Occasional blogging, mostly of the long-form variety.

Friday, May 29, 2009

Torture PTSD, Twinkies and Galileo

In "No Harm No Foul" Digby links an important piece on lasting psychological damage from torture, including post-traumatic stress disorder. Further proof for the pile. "It's Never The Crime ..." covers news from The Daily Telegraph (UK) that the unreleased Abu Ghraib photos include evidence of rape and sexual abuse reported by General Taguba previously. The Obama White House has pushed back on the Telegraph's credibility. Several questions remain. Are rape photos part of the group of photos requested through the Freedom of Information Act and now being withheld? And, as Nick Baumann asks, if there's clear photographic evidence of rape, why has no one been prosecuted for that?

Think Progress has a ten-page piece on "Why Bush’s ‘Enhanced Interrogation’ Program Failed" that can be read on their site or downloaded as a PDF. It's also further proof for the pile, and a useful overview.

Finally, Scott Horton has two valuable pieces, "Cheney Prepares the Twinkie Defense," dissecting Cheney's speech from last week, and "Galileo and Gitmo." Horton's always insightful, but this latter piece is a cut above for all that. If you're a fan of both Galileo and Brecht (as I am), you'll really appreciate it, and even if you're not, I think you'll find it memorable.

(Cross-posted at Blue Herald)

Thursday, May 28, 2009

Eclectic Jukebox 5/28/09

Philip Glass – "Knee 1" from Einstein on the Beach

Just the music, but if you're a Glass fan, who needs more?

Eclectic Jukebox

Sunday, May 24, 2009

Cheney's Gambit

When Dick Cheney and the rest of the chipper Cheney clan make a media appearance, the only real question is whether they'll try out any new lies or stick with their favorites. McClatchy provides a great fact-checking of Dick Cheney's speech this past Thursday.

Talking Points Memo also does some fact-checking, and Matthew Alexander thoroughly rebuts and dissects Cheney. Dick Durbin was wise enough to cite Alexander on Meet the Press - leading Newt Gingrich to smear Alexander, a decorated officer. (As always, Gingrich and his ilk only care about the troops as props.)

In "Cheney's Desperate Defense," Dan Froomkin does a superb job zeroing in on Cheney's most crucial lie:

Former vice president Dick Cheney's snarling, duplicitous speech contrasting Bush and Obama administration counter-terrorism policies yesterday is best seen in the context of his understandably strong desire to avoid investigation or prosecution in the near future -- and ignominy in the history books.

While his speech is primarily being touted as a ferocious attack on President Obama -- and it certainly was that -- what Cheney is really doing is playing defense.

Running through his remarks were several familiar themes: That investigating what really happened during the past eight years is tantamount to prosecution, that criminalizing political behavior would be a terrible precedent, and that the Bush administration had absolutely nothing to do with the kind of abuse illustrated by the notorious photographs from Abu Ghraib prison.

That final point is really key. For five years, ever since the photos became public, Bush officials have been engaged in a concerted disinformation campaign aimed at denying that White House policy was in any way responsible for the widespread abuse of detainees.

I describe new evidence of that disinformation campaign in an article on NiemanWatchdog.org today. One of the torture memos released last month proves how baldly then-White House counsel Alberto Gonzales was lying in June 2004, as he tried to distance the administration from what happened at Abu Ghraib.

The latest iteration of the campaign has been Cheney's relentless focus on debating the appropriateness and efficacy of the techniques used on "high-value" detainees at CIA secret prisons. Cheney realizes that even if he loses this argument, as far as the American public is concerned, it's a close call.

To avoid more scrutiny, it's essential that he keep distancing the administration from the kind of abuse that is universally considered indefensible.

This is exactly right, and can't be emphasized enough. The abuses at Abu Ghraib and Guantanamo were authorized at the very top, they were deliberate policies, and current estimates indicate over one hundred prisoners are dead as a result. Additionally, Cheney wants cherry-picked releases to come out, not the whole picture.

Froomkin links some other very valuable pieces, including Fred Kaplan's debunking of some Cheney straw men, and Dana Milbank's tally of the fear count in Cheney's speech and a valuable observation from Joe Conason:

Beyond the distortions and the lies, there was one passage in Cheney's speech that underlined the authoritarian character of the former vice president and his hosts. Not only must we not reverse the policies of the previous administration, but according to him, we should not even debate them -- because the merest discussion of the troubling issues raised by the war on terrorism only encourages the enemy.

Froomkin also highlights an excellent piece by attorney Eric Lewis:

Former Vice President Cheney has masterfully shifted the debate about torture from the realm of law and ethics to that of pure efficacy...

The absolute prohibition on torture is not based on a consensus that it never works. Rather, it is based on the sad realization that the impulse to torture is ever-present; that human beings who are frightened or zealous or full of rage -- as human beings invariably are -- will feel a powerful need to torture and a powerful justification for acting on that need. It is useful to recall the understandable fear and anger after September 11 not to justify or excuse torture, but to understand that it is precisely at the moment of most stress that the norm against torture must be powerfully affirmed...

We do not allow torture in the ticking time bomb scenario because when the would-be torturer looks out on the landscape, he sees it littered with ticking time bombs and people who might know something about them. We do not balance the costs and benefits to see if torture works because there will always be some argument that can be made that it works or it might work or people believed at the time that it would.

I'd recommend reading all of Lewis' piece, and Froomkin's.

Moving on, Publius makes a good observation on the long game of Cheney:

It’s a pretty neat trick. The Bush/Cheney administration radicalizes a new generation of terrorists through actions like torture and unnecessary wars. Then, when the blowback comes, they’ll try to blame it on someone else – specifically, on the people trying to clean up their mess. It's like dousing a house with gasoline, and then blaming the cleanup crew when someone comes along with a match trying the burn the thing down.

The Daily Show has a great take on all this silliness, of course.

As Eric Martin observes (and Stewart and Colbert show), fact-checking public figures typically isn't too hard – but mainstream media outlets frequently avoid it, so credit goes to McClatchy. I caught Bob Schieffer's commentary on a CBS newscast, and predictably, he only spoke of the politics of whether Obama could sell his Gunatanamo plan. Schieffer didn't raise any civil liberties concerns about Obama's speech, and he completely ignored glaring lies by Cheney.

As with almost every other issue, the media's problem with the torture "debate" is that they do not fact-check, give context or call bullshit. Regardless of how crazy, dishonest or outrageous a speaker is (as long as s/he is a conservative), s/he will be granted legitimacy, and the Overton window is generally pushed to the right. This also reduces almost every issue or "debate" to a matter of mere opinion and headline-filling partisan attacks, versus an examination of facts or a discussion of the consequences of policies. Difference of opinion are one thing, but often viewers are left to decide between two different realities, generally without the context to do so - and "splitting the difference" down the middle usually will lead to an inaccurate picture (as is intended by hacks). For a variety of reasons, the media hold conservatives to a much lower standard than they do Democrats and liberals, and while plenty of congressional Dems are less than honorable, conservatives simply lie more often and about more serious matters. I wish none of this was the case, but it is. As Geoffrey Nunberg's observed, political talk shows are essentially cast as sitcoms versus being news to inform the public.

