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April 17, 2009

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As Emptywheel reminds us, Bradbury's memo was also written after an internal CIA Inspector General report concluded in 2004 that the CIA's actions in 2001-3 violated the Convention Against Torture and the U.S. statutes implementing it.

So it's a very conscious, deliberate choice the Bush-Cheney regime made.

Bob Paxton reminds us what democracies become when they die.

Failure to prosecute because of fear of the national security apparatus would be a fairly damning 'tell' that we're in an advanced stage of the illness...

"this is how democracies die."

Nope. It is by spending more money than they can tax, borrow, or print.

Nope. It is by spending more money than they can tax, borrow, or print.

Already taken care up last eight years.

It is by spending more money than they can tax, borrow, or print

No, that just makes you a broke democracy.

Dddave, although I'd argue that the problem you cite has absolutely nothing to do with the system of government in question, I am willing to concede that democracies can die in multiple different ways. Indeed, I'd think that any sensible person would agree with this proposition; I do you the favor of assuming that you do, as well.

Do I take it from your statement that you think a state-sanctioned highly-regulated secret torture regime is not inconsistent with a functioning democracy?

Anyone know of a good killfile script? This is getting mighty tiresome.

Democracies die when a certain critical mass of the population loses its commitment to democracy and, in fact, becomes actively opposed to it. It happened in ancient Greece. And ancient Rome. And modern Italy. And Germany. And Spain. And probably others I am less aware of.

Our current degree of polarization is troubling, but we ain't there yet, by a long shot.

d'd'd'dave,

The US spent so much during WWII that we emerged with debt equallying 120% of our GDP. This necessitated very high taxes during the '50's and early '60's that no one would care to repeat. But our democracy survived.

The trolls are completely wrecking the comments on this blog. You might want to consider some judicious banning.

Anyone know of a good killfile script? T

yes.

funny though. even though it will block anyone you want, the threads somehow always end up being all about the person you've blocked.

4-dave: You have just abandoned the Constitution and due process of law.

Next time a planning commission imposes larger exactions than you think is fair for one of your projects, or a regulator asserts jurisdiction when you think it doesn't exist, remember this moment.

Why should anyone else care about due process if you don't? Yeah, the stakes were greater at GITMO, but the victims paid a higher price.

our democracy isn't dead.

our democracy has survived a multi-year civil war, multiple impeachments, countless rigged elections at all levels, the disenfranchisement of more than half the population, the internment of innocents, endless wars, 100 years of a vicious boom/bust cycle. etc. etc. etc.

everybody needs to chill.

I believe Dddave to be somewhere between obdurate and obtuse, and I suspect it is not physically possible to convince it of anything, but I believe that banning should be reserved for truly abusive behavior, and Dddave is consistently polite and reasonably topical (this thread's post being a partial exception), so I'd hate to see it get banned. If nothing else, it's good to have someone arguing the counterposition, although when the same person is a consistent commenter that always argues the counterposition you do sort of have to wonder about their bona fides.

As to whether calling someone who frequently posts a dozen essentially non-responsive comments in a single thread a "Troll" violates the commenting rules, I'd be interested to see an authoritative ruling.

I'm not so hot on authoritative rulings, given the wrong of those I've find myself on from time to time...

.... but I'd just like to say that I prefer unelected bureaucrats cleaning up my wetlands over unelected bureaucrats and private sector whatevers torturing foreigners.

As Russell might say: Thank you.

And thank you.

I'd like to see the term troll restored to its original meaning - posting a blatantly incorrect comment with which one disagrees in order to prompt a response with counterarguments. It used to be an art form.

As for the alleged "troll" in question, I'm bored, and there's not much worse than that.

I'd be interested to see an authoritative ruling.

i believe i got that yesterday.

"Nope. It is by spending more money than they can tax, borrow, or print."

No, it's by literally carefully studying the methods of the Gestapo, KGB, and

Chinese secret police, and duplicating them.

Have you not read the multiple links supplied to you documenting this very fact?

Do you actually deny that this is exactly what the U.S. government has done?

Sleep deprivation

href="http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/uk_news/magazine/3376951.stm">alone:

[...] Menachem Begin, the Israeli prime minister from 1977-83, was

tortured by the KGB as a young man. In his book, White Nights: The Story of a

Prisoner in Russia, he wrote of losing the will to resist when deprived of

sleep.

"In the head of the interrogated prisoner, a haze begins to form. His spirit is

wearied to death, his legs are unsteady, and he has one sole desire: to sleep...

Anyone who has experienced this desire knows that not even hunger and thirst are

comparable with it.

"I came across prisoners who signed what they were ordered to sign, only to get

what the interrogator promised them.

"He did not promise them their liberty; he did not promise them food to sate

themselves. He promised them - if they signed - uninterrupted sleep! And, having

signed, there was nothing in the world that could move them to risk again such

nights and such days."

And:
[...] Former Lithuanian

freedom fighter and political prisoner Juozas Aleksiejunas was tortured with sleep

deprivation by the KGB, just after the end of WWII.

He was arrested for being a member of Lithuania's anti-Soviet partisan movement,

which fought a guerrilla-style war against the USSR between 1944 and 1953.

The KGB questioned him for three nights in succession and prevented him from

sleeping during the day.

"It is difficult to think when there is no sleep. Human beings can almost lose

consciousness because of it," he says.

Mr Alekseijunas, who is now a pensioner and a former guide at a Lithuania's Museum

of Genocide Victims in Vilnius, laughs when asked what sleep deprivation does to

the mind.

"Try yourself to eat only 300g of bread, the daily ration we got in prison, during

two months and after it not sleep for three days and nights.

"The desire to have some sleep was the only thing which I was dreaming about."

For example.

Absolutely

href="http://www.nytimes.com/2007/06/03/weekinreview/03shane.html">uncontested

fact:

HOW did the United States, in the aftermath of the 9/11

attacks, come to adopt interrogation techniques copied from the Soviet Union and

other cold war adversaries?

Investigators for the Senate Armed Services Committee are examining how the

methods, long used to train Americans for what they may face as prisoners of war,

became the basis for American interrogations.

In 2002, the C.I.A. and the Pentagon became concerned that standard questioning was

inadequate for suspected terrorists and turned to a military training program

called Survival, Evasion, Resistance and Escape, or SERE. For decades, SERE

trainers had exposed aviators and others at high risk for capture to Soviet-style

tactics, including disrupted sleep, exposure to extreme heat and cold, and hours in

uncomfortable stress positions. Sometimes the ordeal included waterboarding, in

which a prisoner’s face is covered with cloth and water is poured from above to

create a feeling of suffocation.

[...]

Many SERE veterans were appalled at the “reverse engineering” of their methods,

said Charles A. Morgan III, a Yale psychiatrist who has worked closely with SERE

trainers for a decade.

