Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Waterboarding is torture, period.

Confused about waterboarding? Don't know if its actually torture?

Ask somebody who trained U.S. servicemen to resist our enemies' torture at SERE: Yes, it is torture. Period.

This is an excellent and timely piece. Give it a read here.

Won't get fooled again

Don't buy the "hypothetical" dodge from a Bush-appointed AG nominee. Torture is not a hypothetical for this crew. It is actually happening.

Mukasey needs to repudiate the specific acts of torture that we already know are occurring, however the Administration characterizes them ("Enhanced interrogation"? Give me a break.). Waterboarding is NOT a close case. If it is not torture, then almost NOTHING is torture.

As Marty Lederman puts it, quoting H.L.A. Hart, while a "No Vehicles in the Park" law may be ambiguous as to whether it applies to a baby stroller or bicycle, if "one arrives at the conclusion that a souped-up Corvette may be driven through the center of the park, then that's a pretty good clue that you need to find yourself some new interpretive principles."

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Torture Harms National Security

Sullivan: Torture is evil. It also leads to false confessions, which lead to bad intelligence, which can lead to more torture, more false confessions, and more bad intelligence.

Friday, October 26, 2007

The War President Doesn't Negotiate

New sanctions announced by the Bush Administration against Iran "signif[y] that President Bush has given up on multilateral diplomacy with Tehran. He's back to going his own way." Froomkin continues:

"The Bush administration still refuses to meet with Iranian leaders face to face. True diplomacy requires a willingness to talk.

"The White House maintains it is still devoted to diplomacy, but we've heard that before. And without patience or dialogue, "diplomacy" isn't really diplomacy -- it's a charade."

Thursday, October 25, 2007

Colbert for President!

Colbert is "running" for President as both a Democrat and Republican, but only in his native South Carolina, where he is a self-declared "favorite son." If the FEC tries to crack down based on federal campaign laws, the joke will only get better: a First Amendment fight would be a no brainer win for Colbert, and he could (rightfully) play the martyr besieged by the awful federal government bureaucracy every night until he grows tired of it.

Update: Adam B at Daily Kos disagrees: "I've wrestled with this one, and the way I see it, if Colbert makes real efforts to get on the ballot, then he's a candidate -- and it's not for the FEC to say who's a "serious" candidate." I just don't see it. He isn't running in any state other than South Carolinia; his character is running, not him; he's a comedian for a living; and it is obvious parody.

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

The Iran War Rollout Continues

No surprises here. Bush and Cheney continue their warmongering with Iran. I have little doubt that we will be at war with Iran very soon if these two get their way.

Barnett Rubin has more here on the selling of the fall Iran War product that his sources predicted last month. Anonymous Liberal examines the contradictions between the Bush Administration's competing rationales for war with Iran.

In a sign of just how serious things are getting, high-ranking officers in the military appear to now be asking themselves how they will react if ordered to undertake an illegal, aggressive war against Iran without congressional approval. General Pace, former chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, previously stated that "It is the absolute responsibility of everybody in uniform to disobey an order that is either illegal or immoral."

Frankly, it is an indictment of Congress and its failure to exercise its power to affirmatively check and restrain the president that this country is in a disturbing position where generals disobeying civilian command now seems to be the only real brakes on such a war.

Friday, October 19, 2007

Do NOT Confirm Mukasey

I don't care if he *sounds* more reasonable than disgraced former Attorney General Gonzalez. The fact is that he will not rule out things that are torture as torture, and he has committed himself to the notion that the President can violate the law at will during the neverending "war on terror." Mukasey is essentially telling the Senators at the confirmation hearings that he will be just as bad as Gonzalez, and its up to those Senators to believe him: he will do what Bush asks, regardless of legality, and if it's time to torture someone, then it's just time to redefine what we mean by the word torture.

This is not hard. It is simply unacceptable for the Senate to confirm someone who holds such odious, unconstitutional and frankly unAmerican views. It is time for the Justice Department to live up to its name, and that starts at the top.

Updated on 10/23/07:

Take a look at this op-ed article in the New York Times by Jed Rubenfeld, a constitutional law professor at Yale Law School. Here are the key excerpts:
AT his confirmation hearings last week, Michael B. Mukasey, President Bush’s nominee for attorney general, was asked whether the president is required to obey federal statutes. Judge Mukasey replied, “That would have to depend on whether what goes outside the statute nonetheless lies within the authority of the president to defend the country.”

. . . [B]efore voting to confirm him as the nation’s chief law enforcement officer, the Senate should demand that he retract this statement. It is a dangerous confusion and distortion of the single most fundamental principle of the Constitution — that everyone, including the president, is subject to the rule of law.

It is true that a president may in rare cases disregard a federal statute — but only when Congress has acted outside its authority by passing a statute that is unconstitutional. . . .

But that is not what Judge Mukasey said. What he said, and what many members of the current administration have claimed, would radically transform this accepted point of law into a completely different and un-American concept of executive power.

According to Judge Mukasey’s statement, as well as other parts of his testimony, the president’s authority “to defend the nation” trumps his obligation to obey the law. Take the federal statute governing military commissions in Guantánamo Bay. No one, including the president’s lawyers, argues that this statute is unconstitutional. The only question is whether the president is required to obey it even if in his judgment the statute is not the best way “to defend the nation.”

