Friday, December 19, 2008

Super Duper Q & A

Charles Kaiser lays out yet another failure on the part of The New York Times in his piece today in The Columbia Journalism Review. Vice President Dick Cheney admitted in an ABC interview that he approved the use of what the Bush Administration likes to call "aggressive interrogation techniques." That's a big story, and the Times ignored it.

Kaiser quotes Harper's Scott Horton as saying the following:
[Waterboarding] has been defined as torture by the United States since at least 1903, the first military court-martial. The United States views waterboarding conducted for intelligence purposes during wartime as a war crime, and it has prosecuted both civilian and military figures involved in the chain of approval of its use. Penalties applied have ranged up to the death penalty. The crime is chargeable under the War Crimes Act and under the Anti-Torture Statute. There is no ambiguity or disagreement among serious lawyers on this part...
The use of waterboarding (actually, a different technique) by some United States military personnel in the Philippines – you remember, when we were saving our "little brown brothers" from themselves – shocked the nation. Have we really slipped this far? Why are we not as horrified?

Oh, but that's just Harper's. You know, a bunch of liberals. Never mind that, as Kaiser points out, retired major general Anthony Taguba wrote, “there is no longer any doubt as to whether the current administration has committed war crimes.” (As Kaiser says, "the Times also ignored that one.")

Oh, but Taguba clearly has an axe to grind. He led the investigation into Abu Ghraib, and was subsequently thanked for his efforts by being put out to pasture. Never mind that we prosecuted Nazis for their use of waterboarding as a war crime.

And never mind that the Senate Armed Services Committee issued a bi-partisan report that found that this Administration's efforts to gather information "on how to use aggressive techniques, [redefine] the law to create the appearance of their legality, and [authorize] their use against detainees...damaged our ability to collect accurate intelligence that could save lives, strengthened the hand of our enemies, and compromised our moral authority."

And never mind that intelligence experts have repeatedly and unequivocally said that torture – or "enhanced interrogation techniques," or "super duper Q & A," or "questions on steroids," or "a gentle tickle under the chin," or whatever you want to call it – does nothing but get false information and hurt our cause.

Never mind all of these things. If politicians can be viewed as tough and get a boost in the polls, by golly, we should undermine our international reputation and ignore our principles.

Good thing for this Administration that The New York Times is the "newspaper of record." But the Times should understand that it's gunning for irrelvance by continually dropping the ball. Worse than that, it's aiding and abetting criminals.

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