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January 13, 2008

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Huckabee too has denounced torture, including waterboarding. I'm glad to see the Republican nominee is probably going to be one of the two of them. While Mitt Romney would be easier to beat, I'll be glad to have torture off the table as a political issue.

Ummm, McCain talks a good game on waterboarding, and on torture in general, but when it came time to vote, he was decidedly on the wrong side.

I don't want torture off the table. I wannt the people who are thinking of voting R to have to think about voting for torture. After all, if the (vdery mildly and tentatively) anti-torture McCain wins, that doesn't mean the party has chhanged.

Reversing the perversities of the Bush administration will require publicly holding to account the people who made these decisions in the first place and making an example of them - due to his own behaviour McCain will be unable to do that. If the US wants to rejoin the circle of civilized nations, it will take a bit more than wishy-washy rhetoric.

Greg: thanks; updated.

Hilzoy: The Kool Kidz in the Republican Party might think that support for torture is a prerequisite for entry into their little club. That just shows how far the supposed party of moral values and limited government has fallen.

Yup. Sigh.

I'm being ill this weekend, and not up for much conversation (Redstocking! I'm delighted you're commenting at ObWi! You should stick around and be thoughtful and comment and argue and all that there! [I shouldn't have to say this, since I never said anything that remotely, in any possible way, suggested otherwise, but nonetheless, to be ultra-clear]; also, I don't argue for long with anyone I don't respect), but I'd like to see a cite on Huckabee clearly committing to a position on waterboarding and torture, not just a vague statement.

This is a guy who makes all sorts of vague statements that have a lot of people who pay little attention believing he's committed to a variety of positions that he doesn't remotely hold, beyond his commitment to make a vague statement.

What's the cite for his commitment on torture? The article Hilzoy linked to says he was "declaring his opposition" to waterboarding. Maybe that's a real commitment, in which case grand. But what does it mean exactly?

Here's Huckabee quoted in the Salt Lake Tribune, apparently speaking at a press conference in Iowa:

"Waterboarding is torture, and torture violates the moral code of Americans and jeopardizes the country's security. We should aggressively interrogate terrorism suspects and go after those who seek to do the country harm, but when we go to the point of violating our own moral code, then instead of advancing our country, its safety and our security, we in fact jeopardize it."

Hard to know what else might fall under "agressive interrogation".

Exactly how much torture do you think has happened? Do you think that the CIA were ordered to torture as a matter of policy?

My take is no, torture is not prescribed policy, that very few waterboardings ever took place and of those 5 or less that did take place were Abu Zubaydah and Khalid Sheikh Muhammed, both very very bad guys. Extraordinary rendition was an activity started in the Clinton administration, again, for extraordinary circumstances.

Just throwing this in the mix. I'm not saying that I advocate torture or extraordinary rendition. I do think that terrorists, as much as possible, should not be brought into the US to face trial, so the existence of Guantanamo is all right by me. I don't know how to expedite due process for suspected terrorists, somebody else has to figure that out.

I do think that terrorists, as much as possible, should not be brought into the US to face trial, so the existence of Guantanamo is all right by me.

DaveC - I've got it on good authority that your name has been reported to the website below. I guess that you're a terrorist, enjoy Gitmo.

https://tips.fbi.gov/

DaveC: I’ve struggled with this a lot. “How much torture” is too much came down to one time. I still struggle with it – if they caught OBL tomorrow and wanted to water-board him – who would actually oppose that?

So I come down to this: Make it all highly illegal. If someone actually faces a ticking bomb scenario they will do what they feel they need to do. If that actually helps, there is no jury in America that will convict.

But it can’t be policy. That is not us. That is not what my dad fought in Vietnam for. That is not what I volunteered to fight the cold war for. That is not what my cousin fought in GWI for. That is not us.

"I don't want torture off the table. I wannt the people who are thinking of voting R to have to think about voting for torture."

I doubt that is wise policy. Properly (improperly?) framed I suspect you could find a fair majority of Americans who would support torture in 'limited' circumstances. While you might be able to win on the "it won't be 'limited'" grounds, I'm not sure it is where you want to spend your energy if it can be off the table completely.

...enjoy Gitmo.

free lemon chicken!

Properly (improperly?) framed I suspect you could find a fair majority of Americans who would support torture in 'limited' circumstances.