See also Emptywheel 1, Emptywheel 2 and Roy Edroso. Greg Sargent and Steve Benen take a look at the media's crazy deference to - and defense of - Dick Cheney. The busy Benen also weighs in on the possible role of the Cheney book deal, the false claim that DNI Dennis Blair endorsed torture, Michael Steele, Newt Gingrich's ridiculous number of media appearances and Liz Cheney's ridiculous number of media appearances:

There's no modern precedent for such a ridiculous arrangement. Dick Cheney launches a crusade against the White House, and major outlets look for analysis from Cheney's daughter? Who everyone already realizes agrees with everything he says about torture?

To be fair and balanced, they'll book Lynn Cheney next.

(Cross-posted at Blue Herald)

Friday, May 22, 2009

Not Writing for Power

Scott Horton recently interviewed Chinese playwright and activist Sha Yexin. One exchange particularly stuck out for me:

5. At the recent Beijing meeting on Chinese drama and literature, you said that playwrights should never forget the role of literature and the aim of writing, and that they should never write for power. Could you elaborate on that?

Why shouldn’t one write for power? Here are my reasons:

First, power corrupts. The British historian Lord Acton said: “Power corrupts; absolute power corrupts absolutely.” This famous quotation has now become political common sense. Its correctness has been borne out by the intensifying corruption in China, where power is exercised without oversight or restraint. When corruption and power exist in co-prosperity, how can people fight corruption? In present-day China, anti-corruption is kept at a certain level to ensure that people will not revolt while power will not get out of control. In some districts, corrupt elements have become leaders of the anti-corruption effort. Undiscovered corrupt officials are fighting those already exposed.

Second, power makes people stupid. By using mathematical theories, the American scholar Jonathan Bendor proves the great value of independent thinking and the limitations of decision makers. When leaders are too busily occupied with myriad state affairs, institutional methods can be used to ease their cognitive constraints, by seeking wise solutions from among the people and encouraging independent thinking in government officials. But in a totalitarian country, such institutional methods do not and cannot exist.

Most power-holders in such countries are fond of dictatorship. Each of them puts forward his “ideas” and “theories” when it is his turn to rule the country, hoping to see his thought adopted as the “guideline” to unify the thinking of the whole nation. Acting in this way, they deprive themselves of the kind of wisdom and talent that are needed to solve the thorny problems facing the country. As a bunch of dumbbells, they can not help becoming an object of ridicule among the people.

Third, power brings flip-flops and hence suffering to the people. Since power has reduced the wisdom and intelligence of the power-holders and their think tanks, setbacks caused by repeated policy changes including the adoption of reactionary measures are bound to occur. Frequent ideological reversals and repeated changes in ideas and policy bring about great social instability. It becomes very difficult to attain a truly harmonious society and avoid more flip-flops in the future.

Fourth, power produces cruelty. Those who hold power can be overwhelmed by the glare of the spotlight that accompanies power. They may experience a peak period in which they feel accomplishment, happiness, or pleasure. But according to Abraham Maslow, the American psychologist, this peak period does not last long. The powerful had problems coping with the end of this period. Once they reject oversight, checks and balances that come from outside, they immediately become completely irrational and inhuman. If someone wants to share power with them or seeks to replace them with new power-holders, they become mad and cruel, and have no scruples in resort to guns, cannons, and tanks, producing huge social disasters.

If you are a writer who writes for power, objectively you are working, directly or indirectly, for corruption and stupidity, for more suffering and cruelty for the people. You may have some excuses if you are forced to write for power. If you write for power out of your own will, how can you evade your responsibility as an accomplice?

As may be easily understood, what I am speaking about is power in a totalitarian state. It is power without oversight and constraints, as compared with power born from democratic elections. Refusing to write for power also means refusing to write according to the will of those in power, or to promote their ideology in one’s writings.

One may choose to write for any other purpose: to write for art, for life, for oneself or others. But he or she must not write for power.

I haven't read any plays by Sha Yexin yet, but now I want to seek them out. There are many different reasons to write, but over here in the States it can be easy to take the freedom to write for granted. The stakes for Sha Yexin are higher.

When I briefly studied in Russia, my group was told harrowing tales of how artists of all sorts were treated in the Soviet era (The Great Terror has a good chapter on it). Some stories were absolutely heart-breaking. One of my favorite writers, Mikhail Bulgakov, was basically tormented by Stalin, despite Stalin's love of Bulgakov's play The White Guard (also known as Last Days of the Turbins). Bulgakov's masterpiece, The Master and Margarita, was passed around for years in underground samizdat copies after his death (he died at age 48 before he could fully revise the second half). Decades later, an abridged version was published, and eventually, a full version. (The German film The Lives of Others captures a similar samizdat dynamic very well.)

I'll pass on some other images. An arts patron we met temporarily renamed his restaurant "Speak Out" after the end of the Soviet Union, because it felt important to him at the time. And our lead teacher – who was more brilliant even when drunk (a rarity) then almost anyone I've ever met - showed us with his lectures and conversations that simply surviving, remembering what had actually happened in the Soviet era, and telling it to others became an act of conscience. I had a movement teacher (who used to design nuclear missile silos!) who once lived in a border town where he was able to get records of jazz and rock music, which were banned or restricted. To escape detection, he and others would set up their record players in their basements, and dance away to the music, often alone. This guy had crazy moves – he had a tall, lanky build and could move his hands and legs to different rhythms in different time signatures - and I've always loved that image of secret dancing at night in the basement.

In general, what I value the most from my time in Russia is coming to understand that many Russians have much deeper expectations for their art. I had an acting teacher who said he had mixed feelings about a new production of Chekhov's Three Sisters we saw, that it was beautifully staged, but that "it wasn't life." At first, I thought that was a bit harsh, but by the end of my stay, I understood what he was talking about. (And he was a phenomenal teacher – the best audience for a monologue you could ever hope to have, living and dying with every line. He was the Michael Chekhov expert, stressing: zydes, ceychas, civodnya - here, now, today.)

It's not as if every act of writing is political or needs to be profound, though. For instance, The Master and Margarita is quite profound, but it's also a comic novel, witty and entertaining. Use whatever metaphor or motivation for writing works for ya - Annie Dillard's "living like weasels," Natalie Goldberg's "writing down the bones," Lanford Wilson's "burn this" or something else altogether. But I appreciate Sha Yexin's great observation above about not writing for power, and it's a good one to remember. It also makes me think of one of my favorite pieces on writing, William Faulkner's Nobel speech (although it seems a crime to quote just a section). The last line below is my favorite:

Our tragedy today is a general and universal physical fear so long sustained by now that we can even bear it. There are no longer problems of the spirit. There is only the question: When will I be blown up? Because of this, the young man or woman writing today has forgotten the problems of the human heart in conflict with itself which alone can make good writing because only that is worth writing about, worth the agony and the sweat.

