdivia says:

    @El Cid:

    sorry El Cid I noticed that I had projected on to you something i had read somewhere else about Galeano being the leading historical light of Latin America. so apologies for putting words in your post that were not there.

    I have no problem with journalists writing history and I don’t think one has to have an academic degree to write good history ( in fact it gets in the way *a lot*). As for Castaneda–his book on the left in the 90s was excellent (Utopia Unarmed) but since he started running for President of Mexico his writing has clearly suffered.

    I disagree with you on Cardozo–but we can disagree without being disagreeable–I think he was an excellent president for Brazil and that he accomplished quite a lot given the political context in which he was governing. The debit program Scola Bolsa (now copied by Bloomberg in NYC) was *his* innovation though Lula is the one who gets credited most of the time (he did expand it to Bolsa Familia). I think that if cardozo had governed as he had written in the 60s he would not have lasted as President and Brazil would not be where it is today. Does that mean that there is no room for more progressiveness? of course not, simply, to me, it means that what academic sociologist wrote int he 60s may not be a viable system of governance in the cusp of the 21st century.

    As I said Galeano is like a kick in the gut, but one cannot rely exclusively in that kind of writing to explain what goes on in latin america no? There are countless first person accounts of the dictatorships (see this or this) that give us just as much information of the results of US policies in the region without getting into a Hegelian History of Oppression type of narrative which is what I do not like about Galeano.

  60. 60
    Nellcote says:

    If one believes there are three EQUAL parts of government, I think it’s unjust to load all the possibility of prosecution on Pres. Obama. Congress has a big role in bringing the populace to the point of demanding prosecutions. Of course, many in congress are culpable in allowing torture so it’s going to be sticky for them too going foreward.

  61. 61
    Corner Stone says:

    @LD50: See? That’s just racial profiling my friend. Why’s it gotta be Muhammad?

    Yeah, prepare for the worst thing in the world, the thing you fear most. Ok, got it? Now here it comes.

    Fucking scumbags. Personally I think we should go back to the testicles in the vice gambit. Ask a nutter if he’d crush a young boy’s testicles in a vice to get his father to talk. If he says yes then hand him the fucking vice grips. Watch the blood run out of his face as he sucks wind.
    If he takes them with grim determination then put a bullet in him as he’s not fit for society.

  62. 62

    I’m really surprised that the full context of Rahm Emmanuel’s statements on This Week aren’t caused more of a stir. As I noted on my blog this morning, Rahm took the whole “look forward, not backward” bullshit one step further, saying for the first time that the people who devised the Bush torture program shouldn’t be prosecuted. This is a sweeping new layer of absolution that cuts against all the ink that’s been spilled on whether Obama is leaving the door open to prosecuting the architects of the Bush torture policy. It appears that Rahm just slammed that door shut!

  63. 63
    El Cid says:

    @valdivia: You’re right, but simultaneously one could read any number of monographs or ultra-calm inquiries into one or another factor shaping Latin / Caribbean politics without ever getting a feel for what policies often sum up to be for the ordinary people living there.

    It’s like how throughout the 1980s, U.S. establishment analysts came up with a wide variety of reasons for U.S. policies toward Nicaragua, Guatemala, El Salvador, and Honduras and how they varied over time, which they certainly did. Yet ordinary people were not exactly wrong, either, in noting that the main thrust of the policies were to support U.S.-leaning tyrants or obedient elected regimes and to kill vast numbers of civilians.

    Would I propose such a theme as a professional historian? Probably not, but if I had only to choose a super-brief, common sense 10 second introduction to U.S. policy toward Central America in the 1980s, that wouldn’t be horribly wrong, either.

    You have to balance, clearly, the particular and real exceptions of actual empirical history with a quite admirable human propensity to try and learn not only lessons and generalizations but feelings for why some major social development may or may or may not have taken place.

