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November 06, 2005


I hope this is another sign of a coordinated effort by Democrats ( a cabal, if you will) to keep this issue on the front burner. Even the liberal hawks should be able to get behind it -- "I was lied to" is their best approach to Iraq at this point, and they should use it. I'm rather amazed and dismayed, however, that it took 60% disapproval ratings before the corporate media and Dems embraced this obvious story about Iraq.

George S had his usual fair and balanced panel today: leftist Zakarias, centrist George Will and leaning right Newt. The 4th, an ABC commentator, was not an entity worth mentioning.

The gist was HRC was right to strick to her guns, we were all right about Saddam, and wavering will be punished by the American people. Any democrat who changes his mind will be appeasing the base and a wimp captive of the polls (see kerry).

That's why it's so important - vital - for Gep to speak out, and for Jehl and others to show where Bush was lying about overblown threats. Without that base of knowledge, it'll be "Dems were brainwashed" = Romney = stupid.

I think that's Linda Douglas. Actually, I would label Fareed, Will and Newt all as conservatives.

This story got no play on C-Span and Meet the Press as far as I can tell. Did anybody else cover it?


You might be right that the Dems might be making a coordinated effort to keep the issue alive.

Hee's something from teh front page of today's Philadelphia Inquirer (A Knight -Ridder paper)


"Democrats: Deceit made us back war"

The Democratic party appears to have finally come up with a way to explain why so many of its elected leaders gave President Bush the authority to wage war in Iraq.

Three simple words: 'We were duped.'"


"Many Democrats believe it's good politics these days to say that they were lied to. This message, actually a rite of confession, is designed to help their erstwhile pro-war politicians get back in sync with the party's liberal antiwar base. That's especially important for some of the original pro-war Democrats who want to run for president in 2008. After all, liberal voters tend to dominate the Democratic primaries, and they're expecting to hear apologies."

That last paragraph is a bit maddening, thoug it could be true. It highlights the tactical significance of the Dems critiques while downplaying the possibility that the Bush administration might have (ahem) deceived us.

Actually, I would label Fareed, Will and Newt all as conservatives.

I left the sarcasm tag off. In that crowd, Zakarias is the leftist. Linda Douglas in the above context wass useless and contributed nothing. Non-entity.

PS The MTP panel, otoh, was Brownstein, Gregory (NBC) and Totenberg. Far more balanced. Sometimes George S feels obligated to show he's not just a Clinton Dem, and he goes too far.

They point out that public opinion is rising that Bush misled everyone. In that context, Dem recantations are not a sin. Not because the polls said so, but because Bush really did mislead.

Dem recantations may not be a sin, but we've sunk pretty damn low when the best way our leaders can find to crawl out of a hole they dug through their own cowardice is to to say "we were stupid."

janinsanfran, we are where we are. Elections have consequenses, in more than one way. The winner writes the narrative.

Elections are won by those whose leadership seems, even marginally, more plausible than the alternative. A low standard, but true. Democrats need to have enough guts to propose a way out of the hole -- so far, aside from Feingold, they seem more concerned with preserving their illusory positions of relative standing.

As for the winner writing the narrative -- that is precisely what we are seeing unravel. Let's hope we can offer an alternative one. Glad to see any signs of life there, and we do see a few like Reid's intervention -- but notably NOT from those who hope to be President.

I had an interesting (and frustrating) conversation with a Congressional aide the other day. I won't mention whose office he was from, but the Congressman he works for is a conservative to moderate Dem. Anyway, I was expressing my outrage that the Democrats are showing very little leadership in opposition to the war in Iraq and that I couldn't support anyone in the future who will not come out now and demand that we withdraw our troops.

The aide actually said to me (while trying to imagine what his boss would say) that if only some moderate Republicans would speak out against Bush's policies, the Dems would go along. I then was even MORE outraged! I said to him, "So you're saying to me that if only the Republicans would lead, we would follow?" I told him that was exactly the problem with the Democrats.

I felt bad for the guy because he was personally sympathetic and understood where I was coming from. I can only hope he passed along some of my comments to his boss.

Susan, tell him to write down everthing Chuck Hagel says.

I see this has been highlighted elsewhere on the web:

TONY BLAIR is set to face an unprecedented parliamentary inquiry into his conduct in the run-up to the Iraq war.

A coalition of Tory and Labour MPs is to table a motion to set up a Commons committee to examine “the conduct of ministers” both before and after the war. They believe they need the support of about 30 Labour rebels to succeed.

The committee, comprising seven privy counsellors, would have the power to see all sensitive documents and call any British witnesses, including intelligence chiefs.

