Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Mukasey and the Rack

In Washington Wednesday, Attorney General Michael Mukasey took the helm of the criminally-damaged Justice Department. President Bush was there to put his stamp of approval on his latest hire, as were John Ashcroft and Dick Thornberg, but, strangely, no Alberto Gonzalez. Muskasey, the federal judge who rubber-stamped every abuse of the Constitution imagined by the Bushies, now is in charge of the lame-duck administration’s last-ditch assaults on the Constitution, and appears up to the job. The only question is how much more of a mess the Democrats will have to clean up in ‘09, when they take charge and clean the dirty floors and files of a Justice Department as off-the-rails as the rest of the administration, if not more so.

The big issue in Mukasey’s confirmation hearings was "waterboarding", that time-honored torture technique that has regained favor in Bush and Cheney’s anything-goes war on humanity. Mukasey was more than slippery on the issue, pretending that he didn’t know enough about the ungodly procedure to make a judgement call on its appropriate use. You could see Dick Cheney nodding with pride in his office as the pliant former judge morphed into the pliant AG. You see, if it’s good enough for the Spanish Inquisition and the Khmer Rouge, it should be good enough for us. I mean, if we act like respectable humans, the terrorists win, right?

I always wondered why all this focus on pussy-footed techniques used by our wayward 21st-century interrogators, like waterboarding, sleep deprivation and the cold cell. The answer appears to be that your government favors torture that does not leave visible scars. But, if it’s really a matter of national security and the safety of millions of Americans, as torture advocates claim, why not let it all hang out? Hell, someone has information about the nuking of New York City? Why not thumb screws? The Iron Maiden? The Rack? What are we fooling around for? Let ‘em have it!

These are the questions that should have been asked of our latest Bush AG. Mr. Mukasey, how do you feel about the Rack? Do you think we should be allowed to use it? After all, the fate of millions hangs in the balance. Come on, judge. What about the Rack?

Chances are, Mukasey wouldn’t have answered that question either. "The Rack? Gee, I don’t know whether that is torture or not." He might quote Saint Giuliani: "It depends on how it’s done and who’s doing it." Any answer other than equivocation is considered weak or, at least limiting. You could imagine Cheney storming into the green room if Mukasey vacillated, his face red with rage. "Why the hell did you say that about the Rack?!!" he would mutter in twisted rage.

Well, with Mukasey now ensconced in the Gonzalez Memorial chair at the Justice Department, he doesn’t have to answer all those damn questions any more. As with all the Bush appointees, his ability to get away with outrages is limited only by the occasionally annoying squealing of those underlings with a conscience, of which there are fewer in Washington everyday. In his limited time in office, Mukasey’s charge will be to help Bush further stack the federal judiciary with weak sycophants (like Mukasey himself) and to fill the Justice Department civil service with more recruits from nut-right universities and "think"-tanks.

In Mukasey, Bush and Cheney have obviously found a kindred spirit. In discussing the "difficulty" of prosecuting accused terrorists, Mukasey wrote in the Bush-friendly pages of the Wall Street Journal "...the rules that apply to routine criminals who pursue finite goals are skewed, and properly so, to assure that only the highest level of proof will result in a conviction. But those rules do not protect a society that must gather information about, and at least incapacitate, people who have cosmic goals that they are intent on achieving by cataclysmic means."

Translation: We should not have to prove guilt in the most serious of cases like it’s some damn retail theft. I’ve wondered about the logic of these over-heated meatheads who insist that regular Constitutional protections are just too much when it comes to terrorism suspects. Alright, you say the guy’s a terrorist. Why? What’s your proof? Just prove it and you can do whatever you want to him. What’s so wrong with making you prove it? Putting all these people in this we-can’t-even-tell-you-why-we-think-you’re-bad Kafkaesque limbo is a large part of why the rest of the world has become alienated from us during the glorious Bush years. We have gone from one of the most legally fair countries in the world to a international legal pariah overnight.

By contributing to this bastard "intellectual" aberration, Mukasey fits right in. But I still want to know if he supports the Rack.


Anonymous said...

