Re: Stonewalling On Torture, And Blatant Hypocrisy
March 24, 2005
Re: Stonewalling On Torture, And Blatant Hypocrisy
From: Dean Lawrence R. Velvel
As readers know, my last posting dealt with the question whether George Bush may be guilty of the serious felony of conspiracy to commit torture, which would be grounds for impeachment. It explained facts known to date on this matter, explained the statute, and urged liberal bloggers to take up the question because the mainstream media hasn’t.
On the same day as the last posting, at a press briefing by Press Secretary Scott McClellan, certain unidentified White House journalists repeatedly asked McClellan questions bearing on the President’s knowledge regarding torture. (The journalists are unidentified because McClellan referred to them only as "David" and "Terry," and the White House has refused to give us the names of accredited members of the White House press corp.) McClellan stonewalled, and refused to answer, the questions. He stonewalled and refused to answer even when one of the reporters said that this is what he was doing.
The questions revolved around Bush’s prior statements that, when the U.S. "renders" a prisoner to another country, it obtains assurances that they won’t be tortured. These assurances, we have learned, are worth nothing, are known by American officials to be worth nothing, and, indeed, there seems little or no reason to render people to other countries except for torture in an effort to extract information that we want. So the reporters asked McClellan whether, in light of all the information that has become public about the torture in foreign countries, Bush takes the assurances of non-torture seriously, whether he thinks torture is not occurring, and whether persons alleging they were tortured are lying.
McClellan did say Bush "absolutely" takes the assurances seriously -- which makes Bush, McClellan or both either liars or fools -- and that Bush was aware that people have said they were tortured. But McClellan absolutely refused to answer whether Bush does or does not believe torture is occurring in the countries to which prisoners are rendered or whether Bush believes the claimants are lying about being tortured. Instead McClellan kept stonewalling by only mouthing the political crapola that we seek assurances against torture, that we believe in following our laws and treaties (which is a lie because we have tortured people, which is against our law), and that we ourselves do not torture (which, for the same reason, is also a lie).
McClellan’s stonewalling refusal to answer such questions is further evidence of Bush’s knowledge of and guilt regarding the torture of rendered prisoners. After all, if Bush did not think torture was being perpetrated by the country of rendition, why not say so? If Bush thought those claiming to be tortured were lying, why not say so? Saying so would be consistent with innocence after all (even if it would make Bush look a fool). McClellan’s refusal to say so is inconsistent with innocence.
McClellan tried to evade the questions in another way, too. He said he would leave the matter where it was left by Alberto Gonzalez at the hearing on his nomination to be Attorney General and by C.I.A. Director Porter Goss, who appeared before the Senate Armed Services Committee on the morning of March 17th. Gonzalez, of course, stonewalled at his hearing, as discussed here previously. To the extent that Goss discussed the matter in open session -- instead of invoking his constant stonewalling mantra of saying he would discuss this and other matters in the subsequent closed session (so that the media and public cannot learn what is going on) -- he appeared to largely claim that the intelligence community had not broken the law. This we have long known to be false, as discussed here previously. And the next day the C.I.A. released a statement saying it had always stayed within legal guidance provided it by the Department of Justice. Of course, for over two years that guidance allowed the most vile torture under the fictitious John Yoo/Jay Bybee claims that torture is not torture and, anyway, if the President allows it, then torture is legal. And, to reiterate, it is well known now that, regardless of what the law of Congress provides, the C.I.A. did indeed engage in torture, as has been discussed here previously.
So McClellan’s ultimate ploy of saying he would leave the situation where Gonzalez and Goss left it is worthless, since Gonzalez stonewalled and Goss did not tell the truth. What we are left with is the fact that McClellan declined to answer whether Bush thought torture was occurring, which should have been denied if Bush were innocent, and refused to answer whether Bush thought torture-claimants were lying, which should have been answered in the affirmative if Bush were innocent.
All of this provides still more reason why, in the continuing absence of much discussion of the matter in the mainstream media, and in view of the stonewall the White House media met on March 17th when two reporters finally did raise relevant questions, liberal bloggers should go "unto the breach," as Shakespeare said, to engage in discussion of and inquiry about whether Bush is guilty of the serious, impeachable offense of conspiracy to commit torture.