The failure to plan for the aftermath is likely to be at the heart of the committee’s inquiries now that Iraq is in the grip of a violent insurgency, says the Tory MP Douglas Hogg, one of the inquiry’s architects and who is canvassing support for the move. The coalition already has backing from the Liberal Democrats and the Scottish and Welsh Nationalists


I share the andger of janinsanfran and Susan S but we should also keep in mind that these recantations are coming out just as the Libby trial is beginning. The trial will generate headlines from time to time that will remind people of the deceit without which the WH cannot operate. If enough Dems can combine their "I was wrong" statement with explicit references to WH deceptions, Dems as a whole could make the case that Bush & co. (and better still the current GOP as a whole) cannot be trusted on national security. After all, it wasn't just the White House that engaged in an unprecedented level of deception. They had plenty of enablers in Congress and the Senate.

If handled right, the recantations could become a useful too, but I suppose that's a lot to ask of the current generation of Dems in Washington.

Re the recantations: Looks like Rockefeller is willing to go first.

This is just one more reason why we can't abide by torture. Torture becomes a tool the government uses to create lies to tell the American people.
Hear, hear!

"Elections have consequenses . . . The winner writes the narrative."

Yes, DemFromCT, exactly--same as in war. And if you want to win the vote, you have to convince your non-supporters that they were STUPID for voting for the other guy last time. And no one wants to hear that they were stupid. That's why the "I was lied to" theme works so well for the Dems: It's a diplomatic way of asking people to reconsider their position. It saves face. And it's true.

landreau, "I was misled". Covers mistakes as well as lies. As I noted in a previous post, all R talking points are built around "don't blame us', though some are specifically "Don't blame Bush".

But this WH and the GOP (who, after all, are responsible for the appalling lack of oversight need to be helpd accountable, and will be by the voting public).

I'm pretty angry about the torture question. I have some rather complex attitudes about it. Torture should be used only in the most extreme of circumstances. It should not be a matter of policy. In fact there should be a national policy statement that torture will not be used except in the most compelling of situations. Of course, defining what those situations are is the crux of the issue. I am familar with the Israeli "ticking clock" criterion.

Let me try to make clear my beliefs with a very personal example; let's say a group of kidnappers took a loved-one of mine. Somehow, one of the kidnappers fell into my hands. They (man or woman) know where my loved-one is being held. I would do the most hedious things to compel them to give me the information. Without remorse. However, I could not, and would not attempt to justify my actions. Once I obtained the information, and used it to secure the life and saftey of my loved-one, I would give myself up for trial in a court of law. I would not use the defense that the "crime" I had committed was justified by some higher purpose. I did it because I felt saving the life of my loved-one was worth committing a crime. That does not absolve me from having to pay for that crime. Governments should be held to no less a standard.

If you believe enough in something, then you should believe enough to accept the price for your actions, be that a decoration, or prison, or worse.

I know this might seem very convoluted. But, that is how I feel about it.

Good job tying the threads together, 'wheel. The Dems need to couple the torture problem with the faulty intel problem, IMHO, for several reasons. What we essentially have is (1) preconceptions and bias toward going to war, for disparate reasons; (2) an attempt to get intelligence to support any plausible rationale for war, but particularly WMD and tying Saddam to al Qaeda and (3) an attempt to coverup the connection between the two when the intel proves faulty, at least long enough to secure Bush's reelection.

Of course from our perspective this proves that intel should be about getting good information, because if you go blind into a situation like Iraq, there is almost an infinitesimal chance of success, because the whole plan, such as it was, is based on false info.

From their perspective, it was a success because they got their war and Bush got reelected. And because they really, at bottom, do believe their own hype, they think it will all turn out ok if we just stay there long enough.

As for whether the information did or didn't get to people like Cheney (whether it was stopped by people who knew what the boss did and didn't want to hear or whether it did but was ignored), I'm inclined to think it is a combination of the two. Cheney is pathologically incapable of understanding that he is or can be wrong, even in the face of overwhelming evidence--or he just doesn't think reality matters, which is even more frightening. The overwhelming evidence is that he is bent on a particular course of action regardless of the consequences and regardless of how reality-based it is, and no one seems to be able dislodge him. Indict Libby and he elevates Addington. Wilkerson described Rummy as mad, but I think Cheney is even more pathological, and even with his 19% favorable ratings, more powerful. And more dangerous. Both know that this is their last chance--neither can run for Pres. Torture is Cheney's Achilles heel, I think, which is why making it part of the narrative weakens him, at least in the Senate.

The R's in Congress do have a responsibility here, since he is one of theirs. But the Dems need to start taking him on in a focused, if not direct, way. They do seem to be laying the groundwork, and it is about time.

mamayaga: that link to the Rockefeller story was no good, but while I was looking for it I found an interesting post on Hastert being knee-deep in the Abramoff scandal.

When do we expect the Abramoff thing to start really taking off?

Hmmm...sorry about that. Here it is without any frills:

This is clearly a case where torture worked.

