One of the things I have been enjoying the last couple of days is the rooty-toot-toot for torture on the part of conservatives who are evidently looking for vindication of the bungling old Bush administration. If it hadn’t been for Republican waterboarding, Osama bin Laden would never have been caught, they want us to know. It’s the line trumpeted on Fox Propaganda and on every conservative website.
“I would assume that the enhanced interrogation program that we put in place produced some of the results that led to bin Laden’s ultimate capture,” quoth the world champion assumer, Dick Cheney.
The success of the attack on bin Laden is owing to “the tough decisions taken by the Bush administration,” quoth John Yoo, author the famous Justice Department memos justifying what euphemizers call enhanced interrogation techniques.
“We obtained that information” — about bin Laden’s location — “through waterboarding,” quoth Rep. Peter King of Long Island.
It’s a curious thing, this fondness for the most brutal and most primitive of weapons on the part of people who profess devotion to the Constitution and in many cases to the Bible also.
I’ll let them have the purely political effort to salvage some respect for their most recent administration, disaster that it was, and credit it retroactively for the success of its successor. That’s natural enough, to say they laid the groundwork. But to be enthusiastic about torture in particular, I think that’s telling.
They positively gloat over it, some of them, and I have in mind the humorous T-shirt sold on conservative websites, saying, “I’d Rather Be Waterboarding.” Yuk-yuk.
Please note, they never say, as distasteful as torture might be and as inimical to the American sense of fair play, there are nevertheless extreme occasions when it’s justified.
No such temporizing. They just plain like it, just as they like the no-nonsense cruelty of some Arizona sheriff in dealing with criminals, especially immigrant criminals, putting them in pink underwear and that sort of thing.
That some of the clues that led us to bin Laden might have come from the near-drowning of a prisoner or from keeping some other prisoner shackled in a “stress position” beyond the point of human endurance is accepted not with a sigh but with a puff of pride.
Never mind that a great deal of information that came from such techniques turned out to be misinformation, according to some CIA veterans, and never mind that valid information might well have been extracted by more humane methods either. The effort now is to justify the brutality and the sadism that conservatives appear to have relished just for its own sake.
It’s an interesting business to watch.
Isn’t there a law?
In case you’re wondering if there isn’t a law against assassinating foreign leaders, the answer is no, not really.
There is Executive Order 12333, signed by President Reagan, which says, “No person employed by or acting on behalf of the United States Government shall engage in, or conspire to engage in, assassination,” but it has been repeatedly modified, most recently in 1998 to allow an exception for persons connected to terrorism. Osama bin Laden would seem to qualify for that exception, so don’t go trying to impeach our president for knocking him off.
Once again, ladies and gentlemen, the National Day of Prayer is upon us, providing us the opportunity to display our devotion in public, just like the hypocrites of biblical times, who were scorned by Jesus (Matthew 6:5-6).
It’s a wonderful day, in my view, throwing into sharp relief the confused beliefs of so many of the pious among us. There they will be today, on the steps of Schenectady City Hall and outside the Capitol in Albany, serenely flouting the instructions of their Lord and Savior at the same they declare their devotion to them.
I look forward to it every year.
If you would like to know what became of the federal court decision rendered last year in Wisconsin, ruling unconstitutional the president’s proclamation of this special day, the answer is that an appeals court overturned it a few weeks ago on the grounds that the group that brought the suit, the Freedom From Religion Foundation, did not have legal standing, the “feeling of alienation” cited by the group not being enough of an injury to warrant a lawsuit.
Of course private persons would be perfectly free to make a public spectacle of themselves even without government encouragement. It’s only government encouragement that is being challenged, just to be clear on that point.