Wednesday, December 26, 2007

Right Wing Nuts Celebrate Destruction of CIA Torture Tapes

By Jillian , Sadly No!
Posted on December 25, 2007

It will be interesting to see if this idea manages to gain legs.

Gavin brought up the idea not too long ago that for the people who inhabit what passes for "the Right" nowadays, the concept, "argument in good faith" might as well be a text written in Minoan Linear A. Keep that in mind while we take a look at Linda Chavez's argument here.

Destroying CIA Tapes Deserves a Thank You
By Linda Chavez
His name isn't yet familiar to most Americans, but I expect it will be by the end of 2008: Jose A. Rodriguez Jr. He is the man, according to recent press reports, who ordered the destruction of interrogation tapes made by the CIA, which allegedly show the effects of waterboarding and other "enhanced interrogation techniques" used against terrorists Abu Zubaydah and Abd al-Rahim al-Nashiri. In the next few months, his name will likely be dragged through the mud, and he will be vilified as a rogue official engaged in a massive cover-up. I think he deserves a medal.

[emphasis added]

There. See what I mean? This isn't about honest argumentation. This is about taking reality and standing it on its head. This is about being as verbally shocking as possible, in order to confuse and muddy the issue as much as possible. This is beyond even the Overton window; this is about shouting "nigger" in a crowded theater. People who cover up evidence of America violating international war crimes laws are actually good people, not bad people, because when America does things that would have gotten government officials brought before Nuremburg tribunals sixty years ago, that's a good thing, not a bad thing.

According to information that has already leaked out about the investigations into the CIA tapes, Rodriguez, who was head of the agency's clandestine operations at the time, made the decision to destroy the videos in November 2005. The tapes themselves were made in 2002, just months after the United States experienced the most devastating foreign attack against American civilians in our nation's history.
Looking back, it's very easy to condemn the extraordinary measures our government took to try to save lives in the wake of 9/11. And, of course, the media and members of Congress have perfect 20/20 hindsight, but the rest of us should show a little restraint when it comes to judging past decisions in light of contemporary misgivings.
A collective amnesia seems to have set in on what conditions were like in 2002 when those CIA interrogations took place. Most Americans fully expected that the attacks on the World Trade Center and Pentagon were just the beginning of a terrorist war on American civilians. After all, we were being told by nearly everyone in a position to know that the question was not if we would suffer another major terrorist attack, but when.

There's no collective amnesia here. As someone who lived close enough to the WTC to have spent several months of my professional life helping people deal with the aftermath, as someone who lost people she knew professionally (but thankfully, no one she was particularly close to) on that day, I can tell you that whatever fears I may have had of "a terrorist war" were officially over by September 12, 2001. And the only reason anyone was particularly worried about another terrorist attack is because dishonest, mendacious little shits were busy lying through their teeth and saying anything at all to advance their personal vision of American government -- which is exactly what Chavez is doing here. Gotta give them points for consistency.

So what exactly did we expect the CIA to do when they captured high-level al-Qaida operatives? Read them their Miranda rights, provide them with free lawyers and place them in a cell with cable TV?

No, you blathering, drooling, crapulous sack of dishonesty -- we expected them to not torture people. It's the sort of basic expectation your average sane person has of their government. I know you don't hear people say it very often, but that's because it is such a bare-bones expectation of what a government will do that verbalizing it feels a little crazy. It's like how when people get married, they promise to love and honor, but you never hear people promising to, say, never use the living room carpet as a toilet. We just automatically assume that sane people will never do these things. Alas, when it comes to the Bush wing of the Republican party, our first mistake was in assuming they operate by the same definitions of civilization and sanity as the rest of us.

We don't know exactly what the captured al-Qaida operatives told interrogators -- thankfully -- but we do know that there hasn't been another al-Qaida attack in the United States in more than six years. We also know that congressional leaders, at least initially, made no objections to the use of waterboarding when they were informed about it in September 2002. (Speaker Pelosi now claims that she did object later.) We also know that by the time Rodriguez reportedly gave instructions to destroy the CIA tapes, America's reputation had been severely damaged by the release of other tapes entirely unconnected to the CIA's or any U.S. efforts to obtain intelligence from captured prisoners. In April 2004, CBS's newsmagazine "60 Minutes" had aired a handful of inflammatory videos made by out-of-control, low-level American military guards at Abu Ghraib prison.

And look -- now we see the Abu Ghraib narrative being repackaged. It is no longer "just a few pranks" or "the equivalent of fraternity hazing." It is an accident, caused solely by "out of control, low level American military guards" and not a direct result of policy decisions coming from the top of this administration and filtering their way down, as these things always do. So it's now okay to call Abu Ghraib horrible, because it's not the fault of anyone who actually matters. Abu Ghraib is a separate matter, unrelated to our government's position on rendition, or torture by proxy, or the indefinite imprisonment of children without representation or the right of habeas corpus.

Except, of course, that it is related. It is related because we currently have an administration which seems to believe that the world is divided into two groups -- "us" and "them" -- and that anything done to those in the "them" group is acceptable because "they" are not "us." It is a reversal of every principle upon which civilized governments have laid their foundations for the last two thousand years, and it is far, far closer to the heart of what fascism is about than eating granola for breakfast is.

It is difficult to imagine what harm might have come from the release of the CIA interrogation tapes -- but there is no doubt that had they continued to exist, at some point they would have become public. The tapes' release would have jeopardized sources and methods used by the CIA, the most serious category of risk to American intelligence. And their release might have led to assassinations of CIA operatives, greater risk for our captured soldiers, and international hand-wringing by our putative allies.
Rodriguez's lawyer says that his client sought and received legal clearance to destroy the tapes. Even though he is likely to become a scapegoat, what he did was right. He protected not just his men but all of us. I, for one, thank him.

Look at what Chavez is actually saying here. The problem with the release of the torture tapes -- I won't call them interrogation tapes, because that simply is not what they are -- is that releasing them would have hurt us. It might, perhaps, have hurt us in substantive ways, but it definitely would have hurt our reputation, and that's what really matters. It would have led to "international hand-wringing" by our "putative allies." These other countries are not "with us" unless they support everything we do -- they are "putative" allies. If they choose to criticize us in any way at all, they hurt us -- and when they hurt us, they stop being with "us" and start being with "them". It's not like this is a secret, after all; our president has openly declared this to be the case. It's just important to remember that once you choose to side with 'them,' all rules of conduct can and will be thrown out the window. This is the real message of Abu Ghraib and Guantanamo. And this is exactly what makes these people evil.

I'm really curious to see if this particular spin on reality manages to catch hold. The wingnut brigade throws a lot of rhetorical spaghetti at the walls because they know that not all of it will stick. So far, the only other person I've seen putting this one forth is Tony Blankley -- but then again, I'd expect this and worse from him. The question is: Can they make this bit of Newspeak stick? I'd expect to see this meme surfacing somewhere on Fox News in the next three weeks or so -- especially if the rumors about other CIA torture tapes that haven't been destroyed turns out to have any substance.

Oh, and for anyone wondering why so many of us don't think it worth the effort to engage seriously with people on the other side at this point: Does this answer your question? Or do you still want us to have long, serious, meaningful conversations with people who think it is more important to defend Americans who might be guilty of torture from all possible prosecution than it is to take the steps necessary to insure that Americans aren't torturing people? What's the etiquette for a conversation like that, anyway? Will there be scones and tea? Inquiring minds want to know.

Jillian is a regular blogger for Sadly No!

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