Tuesday, September 12, 2006

Five Years Later

Prof. Jack Balkin has an interesting retrospective up at Balkinization, September 11 and American Politics, Five Years Later. Give it a read.

Dan Froomkin at the Washington Post's White House Briefing summarizes President Bush's speech from last night:
The occasion called for reflection and an attempt to unify the nation in its grief and determination. In fact, it was billed as such by the White House.

Instead, Bush delivered a leaden rehash of his unpersuasive rationales for his response to the threat of terrorism. He made a carefully crafted attempt to terrify Americans into supporting his deeply unpopular war in Iraq. He was misleading. He mischaracterized his critics.

It's hard to imagine that he could have been more divisive if he'd tried. And with most Americans no longer trusting the president, it's hard to imagine the speech served him well.
After pointing to commentary on Monday's speech from throughout the news industry, Froomkin highlights Ron Suskind's response in Time to Bush's speech last Wednesday on torture and military commissions:

"What the President wouldn't say, especially in a political season, is that he and the rest of the government have learned quite a bit from their early errors. What is widely known inside the Administration is that once we caught our first decent-size fish -- Abu Zubaydah, in March 2002 -- we used him as an experiment in righteous brutality that in the end produced very little. His interrogation, according to those overseeing it, yielded little from threats and torture. He named countless targets inside the U.S. to stop the pain, all of them immaterial. Indeed, think back to the sudden slew of alerts in the spring and summer of 2002 about attacks on apartment buildings, banks, shopping malls and, of course, nuclear plants. . . .

. . .

And Suskind suggest[s] one reason the White House is so opposed to trying terrorists using an authentic legal process. "The problem is not really with classified information. Most of what these captives told us is already common knowledge or dated; the U.S. hasn't caught any truly significant players in two years. However, discovery in such a case would show that the President and Vice President were involved in overseeing their interrogations, according to senior intelligence officials. Subpoenas on how evidence was obtained and who authorized what practices would go right into the West Wing."

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