If he is not, we no longer live under the government the founders established.

Under the American Constitution, federal statutes, not executive decisions in the name of national security, are “the supreme law of the land.” It’s that simple. So long as a statute is constitutional, it is binding on everyone, including the president.

The president has no supreme, exclusive or trumping authority to “defend the nation.” In fact, the Constitution uses the words “provide for the common defense” in its list of the powers of Congress, not those of the president.

Beginning with Marbury v. Madison, the Supreme Court has enforced the principle that laws trump presidential authority, not the reverse. In 1952, the court ruled that President Harry Truman’s takeover of the nation’s steel mills — justified by Truman as necessary, because of a threatened steelworkers’ strike, to defend the nation in its armed conflict in Korea — was unconstitutional because the president had flouted federal statutes. And in Hamdan v. Rumsfeld, the Supreme Court’s recent decision on military commissions, the justices reaffirmed that the president must comply with a valid federal statute.

Even President Bush’s Justice Department, added the court, “does not argue otherwise.” But evidently Attorney General Mukasey would argue otherwise — he just did.

. . .

If Judge Mukasey cannot say plainly that the president must obey a valid statute, he ought not to be the nation’s next attorney general.

A Massive Hedge

The nominee for Attorney General, Judge Mukasey, is not exactly inspiring confidence that he will stand up to President Bush's pro-torture policies. Here he is not knowing whether a mock execution is torture:
WHITEHOUSE: Is waterboarding constitutional?

MUKASEY: I don’t know what is involved in the technique. If waterboarding is torture, torture is not constitutional.

WHITEHOUSE: "If waterboarding is constitutional" is a massive hedge.

MUKASEY: No, I said, "If it's torture." I'm sorry. I said, "If it's torture."

WHITEHOUSE: "If it's torture." That's a massive hedge. I mean, it either is or it isn’t. Do you have an opinion on whether waterboarding, which is the practice of putting somebody in a reclining position, strapping them down, putting cloth over their faces, and pouring water over the cloth to simulate the feeling of drowning. Is that constitutional?

MUKASEY: If it amounts to torture, it is not constitutional.

WHITEHOUSE: I'm very disappointed in that answer — I think it is purely semantic.

MUKASEY: I’m sorry.
This is just a re-tread of the President's completely unacceptable statements that "we don't torture," always given without bothering to ever let us know what he thinks "torture" is.

Monday, October 08, 2007

Depends on what the meaning of "is" is

Responding to news of his secret memos authorizing torture (more here), President Bush continued to fulfill his campaign pledge of bringing "honor and integrity" back to the White House: "This government does not torture people," he said. Of course, neither the President, nor his spokespeople, nor the Justice Department will actually define what THEY think the word "torture" means.

Blue Texan makes the obvious point:

This position is untenable.

If they're saying categorically they don't torture they need to define torture. Saying, "We don't torture, but we won't tell you what exactly that means" is the same as saying nothing.



This is grade-A crazy here, folks. Up is down, black is white, and right on Iraq is soft on defense:
You know, I've thought for a long time that Obama's not in quite as strong a position on the war in Iraq as he really thinks he is. Remember, when he famously came out against the war, it was back in a time when the entire world believed that Saddam Hussein in Iraq had weapons of mass destruction, that he would probably be willing to use them himself at some time or pass them along to terrorists who would use them. And yet, Barack Obama was against going to the war at that point. I don't think that shows that he is very strong on national security, which he needs to be. But that argument's not going to be used against him in the Democratic primaries. It would, however, by Republicans in a general election.
Fred Barnes literally believes that being right about the predominant national security issue in recent memory shows more weakness on national security than being wrong about it, because being wrong was more popular amongst the people who were also all wrong.

Monday, October 01, 2007

The Coming Iran War Pretext

Here it comes: the Iran War. And its going to be sold as "protecting the troops." And the politicians, media, and military brass will be unable or unwilling to stop it because nobody wants to be the one against "protecting the troops." And who wants to stick up for Iran? A bunch of Iran-lovers and troop-haters, that's who!

Obvious topics of debate that will be conveniently ignored until it is too late (at which point we will then hear the chorus of "nobody could have foreseen..."):
  • Is Iran actually doing what the Administration claims it is doing (whatever the accusation happens to be at the time)?

  • Can our military simultaneously manage yet another conflict while Iraq and Afghanistan continue to fester? (What if efforts to limit an Iran war to just airstrikes fails, and ground troops are needed in large numbers?)

  • What are the likely consequences of a new war with Iran? (And are we prepared for them?)

  • What are the unlikely consequences? (Are we prepared for those?)

  • Even if Iran is actually guilty of whatever accusation is eventually lodged against it, is punishing Iran worth the risk of both the likely and unlikely consequences of a war with Iran?
  • How would Iraqis (both in and out of government, but particularly the majority Shi'ite population) react?

  • How many more decades of war in the middle east and how many new grudges do we really want to buy?

  • Does anybody REALLY believe that things would be going great in Iraq if only its biggest neighbor, Iran, had a real reason to be pissed off at us?