Congress

The Wall Street Journal Contributes to a Possible Torture "Truth Commission"

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The Wall Street Journal points out that some Congress members are also complicit in pre-knowledge of possibly criminal torture policies of the Bush administration:

Beginning in 2002, Nancy Pelosi and other key Democrats (as well as Republicans) on the House and Senate Intelligence Committees were thoroughly, and repeatedly, briefed on the CIA's covert antiterror interrogation programs. They did nothing to stop such activities, when they weren't fully sanctioning them. If they now decide the tactics they heard about then amount to abuse, then by their own logic they themselves are complicit. Let's review the history the political class would prefer to forget.

According to our sources and media reports we've corroborated, the classified briefings began in the spring of 2002 and dealt with the interrogation of Abu Zubaydah, a high-value al Qaeda operative captured in Pakistan. In succeeding months and years, more than 30 Congressional sessions were specifically devoted to the interrogation program and its methods, including waterboarding and other aggressive techniques designed to squeeze intelligence out of hardened detainees like Zubaydah.

The briefings were first available to the Chairmen and ranking Members of the Intelligence Committees. From 2003 through 2006, that gang of four included Democrats Bob Graham and John D. Rockefeller in the Senate and Jane Harman in the House, as well as Republicans Porter Goss, Peter Hoekstra, Richard Shelby and Pat Roberts. Senior staffers were sometimes present. After September 2006, when President Bush publicly acknowledged the program, the interrogation briefings were opened to the full committees.

If Congress wanted to kill this program, all it had to do was withhold funding. And if Democrats thought it was illegal or really found the CIA's activities so heinous, one of them could have made a whistle-blowing floor statement under the protection of the Constitution's speech and debate clause. They'd have broken their secrecy oaths and jeopardized national security, sure. But if they believed that Bush policies were truly criminal, didn't they have a moral obligation to do so?

Lest you think the Journal has gone "soft of terror," they are of course running this article with the intention of pulling a reductio ad absurdum on any attempts to bring government officials complicit in such policies to justice, or at least to some political damage, through a thorough investigation into Bush administration interrogation policies.

However, intentionally or not, the Journal has done a service in bringing this to, or back to, our attention. No politicians of whatever party or whatever branch should pass through their roles in these crimes unscathed, either by possible legal action or the public obloquy they deserve.

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  1. “However, intentionally or not, the Journal has done a service in bringing this to, or back to, our attention. No politicians of whatever party or whatever branch should pass through their roles in these crimes unscathed, either by possible legal action or the public obloquy they deserve.”

    So the party in power will fairly and honest acknowledge its own complicity and responsibility on this or any issue? You are really funny Brian. I didn’t know you were such a comediene.

  2. No “reduction ad absurdum” needed here, this is a straightforward comment that if the Democrats are bound and determined to prosecute the individuals they believe had full knowledge of “torture” programs being carried out by agents of the US Government, then there should be quite a list of Democratic names in the lineup also. Criticize him if you must, but Bush has extended extraordinary cooperation with the Democrats during the post 9/11 period, above and beyond the responsibilities of the Executive branch to keep the Legislative branch informed, and time will only tell if the Obama administration will be able to match it.

  3. The quivering bedwetters of the WSJ editorial page, take a principled stance on this?

    Yeah, right.

  4. Glenn Greenwald at salon.com has been going on about this exact topic for a while now: that democratic party leaders won’t be investigating because they are complicit in the lawbreaking.

  5. Nothing would make me laugh harder than Pelosi being tried for war crimes.

    Of course, war crimes trials are never quite rational. We firebombed Dresden and nuked Japanese cities; those would certainly have been treated as war crimes if the Axis Powers had done them.

  6. It’s actually a point I’ve tried to make to some of those who think the Democrats walk on water. The Democratic leadership frequently was complicit in some of the Bush administration’s worse excesses, whatever they may have said publicly. And not just right after 9/11, either.

    And people wonder why libertarians keep saying, “A pox on both their houses!” Indeed, why do we do that?

  7. The Democratic leadership frequently was complicit in some of the Bush administration’s worse excesses, whatever they may have said publicly.

    Of course they were. And the Big O has been signalling all over the place that he will hold the course, as well.

    Well, there will probably be some ritualistic denunciations of “torture”, but the techniques at issue have been discontinued anyway (as far as anybody knows, at least).

  8. Nasty fucking imperialist, the lot of ’em. Worse yet, they’re inept.

    While they’re ostensibly protecting our nation from “terrorism”, I often wonder:

    Who’s gonna protect my Republic from an imperial (and ruinously inept) government?

  9. That’s the kind of thing I expect this year–to end practices that were already ended and to solve issues by redefining them. I am confident that the Democrats will not reject the lessons learned during the Bush administration. Bush carried the Clintonian Big Spin and will hand the baton to Obama.

