How Cheney and the Times Framed Obama

The Times supplies its story with a screaming headline...

Banned Techniques Yielded `High Value Information,' Memo Says

Torture works! Who knew?

The source of this garbage is Admiral Dennis Blair, who is deeply committed to giving everybody who tortured detainees a free pass.

"I like to think I would not have approved those methods in the past," he wrote, "but I do not fault those who made the decisions at that time, and I will absolutely defend those who carried out the interrogations within the orders they were given."

So it isn't exactly big news that this guy would claim his top-secret records prove that torture really works, and we're all so much safer because a few raggedy Arabs were (half) drowned, frozen, humiliated, beaten, kicked, suffocated, sleep-deprived, isolated, chained up like pretzels for days at a time and forced to poop and pee all over themselves, while their families were arrested, threatened, tortured, deported, and dispossessed.


It was worth it, for us, because secret documents (allegedly) prove that plots were foiled, like the monstrous "Liberty City 6" conspiracy, now entering the jury phase of its third trial, after both previous trials ended with hung juries, because there were no guns or bombs or anything like a plan anywhere near this nonsense, and it was nothing but a bunch of dead-broke South Florida hustlers conning FBI informants into fronting them some cash.

But for an obviously partisan observer like Admiral Blair, who already announced his unconditional support for CIA interrogators, the "Liberty City 6" were enough of a menace to justify anything, if it made us .00001% safer.

And it didn't.

But the New York Times makes this garbage story a whole lot worse than it had to be, by inserting an admission that isn't really there into an otherwise inconsequential sound bite from President Obama.

"I'm sure that sometimes it seems as if that means we're operating with one hand tied behind our back or that those who would argue for a higher standard are naïve," he said. "I understand that. You know, I watch the cable shows once in a while."

But he added: "What makes the United States special, and what makes you special, is precisely the fact that we are willing to uphold our values and our ideals even when it's hard, not just when it's easy."

The Times interprets this to mean...

Mr. Obama's team has cast doubt on the effectiveness of the harsh interrogations, but in a visit to the C.I.A. this week, the president did not directly question that. Instead, he said, any disadvantage imposed by banning those tactics was worth it.

"Instead, he said..." But he didn't. He didn't postulate any "disadvantage." He only referred to a TV delusion.

So what?

Dick Cheney has been busily setting up Barack Obama as the fall guy in the event of a major terrorist attack within the United States, by claiming than restrictions on CIA interrogations make us less safe, and now he has a money quote from the New York Times.

(Obama) said "any disadvantage imposed by banning those tactics was worth it."

Boom! Do you think it was worth it now, Mr President?

This is a scene that writes itself for the Republicans, and now they can quote America's "newspaper of record!"

It's also a trick the Republicans have used before, when Bush officials leaked crazy rumors about nukes in Iraq to the New York Times on Saturday afternoon, and then quoted the "news" they had planted on the Sunday morning talk shows.

With impeccable timing, on the eve of the first anniversary of the September 11th attacks, top Bush officials appeared on the Sunday talk shows to discuss the aluminum tube story that someone among them had just planted in the New York Times.
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    Mmmm (5.00 / 1) (#1)
    by jbindc on Fri Apr 24, 2009 at 09:56:27 AM EST
    I don't think Obama has been "framed" for anything.  I think both sides have skin in the game and no one wants to say anything except "the other guys did it!"

    Obama sat on the Foreign Relations and Homeland Security committees in the Senate. (I will not comment on how infrequently he attended meetings or how he never held a meeting of the sub-committee he chaired).  But my guess is, he knew about this stuff, or more accurately, he should have known about this.  And Congress voted to fund these activities.

    I am also a believer that neither side is telling the truth.  But to say Obama was "framed" tells the wrong story.  It continues the theme that Bush-Cheney are all powerful and all evil, and Obama is an innocent little naif in the woods - just trying to do good for all mankind - he is the David to the Goliath and he stands for "the little people".  I don't think it's that simple.

    Is torture a good policy?  No.  Did we get valuable information?  Probably.  Does that justify torture?  Hard to say, without knowing what the information was.

    I'm not one of those Pollyannas who go around saying, "Torture never produces useful information" because I think that is wrong.  But that is a different argument than saying, "I think it should not be the policy of the United States to engage in torture because it is morally reprehensible."

