Wednesday, April 02, 2008

Douglas Feith Paraphrased: Abe Lincoln Sides With A**holes, To Put It Crudely

Those interested in the hideous torture regime instituted by the Bush administration have been flooded with reams of information the last couple of days. (Glenn Greenwald, as can be expected, offers a stellar treatise on the Yoo memo, in which Greenwald concludes that Yoo and others who facilitated torture at the highest levels are guilty of war crimes.)

The extensive article in today's Vanity Fair titled The Green Light is simply a must read. Philippe Sands has exhaustively detailed the progression which led to the first policy explicitly authorizing the use of torture by the military of the United States of America. I realize full well that the previous American record is spotty at best, and there have been many instances of clandestine initiatives which crossed the line, but we have always held the official position that torturing captives was repugnant and would not be tolerated. Thanks to the Bush administration, we now have the first time in our nation's history that a President has ever attempted to give a legal justification for a regime of institutionalized torture.

Among those interviewed by Sands for the article was former Undersecretary of Defense Douglas Feith. Feith was 3rd in the Pentagon's chain of command, immediately under Donald Rumsefeld and Paul Wolfowitz. Feith comes across as matter-of-fact and unapologetic for the role he played in this sorry affair.

During the interview Sands asked Feith if he felt that abrogating the Geneva Conventions served to diminish America's moral authority around the world. Let me forewarn certain readers (like my in-laws) that Feith's response contains a bit of profanity. "'The problem with moral authority,' [Feith] said, was 'people who should know better, like yourself, siding with the assholes, to put it crudely.'"

Let me state for the record that I am freaking defiantly proud that Douglas Feith would consider me to be siding with a-holes if he were to ever meet me or read this blog. I am honored to join the cheeky ranks of a-hole siders like Colin Powell, George Washington, and just about every military officer and JAG who has expressed an opinion on torture.

Frankly I consider Feith to be on the side of a-holes for his role in trying to provide legalisms and shoddy logic in an effort to defy over 230 years of American tradition on the issue of torture. I'll even go one better and state that Doug Feith doesn't just side with a-holes, he is one himself. Here is proof positive of Feiths a-holiness:
Feith, for his part, had told me that he knew nothing about any specific interrogation issues until the Haynes Memo suddenly landed on his desk. But that couldn’t be right—in the memo itself Haynes had written, “I have discussed this with the Deputy, Doug Feith and General Myers.” I read the sentence aloud. Feith looked at me. His only response was to tell me that I had mispronounced his name. “It’s Fythe,” he said. “Not Faith.”
Great comeback, Mr. Faith. From labeling Sands and those concerned about America's moral standing as on the side of a-holes to becoming unresponsive when busted in an obvious lie, it is painfully evident that the Feith/Sands interview was a bit of a train wreck.

Sands writes about a trip to Guantanamo Bay taken by the highest level lawyers for the administration on September 25. The result of that trip was a memo which specified 18 techniques which were authorized for use at GITMO:
The list was set out in a three-page memorandum from Lieutenant Colonel Jerald Phifer, dated October 11 and addressed to Dunlavey.

The Phifer Memo identified the problem: “current guidelines” prohibited the use of “physical or mental torture, threats, insults, or exposure to inhumane treatment as a means of or aid to interrogation.” The prohibition dated back to 1863 and a general order issued by Abraham Lincoln.

The list of new interrogation techniques turned its back on this tradition.
Just think about the national emergency which Abraham Lincoln presided over and then the emergency presented to President Bush on 9/11. Let me make this clear up front: In no way am I trying to diminish the horrible nature of the terrorist attacks. 9/11 was indeed a disastrous emergency, which absolutely was among the worst presented to any President. But on the scales of threat to the very existence of the nation, there is only one other event which I would place over the Civil War. That singular threat was the Revolutionary War, and in both cases Lincoln and Washington clearly stated that inhumane treatment of prisoners was not acceptable.

Lincoln guided the nation through a trial of bloodletting and cataclysm with more than a few days of death dealt on a greater scale than 9/11. He was agonized by repeated defeats, and the war aged him terribly. He mourned the dead and sacrificed his health, while upholding a prohibition on the inhumane treatment of prisoners. It is that American heritage and tradition which this administration turned away from following 9/11.

Indeed, my assessment that 9/11 was not as critical a threat to America as the Civil or Revolutionary wars may be wrong, simply because our nation's leadership has fundamentally altered what it once meant to be an American. Now people concerned about our moral standing in the world are a-holes as defined by the very people responsible for getting us to this point in the game.

Finally I must note one other part of the Sands article which begs for comment:
Ideas [for techniques to use in interrogations] arose from other sources. The first year of Fox TV’s dramatic series 24 came to a conclusion in spring 2002, and the second year of the series began that fall. An inescapable message of the program is that torture works. “We saw it on cable,” Beaver recalled. “People had already seen the first series. It was hugely popular.” Jack Bauer had many friends at Guantánamo, Beaver added. “He gave people lots of ideas.”
Our national honor has been stained by torture, and a freaking TV series is part of the problem here? You have GOT to be KIDDING me!! It is nearly beyond comprehension from my perspective. I'm really at a loss for words here. A fictional character on a TV series guiding interrogators. Pathetic! Well done, President Bush, you have managed to replace the principles of Abraham Lincoln and George Washington with those of a fictional television character. This must be the handiwork of The. Worst. President. Ever.

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