  64. 64

    You cannot teach someone to be mentally tough. You either are, or you are not. Physical prowess is only part of selecting special and covert operations personnel. You can be a physcially imposing specimen but if you don’t have the mental toughness to endure some of the more brutal mental games played during training you won’t survive the training. Generally you are not trained for specific types of torture you are screened for your ability to handle severe mental stress. I suspect that is true for a terrorist organization as well.

  65. 65
    Corner Stone says:

    @The Grand Panjandrum:

    You cannot teach someone to be mentally tough.

    I disagree. There’s no way to absolutely prove it one way or another but Earl Woods went out of his way to ingrain mental toughness in Tiger.
    FWTW.

  66. 66
    Comrade Jake says:

    @Library Grape:

    I’m disappointed by those remarks as well, but isn’t the decision on whether or not to prosecute Holder’s to make?

  67. 67
    valdivia says:

    @El Cid:

    on this we agree. The thing that gets me I guess is that a lot of the more gripping histories put the blame *elsewhere* (ie the US) when each of these countries had enough blame *internally* to arrive at the killings of thousands and wars that were started with the purpose of maintaining the power of the coffee elites (in Central America–with the exception of Costa Rica where the coffee elite engaged on a power sharing agreement with the middle classes early in the 20th century and eliminated its army).

    I find that a lot of the shorter journalistic pieces—NYRB for example—are fantastic at getting at what you mention and also illuminate historically. Alma Guillermoprieto is very good at it and she gets published a lot (and she has been in the trenches having moved to Cuba to dance for the revolution).

  68. 68
    Jay C says:

    @dslak:

    You’re right: hence my reference to “public opinion”. On my cynical days (i.e. only those that end in “y”), it’s sad to contemplate that a non-trivial percentage of the American public is probably supportive of the notion of torturing prisoners – and an even larger percentage who probably just don’t care. But as long as there is at least a diligent minority to put pressure on the Administration, I think (hope) that the “right thing” will get done in the end.

    Maybe.

  69. 69
    Cain says:

    @AhabTRuler:

    Agreed, but I think we need to put pressure on the rest of the population as well.

    So what do we do? Protest? Meh. Write to your congressman en-masse. We flog them until they do what we want.

    cain

  70. 70
    AkaDad says:

    These terrorists are desert people. Have you Libtards ever considered that they might actually like being doused with water?

  71. 71
    Svensker says:

    Tough Guy = Likes to Beat On the Weak & Defenseless

  72. 72
    Corner Stone says:

    @Svensker:

    Tough Guy = Likes to Beat On the Weak & Defenseless

    It’s just like the immortal lesson Swayze taught us in Roadhouse.

  73. 73
    dslak says:

    @AkaDad: I do believe Frank Herbert wrote a book about that!

  74. 74
  75. 75
    Svensker says:

    @Corner Stone:

    It’s just like the immortal lesson Swayze taught us in Roadhouse.

    Pain don’t hurt?

    Bouncers are internationally known and admired citizens?

  76. 76

    Torture has played a part in American war efforts since at least Vietnam, with the Phoenix Program (which was better known as a wholesale assassination program) and probably a lot earlier. Secrecy usually ends in something to hide.

  77. 77
    Corner Stone says:

    @Svensker: Well, there’s two takeaways actually:
    I got married to an ugly woman. Don’t ever do that. It just takes the energy right out of you. She left me, though. Found somebody even uglier than she was. That’s life. Who can explain it?

    and

    Take the biggest guy in the world, shatter his knee and he’ll drop like a stone.

  78. 78
    Phoebe says:

    Love love love love love. I love this post.

  79. 79
    linda says:

    If it’s true, then president Bush, if he still has a conscience, must have a hard time sleeping at night.

    i swear, how someone as high up in the opinionator food chain as sullivan could still pose that as a question instead of a known fact is beyond me — george w. bush never had a conscience. he was and always will be a coward and a bully and because of his social position will use underlings and those eager to please to do his dirty work. and not think one goddamned moment more about it.

    unless, of course, there are souvenirs he can hide away in a closet to bring out and show the specially annointed. you wanna bet he doesn’t have stashed away in some deep dark place a boxed set of the torture tapes.

    http://www.time.com/time/magaz.....12,00.html

  80. 80
    Corner Stone says:

    @linda: Just ask his fucking brother no less. He called him a bully long time back.
    Fucking coward and mental midget.
    Knuckled under

  81. 81
    John PM says:

    @Jay Severin Has A Small Pen1s:

    It would be interesting to argue an appeal of a speeding ticket with Bybee as your judge.