“How did something used as an example of what an unethical government would do

become something we do?” he asked.

His question is only underscored by a 1956 article, “Communist Interrogation,” in

The Archives of Neurology and Psychiatry, recently turned up by the Intelligence

Science Board, which advises the spy agencies. Written by doctors working as

Defense Department consultants, Lawrence E. Hinkle Jr. and Harold G. Wolff, the

article shows that methods embraced after 2001 were once considered torture that

would produce false information.

[...]

The article describes basic Soviet N.K.V.D. (later K.G.B.) methods: isolation in

a small cell; constant light; sleep deprivation; cold or heat; reduced food

rations. Soviets denied such treatment was torture, just as American officials have

in recent years:

The effects of isolation, anxiety, fatigue, lack of sleep, uncomfortable

temperatures, and chronic hunger produce disturbances of mood, attitudes and

behavior in nearly all prisoners. The living organism cannot entirely withstand

such assaults. The Communists do not look upon these assaults as “torture.” But all

of them produce great discomfort, and lead to serious disturbances of many bodily

processes; there is no reason to differentiate them from any other form of torture.

Interrogators looked for ways to increase the pressure, including “stress

positions”:

Another [technique] widely used is that of requiring the prisoner to stand

throughout the interrogation session or to maintain some other physical position

which becomes painful. This, like other features of the KGB procedure, is a form of

physical torture, in spite of the fact that the prisoners and KGB officers alike do

not ordinarily perceive it as such. Any fixed position which is maintained over a

long period of time ultimately produces excruciating pain.

Overt brutality was discouraged, as it was at American facilities:

The KGB hardly ever uses manacles or chains, and rarely resorts to physical

beatings. The actual physical beating is, of course, repugnant to overt Communist

principles and is contrary to K.G.B. regulations.

Closed trials and military tribunals were standard, as at Guantánamo:

Prisoners are tried before “military tribunals,” which are not public courts. Those

present are only the interrogator, the state prosecutor, the prisoner, the judges,

a few stenographers, and perhaps a few officers of the court.

The Bush administration concluded that the Geneva Conventions did not apply to

Qaeda detainees. Similarly, the Soviets argued that international rules did not

apply to foreign detainees:

In typical Communist legalistic fashion, the N.K.V.D. rationalized its use of

torture and pressure in the interrogation of prisoners of war. When it desired to

use such methods against a prisoner or to obtain from him a propaganda statement or

“confession,” it simply declared the prisoner a “war-crimes suspect” and informed

him that, therefore, he was not subject to international rules governing the

treatment of prisoners of war.

href="http://andrewsullivan.theatlantic.com/the_daily_dish/2007/05/verschfte_verne.

html">Verschärfte Vernehmung:

[...] The phrase "Verschärfte

Vernehmung" is German for "enhanced interrogation". Other translations include

"intensified interrogation" or "sharpened interrogation". It's a phrase that

appears to have been concocted in 1937, to describe a form of torture that would

leave no marks, and hence save the embarrassment pre-war Nazi officials were

experiencing as their wounded torture victims ended up in court.

[...]

Here's the Nazi defense argument:

(c) That the acts of torture in no case resulted in death. Most of the injuries

inflicted were slight and did not result in permanent disablement.

[...]

Here's a good description of how stress positions operate:

The hands were tied together closely with a cord on the back of the prisoner,

raised then the body and hung the cord to a hook, which was attached into two

meters height in a tree, so that the feet in air hung. The whole body weight rested

thus at the joints bent to the rear. The minimum period of hanging up was a half

hour. To remain there three hours hung up, was pretty often. This punishment was

carried out at least twice weekly.

This is how one detainee at Abu Ghraib died (combined with beating) as in the

photograph above.

Completely serious question: why do you want the

U.S. to exactly emulate the KGB and Gestapo, d'd'd'dave?

src="http://andrewsullivan.theatlantic.com/the_daily_dish/images/2007/05/29/transla

tionofmuellermemo.jpg">

d'd'd: the posting rules prohibit disrupting conversation for its own sake. There is some point at which jumping into every conversation and saying: no, X (done by Republicans) is not wrong; the real problem is completely unrelated Y (done by Democrats) will cross that line.

I don't know why you would want to cross it, rather than just writing about whatever topic is at hand, or else writing elsewhere, but them's the breaks.

I mean: I write these posts because I think it would be interesting to talk about them. Other people presumably come here because they want to read what's up here, and also talk about them. If practically every time you just parachute in and start talking about the deficit in a torture thread, or what Obama did wrong in a thread about warrantless wiretapping, or about the evils of Nancy Pelosi in a thread about Uzbekistan, it's just discourteous.

"Nope. It is by spending more money than they can tax, borrow, or print."

No, it's by literally carefully studying the methods of the Gestapo, KGB, and

Chinese secret police, and duplicating them.

Have you not read the multiple links supplied to you documenting this very fact?

Do you actually deny that this is exactly what the U.S. government has done?

Sleep deprivation alone:

[...] Menachem Begin, the Israeli prime minister from 1977-83, was

tortured by the KGB as a young man. In his book, White Nights: The Story of a

Prisoner in Russia, he wrote of losing the will to resist when deprived of

sleep.

"In the head of the interrogated prisoner, a haze begins to form. His spirit is
wearied to death, his legs are unsteady, and he has one sole desire: to sleep...

Anyone who has experienced this desire knows that not even hunger and thirst are
comparable with it.

"I came across prisoners who signed what they were ordered to sign, only to get
what the interrogator promised them.

"He did not promise them their liberty; he did not promise them food to sate
themselves. He promised them - if they signed - uninterrupted sleep! And, having signed, there was nothing in the world that could move them to risk again such nights and such days."

And:
[...] Former Lithuanian freedom fighter and political prisoner Juozas Aleksiejunas was tortured with sleep deprivation by the KGB, just after the end of WWII.

He was arrested for being a member of Lithuania's anti-Soviet partisan movement, which fought a guerrilla-style war against the USSR between 1944 and 1953.

The KGB questioned him for three nights in succession and prevented him from sleeping during the day.

"It is difficult to think when there is no sleep. Human beings can almost lose
consciousness because of it," he says.

Mr Alekseijunas, who is now a pensioner and a former guide at a Lithuania's Museum
of Genocide Victims in Vilnius, laughs when asked what sleep deprivation does to the mind.

"Try yourself to eat only 300g of bread, the daily ration we got in prison, during two months and after it not sleep for three days and nights.

"The desire to have some sleep was the only thing which I was dreaming about."

For example.

Absolutely uncontested fact:

HOW did the United States, in the aftermath of the 9/11
attacks, come to adopt interrogation techniques copied from the Soviet Union and other cold war adversaries?

