Torture, Accountability and the Faux-Absolution of Collective Guilt

by matttbastard

In a must-read post, Dan Froomkin takes on recent attempts by OG ‘eventheliberal’ Michael Kinsley and pseudo-contrarian Slate guru Jacob Weisberg to whitewash the Bush Admin’s torture record by arguing that “the nation’s collective guilt for torture is so great that prosecution is a cop-out.”

Froomkin points out the elephant in the room–and it’s wearing a press pass:

While it’s true that the public’s outrage over torture has been a long time coming, one reason for that is the media’s sporadic and listless coverage of the issue. Yes, there were some extraordinary examples of investigative reporting we can point to, but other news outlets generally didn’t pick up these exclusives. Nobody set up a torture beat, to hammer away daily at what history I think will show was one of the major stories of the decade. Heck, as Weisberg himself points out, some of his colleagues were actually cheerleaders for torture. By failing to return to the story again and again — with palpable outrage — I think the media actually normalized torture. We had an obligation to shout this story from the rooftops, day and night. But instead we lulled the public into complacency.

Wait, you mean the corporate media may have collectively (and quite willingly) played the role of useful idiot in the tragicomic post-9/11 GWOT farce put on by the Bush-Cheney Review? NO WAIS, DUDE!

Froomkin continues:

Secondly, while it’s certainly worth exploring why any number of people were either actively or passively complicit in our torture regime — and I’m all for some national self-flagellation here — that has nothing to do with whether senior administration officials willfully broke the law, and whether they should be held accountable. It doesn’t change the law.

Froomkin’s case for accountability has since been inadvertently and unintentionally bolstered by–wait for it–former Bush AG John Ashcroft (h/t Think Progress):

The government must hold accountable any individuals who acted illegally in this financial meltdown, while preserving the viability of the companies that received bailout funds or stimulus money. Certainly, we should demand justice. But we must all remember that justice is a value, the adherence to which includes seeking the best outcome for the American people. In some cases it will be the punishing of bad actors. In other cases it may involve heavy corporate fines or operating under a carefully tailored agreement.

Ok, so Ashcroft is talking about the financial meltdown, not the widespread erosion of human rights and the complete subversion of the rule of law that occurred under, um, his watch.

Still, as Jack Balkin notes, the principle is universal:

According to this same logic, the government should demand a full accounting of what Bush Administration officials did and it should institute new methods for monitoring and preventing abuses in the future. It should find ways to hold individuals who broke the law accountable without jeopardizing our existing national security. What the government should not do is what Attorney General Ashcroft argues against in the financial context– to sweep illegal actions under the rug or to go easy on the individuals who broke the law because they work for the federal government.

Sen. Chris Dodd underscores the bottom line:

[N]ot to prosecute people or pursue them when these acts have occurred is, in a sense, to invite it again in some future administration.

Special prosecutor NAO.

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The US Department of Justice Under President George W. Bush: This Close to Being a Socialist 5th Column (SHRIEK!)

by matttbastrard

Stay classy, Megyn Kelly (and clueless):

KELLY: But, I’ll tell you what I think, so far is the most amazing lawyer story coming out of election ‘08 and that is the Department of Justice, which normally sends not just poll observers, but also criminal prosecutors to certain battleground key polling areas. Just in case there’s nonsense, right?

MILLER: Mmm hmm.

KELLY: Met with this liberal group of activists and two weeks later — and the Department of Justice, you may or may not know, leans left — made a decision after meeting with these liberals not to send those criminal prosecutors now. So, if there’s some sort of criminal behavior at the polls, good luck trying to find a prosecutor to complain to.

MILLER: That is unbelievable.

“Unbelievable”? Indeed. As Think Progress notes:

If there is the “criminal behavior” at the polls that Kelly is so worried about, there will be plenty of resources for voters. Republicans and Democrats are deploying thousands of lawyers across the country to monitor the polls. Both the Justice Department and the Election Protection Coalition have also set up hotlines to help voters.

Plus, Kelly seems to be unfairly dismissing all the hard goddamned work John Ashcroft and Monica Goodling put into making the Justice Department more *ahem* fair and balanced:

A 1995 graduate of Messiah College, an evangelical Christian school, and a 1999 graduate of Pat Robertson’s Regent University Law School, Goodling is an improbable character for a political scandal. Her chief claim to professional fame appears to have been loyalty to the president and to the process of reshaping the Justice Department in his image (and, thus, His image). A former career official there told The Washington Post that Goodling “forced many very talented career people out of main Justice so she could replace them with junior people that were either loyal to the administration or would score her some points.” And as she rose at Justice, a former classmate said, Goodling “developed a very positive reputation for people coming from Christian schools into Washington looking for employment in government, always ready to offer encouragement and be a sounding board.”

[…]

One of Ashcroft’s most profound changes was to the Civil Rights Division, started in 1957 to fight racial discrimination in voting. Under Ashcroft, career lawyers were systematically fired or forced out and replaced by members of conservative or Christian groups or folks with no civil rights experience. In the five years after 2001, the Civil Rights Division brought no voting cases — and only one employment case — on behalf of an African American. Instead, the division took up the “civil rights” abuses of reverse discrimination — claims of voter fraud or discrimination against Christians.