    Anyone who has an appeal before Bybee on the Ninth Circuit now should say during oral argument that they refuse to answer any questions posed by a war criminal.

  82. 82
    Svensker says:

    @Corner Stone:

    I got married to an ugly woman. Don’t ever do that. It just takes the energy right out of you. She left me, though. Found somebody even uglier than she was. That’s life. Who can explain it?

    Sorry to hear that. Guess that doesn’t jibe with one of my favorite old songs:

    “If you want to be happy for the rest of your life
    Never make a pretty woman your wife,
    So from my personal point of view,
    Get an ugly girl to marry you.”

  83. 83
    Tim F. says:

    I think that they mean ‘tough’ like the 1950’s-era noun. i.e., a violent person with poor impulse control.

  84. 84
    Janus Daniels says:

    Tough decisions are the hard work.

  85. 85
    AnneLaurie says:

    I’d always thought that Yoo was just some bootlick ready to write anything Cheney and Addington wrote in order to curry favor. Actually, he’s apparently believed this shit since well before Bush took office, and they went out and found him in the legal academic community.

    There’s always a monster ready to justify any ugliness, and those who cherish monstrosity (like the Cheney cabal) never forget their fellow-travellers and cheerleaders. That’s another part of the “American exceptionalism” problem — less malign administrations, like (hopefully) Obama’s, tend to assume that a former regime’s criminal behavior was, if not a tragic mistake, at least an aberrancy. Or, as my Irish granny used to say, “The good folk fail to remember, and the bad folk never forget… “

  86. 86
    El Cid says:

    @valdivia: I think there are many times in recent Latin American history at which the distinction between internal and external actors and forces becomes less meaningful. In early 1970s Chile, for example, was the copper industry an internal or external force, or both, or neither, or something which varied moment to moment?

    Not to mention that even with Galeano’s anti-imperialist narrative of 1971, I don’t think you would suggest the lack of internal disputes, power differences, and agendas — I think one of the major arguments he aimed to make was that the apparently internal divisions and disputes were, in the end, quite favorable to both local and non-local exploiters.

    In fact, for the time Galeano went far beyond many Marxist writers in identifying significant actors and social forces among the ‘Indian’ populations of South America, although nowadays we take it rather for granted that scholarship will take seriously the actual views and interests and effects of pre-Columbian originating actors and social groups, instead of lumping them all into some gray category of “the exploited” etc. Nor was it the sort of work immediately embraced by the bureaucratic officialist Communist parties throughout the hemisphere.

    Isabel Allende once described it as a book every Latin American should read, but Jorge Ramos cited The Buried Mirror, while Allende cited Garcia Marquez as the writer who had most affected her life.

    It all depends on what you’re looking for and what you’ve already encountered. Scholars or philosophers or social scientists who want to see works such as Open Veins as a set of theses describing a “model” will of course find the work glossing and overgeneralizing. People who have read a number of works with such a viewpoint may either feel they’ve seen it before or frankly tire of hearing the same arguments repeated.

    In fact, note (as I mentioned earlier) that Galeano himself never wrote a book like this again.

    Good god, you know there are a lot of Venezuelan students who are by now sick of learning all there is to know about every minor burp by Simon Bolivar, which is not directly connected to anything but which was prompted by this notion of getting tired of the same old arguments (even the pretty correct ones) being repeated. I guess. But then, there are people here who can recite every move and word of Abraham Lincoln or John Adams etc., so maybe some people like that regularization of heroes.

  87. 87
    Xecklothxayyquou Gilchrist says:

    @Incertus: …otherwise they’re potentially in the same boat Henry Kissinger is in.