He must learn them again. He must teach himself that the basest of all things is to be afraid; and, teaching himself that, forget it forever, leaving no room in his workshop for anything but the old verities and truths of the heart, the old universal truths lacking which any story is ephemeral and doomed - love and honor and pity and pride and compassion and sacrifice. Until he does so, he labors under a curse. He writes not of love but of lust, of defeats in which nobody loses anything of value, of victories without hope and, worst of all, without pity or compassion. His griefs grieve on no universal bones, leaving no scars. He writes not of the heart but of the glands.

Obama's Speech on Security and Values

Questiongirl posted the video of the speech here, and you can read the transcript here.

I appreciate that Obama actually speaks to the public as adults, and am sympathetic to the ridiculous amount of challenges before him, many with powerful, entrenched interests against him, and an conscienceless, obstructionist minority party. (Unlike Rush Limbaugh, I want him to succeed, and plenty of conservatives do, too.) In the speech, Obama offered some on-target critiques to puncture some of the astounding idiocy of our national discourse, particularly the current fear-mongering over terrorists killing everyone in their beds after escaping from prison.

However, the speech had plenty of troubling sections, too. Dan Froomkin has a great overview (emphasis mine):

But in some parts of his speech, Obama appeared to be defending actions and even taking positions that didn't live up to his own professed standards.

When it came to what to do with the detainees at Guantanamo, he declared that he would work to create a system that would enable the indefinite detention without trial for a limited number of people whom the government is unable to prosecute for past crimes, but whom are nevertheless considered to be threats to the country. Even though he spoke of establishing lawful standards and periodic reviews, that's a dangerously extreme policy proposal. He once again expressed his intention to use a reformed military commission process for some detainees -- but gave no reason to think it won't run into many of the same legal challenges that Bush's process did. He spoke of sending many detainees to face trial in federal courts -- but then promised that no one would be released who endangers our national security. The whole point of a fair judicial system is that the executive can't guarantee the results.

Obama spoke passionately about his commitment to transparency, but offered up the same lousy and unpersuasive excuses he did last week for his decision to fight the court-ordered release of more photos of prison abuse. In particular, the weight he put on his responsibility not to release information that would inflame our enemies was deeply disturbing.

He offered no additional clarity regarding his position on the state secrets doctrine, where his lofty promises still stand in dramatic conflict with what his administration is actually doing.

And in continuing to oppose the creation of an independent commission that would fully investigate the abuses of the Bush administration, he marginalized those of us who want to find out what happened as polarizers, much like those who continue to doggedly defend Bush policies. He said the recent debate has obscured the truth -- when all we want is to let it free.

See also Glenn Greenwald, DDay and Digby. As they say, look at Obama's actions. And what disappoints me about Obama is the many places he's running things too closely to the horribly ineffective Bush playbook – as captured in this Tom Toles cartoon. It'd be one thing if Obama were letting Attorney General Eric Holder do his job and enforce the law when it came to Bush era abuses, but DDay's piece passes on a troubling report:

On at least one issue, though, Obama seems to have made up his mind. Isikoff reports that Obama announced his opposition to torture prosecutions--an unsurprising admission, perhaps, but one that must have disappointed many in attendance. Previously he had said that the question of investigation and prosecuting Bush administration officials was one for Holder to answer. But with Holder sitting right beside him, there's no doubt he's feeling pressure to, as they say, look forward, not backward.

If this is true, it's not good. I'm glad Obama's meeting with civil rights groups, but we've seen that the GOP will not stop gross abuses of power voluntarily. I understand Obama not publicly leading the charge on an investigation, and he was correct that Congress and the courts can proceed. But the Justice Department can and should, and is in fact legally obligated to do so. The Departments of Defense, Treasury, Energy, and Health and Human Services all have steep tasks ahead of them, but that's why there's more than one department in the government and more than one cabinet official. While I continue to hope the best for Obama and his administration, there is absolutely no scenario where public pressure to do the right thing won't make things better. We need a full investigation into human rights abuses (and on Wall Street, among other places). These aren't distractions, they're the tasks at hand, and essential to address for a successful long game.

(Cross-posted at Blue Herald)

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Eclectic Jukebox 5/21/09

Metric - "Sick Muse"

Just the music, although I hear there's an official video coming out at some point.

Eclectic Jukebox

A Venn Diagram on Torture Apologia

(Click for a larger view.)

This isn't entirely tongue-in-cheek, although if we're discussing the subject seriously, the diagram has its, uh, limitations. The common characteristic of an apologist is that he or she is working from the conclusion backwards, which is why some of his or her arguments are so weak or nonsensical. Working from left to right:

"No prosecutions" - A percentage of people who oppose prosecutions can't fairly be called apologists. They oppose torture, know most of the evidence but think that prosecutions will be nearly impossible to obtain. Consequently, they support a truth commission or something similar instead, to get the truth out and, they hope, stop such abuses from happening again. I don't think there's any good reason to believe the perpetrators and their ilk won't abuse power again without prosecutions, but at least one can have a good faith debate with this section of the "no prosecutions" group. (Thankfully, some in this camp have changed their minds due to new revelations.)

Most in the "no prosecutions" crowd, however, are Beltway pundits who have chosen to ignore the major evidence while simultaneously inveighing against any accountability. It makes little sense to oppose prosecutions before everything is investigated – and makes even less sense when what we've learned to date is absolutely damning. Their rhetoric can be evasive, but many in the chattering class actually back:

"No investigations" - Among the Beltway crowd, a slightly smaller subset of the "no prosecutions" group doesn't want any sort of real investigation, either. This attitude is precisely what David Gregory expressed this past Sunday. He and his kind don't want to know the truth (then they might feel obligated to do something). Pretending Nancy Pelosi forced Dick Cheney to order torture helps them pretend that it's bipartisan wisdom to ignore everything that happened. (No one opposes investigations but supports prosecutions – although that was kind of the Bush administration position with Guantanamo prisoners.)

Obviously, the perpetrators themselves and their closest allies don't want any investigation, and certainly want to avoid a trial at all costs.

"Don’t stop torture" - Most of the partisan, diehard torture apologists such as David Rivkin and the happy Cheney family are out there falsely claiming that torture "worked" – that our national security is endangered without torture – and that torture shouldn't be called torture when they do it. The Fox News crew are glad to spread this propaganda, and the more idiotic talking heads at other news outlets parrot this as well.

Some among this set talk about disclosure, but they don't really want a full investigation – they only want some cherry-picked documents released. A small percentage of true believers out there believe a full investigation will vindicate them and their pro-torture stance, but the professional hacks and perpetrators know better. The ridiculous Pelosi witch hunt is a calculated distraction, an aggressive, bullying poker bluff (I'm sure I can mix one more metaphor) to try to get people to back off. If they really wanted the truth to come out, they wouldn't just be focused on Pelosi, but would back the obvious solution – a full investigation. (Pelosi has supported this, and the truth seems to be catching up with some of the national hullabaloo on this.)

