As featured on p. 218 of "Bloggers on the Bus," under the name "a MyDD blogger."

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

We Torture

John Kiriakou's admission that the CIA used waterboarding on Abu Zubaydah has put a crimp in the Administration's boilerplate about torture. They often explain how the United States doesn't torture, and everything that they authorized is legal and necessary. Meaning... in their mind, waterboarding is legal and necessary.

Q Did the questioning of al Qaeda leader Abu Zubaydah conform with the interrogation program approved by President Bush? [...]

MS. PERINO: I will say that all interrogations -- all interrogations have been done within the legal framework that was set out after September 11th...All of the -- the entire program has been legal.

Q Are you saying that whatever was done in this case was not torture?

MS. PERINO: I am saying that the United States does not torture. The President has been -- [...]

Q You just said it was legal.

MS. PERINO: I'm sorry?

Q You said it was within the legal framework.


Q Everything that was done.


Q So waterboarding is legal.

MS. PERINO: I'm not commenting on any specific techniques.

Michael Mukasey is still trying to duck the issue, because his opinion means more from a legal standpoint that Perino backing into an admission. But basically, we have the entire executive branch on the chopping block for war crimes here. And it doesn't matter that nutjobs believe you have to break international law to defend the country (never mind that Zubaydah was a nutjob in his own right, and there's no reason to believe these fanciful notions of dozens of terror attacks broken up).

This is a direct consequence of the breakdown of the rule of law. And it's not surprising. This Scott Horton piece is maybe one of the most important of the past couple years in understanding that destroying the normal bonds of democracy and the Constitution inevitably leads you to this madness.

It is common for people today to question how any leader can be a tyrant who achieves office through popular election, and, indeed, who remains popular. But such talk is foolish and betrays an ignorance of the origins of the term and the historical context of its use. Throughout history, tyrants came to power through means of control and manipulation of popular opinion. This was so familiar a feature to the thinkers of antiquity, that Aristotle charts it as a characteristic of the tyrant. And in the history of the dark, past century, how many little men in search of a balcony came to power on the back of a jubilant and cheering mob? And indeed, no less a man that Thomas Jefferson was quick to remind his fellow citizens of this principle. And it was Jefferson who raised the cry of “tyrant” against the president, when he proceeded in disregard of the constraints of Constitution and law, setting into play a plan of persecution targeting his political opponents and the poor, downtrodden and defenseless immigrants. Jefferson spoke sharply and loudly because the republic was under siege by a popularly elected (and popular) government. He was right to have done so, and he is vindicated by history for it.

The question was whether the president has put himself above the law and assumed powers far beyond those the Constitution measured to him.

And today, America faces precisely this question. We have a president who acts in shameless disregard of the Constitution’s restraints upon his office, and who feels himself above the law, and who constantly seeks to manipulate and mislead the public. How many times just in the last week have we witnessed this?

There's something really rotten at the heart of our democracy right now. We have a President committed to accumulating power, and a Congress unable or unwilling to stop him. The future of America, I believe, depends on eventually holding these lawbreakers to account, whether inside or outside of government.

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