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Defending the Indefensible

Dick Cheney has been busy. He spoke last Thursday at the American Enterprise Institute just a few moments after Barack Obama had made his wide-ranging policy talk at the National Archives.

Cheney criticized Obama on his National security policy, his desire to close Guantanamo and his reluctance to use the Bush administration’s “enhanced interrogation progam.”

And to call this a program of torture is to libel the dedicated professionals who have saved American lives and to cast terrorists and murderers as innocent victims. What’s more, to completely rule out enhanced interrogation in the future is unwise in the extreme. It is recklessness cloaked in righteousness and would make the American people less safe.
Former Vice President Dick Cheney

This is simply breath-taking. How can he seriously defend torture? How can he defend the indefensible? It defies reason.

First to label the Bush administrations techniques, such as waterboarding “enhanced interrogation” implies that they work better than regular interrogation. There is no evidence that they do. In fact they produce lots of bogus information because the person being, yes I’ll say it, tortured, will say anything to make the pain stop. This is very well documented and should not even be up for debate.

Second, many of the inmates at Guantanamo, like most of the people who were thrown into detention in Iraq at places like Abu Ghraib, those who have been labeled as terrorists, have never even been charged with a crime, much less tried and convicted for anything and have limited or no access to legal counsel. So to say that these people are “terrorists and murderers” denies them the whole “innocent until proven guilty” thing. Have you heard of it Mr. Cheney? And to throw that out you also throw out due process, habeas corpus and most of the basis of western law. Yes Mr. Cheney, they are “innocent victims” until you can actually prove that they did something.

Third, how any of this enhanced torture makes Americans more safe is completely beyond me. It most likely does the opposite. A new study by Jim Walsh and Jim Piazza from the University of North Carolina indicates “that governments that abuse rights actually experience more terrorism.”

Cheney’s position perhaps also assumes that torture is the only morally dubious thing that the United States has done recently. Wish it were so.

Then there is Obama. Yes. It is a good thing that he is trying to close down Gitmo. Unfortunately the so-called Democratic congress might not let him meet his year-end deadline. And yes, he has banned enhanced torture. These are good things. But what else did we learn from his speech?

Well we learned that he also supports indefinite detention of some prisoners without trial. Huh?

In our constitutional system, prolonged detention should not be the decision of any one man. If and when we determine that the United States must hold individuals to keep them from carrying out an act of war, we will do so within a system that involves judicial and congressional oversight. And so going forward, my Administration will work with Congress to develop an appropriate legal regime so that our efforts are consistent with our values and our Constitution.
President Barack Obama.

So, let’s get this straight. There are people there that can’t be tried because of bad evidence (perhaps obtained through torture) or even no evidence but despite the lack of evidence you’re just going to keep ’em locked up. Forever. Just in case.

And since there is no framework for indefinite incarceration you are going to invent one. And since more people are going to be involved this time around that makes it right?

How can you invent an appropriate legal regime for something that is, by the standard of your own laws, illegal? How can you expect to maintain your laws by finding legal ways to break them?

Simply breath-taking.

But what troubles me most about the double whammy of speeches from what is supposed to be the left and the right is what was not included.

We are confronting some of the most complicated questions that a democracy can face. But I have no interest in spending our time re-litigating the policies of the last eight years. I want to solve these problems, and I want to solve them together as Americans.
President Obama.

I find it amazing that both speakers have such large blind spots. Blind spots big enough to cover the rest of the world. “The policies of the last eight years” includes not only Americans, but also wars in two other countries with Obama opening up a war in a third. “The policies of the last eight years” include wars that were by international law illegal, wars that have killed hundreds of thousands of people. How can that only be about Americans?

It is the arrogance so plainly on display that is perhaps most indefensible of all.

More at The Real News


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