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Tilting at Windmills

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April 25, 2009
By: Hilzoy

My Allegedly Vengeful Heart

In an unprecedented, shocking development, David Broder is against any sort of accountability for what he refers to as "torture":

"If ever there were a time for President Obama to trust his instincts and stick to his guns, that time is now, when he is being pressured to change his mind about closing the books on the "torture" policies of the past."

I normally think that there's a presumption in favor of enforcing the law, and that people who think it should be ignored have the burden of proof. So what sorts of arguments does Broder offer in support of his view? Well:

"Obama is being lobbied by politicians and voters who want something more -- the humiliation and/or punishment of those responsible for the policies of the past. They are looking for individual scalps -- or, at least, careers and reputations.

Their argument is that without identifying and punishing the perpetrators, there can be no accountability -- and therefore no deterrent lesson for future administrations. It is a plausible-sounding rationale, but it cloaks an unworthy desire for vengeance."

To which I have two responses. First, who died and made David Broder Sigmund Freud? How on earth does he presume to know what the actually motivates those of us who think that the people who authorized torture should be investigated? Speaking for myself: I have never met David Broder. As far as I know, he has no idea that I exist. So how does he know that underneath my "plausible-sounding rationale" lurks "an unworthy desire for vengeance"? And how, stranger still, does he presume to know this about everyone who thinks this -- a group that (as Greg Sargent notes) included 62% of the American public before the latest memos were released?

Second: let's just stipulate for the sake of argument that all of us who favor investigating torture do, in fact, have "an unworthy desire for vengeance". So what? Suppose our "plausible-sounding argument" is actually true: "without identifying and punishing the perpetrators, there can be no accountability -- and therefore no deterrent lesson for future administrations." In that case, by not investigating torture now, we would be setting ourselves up for future government lawbreaking. Isn't it obvious that preventing this matters more than anyone's motives?

What matters is whether this is the right thing to do. If it is, then we should do it. If it isn't, then we should not. Motives don't matter here -- any more than it would have mattered if some of the people who favored getting into World War II had an unreasonable hatred of Germans in general, or the people who brought Brown v. Board really just wanted to get into the history books.

Broder's best stab at an actual argument is this:

"The memos on torture represented a deliberate, and internally well-debated, policy decision, made in the proper places -- the White House, the intelligence agencies and the Justice Department -- by the proper officials.

One administration later, a different group of individuals occupying the same offices has -- thankfully -- made the opposite decision. Do they now go back and investigate or indict their predecessors?

That way, inevitably, lies endless political warfare. It would set the precedent for turning all future policy disagreements into political or criminal vendettas. That way lies untold bitterness -- and injustice."

When people talk about "criminalizing policy differences", there's a crucial, question-begging assumption, namely: that no one actually broke the law. If that's right, and if we know that it is, then of course investigating previous administrations for law-breaking is just a "vendetta". But whether or not laws were broken is precisely the point at issue.

If laws were broken, then the fact that they were broken as the result of "a deliberate, and internally well-debated, policy decision, made in the proper places" is no excuse -- if anything, it makes investigation and prosecution all the more important. And it also means that the people who favor prosecution are not the ones who "criminalize politics". That honor goes to the people who broke the laws while holding public office.

If we care about the rule of law, and about the idea that ours is a country of laws, not of men, then we should investigate those who break the laws, especially when they hold high office. The Presidency is a public trust, not a license for criminality.

Hilzoy 3:05 PM Permalink | Trackbacks | Comments (105)

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"The memos on torture represented a deliberate, and internally well-debated, policy decision, made in the proper places -- the White House, the intelligence agencies and the Justice Department -- by the proper officials.

Um David.....when you remove your head from your nether regions, a quick Google (you do know how to Google I hope) should reveal that your claims of a "deliberate and well-debated policy decision" are intensely belied by the facts.

In fact just this week, Philip Zelikow (who did such great work earlier obfuscating the 9/11 Commission's work) revealed that when he wrote a memo of dissenting opinion about proposed changes in torture policy to the White House, their immediate reaction was to try and locate every instance of the memo and destroy them.

Do the names Shinseki and Taguba ring a bell David? You may remember that when they tried to involve themselves in a healthy debate, both of them found themselves out of work.

These bush torture team proponents weren't looking for a debate. When they got answers they didn't want from people under them, they either rejected the output and demanded something which buttressed their cause, or fired the authors outright.

David....you are simply a useless piece of Post furniture.

Posted by: dweb on April 25, 2009 at 3:18 PM | PERMALINK

If the facts about torture are made public, all of them, then every belief of David Broder's working life is shown to be a complete, sick, lie. So of course he's against it.
Multiply Broder by everyone in DC. Then multiply it again by Wall Street. Accountability means the end of their self-esteem, and more importantly, power. The Constitution and the rule of law mean nothing compared to that. God wanted them in charge. He said so.

Posted by: JMG on April 25, 2009 at 3:20 PM | PERMALINK

In all this, I keep thinking about the victims. They are being victimized again by the US doing this - having this specious media messaging which is denying criminality, denying torture and denying their very humanity and victimization.

Victims of torture will never be made whole. They will never receive complete justice. But for their torturers and their facilitators(that would be all of us in the US since it was done in our names) to not only deny them an acknowledgment and apology, but to refuse to self govern, is to lay bare the lie of the US and the impotence and catastrophic failure of the Constitution. Broder is the embodiment of that impotence and failure.

Posted by: tribulation periwinkle on April 25, 2009 at 3:21 PM | PERMALINK

"That way, inevitably, lies endless political warfare."

We are already in endless political warfare. The question is what we are going to do about war crimes that have already been committed and that are otherwise likely to be repeated in future Republic administrations.

Posted by: Ross Best on April 25, 2009 at 3:22 PM | PERMALINK

Trying to redefine this as a policy difference is the only gambit these people have left.

It is clear that torture is against U.S. law.
It is clear that torture is against international law.

Torture, for legal purposes was defined generations ago to include all of the depraved actions that the Bush Administration gave the green light.

That they are circling their wagons around "policy differences" is all they have. They got nothin'.

All of the details of what, when, why, and who will be made public, and people will be prosecuted. If not here, then in international court. They may be better off here, but then we still execute prisoners...

The 'policy difference' meme has to be squashed though, now. If it is allowed to live, then this will happen again. It will also be used as a defense by another country who decides that torturing American servicemen and service women is just a policy difference with the United States.

Posted by: jcricket on April 25, 2009 at 3:25 PM | PERMALINK

Hilzoy,

I appreciate your steadfast patience with dumbing down the obvious.

I just couldn't make myself do it as often and as well as you're willing to do.

Thank you. I have aspirin. Want one?
I do. MMmmm. Need two.

Posted by: toowearyforoutrage on April 25, 2009 at 3:27 PM | PERMALINK

If it is ever to be demonstrated the error of my conviction that the Y2K nuts almost had it right, that with the appointment in the face of loss of both the popular and electoral vote by an activist court stacking with ideological judges of GW Bush to the presidency effectively marked "The End of America"...