Investigators for the Senate Armed Services Committee are examining how the methods, long used to train Americans for what they may face as prisoners of war, became the basis for American interrogations.

In 2002, the C.I.A. and the Pentagon became concerned that standard questioning was inadequate for suspected terrorists and turned to a military training program called Survival, Evasion, Resistance and Escape, or SERE. For decades, SERE
trainers had exposed aviators and others at high risk for capture to Soviet-style tactics, including disrupted sleep, exposure to extreme heat and cold, and hours in uncomfortable stress positions. Sometimes the ordeal included waterboarding, in which a prisoner’s face is covered with cloth and water is poured from above to create a feeling of suffocation.

[...]

Many SERE veterans were appalled at the “reverse engineering” of their methods, said Charles A. Morgan III, a Yale psychiatrist who has worked closely with SERE trainers for a decade.

“How did something used as an example of what an unethical government would do become something we do?” he asked.

His question is only underscored by a 1956 article, “Communist Interrogation,” in , recently turned up by the Intelligence
Science Board, which advises the spy agencies. Written by doctors working as Defense Department consultants, Lawrence E. Hinkle Jr. and Harold G. Wolff, the article shows that methods embraced after 2001 were once considered torture that would produce false information.

[...]

The article describes basic Soviet N.K.V.D. (later K.G.B.) methods: isolation in a small cell; constant light; sleep deprivation; cold or heat; reduced food rations. Soviets denied such treatment was torture, just as American officials have in recent years:

The effects of isolation, anxiety, fatigue, lack of sleep, uncomfortable temperatures, and chronic hunger produce disturbances of mood, attitudes and behavior in nearly all prisoners. The living organism cannot entirely withstand such assaults. The Communists do not look upon these assaults as “torture.” But all of them produce great discomfort, and lead to serious disturbances of many bodily processes; there is no reason to differentiate them from any other form of torture.

Interrogators looked for ways to increase the pressure, including “stress positions”:

Another [technique] widely used is that of requiring the prisoner to stand throughout the interrogation session or to maintain some other physical position which becomes painful. This, like other features of the KGB procedure, is a form of physical torture, in spite of the fact that the prisoners and KGB officers alike do not ordinarily perceive it as such. Any fixed position which is maintained over a long period of time ultimately produces excruciating pain.

Overt brutality was discouraged, as it was at American facilities:

The KGB hardly ever uses manacles or chains, and rarely resorts to physical beatings. The actual physical beating is, of course, repugnant to overt Communist principles and is contrary to K.G.B. regulations.

Closed trials and military tribunals were standard, as at Guantánamo:

Prisoners are tried before “military tribunals,” which are not public courts. Those present are only the interrogator, the state prosecutor, the prisoner, the judges, a few stenographers, and perhaps a few officers of the court.

The Bush administration concluded that the Geneva Conventions did not apply to Qaeda detainees. Similarly, the Soviets argued that international rules did not apply to foreign detainees:

In typical Communist legalistic fashion, the N.K.V.D. rationalized its use of torture and pressure in the interrogation of prisoners of war. When it desired to use such methods against a prisoner or to obtain from him a propaganda statement or “confession,” it simply declared the prisoner a “war-crimes suspect” and informed him that, therefore, he was not subject to international rules governing the treatment of prisoners of war.

Verschärfte Vernehmung:
[...] The phrase "Verschärfte
Vernehmung" is German for "enhanced interrogation". Other translations include "intensified interrogation" or "sharpened interrogation". It's a phrase that appears to have been concocted in 1937, to describe a form of torture that would leave no marks, and hence save the embarrassment pre-war Nazi officials were experiencing as their wounded torture victims ended up in court.

[...]

Here's the Nazi defense argument:

(c) That the acts of torture in no case resulted in death. Most of the injuries inflicted were slight and did not result in permanent disablement.

[...]

Here's a good description of how stress positions operate:

The hands were tied together closely with a cord on the back of the prisoner, raised then the body and hung the cord to a hook, which was attached into two meters height in a tree, so that the feet in air hung. The whole body weight rested thus at the joints bent to the rear. The minimum period of hanging up was a half hour. To remain there three hours hung up, was pretty often. This punishment was carried out at least twice weekly.

This is how one detainee at Abu Ghraib died (combined with beating) as in the photograph above.

Completely serious question: why do you want the U.S. to exactly emulate the KGB and Gestapo, d'd'd'dave?

I wish I could get Typepad to work today.

"Nope. It is by spending more money than they can tax, borrow, or print."

No, it's by literally carefully studying the methods of the Gestapo, KGB, and

Chinese secret police, and duplicating them.

Have you not read the multiple links supplied to you documenting this very fact?

Do you actually deny that this is exactly what the U.S. government has done?

Sleep deprivation alone:

[...] Menachem Begin, the Israeli prime minister from 1977-83, was

tortured by the KGB as a young man. In his book, White Nights: The Story of a

Prisoner in Russia, he wrote of losing the will to resist when deprived of

sleep.

"In the head of the interrogated prisoner, a haze begins to form. His spirit is
wearied to death, his legs are unsteady, and he has one sole desire: to sleep...

Anyone who has experienced this desire knows that not even hunger and thirst are
comparable with it.

"I came across prisoners who signed what they were ordered to sign, only to get
what the interrogator promised them.

"He did not promise them their liberty; he did not promise them food to sate
themselves. He promised them - if they signed - uninterrupted sleep! And, having signed, there was nothing in the world that could move them to risk again such nights and such days."

And:
[...] Former Lithuanian freedom fighter and political prisoner Juozas Aleksiejunas was tortured with sleep deprivation by the KGB, just after the end of WWII.

He was arrested for being a member of Lithuania's anti-Soviet partisan movement, which fought a guerrilla-style war against the USSR between 1944 and 1953.

The KGB questioned him for three nights in succession and prevented him from sleeping during the day.

"It is difficult to think when there is no sleep. Human beings can almost lose
consciousness because of it," he says.

Mr Alekseijunas, who is now a pensioner and a former guide at a Lithuania's Museum
of Genocide Victims in Vilnius, laughs when asked what sleep deprivation does to the mind.

"Try yourself to eat only 300g of bread, the daily ration we got in prison, during two months and after it not sleep for three days and nights.

"The desire to have some sleep was the only thing which I was dreaming about."

For example.

Absolutely uncontested fact:

HOW did the United States, in the aftermath of the 9/11
attacks, come to adopt interrogation techniques copied from the Soviet Union and other cold war adversaries?

Investigators for the Senate Armed Services Committee are examining how the methods, long used to train Americans for what they may face as prisoners of war, became the basis for American interrogations.

