Monday, May 25, 2009

Does Dick Cheney's pro-torture dishonesty know any bounds?

Former Vice President Cheney recently gave a self-serving national security speech at AEI as part of his "don't prosecute me" reality revision media tour. The entire speech was generally hideous and morally repugnant, but the most despicable, heinous aspect of it was Cheney having the nerve, the audacity to describe the abuse at Abu Ghraib as the result of

a few sadistic prison guards [who] abused inmates in violation of American law, military regulations, and simple decency. For the harm they did, to Iraqi prisoners and to America's cause, they deserved and received Army justice.
The reality is that the abuse that occurred at Abu Ghraib was a systemic problem throughout America's gulag prison system and was the result of top down policy decisions that Cheney was himself very much a part of. It is absolutely disgusting (and cowardly) for Cheney to secretly advocate for and help implement an illegal prisoner abuse regime, yet to only then denounce and blame "a few bad apples" for the results that followed directly from the actions of Cheney and the rest of the Bush torture team.

McClatchy - one of the few news services that sytematically does it job - has noted some of the inconvenient truths that Cheney left out of his speech.

But the final word should go to U.S. Air Force veteran criminal investigator and a former senior interrogator in Iraq, Matthew Alexander, author of How to Break a Terrorist.* Alexander notes that Cheney leaves out the facts that: foreign fighters have been recruited to fight in Iraq because of revelations about American prisoner abuse, that the US has prosecuted waterboarding as a war crime, that we have an anti-torture tradition that stretches back to George Washington, and that Cheney's policies have not only made the use of more effective interrogation techniques more difficult, but that they also interrupted and put an end to interrogations that were yielding valuable intelligence (although they weren't generating false confessions of an al Qaeda/Iraq link that could be used to sell a war with Iraq.) And lastly

[T]he point that is most absent is that our greatest success in this conflict was achieved without torture or abuse. My interrogation team found Abu Musab Al Zarqawi, the former leader of Al Qaida in Iraq and murderer of tens of thousands.** We did this using relationship-building approaches and non-coercive law enforcement techniques. These worked to great effect on the most hardened members of Al Qaida -- spiritual leaders who had been behind the waves of suicide bombers and, hence, the sectarian violence that swept across Iraq. We convinced them to cooperate by applying our intellect. In essence, we worked smarter, not harsher.
And while we're at it, it's a fairly disturbing sign that our news media considers Liz Cheney - herself the beneficiary of nepotism*** - to be a credible, objective source of analysis on her father's pro-torture views (and possible war crimes.)

That's 12 appearances, in nine and a half days, spanning four networks. (On today's "Morning Joe," Liz Cheney was on for an entire hour -- effectively becoming a co-host of the program.) And this is just television, and doesn't include Liz Cheney's interviews on radio or with print media.

There's no modern precedent for such a ridiculous arrangement. Dick Cheney launches a crusade against the White House, and major outlets look for analysis from Cheney's daughter? Who everyone already realizes agrees with everything he says about torture?

This is just crazy.

*Which I will be reviewing (at some point soon, at least.)
**This seems like an inflated claim of Zarqawi's influence in Iraq, in my limited understanding of his role. I'm having difficulty finding information on-line about how many deaths should be attributed to him.
***Something of a tradition for the conservative movement, and, more generally, a troubling trend in American politics.

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