Posted by: Ten Bears on April 25, 2009 at 3:32 PM | PERMALINK

It seems like an innocent conjunctive move, but the "and/or" in Broder's phrase "Obama is being lobbied by politicians and voters who want something more -- the humiliation and/or punishment of those responsible for the policies of the past" tells you all you need to know about the deep thinking going on in this has-been's column. Punishment for those who broke the law, if that's what the process reveals (and his writing this at all assumes that he understands the probabilities of that), is attached to humiliation? Is that what Broder thinks the American public wants with all the other things going on? What about justice? Principles? The Constitution?

Broder, your logic is humiliating.

Posted by: Corambis on April 25, 2009 at 3:32 PM | PERMALINK

Well, if you read the 18 pages of comments logged into the WaPo's posting for broder he is getting a mouthful....His support is limited to less that 10.

from page 18...I quote.


dh458 wrote:
THEY BROKE THE LAW...what part of that statement don't you understand. A kid steals a candybar from a store, the kids BROKE THE LAW. On behalf of my son, who is on his 4th deployment - until you walk in his shoes (for the 4th time), STFU!
4/25/2009 12:34:44 AM

Posted by: myshadow on April 25, 2009 at 3:34 PM | PERMALINK

A "deliberate and internally well-debated policy decision" to commit acts that are specifically prohibited by law is usually referred to as a criminal conspiracy.

Posted by: Kuyper on April 25, 2009 at 3:50 PM | PERMALINK

One administration later, a different group of individuals occupying the same offices has -- thankfully -- made the opposite decision.

Torture is not an optional policy, and Obama does not have the legal option of ignoring it. But the main thing Broder doesn't seem to understand is that this became part of a culture. The MP's at Abu Ghraib had turned these "interrogation" techniques into a form of entertainment. We must never let this disregard for humanity become a mere "policy disagreement", as Broder calls it.

Posted by: Danp on April 25, 2009 at 3:50 PM | PERMALINK

Broder assumes at least two things.

One: that the Bush administration made a 'deliberate, and internally well-debated, policy decision ... by the proper officials.'

We've seen proof that at the very least _internally well-debated_ is untrue, if you accept that destroying memos offering opposing viewpoints undermines the notion of 'well-debated'--but still, let's grant for a moment that he's correct.

Two: that at the highest levels, ignorance of the law _is_, in fact, an excuse.

As far as I can tell, that's his complete argument. "They didn't know they were breaking the law, so they shouldn't be help accountable."

Am I missing anything?

Posted by: gussie on April 25, 2009 at 4:04 PM | PERMALINK

Jesus. If Obama were prosecuting Bush officials for cutting taxes or No Child Left Behind, then yes, that would be "criminalizing policy differences." Torture is a freaking crime against humanity: it is not an acceptable policy in the civilized world.

Posted by: Mark S. on April 25, 2009 at 4:04 PM | PERMALINK

Well of course no one is criminalizing "policy."

But there's another side to this. Who are the people who were tortured, and do we owe anything to them? The argument from Broder is that Democrats were not wronged by the torture and therefore have no legitimate motive--aside from political retribution--for prosecution. But that ignores that there were actual human beings who have been wronged by these so-called policies.

For example, let's say that the CIA picked up an innocent American teenager--Broder's granddaughter, say--off the street, tortured her under this program, and then let her go. Would Broder still consider investigations and prosecutions to be about political scalps, reputations, and careers? If not, then what's the difference between the two situations?

Posted by: Halfdan on April 25, 2009 at 4:13 PM | PERMALINK

Excellent post! So what if a tinge of righteous satisfaction -- or, if you will, vengeance -- accompanies the fierce belief that we should be a nation of laws and that none of us, NONE, is above the law? As angry and offended as I have been the last eight years, the reason I want the perpetrators of these unconscionable and abhorrent crimes to be brought to justice is that I believe justice can exist and I feel safer (not triumphant, safer) living in a society where it does prevail. Either we believe in law or, like Broder we believe in covering up our friends' culpability and our own blind refusal to stand for justice. The laws protect us all, especially when government goes rogue.

Posted by: SF on April 25, 2009 at 4:14 PM | PERMALINK

So the critics of moral relativity were in reality experts at it.

The "We can find a justification for any activity" philosopy, goes well beyond what is reasonable or right.

If I were a soldier going to Afganistan I would want my government to be able to be outraged at the notion of torture of prisoners--both ours and theirs.

Posted by: Cycledoc on April 25, 2009 at 4:20 PM | PERMALINK

Broder is America's official asshole. He is indulging freely in the ad hominem fallacy, in which motives are fraudulently presented as changing factual considerations. Even if people were vindictive, it wouldn't make the punishment wrong if it's just anyway. (So, vindictive feelings about terrorists invalidate our desire for retributive response?)

Posted by: Neil B ♪ on April 25, 2009 at 4:22 PM | PERMALINK

Somehow I have misplaced David Broder's 2003 column on the case for invading Iraq in which he said "It is a plausible-sounding rationale, but it cloaks an unworthy desire for vengeance."

Posted by: Don on April 25, 2009 at 4:22 PM | PERMALINK

David Broder, September 2006, on William J. Clinton:

"My view... was that when President Clinton admitted he had lied [about Monica Lewinsky] to his Cabinet and his closest associates, to say nothing of the public, that the honorable thing was for him to have resigned... What bothered me greatly about his actions was... what he told the Cabinet, his White House staff... [a]nd he told the same lie to the American people. When a president loses his credibility, he loses an important tool for governing -- and that is why I thought he should step down..."

Broder's bottom line is that is fine to criminalize private behavior involving two adults, but catastrophic to criminalize public behavior that violates long standing US law, the US military's code of conduct, and appears to have been used to support a war on false premises. And this guy is getting paid by the Washington Post, that blew the Watergate affair wide open back in the 1970s. Of course, back then, the Post employed reporters and not overpaid, overstuffed "journalists", and their chief executive was "only" a woman, Katherine Graham.

Posted by: vhh on April 25, 2009 at 4:33 PM | PERMALINK

I would like to add something to the general discussion here. The first Republican president in my lifetime was Richard Nixon -- a lawbreaker, who was not held accountable for his crimes thanks to the second Republican president of my lifetime, Ford. The third RPOML was, of course, Reagan, and there was the whole Iran-Contra thing. Another lawbreaker, depending on how you view his level of senility at the time. Again, no accountability, thanks, in part to the fourth RPOML who pardoned a bunch of people so that we could close the books and look forward and not go on vendettas for truth, etc etc. And thus we come to the last RPOML, George W Bush, whose lawbreaking manages to dwarf all his illustrious predecessors in both scope and sheer sociopathy. And, as is always the case with Republicans, he will not be held accountable in any way, protected not by another Republican, but this time by a (nominal) Democrat.

There is right, and there is wrong. Most of us have a moral compass of sorts that helps us out. Sure, there are gray areas -- I have a tendency to speed when I'm behind the wheel and have to watch it lest I break the law in which case I am quite sure no policeman would tell me that he's just interested in looking forward, and not in giving me a ticket. During the last several decades, it has become clear that Republicans either do not know wrong from right, or they feel -- with just cause -- that the rules do not apply to them.

I can't be the only person to have looked at the sorry state my country has been led to, after years of governmental neglect and abuse. If we're going to pull ourselves out of the abyss we're in, punishing wrongdoers would be an excellent start. It would show that actions have consequences.