In 2002, the C.I.A. and the Pentagon became concerned that standard questioning was inadequate for suspected terrorists and turned to a military training program called Survival, Evasion, Resistance and Escape, or SERE. For decades, SERE
trainers had exposed aviators and others at high risk for capture to Soviet-style tactics, including disrupted sleep, exposure to extreme heat and cold, and hours in uncomfortable stress positions. Sometimes the ordeal included waterboarding, in which a prisoner’s face is covered with cloth and water is poured from above to create a feeling of suffocation.

[...]

Many SERE veterans were appalled at the “reverse engineering” of their methods, said Charles A. Morgan III, a Yale psychiatrist who has worked closely with SERE trainers for a decade.

“How did something used as an example of what an unethical government would do become something we do?” he asked.

His question is only underscored by a 1956 article, “Communist Interrogation,” in , recently turned up by the Intelligence
Science Board, which advises the spy agencies. Written by doctors working as Defense Department consultants, Lawrence E. Hinkle Jr. and Harold G. Wolff, the article shows that methods embraced after 2001 were once considered torture that would produce false information.

[...]

The article describes basic Soviet N.K.V.D. (later K.G.B.) methods: isolation in a small cell; constant light; sleep deprivation; cold or heat; reduced food rations. Soviets denied such treatment was torture, just as American officials have in recent years:

The effects of isolation, anxiety, fatigue, lack of sleep, uncomfortable temperatures, and chronic hunger produce disturbances of mood, attitudes and behavior in nearly all prisoners. The living organism cannot entirely withstand such assaults. The Communists do not look upon these assaults as “torture.” But all of them produce great discomfort, and lead to serious disturbances of many bodily processes; there is no reason to differentiate them from any other form of torture.

Interrogators looked for ways to increase the pressure, including “stress positions”:

Another [technique] widely used is that of requiring the prisoner to stand throughout the interrogation session or to maintain some other physical position which becomes painful. This, like other features of the KGB procedure, is a form of physical torture, in spite of the fact that the prisoners and KGB officers alike do not ordinarily perceive it as such. Any fixed position which is maintained over a long period of time ultimately produces excruciating pain.

Overt brutality was discouraged, as it was at American facilities:

The KGB hardly ever uses manacles or chains, and rarely resorts to physical beatings. The actual physical beating is, of course, repugnant to overt Communist principles and is contrary to K.G.B. regulations.

Closed trials and military tribunals were standard, as at Guantánamo:

Prisoners are tried before “military tribunals,” which are not public courts. Those present are only the interrogator, the state prosecutor, the prisoner, the judges, a few stenographers, and perhaps a few officers of the court.

The Bush administration concluded that the Geneva Conventions did not apply to Qaeda detainees. Similarly, the Soviets argued that international rules did not apply to foreign detainees:

In typical Communist legalistic fashion, the N.K.V.D. rationalized its use of torture and pressure in the interrogation of prisoners of war. When it desired to use such methods against a prisoner or to obtain from him a propaganda statement or “confession,” it simply declared the prisoner a “war-crimes suspect” and informed him that, therefore, he was not subject to international rules governing the treatment of prisoners of war.

Verschärfte Vernehmung:
[...] The phrase "Verschärfte
Vernehmung" is German for "enhanced interrogation". Other translations include "intensified interrogation" or "sharpened interrogation". It's a phrase that appears to have been concocted in 1937, to describe a form of torture that would leave no marks, and hence save the embarrassment pre-war Nazi officials were experiencing as their wounded torture victims ended up in court.

[...]

Here's the Nazi defense argument:

(c) That the acts of torture in no case resulted in death. Most of the injuries inflicted were slight and did not result in permanent disablement.

[...]

Here's a good description of how stress positions operate:

The hands were tied together closely with a cord on the back of the prisoner, raised then the body and hung the cord to a hook, which was attached into two meters height in a tree, so that the feet in air hung. The whole body weight rested thus at the joints bent to the rear. The minimum period of hanging up was a half hour. To remain there three hours hung up, was pretty often. This punishment was carried out at least twice weekly.

This is how one detainee at Abu Ghraib died (combined with beating) as in the photograph above.

Completely serious question: why do you want the U.S. to exactly emulate the KGB and Gestapo, d'd'd'dave?

I wish I could get Typepad to work today.

The phenomenon that hilzoy refers to in her original post here has been named. The name is "the banality of evil".

I'm not sure if it's the way democracies die, or if it's the way you tell that they're already dead. cleek's comment gives me some cause for optimism, but I'd say it's a close call.

I think the answer depends on what we do now.

dave's comment, unfortunately, rises only to the level of mere banality.

Thullen -- no sir, thank you. Hope all's well. You have friends here should you need them.

Russell and I are of the same mind on this -- I was actually thinking of the Milgram experiments as I read it.

I'd hesitate to call it the death of democracy, or how democracies die -- unless our democracy has been dead since 1963 (or earlier).

"funny though. even though it will block anyone you want, the threads somehow always end up being all about the person you've blocked."

This is how interesting blogs die.

That is a fun script, cleek! I especially like how it only sometimes replaces Y.

Also, I now want some pie.

You know... with a little AJAX, one could hook that baby up to the surrealist compliment generator or the postmodernism generator. Or maybe even the pornulator!

...

I'd better go to bed before it's too late.

Democracies have survived hyperinflation although it is likely to weaken them. Weakening can also come from longterm deflation. the Weimar republic is an example for both. Democracies have also survived torturing of foreigners and even quasi-citizens (cf. US in the Philippines, France in Algeria). The transition from just being weakening to becoming lethal lies imo in such things being defended and widely accepted (at least as a fact) in public. In short democracies die when the will to resist such damaging policies sinks below a certain level or in extreme cases that the backlash is so strong that the car is driven into the abyss on the other side of the road (French Revolution etc.).

Rome was never a democracy and never considered itself as such. The self-image was that of a state that combined what was best in the three basic models (monarchy, aristocracy, democracy with decreasing importance in that order). The Roman Republic fell, when the oligarchs turned on each other and Teh People did not resist. The US shows some signs of this type of decay but the point of no return has not yet been reached (I think), although the forces working on it are still strong (and Rushlimbo* is their prophet).

I hope I went not too far off topic.

*OK, these days Beck and Hannity outclass him in the direct fomenting of violence, leaving even O'Reilly behind).

"This was done by the professional classes in this society. It was not done by Lynndie England or some night-shift sadists at Abu Ghraib."

It was disturbing to see David Gergen, usually a nonpartisan voice of reason, on last night's Anderson Cooper program suggest that what is in the torture memos did not rise to the level of Abu Ghraib. These were CIA professionals trying to keep us safe, Gergen seemed to be reasoning.

Meanwhile, Rachel Maddow made an important point, noting that the further all of this drags out brings us closer to the date the statue of limitations runs out and takes the champions of torture off the hook. (I think the medical personnel who condoned the sadistic practices need to be brought to justice as much as anyone involved.)

