Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Torture Regime Update: A Newspaper's Cowardice, A Smoking Gun & More

Well aware of John Yoo's role in providing reverse-engineered legal memorandums justifying the Bush torture regime, The Philadelphia Inquirer nevertheless signed a contract with him late last year to write an op-ed column in an effort to leaven its liberal loaf with . . . um, conservatives like Rick Santorum.

Since that time, the full extent of Yoo's role has been revealed. As a result, he may face disbarment in California for his yawning lapses of professional judgment and, one would hope, merit a dismissal letter from the UC Berkeley Law School where he teaches.

Nevertheless, the Inquirer is unapologetically keeping on the willfully ignorant Yoo because he is a Philadelphia native and is knowledgeable about legal stuff or something.

Santorum, who was hired after 84 percent of the voters in the Inquirer's circulation area voted him out of office, is paid $1,750 per column. The paper is staying mum about how much Yoo gets, but it stands to reason that it's a lot more because he has more brains in his little toe than the former Republican senator has between his ears.

In any event, last Sunday's column by Yoo (in which he attacks President Obama for being empathetic, something of which Yoo is utterly devoid) should be his last. You can try to help make that happen by letting your voice be heard at

As smoking guns go, an unreleased May 2004 White House memo on torture is shaping up to be a real howitzer.

This is because, as the WaPo reports, it reveals that the Bush administration had detailed information that the grotesqueries it had wrought yielded virtually no information of consequence, let alone information that saved thousands of American lives, as Dick Cheney and other defenders of torture have claimed.

The reason that the memo was not made public at the time is obvious: It would have meant sure defeat for Bush in the 2004 presidential election, while making it public afterward would have discredited his administration by demolishing one of its key post-9/11 talking points. Then there were the memos that opposed torture outright, which were rounded up and destroyed.

Speaking of Dick Cheney, how extraordinary is it that the leading architect of the torture regime hid in his bunker for eight long years but now is all over the place defending those grotesqueries and calling for a full investigation into them when not bitch slapping Colin Powell.

There has been much speculation that Cheney is running scared, while my own view is
that the former vice president is losing his marbles and we forget at our own peril that he has a long history of serving no one and nothing more than himself.

Cheney's craziness is most pungently manifested by the fact that he has spent so much time in his own echo chamber that he fails to grasp that he not only can't prove that the torture regime prevented new 9/11-type attacks, but he has become the star witness for the people who believe that a presidential commission or some other form of investigation that might ultimately hold he and his minions culpable is imperative.

If any one Democrat should be singled out for allowing the torture regime to continue on without protest, it is House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, who was one of a small handful of lawmakers to get a detailed briefing in 2003 about the CIA's use of waterboarding.

Now I happen to think that Pelosi is an idiot without peer on Capitol Hill. After first denying that she was fully briefed she has made a series of excuses for not speaking out then or since, but her latest is a lulu: She sat on her hands
out of respect for "appropriate" legislative channels.

While most of the attention -- and heat -- has been on the former president and his cronies, any investigation is bound to show that the loyal opposition in the form of congressional Democrats was loyal not to the republic but to the very administration that so effectively cowed it.

One of the other two OLC lawyers who crafted torture justification memos for the
White House was Jay Bybee, now a federal judge, whose dirty work extended to a memo justifying the Iraq War.

One of the more uncomfortable ironies to be revealed as the torture regime has been exposed is that the Bush administration instructed interrogators
to torture detainees in order to find evidence of cooperation between Saddam Hussein and Al Qaeda. There was no such cooperation of course, and it turns out that Bybee also gave the administration the legal ammo it needed in an October 23, 2002 memo to bomb Iraq back to the Stone Age if it so chose.

Inconveniently for Dick Cheney, a man who admitted to a Saddam-Al Qaeda link apparently has died under mysterious circumstances in a Libyan jail.

Never mind that Ibn al-Shaykh al-Libi later recanted his testimony, which was induced by torture methods that included a mock burial. The news at least confirms the whereabouts of perhaps the most famous of
"America's Disappeared," prisoners who were rendered not to Guantánamo Bay but to secret prisons run by the CIA or to the custody of governments in third countries where it was expected they would never be seen or heard from again.

In Al-Libi's case, Egypt was the third country and it was there that he made the false allegation that Condi Rice, among others, took to the bank in the run-up to the Iraq war despite warnings from intelligence experts that it was not credible.

No comments: