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

Friday, May 29, 2009

Bush's Turn

I guess Cheney and Bush switched undisclosed locations for a week, and now the former pResident delivered the talking points about the torture regime.

In his largest domestic speech since leaving the White House in January, Bush told an audience in southwestern Michigan that after the September 11 attacks, "I vowed to take whatever steps that were necessary to protect you."

Although he did not specifically allude to the high-profile debate over President Obama's decision to halt the use harsh interrogation techniques, and without referencing Cheney by name, Bush spoke in broad strokes about how he proceeded after the capture of Khalid Sheikh Mohammed in March 2003.

"The first thing you do is ask, what's legal?" he said. "What do the lawyers say is possible? I made the decision, within the law, to get information so I can say to myself, 'I've done what it takes to do my duty to protect the American people.' I can tell you that the information we got saved lives."

Well, those are two different things, aren't they? "What's legal" does not necessarily equal "What do the lawyers say is possible." Especially depending on the sequencing of those events. If "what do the lawyers say is possible" comes first, and it's more "what can we get the lawyers to say is possible," then "what's legal" becomes fairly irrelevant, right? Especially when combined with "I vowed to take whatever steps that were necessary to protect you." That sounds like a vow irrespective of the law.

Then there's this unprovable "the information we got saved lives" statement, and considering that George Bush himself signed the executive order barring public disclosure of specific information gained through torture, and furthermore, he could have released them himself at the time if he wanted to be vindicated. For his part, Carl Levin has called B.S.

Regarding Cheney's claim that classified documents will prove his case -- documents that Levin himself is also privy to -- Levin said: "But those classified documents say nothing about the numbers of lives saved, nor do the documents connect acquisition of valuable intelligence to the use of abusive techniques. I hope that the documents are declassified, so that people can judge for themselves what is fact, and what is fiction."

Pretty unequivocal. But the last thing that Bush and Cheney want would be declassification. Because their tough-guy stance that torture saves lives works out better for them than chalking intelligence up to sugar free cookies.

This got to me:

The former president earned a noisy standing ovation when asked what he wants his legacy to be.

"Well, I hope it is this: The man showed up with a set of principles, and he was unwilling to compromise his soul for the sake of popularity," he said.

By the way, I'm willing to believe that Bush didn't compromise his soul. He probably didn't know about the worst stuff, and anyway you can't compromise a soul that would say this:

In the week before [Karla Faye Tucker's] execution, Bush says, Bianca Jagger and a number of other protesters came to Austin to demand clemency for Tucker. "Did you meet with any of them?" I ask.

Bush whips around and stares at me. "No, I didn't meet with any of them," he snaps, as though I've just asked the dumbest, most offensive question ever posed. "I didn't meet with Larry King either when he came down for it. I watched his interview with [Tucker], though. He asked her real difficult questions, like 'What would you say to Governor Bush?' "

"What was her answer?" I wonder.

"Please," Bush whimpers, his lips pursed in mock desperation, "don't kill me."

...wonder if George would listen to the advice of his commanders on this one:

MacCallum: (Ticking time bomb scenario)

Gen. Petraeus: ....T here might be an exception and that would require extraordinary but very rapid approval to deal with, but for the vast majority of the cases, our experience downrange if you will, is that the techniques that are in the Army Field Manual that lays out how we treat detainees, how we interrogate them -- those techniques work, that's our experience in this business.

MacCallum: So is sending this signal that we're not going to use these kind of techniques anymore, what kind of impact does this have on people who do us harm in the field that you operate in?

Gen. Petraeus: Well, actually what I would ask is, does that not take away from our enemies a tool which again have beaten us around the head and shoulders in the court of public opinion? When we have taken steps that have violated the Geneva Conventions, we rightly have been criticized, so as we move forward I think it's important to again live our values, to live the agreements that we have made in the international justice arena and to practice those.

If Petraeus admits that we violated the Geneva Conventions, isn't he calling indirectly for prosecutions of those who ordered such violations?

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