    Curtailed travel but otherwise living in complete freedom, with lots of money and access to powerful people, until a ripe old age?

    They might be able to live with that.

    They might be scared of the Nobel Prizes and dates with Jill St. John (equivalents), though.

  88. 88
    MikeJ says:

    Anyone who has an appeal before Bybee on the Ninth Circuit now should say during oral argument that they refuse to answer any questions posed by a war criminal.

    I seriously doubt that would be in the best interests of your client.

  89. 89
    El Cid says:

    @MikeJ: “Oh sh*t, what did my f*@%ing attorney just say? Did he just f*@%ing call the judge a ‘war criminal’? Oh god, oh god, oh god…”

  90. 90
    valdivia says:

    @El Cid:

    Ha, Bolivar the ever recurring hero. Have you seen Bolivar Soy Yo? Best South American political parody ever.

    I read Galeano long long ago and got what he was after but to me, having grown up down south and during the wars and dictatorship decades, he was just putting in narrative form something I had heard countless times from people around me. He did not provoke anything in me about what I saw as the injustices around me (and those not around me). Books like Señor Presidente and Hombres de Maiz (both by Miguel angel Asturias), or Yo El Supremo (Roa Bastos) really tell stories about how our own leaders repressed the few that needed no help from Spain or the US to make it happen.

    I think in some cases you can definitely separate what is external and internal: ITT copper in chile, definitely an external actor. The middle class that supported Pinochet–internal actors. La frutera (UFCO) were also external actors, but the local coffee producers in Guatemala who benefited from the coup in 54 were purely internal actors no?

    ps I think you find hero worship everywhere in Latin America but the Bolivar cult is really out there. Like with the sword.

  91. 91
    gnomedad says:

    John Cole’s perspective on the torture memos.

  92. 92
    patrick says:

    I read somewhere, sorry I can’t remember where, that when Cheney or Rumsfeld had decision papers prepared for Bush, they would manipulate Bush into picking the option they wanted by telling him it was “the tough choice, but the right choice”. They played that mean spirited insecure cowboy like a fiddle.

  93. 93
    Corner Stone says:

    @patrick: Bullshit. That mean little bastard wanted to do exactly what he did. He may have been manipulated at some points but ISCTM that he got done all the sadistic shit he secretly craved.
    Remember, “as long as I’m the dictator”.

  94. 94

    Yep. Torture. A tough job, but someone has to do it.

    No one wants to be a pussy.

    Who will be treating the the torturers’ flashbacks?

  95. 95
    JGabriel says:

    Sully:

    … President Bush, if he still has a conscience, must have a hard time sleeping at night.

    I am puzzled by the idea that anyone, at this late date, would still give credence to the concept that Bush has any kind of conscience.

    .

  96. 96
    El Cid says:

    I think in some cases you can definitely separate what is external and internal: ITT copper in chile, definitely an external actor. The middle class that supported Pinochet—internal actors. La frutera (UFCO) were also external actors, but the local coffee producers in Guatemala who benefited from the coup in 54 were purely internal actors no?

    The point is not that I might classify these forces the same way; it’s that each named actor is so thoroughly integrated and interpenetrated by local and foreign powers, forces, and actors that there is no simple, up or down division.

    Some local Mexican pre-Columbian Indians who worked with the Spanish against the Aztecs were sick of Aztec exploitation. The Aztecs shouldn’t have been such a**holes to their neighbors. But they were. But the conquest was clearly a mixture of local power rivalries combined with external interventions.

    Even in the coldest sense, if I were the head of some immensely powerful external actor and I wanted to change or destabilize or overthrow a government, I could always either find & partner with or support beyond any previously foreseen domestic level of support some local thugs to do my bidding for their own reasons & motivations. I may not win or get the results I want, but I can certainly make sure it looks like a thoroughly internal matter.

    Similarly, if I were running some state and wanted to stay in power, it may not be so hard to convince a lot of people that some group or activity is not just a threat but external meddling. That’s one way the U.S. has helped the Castro regime stay in power for so long.

