In The Future America Does Not Torture

by digby

The dance continues:

As President-elect Barack Obama assures intelligence officials that his complaints are with the Bush administration, not them, there are growing hints from Democratic Senate allies that spy agency veterans will not be prosecuted for past harsh interrogation and detainee policies.

Senate Intelligence Committee Chairman Dianne Feinstein told The Associated Press in an interview this week that there is a clear distinction between those who made the policies and those who carried them out.

"They (the CIA) carry out orders and the orders come from the (National Security Council) and the White House, so there's not a lot of policy debate that goes on there," she said. "We're going to continue our looking into the situation and I think that is up to the administration and the director."

Feinstein declined to comment on whether her committee would take specific action to offer legal cover to those involved in harsh interrogations that some critics say amount to torture.

This is a straw man. The debate is not about the low level operatives involved in the interrogation regime. It's about those who devised and ordered it. Not that I blame the low level people for being concerned that they will left holding the bag. That's how it usually works. But that's not where the argument over torture is at the moment.

The clever thing about Feinstein deftly throwing of the hot potato back to the administration is that the congress should be where any serious investigation of the policy and those who ordered it takes place. What appears to be happening is that the administration will task someone with finding out if any "crimes" were committed, and they will likely find none because John Yoo decided what the law was. But that's just my cynical guess.

I'm beginning to wonder if there isn't more to all this than is obvious. I don't honestly think anyone wants to deal with the torture regime, and it doesn't seem to me that there is a huge public clamor for it. For most people, it's probably enough that the president has promised to end the policy. So, I'm a little bit surprised that it remains so prominent on the radar screen. Something doesn't scan.

Meanwhile, I have to ask why Obama is using this very careful language repeatedly:

"I was clear throughout this campaign and was clear throughout this transition that under my administration the United States does not torture. We will abide by the Geneva Conventions. We will uphold our highest ideals," he said. "We must adhere to our values as diligently as we protect our safety with no exceptions."

Why does he keep saying "the United States does not torture." Why does he use the exact phrase that Bush used, which was clearly calibrated to conform with the notion that "torture" was a matter of definition, which his administration defined as being something other than the practices they approved? It's a strange phrase, which sounds as though he's saying that the United States shouldn't torture, when he's actually saying that it hasn't tortured. And that's just not true.

I would chalk it up to mangled grammar and wouldn't mention it if it had only happened once, but he said it on 60 Minutes too:

I have said repeatedly that I intend to close Guantanamo, and I will follow through on that. I have said repeatedly that America doesn’t torture, and I’m going to make sure that we don’t torture. Those are part and parcel of an effort to regain America’s moral stature in the world.

It is awkward grammatically for him to say it that way and it stands out like a sore thumb. His use of the phrase yesterday --- "under my administration the United States does not torture" makes him sound like English is his second language.

I don't know what it means, maybe nothing. I have no reason to believe that Obama isn't completely sincere about ending the torture regime, so I assume this is more about pretending that it never happened than any desire to keep torturing. But he is a very precise speaker and it strikes me as noteworthy that he repeatedly uses this phrase. I find it hard to believe that it's accidental.