  10. The cowardice of the Democratic leadership should be exposed. It already has been, really. But there’s a difference between committing a murder and keeping quiet about one.Give George, Dick, and Donny life imprisonment and Nancy three to five. Sounds good to me.

  11. Torturing the workers and freedom fighters is always wrong. That treatment should be turned on the imperialists and see how they like it.

  12. Alan,

    What’s the point of having superpowers if you aren’t going to use them?

  13. I wonder. Does anyone actually think that someone at the CIA in ’01 or ’02 suddenly said, “Oh, Cheney just sent down the OK on waterboarding and aggressive interrogation. Sure glad we can start doing that stuff”?

  14. Give George, Dick, and Donny life imprisonment and Nancy three to five. Sounds good to me.

    Prison detail wouldn’t be fair to the secret service agents.

  15. Okay, so Bush, Cheney, et al get the firing squad
    while Pelosi, Reid, & co. get life in prison. Works for me!

  16. Heard Thom Hartmann of Air America Radio this morning say something along these lines:

    Members of Congress who knew about Bush’s torture are complicit in it. They aren’t responsible for it, and shouldn’t be held responsible, but they should be made complicit, (whatever that means) even if they are Democrats. Even if they are good Democrats.

    I do not claim this as a complete or exact quote, only the gist of it. Except for the last bit, that is burned into my memory… “Even if they are good Democrats.” Good thing I wasn’t drinking coffee when I heard that, or I’d have had to sue somebody (Air America?) for causing me to spew all over the inside of the windshield and being unable to stop at the 4-way I was approaching!

  17. With the Bush admin, I’m not sure if we need a torture truth commission or a truth tortured commission.

  18. I oppose waterboarding, but Librals are in denial if they think Democrats will stop it.

  19. “The torture was OK because Democrats knew what we were doing and didn’t have the guts to stop us. So just ignore the whole thing and let the torture continue.”

  20. I think that may be what the WSJ writer was saying. It’s my opinion that torture is wrong, and the silence of Congress on the issue was criminal. Regardless of party affiliation. And, of course, that goes double for the administration.

    The big problem here is that the more things change, the more they stay the same.

  21. “The torture was OK because Democrats knew what we were doing and didn’t have the guts to stop us. So just ignore the whole thing and let the torture continue.”

    Torture is an issue where one has to draw a line somewhere. We all certainly agree, I think, that things that cause permanent physical damage are torture. People might disagree on things that cause extreme discomfort but not necessarily permanent damage, such as playing music for long periods of time but not at volumes that would cause hearing damage.

    Personally, I view long term incarceration as a much more severe punishment than, say, short term corporal punishment, at least in terms of what I’d prefer for myself, but most people seem to disagree.

    A line has to be drawn somewhere as to what is allowed. It’s not all completely obvious.

    It’s everyone’s stated opinion that torture is wrong. People just disagree on where torture starts. Congress is involved in the process of deciding where that line is.

  22. It’s my opinion that torture is wrong

    This is essentially a contentless statement without context. Everyone in political discourse agrees that torture is wrong, by definition. The statement has no meaning without saying, “I believe that X is torture,” where X is cutting off hands, whipping, waterboarding, playing loud music, having women in miniskirts sit on the laps of uptight jihadis, imprisonment for five years, or good cop/bad cop techniques.

  23. It wasn’t meaningless until everyone decided to spin and spin again the definition of torture.

  24. Complicit in the lawbreaking? I would love to see the statute defining what constitutes torture and what merely constitutes “aggressive interrogation techniques” and whether said tactics are illegal.

    When you have bloggers and journalists, Andrew Sullivan immediately comes to mind, who claim having scantily-clad females in the same room as terrorists and “abusing” the Koran constitute torture it’s pretty safe to totally discount a lot of these breathless articles on the subject as faux-outrage and ostentatious posturing. I am sorry, but when ripping pages of a fucking book and showing some ass is called torture, the word has lost all of its meaning and thoughts of prosecution over such frivolous bullshit are laughable. No wonder this subject elicits yawns from most of the public. As for waterboarding, if numerous journalists are willing to subject themselves to it, then we are probably not dealing with torture.

  25. “Lest you think the Journal has gone “soft of terror,” they are of course running this article with the intention of pulling a reductio ad absurdum on any attempts to bring government officials complicit in such policies to justice”

    Again, which laws were broken here?

  26. “Glenn Greenwald at salon.com has been going on about this exact topic for a while now: that democratic party leaders won’t be investigating because they are complicit in the lawbreaking”

    Excuse me for not taking anything written by Glenn Greenwald, or one of his many multiple personalities, seriously

  27. Hell, you might even be Glenn Greenwald himself. How else can you explain how you are so familiar with what is on salon.com, a site that has a smaller readership than the “John McEnroe Show” had viewers?

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