Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Torture report was just Democrat self-praise

Charles Krauthammer nails it pretty well below.  What I would add is that terrorism is unlikely to be successfully dealt with by normal police and judicial procedures. It is a category of behaviour all its own and it may need a level of ruthlessness similar to its own to be successfully countered.  We may need to fight fire with fire

The report by Democrats on the Senate Intelligence Committee regarding CIA interrogation essentially accuses the agency under George W. Bush of war criminality. Committee Chair Dianne Feinstein appears to offer some extenuation when she reminds us in the report’s preamble of the shock and “pervasive fear” felt after 9/11.

It’s a common theme (often echoed by President Obama): Amid panic and disorientation, we lost our moral compass and made awful judgments. The results are documented in the committee report. They must never happen again.

It’s a kind of temporary-insanity defense for the Bush administration. And it is not just unctuous condescension but hypocritical nonsense. In the aftermath of 9/11, there was nothing irrational about believing that a second attack was a serious possibility and therefore everything should be done to prevent it. Indeed, this was the considered opinion of the CIA, the administration, the congressional leadership and the American people.

Al-Qaeda had successfully mounted four major attacks on American targets in the previous three years. The pace was accelerating and the scale vastly increasing. The country then suffered a deadly anthrax attack of unknown origin. Al-Qaeda was known to be seeking weapons of mass destruction.

We were so blindsided that we established a 9/11 commission to find out why. And we knew next to nothing about the enemy: its methods, structure, intentions, plans. There was nothing morally deranged about deciding as a nation to do everything necessary to find out what we needed to prevent a repetition, or worse. As Feinstein said at the time, “We have to do some things that historically we have not wanted to do to protect ourselves.”

Nancy Pelosi, then ranking member of the House Intelligence Committee, was briefed about the interrogation program, including the so-called torture techniques. As were the other intelligence committee leaders. “We understood what the CIA was doing,” wrote Porter Goss, Pelosi’s chairman on the House committee. “We gave the CIA our bipartisan support; we gave the CIA funding to carry out its activities.”

Democrat Jay Rockefeller, while the vice chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee, was asked in 2003 about turning over Khalid Sheik Mohammed to countries known to torture. He replied: “I wouldn’t take anything off the table where he is concerned.”

There was no uproar about this open countenancing of torture-by-proxy. Which demonstrates not just the shamelessness of Democrats today denouncing practices to which, at the time and at the very least, they made no objection. It demonstrates also how near-consensual was the idea that our national emergency might require extraordinary measures.

This is not to say that in carrying out the program there weren’t abuses, excesses, mismanagement and appalling mistakes (such as the death in custody — unintended but still unforgivable — of two detainees). It is to say that the root-and-branch denunciation of the program as, in principle, unconscionable is not just hypocritical but ahistorical.

To make that case, to produce a prosecutorial brief so entirely and relentlessly one-sided, the committee report (written solely by Democrats) excluded any testimony from the people involved and variously accused. None. No interviews, no hearings, no statements.

The excuse offered by the committee is that a parallel Justice Department inquiry precluded committee interviews. Rubbish. That inquiry ended in 2012. It’s December 2014. Why didn’t they take testimony in the interval? Moreover, even during the Justice Department investigation, the three CIA directors and many other officials were exempt from any restrictions. Why weren’t they interviewed?

Answer: So that committee Democrats could make their indictment without contradiction. So they could declare, for example, the whole program to be a failure that yielded no important information — a conclusion denied by practically every major figure involved, including Democrat and former CIA director Leon Panetta; Obama’s current CIA director, John Brennan; and three other CIA directors (including a Clinton appointee).

Speaking from the Senate floor, Senate Intelligence Chair Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) outlined the four categories of the 20 findings in a report released Tuesday regarding CIA interrogation techniques used between late 2001 and Jan. 2009. (AP)
Perhaps, say the critics, but we’ll never know whether less harsh interrogation would have sufficed.