"You can have this torture victim's cold, dead body when you pry it from my cold, dead hands" – Some apologists are zealous proponents of torture. Others just play them on TV. You may remember the competitive machismo of the Republican primary candidates during the Fox News debate, when they were thrown a softball question straight from 24 about a ticking time bomb. Save for John McCain and Ron Paul, they all bragged about how much and how quickly they'd torture a dastardly terrorist. Stephen Colbert had a great segment on it, and quipped, "Nothing pumps up a crowd of primary voters in my home state like endorsements of fictional torture."

Meanwhile, in terms of what we should push for, I think it looks something like this:

(Click for a larger view.)

The law mandates that credible allegations of torture must be investigated, and the evidence to date does not support a good faith defense. It's hard to believe that, were the law followed, unhindered by political considerations, some of the targets would not serve jail time. As retired Major General Antonio Taguba states, "There is no longer any doubt as to whether the current administration has committed war crimes. The only question that remains to be answered is whether those who ordered the use of torture will be held to account." But let's have a full investigation un-hobbled by immunity given out prematurely and indiscriminately, and see where it leads.

(Much more in "Torture Versus Freedom.")

(Cross-posted at Blue Herald)

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Anti-Terrorist Fantasy Dream Team on the Case

Together Again for the First Time!


WASHINGTON, DC – Seeking to quell fears of terrorists somehow breaking out of America's top-security prisons and wreaking havoc on the defenseless heartland, President Barack Obama moved quickly to announce an Anti-Terrorist Strike Force headed by veteran counterterrorism agent Jack Bauer and mutant superhero Wolverine. Already dubbed a "dream team," their appointment is seen by experts as a crucial step in reducing the mounting incidents of national conservatives and congressional Democrats crapping their pants.

"I believe a fictional threat is best met with decisive fictional force," explained President Obama. "Jack Bauer and Wolverine are among the very best we have when in comes to combating fantasy foes." Mr. Bauer said, "We're quite certain that our prisons are secure. Osama bin Laden and his agents wouldn't dare attempt a break-out, and would fail miserably if they tried. But I love this country. And should Lex Luthor, Magneto or the Loch Ness Monster attack, we'll be there to stop them."

The move has already earned widespread praise, and veteran columnist David Broder hailed the bipartisan nature of the team. But not all were convinced. House Minority Leader John Boehner (R-OH) scoffed, "I thought the president was a Spiderman guy. And what a surprise that a Canadian would use knives on his hands versus a good ol' fashioned American Uzi."

Mr. Wolverine, who also goes by Logan, responded, "What's wrong with Canada? I fought alongside Captain America in World War II, bub. I'm happy to help out."

Some critics have expressed concerns as to whether Mr. Bauer is the best choice to counter the potential threat of a super-villain such as Magneto, a dinosaur stampede or an alien invasion. White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs responded that while Bauer lacks conventional super-powers, he can withstand extreme amounts of pain, has near infallible judgment, can teleport across Los Angeles and Washington D.C. at will, and can go 24 hours without sleep or relieving his bladder.

Should the task of protecting the country prove too difficult for the super-agent and super-hero on their own, Crime-Fightin' Jesus has offered to lend a hand "in a pinch," although he says he would rather spend his time helping the poor "if at all possible." Republicans insist that a law-enforcement approach to terrorism is ineffective.

The Kimberly-Clark Corporation, manufacturers of Depends adult diapers, has already come out strongly against the announcement of the Bauer-Wolverine dream team, claiming that their increased sales are helping spur the nation's economic recovery. Republican Newt Gingrich also condemned the president's actions. "President Obama seems to think that crapping one's pants is a bad thing somehow," said the former Speaker of the House, "but crapping one's pants is what this country was founded on. The Reagan Revolution wouldn't have happened without fear of evil Soviets and welfare queens. And say what you will about President Bush, he kept this country crapping its pants for seven long years after 9/11."

The White House declined to comment.

(See also Hilzoy's video, and The Daily Show on brain eaters, muppets and (most recently) Gunatanamo Baywatch: The Final Season. Plus, there's Dan Froomkin, Glenn Greenwald, Kevin Drum and I'm sure many more.)

Update 5/21/09: Check out Adam Serwer's great piece, "If Magneto Can Escape, Can KSM?" (via Steve Benen) and this cartoon by Mike Luckovich. Clearly, that we're all thinking about (mutant) super-villains is good news for the GOP.

(Cross-posted at Blue Herald)

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Thirteen Who Tortured

Guardian of the timeline Marcy Wheeler (Emptywheel) has a great article for Salon, "The 13 people who made torture possible," which gives a valuable overview of the key players and weaves in much of the basic timeline as well as key facts. (Her more detailed timeline is here.) Appropriately enough, Dick Cheney and David Addington top the list. It's a very good introduction or refresher to the subject, and the piece and its accompanying links demolish the "good faith" defense of torture apologists.

(These people ordered and justified torture rather than doing it themselves – that's work for the "help," perhaps - but I chose my title because, reading Marcy's piece, I thought of this:)

(Cross-posted at Blue Herald)

The Amazing Kagro X, Ladies and Gentlemen

By now, I hope you've seen this already (my computer was in the shop, so I only saw it yesterday). Regardless, the work of David Waldman (Kagro X) here deserves another round of applause:

The full segment can be viewed here.

What I especially appreciate is that David Waldman starts by hitting a few essential points, and he keeps coming back to them. He knows his facts, and his opponents can only attack him on propriety, popularity (the popularity of investigating torture) and him personally. It's the best (or at least the most satisfying) appearance by a torture opponent I've seen in a few months, a refreshing change from the parade of unrelenting obtuseness and deception on the subject in the mainstream media.

As DDay writes, "This is how it's done." Jane Hamsher has started a Facebook group called "I Oppose Torture, and Kagro X Is My Hero." She also summarizes nicely:
The successful hijacking of the torture debate by its proponents obscures the underlying facts, as Kagro makes abundantly clear:

1. Private contractors were conducting torture
2. It was torture for political gain
3. Pollsters should be asking if Americans support using torture to extract false confessions for political purposes, because that's what happened

There were no "ticking time bombs" -- as former State Department official Lawrence Wilkerson and McClatchey have confirmed, torture was conducted to extract false evidence linking Saddam Hussein and Al Qaeda. It was ordered by Dick Cheney and George Bush just as it was during the Spanish Inquisition, to force political compliance.

The Washington Examiner's Chris Stirewalt objects when Kagro invokes the obvious parallel, shamelessly hiding behind the military when he says "On behalf of American soldiers, on behalf of American soldiers, that's not cool." In classic Yellow Elephant fashion, Stirewalt apparently never served in the military.

Nicole Belle at Crooks and Liars also posted on this, and Glenn Greenwald dissects poll data and more in "Distorting public opinion on torture investigations." (He also links Erica Williams' apology over her appearance.)

More like this, please. The more guests can keep steering the "debate" back to the damning facts we already know and how much more we still need to know, the better.

(Cross-posted at Blue Herald)

Monday, May 18, 2009

Pelosi Forced Cheney to Order Torture!

