17 January, 2009

Eric Holder Does Not Believe In 24. Neocon Heads Explode

There's very bad news for our Jack Bauer-worshiping, torture-loving neocon class.

First, let's have a look at Faux News and their inability, along with the vast majority of the fuckwits who ran this country into the ground the last several years, to tell the difference between fiction and reality:

Beck and the Fox & Friends hosts also invoked 24 as a justification for the use of torture. Referring to the show's recent season premiere, in which protagonist Jack Bauer, a former member of the fictional "Counter Terrorist Unit," defends his use of torture during a hearing before Congress, Beck said: "[I]t's going to take somebody who sits in front of Congress who is not afraid of them anymore and does what Jack Bauer did. And that is, 'Yes, I did torture, and I'm proud of it.' And it's time for these things to come out of the closet." Introducing an excerpt from 24, in which Bauer is seen answering questions from a congressional committee about torture, Kilmeade stated: "Let's listen to what happened in the fictional series 24 and see if this helps build your argument."

After the clip, co-host Steve Doocy said: "In particular, in that clip, you know, the guy [fictional Sen. Blaine Mayer] goes, 'You tortured them.' And he [Bauer] goes, 'Well, it probably was torture under your definition. But ask the people whose lives I saved whether or not it was worth me going over the edge' -- they would probably -- you ask the average person, 'Is it OK to do something, rough somebody up, to save lives?' You ask the person on the street, they'd say, 'Yeah, why not?' "

Well, there's plenty of people on the street who would say "Not no but HELL no!" to a hypothetical like that. I'm one, and I'm average enough. Keifer Sutherland isn't quite so average, but it's worth mentioning that those stopping him on the street for a rousing endorsement of torture would be coming away mightily disappointed:
If right wingers see Bauer as an example of how to prosecute the war on terror, they might be disheartened to learn that even the man that plays Bauer, actor Keifer Sutherland, doesn’t see his character’s torture techniques as effective in real life. “You torture someone and they’ll basically tell you exactly what you want to hear, whether it’s true or not, if you put someone in enough pain,” Sutherland said last year.
Let me put this in somewhat simple terms for the hard-of-thinking: Jack Bauer thinks torture is effective because he's a character in a television series. Keifer Sutherland knows it's ineffective because he's a real man with an actual brain. The Faux News babblers, our soon-to-be-former rulers, and very nearly the entire neocon chickenhawk crowd cite Jack Bauer instead of Keifer Sutherland on these matters because they're a raving bunch of lackwits. No wonder they yawp about violent video games and immoral movies being harmful to the younguns - since they can't tell the difference between fantasy and reality, they think no one else can, either.

But I digress. I said I had bad news for them. And that's because Obama's Attorney General nominee, Eric Holder, is fucking awesome.

Check out these moves:
When Alberto Gonzales was the nominee for Attorney General, he went to great lengths to avoid describing waterboarding as torture, or even addressing whether the practice is legal. Michael Mukasey's A.G. nomination was nearly derailed by his unwillingness to address similar questions.

It wasn't a trick question. Today, Eric Holder answered it.

Holder's response was both unequivocal and encouraging: "If you look at the history of the use of that technique, used by the Khmer Rouge, used in the Inquisition, used by the Japanese and prosecuted by us as war crimes. We prosecuted our own soldiers for using it in Vietnam. I agree with you, Mr. Chairman, waterboarding is torture."

Judiciary Committee Chairman Pat Leahy (D-Vt.) followed up, asking if foreign countries would have the authority to waterboard U.S. citizens, if they deemed it necessary for their national security. "No, they would not," Holder replied, "It would violate the international obligations that I think all civilized nations have agreed to -- the Geneva Conventions."

And finally, Leahy asked whether the president has the authority to override the law regarding torture. Holder responded, "Mr. Chairman, no one is above the law. The president has a constitutional obligation to faithfully execute the laws of the United States."

My darlings. I love this man. Love him, love him, love him.

But wait! There's more. Clever John Cornyn attempted to trip him up with a clever hypothetical. Oh, noes! It's the ticking time bomb scenario! We know how Jack Bauer would respond - what about Holder?

