Monday, April 27, 2009

More on David Broder's apologetics for criminal misconduct

I was kicking myself last night because I forgot to address in my post on David Broder and Michael Scheuer's apologetics for criminal law-breaking the following from Broder:

The memos on torture represented a deliberate, and internally well-debated, policy decision, made in the proper places — the White House, the intelligence agencies and the Justice Department — by the proper officials.
I had intended to follow up on that, but I see that Scott Horton already beat me to it

There’s hardly a truthful statement to be found anywhere in Broder’s column. Start with the claim that the torture memos “reflect a deliberate, internally well-debated, policy decision.” Really? That assessment suggests Broder hasn’t actually read the memos. If he did, he’d come to the Bush Justice Department’s conclusions at the end that the key memos granting authority were improperly reasoned—largely because they did not, in fact, engage the key figures who should have been in the debate. But it’s much worse than that. We learned in the last ten days that the White House worked frantically to compartmentalize the production of the memos and to exclude all individuals who had actual expertise in the subject matter they were addressing—such as the Judge Advocates General of the four service branches, and the lawyers at the Department of State who have historically formed U.S. policy and views with respect to the Convention Against Torture and the Geneva Conventions. Notwithstanding these efforts, when other lawyers and uniformed military officers did learn about what was being done, they risked their careers by intervening and demanding that the readers of these memos be reminded about the clear-cut requirements of the criminal law. This was all to no avail.

Indeed, we learn from Philip Zelikow that when he wrote a memo, the White House launched an effort to scoop up and destroy all the copies. Why? They were perfectly conscious of the criminal conduct they were engaging in, and that the Zelikow memo could be cited by a future prosecutor as evidence against them. Alberto Gonzales himself repeatedly issued warnings that a criminal prosecution could follow. And if these decisions were “well-debated,” why is it that the Bush Administration itself repudiated most of the memoranda, agreeing that their reasoning was impossible to defend? It’s hard to read Broder’s effort and not conclude that he hasn’t taken the time to learn the basic facts about the torture debate, to read the documents, or to understand the issues. In the perverse world of David Broder, what counts is the equilibrium of the Washington matrix of which he is a long-established part. Broder is the perfect example of what William Wilberforce called “politics devoid of principle.”
I think it but a small requirement that someone writing a column for one of the most influential newspapers in the country take the time to inform his/her self about the subject at hand. The epistemology of the Bush administration - decide something for ideological reasons then fabricate a cover rationale for it later, ignoring or hiding any contrary views or evidence - isn't exactly a secret at this point. But Broder could benefit from reading, say, Phillipe Sands' Torture Team which demonstrated that key Bush administration figures developed their torture practices by cutting out of the legal process anyone that wouldn't tell them what they had already decided to do, and that the legal process that they did go through was carefully choreographed to generate pseudo-legal cover for what they already intended to do. If Broder is too lazy to read the book he can listen to Sands speaking to NPR.

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