I know I keep talking about torture, but I can't get over it. I cannot get beyond the fact that Bush has turned us into something closer to the former Soviet Union than the America of my youth.
Jack Goldsmith, in his critique of this administration, suggested that the Bush people were scared to death of allowing another attack. Understandable, I guess, though it does not explain some of their actions--like pulling off their search for bin Laden, or capitulating to the chemical industry on security.
But ultimately, the Bush administration's insistence on torture is indefensible. As several have noted, it is immoral and doesn't work. And the Bush people seem to ignore evidence of either. Now this ABC story about "Daniel Levin, then acting assistant attorney general," who underwent waterboarding to understand the experience. He related back to the White House that it was a horrifying experience even though he knew he was not going to die. He concluded that it could be illegal torture, and called on the Bush admin to make very clear guidelines on the use of waterboarding.
The administration at the time was reeling from an August 2002 memo by Jay Bybee, then the head of the Office of Legal Counsel, which laid out possible justifications for torture. In June 2004, Levin's predecessor at the office, Jack Goldsmith, officially withdrew the Bybee memo, finding it deeply flawed.There is something pathological about people who simply fire people who disagree with them.
When Levin took over from Goldsmith, he went to work on a memo that would effectively replace the Bybee memo as the administration's legal position on torture. It was during this time that he underwent waterboarding.
In December 2004, Levin released the new memo. He said, "Torture is abhorrent" but he went on to say in a footnote that the memo was not declaring the administration's previous opinions illegal. The White House, with Alberto Gonzales as the White House counsel, insisted that this footnote be included in the memo.
But Levin never finished a second memo imposing tighter controls on the specific interrogation techniques. Sources said he was forced out of the Justice Department when Gonzales became attorney general.
Dan Froomkin - Bush: It's Mukasey or Nothing - washingtonpost.com: "Scott Horton blogs for Harpers: 'There has been no shortage of litmus tests in the past: abortion, gay marriage, the flag amendment--whatever hot-button issue the G.O.P. cooks up for its next election campaign. But the torture litmus test is new, and it seems to be key for lawyers. It really is an exercise in Kool Aid drinking. If you're prepared to hedge on whether waterboarding is torture, then you might be counted upon to do anything. Indeed, there is no question about it. Waterboarding is torture and has been understood to be torture in a formal sense for over a hundred years. Soldiers who used it were court-martialed, and the attempted defense of military necessity was smacked down by the Army's Judge Advocate General in 1903. There is no shortage of other precedent. This is why Mukasey's dodge on the issue--first a very primitive dodge, and then a more sophisticated one--is so troubling.'Oh, and Bush compared his critics to those who ignored the rise of Hitler and Lenin.
The Washington Post editorial board writes that Bush yesterday "bemoaned the imperiled state of Mr. Mukasey's nomination without one iota of self-awareness that the nomination is in trouble because of the president's own warped policies on torture."
And yet, the editorial advises: "Those senators who truly want to bring the nation back from the disgrace of Mr. Bush's interrogation policies should do two things. They should confirm Mr. Mukasey, who is far more independent and qualified than either of Mr. Bush's previous two nominees. And they should do something which, for all the rhetoric, they have so far declined to do: ban torture, by passing the National Security with Justice Act sponsored by Sen. Joseph R. Biden (D-Del.)."
But legal blogger Marty Lederman points out that Congress has repeatedly banned torture in the past. In fact, he writes, "if there is any single thing imaginable that the Senate, the Congress, and the world community have not'declined to do,' it is to ban torture categorically."
Lederman adds: "That's not to say it would not also be a good thing to enact the Biden bill, which would specifically require all United States personnel, including the CIA, to use only interrogation techniques authorized by the Army Field Manual. That would be yet another step that would help prevent the Bush Administration from violating the current bans on torture by doing things such as implausibly characterizing its torture as 'not torture.'"
Yesterday on CNN, Jack Cafferty let loose: "Where does he get this stuff? We're talk about confirmation hearing in congressional committee for a cabinet officer and he's babbling about Lenin and Hitler? I mean -- come on! I'm tired of being told to be afraid. The people are tired of being told to be afraid. Just get off of it. Either win the argument on the merits or go away and leave me alone."Bush rules like an abusive tyrant. He is not a good person and shame on every Republican who enables his abuse and every Democrat who cowers before it.