    Plus, people are very, very different in their curiosities. Some people will tend to be much, much more interested in the more local roots of power conflicts than the more distant ones, while for others the opposite is true. And for still others what will be most interesting are the pattern-breakers, the exceptions, the oddities.

  97. 97

    Of course, it was reported again and again that Bush claimed to have no trouble sleeping during the war, that he did not give the appearance of having aged as LBJ did, and so on. It’s very unlikely that Bush has any trouble sleeping over torture.

    I read this and all I can envision is the video for Genesis’ “Land of Confusion” remade with George W. Bush as president.

  98. 98
    valdivia says:

    @El Cid:
    agreed.

  99. 99
    Xecklothxayyquou Gilchrist says:

    @JGabriel: I am puzzled by the idea that anyone, at this late date, would still give credence to the concept that Bush has any kind of conscience.

    My guess is that the only regret he has is that he didn’t get to nuke anybody.

    Maybe that he didn’t manage to torpedo Social Security, but I don’t think he was all that personally interested in that, it was more of a favor for his puppetmasters.

  100. 100
    valdivia says:

    @El Cid:

    a short ps aside from how the mosaic of intentions and interests play out (and how people like to focus on different aspects of this) there is always a prime mover that causes events no? so in 1954 the coup was very much caused by UFCO and the push by the CIA. The initial civil war in El Salvador began as a struggle within the army and only later with US intervention did the war get prolonged.

  101. 101
    Mary says:

    I suspect that what does keep Bush awake at night is the realization that he was mentally weak enough to be pushed around by Cheney and the neocons who destroyed any hope he might have of a legacy and destroyed his family’s name. That is why he didn’t pardon Libby in the end.

  102. 102
    El Cid says:

    @valdivia: Oh, I agree — the U.S. foreign policy establishment precisely began to involve itself like crazy in late 1970s Central America because its favored local elites looked to lose. Had the domestic elites easily succeeded in crushing the challenges they faced, the U.S. FPE would have continued to keep up their previous levels of intervention. There’s no real need for high level intervention when things are going the way you want.

    Of course, we’d all have been better off, here at home in the U.S. and there in Central America, had the U.S. been the type of power which had supported the reforms of Arbenz rather than overthrow him and put Guatemala into tyrant hell, but who cares about what’s best for me and my conceptions of the “national interest” when there are corporate chieftains to enrich and darkies to crush?

  103. 103
    Dennis-SGMM says:

    “I spent 33 years and four months in active military service and during that period I spent most of my time as a high class muscle man for Big Business, for Wall Street and the bankers. In short, I was a racketeer, a gangster for capitalism. I helped make Mexico and especially Tampico safe for American oil interests in 1914. I helped make Haiti and Cuba a decent place for the National City Bank boys to collect revenues in. I helped in the raping of half a dozen Central American republics for the benefit of Wall Street. I helped purify Nicaragua for the International Banking House of Brown Brothers in 1902-1912. I brought light to the Dominican Republic for the American sugar interests in 1916. I helped make Honduras right for the American fruit companies in 1903. In China in 1927 I helped see to it that Standard Oil went on its way unmolested. Looking back on it, I might have given Al Capone a few hints. The best he could do was to operate his racket in three districts. I operated on three continents.”

    Smedley Butler, Maj. General, USMC

    The Monroe Doctrine was a nobly conceived idea that was turned into the worst sort of interventionism almost as soon as the ink was dry.

  104. 104
    wrb says:

    Superb essay at the top

  105. 105

    …when Cheney or Rumsfeld had decision papers prepared for Bush, they would manipulate Bush into picking the option they wanted by telling him it was “the tough choice, but the right choice”. They played that mean spirited insecure cowboy like a fiddle. –patrick

    You nailed that one perfectly, patrick. Anyone who thinks that Bush has any kind of conscience, just hasn’t been watching the same movie. That moronic dick sailed through 8 years in the oval office on false bravado and was clueless as to what was happening. This is the same guy who, as governor of Texas, mocked a woman who was pleading for clemency while on death row.