(PS: I would be remiss in pointing out the one president in my lifetime who was held accountable for his dastardly deeds and wrongdoing, the likes of which has never been seen before or since: Bill Clinton.)

Posted by: zhak on April 25, 2009 at 4:50 PM | PERMALINK

If someone disapproves of punishment that is meted out, they call it "vengeance." If they approve of it, they call it "justice." It's the same as the difference between "terrorist" and "freedom fighter."

Posted by: Lee on April 25, 2009 at 4:54 PM | PERMALINK

2009_4_25 Broder is a fascist

Just want to pile on here. Aside from Broder's sycophantic, wet-lipped fluffing of authoritarian power and its practitioners, his 'jus folks' covering of Cheney, et al.'s flabby white asses with his sloppy kisses, there's the terrified, gutless coward at the core of his pathetic existence. Mr. Broder, in other words, is a loudmouthed chickenshit, just like the arrogant, murderous bastards he's so strenuously trying to protect with his oh-so-reasonable, one note "comity" song and dance. It's fun to point out the parallels between America's reichwing and Orwell's dystopia; Broder, on the other hand, is the real deal, one of the true architects of psyop reconfiguration. All in the name of Main Street. Shirley Jackson had this douchebag's number a long time ago.

Posted by: Conrads Ghost on April 25, 2009 at 4:55 PM | PERMALINK

The damask rose.

Often, when
a green and
delicate rose
appears near an
hopeful hedge,
a passing cloud
invents an emotion,
and even a smile,
like beautiful
thoughts in the
sun of your song.

Francesco Sinibaldi

Posted by: Francesco Sinibaldi on April 25, 2009 at 4:55 PM | PERMALINK

Steven Colbert made a good point the other night. All crimes are past events and if the rationale is that it should be left to lie because it is in the past, then no one should be prosecuted for wrongdoing.

Posted by: Always Hopeful on April 25, 2009 at 4:58 PM | PERMALINK

I am going to have to write my high school Ancient History teacher and explain to him that he was wrong.

What I learned was that blood feuds triggered by murderous drunken brawls tended to take a very large toll on society. From Hammurabi´s Code through the Nordic Vikings, the law has been designed, in part, to satisfy, sanitize, and institutionalize our primal need for vengeance.

Oh well.

Everything my American history teacher taught me about the rule of law, consitutional rights, and the separation of powers was wrong too.

When will start to hold high school teachers accountable for their lies?

Posted by: inkadu on April 25, 2009 at 5:01 PM | PERMALINK

This also seems related to the latest attacks on Gore.

"Yes, you are doing the right thing. But maybe you are doing it for the wrong REASONS, like venality or vengeance, which are impossible for us to prove or disprove. And the more you say you are not doing it for the vengeance, the more guilty you seem. So we would like to stop you from doing the RIGHT thing, so we can continue to do the WRONG thing. And we do so out of the goodness of our hearts."

Posted by: inkadu on April 25, 2009 at 5:03 PM | PERMALINK

Surely there must be at least one out of work journalist who could fill in at the Post while Broder has his brain examined for malignancy or what ever. He needs to be replaced by a thinking person.

Posted by: anonymous on April 25, 2009 at 5:30 PM | PERMALINK

I was just listening to Scott Horton being interviewed on NPR about the "torture" question. He noted Obama's and his staff not using the "T" Word as often, citing staffers concerned that it's becoming too hot an issue.

I can see Obama's reluctance to not get personally involved, as it does lend the appearance of political warring, though it certainly is not. So I was glad when he said it would be Holder's DOJ, that would make the final determination. This is how it should be and political operatives like Emmanuel should keep their yaps shut.

After that is accomplished, walking corpses like Broder should also keep the "witch hunt" blather in check as well. It is the truthfully informed peoples ultimate responsibility to create an atmosphere of support for the their DOJ to be able to function as it should.

A good place to start is the Broderites calling a spade a spade, and when the RW yells, "Bush was just protecting us, so leave him alone" the press can and should point out, that that is what ALL state operated tortures say. From Saddam to the ChiComs, to the Japanese.

Horton also provided a nifty nugget, that the "exact" procedures the US used for it's waterboarding, was taken directly from the Khmer Rouge.

Posted by: Mr. Stuck on April 25, 2009 at 5:32 PM | PERMALINK

Broder is the type of adult to just sit on his ass and do nothing when it is titled people he likes and plays lap dog to.

Broder is totally predictable in his pandering.

Posted by: Silver Owl on April 25, 2009 at 5:36 PM | PERMALINK

Oh, I see his argument. Because the conspiracy to commit torture was done in the proper manner and signed off on by all the proper officials, in the face of their statutory, constitutional, and international obligations, then there's nothing wrong here. Just policy disagreements.

I guess by that rationale, if the government decides to institute death squads against the public, that's perfectly okay as long as they followed procedure and the "right" people signed off on it. "right people" meaning "republicans," of course.

Posted by: Jeremius on April 25, 2009 at 5:52 PM | PERMALINK

re: The presidency as a public trust

I think it relevant in this situation that in trust doctrine, a successor trustee has a duty upon taking office to ensure that the former trustee did not take any action that violates the trust. If the successor trustee does not do so, the successor trustee can become personally liable as the trustee for any breaches that occurred on the former trustee's watch. If he does find such violations, the successor trustee must file suit for redress of the violations against the former trustee.

What this means, as applied here, would be that Obama has a duty to investigate violations by his immediate predecessor and correct for them. While you can't hold Obama accountable in court in that respect, it does make a moral case for how the law looks at these situations for the private trusts among the hoi polloi.

Posted by: Jeremius on April 25, 2009 at 5:59 PM | PERMALINK

I encourage everyone to go to the Washington Post site and "comment" on "Dean Broder's" drivel.

While there, skip over to the "impressive" panel of Republican tools [sample: Paul Wolfowitz] they've invited to evaluate Obama's First 100 Days.

Hurry, because they tend to shut down comments when things get too negative for the subject.

Posted by: Mauimom on April 25, 2009 at 6:02 PM | PERMALINK

At the risk of violating Godwin's Law, I'll point out that it was just a few decades ago we were prosecuting "a deliberate, and internally well-debated, policy decision, made in the proper places --by the proper officials." Only in that case it was the High Command, and the SS, not "the White House, the intelligence agencies and the Justice Department".

That a decision to violate human decency and international law was "deliberate and internally well-debated" by officials in positions of political power doesn't make it inherently correct. If Broder were Norwegian, his name would be Quisling.

Oh, and if Broder objects to the WWII analogy, perhaps he'd prefer I point out that King George and Lord North ALSO followed "deliberate and internally well-debated" policy decisions?

Posted by: biggerbox on April 25, 2009 at 6:05 PM | PERMALINK

Somehow I don't think that Broder would offer the same solution if the crime were, oh, say rape, burglary or bank robbery.

I agree completely with Hilzoy's argument. There has to be investigation, exposure and accountability if the Rule of Law is to have any meaning and if America is to continue to be a nation of ideals and of law.

The Republicans on the "investigation and exposure of torture" issue are taking the exact same position that you would expect from bank robbers who are asked if there should be a specialized police organization to investigate bank robberies.

