Dec 18 2009
Cross-posted at Daily Kos
Jacob Heilbrunn has a new essay up at the Huffington Post titled “Please, Cut Obama Some Slack.” It is Exhibit A in hero mythology of the President, as well as a prime example of chastising anyone — even progressives — who would dare criticize any of Obama’s policies.
A year ago, Barack Obama was a hero for Democrats. Now he’s becoming a villain. Have the Democrats lost their minds?
The tenebrous story is recounted by Dana Milbank in the Washington Post, who notes that some liberals are even starting to join forces with the tea party to decry Obama over the confirmation of Federal Reserve chairman Ben Bernanke. The decriers are also upset about Obama’s decision to send more troops to Afghanistan, the administration’s readiness to make concessions on health care, its failure to shutter Guantanamo, along with a host of other grievances.
Apparently, because some liberals have chosen not to regard President Obama as a “hero” and have begun to seriously question some of the policies of the Obama Administration, that qualifies Heilbrunn to assert that those same liberals have “lost their minds.” Heilbrunn doesn’t identify in his article who those allegedly insane Democrats are — though for the record, Dana Milbank does, naming liberal voices such as Howard Dean, Bernie Sanders, Nancy Pelosi, MoveOn.org, John Conyers, and Alan Grayson as the progressives who are supposedly “joining forces with the tea party,” to use Heilbrunn’s language.
Dec 17 2009
Last night on Hardball, when discussing why he was opposed to bringing Gitmo detainees over to a supermax prison in Thomson, Illinois, freshman Congressman Aaron Schock (R-IL) defended the use of waterboarding on detainees — with a slight twist.
Schock: “I would not limit our intelligence agencies’ ability to get information from people. If they have a ticking time-bomb or some critical piece of information that can save American lives, I don’t believe that we should limit waterboarding or quite frankly any other alternative torture technique, if it means saving Americans’ lives.”
For the moment, leaving aside Schock’s boilerplate right-wing justifications for why he believes waterboarding is a good thing, I will give him a small, small modicum of credit for admitting what Dick Cheney will not — that waterboarding does, in fact, constitute torture. I would even argue that Schock went one step further than even NPR, whose ombudsman Alicia Shepherd explicitly banned the use of the word “torture” when referring to waterboarding or other brutal interrogation methods authorized by the Bush Administration.
That said, Schock still has no idea what the hell he’s talking about, and calling it torture instead of “enhanced interrogation techniques” is mostly a cosmetic change when he’s still advocating for a reprehensible method of interrogating detainees. He engages in the same denialism that Cheney does by stating earlier in the interview that “there have been no torture techniques, no alternative interrogation techniques, nothing negative in a bad way has happened at Guantanamo Bay,” despite the evidence from multiple reports that say otherwise. He also justifies the use of torture with the “ticking time bomb” theory, even though counterterrorism experts have roundly debunked that scenario as a myth, and the fact that torture does not yield accurate or reliable information anyway (to say nothing of the evil and moral repugnance of the practice itself).
Still, while I doubt this young Republican’s admission will have any appreciable effect on the public’s opinion of torture (which, sadly, is supported either “often” or “sometimes” by a majority of Americans, including 47% of Democrats), Schock’s words do clearly illuminate exactly what right-wingers are cheerleading. If only every major media outlet would muster up the same honesty to call torture precisely what it is and the courage to unequivocally condemn anyone who supports it.
Cross-posted at Daily Kos
Dec 15 2009
A couple of months ago, the British High Court ruled that a document containing information on the torture of Binyam Mohamed should be disclosed in full. The original document supposedly contains seven paragraphs which describe the brutal methods used to interrogate Mohamed, including waterboarding and slicing his genitals with a scalpel.
David Miliband, the British Foreign Secretary who has been resisting the High Court’s efforts to release the document, now describes the decision as irresponsible.
David Miliband accused the two senior judges of irresponsibly “charging in” to a diplomatically sensitive area over what happened to former terror detainee Binyam Mohamed while held by the Americans in Pakistan.
Jonathan Sumption QC, appearing for the Foreign Secretary, told the Court of Appeal the judges’ stance was “both, in many respects, unnecessary and profoundly damaging to the interests of this country.”
Mr Sumption added: “I would go so far as to say their views were irresponsible.”
Dec 12 2009
Since today is my Father’s birthday, I thought I’d share a brief story about one of his experiences 40 years ago, and how learning about this experience contributed to my perspective today.
On November 15, 1969, my Father was in Washington DC for what is still the single largest anti-war protest in American history to date — the second Moratorium against the Vietnam War, in which it has been estimated that between 250,000 and 750,000 citizens arrived to demonstrate in the nation’s capital. As a lieutenant commander in the United States Public Health Service, my Father was volunteering on site at a medical van as part of an emergency response team. He helped treat several patients who were suffering from burns and injuries when police tear gassed a group of demonstrators who protested violently later on during the day. In fact, he even suffered eye burns of his own from the tear gas, simply by being in the vicinity where police and demonstrators clashed.