Nell: I'd be interested in who you think in Congress will carry the anti-torture torch now that the memos are out. Also, I'd hope we can do better than a 9-11 style commission. Is Patrick Fitzgerald finished with the Blago circus?

For the love of God, would ObWi posters please stop responding to d'd'derailer?

As cleek points out, a killfile does nothing useful if most of the rest of the comments are still focused on the damned deliberate distraction.

btfb: who ... in Congress will carry the anti-torture torch now that the memos are out[?]

Short answer: no one.

Possibilities:

Impeachment of Judge Bybee will have to begin in the House Judiciary Committee. Yale Law prof Bruce Ackerman spells it out well, and Rep. Conyers will probably welcome a chance to channel the outrage in a direction other than prosecution given the discouraging signals from the WH.

Leahy's "commission of inquiry" initiative was pretty clearly aimed at fending off prosecution rather than strengthening the case for it, and his aide's comment to a delegation lobbying on it that "We're all you've got" only confirmed that. I only support such an inquiry if it does not delay or place obstacles in the way of prosecution.

No one in the Congress wants to touch this in the absence of executive branch encouragement, and certainly not until after health care and the Employee Free Choice Act are behind them. 2010 looms large.

Helpful short-term targets while our sustained demand for prosecution is ignored: Support for Feingold's reining in abuse of the state secrets privilege. Support for Adam Schiff's bill to repeal the Military Commissions Act (supported by Jane Harman in an op-ed but not yet even cosponsored by her).

If we want prosecution, we can't sit and wait for leadership from anyone in the political class. We have to demand it ourselves publicly, in letters to the editor, op-eds by lawyers and veterans, etc. Sign the ACLU petition.

In no case of state torture with which I'm familiar has even the beginnings of justice come sooner than a decade after the crimes. It takes a sustained and persistent public to make it happen.

"Nope. It is by spending more money than they can tax, borrow, or print."

No, it's by literally carefully studying the methods of the Gestapo, KGB, and Chinese secret police, and duplicating them.

Have you not read the multiple links supplied to you documenting this very fact? Do you actually deny that this is exactly what the U.S. government has done?

Sleep deprivation alone:

[...] Menachem Begin, the Israeli prime minister from 1977-83, was tortured by the KGB as a young man. In his book, White Nights: The Story of a Prisoner in Russia, he wrote of losing the will to resist when deprived of sleep.

"In the head of the interrogated prisoner, a haze begins to form. His spirit is wearied to death, his legs are unsteady, and he has one sole desire: to sleep... Anyone who has experienced this desire knows that not even hunger and thirst are comparable with it.

"I came across prisoners who signed what they were ordered to sign, only to get what the interrogator promised them.

"He did not promise them their liberty; he did not promise them food to sate themselves. He promised them - if they signed - uninterrupted sleep! And, having signed, there was nothing in the world that could move them to risk again such nights and such days."

And:
[...] Former Lithuanian freedom fighter and political prisoner Juozas Aleksiejunas was tortured with sleep deprivation by the KGB, just after the end of WWII.

He was arrested for being a member of Lithuania's anti-Soviet partisan movement, which fought a guerrilla-style war against the USSR between 1944 and 1953.

The KGB questioned him for three nights in succession and prevented him from sleeping during the day.

"It is difficult to think when there is no sleep. Human beings can almost lose consciousness because of it," he says.

Mr Alekseijunas, who is now a pensioner and a former guide at a Lithuania's Museum of Genocide Victims in Vilnius, laughs when asked what sleep deprivation does to the mind.

"Try yourself to eat only 300g of bread, the daily ration we got in prison, during two months and after it not sleep for three days and nights.

"The desire to have some sleep was the only thing which I was dreaming about."

For example.

Absolutely uncontested fact:

HOW did the United States, in the aftermath of the 9/11 attacks, come to adopt interrogation techniques copied from the Soviet Union and other cold war adversaries?

Investigators for the Senate Armed Services Committee are examining how the methods, long used to train Americans for what they may face as prisoners of war, became the basis for American interrogations.

In 2002, the C.I.A. and the Pentagon became concerned that standard questioning was inadequate for suspected terrorists and turned to a military training program called Survival, Evasion, Resistance and Escape, or SERE. For decades, SERE trainers had exposed aviators and others at high risk for capture to Soviet-style tactics, including disrupted sleep, exposure to extreme heat and cold, and hours in uncomfortable stress positions. Sometimes the ordeal included waterboarding, in which a prisoner’s face is covered with cloth and water is poured from above to create a feeling of suffocation.

[...]

Many SERE veterans were appalled at the “reverse engineering” of their methods, said Charles A. Morgan III, a Yale psychiatrist who has worked closely with SERE trainers for a decade.

“How did something used as an example of what an unethical government would do become something we do?” he asked.

His question is only underscored by a 1956 article, “Communist Interrogation,” in The Archives of Neurology and Psychiatry, recently turned up by the Intelligence Science Board, which advises the spy agencies. Written by doctors working as Defense Department consultants, Lawrence E. Hinkle Jr. and Harold G. Wolff, the article shows that methods embraced after 2001 were once considered torture that would produce false information.

[...]

The article describes basic Soviet N.K.V.D. (later K.G.B.) methods: isolation in a small cell; constant light; sleep deprivation; cold or heat; reduced food rations. Soviets denied such treatment was torture, just as American officials have in recent years:

The effects of isolation, anxiety, fatigue, lack of sleep, uncomfortable temperatures, and chronic hunger produce disturbances of mood, attitudes and behavior in nearly all prisoners. The living organism cannot entirely withstand such assaults. The Communists do not look upon these assaults as “torture.” But all of them produce great discomfort, and lead to serious disturbances of many bodily processes; there is no reason to differentiate them from any other form of torture.

Interrogators looked for ways to increase the pressure, including “stress positions”:

Another [technique] widely used is that of requiring the prisoner to stand throughout the interrogation session or to maintain some other physical position which becomes painful. This, like other features of the KGB procedure, is a form of physical torture, in spite of the fact that the prisoners and KGB officers alike do not ordinarily perceive it as such. Any fixed position which is maintained over a long period of time ultimately produces excruciating pain.

Overt brutality was discouraged, as it was at American facilities:

The KGB hardly ever uses manacles or chains, and rarely resorts to physical beatings. The actual physical beating is, of course, repugnant to overt Communist principles and is contrary to K.G.B. regulations.

Closed trials and military tribunals were standard, as at Guantánamo:

Prisoners are tried before “military tribunals,” which are not public courts. Those present are only the interrogator, the state prosecutor, the prisoner, the judges, a few stenographers, and perhaps a few officers of the court.