Mike, you've proven you're an expert at casting stones. In this case about Mukasey and his support of (in your eyes) torture. So if waterboarding is torture, what do you support in order to interrogate terrorists who know upcoming attacks or the whereabouts of high-value targets such as bin Laden or similar people? I'm not saying that waterboarding is the right technique mind you.

Maybe we should give them milk and cookies and hope and pray that they tell us everything they know?

Mike Plaisted said...

Thanks, Anony. I had a pool going for the timing of the first mention of "milk and cookies" in the comment thread to this post and I had the forsight to see it coming sooner rather than later. That's an extra $5 in my pocket! Well, I was the only guy in the pool, but still...

Well, it seems to me that there is a middle ground between milk-and-cookies and torture. Up until the Bushies, the U.S. had always found it. There are excellent cops and intellegence officers that have all kinds of tools at their disposal and they will tell you that the techniques that work have nothing to do with torture. They will be the first to tell you that disgusting feel-good vengence stunts like waterboarding produce bad, unusable information.

Besides the fact that you are proposing a scenario that hasn't and won't ever exist, I don't know why you'd stop at waterboarding in such a situation. How about pulling fingernails? Chopping fingers, one by one, until you get what you think you want? What do YOU think about the Rack, Anony? Come on -- what are you, some kind of terrorist-coddling wimp?

Anonymous said...

Funny, you don't answer my question other than saying that "it's somewhere in the middle." Talk about taking the easy way out.

Would you have been OK with waterboarding one terrorist if it meant the prevention of 9/11? Oops, wait, probably not because that wouldn't have accelerated your hatred of Bush...but that probably existed since he STOLE the election in 2000, right?

I support aggressive interrogation that doesn't kill or permanently maim a terrorist...waterboarding does neither. While our enemy prefers to cut off our heads with no questions asked, I prefer intense interrogation while making the terrorist feel as uncomfortable as possible, and yes, even flushing their prized Qu'ran down the toilet! Oh how cruel!!!!

Mike Plaisted said...

Ah, yes, the ends justify the means. I think there's a guy named OBL that's with you on that one.

This is why I can't wait for the grown-ups to take over in '09. No more childish twist-his-arm-till-he-cries-uncle schoolyard attitudes. But the professionals in intellegence and every other part of the government have been telling the Bushies how wrong they were all along and they never have listened. Can't they just take their ball and go home?

What do you mean no killing or maiming? If it's so damn important to get the information you think they have out of them, why would you stop at waterboarding? Give them the scars and be proud of it, so the rest of the world can see what we are capable of when we let go of our better nature.

Put your false bravado where your thumbscrews are. Don't be such a damn wimp.

Anonymous said...

Please explain how you think Hillary will end global terrorism if elected in 2009 as you're so sure of. What in Hillary's past has shown any ability to deal effectively with global terrorism? Has she said anything or proposed anything that leads you to believe that she'll do a far better job? Oh wait, she's gonna end waterboarding, that'll really make a HUGE difference in the war on terror. Nice try Mike. Go to Canada and join the phony soldiers if you want be a beatnik pacifist.

Other Side said...

Anony 11:52 am: Your comment highlights the inability of conservatives to engage in any argument without mentioning Ms. Clinton.

I believe Micheal was writing of the real professionals in intelligence that have not been allowed to do their jobs. Where was Ms. Clinton mentioned?


Anonymous said...

Mrs. Clinton is mentioned in reference to the "grown ups taking over in '09" considering the Dem frontrunner is far and away HRC. You can replace HRC, if you wish, with any other Dem candidate.

Who has not been allowed to do their jobs to snuff out terrorist attacks before they happen?

Mike Plaisted said...

Hey, Anony, why do I have to go to Canada to be a beatnik pacifist, if that's what I am, which I'm not? Who died and put you in charge of who is more American than who? Phony soldiers, eh? I'd love for you or that other punk, Limbaugh, to try that shit in the same room as someone who has lived through the messy details of Junior's Unnecessary War. Talk about torture.