And yet despite all that effort, Kelly still has the nerve to complain that the DoJ “leans left.”  Sheesh. Some people are just impossible to please.

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Quote of the Day: Make Their Ears Bleed

by matttbastard

Enough of this bullshit and enough of keeping the eye off the prize. Worrying about the election is shit at the moment; it will happen regardless, and even if a Democrat wins, we’re going to have to worry about restoring credibility in government. This utter bullshit about democracy and freedom in the middle east has got to fucking stop until we address the sheer blasphemy that was done in the name of our supposedly moral country.

Keep screaming it until their damn ears bleed: Bush and his cabinet approved torture.

– Space Cowboy, Scream It from the Highest Mountain: “DO SOMETHING!

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Nightmares and Dreamscapes

by matttbastard

ABC News interview with President George W. Bush (h/t pogge & skdadl):

RADDATZ: …ABC News reported this week that your senior national security officials all got together and approved — including Vice President Cheney — all got together and approved enhanced interrogation methods, including waterboarding, for detainees.

BUSH: You mean back in 2003?

RADDATZ: Are you aware of that? Are you aware of that?

BUSH: Was I aware that we were going to use enhanced…

RADDATZ: That they all met together?

BUSH: Of course. They meet together all the time on…

RADDATZ: And approved that?

BUSH: … a variety of issues.

RADDATZ: And approved that?

BUSH: Yes.

RADDATZ: You have no problem with that?

BUSH: In 2003?

RADDATZ: Yes.

BUSH: No. I mean, as a matter of fact, I told the country we did that. And I also told them it was legal. We had legal opinions that enabled us to do it. And, no, I didn’t have any problem at all trying to find out what Khalid Sheikh Mohammed knew.

RADDATZ: OK.

BUSH: And guess what? I think it’s very important for the American people to understand who Khalid Sheikh Mohammed was. He was the person who ordered the suicide attack — I mean, the 9/11 attacks. And back then, there was all kinds of concerns about people saying, “Well, the administration is not connecting the dots.” You might remember those — that period.

RADDATZ: I remember.

BUSH: Well, we started to connect the dots, in order to protect the American people. And, yes, I’m aware our national security team met on this issue. And I approved. I don’t know what’s new about that; I’m not so sure what’s so startling about that.

Chris Floyd (h/t Chet Scoville):

This pattern has recurred over and over throughout the Bush Administration. Bush and his minions commit crimes and atrocities in secret; they move heaven and earth to conceal their filthy deeds; they squirm and squeal like panicked rats when their some small portion of their evil comes to light; they belch forth a relentless series of self-contradictory lies to cover up, obfuscate or explain away the crimes; and when at last their malefactions can no longer be denied, they trot out the president himself to say: “Yeah, we did it; so what?” And then….nothing happens.

And now nothing is happening again. It is an astounding phenomenon. Bush is the most widely despised president in modern times. The war he launched on false pretenses against Iraq is deeply unpopular, and is plainly bankrupting the country. His economic policies have plunged millions into ruin, want and insecurity. The opposition political party controls the Congress — a bastion they could have used as a bully pulpit to rally the public and as a battering ram to bring down an openly criminal, shamelessly unconstitutional, dangerous, illegitimate regime. And yet….nothing happens.

Tristero:

One final point. As horrifying as this latest news is, I’d like to remind you that we don’t know the half of it. The fact that Bush felt comfortable confirming his own approval of White House torture planning indicates that far more dreadful moral outrages were planned and committed by these bastards. And that those horrors are official United States policy.

This is not some puerile propaganda-disguised-as-entertainment like ’24,’ dear friends, where the guns fire blanks and the blood is ketchup. This is the real thing. People are being tortured with your tax dollars. And let us not forget that there are no “utilitarian” excuses that trump this immorality. “Our” goals are not intrinsically benign and therefore justify these obscenities. Torture has not saved a single American life.

Should Bush, et al immediately be impeached and removed from office for these and other heinous activities? Should he and the others stand trial? Of course they should, it goes without saying. It is a measure of how far removed we are from a representative democracy that, politically, it is simply inconceivable that the top level of planners will ever encounter justice.

Liss:

When that feeling stirs in our guts, that creeping sense that something isn’t right, we must listen to our intuition. We cannot keep our heads down, hold our breath, and wait for it all to be over.

[…]

We must not give up on our right and our responsibility to vote, but voting alone will not solve the problems we face. Those of us who can look beyond our next chance to trek to the voting booth must find other ways of making our voices heard in the interim. When Ukraine’s government attempted to undermine their democratic principles, there was rioting in the streets. When will we riot in the streets? I wonder, anxiously, what it will take to shake us from our immutable belief that democracy will solve the problem of its own inevitable ruination so long as we depend exclusively on its fading potency.

Citizens of a democracy, we are taught, address their concerns and protest bad administrations and their dire policies on election days. We are polite and respectful as we register our dissent in quiet booths with drawn curtains. But maybe, just maybe, the pride we take in our civility will become our greatest shame.

You goddamn right it’s time to make some noise, so that we might awaken the sleeping giant and finally–finallymake something happen.

Update: Larisa Alexandrovna with the first of a projected series of posts on the criminal legacy of the Bush Administration (thanks, skdadl).

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