So who wants to take bets on whether the Sunday talking head shows will devote any serious time to the Bush torture memos? My bet is on a maximum of 2% of all available minutes. And I bet you that they won’t call what Bush did “Torture”.

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This may not be the grandest news in the world but I came across a truly shameful quote from the GOP echo chamber:

Wendy Long, head of the Judicial Confirmation Network, which ironically no longer wants to see judicial conformations, is one of the leading far-right activists on nomination fights. She said yesterday that Republicans should approach nominees with “a presumption that they’re not going to be able to uphold their oath.”

Got that? Republican senators, who argued during Bush’s presidency that failing to confirm judicial nominees tears at the fabric of our democracy, should now reflexively assume that every Obama nominee, including those who haven’t even been named, is incapable of serving on the federal bench.

It still boggles my mind that Republican opinion-makers can say such reckless, irresponsible and fundamentally unserious things without getting much if any serious blowback from the Washington establishment media. Thank goodness we have intrepid bloggers like Steve Benen to ferret out the choicest bits of nonsense for us.


Glenn Greenwald makes a key point about what gave Bush the power to torture people in American custody with impunity:

George Orwell mistakenly assumed that obfuscating language designed to glorify criminal acts would be invented and normalized by government. At least in the U.S., that function is outsourced to government’s most loyal and eager servants: establishment journalists. A principal reason why the government has been able to engage with impunity in the extremism and lawlessness of the last decade is because most journalists refuse even to describe it as what it is.

Bush wouldn’t have been able to get away with it if the media (and all of us) hadn’t aided and abetted him by shrouding what he did with phrases like “enhanced interrogation techniques”.

As E.D. Kain says:

[C]ertainly in these recent decades the press has been a major part of this collapse of liberty – and we are all to some degree complicit.

Update: Ta-Nahesi Coates is exactly right on this:

What really disturbs me about all of this, is that most Americans still don’t think torture is a big deal. I think in the case of Bush, particularly after 2004, we–the American people–got the government we deserved. I think Bush said a lot about who we were post-9/11. I’d like to see some exploration into how to make this torture argument directly to the people. Maybe we can’t. Maybe people really don’t care that much. But if we’re wondering why Obama isn’t willing to press forward, I think it’s fair to also wonder why the people aren’t pressing him to press forward.

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Call it a hunch but I think there’s a bit of three-dimensional chess in Obama’s decision to release those horrific Bush torture memos.

I’ve already started to sense a shift in the debate. Whereas before, the wingnuts could (and did) claim that that we didn’t torture anyone. With the release of the memos, I predict they will move their debate entirely into the realm of “torture is good — it works”. We’ll see…

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Here’s a quote from Keith Olbermann on the horrors revealed in the latest Bush torture memos:

It is good to say ‘We won’t do it again.’ It is not, however, enough.

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I’ve been reading the recently released Bush torture memos and am feeling sick to my stomach.

The scariest part was highlighted by Glenn Greenwald (click to enlarge):
This excerpt basically admits that most of the techniques the OLC lawyers approved are routinely condemned by our own State Department when performed by other countries.

I need an Alka-Seltzer. I’ll let Greenwald finish up for me:

The more one reads of this, the harder it is to credit Obama’s statement today that “this is a time for reflection, not retribution.” At least when it comes to the orders of our highest government leaders and the DOJ lawyers who authorized them, these are pure war crimes, justified in the most disgustingly clinical language and with clear intent of wrongdoing. FDL has a petition urging Eric Holder to immediately appoint a Special Prosecutor to determine if criminal proceedings should commence.

Obama did the right thing by releasing these memos, providing all the information and impetus the citizenry should need to demand investigations and prosecutions. But it is up to citizens to demand that the rule of law be applied.

Update: I can’t say this strongly enough. The torture that Bush committed in our names has resulted in the washing of all of us in the blood of the people we tortured. It is now up to each and every one of us to contribute to washing this inhuman stain off our souls.

