Government accountability remains elusive

It’s men like David Addington and John Yoo that give lawyers a bad name. Addington was Vice-President Cheney’s enabler. Yoo authored the infamous torture memo stating that in order to qualify as torture, pain (resulting from interrogation techniques used on detainees) had to reach a level produced by ‘death, organ failure, or permanent impairment of a significant bodily function’ (see bottom of page 38 of the memo). The memo was later withdrawn and eventually released as part of an ACLU lawsuit, forcing the Bush administration to turn over documents related to the war on terror [link]. Together, these two men are considered the chief architects of the “enhanced interrogation techniques” implemented by the Bush administration.

They were subpoenaed to testify in front of the House Judiciary subcommittee recently regarding detainee treatment, interrogation techniques and their views on Presidential power. They stuck by a strategy to reveal nothing, basically wasting the Judiciary subcommittee’s time (which Congressmen pointed out).

One thing that distresses me about their testimony and this administration is that they make a mockery of the dream that brought my parents to the US. My parents left India after 1984 seeking shelter- a place where government officials didnt violate the fundamental rights of the people and where officials were held accountable for their actions. They came to the place where Nixon handed over incriminating tapes upon order of the Supreme Court, with the entire American army at his command. Even if their dream was romanticized before, now its a joke. Yet my father is as stoutly patriotic (of his adopted country) as ever.

I know some of you are thinking that the U.S. still fulfills the immigrant dream, and that if we’re worried about human rights abuses, the U.S. isn’t so bad compared to countries like Burma (from a comment on another thread). This is a short-sighted approach. Louise Arbor just stepped down as high commissioner of the UN Human Rights Council and observed:

In many countries, Ms. Arbour said, when she raises human rights concerns with a president or prime minister: I can write the script. The first response I get is, Why arent you in Guantnamo? Why are you coming here?

But, she added, when she had admonished the United States, she had heard the opposing view. I recently had a meeting with a group of Congressional aides, she said, and they complained, Why arent you criticizing Myanmar instead of spending your time criticizing the United States? [link]

No government is beyond reproach. The finger-pointing is unproductive, and each state should take responsibility for what happens within its own borders, or under its authority.

Some additional choice clips from Addington and Yoo’s testimony, in no particular order:

1.

When John Conyers (D-Mich.) inquired about Addington’s pet legal concept, a “unitary executive theory” that confers extreme powers on the president, Addington dished out disdain.

“I frankly don’t know what you mean by unitary theory,” Addington replied.

“Have you ever heard of that theory before?”

“I see it in the newspapers all the time,” Addington replied.

“Do you support it?”

“I don’t know what it is.”

The usually mild Conyers was angry. “You’re telling me you don’t know what the unitary theory means?”

“I don’t know what you mean by it,” Addington answered.

“Do you know what you mean by it?”

“I know exactly what I mean by it.”

Addington went on to explain how the enemy’s actions — “smoke was still rising. . . . 3,000 Americans were just killed” — justified his legal reasoning. [link]

2.

Yoo took Rep. Keith Ellison (D-Minn.) on a semantic spin when asked about whether a torture memo was implemented.

“What do you mean by ‘implemented’?” Yoo asked.

“Mr. Yoo,” Ellison pressed, “are you denying knowledge of what the word ‘implement’ means?”

“You’re asking me to define what you mean by the word?”

“No, I’m asking you to define what you mean by the word ‘implement,’ ” the exasperated lawmaker clarified.

“It can mean a wide number of things,” Yoo demurred.

After several such dances around the questions (whether, for example, the president could order somebody buried alive), Rep. Steve Cohen (D-Tenn.) offered his grudging respect: “You guys are great on ‘Beat the Clock,’ ” he said.

“I don’t play basketball,” replied the 41-year-old Yoo.

“That was a game show,” Cohen explained. [link]

3.

As Wasserman Schultz questioned [Addington], [Addington] put his chin in his hand, stroked his beard and cut off the congresswoman with an offer of advice “that may be helpful to you in asking your questions.”

Schultz, declining the offer, asked him to describe an interrogation he witnessed at Guantanamo Bay. “You could look and see mouths moving,” Addington answered. “I infer that there was communication going on.” [link]

4.