The hoopla over Nancy Pelosi and CIA briefings is pretty ridiculous, a calculated distraction by Republicans and the CIA, happily abetted by journalists, most of whom don't want to do any real reporting on this subject (and aren't even covering it well as a dispute, let alone fact-checking it). Is it really news that the Bush administration consistently misled Congress, even in secret briefings, and the CIA has a long history of doing just that? Is it so hard to realize that John Boehner, Newt Gingrich and other Republicans are shameless hypocrites here? Isn't it funny how a relatively minor dispute, where the facts back Pelosi, is being sold as a condemnation of her? Isn't it funny how that dispute seems to have elicited more fury from Republicans and more coverage from reporters than any of the many revelations of wrongdoing by the Bush administration on the same front? Ya know, the Bush administration - the folks who actually did this stuff? The people who ordered torture, and who reportedly did so to justify their war of choice with Iraq? What about the CIA destroying torture tapes, and torturing in the first place?

Gingrich and other Republicans have to know this is bullshit, but they're raging like rabid dogs with little cause. In contrast, Pelosi took impeachment off the table. It's all a farce.

The GOP doesn't want a full investigation. Much of the press doesn't want a full investigation. Pelosi, for any of her other faults (personally, I'm not a big fan of Pelosi or Reid), supports an investigation. Given all this "contention," a full investigation is just what we need.

Emptywheel's done a superb job on fact-checking the Pelosi story, including in "Mark Mazzetti, the Gray Lady’s Grammar-Impaired Spook Stenographer":

C'mon, NYT, don't you remember how embarrassing it was when Judy Miller was playing warmonger stenographer in 2002? Then why are you guys whoring yourself out to serve disinformation again?

I'm speaking of this post on Nancy Pelosi's press conference spelling out reaaaalllyyyy slowly that the CIA lied when it briefed Pelosi and Goss on torture in 2002. When I first looked at the post, the headline said something like, "Pelosi says CIA misled Congress" (sorry, I didn't get a screen cap; I should have known). Now it has shifted its focus back onto the fact that a Pelosi staffer--not the CIA, as required by law--informed Pelosi that CIA was in the torture business in 2003...

As a spook stenographer, Mark, I'm sure you're familiar with the National Security Act, but if you need a primer, why not read about it on the pages of the NYT? You'll see that the National Security Act requires the Administration inform Congress--arguably, the entire intelligence committees--about their covert ops. Requires. But instead, what happened here is that CIA took up torturing, and then, when they "briefed" Pelosi and Goss on it in September 2002, they didn't tell them they were already doing it. They didn't get around to revealing that until five months later--and six months after they had gotten into the torture business.

That is a violation of the law--some might even consider it news. But not the NYT!!! Nope, the NYT is going to keep recycling Porter Goss' carefully parsed statements and imply they refute Nancy Pelosi when they don't. The NYT is going to obsess over the fact that a staffer told Nancy Pelosi something that CIA should have told her almost a year earlier.

But the NYT is not, apparently, going to tell its readers that the CIA broke the law.

Emptywheel is really a must-read site if you want to follow this story or others related to torture. She unpacks Leon Panetta's statement here. Meanwhile, one of her latest, "A Dick Cheney Torture Trifecta!" covers Judith Miller and Stephen Hayes claiming (as Emptywheel puts it) "Pelosi's in trouble because Dick Cheney tortured." She also dissects Victoria Toensing's latest hackdom – continuing a fine torture apologist tradition, Toensing just ignores central pieces of evidence.

Tbogg also has a good take, in "Nancy Pelosi is the new Lynndie England":

Due to "process" reporting we have learned that the Torture Years were not the responsibility of the Administration who demanded them, the legal counsel who found legal justification for them, the medical personnel who stood by and watched, the media talking heads who justified torture based upon a TV show, or the actual torturers who unquestioningly did the dirty work.

Now the Village elders have decided that Nancy Pelosi is a witch who turned us into awful people and by burning her we will be made whole again.

Digby has more in "Who's Afraid Of The Big Bad GOP?" capturing David Brooks wanking away about how awful Pelosi is. Jim Webb is a big disappointment, and David Gregory apparently doesn't just oppose prosecutions – he doesn't want any investigation, either. Pretending this is somehow a bipartisan scandal is his angle now. Of course, most people pushing for a full investigation don't give a damn about protecting Pelosi, they just want the truth – if she was negligent, all the better that it comes out. Desiring the truth and accountability on torture is not a partisan issue, and should not be.

There's more on this, including Media Matters' "Media let GOP change the subject in torture debate" and "The right's tortured shell game." DougJ at Balloon Juice also has a good post.

The GOP are howling for Pelosi's head, despite the facts being against them on this rather minor matter, and a mountain of damning evidence towering over them on the overall story, since their party authorized torture and mostly said nothing about it - or defended it. Most of the press wants its news cycle story – Pelosi and CIA conflict! – and has its conclusion in place – there should be no investigations into torture. The obvious news story would be, hey, GOP, why are you going rabid over this when a) you're wrong, and b) you never made anywhere near this big a stink over much bigger crimes by your own leaders? Why do you suddenly love the CIA when you've trashed them so often before? Aren't you big, stinking hypocrites trying to hide the truth and avoid all accountability? Why should we believe you?

Then there's the CIA angle – hey, CIA, why did you do something illegal? Why do you claim you briefed Pelosi about this, when Bob Graham (who's damn reliable on this) contradicts you? Even if what you said was correct, you'd be telling Pelosi months after you started torturing people. Why did you tell her so late? Oh, and why were you torturing people? Why did you destroy those torture tapes when you were told not to? Why should we believe you?

The Democratic leadership should take a lesson from the GOP and actually push for impeachment when it's clearly warranted, since the GOP will demand resignations over stupid things and the press generally will not call them on it. Meanwhile, the civically-minded should use this sideshow to push for a full investigation into the torture regime and all human rights abuses. David Gregory and others in the Beltway don't want that to happen, and just don't want to do the work to prevent the actual abuses from happening again. Morality and the law require that we ruin David Gregory's day.

(Cross-posted at The Blue Herald)

Friday, May 15, 2009

Torture Versus Freedom

(WWII-era poster on torture.)

(There are times I feel like a broken record on torture and human rights abuses. This is something of a recap post borrowing somewhat from earlier pieces.)

Defending torture insistently means one's moral compass is pointing straight down to hell. I continue to believe it's essential to confront the dangerous and evil lie that torture "works" and that we're all going to die if we respect human rights, follow the law, or dare to investigate - let alone prosecute - the people responsible for these horribly shameful and criminal policies. However, as many have noted, that we are "debating" torture's usefulness at all means we've failed somehow as a society. As Scott Horton quipped in December 2008, "Perhaps for Christmas proper we’ll be treated to arguments for and against genocide, and on the fourth day of Christmas we’ll read the arguments for and against the practice of infanticide."

