Sunday, March 9, 2008

What A Legacy

Bush vetoes anti-torture bill. Wow, what a headline.

There are things I just don’t understand, and this is one of them:
Bush’s Veto of Bill on C.I.A. Tactics Affirms His Legacy

Published: March 9, 2008

WASHINGTON — President Bush on Saturday further cemented his legacy of fighting for strong executive powers, using his veto to shut down a Congressional effort to limit the Central Intelligence Agency’s latitude to subject terrorism suspects to harsh interrogation techniques.

Mr. Bush vetoed a bill that would have explicitly prohibited the agency from using interrogation methods like waterboarding, a technique in which restrained prisoners are threatened with drowning and that has been the subject of intense criticism at home and abroad. Many such techniques are prohibited by the military and law enforcement agencies.

First, boo-hiss to the New York Times for using the polite euphamism, “harsh interrogation techniques.” It’s torture. No need to polite here, let’s call things what they are.

Secondly, Bush’s legacy will not be “strong executive powers” but supporting the use of torture. Own it, folks. This will be Bush’s legacy, and what a sick one it is. It will be the legacy of the Republican Party, including John McCain, himself a victim of torture, who voted to allow the CIA to use these techniques.

That is something else I just don’t understand.

Torture is one of those things that didn’t seem real to me until I did this post on rendition back in December:

... a University of Glasgow pathology report shows one man “died of immersion in boiling liquid” after being seized by the authorities. Post-mortem photos of an 18-year-old Samarkand resident reveal similar marks: “The right hand looked like cooked chicken.” In addition, Murray writes, “one technique was widespread throughout the country — they would strap on a gas mask and then block the filters. I presume that the advantage of this was that it would suffocate without bruising.”

This is torture, Uzbekistan-style, which is relevant because Uzbekistan is reportedly one of the destination countries for our CIA rendition program. To America’s credit, we have routinely criticized Uzbekistan’s human rights record. Well, sorta:

President Bush welcomed Uzbek President Islam Karimov to the White House, and the United States has given Uzbekistan more than $500 million for border control and other security measures.

Add that to the Bush legacy while you’re at it.

This is insane, Upside-Down Day stuff. What president wants fear, torture, violence and war as his legacy?

It is generally known that the information one gets from torture is unreliable. A person being tortured will say anything to get the torture to stop. So, what does work? We don't know. We haven't studied it, not since the 1970s (with good reason, too: the studies we did were barbaric and horrific).

Right-wingers agree with the President that

[...] information from the C.I.A.’s interrogations had averted terrorist attacks, including plots to attack a Marine camp in Djibouti; the American Consulate in Karachi, Pakistan; Library Tower in Los Angeles; and passenger planes from Britain.

but there’s no evidence that this is true. None. Just Bush’s word, which we all know is as good as $3 bill. For instance, it’s not the “Library Tower” in Los Angeles -- it’s the U.S. Bank Building. Secondly, there was no “plot,” it was debunked long ago. Bush likes to bring it up, though, along with a host of other phony terror plots, because the government wants you scared.

What better way to keep people scared than to keep reminding us that they need “tools” like torture, warrantless wiretaps and telecom immunity. Whether they actually use these new powers is beside the point: they are telling us that they need them -- just in case. It’s another way of saying “Boo!”

Keep the people scared, which is another Bush legacy. It’s the oldest trick in the book:

"This and no other is the root from which a tyrant springs: when he first appears, he is a protector." -- PLATO, The Republic