Occasional blogging, mostly of the long-form variety.

Thursday, May 21, 2009

A Venn Diagram on Torture Apologia

(Click for a larger view.)

This isn't entirely tongue-in-cheek, although if we're discussing the subject seriously, the diagram has its, uh, limitations. The common characteristic of an apologist is that he or she is working from the conclusion backwards, which is why some of his or her arguments are so weak or nonsensical. Working from left to right:

"No prosecutions" - A percentage of people who oppose prosecutions can't fairly be called apologists. They oppose torture, know most of the evidence but think that prosecutions will be nearly impossible to obtain. Consequently, they support a truth commission or something similar instead, to get the truth out and, they hope, stop such abuses from happening again. I don't think there's any good reason to believe the perpetrators and their ilk won't abuse power again without prosecutions, but at least one can have a good faith debate with this section of the "no prosecutions" group. (Thankfully, some in this camp have changed their minds due to new revelations.)

Most in the "no prosecutions" crowd, however, are Beltway pundits who have chosen to ignore the major evidence while simultaneously inveighing against any accountability. It makes little sense to oppose prosecutions before everything is investigated – and makes even less sense when what we've learned to date is absolutely damning. Their rhetoric can be evasive, but many in the chattering class actually back:

"No investigations" - Among the Beltway crowd, a slightly smaller subset of the "no prosecutions" group doesn't want any sort of real investigation, either. This attitude is precisely what David Gregory expressed this past Sunday. He and his kind don't want to know the truth (then they might feel obligated to do something). Pretending Nancy Pelosi forced Dick Cheney to order torture helps them pretend that it's bipartisan wisdom to ignore everything that happened. (No one opposes investigations but supports prosecutions – although that was kind of the Bush administration position with Guantanamo prisoners.)

Obviously, the perpetrators themselves and their closest allies don't want any investigation, and certainly want to avoid a trial at all costs.

"Don’t stop torture" - Most of the partisan, diehard torture apologists such as David Rivkin and the happy Cheney family are out there falsely claiming that torture "worked" – that our national security is endangered without torture – and that torture shouldn't be called torture when they do it. The Fox News crew are glad to spread this propaganda, and the more idiotic talking heads at other news outlets parrot this as well.

Some among this set talk about disclosure, but they don't really want a full investigation – they only want some cherry-picked documents released. A small percentage of true believers out there believe a full investigation will vindicate them and their pro-torture stance, but the professional hacks and perpetrators know better. The ridiculous Pelosi witch hunt is a calculated distraction, an aggressive, bullying poker bluff (I'm sure I can mix one more metaphor) to try to get people to back off. If they really wanted the truth to come out, they wouldn't just be focused on Pelosi, but would back the obvious solution – a full investigation. (Pelosi has supported this, and the truth seems to be catching up with some of the national hullabaloo on this.)

"You can have this torture victim's cold, dead body when you pry it from my cold, dead hands" – Some apologists are zealous proponents of torture. Others just play them on TV. You may remember the competitive machismo of the Republican primary candidates during the Fox News debate, when they were thrown a softball question straight from 24 about a ticking time bomb. Save for John McCain and Ron Paul, they all bragged about how much and how quickly they'd torture a dastardly terrorist. Stephen Colbert had a great segment on it, and quipped, "Nothing pumps up a crowd of primary voters in my home state like endorsements of fictional torture."

Meanwhile, in terms of what we should push for, I think it looks something like this:

(Click for a larger view.)

The law mandates that credible allegations of torture must be investigated, and the evidence to date does not support a good faith defense. It's hard to believe that, were the law followed, unhindered by political considerations, some of the targets would not serve jail time. As retired Major General Antonio Taguba states, "There is no longer any doubt as to whether the current administration has committed war crimes. The only question that remains to be answered is whether those who ordered the use of torture will be held to account." But let's have a full investigation un-hobbled by immunity given out prematurely and indiscriminately, and see where it leads.

(Much more in "Torture Versus Freedom.")

(Cross-posted at Blue Herald)

1 comment:

jbmoore said...

Nice Venn diagrams. Why not do some for Wall Street and the banks as well? Since we won't fix the banks, or prosecute the people who committed banking fraud, and they hurt more Americans than any alleged terrorists did, what makes you think our leaders will even endorse a Truth Committee? People would have to be held accountable and blame doled out appropriately. No one has been held accountable for 9/11 lapses, Iraq Intelligence lapses, Valerie Plame's outing lapse, SEC regulatory lapses, etc.. While the need is more than apparent, nothing was done in the previous cases, and it's likely nothing will be done in the case of torture either. America will be rather aimless and ineffectual until we as a country quit denying reality and face the facts. One gets the feeling though that our "leaders" expect all of this to blow over and go away. They likely aren't acknowledging that their inaction and denial is part of the problem.