Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Back from DC

It was really great being in DC for a couple of days despite the heat and swine flu news. People in the airports today were wearing masks!

I had good meetings with a bunch of New Mexico Obama appointees. We got together for lunch to talk about non official things. We went over to view Ned Farquhar's basement apartment in George Town. He has great views of people's ankles as they walk by on the side walk. Ned is working as Deputy Assistant Secretary for Land and Minerals at the Interior Department. He is working 16 hours a day.

There is generally a good feeling in DC that the nation is being ably lead. Reflect on that while you read this great piece by former Ambassador to Peru, Dennis Jett. He is a career diplomat and hales from Albuquerque.

Torture: Way to resolve this debate is obvious

Published 04-26-2009

It looks like the nation is in for a long debate on torture. There is, however, a simple solution that will quickly end much of the argument.

The debate will be long because each day there is a new revelation that adds fuel to the controversy. A confidential report by the International Committee of the Red Cross concludes prisoners at Guantanamo were subjected to torture. A Spanish judge suggests he intends to indict six former Bush administration lawyers who wrote opinions finding the procedures used to be legal. The four Justice Department memos that laid that out are declassified and made public. A footnote in those memos reveals one suspected terrorist was waterboarded 183 times in one month.

The four memos were stamped "Top Secret," which means they contained information "whose unauthorized disclosure would pose the gravest threat to national security." Three of them were also marked NOFORN, which means they could not be shared even with our closest allies. Those three also carried another caveat, which itself was classified and blacked out — meaning they were shown only to those officials specifically cleared to read them. Now they are available for anyone to read on the ACLU's and other Web sites.

Conservatives fired back with their arguments in support of such practices. Former Vice President Dick Cheney wants more Top Secret memos declassified in order to show how much valuable intelligence was supposedly elicited by such treatment. President Bush's chief speechwriter asserted the techniques worked and provided vital information that foiled future plots.

Rightwing media pundits have long claimed that the treatment was no worse than fraternity hazing. At the same time, they defend the procedures because they are so effective. They point out the great detail in the Justice Department memos shows how much care and thought went into the techniques used.

The way to resolve this debate is obvious. Those who favor such tactics and think they are not torture should volunteer to be submitted to them.

The six lawyers and rightwing media personalities such as Sean Hannity, Glenn Beck, Karl Rove, Bill O'Reilly and Rush Limbaugh should all be eager to be first given how patriotic they are. If nothing else, it would be an interesting experiment as it might determine if education affects attitudes toward torture. Four of the six lawyers have degrees from Harvard. All of the talking heads except O'Reilly dropped out of second- and third-rate colleges.

These procedures are also something that can be done at home. If there is anyone in the neighborhood who doubts torture has been committed, simply strip them naked, slap them around, stick them in a small box for a few hours with whatever insect they like least, throw them against a flexible wall thirty times, keep them awake for eleven days, make them stand leaning against a wall with their weight on their finger tips and provide constant loud music, bright lights and cold temperatures.

Finally, tie them to a board with their feet elevated and pour lots of water on a cloth that has been placed over their nose and mouth. Then do it again and again and again until they not only admit all that amounts to torture, but they also confess to being agents of al-Qaida. If repeated enough times, they will.

While the former administration officials and media bobble heads are probably not working for al-Qaida, that doesn't matter. The purpose of the procedures is to get them to talk so something can be reported back to the higher ups who have demanded action and information.

And while it may not be factually true that they are working for a terrorist organization, it is clear that they are giving aid and comfort to the enemy. FBI and military interrogators have pointed out that use of such tactics has been a very useful recruiting tool of terrorists.

One former Air Force officer, who questioned dozens of insurgents in Iraq, even estimated that half the American casualties in that country were caused by foreigners who had been motivated to fight by the harsh treatment of prisoners by Americans.

So even if they are innocent, they are guilty, which is a logic that would appeal to the apologists for and architects of torture.

No comments: