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Tortured Reasoning

waterboarding-definition-wikipedia24dec05a.jpgThe more the arguments and rationalizations fly back and forth on the Mukasey nomination and the Bush Administration’s tortured reasoning the last few years, the more I keep coming back to a thought that has been expressed by a number of commenters here the last few weeks:  “How low have we gone that a discussion of whether torture is acceptable (H/T ThinkProgress) practice is even a debate at all?”  Too true. 

But then again, we had David Rivkin on C-Span this morning arguing that waterboarding is a boon for mankind and America because “we can learn as much from what they lie about as we can when they tell the truth.”  (H/T twolf1)  Good to know that he is “comfortable with waterboarding,” isn’t it? 

Let freedom ring.

Keith Olbermann’s commentary on these issue hit home last night (C&L has the clip).  And I kept thinking that there is so much wrong in a media environment that treats this issue as an everyday debate.  From the LATimes, in a commentary which contains one of the best “fairness in reporting is crap” analogies from Murrow that I have ever read:  (H/T Froomkin)

It’s the kind of he-said-she-said news coverage that would have reported the Sermon on the Mount this way: “On a mountainside in Galilee today, a popular young rabbi argued that ‘the meek shall inherit the earth.’ Other religious authorities, however, pointed out that if God did not want the rich to fleece the poor, he would not have allowed them to behave like sheep.”…

President Bush and Vice President Dick Cheney are insistent that any discussion of [torture] is precluded by the exigencies of national security and the war on terror. Cut to the core of their real argument, however, and it boils down to the naked assertion that whatever the president says is legal is legal — including torture, which isn’t torture, if the president says it isn’t….

“Waterboarding is slow motion suffocation with enough time to contemplate the inevitability of black out and expiration — usually the person goes into hysterics on the board. For the uninitiated, it is horrifying to watch and if it goes wrong, it can lead straight to terminal hypoxia. When done right, it is controlled death. Its lack of physical scarring allows the victim to recover and be threatened with its use again and again.”…

What’s really at stake is whether this country will continue to stand with the framers of our Constitution and our authentic moral traditions or whether we now will allow Bush and Cheney to put us shoulder to shoulder with Pol Pot.

Scott Horton at Harper’s (H/T to “WB”) dug into this issue earlier, and his analysis on a former torture proponant turned opponant who got drummed out of the DOJ is a must read.

…There is no serious or competent basis upon which waterboarding can be claimed to be legal. The persistence of these bogus arguments is just more evidence of the deterioration of public discourse. Our habit as a nation has always been to accept anything that our political leadership states as a respectable contention, even if worthy of criticism. But with the arrival of the Bush Administration this has become an extremely dangerous premise. There is no respectable opinion that can hold waterboarding legal. It is criminal depravity. When we allow its justification as an article of polite conversation, we deal our society and its values a potentially mortal wound….

I read the op-ed from Sen. Schumer this morning with an eye for the “practical deal-making” that is his tendency, and found it in spades in the writing. The concerns that he voices on the state of the DOJ and the USAtty system are accurate, and the hope that a number of them could be resolved with competent leadership is tempting.  Except…making a deal with the Bush Administration is like running on quicksand: the deal sinks and disappears entirely over time, leaving them free to disregard you altogether. Good to know that he was able to find a fellow traveller in DiFi so that they could provide each other mutual cover, isn’t it?

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Christy Hardin Smith

Christy Hardin Smith

Christy is a "recovering" attorney, who earned her undergraduate degree at Smith College, in American Studies and Government, concentrating in American Foreign Policy. She then went on to graduate studies at the University of Pennsylvania in the field of political science and international relations/security studies, before attending law school at the College of Law at West Virginia University, where she was Associate Editor of the Law Review. Christy was a partner in her own firm for several years, where she practiced in a number of areas including criminal defense, child abuse and neglect representation, domestic law, civil litigation, and she was an attorney for a small municipality, before switching hats to become a state prosecutor. Christy has extensive trial experience, and has worked for years both in and out of the court system to improve the lives of at risk children.

Email: reddhedd AT firedoglake DOT com