Either the R's agree with this, or they support torture on some sort of principle. I strongly presume the former.

Merganser, has Huckabee said anything about it in the Republican debates, and if so has he folded under criticism from his non-Paul opponents, as he did on his calling Bush's foreign policy arrogant?

can we go back to the bikeshed thing? that was the highlight of my week.

No, we can't.

if they caught OBL tomorrow and wanted to water-board him – who would actually oppose that?

Me. Strongly.

Absent the ticking-time bomb, there are much better ways to get information out of him. (For instance, what was done with Saddam: isolate him, and have an interrogator "befriend" him.) And torture intended strictly as a punishment is barbarism, no matter who the victim is. I do not regret that the Israelis hanged Eichmann without torturing him first.

Shouldn't the 11:29 PM be deleted, rather than allow the campaign of abuse to go on?

Gary: I don't like deleting comments, generally. I have, however, banned the use of the term -- well, darn, I banned it, which is why this comment keeps getting held as spam, I guess. In any case, since it's not normally one word, that shouldn't interfere with any legitimate conversation.

Generally speaking: abusing people who comment here is in violation of the posting rules. Anyone who does it will be banned. Anyone who tries to evade this in some cute fashion will either be banned or warned by me -- though here, as always, I can be overruled by publius and Seb.

Do. Not. Go. There.

What exactly does she mean by "freedom of speech" in this case?

"What exactly does she mean by 'freedom of speech' in this case?"

That's easy: the limitations on paid political advertising speech in the McCain-Feingold campaign legislation.

"Freedom of speech" is code for "campaign contribution laws"--which is the main thing McCain's maverick reputation rests on.

I'm with OCSteve on the torture issue: never morally acceptable, and never policy. If someone feels that it is needed and uses torture, let them be tried. If they are convicted, there is always the pardon power--which brings the question into the open where it belongs, and puts the decision (and the onus) where it belongs, namely at the top, with the President.

The Kool Kidz in the Republican Party might think that support for torture is a prerequisite for entry into their little club.

Yup. Sigh.

Don't be so quick to agree, OCSteve. Pres Bush stated in public "We don't do torture", which although inarticulate and informal, was at least a general statement of policy. I don't know who the "Kool Kidz" are. The only person who comes to mind who explicitly supports some torture is Alan Derschowitz, but he is not part of the administration. (And of course television series and movies that present our military and intelligence as operating that way.) I think that there are many Republicans who think that the govt should not come right out and say "we will do this" and "we will not do that", and I agree. It would be like asking our military to explicitly state Rules of Engagement. There are some subtleties to this. Implying that the neocons are by and large sadistic is simply not fair.

Exactly how much torture do you think has happened? Do you think that the CIA were ordered to torture as a matter of policy?

Naomi Klein seems to think it has happened a lot over the last few decades, and that CIA has been involved in training lots of other folks to do it as well. Indeed, she claims that CIA pretty much wrote the book on it. Not being a scholar in the field she's citing, I'm unable to give an indication of exactly how credible she is, but she's been good in the past, to my knowledge, and I know of no reason to discount her work.

Implying that the neocons are by and large sadistic is simply not fair.

I think the coldness of their economic policies alone is proof that they're largely sadistic, never mind their military policies.

CIA has been supporting rightwing facsist torturing in latin america especially for decades.

Hasn't dawned on anyone in this discussion yet that the very fact that we do not know exactly how much torture has gone on is precisely the nature of the problem?

We don't have to speculate on questions like how many people have been executed, how many people have served life sentences. But we, as citizens, have make our best guess as to how many people have been tortured. Not so many? Lots of people? For just a short while? For years and years and years? In a transparent government, in a good government, I would like to think that this ought not be a matter of wild conjecture.

DaveC, you say: Implying that the neocons are by and large sadistic is simply not fair. But it's not liberals doing that. It's Ms. Lopez in the pages (screens?) of National Review. Liberals did not infiltrate NRO and insert those words, to the best of my knowledge. If you don't like any group of conservatives being portrayed as sadistic, get them to stop championing the willingness to inflict tremendous suffering as part of what defines "one of us". It is not unfair for the rest of us to assume that she means it when she says that that willingness is as important as the willingness to further imbalance our economy in the direction of the rich, and that if there were serious objections from her peers in either case, they'd be speaking up about it.

