Thursday, May 14, 2009

Pelosi's Gamble

Karl Rove in the WSJ today on House Speaker Nancy Pelosi's complicity with the Bush administration's coercive interrogation policy.

It is clear that after the 9/11 attacks Mrs. Pelosi was briefed on enhanced interrogation techniques and the valuable information they produced. She not only agreed with what was being done, she apparently pressed the CIA to do more.
But when political winds shifted, Mrs. Pelosi seems to have decided to use enhanced interrogation as an issue to attack Republicans. It is disgraceful that Democrats who discovered their outrage years after the fact are now braying for disbarment of the government lawyers who justified EITs and the prosecution of Bush administration officials who authorized them. Mrs. Pelosi is hip-deep in dangerous waters, and they are rapidly rising.

Another mystery of life. Why would Pelosi push for an investigation and possible prosecution of Bush administration officials for their roles in implementing the policy? Why would she do this when she was not only fully aware of it at the time (2002-2003) but wholeheartedly approved of it? Four possibilities.

1. She's wasn't paying attention to or didn't understand the briefings. (i.e. - she's incredibly stupid).
2. She thinks the public hates Bush so much that any attack on him would stick. Pelosi, being from the party of the exalted one, would be immune.
3. She believed the MSM would focus on Republicans, not Democrats.
4. If it became necessary, she felt she could talk her way out of it - either she could lie about what she heard, or claim she had had no power to influence the policymakers. (another lie).
The last three are plausible. The first would be plausible, but for the witnesses confirming Pelosi's enthusiasm for the policy. She's actively engaged in point 4. Note this from the AP today.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi bluntly accused the CIA on Thursday of misleading her and other lawmakers about its use of waterboarding during the Bush administration, escalating a controversy grown to include both political parties, the spy agency and the White House.

Pelosi would do well to recall another politician who claimed to have been misled. George Romney, the former Michigan governor, effectively destroyed his Presidential campaign in 1967 when he claimed that he had been "brainwashed" into supporting the Vietnam War in 1965. Americans don't take kindly to politicians admitting gullibilty. However, Pelosi has a bigger problem than just losing a chance for public office. She's attempting to criminalize activity in which she played a prominent role. And now her accusations of wrongdoing have grown beyond Bush administration lawyers and advisors to include the CIA. She's digging a very large hole indeed.

Just one more point (which has been raised by others).
In 2006, Ted Kennedy introduced an amendment to declare waterboarding a violation of the Geneva Conventions. It failed to pass in the Republican majority Senate. Early last year the Democratically controlled Congress passed a bill that prohibited waterboarding despite warnings from President Bush that he would veto it, which he did. Why, one might ask, would the Democrats seek to outlaw a procedure that they consider illegal. Well, it could be that they just wanted the prohibition codified, much like the Equal Rights Amendment would have codified women's rights that were already recognized. Fine. Then why don't the Democrats outlaw waterboarding now? Presumably, President Obama would sign such a bill. It could be introduced today by Nancy Pelosi and its prompt passage by both houses of Congress would be certain. Could it be that the Democrats don't want the responsibility of eliminating a potentially vital tool in preventing another terrorist attack? Is this why they seek to pass legislation prohibiting its use only when they know it has no chance of being enacted? To ask is to answer. (Note that Obama's ban on the practice was a PR stunt. He who taketh away can giveth back).

Also in the WSJ today this short piece by British historian Andrew Roberts writing at the Daily Beast Web site on the lifesaving value of torture during war:

A slight air of unreality has permeated the debate over "enhanced interrogation techniques" in the war against terror, with historians embarrassedly studying their toecaps over the issue. For the truth is that there has not been a war in history in which torture has not been employed in some form or another, and sometimes to excellent effect. When troops need information about enemy capabilities and intentions -- and they usually need it fast -- moral and ethical conventions (especially the one signed in Geneva in 1929) have repeatedly been ignored in the bid to save lives.
In the conflict generally regarded today the most ethical in history, World War II, enhanced interrogation techniques were regularly used by the Allies, and senior politicians knew it perfectly well, just as we now discover that Nancy Pelosi did in the early stages of the war against terror. The very success of the D-Day landings themselves can largely be put down to the enhanced interrogation techniques that were visited upon several of the 19 Nazi agents who were infiltrated into Great Britain and "turned" by the British Secret Intelligence Service (SIS) between 1939 and 1945. Operation Fortitude -- the deception plan that fooled the Germans into stationing 450,000 Wehrmacht troops 130 miles north of the Normandy beaches -- entirely depended upon German intelligence (the Abwehr) believing that the real attack was going to take place at the Pas de Calais instead. The reason that Admiral Wilhelm Canaris, the head of the Abwehr, was utterly convinced of this, was because every single one of his 19 agents, who he did not know had been turned, told him so.
If anyone believes that SIS persuaded each of these 19 hard-bitten Nazi spies to fall in with Operation Fortitude by merely offering them tea, biscuits, and lectures in democracy, they're being profoundly naïve.

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