Posted by: Rick B on April 25, 2009 at 6:14 PM | PERMALINK

It’s likely that, if one looks at the reasoned arguments made by both sides re torture, that the arguments made by those opposed to torture are better reasoned. That’s not to say that every person who supports torture is stupid, but that people with a high degree of abstract reasoning ability see the ethical issues more clearly, consider counterarguments as well as arguments, and can empathize with the anonymous victim of torture, even while condemning what terrorists do. If that abstract reasoning ability isn’t present, the anger at what the terrorists do, and the desire to punish them, will overwhelm their thought processes.

Social intelligence and abstract reasoning ability are two different things. A person can have a high degree of one and lack the other -- politicians vs. geeks. An alpha male has an above-average degree of social intelligence -- his ability to dominate others within a group is a sign of that --but an absence of abstract reasoning ability will hinder him from dominating wisely.

When conservatives are seen doing something foolish, whether it’s dismissing torture as something innocuous, promoting tax cuts as the solution to every economic problem, or rejecting scientific discoveries, it’s probable that, despite one’s success in politics, he simply lacks abstract reasoning ability.

SRS

Posted by: Steven R. Stahl on April 25, 2009 at 6:15 PM | PERMALINK

When conservatives are seen doing something foolish, whether it’s dismissing torture as something innocuous, promoting tax cuts as the solution to every economic problem, or rejecting scientific discoveries, it’s probable that, despite one’s success in politics, he simply lacks abstract reasoning ability.

Barring the mythical existence of a real "ticking time bomb" scenario, there is no rationale for torturing people. It displays a lack of conscience and basic morality. We generally call people like this Sociopaths. And when these "smart" people build an infrastructure and policy for torture, in direct contradiction to US and International Law, and the bounds of common sense, we call their actions crimes against humanity. NO middle ground.

Posted by: Mr. Stuck on April 25, 2009 at 6:26 PM | PERMALINK

"So the critics of moral relativity were in reality experts at it." posted by cycledoc @ 4:20 PM.
Broder's inability/refusal to address the differences between "criminalizing policy differences" and "politicians committing crimes" baldly shows him as nothing more than a propagandist for the Republican Party; nothing more, nothing less.
Republican political leaders have been the poster children for moral relativity for decades, long before Gingrich accused the Democrats of suffering from it. They have consistently renamed their pro-rich, anti-labor, anti-female, and anti-environmental policies precisely as they have in order to prevent any rational discussion of the actual policies they (Republicans) intended to put into effect. Any other course would have condemned them to the political impotence they are rapidly approaching nationally, now.
I find it very instructive that Republican presidents were in office when all the major political scandals were committed (Watergate, Iran-Contra and the entire Bush II administration) and their prosecution prevented (Ford and Bush I). There is also the fact that, even if they attempted to hang the Clinton impeachment on a presidential lie (unconnected with any government action), the only attempt to "criminalize" policy differences has also occurred when Republicans controlled the House of Representatives.

Posted by: Doug on April 25, 2009 at 6:27 PM | PERMALINK

Investigate and prosecute any law breaking or share the guilt.

Posted by: Troutski on April 25, 2009 at 6:48 PM | PERMALINK

If Obama calls it torture, what treaty obligations is he under?

I recall there be a lot of mumbling about "genocide" a few years ago, but nobody in power wanted to enunciate it, because doing so would compel concommitant action.

Posted by: inkadu on April 25, 2009 at 6:50 PM | PERMALINK

Divorcing from your friends is difficult and David Broder doesn't want to do it. He can't bear the thought of holding himself accountable for deeply loving President Bush and his minions. His love for them is so deep that he can't admit to the full depth of their sickness and depravity. In doing so he would have to accept the full extent of his inner darkness.

Broder's Beltway is addicted to its power and its love of elitism. A public acknowledgment and conviction of their corruptness would end the world as they know it. And, they can't bear the thought of their world ending.

David Broder and his Beltway companions detached long ago from core principles of morality and righteousness and it's naïve for us to ever expect them to reconnect with even a morsel of conscience or democracy.

Posted by: Enslaved on April 25, 2009 at 6:52 PM | PERMALINK

To quote Mel Brooks, "It's good to be the king"...

Oh wait, we don't have a king...

The current Republican attacks on Obama as a socialist/facist comes from their viewpoint of the president as a dictator. Ok, maybe a little extreme on my part. But with George Will on "This Week..." pointing out "intelligent" people promoting the primacy of the Presidency (yes, I paraphrase), irregardless of the constitutional checks and balances, and the actions of the Bush Whitehouse--not to mention the Nixon movie that came out recently--you see the Republicans afraid of the monster they released. Luckily Democrats believe in the rule of law.

Posted by: golack on April 25, 2009 at 6:56 PM | PERMALINK

I think we should make it very clear that our desire to investigate and prosecute those who broke the law with respect to torture extends to Democrats as well as Republicans. If an investigation discloses that Democrats were responsible, at least in part, for the torture, they will be prosecuted as well.

Posted by: moe99 on April 25, 2009 at 7:08 PM | PERMALINK

I think investigations are appropriate; but, I guess it is nothing I will see in my lifetime.

And, I'm supposed to believe that the Clinton impeachment was NOT vindictive.

Despite all the investigations into Watergate, the main thing learned was don't tape your conversations if you are talking about breaking the law.

Posted by: Bonnie on April 25, 2009 at 7:09 PM | PERMALINK

Broder's own desire for filial bipartisanship leads him to conclude that politics isn't warfare carried on by less violent means. Clausewitz' observation - turned on its head. It is, and no matter what Obama and Democrats do, this group - the current GOP - will carry on as they always have, bitterly and acrimoniously like it is a war to the death. To them it is.

Having said that...

If that's right, and if we know that it is, then of course investigating previous administrations for law-breaking is just a "vendetta". But whether or not laws were broken is precisely the point at issue.

If laws were broken, then the fact that they were broken as the result of "a deliberate, and internally well-debated, policy decision, made in the proper places" is no excuse -- if anything, it makes investigation and prosecution all the more important. And it also means that the people who favor prosecution are not the ones who "criminalize politics". That honor goes to the people who broke the laws while holding public office.

If we care about the rule of law, and about the idea that ours is a country of laws, not of men, then we should investigate those who break the laws, especially when they hold high office. The Presidency is a public trust, not a license for criminality.

It should be the right heads that roll for this. It is rarely the case that this occurs. This isn't France during the French Revolution.

Posted by: nun of your bizness on April 25, 2009 at 7:10 PM | PERMALINK

I posted a question for you on the earlier blog--but I see you used the word "supposedly" when referring to your vengeful heart, thereby mocking the whole argument...so never mind.

Yes, it's truly not about vindictiveness. It's about being a law abiding nation who in particular does not hold anyone above the law, regardless of status.

If there's a bright spot here, I am truly glad it's all being debated so thoroughly and openly now--I don't really recall a time in our country this ever was. Now with cable and computers, wow!

Posted by: Insanity on April 25, 2009 at 7:20 PM | PERMALINK

I've been looking at this debate, and I think Sara Robinson lays out some really useful explanations for the divide here between liberals and conservatives on this matter. We may be talking about accountability, responsibility, discipline and punishment here, but those words have taken on very different meanings.
This post by Robinson explains why we're talking past each other. It's a world view thing.