Cheney’s Cheney continued to dole out the scorn (“You asked that question earlier, today, and I’ll give you the same answer”) until Bill Delahunt (D-Mass.), the last questioner, inquired about waterboarding. “I can’t talk to you — al-Qaeda may watch these meetings,” Addington said.

“I’m glad they finally have a chance to see you, Mr. Addington,” Delahunt joked. [link]


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14 Responses to “Government accountability remains elusive”

  1. sizzle says:

    ah, another highly political post surely to elicit an interesting debate…first and foremost of which is why we can't be consistent with the whole burma/mynamar usage.

    to the point of this post… woo visited my school a couple years ago and i don't really remember much of his talk, but one point i do recall essentially asked – when can a government use coercive/forceful methods? and the naturally follow up – where do we, as a society, draw the line as to level of coercion or force?

    we have all heard/read the arguments for and against any form of coercion, so i don't really want to dwell on that. irrespective of any published memo or what any nation's official policy may be, to think nation's don't have black ops or agents conducting all sorts of crazy sh*t is kind of silly. even with all of today's scrutiny, if the CIA apprehended someone who was thought to have knowledge an imminent dirty bomb in NYC, i guarantee you he'd be waterboarded, have bamboo shoots put up his fingernails, his skin sandblasted, injected with truth serum or whatever the else they felt they had to do. the same goes for britain, france, russia, etc, etc, etc. i just think this administration made the huge mistake of thinking they could officialize it and flaunt their tactics given the culture of fear after 9/11 – basic arrogance.

    thus, reema, i think the operations of the nation, and all the security concerns and methods employed in recent years are no better or worse than what america employed during the 70's and 80's, when they had the communists and left wing rebels to worry about. here it may just occur more frequently since terrorists aren't part of any soverign government (and thus have innate leverage), aren't concerned with principles such as mutually assured destruction, and generally pose more immediate threats given the nature of their organization and goals. so, does the more frequent but highly targeted use of such tactics make them any worse than when they may have been used in the past? no – torture is torture. it is the actual frequency that is the problem; the arrogance to think that the justifications could be expanded so widely. but this arrogance and open use of such tactics has not changed america – indeed, considering the wide spread condemnation from the left and right, i think that the recent methods have been unequivocally rejected. the good sentiments of the nation have not changed from the days your father first stepped on it's soil – unprecedented history unfolded, an administration reacted, and in turn, the nation has passed judgement, widely condemning open use of such tactics.

    anyways, this is a very interesting and highly relevent article and video by christopher hitchens, a HUGE hawk and defender of the bush administration:
    http://www.vanityfair.com/politics/features/2008/
    basically, tortures is bad and seriously f*cks people up physically and psychologically, but is it sometimes necessary? interestingly, after voluntaringly being waterboarded, he says no.

  2. sizzle says:

    ah, another highly political post surely to elicit an interesting debate…first and foremost of which is why we can’t be consistent with the whole burma/mynamar usage.

    to the point of this post… woo visited my school a couple years ago and i don’t really remember much of his talk, but one point i do recall essentially asked – when can a government use coercive/forceful methods? and the naturally follow up – where do we, as a society, draw the line as to level of coercion or force?

    we have all heard/read the arguments for and against any form of coercion, so i don’t really want to dwell on that. irrespective of any published memo or what any nation’s official policy may be, to think nation’s don’t have black ops or agents conducting all sorts of crazy sh*t is kind of silly. even with all of today’s scrutiny, if the CIA apprehended someone who was thought to have knowledge an imminent dirty bomb in NYC, i guarantee you he’d be waterboarded, have bamboo shoots put up his fingernails, his skin sandblasted, injected with truth serum or whatever the else they felt they had to do. the same goes for britain, france, russia, etc, etc, etc. i just think this administration made the huge mistake of thinking they could officialize it and flaunt their tactics given the culture of fear after 9/11 – basic arrogance.

