Thursday, May 21, 2009

Republicans suffer collective amnesia as a political tool

Today former vice president Dick Cheney gave a speech in which, among other things, he denounced the Obama administration for the use of euphemisms, as noted by Steve Benen.

One of the concerns that stood out for me, though, was Cheney's frequent references to "euphemisms."

"Behind the overwrought reaction to enhanced interrogations is a broader misconception about the threats that still face our country. You can sense the problem in the emergence of euphemisms that strive to put an imaginary distance between the American people and the terrorist enemy.... In the category of euphemism, the prizewinning entry would be ... It's one thing to adopt the euphemisms that suggest ... "
It's amazing isn't it? Like when O'Brien destroyed a document in front of Winston in 1984 by throwing it into a memory hole and then claiming, sincerely, the very next moment that he didn't remember it existing. In the very sentence Cheney is denouncing the use of euphemisms he is using enhanced interrogation as a euphemism for illegal torture. In the space of only a few words Cheney had thrown his own utterance down the memory hole. Presumably, all the other extensive uses of euphemisms by Cheney - such as extraordinary rendition for the outsourcing of torture - have long since similarly been wiped clean from his recollection.

In another example of the Republican memory hole in operation, key Republicans in Congress and their surrogates in the media are demanding Nancy Pelosi lose her Speaker of the House position because she denigrated the CIA by accusing it of having misled her. Yet some of the very persons who are doing so have themselves accused the CIA of misleading.

In fact, Boehner and his Republican colleagues worked extremely hard to portray the intelligence community as misleading Congress and the President on Iran’s nuclear capability. At the time, Boehner said that he doubted the CIA’s conclusions, while Rep. Pete Hoekstra (R-MI) called the presentation that the intelligence committee delivered to members of Congress on the Iran NIE “pathetic.” “Members didn’t find them forthcoming, or even well-versed in answering very tough questions,” Hoekstra added.

More broadly, Boehner said yesterday that he agreed with Hoekstra’s claim last fall that the CIA had lied to Congress about a 2001 incident in which the CIA killed a U.S. citizen in Peru.
Newt Gingrich has been of the most vocal of these Great American Hypocrites. Although now feigning to be indignant about anyone daring to question the integrity of the CIA, that wasn't always the case.

For his part, Newt Gingrich, who claimed that Nancy Pelosi had "disqualified herself" from the same Speaker's position he once held, took to the op-ed pages to make his case for her to "step down" and to the airwaves to defend Hoekstra. But while Gingrich today redefined what the meaning of "is" is by claiming Hoekstra "did not say the CIA routinely lies," back in December 2007 he accused the CIA of precisely that over the Iran NIE:

"[The NIE] is so professionally unworthy, so intellectually indefensible and so fundamentally misleading that it is damaging to our national security.

[The NIE appears to be a deliberate attempt to undermine the policies of President Bush by members of his own government by suggesting that Iran no longer poses a serious threat to U.S. national security because we apparently have credible reports that Iran halted its nuclear weapons program in 2003."
At the CPAC conference in February 2008, Ginggrich ratched up the inflammatory rhetoric. The Benedict Arnolds in the American intelligence community, he insisted to applause from the assembled, had essentially committed treason:

"The National Intelligence Estimate on Iran can only be understood as a bureaucratic coup d’├ętat, deliberately designed to undermine the policies of the United States, on behalf of some weird goal." (Applause)
As it turns out, in attacking the CIA over its Iran assessment, Gingrich and Hoekstra enjoyed the backing of the same conservative commentariat attacking Nancy Pelosi now. And as you'd expect, it was many of the same people who helped bring you the war in Iraq.
Several more examples are given in that link of the CIA's integrity being questioned by prominent movement conservatives. I'm glad that so many bloggers have already done the leg work on this because I've been dying to post something about it now for a few days but haven't had the chance. The reason why is because the current of movement conservatism which holds the CIA in disregard hasn't gone down the memory hole for me.

At Human Events - which features Gingrich's call for Pelosi to lose the Speaker position for denigrating the CIA - you can find Jed Babbin interviewing Rowan Scarborough about his Regnery published book Sabotage: America's Enemies within the CIA

How Bush-hating CIA Bureaucrats Are Sabotaging the War on Terror

Since the attacks on September 11, 2001, intelligence collection has become the number-one weapon in the effort to defeat al Qaeda and Osama bin Laden. A plot penetrated is an attack stopped. And to the outside observer, the CIA has performed well as a key partner in the Bush administration’s War on Terror. But as Rowan Scarborough reveals in this groundbreaking new book, significant elements within the CIA are undermining both the president and national security through leaks, false allegations, and outright sabotage.
Guess what? Scarborough is currently a columnist at Human Events. And back when his book was released, he was on Fox News, a station which is currently featuring an endless stream of persons oh so outraged by Pelosi accusing the CIA of lying, to promote the book.

For those who haven't made use of the memory hole, Scarborough's book epitomizes neoconservative efforts to discount the CIA in order to make use of ideologically fixed intelligence organs like Douglas Feith's Office of Special Plans.

Here's another example: Powerline, which is currently speculating how long it will be before Pelosi loses her job for accusing the CIA of misleading Congress "all the time," plugged the book previously in a post titled "The CIA Speaks, With Forked Tongue."

With Google you can find more of this hypocrisy in action.

Of course, the "debate" over Pelosi's comment is nothing but political theatre meant to distract us from the true issue at hand. I find it completely plausible that Pelosi may have been misled; I also believe it likely that she failed to provide effective oversight of the administration and may thus be complicit in the crimes that have been committed. But none of that changes the fact that we need disclosure and investigation, followed by prosecutions and other means of accountability for those who have committed crimes or failed to do their duty.

No comments: