And a sinister midget, with a bucket and a mop, where the blood goes down the drain....
And it stinks so bad, his bones been chokin', and weepin' greenish drops.
In the night of the iron sausage, where the torture never stops. -- Frank Zappa
There will come a point in time, not too distant in the future I believe, when we will look back at Bush's righteous petulance over the peons daring to question his divinely-gifted wisdom, and perhaps mark a turning point when the idea of the American government torturing prisoners and spying on its citizens lost some of the Jack Bauer bad-boy frisson. The transcript doesn't quite give the full flavor of the seething anger and emanating from the (literally) bully pulpit, as an increasingly impotent unitary executive starts to feel all that accumulated power slipping, and he squirms under the questioning of David Gregory, of all people:
Actually, the bottom line here is that this is all just a bunch of ex post facto ass-covering for what's been going on for several years, and Bush can't handle that some of his heretofore favorite sock puppets are at least appearing to stray off the reservation.
This is actually an interesting dilemma, for a hardwired skeptic such as myself. On the one hand, it smells like a group head-fake to convince fence-sitters down the homestretch that Republicans are just as squeamish about torture as you are, but gosh, there's just no other possible options available in the universe, and we don't need no stinking FISA oversight on our wiretaps either. On the other hand, Bush has been getting pummeled for the last year straight, and even in good times, he'd always rather throw a minion under the bus than take a political hit himself. You wanna talk about character, that's very clearly his character.
So I guess I'm cautiously "optimistic" about this, that there's a slightly better chance that McCain et al are sincere in their public dissent, than that they're all in cahoots to set Junior up for some magnanimous October gesture where he takes the idea and assumes ownership of it.
And hey, kudos to the Democrats for sitting back and allowing the renegade Republicans take the lead on this issue. Way to step up on issues of principle.
Bush has made Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, the reputed operations planner of the 9/11 attacks, his central argument in being able to utilize extreme coercive efforts. But as Jeff Wells points out, there's a story behind that as well [emphases in original, and there are many more links in this excerpt and throughout Jeff's post, so check it out]:
Remember all the intel info we kept hearing in the aftermath of 9/11, how interagency squabbles, a lack of agents and contacts in the field, and an abundance of leads yet a serious shortage of qualified analysis to sort them all led to the massive failure of our $40+bn/year intelligence apparatus? Well, it seems another part of the puzzle is that we were relying on the ISI for some of our intel as well, and they have been playing both sides the whole time. They were enabling the Taliban to gain prominence in Afghanistan, and are still probably at least aware of bin Laden's whereabouts, and it was criminally underreported in the American media that ISI General Mahmoud Ahmad, who was later found to have wired $100K to Mohammed Atta, breakfasted with Porter Goss (you know, the guy who later appointed DCI to clean house) and Bob Graham on the morning of September 11, 2001.
And as Jeff mentions, the account of Khalid's arrest was rife with suspicious inconsistencies.
I'm sure this sounds like Conspiracy Guy boilerplate, but too bad. The immense secrecy and lack of oversight this administration has deliberately and systematically engendered just fuels the fires of reasonable speculation.
The fact is, Bush is the one that keeps bringing up Khalid as of late. And I humbly suggest a very simple way to put an end as to whether this reasonable speculation is just unfair conspiracy-mongering, or if there's more to it. The next time Bush brings him up -- and he will, he's Pavlovian in his utter predictability -- just ask him, "So where's Khalid now?". It can't be any huge state secret if he's warming a cot at Gitmo, waiting for his military tribunal and charges that may never come. But who knows, he may also have been beaten with a flashlight and chained to a ceiling in some dank Afghan dungeon, left to die like a dog and used as some sort of cheap intel totem. It's not like it hasn't happened before, and it's not like these people ever voluntarily admit that they might be wrong about something.
Too-clever-by-half false equivalencies just won't fly anymore. This is not about whether the Nazis or Imperial Japan openly flouted the Geneva Conventions. One expects such behavior from the brutal regimes that brought us concentration camps and Unit 731. The fact is that it's never been about them, but about us, and all the cheap elisions won't change that. I understand the impulse, but even if one were to give in to such things, at this point, knowing what we know about the people running this country, how could we ever trust such enormous power to them without any oversight whatsoever. There's no reason for them to insist on evading FISA, yet they do. And despite their protests and vague allusions to the utility of torturing prisoners who still have never even been charged, all the academic data militates otherwise. It doesn't work, and it brings us slowly, inexorably down to the level of the people we keep insisting we're better than.
And the more Bush flails and froths at being challenged, the more clear it becomes that he should not be trusted with much of anything, but especially not life-or-death powers with no oversight and no accountability. It would be something if the self-proclaimed Party O' Personal Responsibility would grow a pair and address that question at long last. Because this is really the last best chance for a heretofore shamelessly complaisant Congress to reassert itself, and reiterate proper separation of powers. Overall, this is really just another attempt to establish a unitary executive branch, a president with practically monarchic powers, and it's long past time for the people's representatives, the legislative branch, to get off their knees and start fighting back.