Gonzales and Ashcroft Defend Torture, Audience Applauds

This Dan Abrams interview with former attorneys general John Ashcroft and Albert Gonzales should convince you of the importance of establishing a precedent for punishment of the crime of torture, if nothing else has.

This exchange between Abrams and Gonzales demonstrates that, in the minds of those accused of orchestrating the torture program, Obama’s decision to stop the use of torture and move on has not ruled out the possibility of using torture in the future. Gonzales is complaining about the recent release of memos revealing that prisoners were given water torture several times a day:

Gonzales: Let me just say, Dan, that [former CIA director] Mike Hayden and Mike Mukasey, who followed me as attorney general, responded in an Op-Ed to the release of the memos in response to these arguments. It is one thing to say that we engage in these kinds of techniques—

Abrams: Engaged, past tense.

Gonzales: [Puts his hand up.]

Abrams: Well I mean, there’s a difference. You can’t just say we engage, because it’s almost like they got an old playbook. Right? From five years ago…

Gonzales: ..And then secondly, to say that we have now discontinued these techniques. They may be necessary in the future. And by disclosing it, means you take them off the table and they can never be used again.

They’re not just admitting that they participated in this torture program, they’re saying they would do it again if the opportunity arose. That’s another of the many, many reasons they should all be prosecuted.

This same argument has been made repeatedly by those critical of the Obama administration’s release of the memos – ie, that Obama shouldn’t have relased detailed descriptions of this form of torture because, even though he has banned the practice, future administrations may want to use it again.

The enthusiastic response of the audience to these interviews is bone-chilling.

~ by lolarusa on May 4, 2009.

14 Responses to “Gonzales and Ashcroft Defend Torture, Audience Applauds”

  1. First time visiting your site, and I like it… except for this post.

    Nancy Pelosi, alongwith other Democrats and Republicans in congress knew about waterboarding, and agreed that it was NOT torture. Consider that it was only used on a grand total of 3 captured terrorists in high command, and that the information gained prevented 2nd (and 3rd?) waves of attacks after 911, I think the procedure was warranted, given the circumstances.

    Does the U.S. Military torture its recruits? Of course not… but all U.S. Navy Seals go through it, and all survive the nasty ordeal.

    This, the approval of waterboarding, was a bipartisan effort to break the will of 3 monsters to to avoid another 911 catastrophe and to ensure the safety of our nation.

    Waterboarding is not a “Bush Administration” protocol, regardless of how the mainstream media boobs frame it.

  2. Thanks for your input, Bunk Strutts. There seem to me to be some flaws in your reasoning. The most obvious one is your referring to “3 captured terrorists”. There were a lot more than three people tortured – more than three people died in custody, in fact – and, since the majority of them were never charged with any crime, let alone convicted of anything, calling them terrorists is a leap of faith in the Bush administration that it makes no sense to make.

    I disagree with you about the importance of bipartisan approval in these crimes. The fact that Democrats as well as Republicans knew about the torture and didn’t do anything about it doesn’t make it right. And the fact that they decided in secret meetings that they wouldn’t call these activities torture doesn’t mean it’s not against the law any more. What was it Nixon called the Watergate burglary? Who cares? It was a burglary, regardless of what he called it.

    In your comment about the Navy Seals training program I wonder if you’re being honest with me. I don’t believe you really think that being waterboarded once by your colleagues in a training program with your safety assured is the same thing as being held without charges, not allowed to communicate with anyone, beaten and abused and kept awake and waterboarded over and over for weeks, sometimes more than a dozen times on one day, with no reason to doubt that your tormentors don’t really care if you live or die.

  3. Seems we’re disagreeing with the definition of “torture.” By legal definition, the U.S. does not use torture. Of course, torture to me would mean sitting through a Barry Manilow concert, but that doesn’t make it torture in the legal sense.

    My point was that only 3 high echelon terrorists have been waterboarded, and it produced information that [potentially] saved thousands of lives. I believe it’s a fair trade, given the circumstances.

    As for the Navy Seals (and the rest of my comments) I am being completely honest with you. I’ll not push this discussion further, as I doubt I can change your opinion, and you’re unlikely to change mine. So on we go, all in fun. ;)

  4. Hi Bunk Strutts. I don’t want to drag this discussion out too long either, but I will to point out that by legal definition, the U.S. does torture. Waterboarding, stress positions, sleep deprivation, and many other activities carried out in recent years by the Bush administration have been regarded as torture under U.S. law and prosectued as such for a long time. Calling it something else doesn’t change that.

    Check out Glenn Greenwald for more information on the legal status of the “enhanced interrogation techniques” of the Bush/Cheney team: http://www.salon.com/opinion/greenwald/

    Love your blog.


  5. lolarusa–

    That link took me to an article about Maureen Dowd’s plagiarism where Greenwald describes many “journalists” as parasites of bloggers. Got a direct link?

    I’ll read that one if you read this recent commentary by Charles Krauthammer of the WaPo: http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2009/05/14/AR2009051403603.html?hpid=opinionsbox1

    Again, these techniques were not a Bush/Cheney invention; the procedures, although rarely used, have been in place for decades. and it’s interesting to note that Obama’s administration has not changed the policy either.



  6. Hello Bunk.

    There are multiple Greenwald posts dealing with the legal aspects of torture, but I can’t seem to find any tags to single them out from his other posts. A google search of “glenn greenwald torture law” turns up a good selection.

    I read the Krauthammer piece that you linked to, and as you predicted, I don’t find it at all convincing. As I commented earlier, the fact that Nancy Pelosi didn’t raise a stink has no bearing on my opinion of the matter. Krauthammer’s claim that torture wasn’t a key factor in the defeat of the Republicans in recent elections is easily refuted by googling “torture” and browsing the available discussion over the past seven years, or by clicking on my own “detainees” tag in the margin at right.