When you think about it, it's not hard to see how this dangerously uniform bipartisan consensus against creating actual "accountability moments" came about. The bracing revelations of Watergate were followed by the Church investigations and Iran-Contra—all of which were liberal-style open inquiries that sought nothing more than to establish the truth and restore justice, but shook conservatives to the core. What the Democrats saw as doling out logical and natural consequences (break the law, go to jail—what's so hard about this?) the conservatives experienced as being on the receiving end of an authoritarian-style punitive smackdown. They were powerful people, above punishment. This wasn't ever supposed to happen to them. (How dare they challenge our authority?) Being who they were, they couldn't help seeing it as anything other than pure payback, a raw demonstration of power. And the only appropriate response was to show the Democrats how very, very out of line they were—by disciplining them in the conservatives' preferred way, with a show of unrepentant and overweening force.

When Republicans complain about being persecuted, it's because they actually think they are being persecuted.

Robinson's follow up post is even more explicit.

I speak from first-hand experience. I grew up under a mostly-authoritarian parenting model, and can testify that its express goal is to break down the child's will, and turn them into a closely-conforming, unquestioning, and obedient follower of all forms of institutional authority. (This isn't speculation. Right-wing parenting books spell it out clearly; and my father reminded us explicitly and often that he'd taken on this sacred duty on our behalf.) Inherent in the authoritarian parenting style are several core lessons about power that, once internalized, will have reverberating effects for the rest of the child's life.

First, as a kid in this kind of household, you learn that your thoughts and feelings are untrustworthy -- and furthermore, that people in authority are not the least bit interested in your internal life, only in your external behavior. Stop crying. Don't give me any excuses. I don't want to hear any more from you. Just do what I tell you -- now. Or else. The message is that you can trust the rules, tradition, The Good Book, the boss, the preacher, or Daddy to tell you what's right; but you should never ever trust your own instincts or thought processes. This pretty effectively inhibits the development of your own internal authority.
Second, you learn that you're not entitled to have any physical or emotional boundaries. The authorities have an unlimited right to intrude on your thoughts, feelings, personal space, and even your body perimeter at any time, for any reason. You are not your own; you entire being is at the mercy of those set by God to rule over you. You must trust that whatever they do, they do for your own good -- even if the reasons aren't clear to you right now, and in fact may never be explained to you. They know best. Just go with that.
Third, you learn that the Authority is the Authority no matter what. It doesn't matter if Dad is abusive or Mom is manipulative or Grandpa gets drunk and molests you. Lakoff observed that conservative families are define "family" as a dramatic set piece requiring people to take on and fulfill an ensemble of traditional roles; and they hold those roles absolutely sacred. The office of "Grandfather" is inherently demanding of respect, even when the person holding that office is a drunken pervert. You are out of line to question the behavior of your betters, even when their behavior is beyond questionable. He is in authority over you, and it's not your place to object to how he chooses to deploy that authority. So hush now. I don't want to hear another word against Grandpa.

emphasis added

If you look at the rhetoric coming from conservatives over the last 8 years and beyond, you can see the dynamic Robinson is talking about at work. (Just watch FOX news) This is why today the Republicans are refusing to cooperate on anything, obsessing about the illegitimacy of Obama to be President, and are talking about seceding from the country - because their internalized world view will not let them accept that A) they are no longer in power, or that B) they have done anything they should be held responsible for. Republicans don't argue on facts because their world view doesn't operate on facts - only power, who has it, who doesn't.

Go read both of Robinson's posts - it will amply repay your time.

Posted by: xaxnar on April 25, 2009 at 7:25 PM | PERMALINK

Wow! The headline says it all. Charging people who committed crimes with those crimes is scapegoating? And vengeful? If someone I loved had been tortured and I knew who did it and went after them. That's vengeance. Upholding the law and reinforcing the values of America? Not vengeance.

Posted by: lisaintexas on April 25, 2009 at 7:34 PM | PERMALINK

"deliberate, and internally well-debated, policy decision...."

In criminal law, David, that is known as "with malice aforethought." It actually makes the crime worse, not better.

Posted by: Green Eagle on April 25, 2009 at 7:36 PM | PERMALINK

There's a real racist element here, for the torturers are white and the mortgage fraudsters in the financial debacle are white. The right wing wants them to walk while they want maximum punishment for blacks for much smaller crimes. The racism is appalling.

Posted by: Bob M on April 25, 2009 at 7:43 PM | PERMALINK

Thank you xaxnar. Excellent comment!

Posted by: Mr. Stuck on April 25, 2009 at 7:52 PM | PERMALINK

I sat down to watch Judgement at Nuremburg last night. Maybe one of the networks might run it again as a public service? Seems pretty relevant these days.

Posted by: Anonymous on April 25, 2009 at 8:04 PM | PERMALINK

Wow! The headline says it all. Charging people who committed crimes with those crimes is scapegoating? And vengeful? If someone I loved had been tortured and I knew who did it and went after them. That's vengeance. Upholding the law and reinforcing the values of America? Not vengeance.

This is a good point and what I am trying to say. Need more coffee. Our system of criminal law allows for aggravating and mitigating factors to be considered in the sentencing portion of any criminal trial.

In California many years ago, a woman shot a man who had abused her child and shown no remorse. In fact, he gloated about it in court and she shot him there, Ellie Nesler. Tony Serra handled her case.
http://www.latimes.com/news/obituaries/la-me-nesler30-2008dec30,0,945169.story

And yes, this is really a white collar crime and the rich often walk, and get richer, while the poor get prison. Racism? Perhaps, but it is more about wealth and class, I think. O,J. is a case in point.


We should want those responsible for this at the top to be prosecuted. Not just the people who followed orders and enabled and facilitated this abomination, and there are many of them, the nurses, doctors and lawyers, who never engaged in the physical act of torture themselves. I will be very surprised if the real villians in all this actually do any time. It rarely happens.

Posted by: nun of your biziness on April 25, 2009 at 8:09 PM | PERMALINK

'If laws were broken, then the fact that they were broken as the result of "a deliberate, and internally well-debated, policy decision, made in the proper places" is no excuse'

There's a word for that. It's called conspiracy.

Posted by: Chris Andersen on April 25, 2009 at 8:10 PM | PERMALINK

I sat down to watch Judgement at Nuremburg last night. Maybe one of the networks might run it again as a public service? Seems pretty relevant these days.

Fictionalized account, but excellent.

Read this as well.

http://www.law.umkc.edu/faculty/projects/ftrials/nuremberg/nurembergACCOUNT.html

Posted by: anonymous on April 25, 2009 at 8:12 PM | PERMALINK

I am so sickened by this attitude of "oh, it's just a policy difference and the likelihood that every one of these criminals will skate that it's given me an idea - one that I'll be posting all over the place.

The moronic teabaggers, who dollars to donuts are mostly in the "no investigation or prosecution" camp, are planning on rolling out their bullshit again at some future date. I think they had to scrap July 4 because, well, who's gonna bother with them on a holiday? I've heard some rumblings of a reprise on 9/12 (ala Glenn Beck), and I'd like to humbly suggest that should they organize more of these silly pity-parties on that date or any other, they be met with overwhelming numbers on OUR side - protesting for ACCOUNTABILITY and the RULE OF LAW.