    I don’t think he gave a rat’s ass about torture or its effects in the same way that he didn’t give a damn about 100,000 dead Iraqis or 4000 dead Americans in a war of choice.

  106. 106
    Dave C says:

    This blog needs more thread. More thread, I say!

  107. 107
    valdivia says:

    @El Cid:

    best of all–The Alliance for Progress advocated *exactly* the same kind of reforms that got Arbenz thrown out by UFCO and the CIA, just 10 years earlier

    @Dennis-SGMM:

    well they waited a few years til they actually used the Monroe Doctrine for anything nefarious, the US was too busy right after Latin American independence buying land of off Mexico and Santa Anna was too busy building his own coffers selling it to you guys. The real ‘fun’ began with the Roosevelt Corollary and Dollar ‘Diplomacy’ after the Spanish American war.

  108. 108
    PaulB says:

    I’d always thought that Yoo was just some bootlick ready to write anything Cheney and Addington wrote in order to curry favor. Actually, he’s apparently believed this shit since well before Bush took office, and they went out and found him in the legal academic community.

    That might be true but I rather doubt it, given Yoo’s op-ed in The Wall Street Journal critical of then-President Bill Clinton on some of the same grounds he would later defend President Bush against. Glenn Greenwald, as usual, has all of the details. Yoo is the classic IOKIYAR hack.

  109. 109
    El Cid says:

    @valdivia: It was all kind of odd, given that Latin elites saw that Kennedy & co. were much more energetically pushing anti-revolution and anti-leftism (i.e., establishing the precedents for the National Security State model which would soon arrive), it was hard to tell what was going to push elites to carry out these challenging social and democratic reforms.

    Pretty soon the U.S. would be rather explicitly revealing it was a great deal more motivated by opposing any leftism (or for that sake nationalism) and creating repressive states more satisfyingly capable of repressing their own people than it was by AFP promises, though like later would happen with the IMF, WB, and IAB, we did rather firmly insist on debt repayment obligations.

    It’s not so much about whether or not anyone was “serious” about the AFP, so much as the AFP’s contradictions with the U.S. foreign policy establishment’s ‘real’ concerns, and that the AFP was, in fact, designed and administered chiefly by and with Western and investor interests at heart along with local cronies.

    I just don’t think it was realistic to expect such a powerful hawkish establishment in the U.S. to truly dedicate itself to the democratic and thoroughly indigenous development of Latin America, when the truth was that they felt that the best possible outcome was one which vaguely looked like that, but in which the U.S. ran the show.

  110. 110
    xephyr says:

    The whole Bush having a conscience scenario just requires far too much willful ignorance to ever get any traction.

  111. 111
    Mnemosyne says:

    I suppose that I should be more indignant that it will take an outcry from the public at large to get the administration to move on prosecutions for war crimes but, you know, I knew when I voted for Obama that he was to the right of me and that he would need to be pushed to do the things that I think are important. So far, I’m not displeased with the way he released the torture memos (considered keeping them secret but released them when it turned out there was a vocal constituency who wanted them released) so I have no problem with the idea that we’ll need to keep his feet to the fire to get some prosecutions.

    At least we have evidence that he will listen to objections to his policies and change those policies if it looks like he might be in the wrong. That’s more than we had for the past 8 years.

  112. 112

    The biggest problem with prosecutions isn’t that there would be a storm of protest from the right. There would, and the political cost would be high. The biggest problem is that Obama would pay that cost for nothing. Why does anyone think that prosecutions would lead to convictions? I’m just going to paste in what I wrote in response to Nell over at Obsidian Wings:

    Do you think that the OLC lawyers, Bush, Cheney, Rumsfeld, Rice, and/or Tenet committed the crime of ordering or authorizing torture?

    Yes.

    If so, do you yourself believe that prosecution would in fact be a “political witch hunt”?

    No.

    Or is it that you believe there are too many other U.S. citizens who are likely to see such trials as witch hunts?