As a Daily Dish reader writes:

This is an eye opening event for me. It’s easier for a liberal like me, who voted against Bush twice, to feel I’m off the hook. But, clearly, I kept my eyes closed and my mouth shut. When I let talk of torture filter in, early on, such as keeping people awake and some of the accounts of Abu Ghraib, I kept drawing lines to things I wanted to believe. They’re keeping them awake? Oh, that must be like playing loud music. Like… they used on Noriega. Today, I have to ask myself why I didn’t take to the streets.

I guess I’m “lucky” again in that I have a President who believes in the rule of law. But where was I, a Jew, taught to say Never Again when I was growing up? My guess is that somewhere this evil satisfied a dark place in me. A generalized anger or rage that we can all walk around with at times. Why else was I content not to stare this evil in the face?

Update 2: Here’s another quote from Greenwald. We must heed his words:

The Obama administration should, on its own, initiate criminal proceedings, but the citizenry also has responsibilities here. These acts were carried out by our Government, and if we are really as repulsed by them as we claim, then the burden is on us to demand that something be done.

More than 250,000 Americans attended protests yesterday (ostensibly) over taxes and budget issues. If these torture revelations are met with nothing but apathy, then it will certainly be reasonable to blame Holder and Obama if they fail to act, but the responsibility will also lie with a citizenry that responded with indifference.

If 250,000 ragtag rightwing nuts can turn out to protest nothing in particular besides a popular black Democratic President, and we can’t muster more than a whimper over spilling the blood of countless CIA detainees, then I weep for the future of our country.

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And some people wondered why I got so worked up a couple weeks ago about The Chilling Rise of Right-Wing Hate in America. Here is what Rep. Mark Kirk (R-IL) said today about Illinois Governor Pat Quinn:

“I think that the decision to raise taxes by 50 percent in Illinois is political suicide,” Kirk said of Quinn’s proposal to raise the tax rate to 4.5 percent from 3 percent, coupled with an increase in the personal deduction. “I think the people of Illinois are ready to shoot anyone who is going to raise taxes by that degree.”

Think about this. The person spewing these violence-laden words is not the leader of some fringe white supremacist group from Florida, a separatist militia organization from Montana or a polygamous Mormon cult in Utah — this is a sitting member of the U.S. House of Representatives from Illinois who is suggesting that the people of Illinois consider shooting the Governor because of a proposed tax hike.

These evil, psychotic idiots have really jumped off the deep end.


This is one of the best signs of change I can think of:

After a tense internal debate, the Obama administration this afternoon will make public a number of detailed memos describing the harsh interrogation techniques used by the Central Intelligence Agency against al Qaeda suspects in secret overseas prisons.

The interrogation methods were among the Bush administration’s most closely guarded secrets, and today’s release will be the most comprehensive public accounting to date of the interrogation program that some senior Obama administration officials have said used illegal torture.

I can’t wait.

Update: Here’s Obama on why he decided to release the memos:

This is a time for reflection, not retribution. I respect the strong views and emotions that these issues evoke. We have been through a dark and painful chapter in our history. But at a time of great challenges and disturbing disunity, nothing will be gained by spending our time and energy laying blame for the past. Our national greatness is embedded in America’s ability to right its course in concert with our core values, and to move forward with confidence. That is why we must resist the forces that divide us, and instead come together on behalf of our common future.

His sentiments have merit but I disagree with his insistence on always looking forward without looking back. Contra Obama, I think that a LOT “will be gained by spending our time and energy laying blame for the past” if we train our eyes on the war criminals who authorized the torture techniques we so recklessly unleashed upon the world.

I can guarantee you, right now, if we go through Obama’s entire first term without a single person being prosecuted for crimes committed during the Bush administration, I will not be a happy camper.

Update 2: Ambinder links to the full text of the memos, in all their sordid glory.