Monday, April 27, 2009

Saw this one coming a mile away

Nancy Pelosi's knowledge of Bush II's torture practices, including waterboarding, is catching up to her - albeit limited to a few GOP dead-enders trying to play "gotcha." Although I have little problem dismissing her partisan opponents given that the GOP was very much on board for all manner of human rights abuses during the Bush II years, I do think there is something very serious and disturbing about Pelosi's apparent endorsement of torture. Let's take a little trip down memory lane from "Why Pelosi Took Impeachment Off The Table":
The current House Speaker has been nothing but an enabler as the CIA embarked on its euphemism of "enhanced interrogation techniques" such as waterboarding:
In September 2002, four members of Congress met in secret for a first look at a unique CIA program designed to wring vital information from reticent terrorism suspects in U.S. custody. For more than an hour, the bipartisan group, which included current House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.), was given a virtual tour of the CIA's overseas detention sites and the harsh techniques interrogators had devised to try to make their prisoners talk.

Among the techniques described, said two officials present, was waterboarding, a practice that years later would be condemned as torture by Democrats and some Republicans on Capitol Hill. But on that day, no objections were raised. Instead, at least two lawmakers in the room asked the CIA to push harder, two U.S. officials said.

"The briefer was specifically asked if the methods were tough enough," said a U.S. official who witnessed the exchange.

Congressional leaders from both parties would later seize on waterboarding as a symbol of the worst excesses of the Bush administration's counterterrorism effort. The CIA last week admitted that videotape of an interrogation of one of the waterboarded detainees was destroyed in 2005 against the advice of Justice Department and White House officials, provoking allegations that its actions were illegal and the destruction was a coverup.

Yet long before "waterboarding" entered the public discourse, the CIA gave key legislative overseers about 30 private briefings, some of which included descriptions of that technique and other harsh interrogation methods, according to interviews with multiple U.S. officials with firsthand knowledge. With one known exception, no formal objections were raised by the lawmakers briefed about the harsh methods during the two years in which waterboarding was employed, from 2002 to 2003, said Democrats and Republicans with direct knowledge of the matter. The lawmakers who held oversight roles during the period included Pelosi and Rep. Jane Harman (D-Calif.) and Sens. Bob Graham (D-Fla.) and John D. Rockefeller IV (D-W.Va.), as well as Rep. Porter J. Goss (R-Fla.) and Sen. Pat Roberts (R-Kan).

Individual lawmakers' recollections of the early briefings varied dramatically, but officials present during the meetings described the reaction as mostly quiet acquiescence, if not outright support. "Among those being briefed, there was a pretty full understanding of what the CIA was doing," said Goss, who chaired the House intelligence committee from 1997 to 2004 and then served as CIA director from 2004 to 2006. "And the reaction in the room was not just approval, but encouragement."
Hat tip to Arthur Silber. Emphasis mine. By the way, there is more to the article, so make sure to read the whole thing, as well as Arthur Silber's post. For those who would like to keep on believing that torture is merely a GOP thing (and more specifically a Bu$hCo thing), they need to wake up and smell the coffee. There was undoubtedly plenty of bipartisan support for such cruel techniques as waterboarding. If Pelosi ever had a problem with these techniques, she apparently didn't voice it then, when it might have meant something. Same goes for pretty much the rest of the sorry lot that was privy to the same information.

Of course, the Democrats' own tortured history goes back a way. All we need do is travel in time to the early days of the Clinton regime to witness the acceptance and use the practice of extraordinary rendition - including both Bill Clinton and Al Gore (yes, one of the darlings of today's self-styled progressives). Heck, by 1996, the Clinton regime was signing into law limitations on habeas corpus - thus serving as a precedent for last fall's sorry Congressional spectacle in which torture was made the law of the land and habeas corpus was essentially erased altogether. As noted previously, the CIA for numerous decades has been given pretty much carte blanche to research, utilize, and export torture techniques without any objection whatsoever from White House administrations of either party. Congress up to the present time seems perfectly okay with continued funding of one of the US government's notorious vehicles for exporting torture (SOA/WHINSEC) - there was this summer quite the rogue's gallery of Democrats among those voting in favor of continued funding. And on it goes.

Continuing to dutifully contribute money to these clowns' campaigns, continuing to vote for them under the pretense that there is "no other alternative" is to live in what Sartre would call Bad Faith. Personally, if I had my way, there'd be a general strike on election day, along with a boycott of the polls. But this of course is the US, and we would like to keep deluding ourselves that we're "exceptional." Hence, I hold out no hope whatsoever that enough American people would actually do something of that nature.
Pelosi has been damaged goods for a long time. Here cadre of Nancybots might engage in various and sundry forms of magical thinking to pretend otherwise, and to attack those who wanted to hold Pelosi's feet to the fire, and they can whinge all they wish. What will not change is that Pelosi's support of practices that under the Geneva Conventions would be considered war crimes during the early aftermath of 9/11 has clouded her judgment and prevented her from being an effective agent for holding the previous regime's policy makers accountable (assuming she would have ever been motivated to do so in the first place - on which I am deeply skeptical). Again, I think it is important to remember that with two political parties that have a duopoly on political power in this country; that significant efforts to reform policies in a more humane direction are highly unlikely to ever happen unless or until that duopoly is broken. Indeed, given the Dems' track history on not only torture but genocidal wars, one would struggle mightily to find that dime's worth of difference between them and their Rethug counterparts.

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