The fact is that prominent neocons by and large are sadistic, or at least oblivious to the pain and suffering of people they deem unworthy.

Incertus's 7:10 PM says the really important thing, not addressed in this thread since:
McCain. Is. In. Favor. Of. Torture

... at least, McCain is when he can be rewarded for selling his soul to Cheney.

When the torture bill came up in 2006, McCain rapidly emerged as the spearhead and lynchpin of the opposition, gaining numerous press and pundit plaudits for his apparently principled stance. And then, within about a week, he sold out the cause, agreeing to a "revised" version of the bill that had no significant reductions in the President's torture powers. Because of his unique role in the media as the figure opposing torture, McCain's defection ensured the collapse of the opposition, such that the opposition would have been better off if McCain had backed the bill from the start - a fact the McCain and Cheney surely knew. Somehow, even as the "revised" bill was being passed, McCain continued to be cited in the media as an opponent of torture.

With no Cheney pressuring him, would a President McCain authorize torture? Maybe he would, maybe not. Is McCain in reality firmly opposed to torture? Definitely not.

Funny, I was going to do a post on this comment, too, after reading about it in a Steve Benen post. I had a similar reaction. It's very sad that torture and abolishing habeas corpus are such core values for this group.

The Israelis hanged Eichmann without torturing him first.

In Europe, where we have by and large abolished the capital punishment, one of the things many of us truly abhor is the slowness of the American death penalty. A typical US condemned serves over 10 years in prison before execution. That is overly too much. Conerning the conditions in US prisons in general, and in deathrows in particular, I would say that you actually torture even the "usual" condemned before putting them to death.

If you had even common decency, the capital trials and the appeal process would be speedy, thus minimizing the agony of the persons your system legally murders.

It's sad and frightening that support for waterboarding is now considered a reasonably mainstream position in America. If it was good enough for the Gestapo, the Stalinists, and the Khmer Rouge, it's good enough for the GOP. One reason I could never call myself a Republican no matter what other issues I may agree with them about.

I too, hope that a McCain nomination would deligitimize torture.

the spanish inquisition is calling, and it feels left out, xynon.

"I don't want torture off the table. I wannt the people who are thinking of voting R to have to think about voting for torture."

Hoping that your opponents pick a bad candidate on the ground that it will provide you with political (or social, or moral) ammunition is not a wise strategy You want your opponents to pick their best candidate -- because sometimes they win.

I want the Ds to nominate Obama because, even if Obama wins, I would feel that the country would be in the hands of a reasonable man. Although I would work hard to block many of his policy initiatives, I would not have the added burden of battling his corruption and disingenuousness as well. (And, yes, given the "wrong" R nod, I may even vote for him.)

KCinDC,

I don't know, as I've not watched most of the Republican debates. But he seems to have been saying it consistently for a little over a month. Your question implicitly suggests that he's likely to reverse himself, but I don't see any reason to believe that.

Well I respectfully disagree. I didn't say what I meant very well, so I will try again.

It doesn't matter that much who gets to be the face on the Republican party--it's still the party of Abramoff, KStreet, torture, big government, obscenely wasteful spending, global warming denial, and disresepct for science and expertise. McCain is their Reagan, the "likeable" guy, who is busying promoting now, having supported for years, the rightwing extremist agenda of the Bush Republican party. He's their strongest nominee, the most likely to get elected, and, if elected, there isn't much reason to think he would be less beholden to the power brokers of the Republican party than Romney or Guiliani would be. He gave up being a maverick to pursue the nomination. He isn't the best of the bunch. He's just as bad as the others but more electable.

Having McCain in front of the party gives people the illusion that they aren't voting for same old ugliness when they are.
Not only that, but because McCain is "likeable", if elected,he will be able to to the bidding of the Rparty power leadership and get away with it. The press won't cover it and large swaths of the public won't relate the screwing over they get to him.

But it looks like Republican primary voters are smarter than Democratic primary voters. They are going to pick their most electable while we carp and bicker over who is the perfect reflection of the interests of the activist base.

The race shaping up is the absolute worst one: Clinton against McCain. Clinton could beat all the others but probably not McCain. Compared to her, he's going to be able to run as the fresh face.

