Tortured logic | Bleader

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Tortured logic

Posted By on 04.22.09 at 05:54 PM

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I hate to pile on the Tribune on a historically bad day, but this is just too infuriating (emphasis mine):

Obama was clearly hoping that the whole did-we-or-didn't-we-torture debate would flare and fizzle after the release of the memos. He initially said he wanted to "move forward." But he may already be backtracking, saying Tuesday that he wouldn't rule out taking action against the lawyers who set the legal guidelines for the interrogations. Obama was right the first time. This needs to be put in the rearview mirror, and soon.

No justification, no argument, just a blanket-clutching plea: make it go away. And then the last line, as if that whole paragraph had never happened: "This debate is about the limits that a democratic society sets so that it does not sink to the level of those who seek to destroy it."

Obviously it's not currently clear whether there's a legal case against the White House lawyers who set those "legal" guidelines, and fortunately the administration is not in a rush to make it (former federal prosecutor Elizabeth de la Vega has a good explanation as to why). But if there is, it's about limits. Laws are limits in our democratic society. In one confused editorial, the Trib has said that we need to debate what the limits are... but that they're not important enough to enforce even if they've been exceeded. No harm, no foul, except for the no harm part.

As Hilzoy puts it: "You know what? I'm focused on looking forward too. And as I gaze into my crystal ball, I see a world in which members of the executive branch take it for granted that they can do whatever they want with impunity. Why not break the law? Why not eavesdrop on Americans? Why not torture people? Why not detain citizens indefinitely without charges? Heck, why not impose martial law and make yourself dictator for life? There is nothing to stop the people who make these decisions. They have nothing to fear. Because once they've made them, their actions are back there, in the past that no one ever wants to look at."

If you want a sense of the nightmare a few rogue legal minds unleashed, read John Conroy's "Confessions of a Torturer," or Mark Danner's essential recent NYRB cover on the Red Cross report, or Marcy Wheeler's blog (please kick her some money while you're at it), or McClatchy's recent report that abusive techniques were used to seek an Iraq/Al Qaida link, or Spencer Ackerman's reporting on the 2007 OLC memo that authorized "enhanced interrogation techniques." The last one has a hell of a conclusion: "the United States Government may not rely on interpretations of the law governing interrogations issued by the Department of Justice between September 11, 2001, and January 20, 2009." Do that, and see if you can conclude, well, fuck it.

PS: What Atrios said: "I'm not the first person to bring this up recently, but the point is that it shouldn't be Obama's and Rahm Emmanuel's decision whether to prosecute anybody."

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