    Thanks for your thoughtful comment, but... (none / 0) (#2)
    by Jacob Freeze on Fri Apr 24, 2009 at 11:00:15 AM EST
    Thanks for your thoughtful comment, but it belongs with a different diary.

    The particular diary to which this particular comment has accidentally attached itself like a floating dust-mote attaching itself to a cobweb isn't actually about Obama's guilt or innocence as a sponsor of torture, or otherwise.

    It also isn't about the efficacy of torture as tool of intelligence, although I can't agree with your characterization of the "Pollyannas" who deny that torture produces useful intelligence, unless by "Pollyannas" you mean hard-as-nails CIA case officers like Robert Baer ("But legal or not, the important thing to remember is that torture doesn't work.") and Ray McGovern. ("In the past, torture fell into disuse primarily because it did not work.")

    This diary is about a trap.

    It's about a trap that Dick Cheney has already set for Barack Obama, with the willful or unwitting assistance of a stooge at the New York Times.

    Cheney says Obama has made us less safe by ending "enhanced interrogation," and the stooge at the Times (Peter Baker) claims Obama admitted that ending "enhanced interrogation" imposed disadvantages on the United States.

    Obama neither admitted nor implied any such thing, but now...

    If another major terrorist attack within the United States occurs during Obama's administration, Cheney can claim that Obama admitted he was compromising national security by ending "enhanced interrogation," but he ended it anyway, and... Look what happened!

    And now Cheney can also quote the New York Times to support his accusation.

    For some reason (5.00 / 1) (#3)
    by JamesTX on Fri Apr 24, 2009 at 04:43:50 PM EST
    this debate really disturbs me. This problem keeps coming back like a bad infection.

    The good thing is that it demonstrates the vast difference in  moral reasoning between conservatives and progressives, and ends the argument on who is more human. No amount of evidence for the "effectiveness" of torture is relevant to our moral decision to ban it. The world is full of activities that are effective but proscribed on moral grounds. We could solve the problem of limited resources by inducing the powerful countries of the world to massacre the powerless. It would work, but it is wrong. Torture is wrong, whether it works or not. Murder works, and it is wrong. It sometimes provides the best outcome (I'm thinking of the movie Slingblade!). But it is still wrong. Somehow I think it is good that these people are showing their lack of moral development, but I am afraid they are encouraging Americans who don't understand moral reasoning to make an error in moral judgment. I can't believe we are still entertaining this sick argument.


    But (none / 0) (#4)
    by jbindc on Sat Apr 25, 2009 at 05:38:39 AM EST
    Yes, Cheney is framing the argument that way - I agree.  But you can't frame a person (or administration) unless they are completely innocent of something. That was my point, that was so inarticulately phrased -  Obama is no innocent in this matter.  As a member of Congress, he was complicit in this, and while he may not have given the orders or been to the meetings, he knew what was going on, and frankly, we have no idea what is going on under his authority right now.  So far, he has not had a history of being completely on the up and up, so why would we assume he is on the level on this topic?

    And if Obama is stupid enough to fall for Cheney's   "trap", after seeing these moves numerous times,  then he doesn't belong in the position he is in and he needs to go.



    I agree. (none / 0) (#5)
    by Jacob Freeze on Sat Apr 25, 2009 at 01:55:39 PM EST
    Obama deserves a significant share of the blame for voting to fund the war in Iraq over and over and over, and for distancing himself from issues like torture, which could have made him vulnerable to the usual "weak on defense" accusations from Republicans and Democratic hawks like Hillary Clinton. Obama protected himself instead of the Constitution, and I don't forgive him for it.

    But Cheney is trying to frame Obama for a crime he didn't commit, for compromising national security, and if that frame takes down Obama, it will also take down the Democratic Party and the rest of the left along with it.

    Although I can't exactly agree with you in this instance, jb, thanks for taking the trouble to write so many intelligent comments on my diaries. It's a real test for me to answer your objections, and I often incorporate the refinements you force me to make in the versions of these little essays that I post elsewhere.  


    Then (5.00 / 1) (#6)
    by jbindc on Sat Apr 25, 2009 at 06:18:48 PM EST
    My work here is done.