    thus, reema, i think the operations of the nation, and all the security concerns and methods employed in recent years are no better or worse than what america employed during the 70’s and 80’s, when they had the communists and left wing rebels to worry about. here it may just occur more frequently since terrorists aren’t part of any soverign government (and thus have innate leverage), aren’t concerned with principles such as mutually assured destruction, and generally pose more immediate threats given the nature of their organization and goals. so, does the more frequent but highly targeted use of such tactics make them any worse than when they may have been used in the past? no – torture is torture. it is the actual frequency that is the problem; the arrogance to think that the justifications could be expanded so widely. but this arrogance and open use of such tactics has not changed america – indeed, considering the wide spread condemnation from the left and right, i think that the recent methods have been unequivocally rejected. the good sentiments of the nation have not changed from the days your father first stepped on it’s soil – unprecedented history unfolded, an administration reacted, and in turn, the nation has passed judgement, widely condemning open use of such tactics.

    anyways, this is a very interesting and highly relevent article and video by christopher hitchens, a HUGE hawk and defender of the bush administration:
    http://www.vanityfair.com/politics/features/2008/08/hitchens200808
    basically, tortures is bad and seriously f*cks people up physically and psychologically, but is it sometimes necessary? interestingly, after voluntaringly being waterboarded, he says no.

  3. Reema says:

    indeed, considering the wide spread condemnation from the left and right, i think that the recent methods have been unequivocally rejected.

    ya, i think you're right sizzle- this hearing could be seen as an official condemnation and shows at least some willingness to uncover some previously hidden errors (even if they are politically motivated).

  4. Reema says:

    indeed, considering the wide spread condemnation from the left and right, i think that the recent methods have been unequivocally rejected.

    ya, i think you’re right sizzle- this hearing could be seen as an official condemnation and shows at least some willingness to uncover some previously hidden errors (even if they are politically motivated).

  5. kaptaan says:

    Not surprised to see another post basically deriding the USA. Your comment,

    One thing that distresses me about their testimony and this administration is that they make a mockery of the dream that brought my parents to the US.

    doesn't really wash. How exactly is it being made a mockery of today as opposed to the Clinton administration? or the Carter administration? versus the Reagan administration when they would have arrived in the USA?

    There is no mockery going on now versus then, and your post just demonstrates once again the overwhelmingly left wing bias running through this "langar hall"… Personally, I think you've been drinking the 'kool-aid' as it were…

  6. kaptaan says:

    Not surprised to see another post basically deriding the USA. Your comment,

    One thing that distresses me about their testimony and this administration is that they make a mockery of the dream that brought my parents to the US.

    doesn’t really wash. How exactly is it being made a mockery of today as opposed to the Clinton administration? or the Carter administration? versus the Reagan administration when they would have arrived in the USA?

    There is no mockery going on now versus then, and your post just demonstrates once again the overwhelmingly left wing bias running through this “langar hall”… Personally, I think you’ve been drinking the ‘kool-aid’ as it were…

  7. Mewa Singh says:

    Kaptaan,

    Why don't you solicit bloggers to form a 'right wing' langar hall? I am sure it would be popular.

  8. Mewa Singh says:

    Kaptaan,

    Why don’t you solicit bloggers to form a ‘right wing’ langar hall? I am sure it would be popular.

  9. kaptaan says:

    Mewa,

    Why, when i'm having so much fun here??? i'd rather have a fair and balanced approach in any case instead of just spouting the latest bromides from one particular vantage point.

    regards,

    Kaptaan

  10. kaptaan says:

    Mewa,

    Why, when i’m having so much fun here??? i’d rather have a fair and balanced approach in any case instead of just spouting the latest bromides from one particular vantage point.

    regards,
    Kaptaan

  11. Mewa Singh says:

    Kaptaan,

    Haha. Good point! Thanks for making The Langar Hall "fair and balanced."

  12. sizzle says:

    i appreciate his presence, if only because i've just added the word "bromide" to my everyday vocabulary.

  13. Mewa Singh says:

    Kaptaan,

    Haha. Good point! Thanks for making The Langar Hall “fair and balanced.”

  14. sizzle says:

    i appreciate his presence, if only because i’ve just added the word “bromide” to my everyday vocabulary.

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