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Slip Sliding Away and the Democrats: Is Torture Torture or Not?

By   Follow Me on Twitter     Message Dennis Loo       (Page 1 of 3 pages)     Permalink    (# of views)   1 comment

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After consistently and unequivocally demanding that the Bush White House employ nothing other than the Army Field Manual in their interrogations, even introducing legislation to ensure that, Sen. Diane Feinstein, who is going to take over as Chair of the Senate Intelligence Committee in January, backtracked in a December 2, 2008 interview in the New York Times:

"[I]n an interview on Tuesday, Mrs. Feinstein indicated that extreme cases might call for flexibility. "I think that you have to use the noncoercive standard to the greatest extent possible,' she said, raising the possibility that an imminent terrorist threat might require special measures.

"Afterward, however, Mrs. Feinstein issued a statement saying: "The law must reflect a single clear standard across the government, and right now, the best choice appears to be the Army Field Manual. I recognize that there are other views, and I am willing to work with the new administration to consider them.'"

The Times article goes on to further relate Sen. Ron Wyden's remarks:

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"Senator Ron Wyden of Oregon, another top Democrat on the Intelligence Committee, said he would consult with the C.I.A. and approve interrogation techniques that went beyond the Army Field Manual as long as they were " legal, humane and noncoercive.' But Mr. Wyden declined to say whether C.I.A. techniques ought to be made public."

These remarks bode exceedingly ill for current and future detainees of the U.S. government and for American soldiers who might be captured, and of course, for the fate of this country and the world.

As Glenn Greenwald on December 4 (and further on December 5) noted at length, Feinstein and Wyden are now backtracking on their very public and consistent stands opposing the use of techniques beyond what the Army Field Manual proscribes.

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The fact that no member of Congress filibustered, and thereby stopped torture forthwith, when the Military Commissions Act of 2006 was being debated, or when, even before that, torture was revealed to be going on (Nancy Pelosi knew in 2002), and the fact that no one outside of a handful of Congress, led by Dennis Kucinich, have moved for impeaching this White House of torturers, of course, would have - and still would - render all of these contortions unnecessary.

But so it goes, and continues to go: the Democrats, when left to their own devices, coalesce with the GOP, in the absence of a determined and irresistible mass movement that could force this government, Democrat and Republican alike, to do otherwise: that is, the right thing.

What's going on?

Greenwald speculates that it was easy for Congressional Democrats to claim that torture must be avoided under all circumstances when anything they passed to that effect could be and was vetoed or signing statemented-away by Bush, but now if they pass such a law, Obama's on record as saying that torture should be ended, and he would therefore have to sign such a bill. Therefore, the Senators are waffling because they don't really want such a bill to become law.

Certainly, Democrats have set the bar very high for world-class waffling and far be it from me to dispute that they might be doing so. But Greenwald's explanation doesn't make a lot of sense to me.

While he is right about the Senate Democrats backtracking, what's in play here is more disturbing.

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Let's look closely at Feinstein's remarks, which were not issued off the cuff but were reissued by her office to expand upon what she said to the Times:

"[T]he best choice appears to be the Army Field Manual. I recognize that there are other views, and I am willing to work with the new administration to consider them."

Whose views are these "other views?" They could perhaps be originating from the GOP or the current White House, although if that is the source, this is a strange way of putting it since the White House's views and practice on this are known to everyone and not new for that reason. No, the source of these "other views" is the incoming Obama administration. Yes, the same administration that has repeatedly said that torture is wrong and said that they will end it when they take office. 

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Cal Poly Pomona Sociology Professor. Author of "Globalization and the Demolition of Society," co-editor/author (with Peter Phillips) of "Impeach the President: the Case Against Bush and Cheney." National Steering Committee Member of the World Can't (more...)

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