Beltway journalists seem finally to have a found a torture story they like. Mind you, not the one about the Bush/Cheney White House possibly okaying drowning to extract "information" to justify an Iraq attack — not that story. The story the Beltway bulldogs have decided to get stuck into is a story about Democrats.
Let’s recap. Prosecutions of members of the Bush/Cheney administration became a real possibility last month. As part of an ongoing court case, the Department of Justice released memos detailing techniques approved for use on terror suspects. CIA interrogators were given legal authorization to use water torture, to slam an alleged "high-value" detainee’s head against a wall, to place insects inside a "confinement box" to induce fear, and force a detainee to remain awake for 11 consecutive days. All that, according to a memo signed by the former head of the Justice Department’s Office of Legal Counsel (OLC), Jay Bybee, now a federal judge.
Subsequent reports including commentary by an FBI interrogator who interrogated one of the same suspects by traditional — non-torture — means, suggests that even knowing (as most interrogators did) that torture produces untrustworthy evidence (because torture victims make things up to make the torture stop), officials at the highest level in the Bush/Cheney administration okayed torture tactics.
Did they order abuse specifically to extract an Al Qaeda/ Saddam Hussein link? Maybe. But we’ll never know, because instead of even asking the question, the headline story in the media has become: "Nancy Pelosi is a hypocrite."
"Pelosi a hypocrite" vs. "Cheney okayed torture for political reasons:" It seems easy to pick the hotter scoop. Yet David Gregory (of Meet the Press) was all over Pelosi, as were the rest of the Sunday squawkers this weekend. On Fox News they talk about almost nothing else. Why didn’t the House speaker push back harder? When did she actually know what? Was she right to hold a press conference blaming the CIA? They’re not bad questions. They’re important questions. But when it comes to torture, is Pelosi the thorn or the point?
"This is not where the White House wants the public discussion to be," Gregory said on Morning Joe. Too right. But it’s bigger than that. On this question of torture-for-war or Pelosi political mis-step, it’s not just the White House that wants a different conversation. It’s America. We need accountability for torture — and prosecutions — if we don’t want heinous practices to continue. And we need a press that grasps, not avoids, the serious questions. Scrutinize Pelosi all you like — but right after Cheney’s shut up and Bybee’s off the bench.
Laura Flanders is the host of GRITtv which broadcasts weekdays on Free Speech TV (Dish Network Ch. 9415) on cable (8 pm ET on Channel 67 in Manhattan and other cities) and online daily at GRITtv.org and TheNation.com.