So I wouuld rather they ran a weaker candidate so our weaker one can win. Otherwise we get four more years of the same ugliness, hidden behind a "likeable" face, underreported by the besotted press, and falsely labelled as moderation by the pundits.

You want your opponents to pick their best candidate -- because sometimes they win.

Only if they commit unequivocally to abolishing torture, reversing previous legislation and holding those who created and created and implemented it to account. If the alternative is between the song and dance we have currently, while people are being tortured anyway, and an outspoken advocate for torture, then the latter is preferable.

As wonkie says, having McCain as the Republican nominee is dangerous. My pick for the candidate who's beatable while being somewhat less disastrous if he manages to get into the White House would be Romney. Unfortunately it looks like we may not have him around much longer -- but considering how the conventional wisdom has been going this time around I'm not betting on it.

"Either the R's agree with this, or they support torture on some sort of principle. I strongly presume the former."

I don't think you read my comment properly: Properly (improperly?) framed I suspect you could find a fair majority of Americans who would support torture in 'limited' circumstances.

This is one of the main reasons why Democrats who oppose torture in all situations (and that isn't all of them by any means) haven't made it a very big deal to general audiences.

This is one of the areas where I think the majority is clearly wrong, but it won't do us any good to fail to note that it is very likely an actual majority.

In Europe, where we have by and large abolished the capital punishment, one of the things many of us truly abhor is the slowness of the American death penalty. A typical US condemned serves over 10 years in prison before execution. That is overly too much. Conerning the conditions in US prisons in general, and in deathrows in particular, I would say that you actually torture even the "usual" condemned before putting them to death.

If you had even common decency, the capital trials and the appeal process would be speedy, thus minimizing the agony of the persons your system legally murders.

Um, this may be the dumbest thing I'll read all week, and it's only Monday.

The Innocence Project has achieved 210 exonerations of imprisoned men on the basis of DNA evidence. Fifteen of those exonerated men were on death row. Your plan above would have those 15 men long dead rather than released from prison. You cool with that? Because I sure as heck am not cool with executing innocent people under any circumstances.

McCain collapsed on the torture bill. He wants to be in Iraq for a hundred years. His reputation for "independence" mainly exists because the press is LAZY. And he's sold out almost all of his principles to Bush and the Republican Base over the past few years.

He's not the least crazy Republican candidate. He's not a good choice for President.

Period.

Phil, yes indeed. If the process had been quicker, Kenny Richey -- not an Innocence Project client, a Reprieve one, represented pro bono by a US lawyer -- would be very long dead. So the people the Innocence Project (for which I have an awful lot of time) save are only some of the ones to be counted.
Indeed I believe capital punishment (which I oppose totally) is a major reason and justification for the length of the process.

I agree Phil - of all the criticisms one can voice of capital punishment the time it takes till execution is not what I would choose.

McCain has a 100% approval rating from the Christian Coalition. He's not a good candidate if you have a uterus, but then none of the Republicans are.

He's perceived as a maverick, but that's mostly because the press likes him a lot. He'll speak with them, and is actually capable of speaking coherently off the cuff, and will raise contrarian points. His actual voting record: not very contrarian at all.

I'm with Phil on the whole time-on-death-row thing. I believe that a death penalty can be a just thing (although not as currently implemented), because there are some extraordinary people who are incontrovertably absolute monsters, and a society can reasonably declare that those people have through their actions forfeited their right to life. Thing is, its the declaration that matters to me: I don't actually care whether they're ever executed, and it's critical that no-one should ever be executed if there is even a shadow of a doubt as to their culpability or the magnitude of their actions. The idea of executing people so as to save money is just abhorrent. If you're going to kill someone, you owe it to yourself to give them every possible chance to prove a miscarriage of justice.

As to the secondary point, that a long time under prison conditions constitutes torture, I'm a bit unclear as to your meaning. If you refer the the dread of oncoming execution, that's a point but it's inherent to the death penalty whether it happens in minutes or decades. If it's a point about the inhumanity of our prisons, I would (as someone who isn't actually well infromed on the issue) agree, but it is something requiring reform for the sake of all prisoners, not just those scheduled for execution.

Waterboarding is torture, and torture violates the moral code of Americans and jeopardizes the country's security.

It also violates the law, but no Republican can say that, since it leads irrevocably to impeachment.