Hey, guess what. No one is going to "end" the problem of terrorism. But there are ways to lower the risk, bring known bad guys to justice, stop creating more enraged young people in the Muslim world, restore America credibility as a world power with moral authority. I know some professionals in the foreign service and some will tell you that damage done by Bush and Cheney is irreparable -- that's we'll never be trusted in the international community again. But we gotta start somewhere and any of the leading Democrats (and McCain) are grown-up enough to at least stop the bleeding.

You can bay at the moon all you want, Anony, but the Bush era is dead and it ain't coming back. The only reason there hasn't been another terrorist attack in the U.S. is because the perpetrators are too busy laughing and enjoying watching us tie ourselves up in knots with restricted civil liberties, torture, unilateral disasters like Iraq, etc. Putting 800,000 names on a "terror watch list" and trolling through millions of phone calls and e-mails isn't effective security -- it's a fishing expedition.

We have hurt ourselves much more than OBL ever has or ever could. We have compromised our national soul and gained...nothing.

Anonymous said...

Mike: If Bush is so terrible, I can't imagine what you would have to say about Lincoln or Roosevelt or any of our war-time presidents. For someone who has studied the law and passed the bar--I assume--you seem to miss the fact that the legal system and constitution are stronger and more durable than you think.

There is an important difference between a thief--who might damage a merchant's bottom line--and a terrorist who might kill millions. Your fears seem to be predicated on the idea that Bush might one day throw Pelosi into Gitmo as a terrorist. (this would be quite funny, I admit) Or maybe, you think Bush has his black helicopters hovering over riverwest right now--is he at the window? None of these scenarios is true.

But as you say, the bush era is ending, and politics being what they are, we are likely to have a Dem president next. I'm sure you'll be more comfortable with their moral compass, but will you have left them the tools to do the job? See, terrorists won't just hold up their hands and say here I am. What will a new president Rohdam do then? Can't wiretap. Can't eavesdrop, can't wterboard, can't detain, can't check financial records, can't deprive of sleep, can't use the military. Pretty soon, all that's left is BOOM. Mukasey is just arguing that the hands of the government not be tied, that they be left open to defend us. Sure its nice to have the moral high-ground all the time, but I imagine things look different from inside the oval office.

And Mike, next time your talking to your friends at state, ask them for me why France, of all places, just became the latest nation to elect a conservative, pro-american president? Then tell them to get their lazy butts over to Iraq.

Mike Plaisted said...

Lazy butts -- love it. You had no way of knowing, Patrick, but one of the people I am talking about did hard time in the Green Zone for several years during the occupation. He came back looking like he'd been to the gates of hell. In other words, he's seen first-hand more than you ever will of the reprecussions of Bush's disaterous policies in Iraq and throughout the Middle East.

What's that? The next president "Can't wiretap. Can't eavesdrop, can't wterboard (sic), can't detain, can't check financial records, can't deprive of sleep, can't use the military."? They can and will wiretap, eavesdrop and detain -- with probable cause and court approval, before or after the fact. That's the way it works under our inconvenient Constitution. They won't torture, but that results in nothing anyway. And the military -- what's left of it -- will be used when needed. I think the grown-ups should be able to come in and do a much better job investigating and protecting just by trusting the professionals who were ignored and steamrolled by Bush & Co.

I'm glad you think having one of our national leaders held as a political prisoner is "funny". Perhaps the footage from Pakistan is amusing you. The black helicopters are not looking in my windows, but I'm sure my (and your) communications -- phone, e-mail, letters -- have been scanned in the Bushies' fruitless unConstitutional fishing expedition. This is serious stuff in the hands of unserious people.

What Lincoln did during the Civil War is one thing. What Roosevelt did with the internments in WWII was wrong. What any of that has to do with Bush's bumper-sticker war is beyond me. We got through the whole Cold War with thousands of nukes pointed at both sides with our civil liberites and our Constitution intact. That Bush would let a bunch of cheap punks in caves make us hysterical and lose our national soul in the search for false security is one of the great failures of leadership in U.S. history.

Anonymous said...

Cheap punks in caves? Yeah. Maybe you could duke it out with them. Who are the grown-ups? Are you suggesting that children stole our national soul? If so, why not just call their dads and make 'em give it back.