Idiotarianism, Politics, War On Terror

Liar, Liar, Pantsuit On Fire

Charles Krauthammer has a typically great column on the ongoing debate over “torture” after Nancy Pelosi’s denial that she knew anything about waterboarding. Pelosi, assuming that the liberal press would cover for her, has now gotten caught up in a web of her own lies. So much so that the press has the scent of blood in the water:

Rep. Pelosi has ended up making a laughingstock of herself—her desperate attempts to backpedal from her own words are Clintonian in audacity without the skill of Slick Willy. Even the mainstream press has caught on.

Krauthammer puts the political impact of all this succinctly:

The reason Pelosi raised no objection to waterboarding at the time, the reason the American people (who by 2004 knew what was going on) strongly reelected the man who ordered these interrogations, is not because she and the rest of the American people suffered a years-long moral psychosis from which they have just now awoken. It is because at that time they were aware of the existing conditions — our blindness to al-Qaeda’s plans, the urgency of the threat, the magnitude of the suffering that might be caused by a second 9/11, the likelihood that the interrogation would extract intelligence that President Obama’s own director of national intelligence now tells us was indeed “high-value information” — and concluded that on balance it was a reasonable response to a terrible threat.

And they were right.

In the end, that’s correct. The “torture” issue will never have legs because the average American doesn’t share the sense of moral outrage that some have over that issue. In war, bad things happen. People get killed. Killing is a moral wrong, yet it is part of the nature of warfare. In the same vein, a practice like waterboarding may be credibly called torture, and torture is a moral wrong. Yet it is also a part of war. Pelosi doesn’t care about the morality of torture, she wants to score political points for partisan reasons. Some have a legitimate, rational, and moral objection to these practices, but they are a distinct minority.

In the end, Pelosi’s dissembling masks the real issue here. Waterboarding someone who was directly responsible for the inhuman September 11 atrocity is morally and politically different than the mistreatment of detainees. The abuses of Abu Ghraib and others are examples of acts that harm America’s reputation and dishonor our military. Yet the focus is not on those acts, but on the waterboarding issue. Were this a moral rather than a political issue, detainee abuse would be placed in its full context, rather than being used as a truncheon against the Bush Administration.

Pelosi’s lies are political in nature, just like this whole attempt at a partisan witch-hunt. Even for those who legitimately and truly oppose torture, tying their wagons to such a despicably partisan crusade only undercuts the seriousness of their position. If the anti-torture campaign will be spearheaded by outright liars like Rep. Pelosi, it will never be taken seriously.

Obama Administration, Politics, War On Terror

A Tortured Sense Of Priorites

In the Financial Times, Clive Crook wonders why President Obama is so keen on going after the Bush Administration on the “torture” issue:

Common sense may tell you waterboarding is torture, but the law is less clear-cut. Congress should make waterboarding a crime, for the reasons I have stated, and it has had many chances before and since 9/11 to do so. The fact is, it has chosen not to. Some of those in Congress now calling for prosecutions, including Nancy Pelosi, speaker of the House, were briefed about these methods in the panic-stricken aftermath of 9/11 and offered no objection.

Politically, what Obama is doing is pandering to the left. Obama’s pragmatism is running against the blood lust on the left to get back at the Bush Administration any way they can. The left wants a kangaroo court to put on a nice show trial, then send the objects of their unbridled hatred to jail—or worse. The irrational hatred of the Bush Administration has not gone away with the left, even though the Bush Administration is gone.

Substantively, Obama is being foolish. For one, the idea that there was some kind of torture “regime” with tentacles spreading from GTMO to Abu Ghraib would never stand up to serious scrutiny, because their was no such regime. Prosecuting the Bush Administration for acts like waterboarding would be a blatantly unconstitutional ex post facto prosecution, as Congress had the opportunity to make the practices illegal but did not do so. Moreover, the majority of Americans don’t feel a great deal of outrage over waterboarding someone like Khalid Sheikh Mohammad—especially since there is likely strong, if not incontrovertible, evidence that doing so saved many American lives. In a country where a show like 24 is popular, the idea that people are going to give much care to the “civil rights” of one of the masterminds of the September 11 atrocity is not a very good bet.

Congress should not be so quick to want either prosecutions or a “Truth Commission”—Congressional leaders knew exactly what was being done, and they signed off on it. Speaker Pelosi knew what was being done, and said nothing. The outrage from Congress is nothing less than pure hypocrisy and political payback.

In the end, this is about politics and nothing but. Obama had taken a reasonable and pragmatic response to this issue. Now, the radical left is pushing him further and further towards a politically unsustainable course. Playing politics with national security does not play well outside of the Beltway, especially when this country faces very real and much more immediate crises. Obama should, to borrow a term, move on. What was done in the aftermath of September 11 was done to protect this country and was approved be the same members of Congress who now want to seek a kangaroo court to prosecute crimes they failed to make crimes when they had the chance. Obama has exercised his prerogative to prevent it from happening again under his watch. If the left wants to regard those actions with shame, let them. But this country deserves better than to have do deal with a political circus when there is work to be done. The Democrats will have to lead rather than try to enact their partisan vengeance, and Obama should make it clear that his concern is on the future rather than the past. Let history pass judgment, not partisans.