============================

Hoping that your opponents pick a bad candidate on the ground that it will provide you with political (or social, or moral) ammunition is not a wise strategy You want your opponents to pick their best candidate -- because sometimes they win.

As witness, the current occupant of the White House.

=========================

And, yes, given the "wrong" R nod, I may even vote for him.

Whom, among the dog torturers, rapist pardoners and the like, would be the "right" R nod?

Hoping that your opponents pick a bad candidate on the ground that it will provide you with political (or social, or moral) ammunition is not a wise strategy You want your opponents to pick their best candidate -- because sometimes they win.

In general, that's a good point, but in this case, who's the best Republican candidate? Being the best out of this bunch is like being the winner of the Mr. Syphilis pageant--what a prize!

I don't know where you think we disagree, Sebastian. Lopez is openly pro-torture because she thinks it's a popular position, not because she finds torture praiseworthy under some ethical standard.

Don't be so quick to agree, OCSteve. Pres Bush stated in public "We don't do torture", which although inarticulate and informal, was at least a general statement of policy.

Have you considered the possibility that Bush is a lying SOB?

Thanks -

DaveC, I wish this were accurate:
My take is no, torture is not prescribed policy, that very few waterboardings ever took place and of those 5 or less that did take place were Abu Zubaydah and Khalid Sheikh Muhammed, both very very bad guys.

Unfortunately, it's so far from reality, you might as well say that your take is that we will win in Iraq by deploying Glinda the Good Witch of the North. To find the facts, please click the link marked "Torture and Detention," under "Categories" at the righthand side of this blog's screen, and read down. Most of the really in-depth factual material was posted years ago, so please don't stop at the last couple of months. In particular, note the Justice Department memos justifying torture, and the consistent reports of everyone who has inspected Gitmo or interviewed the inmates. Follow the links as much as you need to, and/or do your own research. If you find any facts that justify your take, please cite.

You don't have to do any of this, of course. It's a free country, and if you want to believe the world is flat, you have that right. But if you have any interest in the facts, that's a good place to start learning them.

"To find the facts,"

Remember, DaveC's not interested in the facts; they've been written about countless times here, and in reply to him. As he's explained, he's interested in venting his frustrations and anger on people in his life on people at the internet instead, he's interested in winding people up, because he thinks it's fun and it's what he does, and he's interested in trolling.

Facts, he's completely uninterested in, and it doesn't matter what you point him to, since he'll ignore it, because it would get in the way of his trolling process.

Gary, you're probably right, but everyone starts somewhere. Maybe this is DaveC's day.

"Maybe this is DaveC's day."

Oh, sure. I'm a firm -- okay, I'm somewhat wobbly at times, actually, but most of the time I'm squishy firm, at least -- believer in redemption. You never know what might go through someone's heart or mind.

I'm perfectly prepared to believe that DaveC might, at some time, whether ten minutes from now, or ten years from now, begin the process of being less of a [NOUN], and dealing in a better way with people.

However, I'm not, myself, planning on counting on that until I've seen some evidence of that, in fact, happening over some time.

But if you're willing to do the work of engaging him in hopes that this or that day will be The Day, more power to you; I wasn't trying to discourage you from acting with that hope; I merely don't want to see people waste their time out of not understanding what's going on here, and mistaking DaveC at present as a genial guy writing in good faith, trying to work out what's right and true.

Because that's clearly, unfortunately, not the case. It would be very nice if it were, but it isn't. Not yet, anyway. (Maybe hidden inside some part of him is listening: who knows? One can hope.)

As to it being "unfair" to characterize neocons as sadistic, I think the twin phenomena of "shock and awe" and the "flypaper theory"--both of which use the deliberate infliction of terror and death on innocent and defenseless people as a means of sending geopolitical messages--tells us pretty much all we need to know about whether our neocon leadership are sadists or not.

I don't care if Cheney is the vice president; he's a cruel and sadistic bastard in my book, along with Rumsfeld, Wolfowitz, Bush, and all the rest of those sick f**ks who think that waterboarding is like a dip in the pool and force-feeding is great because it saves you the trouble of having to chew your food.

And these people want to unleash the same hell on earth in Iran that they've created in Iraq. For what reason, God only knows.

Jesus Christ, DaveC, snatch your friggin' head out. These people are insane.

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