Thursday, July 24, 2008

Sen. Graham compares torture at Gitmo to McCain’s long, boring talks about birds

In speaking to David Kirkpatrick for a piece in the New York Times’ ongoing (and going, and going. . .) series “The Long Run,” Senator Lindsey Graham (R-SC) contributes to the ever-growing list of leading Republicans’ attempts to dismiss the illegal abuse of detainees at Guatanamo Bay as little more than a mild discomfort or a puckish hazing ritual.

[McCain] likes trading jokes about colleagues with a small group of friends that includes Senator Lindsey Graham of South Carolina. . . . Entertaining guests at his property in Sedona, Ariz., [McCain] invariably drags them for long walks to indulge his passion for bird watching. “If you took all the people at Gitmo, put them in the cabin for the weekend and made them listen to John talk about the birds, they would all spill their guts.” Mr. Graham said.

I will agree with Lindsey Graham on one point: listening to John McCain speak is unfailingly tedious—however. . .

While some former detainees have commented on the intense boredom experienced during their long incarcerations, it is often the least of their complaints. The ritualized torture that makes up what Bush Administration officials call “enhanced interrogation”—reverse-engineered from a decades-old report about resisting Communist Chinese “brainwashing” techniques—includes the use of stress positions, intense heat and cold, sleep deprivation, routine beatings, and controlled drowning, commonly referred to as “waterboarding.”

The Times’ Kirkpatrick lets Sen. Graham’s comment stand without counterpoint or comment. From the context and structure of the paragraph, I can only assume that Republican Presidential candidate McCain—once a victim of torture himself—shares his colleague’s humorous take on detainee abuse (oh, right, we already know that he does). And perhaps the news division of the New York Times does, too.

To date, none of the torture techniques used by American interrogators have produced a single piece of information that could stand up in US court as permissible evidence. If Senators Graham and McCain believe that they have a better method for extracting vital facts that could convict terrorists or protect Americans, then perhaps they should push for legislation to replace the torture sanctioned by the 2006 Military Commissions Act (a bill the supposedly anti-torture McCain helped pass*) with personal appearances by Arizona’s most famous avian aficionado. In fact, I’m sure Bush’s new BFF McCain could pull some strings, dispense with the legislation, and get the President to let him bring his “passion” to Gitmo posthaste.

The security of the nation may depend on it. . . only time will tell. It appears likely that the Times will not.

*This sentence, which appears toward the end of the Times article, not withstanding:

In 2005 and 2006, for example, he spearheaded battles to prod the administration to sign laws banning the use of torture on military detainees.

That one-liner, presented as a matter of fact, is not really accurate in-and-of itself, and it is most certainly incomplete. Though Senator McCain did initially speak in favor of a so-called “torture ban” in 2006, he eventually accepted a much-watered-down “compromise.” When President Bush then issued a signing statement for the MCA that essentially reiterated the administration’s assertion that it could continue to treat prisoners however it saw fit, regardless of the language of the law, McCain remained eerily silent.

The Times also completely fails to continue the McCain/torture narrative into this election cycle. In February, McCain voted against a Democratic effort to apply Army Field Manual strictures to interrogations conducted by the CIA.

(cross-posted on The Seminal and Daily Kos)

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