The administration wanted Somebody Bad to tell them that Saddam had these weapons of mass destruction and was working with Bin Laden. And they no doubt communicated this to Al Libi, in one way or another.

And they got exactly the confession they needed to send the country into war.

Now, of course, they didn't get the truth -- but the truth is not what they were after. They wanted to go to war, and they needed some kind of excuse, and that's what they got.

Thad Beier

Hi emptywheel ... a lurking fan here.

I very much liked this analysis and the important conclusions you drew. You succinctly manage to point up the important *role* torture plays for this Admin.

I've just come across a very perceptive commentary that explores much the same point at some greater length. From the comments section of Juan Cole's Informed Comment, here is Michael Pollak (please forgive the lengthy cite):


"There is a lot to be said for the idea that fighting evil can make us evil. But when it comes to torture, recent events suggest a more direct mechanism: torture is the indispensable basis of fake intelligence. It is how you create irrefutable evidence for what your ideology says should exist, which allows you to override all contrary evidence.

Recently you discussed crucially false intelligence given to us by the al-Qaeda leader

It now turns out that there seems to be a very simple explanation for why Libi told the interrogators what they wanted to hear: he was tortured.

Now, since Libi ranked high in al-Qaeda, the fact that we tortured him isn't a surprise in itself. But what makes it an interesting subject for reflection is that he seems to have been the subject of a battle. His was the first case where torture won out. And the surprise is that this was all prominent news more than 3 years ago in
in the wake of Abu Ghraib.

This might well be part of why the DIA suspected he was lying. Although "lying" doesn't seem to exactly capture the speech act of "telling torturers what they want to hear.
Atrios seems to have been the first to make this suggestion.

This seems like another fine exhibit of how torture can be counted on to produce the worst kind of intelligence -- the kind that makes us positive that our fantasies are reality by "confirming" them.

And it's by no means the first. I would argue that it is often the essence of a countrywide torture operation such as we used to run in Latin America. You capture people, torture them, and they tell you want you want to hear as well as the names of people. You torture the people they named, and these "confirm" the original confessions for the same reason: they are also telling you what you want to hear in order to get the torture to stop. The end result is to create a cascade of confirming "facts" -- and with them an ultimate truth that seems to stand on them irrefutably: that these people you are torturing are evil and deserve it. And this is of paramount importance: torture, by creating evidence, justifies torture: it becomes literally the only means to obtain the crucially confirming information -- because that crucial information is made up. And by this means it hid under the cloak of a search for truth the real means by which systemic torture "worked" in fighting guerrilla war in Latin America and other countries: it made clear to everyone in the population that any opposition could get you tortured by getting you caught up in these concentric circles of being named. The "truths" created by torture rationalized a system of rule by terrorization. It was exactly the mechanism by which Saddam ruled Iraq. But the crucial difference was we believed the truth that our system created. And that made it seem like something other than the incarnation of evil. Without that belief, there would be nothing to cover that reality.

So for such a system, the "truths" that torture creates are indispensable. But even when torture is not being used as a means of countrywide oppression it still always produces the truths we want to hear. Or so it seems based on the little evidence that escapes its secrecy (which is the second reason its truths are irrefutable: its evidence is by nature unexaminable except by those who believe).

The great example in Iraq is the infamous journal posted on the internet by the contract interrogator Joe Ryan. (Remember the great contract interrogator scandal? It seems so long ago.) There we learned that his interrogatees confirmed every ignorant thing he thought about Iraq -- and above all the dominant line that the Iraqi insurgency had been gotten up and run by foreigners:



So there is a kind of perfect fit when we now learn that the ultimate force pushing for torture by the US -- the one party willing to defend it even in the light of day, even against the opposition of 90% of the Senate -- is the office of Richard Cheney, who the Washington Post, in an October 26 editorial, recently and famously called
http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2005/10/25/AR200 5102501388.html

It's no accident that Cheney's office is also the ground zero for the faked intelligence that led to the war (which has recently been churned up by the Fitzgerald investigation and the indictment of the other Libby). People like Richard Cheney need torture because they need distorted intelligence. They need irrefutable objective proof that their distorted ideas are true. And they need to torture reality to do it. Their ideas and their policy can't survive without it.

The lies of torture contributed to the last war. And if unchecked, it will lead to the next."

In fact, I think this analysis applies far more broadly than to just torture. Pollak's emphasis on the irrefutability (public unfalsifiability) of allegations seems to capture something quite essential of the M.O. of this Admin, one plainly (and quite effectively) at work in the massive campaign of deception deployed in making the case for war in Iraq. It also underscores the strategic importance and instrumentality of "intelligence" (both with and without the scare quotes) to the Bush Admin and its propaganda machine.

All you need in this life is ignorance and confidence, and then success is sure.
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