Chris Nelson has a dynamite commentary tonight in the much-sought-after but hard-to-get Nelson Report.
My obligations to Chris Nelson are growing as he allows me to share with you in the non-paying public excerpts (long excerpts) of his let-things-fall-where-they-will commentary on the big debates of the day.
Today, Nelson focuses on the White House’s torture policy — and he has some real zingers, including the view in the White House that various abuses short of organ failure and death do not constitute torture. Is this the “it’s not sex if there is no intercourse” line of thinking?
If that notion of what is and is not torture is the prevailing attitude in the White House, then we really do have a rampage of immorality masquerading in grotesque and false righteousness at 1600 Pennsylvania.
Nelson also adds some nice context regarding the incentives that McCain and Hagel have to beat up the White House on its torture policy, as both have presidential ambitions. He also notes that the Supreme Court has just agreed to hear a case on whether America can hold terrorism-linked prisoners in undisclosed military prisons or detention centers. Chris Nelson thinks John Roberts may have to recuse himself in the case. (Update: I didn’t originally think Roberts would recuse himself, but the Washington Post reports that he has already done so.)
Chris Nelson also adds some more on Col. Lawrence Wilkerson’s revelations about the White House promotion of torture-like techniques on those America has been detaining.
Here is the whole segment on torture in Chris Nelson’s Nelson Report:
TORTURE. . .just ask yourself what it means for America that a topic head can have this title, and that will help explain why you see increasingly harsh denunciations of the President and his torture policy by leading Republicans like John McCain and Chuck Hagel, not coincidentally possible rivals for the GOP nomination to succeed Bush.
Both men know that they must reinforce their existing credentials as men of decency, honor and principle who know what they are talking about, both being decorated combat veterans. . .unlike most in the Administration, from Bush on down.
Bush’s torture policy, rejected in the Senate last month by a 90-9 vote, was much in the news today. In addition to McCain and Hagel’s efforts, the Supreme Court agreed to hear a case on whether it’s OK to keep terrorism war prisoners in secret and/or military prisons (non-combatants in international law terms) and subject them to military tribunals, and indefinite incarceration. . .not to mention the tender mercies of their interrogators.
Where this gets particularly difficult is that the new Chief Justice, John Roberts, may be forced to recuse himself, since as an Appeals Court judge he voted with the majority to allow the government to carry on these policies, despite a lower court decision against the Administration. Roberts’ recusal apparently would increase the chances for a 4-4 tie, which would uphold the Appeals Court (that is, Roberts) against the suspect. . .thus continuing the controversy in a particularly controversial manner.
On TV over the weekend, McCain and Hagel, echoing the warnings of another of the few real combat vets to serve Bush, former Secretary of State Colin Powell, urged Congress to approve a ban on torture as defined by the Administration. . .in an amendment (by Sen. Carl Levin, D-Mich.) strenuously opposed by VP Dick Cheney, who has made a career of tough talk on military matters, but who made a point of not serving in the military during the Vietnam war.
This confrontation reinforces the irony that both McCain and Hagel are seen as “liberals” in the GOP, and probably have less chance of winning the nomination than any other major Republican candidate. That they would both be more likely to be able to over-come, in a general election, the Republican malaise created by the Bush Administration has never been a recommendation to the Party Faithful, but presumably there is time for Darwinian principles to be re-discovered by the GOP. . .survival of the fittest.
Republicans seem likely to receive an object lesson in that tomorrow, in Virginia’s gubernatorial election. Although President Bush tried to “nationalize” the race by campaigning today for the Republican candidate, Jerry Kilgore, polls had the Democrat, Tim Kaine, with as much as a 9 point lead, with Bush’s personal negatives increasing, even in conservative Virginia.
Although torture has not been an issue per se, the morality of politics certainly has, and it’s been the disgustingly distorted Kilgore TV ads which seem to have played a major part in the rise of Democrat Kaine, with his strength being reinforced by Bush’s growing unpopularity.
Bush spent the weekend in Latin America, failing to revive the FTAA, and observing from a safe distance the large, anti-American riots. In one of his infrequent press conferences, the President was unable to avoid torture, however, and it’s notable that his responses continue the performance on Iraq which has amazed even his fellow Republicans. . .see no wrong, hear no wrong, and above all, confess to no wrong.
Instead, Bush left the really heavy lifting, pun intended, to Cheney, who graced the TV airwaves over the weekend saying torture is an important weapon against terrorists, and that the CIA must be exempted from current Congressional efforts to legislate against the Administration’s torture policies.
Bush today refused to comment directly on Cheney’s performance, nor would he directly deny reports that the CIA has maintained torture centers in some Eastern European nations. . .instead claiming that whatever facts are eventually revealed to or by Congress, we will discover that whatever torture which took place was done strictly according to his Administration’s legal guidelines.
And that, of course, goes to the crux of the matter. . .the President’s infamous “torture memo” which authorized CIA and military interrogators to torture someone up to but not past the point of “organ failure and death” in order to make them talk. A friend with an interesting intelligence analysis approach to all this suggests: “Bush sincerely, albeit conveniently, believes physical abuse without intent to to cause permanent injury or loss to vital organs is not torture, and believes the CIA black op is staying within boundaries most of the time.” (The best historical analogy: “I did not have sexual relations with that woman, Miss Lewinsky.”)” Maybe. . .but even if true, it’s hardly exculpation.
We are going to keep writing on this until it sticks: Col. Larry Wilkerson, former Secretary of State Colin Powell’s chief of staff, has been making a series of increasingly detailed charges about the development and implementation of Bush’s torture policy. So far, we have heard nothing to refute these claims by either Powell, or his Deputy Secretary, Rich Armitage. And if we do, they will either be not telling the truth now. . .or they were lying back then, when they told friends and colleagues about the curses and sarcasm hurled at them in Cabinet and Sub-cabinet debates on torture, well before Abu Ghraib.
Time to step up, guys. And we say that with respect. . .you fought and bled in Vietnam, as did McCain and Hagel. . .this one is causing the US to bleed to death all over the world. The torture memo was the logical result of Bush Cabinet debate…right? Or wrong?
Democrats have been slow to pick up on all this, but are now coming on strong, led primarily by Sen. Levin’s anti-torture amendment, and Sen. Jay Rockefeller, and his comrades on the ironically named Senate Committee on Intelligence. Some success so far, despite Republican Leadership opposition. . .it’s now been agreed there will be a commission, like the 9/11, to really go into it all.
Whether that is too late to help American public diplomacy is one question; what should be of greater concern to Bush, Cheney et al is whether it’s too late to salvage the morale of US troops overseas, much less whether it might head-off the torture of captured US soldiers in Iraq, or the terrorism war.
Chris Nelson has laid it out as it should be. President Bush claims he is opposed to torture but then his Vice President (and Bush by definition) is lobbying for exemption.
One of the best quotes in Lawrence Wilkerson’s New America Foundation speech was “I understand the radical change in the nature of our enemy, but that doesn’t mean we make a radical change in the nature of America.”
Wilkerson is absolutely right.
— Steve Clemons