Colbert, Torture, Responsibility, Banks, and String

By Stormy

Last night, April 21, 2009, Colbert brilliant summarized the issue of responsibility for torture. In three sentences and with impeccable logic, Colbert said it all.

To paraphrase:

  1. We cannot hold those who did the torture because they were simply following orders.
  2. We cannot hold those who allowed and directed the policy because did not know what they were doing.
  3. The only people who will be made to suffer for those horrendous acts are those who did the screaming.

President Obama has covered the first point.

The second point is now being established in an article in today’s New York Times.

With little debate and less understanding,

top U.S. officials involved in the adoption of brutal interrogation methods did not investigate the origins of the techniques they approved…

In short, they were stupid, uninformed. No one, apparently, either in the administration or in the Senate and House Intelligence Committees had any inkling of the origins of the program upon which we were embarking.

This extraordinary consensus was possible, an examination by The New York Times shows, largely because no one involved — not the top two C.I.A. officials who were pushing the program, not the senior aides to President George W. Bush not the leaders of the Senate and House Intelligence Committees — investigated the gruesome origins of the techniques they were approving with little debate.

Well, you might reply, did they have to know the history of torture to act responsibly?

I, too, found this kind approach a bit strange. The logic seems to be that if they were not historically up to snuff, then clearly they are innocent. With their busy schedules, they never had the opportunity to visit the Pol Pot museum in Cambodia where waterboarding was on display.

Closer to home, they did not realize that waterboarding had been prosecuted by the United States after World War II.

The process was “a perfect storm of ignorance and enthusiasm,” a former C.I.A. official said.

Such innocence–such eager babes in the woods. And, of course, they were totally misled by evil psychiatrists, particularly one James E. Mitchell.

Dr. Mitchell, who declined to comment for this article, became a persuasive player in high-level agency discussions about the best way to interrogate Qaeda prisoners. Eventually, along with another former SERE psychologist, Bruce Jessen, Dr. Mitchell helped persuade C.I.A. officials that Qaeda members were fundamentally different from the myriad personalities the agency routinely dealt with.

Ah, yes, we now have personalities fundamentally different, personalities that demand new, harsher techniques, like those Pol Pot used, or those the Spanish Inquisition used, or those the Nazi’s used. We now cozily nested in a grand historic tradition.
And how does this remarkable argument conclude?

Ms. Divoll, who now teaches government at the United States Naval Academy, said the interrogation issue revealed the perils of such restricted briefings.
“The very programs that are among the most risky and controversial, and that therefore should get the greatest congressional oversight,” she said, “in fact get the least.”

So there you have it; problem solved: No oversight. Ignorance and cruelty find their last refuge: No oversight, no one responsible.

Move on folks, not much more to talk about.

Of course there is the banking problem. Oops, no oversight there either. You and I are the ones do the screaming on this one.

I wonder if this argument is running out of string?

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