While specific false claims about torture and the Bush administration's conduct should be challenged, it's especially important to emphasize torture's immorality and its clear illegality. Torture is the very antithesis of freedom. The key dynamics are not truth, security or patriotism. They are power, dehumanization and sadism. As Rear Admiral John Hutson observed, "torture is the method of choice of the lazy, the stupid and the pseudo-tough." When someone is tortured, it means that someone else in a position of power over the victim has deliberately chosen to inflict significant pain and suffering on a fellow human being. Torture spreads and corrupts in a democracy. Not only do torturers often not recognize the truth even when it's told to them, sometimes the torturers get so carried away they don't "even bother to ask questions" and "torture becomes an end unto itself." As Soviet-era torture victim Vladimir Bukovsky put it, "Why run the risk of unleashing a fury that even Stalin had problems controlling?" He also explains how, after several days of torture, "neither the doctor nor those guards could ever look me in the eye again." (See also The Lucifer Effect.)

These abuses have often resulted in permanent or serious physical and psychological damage (although torturers often prefer methods that hide the abuse they've inflicted). Torture is assault of the most cruel variety, robbing the victim of the sanctity of his or her own body, but also his or her very mind and soul. These are not actions to weigh lightly, tactics to endorse or excuse cavalierly, nor damages to forgive quickly before we even know precisely what was done. It's hard to imagine a more clear moral line.

Torture is (1) immoral, (2) illegal, (3) endangers us (especially American troops in the Middle East), and (4) doesn't "work" – unless one wants to inflict pain, terrorize the populace, produce bogus intelligence or elicit false confessions. It's not that torture never produces a true statement, but at best, torture "works" much the same way amputation "cures" all hand ailments. (That's still probably far too generous.) Experienced interrogators know that torture is unreliable and counterproductive in addition to being cruel and illegal. For obtaining reliable information, more humane, rapport-building techniques are far more effective. Furthermore, as John Sifton has pointed out, intel from prisoners typically grows "stale" quickly, and "if you’re relying on interrogations for intelligence, you’re already on the back foot. You’ve already lost the war, so to speak." Regardless, a skilled, experienced interrogator pursuing accurate information would not be approaching a prisoner asking, "How much pain can I legally inflict?" That is a self-defeating, dangerous path that leads all too easily to becoming "the enemies of all humankind."

Almost every excuse from Bush officials and their allies fits somewhere in the following pattern of descending denials: We did not torture; waterboarding is not torture; even if it is torture, it was legal; even if it was illegal, it was necessary; even if it was unnecessary, it was not our fault. Almost every new document and piece of information has exposed lies, deception and crippling inconsistencies in their self-ennobling but accountability-denying tale. The existing evidence does not support a "good faith" defense, but even if it did, an investigation would still be required by law. Anti-torture laws exist in large part to protect all of us from men and women so certain of their own righteousness or need that they torture others (normally until the tortured person says exactly what they want to hear - apparently, precisely what happened here). The "debate" on torture and specific abusive techniques are stalling tactics by torture proponents and apologists, who consistently favor fantasy over reality in their arguments, and want to prevent a full investigation or trial. They will discuss Jack Bauer and hypothetical ticking time bombs endlessly, but not Maher Arar or Binyam Mohamed (among many others). They typically ignore altogether such damning, central evidence as the Red Cross report, which stated authoritatively and unequivocally that prisoners in U.S. custody were tortured. Their specific denials shift depending on their audience, but they almost always ignore that for years we have tortured, abused and imprisoned innocent people. It's much easier to abuse people or justify their abuse, of course, if they're all viewed as guilty, dangerous, alien or subhuman. These practices have often resulted in significant, lasting physical and psychological damage - and even death. (That's not to mention their central role in selling the war in Iraq and the consequences of that.) Ignoring or outright lying about this level of cruelty and abuse embodies the banality and audacity of evil.

The general public has been horribly served by the press on these matters. Some reporters, organizations and blogs have covered these issues superbly. But major outlets such as The New York Times have chosen to use euphemisms for torture and have played the gutless and dishonest false equivalency game of he said-she said. They've routinely withheld the crucial context that America has prosecuted the same abuses in the past. (Meanwhile, America's covert operations have committed and taught similar abuses in the past as well, hardly in line with our best moments or stated ideals.)

Opposition to torture should not be a partisan issue, and it isn't. Liberals, moderates and rule-of-law conservatives, including many military lawyers, have spoken out against torture, abuse and the stripping away of legal rights. (Some more partisan conservatives opposed prisoner abuses until they realized how far up the authorization went.) Yet as Glenn Greenwald has shown, most Beltway pundits (and sometimes all pundits on a given show) oppose prosecutions and often even a full investigation.

It's maddening, as is too much of the mainstream torture "debate," because as Will Bunch asserts, "Torture is not about "winning the afternoon"" – we are discussing clearly illegal war crimes with serious consequences. Yet torture apologists are routinely granted respectability and their false and misleading claims often go unchallenged. Somehow, on the Beltway circuit, it would be rude – and perhaps too much work - to fact-check and refute them. Somehow, it's a radical notion to point out that torture is illegal and that legal statutes require that credible allegations of torture be investigated. Somehow, revealing the truth, or – heaven forbid – prosecuting a member of their Beltway class would be horribly "divisive," yet refusing to do so and asserting that the law doesn't apply to some people somehow isn't divisive. Torture apologists typically avoid any mention of the key legal statutes and major reports and articles on torture, and far too many pundits feel similarly entitled to ignore key evidence in the public record (and sometimes ignore their own op-eds). Instead, we get the characteristic and grandiloquent ravings of Peggy Noonan, claiming that "Some things in life need to be mysterious… Sometimes you need to just keep walking." In Beltway morality, torturing someone is fine - or at least debatable among civilized folk - but it's terribly, horribly rude and offensive to call someone a torturer, or to accurately describe what was done as torture, or even to acknowledge that anything at all took place. War crimes are just too contentious, an understandable indiscretion by gentlemen, or a mystery that passeth all understanding.

Most prominent torture apologists are not arguing in good faith, and virtually every pro-torture argument has been debunked countless times, including the infamous ticking time bomb scenario. Specific pro-torture arguments come in and out of fashion, but the most popular two currently are the counterfactual claims that we didn't torture anyone (David Rivkin, Liz Cheney) and that torture (or "enhanced interrogation techniques") saved lives (Dick Cheney, John Boehner, many talk show hosts). A few, such as Lindsay Graham, are "trying to find a narrow ground from which [to] condemn torture, yet prevent anyone from being held accountable for torture." (Trying to spread partisan blame is also popular, although it may eventually backfire.) Liz Cheney has attempted a particularly brazen tact favored by some torture apologists (including her mother) - denying that torture is torture while waving the flag and trying to shame her challengers. Liz Cheney told Norah O'Donnell that it "does a fundamental disservice to those professionals who are conducting this very effective program and to those people who approved the program in order to keep this nation safe and prevent attacks through the program to call it torture."

This would surely come as news to the many professionals, past and present, who have spoken out against these abuses. It'd be an astounding revelation to those who suffered the consequences of those policies, from those prisoners who were tortured and killed, to the American troops attacked, injured and killed, to the families and friends of both groups. As decorated military interrogator Matthew Alexander puts it:

There are valid reasons why we haven’t had enough with “torture sanctimony,” as Christopher Buckley puts it in an article in The Daily Beast, and let me start with the most important—it’s going to cost us future American lives in addition to the ones we’ve already lost.