The Bush administration concluded that the Geneva Conventions did not apply to Qaeda detainees. Similarly, the Soviets argued that international rules did not apply to foreign detainees:

In typical Communist legalistic fashion, the N.K.V.D. rationalized its use of torture and pressure in the interrogation of prisoners of war. When it desired to use such methods against a prisoner or to obtain from him a propaganda statement or “confession,” it simply declared the prisoner a “war-crimes suspect” and informed him that, therefore, he was not subject to international rules governing the treatment of prisoners of war.

Verschärfte Vernehmung:
[...] The phrase "Verschärfte Vernehmung" is German for "enhanced interrogation". Other translations include "intensified interrogation" or "sharpened interrogation". It's a phrase that appears to have been concocted in 1937, to describe a form of torture that would leave no marks, and hence save the embarrassment pre-war Nazi officials were experiencing as their wounded torture victims ended up in court.

[...]

Here's the Nazi defense argument:

(c) That the acts of torture in no case resulted in death. Most of the injuries inflicted were slight and did not result in permanent disablement.

[...]

Here's a good description of how stress positions operate:

The hands were tied together closely with a cord on the back of the prisoner, raised then the body and hung the cord to a hook, which was attached into two meters height in a tree, so that the feet in air hung. The whole body weight rested thus at the joints bent to the rear. The minimum period of hanging up was a half hour. To remain there three hours hung up, was pretty often. This punishment was carried out at least twice weekly.

This is how one detainee at Abu Ghraib died (combined with beating) as in the photograph above.

Completely serious question: why do you want the U.S. to exactly emulate the KGB and Gestapo, d'd'd'dave?

Top story at the moment in the NY Times:

The first use of waterboarding and other rough treatment against a prisoner from Al Qaeda was ordered by senior Central Intelligence Agency officials despite the belief of interrogators that the prisoner had already told them all he knew, according to former intelligence officials and a footnote in a newly released legal memorandum.

The escalation to especially brutal interrogation tactics against the prisoner, Abu Zubaydah, including confining him in boxes and slamming him against the wall, was ordered by officials at C.I.A. headquarters based on a highly inflated assessment of his importance, interviews and a review of newly released documents show.

Abu Zubaydah had provided much valuable information under less severe treatment, and the harsher handling produced no breakthroughs, according to one former intelligence official with direct knowledge of the case. Instead, watching his torment caused great distress to his captors, the official said.

Even for those who believed that brutal treatment could produce results, the official said, “seeing these depths of human misery and degradation has a traumatic effect.”

[...]

A footnote to another of the memos described a rift between line officers questioning Abu Zubaydah at a secret C.I.A. prison in Thailand and their bosses at headquarters, and asserted that the brutal treatment may have been “unnecessary.”

[...]

But interviews with current and former government officials who have direct or indirect knowledge of the Abu Zubaydah interrogation suggest that the United States began the waterboarding, labeled as illegal torture by top Obama administration officials, based on a profound misunderstanding of its captive.

[...]

Interrogators began to surmise that he was not a leader, but rather a helpful training camp personnel clerk who would arrange false documents and travel for jihadists, including Qaeda members.

He knew enough to give interrogators “a road map of Al Qaeda operatives,” an agency officer said. He also repeated talk he had heard about possible plots or targets in the United States, though when F.B.I. agents followed up, most of it turned out to be idle discussion or preliminary brainstorming.

[...]

The memo, written in 2005 and signed by Steven G. Bradbury, who worked in the Office of Legal Counsel, concluded that the waterboarding was justified even if the prisoner turned out not to know as much as officials had thought.

And he did not, according to the former intelligence officer involved in the Abu Zubaydah case. “He pleaded for his life,” the official said. “But he gave up no new information. He had no more information to give.”

But we used Gestapo/KGB tactics on him anyway.

Damn internet problems; been trying to post this since last night.

More to btfb's question about Congressional reaction:

A worthwhile short video interview with Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse, whose background as a prosecutor shines through his remarks.

For those not able to see video online, Whitehouse's major points (not an exact transcription, based only on my notes):

MSNBC: Why was Obama right to release the OLC memos?

Sen. W: They show an important part of how the internal structure of the American system of government had to be shattered to allow these abuses to happen. OLC traditionally regarded as highly professional, a temple of legal scholarship. These memos don't meet the basic standards of legal scholarship, much less the exalted standards of the Office of Legal Counsel.

MSNBC: What about former CIA director Michael Hayden statement that release allows terrorists to prepare for techniques?

Sen. W: It's complete hogwash.

1 - We're not going to use these techniques (refers to Obama's statement forswearing them.)

2 - They are torture. We're forbidden to use them even if Obama for some reason changed his policy.

3 - The information has been out there in the Arab world for years in the accounts of former prisoners.

MSNBC: If this is so grotesque and so far outside our values, why isn't Pres. Obama prosecuting?

Sen. W: It's premature. The Office of Professional Responsibility is still looking into this, the Senate Intelligence Committee is looking into this still, Sen. Rudman's internal review in the Obama administration is still going on...

What Pres. Obama has done is set the parameters for what will and will not be prosecuted, and I think he's set them right: If you operated in good faith and put reasonable reliance on these opinions and if you stayed within them, both in what they authorized and the required predicates, you won't be prosecuted.

But the facts remain to be developed as to whether the program met those requirements. Actions that went outside those bounds are prosecutable. But you don't make those kinds of decisions until you have all the facts in hand.

---
I hear the voice of someone not prepared to let this go; hope my confidence is not misplaced.

I should add, for those of you who are put off by my unwillingness to give Obama and his administration much credit or the benefit of the doubt, that I am encouraged by the release of these memos with only slightly more-than-minimal redactions, and by the President's not at any point having ruled out prosecution of those who pushed the torture regime from the top.

If the administration continues to make information public and does not hinder investigations or prosecutions of those whose actions fall outside of the stated parameters, it will keep the U.S. government within the spirit of its obligations under the Convention Against Torture. Disappointing as it is to hear that Obama considers following orders a defense against prosecution for torture, I have not heard anything from him that indicates he believes there is any credible defense against prosecution for giving orders to torture.

History encourages a certain amount of patience in the process of getting accountability for state torture, as long as we're making progress. Obama's release of the OLC memos has significantly aided our progress, and I look forward to more information being made available.

On the other hand, I have almost no patience when it comes to the continued imprisonment, unacceptable treatment and conditions, and defamation of current prisoners, who have been held for years. Every day that goes by adds to the current administration's ownership of this grotesque, lawless, cruel farce.

You know... with a little AJAX, one could hook that baby up to the surrealist compliment generator or the postmodernism generator. Or maybe even the pornulator!

workin on it... :)

Final thought for the day:

Justice Robert Jackson on individual responsibility, along with the words of President Barack Obama.

Nell

Checked out your link, and some other Invictus' posts on this subject; thought provoking to be sure.