So what was the Bush administration to do? Amid the smoking ruins of Ground Zero, conduct a controlled experiment in gentle interrogation and wait to see if we’d be hit again?

A nation attacked is not a laboratory for exquisite moral experiments. It’s a trust to be protected, by whatever means meet and fit the threat.

Accordingly, under the direction of the Bush administration and with the acquiescence of congressional leadership, the CIA conducted an uncontrolled experiment. It did everything it could, sometimes clumsily, sometimes cruelly, indeed, sometimes wrongly.

But successfully. It kept us safe



Leftist hate again

I realize life is too short to read everything the Crazy Left disgorges from its white-hot core of resentful hatred, but Michael Tomasky’s latest rant at the Daily Beast is just too good to miss, especially if you are a) sane, b) an American and c) live in the Deep South. Reacting to Mary Landrieu’s crushing defeat in the Louisiana Senate runoff on Saturday, Tomasky rushed to his computer and penned this instant classic:

    "I don’t remember a much sadder sight in domestic politics in my lifetime than that of Mary Landrieu schlumpfing around these last few weeks trying to save a Senate seat that was obviously lost. It was like witnessing the last two weeks of the life of a blind and toothless dog you knew the vet was just itching to destroy. I know that sounds mean about her, but I don’t intend it that way. She did what she could and had, as far as I know, an honorable career. I do, however, intend it to sound mean about the reactionary, prejudice-infested place she comes from. A toothless dog is a figure of sympathy. A vet who takes pleasure in gassing it is not.

    And that is what Louisiana, and almost the entire South, has become. The victims of the particular form of euthanasia it enforces with such glee are tolerance, compassion, civic decency, trans-racial community, the crucial secular values on which this country was founded… I could keep this list going. But I think you get the idea. Practically the whole region has rejected nearly everything that’s good about this country and has become just one big nuclear waste site of choleric, and extremely racialized, resentment. A fact made even sadder because on the whole they’re such nice people! (I truly mean that.)

    With Landrieu’s departure, the Democrats will have no more senators from the Deep South, and I say good. Forget about it. Forget about the whole fetid place. Write it off. Let the GOP have it and run it and turn it into Free-Market Jesus Paradise. The Democrats don’t need it anyway."

And there you have it, the Narrative in full cry. Southerners — white Southerners — are crazed racists (for voting against a white candidate), nutcase Christians (for following their faith) and stump-toothed hillbillies who shop at Wal-Mart (for following their economic self-interest). In other words, they’re not a bit like Northeastern or West Coast liberals, and whose idea was it to give them the vote, anyway? Tomasky concludes his crying jag like this:

    "It’s lost. It’s gone. A different country. And maybe someday it really should be. I’ll save that for another column. Until that day comes, the Democratic Party shouldn’t bother trying. If they get no votes from the region, they will in turn owe it nothing, and in time the South, which is the biggest welfare moocher in the world in terms of the largesse it gets from the more advanced and innovative states, will be on its own, which is what Southerners always say they want anyway."

It may be worth pointing out to Tomasky that there is not a single Republican senator from the West Coast at the moment, and only two from New England. So what? Regional divisions are nothing new in these United States.



When 'justice' trumps accuracy, journalism loses

by Jeff Jacoby

JOURNALISTS, SAYS Jorge Ramos, shouldn't make a fetish of accuracy and impartiality.  Speaking last month at the International Press Freedom Awards, Univision's influential news anchor told his audience that while he has "nothing against objectivity," journalism is meant to be wielded as "a weapon for a higher purpose: justice." To be sure, he said, it is important to get the facts right — five deaths should be reported as five, not six or seven. But "the best of journalism happens when we, purposely, stop pretending that we are neutral and recognize that we have a moral obligation to tell truth to power."

