In his post today, Glenzilla thoroughly parses the new Washington Post poll which indicates that solid majorities of the American people believe that torture should not be used in any circumstances, that terrorist suspects should be tried in regular courts and that there should be official investigations into the Bush era torture regime. It would seem that the beltway elite's characterization of people who hold such opinion as being "liberal score settlers" would both indicate that a majority of the country is liberal and that they actually believe that torture is wrong. Imagine that.
This brings up an interesting dilemma for our old pal Christopher Hitchens who held a fabulous village gala the other night at his place and said:
“I know something for a sure thing,” Hitchens continued. “The demand for torture and other methods I would describe as illegal, the demand to go outside the Geneva conventions — all this came from below. What everyone wants to say is this came from a small clique around the vice-president. It's not educational. It doesn't enlighten anyone to behave as if that were true. This is our society wanting and demanding harsh measures.” Therefore, he went on, the demand for prosecution or other measures against Bush administration officials would likewise have to come from below, via the grassroots. “Otherwise it's just vengeful, I suppose, and partisan.”
But, as I wrote earlier, when Hitchens talks about coming from below he really means the media elite who "represent" Real Americans. They don't listen to the polls, they listen to their guts, which are a far more reliable gauge of what the grassroots really believe than polls or elections.
Meanwhile, here's Town Crier Chuck Todd reassuring us all that these new executive orders won't allow the terrorists to kill us all in our beds:
Todd: There are still some loopholes. Those who are worried that somehow there isn't going to be a way to get intelligence out of them... for instance, while there is a mandate, one of these executive orders says that the Army Field Manual is what needs to be used to decide how to interrogate these folks, there is also going to be an allowance by this new commission to come up with a protocol to deal with intelligence, you know detainees that are detained from the intelligence battlefield, not necessarily the actual combatant, you know, one that would be soldier to soldier.
Now the administration says this does not mean they will invite new methods of interrogation back into the fold, but like I said Andrea, you could go through here with a fine tooth comb and could find plenty of loopholes that would allow certain things to happen.
Now, it's hard to make sense out of that, and I don't know specifically what loopholes he's talking about, but it's clear that Chuck Todd is seeking to reassure everyone that some kind of torture will be allowed if it's really necessary. (Boy that's a relief, huh?)
In fact, the whole tenor of the coverage of today's executive orders seems to be about how Obama has done this because Guantanamo and torture "look bad" but that he's got to find some legal means to circumvent constitutional principles because well ... he just does:
Pete Williams: The most controversial aspect of this is that there will still be a category of detainees that can't be released but can't be put on trial because there isn't enough evidence or because the evidence was obtained in some way that couldn't be used in court and they seem to say in this document, "we're still probably going to have to hold those people if they're dangerous, we just don't know how," so one of the things this document says is to the government, look at our legal options, there must be some legal way to do this.
And, of course, human rights groups have been saying "you can't have it both ways" you can't both detain them and not put them on trial.
Where do those human rights groups get those crazy ideas?
I honestly don't know why we shouldn't apply this logic across the board. If the authorities "know" that someone is guilty of murder but they don't have any evidence or coerced an unreliable confession out of them under torture, why isn't there some legal way to hold this alleged murderer anyway? Indeed, it would save a lot of time and money if we could just dispense with the whole trial process at all --- if the government just "knows" when someone is dangerous and that they've committed crimes then what's the point of all this "proof" business in the first place?
I have no idea what Obama really has in mind with these orders --- although they are certainly a welcome step in the right direction this commission he's forming to assess interrogation techniques seems superfluous to me. The Geneva Conventions aren't obscure on these points and neither is the scholarship on effective interrogation techniques. I assume that he's simply trying to appease the intelligence community by not being unequivocal in the first few days.
But regardless of his intentions, it's clear that the media has decided that he's trying to have it both ways. I'm sure that's very reassuring to them --- they all love torture and indefinite detention (except for themselves and their friends, who "suffer enough" if they are simply publicly embarrassed.) But if Obama's intention is to send a clear signal that America is not going to torture and imprison people in violation of the law and the constitution, the media that's supposed to convey that view isn't getting the message.
Let's hope they are just being myopic and stupid as usual. If they aren't, or this "confusion" is allowed to stand, then it's likely that the foreign policy benefit of changing the policies are going to be compromised. I hear that the foreigners have the internet these days.
Here's the Center For Constitutional Rights' statement on today's orders.