Thursday, May 8, 2008

Torture Subpoenas: Will Administration Officials Testify? And Will It Matter?

Like the spin on everything else the Bush administration tries to hide, the spin on torture is endless and multi-layered. And everybody's buying it, or at least some of it -- except possibly some ultra-radical terrorist-sympathizers.

Thomas Ferraro for Reuters, in "Cheney aide subpoenaed to testify to Congress", writes:
U.S. Vice President Dick Cheney's chief of staff was subpoenaed on Wednesday to testify in a congressional probe of the administration's treatment and possible [sic] torture of enemy combatants [sic].
Not just enemy combatants, of course, but all those classified as such, many of whom were neither enemy nor combatants. But there was no classification for "in the wrong place at the wrong time".

And there's no real need for the word "possible" here. The torture is well-established, admitted, boasted even -- but only in the "right" company, in the "right" political climate.
House of Representatives Judiciary Committee Chairman John Conyers, a Michigan Democrat, issued the subpoena to David Addington [photo] a day after it was authorized by a House panel.
John Conyers could have been a hero of American democracy but instead he decided to be a chump. This won't change anything. Just watch.
The administration contends its aides can not be forced to testify. But Addington has indicated he may do so if subpoenaed, congressional staffers said.

Megan Mitchell, spokeswoman for the vice president's office, said, "I can confirm that we have received the subpoena. We are reviewing it and will respond accordingly."
We already have a fairly good idea of what the vice president's office would consider to be a suitable response.
The subpoena orders Addington to appear on June 26 before the House Judiciary's subcommittee on the Constitution, Civil Rights and Civil Liberties, which is examining the administration's treatment of detainees.

Addington reportedly played a key role in drafting U.S. strategies to combat [sic] terrorism after [sic] the September 11 attacks [sic] on the United States.
Or maybe the strategy is to foment terrorism and maybe it was drafted well before the September 11 attacks. Or whatever they were.
Bush maintains the United States does not torture, but he has refused to discuss interrogation techniques, saying he does not want to tip off the enemy.
Bush has also refused to sign a bill passed by both houses of congress which would have banned torture. In effect the president says, "We don't torture ... but we can't stop because our national security depends on it!"
The CIA has acknowledged using a simulated [sic] drowning technique known as waterboarding on three terrorism suspects, but says it stopped using that method in 2003.
Waterboarding is not simulated drowning; it is drowning. When the victim is tied down and his lungs are filling up with water, there's nothing simulated about it.

It's stopped just before the victim dies, and it can be done again and again. But that doesn't make it any less cruel or any more justifiable.
Waterboarding has been condemned by human rights groups, foreign countries and many U.S. lawmakers as torture.
It has also been outlawed by treaties signed by and therefore binding on the United States of America. So it doesn't really matter what human rights groups, foreign countries and many U.S. lawmakers think or say; waterboarding would be illegal even if they all approved of it!
Former Attorney General John Ashcroft and John Yoo, a former deputy assistant attorney general, have agreed to testify before the Judiciary subcommittee.
That's very civil of them, but it's entirely possible that they may not have the last say in the matter.
Bush has invoked executive privilege in rejecting congressional subpoenas for a number of current and former aides, many sought in a probe of the firing in 2006 of nine federal prosecutors.

In March, the House Judiciary Committee filed suit in U.S. District Court asking it to direct White House Chief of Staff Josh Bolten to produce subpoenaed documents and order former White House counsel Harriet Miers to comply with a subpoena and testify about the ousted prosecutors.

A ruling is not expected for at least several months.
... by which time all the damage these clowns have done will be permanent.

Oh wait! It already is!

The spin is global and pervasive. China's Xinhua says, "U.S. House panel subpoenas former, present gov't officials on torture":
WASHINGTON, May 6 -- A U.S. House panel subpoenaed several former and present high-ranking Bush administration officials on Tuesday to testify on the issue of alleged torture [a little better] of terror [sic] detainees.
Some of the detainees were captured and sold for ransom. The Americans were offering huge bounties for terror suspects in late 2001, and Pakistan's president Pervez Musharraf wrote in his autobiography of receiving millions of dollars in exchange for detainees.
Among [the officials subpoenaed] are John Yoo, a former top Justice Department official who authored hugely controversial memos on interrogation techniques used on detainees, and Vice President Dick Cheney's chief-of-staff David Addington, who was heavily involved in preparing the memos.

Former Attorney General John Ashcroft, former Under Secretary of Defense Douglas Feith and former Assistant Attorney General Dan Levin also agreed to testify on the issue before the House Judiciary Committee's subcommittee on the Constitution, Civil Rights and Civil Liberties.

The subcommittee said former CIA Director George Tenet is still in negotiations for testimony.

Subcommittee chairman Jerrold Nadler said torture is "un-American and yet it has been used by this government against those in our custody and control."
Torture is certainly not un-American. Americans have been training torture teams (which they call security forces") -- and death squads -- for employment in foreign countries for decades. But the torture -- and the death squads -- have been "clandestine". In other words, it's considered un-American to admit these grotesque facts, much less to obsess about them.

Xinhua continues:
"Now we know that these so-called 'enhanced' interrogation techniques were approved at the highest levels of government. Torture and cruel, inhuman, or degrading treatment, besides being contrary to American values and traditions, have proven to be an ineffective means to obtaining actionable intelligence," [Nadler] added.
"Enhanced interrogation" is not about obtaining actionable intelligence. It's an instrument of oppression. But who's counting?

Malcolm Nance might be counting; he has an intimate knowledge of waterboarding and he's not afraid of saying what he knows. I doubt he would ever be asked to testify, but here's some of what he might say:

I know waterboarding is torture - because I did it myself
In the media, waterboarding is called "simulated drowning," but that's a misnomer. It does not simulate drowning, as the lungs are actually filling with water. There is no way to simulate that. The victim is drowning.

Unless you have been strapped down to the board, have endured the agonizing feeling of the water overpowering your gag reflex, and then feel your throat open and allow pint after pint of water to involuntarily fill your lungs, you will not know the meaning of the word.

How much of this the victim is to endure depends on the desired result (in the form of answers to questions shouted into the victim's face) and the obstinacy of the subject. A team doctor watches the quantity of water that is ingested and for the physiological signs that show when the drowning effect goes from painful psychological experience, to horrific suffocating punishment to the final death spiral.

Waterboarding is slow-motion suffocation with enough time to contemplate the inevitability of blackout and expiration. Usually the person goes into hysterics on the board. For the uninitiated, it is horrifying to watch. If it goes wrong, it can lead straight to terminal hypoxia - meaning, the loss of all oxygen to the cells.

The lack of physical scarring allows the victim to recover and be threatened with its use again and again. Call it "Chinese water torture," "the barrel," or "the waterfall." It is all the same.
Speaking of "all the same", Jim Freeman isn't counting on anything changing because of this sudden rash of subpoenas:
[T]he Democrats, including (but not limited to) Nancy Pelosi, Hillary Clinton, Henry Waxman, John Conyers, Hapless Harry, Chuck Schumer and [...] Patrick Leahy, are all in on this long and ugly list of impeachable offenses, some of them treasonable. They are co-conspirators.
Anybody feel like arguing with Jim Freeman on this one? The floor is yours, if you want it...