Reidblog [The Reid Report blog]

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Saturday, November 03, 2007
The Orwellian bargain
If the Bush administration is an Orwellian send-up of the former Soviet Union, complete with domestic spying, secret prisons, disappearing of U.S. citizens into military detention, manipulation and intimidation of the media, wars of aggression, and now apparently, the use of torture, then the Democrats are playing Benjamin to George Bush's Napoleon. In Orwell's "Animal Farm," Benjamin -- a donkey, no less -- is, in the Wikipedic formulation, "as knowledgable as and wiser than the pigs," who are led by the dictatorial Napoleon, "and is the only animal who sees the pigs for the tyrants they are, [but] he never makes an attempt to change anything.

And so it goes. The Democratic Benjamins will not put a stop to the war in Iraq. They will not hold George W. Bush accountable using the Constitutional tool of impeachment, even for his blatant defiance of both the Congress and the laws he is sworn to faithfully execute. They will not fight his vetoes or follow through on opposition to his policies.

And they WILL allow the nomination of Judge Michael Mukasey, a man who cannot say that waterboarding -- a crime against humanity for which we prosecuted Japenese soldiers after World War II ... a crime John McCain has called a "horrible torture," and "no different than holding a pistol to [a prisoner's] head and firing a blank" -- is torture, to go to the Senate floor. And they will confirm him. They know that the administration has likely used waterboarding, and probably other torture techniques more suitable for the former U.S.S.R. or 1970s era Panama or Chile. They know that the president authorized it, and that his former attorney general, Alberto Gonzales, greenlighted it. And they know that the administration will not allow Mukasey to respond to the simple question for which he can find clear answers inside the Army Field Manual, which expressly prohibits waterboarding and calls it torture, because as attorney general, he might have to prosecute people inside the Bush administration for ordering the torture of terror detainees.

And yet, Diane Feinstein on Friday joined Chuck Schumer, who suggested his fellow New Yorker Mukasey, in voting to send Mukasey's nomination out of the Senate Judiciary Committee, in defiance of the committee's chairman, Pat Leahy, who plans to vote no. (Feinstein attempts to explain herself today in an op-ed to the L.A. Times. Her excuse: Mukasey is all we're going to get from Bush, and if we don't confirm him, he'll just do a recess appointment. In other words, we can't stop George from doing whatever it is he wants to do, so why try?)

A recent column in the Charlotte Observer referenced "a Sept. 5, 2006, letter to Attorney General Gonzales signed by 100 prominent law professors, including John Charles Boger, dean of the University of North Carolina law school." The letter included the following:

"We are particularly concerned about your continuing failure to issue clear statements about illegal interrogation techniques, and especially your failure to state that `waterboarding' -- a technique that induces the effects of being killed by drowning -- constitutes torture, and thus is illegal. We urge you to make such a statement now.

"...If uninterrupted, waterboarding will cause death by suffocation. It is also foreseeable that waterboarding, by producing an experience of drowning, will cause severe mental pain and suffering. The technique is a form of mock execution by suffocation with water. The process incapacitates the victim from drawing breath, and causes panic, distress, and terror of imminent death. Many victims of waterboarding suffer prolonged mental harm for years and even decades afterward."
Surely, the Democrats know about that letter.

Surely by now, they know about the former senior Justice Department official who answered his own questions about waterboarding by trying it himself, as ABC News' Brian Ross reported yesterday:

Daniel Levin, then acting assistant attorney general, went to a military base near Washington and underwent the procedure to inform his analysis of different interrogation techniques.

After the experience, Levin told White House officials that even though he knew he wouldn't die, he found the experience terrifying and thought that it clearly simulated drowning.

Levin, who refused to comment for this story, concluded waterboarding could be illegal torture unless performed in a highly limited way and with close supervision. And, sources told ABC News, he believed the Bush Administration had failed to offer clear guidelines for its use.

The administration at the time was reeling from an August 2002 memo by Jay Bybee, then the head of the Office of Legal Counsel, which laid out possible justifications for torture. In June 2004, Levin's predecessor at the office, Jack Goldsmith, officially withdrew the Bybee memo, finding it deeply flawed.

When Levin took over from Goldsmith, he went to work on a memo that would effectively replace the Bybee memo as the administration's legal position on torture. It was during this time that he underwent waterboarding.

In December 2004, Levin released the new memo. He said, "Torture is abhorrent" but he went on to say in a footnote that the memo was not declaring the administration's previous opinions illegal. The White House, with Alberto Gonzales as the White House counsel, insisted that this footnote be included in the memo.

But Levin never finished a second memo imposing tighter controls on the specific interrogation techniques. Sources said he was forced out of the Justice Department when Gonzales became attorney general.

And then there's this, also from Brian Ross: apparent confirmation from within the CIA, that waterboarding has been used by Americans, "but only on three bad-guys..."

For all the debate over waterboarding, it has been used on only three al Qaeda figures, according to current and former U.S. intelligence officials.

As ABC News first reported in September, waterboarding has not been used since 2003 and has been specifically prohibited since Gen. Michael Hayden took over as CIA director.

Officials told ABC News on Sept. 14 that the controversial interrogation technique, in which a suspect has water poured over his mouth and nose to stimulate a drowning reflex as shown in the above demonstration, had been banned by the CIA director at the recommendation of his deputy, Steve Kappes.

Hayden sought and received approval from the White House to remove waterboarding from the list of approved interrogation techniques first authorized by a presidential finding in 2002.

The officials say the decision was made sometime last year but has never been publicly disclosed by the CIA.
And so, Mr. Mukasey could be face with very real evidence of illegal torture of detainees at the behest of the Bush administration, and he will have to decide whether to enforce the law, or to be Alberto Gonzales -- Bush's Pinkeye, whose position on the Animal Farm was to taste Napoleon's food.

Why the Democrats have entered into this Orwellian bargain with the administration -- he pushes, they appease, even as Bush fades into history, is perhaps the most vexing question facing the country today. The Democrats are so wedded to the appeasement of this president, one almost wonders if they truly oppose his policies at all. They are rudderless, leaderless, and incapable of displaying even minimal unity in opposition to even the most outrageous Bushian assaults on the United States Constitution. They stand for nothihng, and they stand up for nothing.

And I couldn't tell you why.

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"I am for enhanced interrogation. I don't believe waterboarding is torture... I'll do it. I'll do it for charity." -- Sean Hannity
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