My point of reference on this, though, was seldom Nuremburg, but South Africa's Truth and Reconciliation Committees.

Among other similarities, it helps to remember* that (1) Republicans, who in large measure show no remorse for these acts, are hardly out of political power forever, and (2) a majority of Americans want their nation to reclaim its leadership, not fall into decline.

This stands in marked contrast to Germany after WWII, when the nation was essentially at the mercy of their conquerers.

*I apologize if these points seem obnoxiously manifest; I just wanted to state them to make the comparison.

Nell, one thing that I don't think that you've given enough thought to is the very real possibility of prosecution leading to acquittal. To me, this would be an even worse outcome than no prosecution at all.

Think about how hard it's going to be to put together a jury of 12 people without getting any who don't believe that what was done was wrong, and won't vote to convict under any circumstances. The jury selection process is going to be a nightmare.

This is a reason to be reluctant to prosecute anyone at all. It's absolutely a good reason to be extremely reluctant to prosecute those low in the chain of command. More, if there is going to be a possibility to convict anyone, Obama absolutely, positively must appear to be reluctant to prosecute. He's going to have to get dragged into it, kicking and screaming, even if that's exactly what he wants to do. Any hint that a prosecution is politically motivated will kill any shot of holding someone accountable.

Nell, one thing that I don't think that you've given enough thought to is the very real possibility of prosecution leading to acquittal. To me, this would be an even worse outcome than no prosecution at all.

Yes. Exactly. This is another* reason why, historically, the best way to prosecute people who've committed war crimes and crimes against humanity is by an international tribunal. You do not then get citizens who supported the politicians, or the practices, deciding to acquit on the basis of nationalism or shared ideology or whatever. Nor do you get citizens deciding to convict based on the same extraneous considerations.

Problem is, of course, "American Exceptionalism," wherein the usual suspects will shriek like banshees at any hint of a modern Nuremberg.

As much as I would like to see Bush/Cheney/Yoo/Bybee/et al. imprisoned for the rest of their lives, I would be willing to settle for the utter destruction of their professional lives. That includes, but is not limited to, impeaching Bybee (who has no business being on a bench) and firing Yoo (who has about as much right to teach law as Josef Mengele would to teach medicine).

*CF Saddam Hussein's travesty of a trial, up to and including the worst-than-a-travesty hanging. Saddam was guilty of a great many things, but no reasonable person will ever be able to regard his trial and execution as anything but acts of revenge rather than justice.

I've given plenty of thought to the possibility of acquittal. It's exactly because I know there won't be a trial of Bush and Cheney next month or next year or the next five years that I'm confident they will not be acquitted when they finally are tried. (Cheney might die first, which would be a shame.)

But the trial never happens if no one makes the demand as soon as there is enough evidence available to warrant investigation for prosecution, and it has to keep being made. JMN, you stress how important it is that Obama be dragged into it kicking and screaming. Well, I'm a dragger.

This isn't South Africa, where the massive crimes were committed by a minority of citizens against an oppressed majority of other citizens who engaged in constant mass struggle, nonviolent and then armed, for fifty years.

This is a still-free, still-democratic country that has a long and self-suppressed history of torture of Others, closely associated with our imperial foreign policy. Those who were torture this time were also Others, and the political problem for those who oppose torture but don't want to push for accountability is: It forces you to side with the Others, to accept their humanity.

For many decades our government worked hard to keep U.S. torture secret and deniable: hypocrisy, the tribute vice pays to virtue.

Exploiting the fear and rage in the wake of the September 2001 attacks, the previous regime dispensed with hypocrisy. It embraced direct U.S. torture instead of keeping it at a conducted-by-proxy, deniable distance. In doing so it was urged on by "liberals" like Jonathan Alter and Alan Dershowitz (who'd already been defending Israeli torture for decades) and Stuart Taylor.

We should back off because the rump right-wing Republicans, a hard core of 25-30% true believers in torture and Dear Leader, want to return to power? That reminds me strongly of the argument in 2005 that 'we can't leave Iraq because it would embolden al Qaeda.'

The winger fringe that controls the Republian party lost big as a result, and are continuing to lose politically. A big chunk of what used to be reliable Republican voters are adrift, and the extreme pro-torture wingers are why they're adrift.

It wouldn't be anywhere near as difficult as JMN makes out to seat a jury, and it's going to get easier over time.

Stop being afraid of the lying, cowardly fringe. Take on their transparently crappy arguments. The trial among the jury pool started a while ago and will be ongoing for years to come. Which side are you on?

This business of 'no jury could convict': feh! I grew up in the segregated south. Justice was delayed for years because otherwise decent people would over-estimate the numbers and strength of the racist hard core, and use it as an excuse to keep quiet and go along with the bigotry. "I don't have anything against it, but my neighbors..."

Obama has done his bit to maintain the lies about, and Other-ness of those imprisoned, abused, and tortured, many of whom are still being held. He has implicitly supported the argument that those who committed crimes against hysterically rounded-up "enemies" did so in good faith in an effort to protect this country.

What impressive leadership.

Nell

I was afraid you might read too much into my point about a large portion of the country supporting torture, and isn't dead politically. I regret not putting in the effort to clarify.

My only point in making it was to compare our situation now with post-WWII Germany, mentioned in your link. The situation, I felt, was different enough that it is questionable whether justice could be served if they are treated as the same circumstance.

Point

taken. It's late. Too late to expect you to put in the effort to clarify, and too late for me to do more than acknowledge that yes, the two situations are different in some big ways.

However, for my whole life the principles articulated at Nuremberg have been discussed as if they had wide and durable application to massive violations of human rights, and applied to our own government as well as others in the event of such violations.

Nell

Thank you for your response, and for your discussion. I'm glad we could both come to better understand our disagreements.

I've given plenty of thought to the possibility of acquittal. It's exactly because I know there won't be a trial of Bush and Cheney next month or next year or the next five years that I'm confident they will not be acquitted when they finally are tried.

I think this is ridiculously naive. Acquittal is a very real possibility regardless of the time frame. Even if a large majority of people share your sensibilities, a conviction would require selecting 12 people who are unanimous in agreeing with you. That's going to be very difficult, because there is a substantial minority in this country that actively support these policies, and they aren't going to go away.

Even if a large majority of people share your sensibilities, a conviction would require selecting 12 people who are unanimous in agreeing with you.

Or, arguably, 12 people who will not be biased in the verdict they'd reach, but who would instead consider the case as presented on legal grounds rather than deciding it based on their personal prejudices.

Just sayin'. Maybe I'm naive though.

Or, arguably, 12 people who will not be biased in the verdict they'd reach, but who would instead consider the case as presented on legal grounds rather than deciding it based on their personal prejudices.

They'd be stricken from the jury using voir dire by the defense...