    As far as the rare anecdote he managed to find as an example of saving the world from eminent disaster by torturing people, I’ll ask the obvious question – was it the only way to solve the problem? Was it the best way? There is a lot of evidence that other methods of interrogation are more quick and effective. And what about the long-term consequences of torture? The enmity it arouses in not only its victims, but anyone who learns of it? I won’t ask whether it was the right thing to do, because those who defend torture have decided that right and wrong don’t matter when Jack Bauer or Yitzhak Rabin or Dick Cheney are on the job.

    I agree that the Obama administration’s failure to repudiate the torture policy is indeed interesting, and very disappointing.

  7. Nevermind, I found the post you were referring to. Greenwald twists his facts quite a bit, if you look at the sources he himself quotes. His primary link, from Harper’s magazine (a reputable source of political and military issues – heh) is pure conjecture with no facts to back up their specious accusations.

    Do you really believe our enemies, the terrorists, who are sworn to kill innocent Jews, Christians, Americans and others, are incapable of lying to suit their own purposes? Do you really believe that our government lies for purely sadistic reasons? Our country has nothing to gain from it… but our enemies have nothing to lose.


  8. Hello Bunk.

    I don’t understand your question. Did I say that someone didn’t lie about something?

    I must remind you again that we’re talking about hundreds of people detained without charges, many of whom have been released for lack of evidence. People such as Omar Khadr and Mohammed Jawad:


    Are these the people you’re calling our enemies the terrorists? How do you know they’re terrorists?

  9. lolarusa–

    Those who were captured were caught by our military during wartime. They were involved in combatant/terrorist activities, and to believe otherwise is naive at best. These captives are enemy fighters. They are not domestic burglars, and do not have the same rights as American citizens.

    Consider this: We treat our captured enemy P.O.W.s in conformance with the rules of the Geneva Conventions. The captives at Gitmo after incarceration, put on 50 lbs within a year on average, were treated for wounds, infections and illnesses. They were even provided with copies of the Quran and allowed to pray. Some died. Animals die in zoos all the time, but that doesn’t correlate with mistreatment. Everything dies sometime.

    However, the Geneva Conventions do not apply to those entities that do not conform to those Conventions themselves. Our enemies (Al Qaida, Hamas, Taliban) know what REAL torture is because they practice it.

    The treatment of the terrorists by the U.S. is above and beyond reasonable and humane, and for some in the far left to insinuate that there should be a government-sponsored witch hunt to punish the same government that is in charge of waging this war (TO WIN IT) is puke politics at its worst.

    America is not the enemy, but some on the left seem to think so… and that disturbs me.


  10. Oop. I misspoke about the prisoners’ weight gain. They all gained weight, but not “50 lbs. within a year on average.” If that were true, we’d have busloads of Farsi-speaking Rosie O’Donnells waiting for interrogation.

  11. Hi Bunk.

    America is not my enemy. I am America.

    The weight gain thing did seem off the mark. I think your claim that the Geneva Conventions don’t require signatories to follow them when those in custody have violated them also sounds incorrect, but I’m too tired and lazy to look it up right now.

    You can call these prisoners terrorists all you like, but I need proof of guilt. Because I believe in the American way of justice.

    I haven’t said that all of the prisoners in Guantanamo were tortured. I’ve said that when prisoners were tortured, those who tortured them committed a crime, for which they should be punished. The law, and my conscience, are clear on the matter.

  12. lolarusa–

    The fact is the detainees/terrorists/enemy combatants (or whatever the current politically correct term is) were not just sitting on a couch watching Seinfeld. They were in the streets causing mayhem.

    And we’re back to the definition of “torture.”

    Here’s the link to the 4th Geneva Convention, as regards to the treatment of Prisoners of War:

    Fun chat. G’night.


  13. I’ll believe that prisoners committed a crime, or were, as you put it, causing mayhem, when they have been proven guilty in a court of law. I don’t really understand why someone would believe such accusations without any proof. You must have heard about the people who were kidnapped on the street, on vacation, some out of their own homes by bounty hunters in Pakistan. Do you really believe that no due process is needed because every last one of these people is a terrorist? I don’t think you actually believe that.

    Here’s another of many, many examples of people held without charges by the Justice Department and then released: http://amygdalagf.blogspot.com/2009/05/javaid-iqbal.html

    I don’t believe that all of these people are innocent, simply that some of them (some people think most of them) may not have committed any crime. Without due process, there is no way of knowing who is innocent and who is guilty. Maybe you simply don’t care. I do care.

    But torturing prisoners is illegal regardless of their guilt or innocence. Even the terrorists among the bunch should be given due process and treated humanely. Not for their sake, but for ours.

  14. lolarusa–

    Information gained via torture is unreliable; however coercion works. The value of the knowledge of a captured enemy fighter decays over time… the value of the knowlege of a commander of such an enemy fighter decays more slowly. Too many on the left think we should treat our enemies gentler than teenage liquor store jackers:

    “Who was with you? Are your ready to talk?”
    “How ’bout now? Tell us who killed the clerk.”
    “Will you tell us where you hid the cash tomorrow?”
    “Eh, um, I don’t think so.”
    “Okay. You’re free to go.”

    I do NOT advocate torture. I advocate AGAINST ham-stringing the U.S.military and our government from collecting intelligence about our enemies by arbitrarily redefining and limiting what is legal (as is already defined by international law). This intelligence is vastly more important that manpower and ordnance for winning wars and saving lives, as History has proven many times.


    P.S. G’head and have the last word; it’s your blog afterall. Thanks for the cordial discussion. :)

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