28 September 2009

Back to the Future with the Republicans ~ Liz Cheney

In The New York Times today you can find this piece on Liz Cheney, daughter of Dick - our former Vice President and arguably a war criminal. I have lamented the emergence of Liz as a staple guest on the talking heads circuit here before. The latest piece suggests that Liz "is being promoted as a rising star of the Republican Party." That may be so. And it surely would be interesting to learn who is doing the promoting (her schedule of near constant public appearances cannot be cheap). But while Liz Cheney is a rising star, she hardly is a new voice. Rather, it seems pretty clear that she really merely echoes the views that "led" the U.S. into a whole set of policy disasters. As the article makes clear: "Ms. Cheney’s resolute national security positions seem to differ not at all from those of her favorite vice president." Just so. And her mode of arguing is no stronger than her Dad's.

Here is a quote from Liz - playing the hard-liner on torture.
“Mr. President, in a ticking time-bomb scenario, with American lives at stake, are you really unwilling to subject a terrorist to enhanced interrogation to get information that would prevent an attack?”
Well, the problem is that the scenario Liz chooses is self-serving and virtually non-existent. It is a fabrication of people like her Dad who approved the torture of prisoners regardless of the circumstances. This is not an episode of "24"; it is real life. Liz labels the prisoner in her example a "terrorist" - which of course enhances her rhetorical slight of hand even more. And, of course, she relies on the Orwellian subterfuge of "enhanced interrogation" instead of the actual legal term for the "techniques" she and her Dad endorse - torture.

The piece in The Times goes on to add:
Clips of Ms. Cheney’s on-air smack-downs with liberal adversaries have become viral sensations among conservative bloggers — most recently, an interruption-fest with Sam Donaldson over the C.I.A.’s interrogation methods on ABC’s “This Week.”

When Mr. Donaldson said that everyone he knows thinks torture and waterboarding are wrong, Ms. Cheney shot back: “Waterboarding isn’t torture, and we can go down that path. The lack of seriousness here is important."
The problem, of course, is that while Liz may be resolute, she is also wrong. It is not just Donaldson's friends and acquaintances who think water boarding is torture. Liz might ask, say, Attorney General Eric Holder, who was quite clear about the matter in his confirmation hearings last January. But Holder is a member of the Obama administration and so clearly a pinko. Let's give Liz the benefit of the doubt.

Consider this exchange between Senator Carl Levin and Lieutenant General Michael Maples, then Director of the Defense Intelligence Agency. This is from a transcript of sworn testimony before the Senate Armed Services Committee in late February 2008.
"SEN. LEVIN: All right. We won't go into that.

Let me go into -- since you don't know what indemnification means, let me ask you a different question. I'll ask General Maples about this. It has to do with the waterboarding issue, General. Director McConnell's already commented on that in a different form.

General, do you believe that waterboarding is consistent with Common Article 3 of the Geneva Conventions?

LTG MAPLES: No, sir, I don't.

SEN. LEVIN: Do you believe it's humane?

LTG MAPLES: No, sir. I think it would go beyond that bound."
I doubt that General Maples is a liberal pinko of the sort that Ms. Cheney and her Dad so love to deride. I doubt he is among the friends to whom Donaldson was referring. But perhaps testifying under oath might not clear her hurdle of "seriousness." Who knows?

Perhaps Liz does not know what "Common Article 3" is. Of course, she might have looked it up in such obscure sources as The New York Times. Look here. Liz might mince words some more and note that the word "water boarding" does not actually appear in Common Article 3. But that would be mincing words. And so resolute a person surely would not want to do that! Common Article three explicitly prohibits torture. General Maples claims that water boarding is inconsistent with Common Article Three. Make the inference Liz.

So, it seems Liz Cheney is simply parroting the rationalizations and dissembling that were so common among the players at BushCo. Like her Dad, Liz may want to claim that she too is relying on sound legal advice to ground her assessments of what counts as torture. The problem is that there is little reason to think this is anything other than a self-serving rationalization. The lawyers upon whose advice Cheney and Cheney rely have not demonstrated minimal competence. Here I recommend David Cole's recent piece in the NYRB.

Why is The Times not calling Cheney on these things? Simply reporting on her as the spunky daughter of a famous person is irresponsible. We need serious discussions of policy and the rhetoric used to peddle it not human interest tales that focus on personalities.

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Blogger John said...

Regarding the "legal" memos upon which so much of Bush/Cheney's policies rested, I recommend Bad Advice: Bush’s Lawyers in the War on Terror, by Harold H. Bruff, (Lawrence, Kansas: University Press of Kansas).

28 September, 2009 18:48  
Blogger Jim Johnson said...

Thanks John - I'll track down the book. Jim

28 September, 2009 20:52  
Blogger Howard said...

Well, even though Liz thinks it's a good idea to waterboard "terrorists" there hasn't been any actual ticking bomb scenarios to justify this outrage, despite abominations like "24" and the incessant lies of criminals like her father.

And, we might add, the US has executed Japanese war criminals for this same conduct 60 years ago, and conducted court martials on its own soldiers in the Phillipines more than 100 years ago for...waterboarding.

Calling them troglodytes doesn't seem sufficient in the circumstances.
Yes, We Did Execute Japanese Soldiers for Waterboarding American POWs

The Water Cure

29 September, 2009 19:56  

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