JMN,

Do you think that the OLC lawyers, Bush, Cheney, Rumsfeld, Rice, and/or Tenet committed the crime of ordering or authorizing torture?

If so, do you yourself believe that prosecution would in fact be a "political witch hunt"?

Or is it that you believe there are too many other U.S. citizens who are likely to see such trials as witch hunts?

Do you think that the OLC lawyers, Bush, Cheney, Rumsfeld, Rice, and/or Tenet committed the crime of ordering or authorizing torture?

Yes.

If so, do you yourself believe that prosecution would in fact be a "political witch hunt"?

No.

Or is it that you believe there are too many other U.S. citizens who are likely to see such trials as witch hunts?

Sort of. If anything, my view is even more pessimistic than that. I think that there is a significant block, of somewhere between 28% of the country (Bush's level of support) and 44% of the country (McCain voters), of Americans who think that authorizing torture was the right thing to do, even if many of them won't phrase it like that. Whether or not they think it is a witch hunt, they honestly don't believe that anyone should be prosecuted for those actions. I'm pessimistic that we will be able to put together a jury of 12 people who will be willing to convict them under any circumstances. If it is seen to be a political prosecution, the chances of getting a conviction go from questionable to zero.

The argument that Obama should start investigations and prosecutions because it garners decent support in polling isn't so much wrong as it is irrelevant. I think that that support is probably pretty soft, and might evaporate if tested. Even if it doesn't, getting a majority in polling doesn't help you in selecting a jury.

Announcing right now that he intends to prosecute would be a foolish move for Obama, whether or not he wants to prosecute. His statement when releasing the memos was exactly the right thing to say, and, if you want to ever see prosecutions, you should support it. Right now, the best thing he can do is make information as to what happened public. If people who want to see prosecutions can win a public argument that prosecutions should happen, then you might (might) get them. Focusing your anger on Obama isn't productive for that.

Our shame is great. How can I look upon my fellow countrymen as a good people, when they practice such crimes with impunity-- and when partisanship has become so sharp that we cannot agree on the most basic principles of justice and the rule of law.

@JMN: My anger isn't focused on Obama; it's focused on the people who set in motion a policy of torture, and the people who want to sweep those crimes under the rug.

But that doesn't exempt Obama from criticism. His statement when releasing the memos was wrong and offensive in several ways.

- It ignored and contradicted his obligations under the law against torture.

- It mischaracterized accountability and justice as retribution. While proclaiming us "a nation of laws", it belittled and rejected the very mechanism by which laws work: "nothing will be gained by spending our time and energy laying blame for the past."

- It gratuitously smeared citizens who call for accountability and actually encourages the public to oppose enforcing the law: "we must resist the forces that divide us."

I understand thinking behind this cowardly politics; I am not obliged to agree that it's effective or smart politics. I certainly can't stomach it, even if I did think it effective or smart.

I'm not focusing my anger on Obama. I'm focusing my energy on pushing his Attorney General to act, because he is in the best position to fulfil our government's obligations under the Convention Against Torture.

There are hints* that AG Holder is getting that message. For me to get pissed on by Obama and cheerfully call it rain isn't, in my judgment, necessary or helpful in getting Holder or Congress to act.

Senior Justice Department lawyers and other advisers, who declined to be identified discussing a sensitive subject, say Attorney General Eric Holder Jr. is seriously considering appointing an outside counsel to investigate whether CIA interrogators exceeded legal boundaries—and whether Bush administration officials broke the law by giving the CIA permission to torture in the first place.

That's going to be a long time coming, if it ever does. In the meantime, there's something everyone can do to improve the federal bench: call for the impeachment of Jay Bybee.

Bybee should never have been confirmed. His counterpart in legalizing torture for the military, William Haynes, could not win confirmation to the federal bench because information about his actions in setting the torture policy became public in time (thank you, Alberto Mora and Jane Mayer).

Now that the evidence of Bybee's degraded professional standards and complicity in authorizing torture is on the public record, it's time to remove him from a job for which he was never qualified in the first place.

Impeachment of any federal official must begin in the House Judiciary Committee. If your representative is a member, write to him or her. If not, write to the chair, the Hon. John Conyers, Jr. Yale Law professor Bruce Ackerman states the case well for impeaching Bybee; share his thoughts with your representatives.

If you push prosecutions right now, you won't get convictions. Take your pick, speed or justice. I would prefer to get convictions later rather than acquittals or case dismissals due to hung juries now. My impression is that you will opt for speed, because my impression is that you are completely unable to understand what the obstacles are. The Justice Department isn't the problem. The general population is the problem. If you push for prosecutions now, you will get what you deserve. Unfortunately, it will lead to Bybee and others not getting what they really deserve. At some point, practicality must enter the discussion.

Once there's a commitment to investigate for prosecution, then I'm willing to have practicality enter the discussion. Of course I'd accept a reasonable delay if it made the difference between convictions and acquittals or dismissals. This is not a political game to me.

But the actual situation we're in is one in which the President, his chief of staff, his press spokesman, and others in influential positions in the adminstration are (at minimum) failing to commit to such investigations for prosecution or, in the case of Emanuel and Gibbs, predicting/advocating that there will be no prosecutions even for those who pushed the torture policy from above.

Now, we are a nation of laws, and there are three branches of government, and we're part of an international framework of law, so it's not up to the President, much less Rahm Emanuel or Robert Gibbs.

I don't "completely fail to understand what the obstacles are", I simply disagree with you that the general population is the problem you say it is for successful prosecutions. I never said the DoJ is the problem; I said the DoJ should be the focus of the call for prosecutions because the Attorney General has that power.

If people who want to see prosecutions can win a public argument that prosecutions should happen, then you might (might) get them.

Although you agree that crimes have been committed that should be prosecuted, you have no desire to make that public argument yourself. You absolve Obama and those in his administration from making such a public argument. You go further, praising as "exactly the right thing to say" his characterization of those who do make that public argument as "those who divide us", and as people motivated by "retribution".

So someone has to make the public argument. You've given plenty of reasons for believing that it won't be easily or quickly won; I've said myself that prosecution is not going to begin to happen for a long time, but that doesn't stop you from accusing me of preferring speed to justice.

I have a lot more faith in the effectiveness of confidently and calmly making a public argument than you seem to. So until there's a commitment to undertake serious investigation, I'll keep doing so without worrying about stampeding poor Eric Holder into a prosecution he can't win. The effect of many of us patiently and in a sustained way making that argument should be to firm up the resolve of the majority that already favor investigation and prosecution and to win over some of those who are wavering.

That hard core of fearful, vengeful torture defenders (when it's a Republican-governed U.S. doing it) are just on the wrong side of history. By the time the process of justice gets going, they'll have even less influence than they have now. The prosecution has voir dire, too, after all.

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Whatnot


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