Shit, folks, if there were ever something MORE important to take to the streets over, I can't think of what it is. The numbnuts teabaggers can't even really say what it is they're protesting, except for the fact they lost. They'll piss and moan over a 3% tax hike on the richest and over tax increases they imagine will take place at some unknown future time by some unknown amount. But goddamnit, who gives a shit over some lousy 3 cents on the dollar when your government has established legal precedent that it has the right to torture you?

We can sit around and whine about how our elected officials pwn us at will and never pay a price, or we can turn out by the millions to DEMAND that they be subject to the same laws we all are. None of us are safe if we DON'T state such a demand in a way that cannot be ignored. It's that important.

So I humbly propose that the next mass Teabagging Day for the mouth breathers be co-opted as Anti-Torture/Accountability Day by the rest of us. In crushing numbers. I'd insert that Belushi speech about the Germans and Pearl Harbor here but I don't remember all of it...but is anyone with me on this?

Posted by: Jennifer on April 25, 2009 at 8:31 PM | PERMALINK

first, who died and made david broder sigmund freud?

uh, i'm guessing that would be...sigmund freud?

Posted by: skippy on April 25, 2009 at 8:33 PM | PERMALINK

"Their argument is that without identifying and punishing the perpetrators, there can be no accountability -- and therefore no deterrent lesson for future administrations. It is a plausible-sounding rationale, but it cloaks an unworthy desire for vengeance."

So the prosecution of the Nazi war criminals at Nuernberg only cloaked an unworthy desire for vengeance by the winning side?

Posted by: CaptainVideo on April 25, 2009 at 8:41 PM | PERMALINK

The whole point of our system of government is that we don't have to wonder which set of laws will be in force when the presidency changes hands. That is what happens in a monarchy.

Or a banana republic.

Posted by: Roddy McCorley on April 25, 2009 at 8:53 PM | PERMALINK

What do you expect from a moronic asshole who never saw a Republican policy or activity he didn't approve of? Go back to May 1969, and he's advising Democrats that President Nixon has his finger on the pulse of America regarding the proper policy to follow in Vietnam, telling them that they're going to make a terrible mistake if they don't cooperate with the President. This nitwit has had the same advice every issue he's ever written about.

Broder is no independent - he's a thorough Republican. At his age, one can only hope every day to be fortunate and read his obituary.

Posted by: TCinLA on April 25, 2009 at 9:04 PM | PERMALINK

Why is it that the people who are concerned about "criminalizing policy differences" the same people who are the same people or are excusing people who broke the law?

Posted by: paulo on April 25, 2009 at 9:06 PM | PERMALINK

Not to go all Godwin but... I'm pretty sure David Broder could have been prosecuted at Nuremberg for his status as a torture apologist.

Right?

Posted by: VictorLaszlo on April 25, 2009 at 9:08 PM | PERMALINK

It seems to me that the arguments against punishing torturers are starting to sound like the arguments against torturing people in the first place.

Posted by: Joseph Nobles on April 25, 2009 at 9:10 PM | PERMALINK

...and for those who are tired of references to WWII: I'm pretty sure David Broder could be prosecuted as a war criminal with the rest of them under current law for his status as a torture apologist.

Right?

Posted by: VictorLaszlo on April 25, 2009 at 9:12 PM | PERMALINK

When people talk about "criminalizing policy differences", there's a crucial, question-begging assumption, namely: that no one actually broke the law. If that's right, and if we know that it is, then of course investigating previous administrations for law-breaking is just a "vendetta". But whether or not laws were broken is precisely the point at issue.

Just so. Investigate and publish the results of the investigation. Investigate Congress and the Executive Branch, Democrats and Republicans. Everyone responsible must be held accountable, and be shown to be held accountable. Otherwise the torture will continue, and possibly increase.

Posted by: MatthewRQuarreler on April 25, 2009 at 9:21 PM | PERMALINK

My, what a chummy little circle-jerk this site has become.

The head jerker posts an obvious deliberate misunderstanding
of a Broder column and all the little heads obediently nod.

Posted by: a on April 25, 2009 at 9:24 PM | PERMALINK

Broder seemed to care more last year:

"I have not worried about the fundamental commitment of the American people since 1974. In that year, they were confronted with the stunning evidence that their president had conducted a criminal conspiracy out of the Oval Office. In response, the American people reminded Richard Nixon, the man they had just recently reelected overwhelmingly, that in this country, no one, not even the president, is above the law. They required him to yield his office."

http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2008/07/02/AR2008070202352.html

Perhaps his assistant was subbing for him that day.

Posted by: George on April 25, 2009 at 9:46 PM | PERMALINK

Isn't there a crime called

'assault under color of law'

for cops and others who use a pretense of law enforcement to abuse the crap out of someone?

Posted by: alan on April 25, 2009 at 10:02 PM | PERMALINK

Republican administrations are notorious for stacking Justice with hacks who give them just the opinions they're looking for.

Prosecuting the people who did the torturing under guidance of those opinions would set a precedent against that as well as against torture.

Posted by: alan on April 25, 2009 at 10:05 PM | PERMALINK

The head jerker posts an obvious deliberate misunderstanding of a Broder column and all the little heads obediently nod.

OK then, what did Broder mean? He admits that Bush tortured against the law, but argues let's just let bygones be bygones. Seems pretty clear to me. Besides, it wasn't like Bush lied about a Blowjob or anything really serious like that.

Posted by: Mr. Stuck on April 25, 2009 at 10:05 PM | PERMALINK

Went to WaPo immediately, following a comment somewhere above, and added my own comments, which may have displayed somewhere; there do not seem to be any comments, or at least any way to read them, but I tried.

What struck me first was the headline about scapegoats. Even if vengeance were the only goal, it is not about scapegoats, which is a funny term to use for the guilty.

If these people are innocent, then the way our system works is that fair trials will exonerate them. Broder would have us not only put fingers in our ears and chant "USA! USA!" to drown out the screams, he wants us to continue going outside the legal framework by pretending first that the crimes are so huge that no one can be held accountable, and second by having the president order the Justice Department to ignore law and duty in favor of subjecting their decisions to his whim.

In short, the article was disgusting for many reasons. Let us never forget that David Broder is an apologist for unspeakable horror, and for the utterly unnecessary pain and suffering inflicted in the name of the greatness and wonderfulness that used to be the legacy of our Founders.

Posted by: Tomm on April 25, 2009 at 10:07 PM | PERMALINK

That way, inevitably, lies endless political warfare.

i.e. treating previous administrations as culpable for law-breaking upsets the permanent establishment of Versailles-sur-Potomac.

Posted by: pseudonymous in nc on April 25, 2009 at 10:07 PM | PERMALINK

The Presidency is a public trust, not a license for criminality.

The Presidency is a public trust, not a fucking Get out of Jail free Card.

As usual broder invents what he wants to see - that this is a policy debate. Its not a policy debate - its a criminal case - there is nothing to debate, only to find out the extent to which the bush regime criminals broke the law so they can be properly held accountable.

broder and his ilk continually insist on ignoring the simple fact that very important laws were broken, moral laws that humanity has instituted as a result of atrocities committed.

broder and his ilk are sick, sick fools to ignore what is in plain sight.
.

