What About the Journalists Who Sold Torture?
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Ever wake up in a funk, just spoiling for a fight?
Me too - and when I do (despite my best Buddhist intentions) I invariably reach for the New York Times and turn to the latest column by Tom Friedman, that Op-Ed gift that keeps on giving such deep-rooted and seemingly willful sheer wrong-headedness as to make ire rise, blood boil, and bile taste most foul. What I seek most from opinion columnists is consistency, and Friedman, consistent and persistent in his excuse making for the powerful, never disappoints in this regard.
Thus it was no surprise to find him hailing in a recent column Barack (“Split the baby”) Obama's “ torturous compromise” to expose, but not prosecute, those responsible for violating our Constitution and international law by torturing in our names.
As Friedman accurately noted, “more than 100 detainees died in U.S. custody in Iraq and Afghanistan, with up to 27 of those declared homicides by the military. They were allegedly kicked to death, shot, suffocated or drowned. Look, our people killed detainees, and only a handful of those deaths have resulted in any punishment of U.S. officials.” Nevertheless, he justified the “Obama compromise” and failure to prosecute by offering two reasons not to go after the evildoers: “the first is that because justice taken to its logical end here would likely require bringing George W. Bush, Donald Rumsfeld and other senior officials to trial, which would rip our country apart; and the other is that Al Qaeda truly was a unique enemy, and the post-9/11 era a deeply confounding war in a variety of ways.”
Why Friedman and his ilk fear that prosecuting senior officials who break the law will “rip our country apart” more than their having ignored the law, the Constitution and any conceivable standard of basic morality is best left to him, his shrink and his God. But Friedman's apologia - which recognizes that, “yes, people among us who went over the line may go unpunished” but concludes, “because we still have enemies who respect no lines at all,” Obama is doing his “best” in an “ugly war” by letting the torturers go unpunished - is but the latest in a long line of journalistic defenses of torture by well-paid, prize-winning and access-granted mainstream journalists.
Consider, for example, Newsweek Senior Editor and NBC News correspondent Jonathan Alter, who wrote shortly after the terror attacks of September 11, 2001 that:
“In this autumn of anger, even a liberal can find his thoughts turning to... torture. OK, not cattle prods or rubber hoses, at least not here in the United States, but something to jump-start the stalled investigation of the greatest crime in American history. Right now, four key hijacking suspects aren't talking at all. Couldn't we at least subject them to psychological torture, like tapes of dying rabbits or high-decibel rap? (The military has done that in Panama and elsewhere.) How about truth serum, administered with a mandatory IV? Or deportation to Saudi Arabia, land of beheadings? (As the frustrated FBI has been threatening.) Some people still argue that we needn't rethink any of our old assumptions about law enforcement, but they're hopelessly "Sept. 10"--living in a country that no longer exists.”
Alter's before-and-after excuse echoed that of US counterterrorism coordinator Cofer Black, who infamously noted, “There was 'before 9/11' and 'after 9/11.' After 9/11 the gloves came off." Alter went on to observe, “Actually, the world hasn't changed as much as we have,” and that “judges and lawyers” are left “in a strange moral position. The torture they can't see (or that occurs after deportation) is harder on the person they claim to be concerned about--the detainee--but easier on their consciences. Out of sight, out of mind.”