Thursday, May 05, 2005

Re: Why Blogther?

May 5, 2005

Re: Why Blogther?
From: Dean Lawrence R. Velvel

Dear Colleagues:

Last December, shortly after this writer first criticized what Jack Goldsmith did to facilitate rendition, a highly estimable lawyer who has been a leader in the battle against torture sent me an email about the criticism. The email was posted here on December 16th. While my correspondent disapproved of rendition, he and his other expert colleagues felt Goldsmith’s work on it was intellectually competent, and he criticized this writer for going after Goldsmith, saying "Surely this is a target rich environment and there are far better suited objects for your criticism." In a fairly extensive reply that was also posted here on December 16th, this writer explained why he thought that the question was not the professional competence of legal work supporting torture, but was rather an issue of morality and of lawyers once again facilitating evil, as they so often have. This writer also replied as follows to the question of "targets."

Another point I wish to make to you is this. You say "this is a target rich environment and there are far better suited objects for your criticism" than Professor Goldsmith. Well, I am not a reporter. I am a law school dean. So I do not go out -- and haven’t the time to go out -- and dig up information on people. My contribution, if any, lies in analysis and philosophy, using facts uncovered by others. To be informed about "objects for [my] criticism" in order to bring analysis and philosophy to bear, I inevitably have to rely on facts the media uncovers and what investigating groups like yours find out. If the media were more assiduous in finding out information about the malefactors to whom you obviously seem to be referring, I would write more criticism of them.

Particularly because my correspondent has done wonderful work, one hopes this answer regarding targets satisfied him, and, since he did not take issue with my reply, and thereafter continued to send me some terrific stuff he wrote, one believes that conceivably the reply did satisfy him.

I bring up this exchange because what was said in it is relevant to things occurring now. Last weekend CSpan carried some taped panel discussions in which it was said, correctly one thinks, that blogs (at least ones that are politically oriented to some extent) exist for two purposes. One is to ferret out new information not previously uncovered by the mass media or not previously transmitted by it. This is what led to the professional debacles of Dan Rather and Eason Jordan. But, as was said on CSpan, bloggers do not usually have the resources to do investigative work. So the second and bigger function of most blogging is to spread the word about and to analyze matters uncovered elsewhere, in order to ultimately get these matters into the mainstream -- in order to have the matters ultimately picked up in the mainstream media from which most people still get their news. These types of comments at panel discussions, especially the comments about the far more prevalent phenomenon of blogs spreading the word so to speak, represent increasing recognition of two of the major functions of politically-oriented blogs.

Yet it is also the case that bloggers, at least liberal ones, are falling down on the job in performing their functions in one area of importance. As far as this writer knows, no blogger has taken up the question of whether Bush is guilty of a felony because of the rendition of prisoners to countries like Syria, Egypt, Pakistan and Uzbekistan for torture, a matter discussed here on several occasions, most recently on Tuesday, May 3rd. (Nor have bloggers taken up the question of whether Bush is guilty of a felony because of torture done by Americans themselves; bloggers have failed to discuss this even though there is a fair body of opinion holding that it was the Bush/Cheney policies which led to the torture done by Americans themselves.)

As was explained here in a lengthy post of March 17th, and briefly reiterated on May 3rd, it is a crime under federal statutory law to conspire to have torture committed outside the United States. This crime is punishable by up to life imprisonment if the torture results in death and up to 20 years if it doesn’t. As extensively discussed on March 17th, there can be no honest doubt that Bush knew of and approved the rendition program and its purposes, and knew what occurred because of it, i.e., knew that torture was occurring. So this writer, at least, cannot understand any reason why Bush is not guilty of a serious felony. (It was, indeed, as discussed here previously, a fear of precisely such criminal liability for Bush and others that led to the drafting of phony baloney memos -- at least one of which has now been withdrawn -- that purported to find legal justification for what was being done.) And, as said here on May 3rd, so far not one single person -- not one -- has denied the accuracy of any part of the chain of reasoning leading to the conclusion that Bush -- and Cheney, and Rumsfeld, and Wolfowitz, and some others -- are guilty of the felonious crime of conspiracy to commit torture.

So why is it that liberal bloggers have not discussed this matter, have not fulfilled the function of spreading the word, so to speak, so that the matter ultimately will have to be presented by the mainstream media? One understands why conservative bloggers -- Bush aficionados and similar types -- would not want to get near the matter with a thousand foot pole: It could result in the termination in office, via impeachment and conviction, or via resignation, of their heroes, Bush and Cheney. It would have been fine in their view for Clinton to have been convicted or forced to resign because of oral sex and lying -- a position I would not disagree with because he was one of the all time liars and perjured himself, not to mention the impropriety of doing what he did in the oval office itself -- but God forbid that Bush and Cheney should have to resign because people have been tortured, even killed by torture, due to their felonious actions. Not to mention that such convictions or resignations would make sad sack Denny Hastert President, wouldn’t it? And would almost guarantee a Democrat victory in 2008 -- thereby possibly making Hilary President. Oh boy. One can understand why conservative bloggers wouldn’t want to get near this.

But what about liberal bloggers, or bloggers who see the Iraq war, torture, and all the accompanying baggage as being really awful things in American history? Why are they not discussing the question of felonious conduct by Bush and Cheney? The matter is not very complicated, after all. The statute is simple and clear. One needn’t be a lawyer to understand it. And liberals who are lawyers will easily understand it, of course.

So, again, why is there no discussion in order to bring the issue into enough prominence so that the mainstream media will have to put it before people? Surely the liberals, the opponents of the war, the opponents of torture, know the media will not deal with it unless it is first brought into prominence elsewhere. Television and radio networks and stations deal with it? -- and risk governmental attacks and threats of loss of licenses? I don’t think so. Newspapers and magazines deal with it? -- and risk vicious sustained attacks from Cheney, DeLay, and the other Republican henchmen? I don’t think so.

Yet the issue is an important one, and bloggers who are liberals or opponents of the war or of torture should deal with it. If you won’t discuss something of this importance, why bother to have a political blog? Why blogther, so to speak? And not only should liberal bloggers deal with it, but conservative ones should have to also. Lots of conservative bloggers are lawyers and, if the lawyers among them, or the nonlawyers, have some good reasons to offer why the top people in our government are not guilty of a felony due to the renditions for torture, then let’s hear it, let’s hear those reasons, especially if the liberals make a long overdue entry into the fray. Otherwise, once again, why blogther?*

*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 Your response may be posted on the blog if you have no objection; please tell me if you do object.
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