As it happens, Ramos delivered those remarks soon after the publication of Sabrina Erdely's 9,000-word story in Rolling Stone vividly describing the alleged gang rape of a freshman named Jackie at a University of Virginia fraternity party. Erdely had reportedly spent months researching the story, and its explosive impact was — at first — everything a tell-truth-to-power journalist could have wished: national attention, public outrage, campus protests, suspension of UVA's fraternities, and a new "zero-tolerance" policy on sexual assault.

But Rolling Stone's blockbuster has imploded, undone by independent reporting at The Washington Post that found glaring contradictions and irregularities with the story, and egregious failures in the way it was written and edited. Erdely, it turns out, had taken Jackie's horrific accusations on faith, never contacting the alleged rapists for a comment or response. In a rueful "Note to Our Readers," managing editor Will Dana writes: "[W]e have come to the conclusion … that the truth would have been better served by getting the other side of the story."

To a layman, that "conclusion" might seem so excruciatingly self-evident that Rolling Stone's debacle can only be explained as gross negligence, or a reckless disregard for the truth. But much of the journalistic priesthood holds to a different standard, one that elevates the higher truth of an overarching "narrative" — in this case, that a brutal and callous "rape culture" pervades American college campuses — above the mundane details of fact. Erdely had set out in search of a grim sexual-assault story, and settled on Jackie's account of being savaged by five men (or was it seven?) at a fraternity bash was just the vehicle she'd been looking for. Why get tangled in conflicting particulars?

"Maybe [Erdely] was too credulous," suggests longtime media critic Howard Kurtz in a piece on Rolling Stone's journalistic train wreck. "Along with her editors."

Or maybe this is what happens when newsrooms and journalism schools decide, like Jorge Ramos, that although they have "nothing against objectivity," their real aspiration is to use journalism "as a weapon for a higher purpose." Somehow it didn't come as a shock to learn that when Dana was invited to lecture at Middlebury College in 2006, his speech was titled: "A Defense of Biased Reporting."

Even after the UVA story began to collapse, voices were raised in defense of the narrative over mere fact.

"This is not to say that it does not matter whether or not Jackie's story is accurate," Julia Horowitz, an assistant managing editor at the University of Virginia's student newspaper, wrote in Politico. But "to let fact checking define the narrative would be a huge mistake."

Well, if the "narrative" is what matters most, checking the facts too closely can indeed be a huge mistake. Because facts, those stubborn things, have a tendency to undermine cherished narratives — particularly narratives grounded in emotionalism, memory, or ideology.

Rolling Stone's article on an alleged gang rape at the University of Virginia — meant to illustrate the "rape culture" that supposedly pervades college campuses — turned out to be an egregious journalistic debacle.

It's a temptation to which journalists have always been susceptible. In the 1930s, to mention one notorious example, Walter Duranty recycled Soviet propaganda, assuring his New York Times readers that no mass murders were occurring under Stalin's humane and enlightened rule. Duranty is reviled today. But the willingness to subordinate a passion for accuracy to a supposedly higher passion for "justice" (or "equality" or "fairness" or "diversity" or "peace" or "the environment") persists.

Has the time come to give up on the ideal of objective, unbiased journalism? Would media bias openly acknowledged be an improvement over news media that only pretend not to take sides?

This much is clear: The public isn't deceived. Trust in the media has been drifting downward for years. According to Gallup, Americans' confidence that news is being reported "fully, accurately, and fairly" reached an all-time low this year. Would you be astonished to see that number sink even further next year? Me neither.


There is a  new  lot of postings by Chris Brand just up -- on his usual vastly "incorrect" themes of race, genes, IQ etc.


For more blog postings from me, see  TONGUE-TIED, EDUCATION WATCH INTERNATIONAL, GREENIE WATCH,  POLITICAL CORRECTNESS WATCH, AUSTRALIAN POLITICS, and Paralipomena (Occasionally updated) and Coral reef compendium. (Updated as news items come in).  GUN WATCH is now mainly put together by Dean Weingarten.

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