    Sort of. If anything, my view is even more pessimistic than that. I think that there is a significant block, of somewhere between 28% of the country (Bush’s level of support) and 44% of the country (McCain voters), of Americans who think that authorizing torture was the right thing to do, even if many of them won’t phrase it like that. Whether or not they think it is a witch hunt, they honestly don’t believe that anyone should be prosecuted for those actions. I’m pessimistic that we will be able to put together a jury of 12 people who will unanimously be willing to convict them under any circumstances. If it is seen to be a political prosecution, the chances of getting a conviction go from questionable to zero.

    The argument that Obama should start investigations and prosecutions because it garners decent support in polling isn’t so much wrong as it is irrelevant. I think that that support is probably pretty soft, and might evaporate if tested. Even if it doesn’t, getting a majority in polling doesn’t help you in selecting a jury.

    Announcing right now that he intends to prosecute would be a foolish move for Obama, whether or not he wants to prosecute. His statement when releasing the memos was exactly the right thing to say, and, if you want to ever see prosecutions, you should support it. Right now, the best thing he can do is make information as to what happened public. If people who want to see prosecutions can win a public argument that prosecutions should happen, then you might (might) get them. Focusing your anger on Obama isn’t productive for that.

  113. 113
    ronathan richardson says:

    This is one of the best blog posts I’ve read this year. I wonder if we’ll see the media mention Obama’s toughness and gravitas for giving Geithner and the ripoff team a blank check to make sure Goldman Sachs employees get their $100M bonuses back.

  114. 114
    DougJ says:

    I wonder if we’ll see the media mention Obama’s toughness and gravitas for giving Geithner and the ripoff team a blank check to make sure Goldman Sachs employees get their $100M bonuses back.

    I suspect we will.

  115. 115
    LiberalTarian says:

    DougJ? I think I love you man. :D

  116. 116
    bob h says:

    I can understand why Holder and Obama do not want to prosecute the actual torturers; it would precipitate an all-out revolt from the right, and ruin efforts to achieve national unity. So let the bastards go.

    But somehow the Bybees and Gonzalezs have to be brought to justice.

  117. 117
    bellatrys says:

    Don’t forget Bobo Brooksie calling for “morally hazardous” decisions by the US govt – while simultaneously invoking unironically the ‘White Man’s Burden’ trope, you can’t make this stuff up –

    “What will happen to the national mood when the news programs start broadcasting images of the brutal measures our own troops will have to adopt? Inevitably, there will be atrocities that will cause many good-hearted people to defect from the cause. They will be tempted to have us retreat into the paradise of our own innocence.”

    –and then getting wigged out and trying to backpedal when he realized that a) far from being too chicken to torture helpless prisoners, we’d been doing it all along, and b) it had not helped but been making things worse in his beloved mental Viagra War On Terror…

  118. 118
    rmd108 says:

    On the issue of whether Bush has a conscience: Not likely. Read the 2004 book Bush on the Couch. It is a psychological analysis of his character based on publicly available information from and about him, his family and his upbringing. Essentially, the author, a psychiatrist, says Bush is a primitive, anal-sadistic character. Such a developmentally-early level of personality development makes it unlikely that Bush has a mature conscience. It is possible that he has a fear of the Old Testament sort of wrath of God, but since he sees himself as aligned with this God in the battle of good against evil, he likely feels he is safe from any other judgment.

  119. 119
    rewinn says:

    In questions of courage, there is one simple rule: What would John Wayne do?

    * John Wayne never tortures

    * John Wayne never lets torturers walk free

    * If John Wayne, in a time of weakness and fear, had committed torture, he would bravely fess up to it and take what’s coming to him.

    I sincerely hope that Obama is simply playing a smart game; seeing the difficulty in prosecuting now, he’s releasing the factual memos and hoping the American public will go all John Wayne on the subject.

    Or maybe he just doesn’t think it’s that big a deal; I don’t know and it doesn’t matter. We The People will have to push to have the torturers given a fair trial, if only to show that we aren’t cowards.

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