Judge Michael Mukasey's nomination should have been in big trouble given his outright refusal to condemn waterboarding as torture. But it wasn't in trouble, thanks to a couple of Democratic leaders who should have been at the forefront of the opposition, but weren't. As the NY Times said Thursday, "The confirmation of Michael B. Mukasey as attorney general seemed all but assured late this afternoon when Senators Charles E. Schumer and Dianne Feinstein, two Democrats on the Senate Judiciary Committee, announced that they would vote in favor of the nominee, virtually assuring that he would win the backing of the Judiciary Committee." It did, and his nomination quickly went to the full Senate where six Democrats joined the Republicans in confirming this master of deceit.
The vote was 53 to 40. Glen Greenwald on Salon.com asked why didn't the Democratic leadership filibuster the nomination which would have forced the confirmation vote to reach 60 Yeas to cut off debate? He also noted suspiciously that "Four Senate Democrats running for President missed the vote, and all four had announced they oppose Mukasey's confirmation. Thus, at least 44 Senators claimed to oppose Mukasey's confirmation -- more than enough to prevent it via filibuster." Obviously, the opposition was more feigned than real.
In the confirmation process, government apologists gave plenty of hints they intend to continue the practice of torturing prisoners, and will eventually seek to carve out a legal exemption for torture so they don't have to work so hard to conceal this crime in the future. It is frightful to see how many Republican lawmakers are slowly buying into this evil philosophy, and who trust the government to actually limit its use.
President Bush falsely asserted that Mukasey was "not being treated fairly" in the criticism over waterboarding. Really? Why is it not fair to put pressure on a future Attorney General and demand that he unconditionally renounce torture? Mukasey denied that the US practices torture but refused to say if waterboarding was torture, claiming ignorance of the procedure. Bush also repeated the old dodge that Mukasey had "not been briefed" on waterboarding, so it was "inappropriate" to ask him about it. The reporters failed to dig deeper into this patently insulting excuse and demand why Mukasey hadn't been briefed on such a controversial subject and why he still remains unbriefed about it.
Mukasey certainly would have been watching his own confirmation hearings on C-span when the committee took the time to hear testimony from Malcolm Nance, former U.S. Navy instructor who trained Navy Seals to "deal with waterboarding." He did have the courage to admit the practice was torture. Nance was especially adamant that it was NOT simulated drowning, but actual drowning in the slowest and most agonizing sense. That should have qualified as a briefing for Mukasey.
The PBS News Hour on Thursday night pitted Nance against Neil Livingston, CEO of Executive Action, a self-professed "crisis management firm," (which in reality is an insider-connected intel-disinformation corporation with numerous ties to the dark side of government that go back 30 years). Livingston had sufficient insider knowledge of the government plans to pull off the 9/11 attacks to predict six months in advance that terrorists would drop both towers, and that Osama bin Laden would be behind the attacks.
Watching Livingston use every verbal technique of sophistry to downplay and evade the admission that our government actually tortures people was a personal exercise in anger management for me. He was a study in the art of lying. But it paled in comparison to the utter revulsion I felt as he actually began a well-rehearsed justification of the practice of torture. He started off presenting the well worn Israeli justification for torture--the hypothetical, panic inducing, worse case scenario of a "bus full of school children with a hidden bomb on board" and "you have a suspect who you are sure knows which bus it is on, and you have the opportunity to save those children if you can force him to reveal what he knows." That's a sure-fire scenario designed specifically to induce normal people to agree that "yes, torture is justified." But in reality, this kind of "sure" knowledge about what a terrorist subject "knows" almost never presents itself. Nance knew it and responded to Livingston that this was an extreme example specifically used to build support for the use of torture.
Still, Livingston insisted the president needed an exception to the law to use torture in "special circumstances" like this. What was particularly galling is that Livingston knew very well that no such urgent life-saving examples existed in the past to justify US torture of actual prisoners and suspects, and that the CIA would never limit itself to that narrow exception if given to the president. It would simply provide a legal loophole to cover for a multitude of indiscriminate torture. There never has been nor will there ever be effective oversight on this evil practice.
Another justification that White House briefers fed to gullible Republican Senators assigned to defend the Mukasey nomination was the facile idea that "we never would have achieved the important confession of Khalid Sheikh Mohammed if we hadn't subjected him to waterboarding." Really? And how valuable is a confession so incoherent and bizarre that the man confesses to more terror crimes than a team of ten CIA assassins could accomplish in a decade? Mohammed confessed to everything from attacks on the World Trade Center, the Library Tower in Calif., Sears Tower in Chicago, Plaza Bank in Washington state, and the Empire State Building in NY to the assassination attempt against Pope John Paul II. How credible is that?
I invite all of my readers to listen to Commentator Keith Olbermann's stirring TV editorial condemning the Bush administration for its position on torture. "David Levin, the former U.S. Acting Assistant Attorney General, who was himself waterboarded to determine whether or not the act constituted torture made you into a liar Mr. Bush." Levin's experience was compelling. He says that even though he knew his handlers were not going to let him drown, his sense of panic was uncontrollable. <http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=arWJ358tZgU>
Click here: YouTube - KEITH OLBERMANN SPECIAL COMMENT ON WATERBOARDING NOV 5, 2007
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