Posted by: pluege on April 25, 2009 at 10:26 PM | PERMALINK

What got me was the line, "The torture issue is much more serious, and Obama needs to take it on himself, as he started to do -- not pass the buck to Attorney General Eric Holder, as he seemed to be suggesting in his later statements on the issue."

Uh yeah, how wimpy of Obama to pass off a decision on law enforcement to . . . . . the chief law enforcement officer of the country.

After eight years of Bush, there's now this assumption that the Executive branch can do whatever it wants. The idea that it isn't appropriate for Obama to make a decision to enforce a law or not, or to make a determination of someone broke the law, doesn't even enter their heads. It seems in their minds we still live in some sort of elected dictatorship where the leader runs things the way he likes.

It's funny, I still think the principal we are governed by laws not by men is deeply conservative, and our foremost protection against tyranny. But modern conservatives don't think that way.

Posted by: Rick Taylor on April 25, 2009 at 10:49 PM | PERMALINK

Broder is the guy who said about Bill Clinton: "He came in here and he trashed the place and it wasn't his place. [...] My view, for whatever it is worth long after the dust has settled on Monica, was that when President Clinton admitted he had lied to his Cabinet and his closest assoc, to say nothing of the public, that the honorable thing was for him to have resigned."

Nationally and internationally, there is only one recent US President who truly "trashed the place": GWB.

Posted by: Willem fromf the Netherlands on April 25, 2009 at 11:00 PM | PERMALINK

You know what "cloaks an unworthy desire for vengeance"?

Torture.

Posted by: John Moltz on April 25, 2009 at 11:31 PM | PERMALINK

In a peculiar way, now that people have had some opportunity to read and analyze the memos and stories of what happened, the explanation or analysis of Broder appears even more ridiculous than it would have several weeks ago.

Sometimes an argument seems perfectly sensible until seen in the proper light. We see much more clearly now.

Posted by: MarkH on April 25, 2009 at 11:33 PM | PERMALINK

David Broder is a royalist, a believer in the divine right of kings. He should not write about due process or democracy, etc., etc., etc.
Such things are outside his interests.

Posted by: MDB on April 25, 2009 at 11:41 PM | PERMALINK

I wish I had commented earlier because it seems to me that nobody is discussing what I consider the main issue. I am an unabashed liberal Canadian lawyer who strongly believes in the rule of law and for that reason, I would normally support torture-related prosecutions.On the other hand, I care even more about Obama being able to achieve important goals, especially in health insurance, and I am very afraid that torture-related multi-year investigations and then trials would completely dominate Obama's presidency and perhaps prevent him from achieving anything else of real substance.

Posted by: erasma on April 25, 2009 at 11:42 PM | PERMALINK

You know what "cloaks an unworthy desire for vengeance"?

Torture.

Posted by: John Moltz on April 25, 2009 at 11:31 PM | PERMALINK


Perfectly put.

Posted by: trex on April 25, 2009 at 11:49 PM | PERMALINK

Qs for Mr. Broder: Are you pro-torture? Are you pro-law? Are you insanely trying to find common ground between them? Are you an Ass? -Kevo

Posted by: kevo on April 26, 2009 at 12:36 AM | PERMALINK

You know what? If we're not going to investigate and prosecute torture, then perhaps Lynndie England and Charles Graner need to be released from prison.

What kind of fucked-up country prosecutes and imprisons the low-level grunts who carried out torture but doesn't lay a glove on the people who ordered it?

I think there's a name for that kind of a country. "Banana republic".

Posted by: rnato on April 26, 2009 at 12:43 AM | PERMALINK

Tapping into desire for revenge was OK to score the GOP some war-profiteering on the Iraq War.

But tapping into desire for revenge is bad when it comes to enforcing the law?

Broder has been scolding death penalty advocates for decades, right?

Posted by: Carl Nyberg on April 26, 2009 at 12:46 AM | PERMALINK

I was going to point out that there was no "internally well-debated, policy decision, made in the proper places." Other people have beaten me to it, but let me just add my vote and observations.

Not only did the Cheney/Bush regime hunt down and destroy any memos that resembled dissent, but they also didn't even bother to release the memos until a long time after the torture program was in place. The only reason for them was because the torturers were getting antsy about the legality of their behavior and wanted legal cover in order to continue.

Posted by: Texas Aggie on April 26, 2009 at 12:47 AM | PERMALINK

Broder's a toady, but not a significant obstruction.
Let's not get distracted egging each other on when we could be demanding justice. To that end :

-------


The Honorable Michael Honda
1999 South Bascom Ave
Suite 815
Campbell, CA 95008


Dear Representative Honda :


In August 2002, while serving as the Assistant Attorney General of the United States, Jay S. Bybee signed opinion memos that purported
to make legal the practice of physical torture by officers and agents of the United States government. In doing so, he comitted a crime under both US and international law, and demonstrated his complete unfitness for public office.

I write to ask you to sponsor or support a House bill of impeachment indicting Jay S. Bybee for those crimes. No person who could issue
such an opinion should ever be allowed to Judge in our courts.

Relying in part on Bybee's memos, the Bush/Cheney administration instituted a comprehensive regime of interrogation under physical torture for selected detainees. The Administration hoped thus to justify the impending war in Iraq, by extracting information from the victims of this torture program: they hoped for information that might substantiate the hypothesized tie between Saddam Hussein's Baathist regime in Iraq and the Al Queda organization responsible for the terrorist attacks on 9/11.

It is pathetic to note that no such intelligence was produced, and that the torture program was a complete failure -- that these men, Bybee and Yoo and Cheney and Bush, destroyed our national reputation and flouted decency and the rule of law for ends that proved completely illusory. They traded our birthright, not for a mess of pottage, but for a lie they wished us to believe.

On Tuesday, April 9, 2009, the Los Angeles County Democratic Party unanimously passed a resolution calling for the impeachment of Federal Judge of the Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit,
the infamous Jay S. Bybee.

I urge you to support that resolution, and the subsequent efforts to bring all persons, Republican or Democrat, who enabled, ordered,
or approved this program of interrogation under torture, to trial before our courts.

I am a veteran and a Democrat, long registered in your District.


Sickened by what my country has become


Joel J. Hanes
computer engineer


cc : Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi

Posted by: joel hanes on April 26, 2009 at 12:56 AM | PERMALINK
"I am very afraid that torture-related multi-year investigations and then trials would completely dominate Obama's presidency and perhaps prevent him from achieving anything else of real substance."

That's a valid concern, but I don't think it's at all clear how investigations and trials would play out. Given this lack of certainty, my instinct is to uphold the rule of law and hope for the best.

Posted by: Kenneth Almquist on April 26, 2009 at 1:08 AM | PERMALINK

Punishing somebody for getting a blow job is a "political vendetta", punishing somebody for committing or approving torture is justice. Republican, Democrat or Independent, those responsible and those complicit have to be called to account. No other option.

Posted by: margaret on April 26, 2009 at 1:16 AM | PERMALINK

I want scalps! And careers. Vengeance is perfectly appropriate.