Sen. John Cornyn (R-TX) could not fathom that an Attorney General would reject a practice that both is unlawful and endangers Americans. He tried to get Holder to back off his anti-torture stance by presenting an absurd “ticking time bomb” hypothetical in which thousands of American lives are at stake. “You would still refuse to condone aggressive interrogation techniques?” Cornyn asked. When Holder replied that waterboarding is not the only interrogation method, Cornyn insisted, “Assume that it was”:

HOLDER: I think your hypothetical assumes a premise that I’m not willing to concede.

CORNYN: I know you don’t like my hypothetical.

HOLDER: No, the hypothetical’s fine; the premise that underlies it I’m not willing to accept, and that is that waterboarding is the only way that I could get that information from those people.

CORNYN: Assume that it was.

HOLDER: [Laughs] Given the knowledge that I have about other techniques and what I’ve heard from retired admirals and generals and FBI agents, there are other ways in a timely fashion that you can get information out of people that is accurate and will produce useable intelligence. And so it’s hard for me to accept or to answer your hypothetical without accepting your premise. And in fact, I don’t think I can do that.

A few minutes later, Sen. Dick Durbin (D-IL) identified where Cornyn most likely thought up his torture-is-the-only-option scenario: “I understand Senator Cornyn’s questions. They are questions that anyone who watches Jack Bauer on ‘24′ would ask.”
Double snap.

I'm pretty sure that since Eric Holder merely laughed rather than reciting Jack Bauer's defiant season premiere Senate testimony, Cornyn believes that Holder is being "unrealistic." After all, these situations obviously happen every day - just ask Jack Bauer.


Woozle said...

Two points I wish Holder had made:

1. (Minor) "In other words, Senator, if I were to assume that you are correct, would you then be correct?" (I'll leave any follow-up as an exercise for the reader.)

2. (Major) That there are not only effective alternatives to torture, but that torture itself is ineffective if what you need is accurate information.

Picture the scenario: ticking time-bomb about to destroy a major American city. There are just minutes to find and defuse it, and only one man knows where the bomb is.

Our real-life Bauer-wannabe knows this is no time for being gentle; lives are at stake, and if our terrorist needs a bit of roughing-up before he starts squealing, then hey -- it takes a tough man to make a tender terrorist.

Bauer goes to work with the washcloth technicians and the Engineered Discomfort Delivery System, and pretty soon ol' towel-head is yelling loudly that the bomb is at a given address, third floor, in the bedroom closet. It will go off in exactly 30 minutes!

Bomb technicians are scrambled to the scene, beat down the door and charge in to find the bomb...

What we don't see, of course, is that ol' towel-head got pissed off at the stupid pig-headed infidels thinking that a little physical discomfort would make him betray his holy cause (Christopher Hitchens notwithstanding) and has given us the address of someone who once looked at him funny... the bomb isn't there, innocent civilians are terrorized, but hey -- it doesn't matter, because the bomb goes off before they can find it, and everyone is killed.

In other words: in a scenario such as this, using torture, -- which is known to be effective only at obtaining false confessions -- is more dangerous to American lives than other interrogation techniques.

Dunno what it's going to take to get that through their thick skulls... in the light of this by now well-established knowledge, any politician who still advocates torture should be required to wear a "DUNCE" t-shirt for at least a week.

That said, it's nice to see a more-or-less 180-degree turnabout apparently in progress.

Cujo359 said...

Hi Woozle:

Re: 1., I think that answer was implicit in what Holder said. No reason to make a fool of a Senator, as much as that may be an overdue lesson in some sense.

Re: 2., I love it. I've tried to make this point before, but never so well. I suppose what's lacking in the Bauer wannabees is an ability to imagine a realistic scenario, including how long things take to happen, etc. People don't lose their anger or will to fight easily, particularly when they're a product of a process that looks for people who have lots of both. Checking out their stories takes time. You can't have a SWAT and UXO team on every street corner ready to raid the bomb's whereabouts. Anyone who has tried to drive quickly through a major American city would know what I'm talking about.

Ironically, the one reason torture might work is if the adversary in question never thought we'd do such a thing. As long as we make it a matter of policy, it will never work, because anyone with an ounce of sense will have some plausible time-wasting answers available.

But then, the Bauer wannabees don't have much ability to appreciate irony, either.