* * * * *
The failure to date of the media and Congress to hold high officials responsible for the torture which has occurred in violation of law puts one in mind of some interesting, not to say disgraceful, contrasts in American political life. Some of these contrasts have been remarked by persons who have been good enough to send me emails in recent days. One of the emails, an irate one, is, I may say, from a person whose degree of success is so great that one might not intuitively think the individual is angry about the political machinations of the Republican Party.
The Congress, especially a number of Republicans, does not seem to be overly exercised about the torture we have perpetrated. Some legislators are exercised, but a lot are not. In fact, if one reads the remarks of persons who seem (only sometimes?) to nearly be savages, like Senators Jeff Sessions of Alabama or Pat Roberts of Kansas, one could be forgiven for getting the idea that some legislators don’t care a whit about the torture. Neither, I note, has Congress evinced much concern that its power over war -- over what is probably the single most crucial aspect of American political life -- has been ceded almost entirely to the President, now to Bush II, and before him to Truman, Kennedy, Johnson, Nixon, Reagan, Clinton, and, arguably, Bush I.
But while Congress generally seems to care little about torture or its power over war, it and the media seem to care a lot about whether baseball players have taken steroids. Congress jumped to hold publicity-garnering hearings on the subject, and subpoenaed ball playing witnesses (although not, for some unfathomable reason, Barry Bonds). It and the media, and Bush too, seemed to care a lot about whether the feeding tube would be pulled from one woman, the deeply unfortunate Terry Schiavo. Here this crowd jumped through unusual hoops to do the bidding of the right wing zealots who now seem to control the country -- just as a few years ago lots of people jumped on the Elian Gonzalez bandwagon, a case which likewise should have been left alone but instead got exacerbated by vast public focus. In the Schiavo case, as so many have commented, into abeyance want the usually vaunted concerns, of the right wing and of the religious fundamentalists, for limited federal power, for limits on federal courts, and for states’ rights. And George Bush’s press secretary said that Bush believes we should "build a culture of life," and "stands on the side of defending life." What a nice sentiment. It’s too bad, isn’t it, that in Iraq he and his right wing buddies stood "on the side of" killing tens of thousands of Iraqis, maybe scores of thousands or even more than a hundred thousand Iraqis, in order to accomplish their own highly debatable purposes, and "buil[t] a culture of death" to accomplish those dubious purposes. Yet Bush "stand[s] on the side of defending life"? There is just no limit to hypocrisy, is there?
Now, I don’t want to be misunderstood about the Schiavo matter. I am personally against pulling the pulling the plug on anyone. My wife and I believe that where there is life, there is hope, and there will be no plug pulling in our family. Also, my sympathy for Ms. Schiavo’s poor parents is boundless -- it is said that there is nothing worse than losing a child, and regardless of Terry Schiavo’s age, she is their child. And I personally saw what losing a child can do to people when my six year old younger brother passed away 55 years ago.
So, as said, I don’t wish to be misunderstood about the Schiavo case. Yet it and so many other things do show that our political life is mass hypocrisy, especially on the part of the right and the religious fundamentalists, on the part, that is, of people like Bush. I’m afraid I can do no better than quote, bad language and all, an email recently sent to me. It says it all, and sometimes bad language says it best because it says it in the most heartfelt way. Beginning with the right wing’s action in the case of a single person "(while ignoring the plight of 50 million americans without health insurance)," my email correspondent continues by saying that it "seems like they have an even more fervent view about born again christianity and the ‘right to life’ shit they espouse. a remarkable set of events, so transparent and, to be mundane, disgusting. I guess they think we are all just a bunch of stupid schmucks like they are. have they no shame.[?] what a fucking joke. where hath gone fundamental principles of states’ rights? in the same vein, ditto re the deeply held value of the balanced budget. have you ever seen such an ability for humans to be so ostrich like? putting their heads in the ground and their asses in the sky?"
Amen to these emailed comments.*
*This posting represents the personal views of Lawrence R. Velvel. If you wish to respond to this email/blog, please email your response to me at firstname.lastname@example.org. Your response may be posted on the blog if you have no objection; please tell me if you do object.