"The action I am taking is no more than a radical measure to hasten the explosion of truth and justice. I have but one passion: to enlighten those who have been kept in the dark, in the name of humanity which has suffered so much and is entitled to happiness. My fiery protest is simply the cry of my very soul. Let them dare, then, to bring me before a court of law and let the enquiry take place in broad daylight!" - Emile Zola, J'accuse! (1898) -

Thursday, April 17, 2008

I Have All The Ingredients For An Impeachment Pie, But I Need Some Help…

Think Again: The Media (Finally) Talk About Torture

At some point following the March 2002 capture of Al Qaeda leader Abu Zubaydah, the National Security Council's Principals Committee, comprised of several Bush administration officials at the highest level, met in the White House to discuss and ultimately authorize brutal interrogation techniques on detainees. At one point during the proceedings, according to recent revelations by ABC News, then-Attorney General John Ashcroft asked, "Why are we talking about this in the White House? History will not judge this kindly."

You know you're in trouble when John Ashcroft is the most moderate voice in the room; it's rather like having Keith Richards plot your addiction intervention. (This actually happened to the late Gram Parsons, but that's another story.) Truer words have perhaps never been spoken in the presence of the men and women who plotted this nation's worst strategic catastrophe in its history. April has hardly been a kind month for the Bush administration, as tenacious reporting has revealed a good deal of information about who authorized what torture methods, and when.

In early April, Phillipe Sands, an international lawyer and professor at University College London, published "The Green Light" in Vanity Fair. The piece outlines the methods of interrogation at Guantanamo Bay and the Bush administration's involvement in painstaking detail. Sands reports that a delegation of administration lawyers traveled to the base in September 2002; "[t]he group included the president's lawyer, Alberto Gonzales ... Vice President Cheney's lawyer, David Addington ... the C.I.A.'s John Rizzo, who had asked for a Justice Department sign-off on individual techniques ... and Jim Haynes, Rumsfeld's counsel." Needless to say, that group of lawyers has a pretty powerful client list, and they ultimately left Guantanamo with this instruction: "Do whatever needed to be done."

Sands also reveals the stunning fact that the Fox network's hit show 24 actually influenced some of the group's policy-making decisions. "The first year of Fox TV's dramatic series 24 came to a conclusion in spring 2002, and the second year of the series began that fall. An inescapable message of the program is that torture works. ëWe saw it on cable,' [one official] recalled. ëPeople had already seen the first series. It was hugely popular.' Jack Bauer had many friends at Guantanamo, [the official] added. ëHe gave people lots of ideas.'" (Another bit of absolutely morbid comedy was added to this tale when Sands reported that then-Under Secretary of Defense for Policy Douglas Feith claimed that only "assholes" were worried about torture and how it related to America's "moral authority.")

The Pentagon this month was forced to comply with Freedom of Information Act requests by releasing documents authored by John Yoo, then of the Department of Justice's Office of Legal Council, and now of the University of California at Berkeley Law School, that dovetail on Sands' findings. The documents gave "military interrogators broad authority to use extreme methods in questioning detainees and argued that wartime powers largely exempted interrogators from laws banning harsh treatment."

The memos shocked legal experts, as they "tripp[ed] lightly over what should be boulders," as Slate's Emily Bazelon put it. The memos asserted with "glib certainty" that the president simply has all of the war-making power, which extends to interrogations, and Congress has none. Everyone at Guantanamo—any enemy aliens, for that matter—have no constitutional or international protections.

The memos, later partially rescinded, outline the thinking behind many of America's initial torture policies, and will no doubt be important parts of the historical record. Although Yoo denies it because he "doesn't know it as a fact," his rationale in the Gitmo memos appears to have been applied in Iraq at Abu Ghraib.

Months after Yoo's memos, Major General Antonio M. Taguba issued a report citing numerous instances of "sadistic, blatant, and wanton criminal abuses" by U.S. military personnel at Abu Ghraib. In the summer of 2003, former Defense Secretary James Schlesinger investigated the Abu Ghraib torture atrocities and declared they, indeed, had "migrated" from Guantanamo Bay.

More revelations about how the Unites States' interrogation polices were authorized have followed Sands' report. On April 9, ABC News broke the news that the most senior Bush administration officials discussed and approved specific, brutal interrogation practices used by the CIA. The principals included Vice President Dick Cheney, former National Security Advisor Condoleezza Rice, Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, and Secretary of State Colin Powell, as well as CIA Director George Tenet and Attorney General John Ashcroft. The group got into specific details of interrogations, going as far as specifying how often certain tactics could be used.

The committee was briefed on the interrogation plan for Zubaydah, for example, and ultimately signed off on a set of methods the CIA was allowed to use. What we don't know yet is who, if anyone, objected to the plan. Zubaydah was one of three detainees whom CIA has admitted waterboarding, leading Ashcroft to make his now prophetic announcement.