Posted by: nerdoff on April 26, 2009 at 5:08 AM | PERMALINK

shorter brode:
i'm dumb as shit.

Posted by: th on April 26, 2009 at 5:39 AM | PERMALINK

With Broder fretting about "criminalizing" policy differences, and rove talking about America turning into a banana republic where colonels in mirrored sunglasses imprison their political opponents, I must ask:

Didn't rove criminalize political differences with Siegelman? And with a couple of members of (I believe) the Texas RR commission? All I know is, they all went to jail.

Am I a bad person for asking that? Only David Broder knows for sure.

Posted by: mocasdad on April 26, 2009 at 7:14 AM | PERMALINK

Funny thing, I think it's possible that people who believe torture is justified do so partly because they see it as a form of vengence and punishment, that whomever we did it to deserved it. I think to many-- especially the Limbaugh crowd-- the idea of "terrorists" being tortured fulfills a certain bloodlust revenge fantasy. Interestingly enough, they just don't come out and say it directly so they are stuck making arguments like "it works."

Posted by: zoe kentucky on April 26, 2009 at 7:17 AM | PERMALINK

You mean the same David Broder who cheered on the Clinton witch-hunt & impeachment because he offended the courtiers' delicate sensibilities?

So blow-jobs are a crime of state worthy of the gravest consequences, but systematic torture, war crimes, and wholesale violations of US & international law are just a "partisan" tiff?

At least Broder is very serious, unlike those crazy liberal bloggers.


Posted by: Aviate on April 26, 2009 at 7:26 AM | PERMALINK

I am very afraid that torture-related multi-year investigations and then trials would completely dominate Obama's presidency and perhaps prevent him from achieving anything else of real substance.

Well, that's fine, and as far as I can tell Obama agrees with you. I'm worried that my ountry is going to whitewash the shameful truth out of convenience for the political overclass.

One of us stands to be very disappointed.

Posted by: gil mann on April 26, 2009 at 7:28 AM | PERMALINK

Bush made me a conservative. And I despise the purported 'conservatives' who worry about Obama's 'fascism' but want to ensure he continues to have the right to torture people.

These folks would do well to think a little bit more about what fascism actually means. And they might also think a bit more about whether they really want a return to the Hobbesian Leviathan.

Posted by: Carrington Ward on April 26, 2009 at 9:38 AM | PERMALINK

I saw it another blog, but all this talk about "not criminalizing policy decisions" really amounts to nothing more than "politicizing crimes."

As for Broder, the man shows again that he has no integrity. My sense is that this guy sold out a long, long time ago, and like the rest of the D.C. pundit class, is just fulfilling his expected role of closing ranks behind the D.C. establishment, and then acting as one of its apologists.

The guy's a whore . . . . along with the rest of them in the D.C. pundit class . . . and especially the ones at the Post.

A more over-rated hack (remember "the dean?") is nowhere to be found.

Posted by: hahaha on April 26, 2009 at 9:38 AM | PERMALINK

As to Obama... I voted for him, but of course the president would want to keep all powers his successors have been granted. It is our job, and the job of Obama's opposition (for God's sake) to make sure that the administration remains subject to the rule of law.

Posted by: Carrington Ward on April 26, 2009 at 9:40 AM | PERMALINK

Math by David Broder:

I did not have sex with that woman = impeachment

We do not torture = a lush Dallas suburb + a Presidential library + a well compensated speaking tour.

Is it any wonder that newspapers are floundering? There is no reporting, no reasoned commentary, no holding government accountable. Ironically, if newspapers did their job, instead of scratching the back of government elites, they might perform an actual service, and might be worth reading.

Posted by: SteveB on April 26, 2009 at 9:43 AM | PERMALINK

Excellent contrast, SteveB.

Posted by: Bob M on April 26, 2009 at 10:01 AM | PERMALINK

Broder doesn't believe in punishing crime committed by people who have served him quail at Beltway soirees.Punishment is only for the little people.

Posted by: tom on April 26, 2009 at 12:19 PM | PERMALINK

One thing the defenders of “enhanced interrogation techniques” have done, which is either disingenuous or ignorant, is to claim, as Michael Scheuer does here, that publicizing the techniques makes them ineffective. That’s wrong. The whole point of such treatment is to force involuntary responses that are so painful or disruptive to one’s mental state that they’re unbearable. Staying awake for more than 240 hours straight, waterboarding, hypothermia, drugs -- those all force the body to react in ways that can’t be prevented with training or foreknowledge. If Scheuer and his allies don’t know that, then they’re too ignorant to lecture on the topic; if they do know that, then they’re liars.

SRS

Posted by: Steven R, Stahl on April 26, 2009 at 12:20 PM | PERMALINK

The Scheuer op-ed piece is a> href="http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2009/04/24/AR2009042403459.html?hpid=opinionsbox1”>here.

SRS

Posted by: Steven R. Stahl on April 26, 2009 at 12:25 PM | PERMALINK

"... by not investigating torture now, we would be setting ourselves up for future government lawbreaking. Isn't it obvious that preventing this matters more than anyone's motives?"

For Broder, operating at the emotional level of a six-year-old trapped in sibling rivalry, just the opposite is true. Like any contemporary U.S. "conservative," he cares only about preventing his enemies from gaining any credit or satisfaction. Whatever long-forgotten real-world issue might be at the heart of any given argument is of no more interest to these people than the words of the angry little sister with whom, in his baby brain, he is still engaged in a shouting match.

Posted by: Ralph on April 26, 2009 at 3:26 PM | PERMALINK

Bill Clinton gets his law license suspended for 5 years for lying about a blow job to avoid embarassment, Bybee gets a lifetime appointment to the Ninth Circuit for twisting the law to justify TORTURE.

There are people sentenced to life in prison for theft (under CA's three strikes law), yet it's beyond the pale to even investigate those who ordered the TORTURE of multiple people.

David Broder's American justice, at its best.

Posted by: ettvy on April 26, 2009 at 4:43 PM | PERMALINK

While we're at it, what would actually be wrong with vengeance? These people have dragged your country through the mud. Shouldn't you be angry about that?

Posted by: Dr Zen on April 26, 2009 at 7:05 PM | PERMALINK

Torture was all about punishment and vengeance. As was the war against the defenseless in Iraq. It really is too bad that no amount of identifying the right (or wrong depending on where you stand) ethnicity and background of the victim resulted in the closure that retribution brings, as the main perpetrators of 911 died with the planes and can not be resurrected to be brought to justice.

So now the rationalization of the monstrous acts of torture in response to 911 cycle through.

1) It was few bad apples.
2) It wasn't torture.
3) It was self defense.
4) It was effective.
5) It wasn't illegal.
6) It was done in good faith, whether or not illegal or effective.
7) Hey, everybody else ok'd it.
8) I regret it now.
9) I didn't do it, I just watched.
9) Now you want to punish me.

Give me a fuckin break.


Posted by: YY on April 26, 2009 at 8:26 PM | PERMALINK

Nice critique Steve. You might want to check out Link TV's Accountability for Torture site (www.linktv.org/accountability). It includes the new documentary "Torture on Trial" that searches to bring torture enablers to account and justice.

Posted by: Patrick on April 27, 2009 at 1:01 AM | PERMALINK




 

 

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