Our policy of torture and abuse of prisoners has been Al Qaida’s number one recruiting tool, a point that Buckley does not mention and is also conspicuously absent from former CIA Director General Michael Hayden and former Attorney General Michael Mukasey’s argument in the Wall Street Journal. As the senior interrogator in Iraq for a task force charged with hunting down Abu Musab Al Zarqawi, the former Al Qaida leader and mass murderer, I listened time and time again to captured foreign fighters cite the torture and abuse at Abu Ghraib and Guantanamo as their main reason for coming to Iraq to fight. Consider that 90 percent of the suicide bombers in Iraq are these foreign fighters and you can easily conclude that we have lost hundreds, if not thousands, of American lives because of our policy of torture and abuse. But that’s only the past...

Former officials who say that we prevented terrorist attacks by waterboarding Khalid Sheikh Muhammad or Abu Zubaydah are possibly intentionally ignorant of the fact that their actions cost us American lives. And let’s not forget the glaring failure in these cases. Torture never convinced either of these men to sell out Osama Bin Laden.

These policies have been extremely harmful, and additionally, the various defenses for these abuses just don't hold up to scrutiny. As DDay noted on sleep deprivation, "a technique that takes 11 days to break a prisoner is most definitely NOT a technique used in reaction to an imminent plot, particularly not a ticking time bomb scenario." ("Break" in this context would almost certainly amount to the prisoner submitting to his captors' power, not necessarily providing accurate intel, even though the pro-torture crowd often mistakenly or intentionally conflates the two.) Emptywheel was the first to observe, "according to the May 30, 2005 Bradbury memo, Khalid Sheikh Mohammed was waterboarded 183 times in March 2003 and Abu Zubaydah was waterboarded 83 times in August 2002." As John Cole commented, "There better be a pretty damned long fuse on that ticking time bomb. And yes, this is nothing but pure sadism."

The more pieces we add to the torture narrative, the worse it looks. Each report, each new contradiction to the standard Bush administration version of events, further exposes the dishonesty of the torture apologists and the indefensibility of the actual perpetrators' actions. That trend looks to continue. Torture apologists want to muddy the waters to confuse the public, and frame the "debate" to prevent the most glaring questions from being asked: "What exactly was done, and who authorized it? What is the timeline? How can we best uncover the truth? Are members of the Bush administration guilty of war crimes? If so, how can they be brought to justice, and what should their punishment be?" More than anything, they want to avoid any questions about the role selling the Iraq War played in pushing torture. It's understandable why Liz Cheney would try to gloss over the starring part her father played in that diabolical plot, but it's hard not to share Dan Froomkin's amazement - why has the press been so silent on such explosive revelations?

Arguments that we shouldn't prosecute because of the public's own complicity are silly, misleading and self-serving, especially given the quality of the coverage, but even more importantly because of the law. Roughly half of the public supports investigations, although the numbers fluctuate, especially when polls use poor and misleading questions. As Dan Froomkin observes:

To me, these poll results demonstrate the genius of the Cheney strategy, which is to keep the argument limited to what happened at the black sites, which have an aura of "24" to them. The torture there was still inexcusable, but I guess forgiveable to many.

I doubt they would feel the same way if they were shown proof of a direct relationship between Bush policy and not just the torture of "high value" detainees, but also the vile abuse of garden-variety suspects at Guantanamo and Bagram, and of mostly innocent Iraqis at Abu Ghraib.

Has Dick Cheney told the truth or been accurate about anything of consequence at this point? Is there some reason to let him dictate the "debate" or take anything he says at face value, unverified, even when a mountain of evidence calls him out as delusional or a self-serving liar? (Or is basic journalism just too "impolite"?) These abuses were not isolated incidents, nor the result of a few bad apples. People were tortured and sometimes killed as a direct result of widespread, deliberate policies of abuse dictated from the very top. There is no serious dispute on this. The media haven't done a good job of making all this clear and pushing back against the liars who claim otherwise. And as Matthew Alexander puts it, "The American public has a right to know that they do not have to choose between torture and terror." The media as a whole have not helped spread the word about that, either.

We need a full investigation – and one without immunity handed out beforehand. We need as much disclosure as possible. For all the recent bluster from torture apologists urging the release of documents, the smarter among them only want cherry-picked releases and not the full picture. They want to prevent a trial at all costs. That's why it's essential to call Cheney's bluff on the document and investigation front. Surely, if these people are right, a full investigation and disclosure will exonerate them. Surely it's the only way they will be vindicated. That's the political gamesmanship, but the law itself is quite clear. The proper place for Bush officials to be offering their defenses is under oath, as part of a full and thorough investigation and/or on trial. An investigation is what's required by law given the clearly credible allegations of torture, and Bush officials could offer all their shifting defenses and "evidence" there. There is absolutely no good reason to believe the same or similar abuses won't happen again if we don't look at what happened. As retired Major General Antonio Taguba states, "There is no longer any doubt as to whether the current administration has committed war crimes. The only question that remains to be answered is whether those who ordered the use of torture will be held to account."

This is not a game. These torture "debates" should not be thought experiments divorced from objective reality, history, the known timeline and the very real and deadly consequences of these policies. It's one thing for members of the general public to be confused or not be up to date on the general timeline and key details, or be swayed by fantastical ticking time bomb scenarios. It's one thing for the bloodthirsty chickenhawks who assume every Muslim or Arab prisoner is a guilty terrorist to indulge in their ignorant, self-flattering Jack Bauer fantasies of living in the "real world" of tough decisions. It's inexcusable that so many members of the media still - still - know and/or report these matters so poorly. We deserve and need better. It's not hyperbole to say that people are dead because of these policies. Given what we already know, how can we turn away? This is not a game to those who were tortured, nor to the families and friends of those tortured, abused, maimed and killed. It is not a game to human rights activists trying to end abuses around the world. It's not a game to the JAGs and other lawyers trying to ensure fair trials and treatment for their clients, guilty and innocent alike. Contrary to the grotesque bullying tactics, shameless lies or colossal self-deception of the Cheney family and their kind, it's not a game to the American and coalition troops attacked, injured, maimed or killed as a result of arrogant, feckless leadership and reckless, unconscionable and evil policies.

We have failed as a nation in allowing torture. We will fail again if we don't learn the full story and prosecute where appropriate as many of the guilty as possible. The perpetrators and their allies say they've done nothing wrong, so why would they stop should they re-gain (or maintain) power? The specific abuses of power may change, but the pattern of abuse will not. There's a direct line from Watergate through Iran-Contra to the Bush administration's abuses. As the recently-released Senate report shows, there's also a direct connection from trying to sell an unnecessary war with Iraq to torturing prisoners to make them "confess" to a non-existent Iraq-al Qaeda/9-11 link. And it's not as if no one ever warned the Bush administration that they shouldn't be doing this. As Cheney aide David Addington said (in the context of warrantless wiretapping and executive power), "We're going to push and push and push until some larger force makes us stop." That larger force clearly will not be conscience. And David Broder and his lazy, gutless, dishonest and addled ilk will not speak out for human rights or democracy any more than they opposed a war of choice or admitted their own culpability in that. It's up to the citizenry. We need to push for a full investigation, as much disclosure as possible, and prosecutions where appropriate. Torture is immoral and illegal. The road to hell may be paved with good intentions, but there's more than one road, and the price of doing nothing is just too damn high. It's a radical stance to be sure, but: Let the truth come out, and justice be done.