ABC News, along with the Associated Press, followed up on the story over the next few days with admirable tenacity. The network reported that during the meetings, Condoleezza Rice effectively ignored concerns voiced by Secretary of State Colin Powell, instructing the CIA, "This is your baby. Go do it."

The AP also reported, on April 11, that the principles "took care to insulate President Bush" from the decisions made during their meetings. ABC News asked the president about the meetings and he explained "Yes, I'm aware our national security team met on this issue. And I approved."

People have been indicted for less...

The New Yorker and Washington Post have long reported on the agency's "enhanced interrogation" methods and Dana Priest has reported on CIA black sites, to name just two. This recent reporting fills out the picture of a country whose moral compass has all but ceased to function.

And yet, as Glenn Greenwald recently observed, stories with the words "Yoo" and "torture" appeared 102 times during the two weeks the story was developing, according to NEXIS, which is one-tenth as often as "Obama" and "bowling" appeared over the same time period. ("Obama" and "Wright" overloaded the NEXIS system, appearing more than 3,000 times).

History will not likely be so kind...

Eric Alterman is a Senior Fellow at the Center for American Progress and a Distinguished Professor of English at Brooklyn College, and a professor of journalism at the CUNY Graduate School of Journalism. His blog, "Altercation," appears at http://www.mediamatters.org/altercation. His seventh book, Why We're Liberals: A Political Handbook for Post-Bush America, has just been released by Viking.

George Zornick is a New York-based writer.

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Both Gen. David Petraeus and President Bush have indicated a willingness to keep American troops in Iraq for at least 10 years without regard to the costs in both human lives and dollars and to our overall national security. The Center for American Progress has calculated cost projections for a 10-year troop presence in Iraq.

In every scenario, the cost of war will reach beyond $1 trillion, making it the most expensive U.S. war in history.

It’s been over a year since the surge began, and despite short-term tactical progress, political reconciliation is nowhere in sight. We are continuing to sink precious national security resources into the country at the expense of other threats, including those posed by Al Qaeda and its safe havens in Afghanistan and Pakistan.

It is time to stop recklessly endangering the lives of our brave men and women serving in Iraq as well as the national security of this country and begin a strategic reset in the region and a strategic redeployment of our forces from Iraq over the next 10 to 12 months….

After George Bush told ABC News he personally approved of the approval of torture - including waterboarding - you'd think the story would be front page news, not just on Countdown and The Daily Show.

But you'd be wrong. There has been absolutely no news coverage and a handful of editorials in the Brattleboro (Vt.) Reformer, Kansas City Star, Seattle Post-Intelligencer, and Tuscaloosa (Ala.) News.

If your newspaper is missing, help us organize a Torture News Strike.

Call your newspaper editor and tell him/her you are suspending your subscription until they give Bush's torture confession the serious coverage it deserves either in the news or editorial section, or preferably both. Then call the circulation department and tell them to suspend delivery until further notice.

And post about it with your neighbors here:

On Monday, we asked you to sign our petition to Congress to impeach Bush and Cheney for approving torture.

Your response was incredible! In just two days, we delivered 25,000 signatures to our Representatives and Senators!

If you haven't yet signed, please visit:

Dr. Martin Luther King famously said of the Vietnam War, "A time comes when silence is betrayal." When our President and Vice President personally approve torture, that time is now.

Dear ed.,

You and I suspected it. Now, ABC News confirms it.¹

Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice chaired repeated White House meetings approving specific torture techniques before they were used -- then lied about it to Congress.

Now Brave New Films put it all together in a "smoking gun" video. That's why, Democracy for America is partnering with True Majority and Brave New Films to launch an aggressive national campaign with a simple message: Condi Must Go.

Watch the video and sign the petition now.


This is the first time concrete evidence shows that senior White House officials, "not only discussed specific plans and specific interrogation methods, but approved them."

The torture meetings were gruesome in detail, often choreographed "down to the number of times a CIA agent could use a specific tactic" or combination of tactics.

The ABC news report makes it crystal clear that torture committed in Abu Ghraib and Guantanamo Bay were not isolated incidents by a few "bad apples". In fact, these incidents were standard operating procedure dictated at the highest level of government and led by the current Secretary of State. Her directives to the CIA were unambiguous, "This is your baby, go do it."

Join me in signing the "Condi Must Go" petition right now.


Don't sit this petition out because you think Secretary Rice is untouchable. When we joined with Brave New Films to push for the impeachment of Alberto Gonzales last year, no one thought he would ever be forced out of office. Our critics were wrong then, and they are wrong now.

That's why we're working with True Majority and Brave New Films to expose the truth about Condoleezza Rice. Today, we launch the petition. Tonight, we start a media campaign with a 30-second ad airing on ABC immediately after tonight's Presidential debate.

We will not stop until Condoleezza Rice is held accountable. Sign the petition now.


Working together, we move America forward.