("Inferno Canto XXI (The Lawyers)" by Michael Mazur.)

Further Resources

Many other sites have produced superb pieces on these issues. I've tried to link a number of them above, and in previous posts. However, Emptywheel has a superb torture timeline with links, and a shorter piece rounding up the most recently-released documents, including the Red Cross and Senate reports on the torture and abuse of prisoners, and the Bush administration torture memos.

My most extensive posts to date on the subject are (the very lengthy) "Torture Watch 2/19/08" and "Rivkin's Protean Logic on Torture."

I would recommend (although I've linked some of these above):

The Dark Side (July 2008) by Jane Mayer. Dan Froomkin provides a good overview of it, and some of Mayer's related pieces can be read online: "The Memo," "The Hidden Power," "Whatever It Takes" and "The Black Sites."

Torture Team: Rumsfeld's Memo and the Betrayal of American Values (May 2008) by Philippe Sands. "The Green Light" by Sands covers many of the highlights.

Angler: The Cheney Vice Presidency (September 2008) by Barton Gellman gives one of the best overall accounts of how the Bush administration worked. Excerpts are here and here.

The One Percent Doctrine: Deep Inside America's Pursuit of Its Enemies Since 9/11 (June 2006) by Ron Suskind. (I have an older post covering the Abu Zubaydah material here.)

Torturing Democracy - the full documentary can be viewed online. (PBS chose not to air it before the end of the Bush administration, probably due to external pressure.)

Frontline - many good episodes relate to the Bush administration, but "The Dark Side," "Cheney's Law" and "Bush's War" are the most relevant, and can all be viewed online.

Taxi to the Dark Side is an Oscar-winning documentary about a Afghan cabdriver arrested, tortured and killed by American troops.

Mark Danner wrote two key pieces in the New York Review of Books in April 2009, "US Torture: Voices from the Black Sites" and "The Red Cross Torture Report: What It Means." The first piece lead to the release of the Red Cross report.

"Torture's Long Shadow" (12/18/05) by Vladimir Bukovsky, a victim of torture during the Soviet era.

"It's Our Cage, Too" (5/17/07) by Charles C. Krulak and Joseph P. Hoar, who write that "torture betrays us and breeds new enemies." ("Charles C. Krulak was commandant of the Marine Corps from 1995 to 1999. Joseph P. Hoar was commander in chief of U.S. Central Command from 1991 to 1994.")

"The General's Report" (June 2007) by Seymour Hersh on Army Major General Antonio Taguba and his attempts to report on the abuses at Abu Ghraib. (The sidebar links several other related Hersh stories.)

"Rorschach and Awe" (June 2007) by Katherine Eban, on torture psychologists James Mitchell and Bruce Jessen. This April 2009 Democracy Now episode features Eban, and is a good overview of the subject.

"Waterboarding is Torture... Period" (10/31/07) by Malcolm Nance, a former SERE instructor.

"Why It Was Called 'Water Torture'" (2/10/08) by Richard E. Mezo.

"Tortured Reasoning" (December 2008) by David Rose for Vanity Fair, focusing on false claims of torture "working" on specific prisoners.

"I'm Still Tortured by What I Saw in Iraq" (11/30/08) by Matthew Alexander (a pseudonym), an American interrogator. He is also the author of How to Break a Terrorist: The U.S. Interrogators Who Used Brains, Not Brutality, to Take Down the Deadliest Man in Iraq. (I've linked several of his appearances above and in previous posts.)

"My Tortured Decision" (4/22/09) by Ali Soufan, an FBI interrogator who questioned Abu Zubaydah, and confirmed and fleshed out earlier accounts. Crucially, any actionable intelligence was obtained before Abu Zubaydah was tortured.

"Drop By Drop: Forgetting the History of Water Torture in U.S. Courts" (PDF, 2006) by Evan Wallach, a "federal judge and former judge advocate general" for The Columbia Journal of Transnational Law.

"Waterboarding is Illegal" (5/10/08) by Wilson R. Huhn, Washington University Law Review.

The Lucifer Effect by Philip Zimbardo, on the Stanford prison experiment and related issues of power and abuse. Zimbardo's site links a number of his appearances, including this Fresh Air interview.

Torture and Democracy (November 2007) by Darius Rejali. One of the most comprehensive books on the subject. Here's Rejali with Scott Horton.

I could easily keep going, and feel free to pass on any recommendations in the comments. Other posts have and will continue to take on specific torture apologist arguments. In the future, I may try to put together a torture primer of some sort, covering most of the arguments we've seen. But the most important task now is to push for a full investigation.

(Edited for clarity, and a few sentences and links added to paragraph 5 of the piece proper. It was a late night.)

Update 5/16/09: In comments, johnsturgeon and Nell of A Lovely Promise have recommended and linked the work of Alfred McCoy, a history professor at the University of Wisconsin-Madison.

His key book is A Question of Torture: CIA Interrogation, from the Cold War to the War on Terror (December 2006). As Nell notes, a limited preview is available through Google Books. She adds that "McCoy's book is an essential part of any torture 'syllabus'. He brings out the multi-decade, systematic research by the CIA into psychological torture, the torture paradigm that resulted, and the lasting damage that it produces on those subjected to it."

Here's some other McCoy links:

"Cruel Science: The Long Shadow of CIA Torture Research" (5/29/04).

"The Hidden History of CIA Torture: America's Road to Abu Ghraib" (9/9/04).

"Why the McCain Torture Ban Won't Work: The Bush Legacy of Legalized Torture" (2/8/06).

Democracy Now: "Professor McCoy Exposes the History of CIA Interrogation, From the Cold War to the War on Terror" (2/17/06).

Democracy Now: "Historian Alfred McCoy: Obama Reluctance on Bush Prosecutions Affirms Culture of Impunity" (5/1/09).

"A Short History of Psychological Terror" (February 2008) is an hour-long lecture by McCoy on YouTube.

Thanks again for the recommendations. At least a half-dozen sites cover the latest factual revelations and political gambits on torture diligently (VS is not a breaking news site), and it seems most readers have at least one good source. I don't know about anybody else, but I read "we fight to build a free world" as both a rebuke and an inspiration. Thanks to everyone who's keeping the pressure up on these issues.

Update 5/19/09: Marcy Wheeler (Emptywheel) has a great article for Salon, "The 13 people who made torture possible," which serves as a good introduction or refresher on the key players and the basic timeline.

(Cross-posted at The Blue Herald)