Politics at its worst (update)
First I’d like to say that my position on torture is well known and not what this post is about. It’s about intent and timing. The subject just happens to be torture, or enhanced interrogation techniques, if you prefer.
Secondly, I’d like to point out that we’ve been through this before – this is truly old news. This has been investigated. It’s been commented upon and debated. It is something that anyone who follows the news and politics has been aware of for years.
So why, then, in a lame duck session after which Senate Democrats lose their majority, does an idiot like Sen. Diane Feinstein decide that this is something that must be released now. What is the utility of this report? What is the intent of releasing it now? What positive does a biased report that only casts America in a bad light in the middle of a war bring to the table?
Biased, you say? How do you know that? Well here’s a clue:
The outgoing Democratic leadership of the Senate Intelligence Committee released a report on C.I.A. rendition, detention and interrogation of terrorists in the years following the 9/11 attacks. But here’s a red flag: Not one person who managed or ran the interrogation program was interviewed.
Not one? So what sort of “report” was it then? What sort of “investigation” took place? Again, regardless of your views on “torture” this is pure politics. And bad politics at that. It is a smear dressed up as something to take seriously.
Why does it matter? Because the way this “report” was generated colors the notional facts it professes to share. Many of the “revelations” of C.I.A. techniques and black sites are old hat to most. Some approve; others don’t. Fair enough, and in a democracy, such a debate is worthy. The larger challenge comes in determining the efficacy of these techniques. Opponents insist (fueled less by fact and more by their sense of righteousness) that enhanced interrogation doesn’t work. So claims the outgoing chairman, of the Senate Intelligence Committee, Dianne Feinstein.
Here is the problem: Her claim is false. And taken in conjunction with the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence’s unwillingness to interview the targets of their critique, one can only assume that much of the rest of the document is also tainted.
When you dig down to the very bottom of it, you realize its written to support a narrative. It is the same sort of garbage we have seen in the Rolling Stone story about the rape at U Va. As with this report, the “journalist” involved never interviewed anyone who might shed a different sort of light on the rape story. She never verified much of anything. It was all about supporting a narrative.
Rape is bad. Yes, it is. We all accept and understand that. But false and embellished accusations are bad too. That’s what no one ever seems to say on the “rape is bad” narrative side of the house. Additionally, there are two sides to every story – and if you want to report factually, you include both sides. If you’re interested in pushing a narrative, then you don’t.
Hiawatha Bray sums up today’s journalism rather nicely and it applies to this biased piece of garbage Feinstein’s committee produced as well.
What’s wrong with journalism? Lots of stuff. But this is one of the worst features of our industry. All too many of us approach stories with preconceived “narratives.” What matters is not what’s actually going on; it’s whether a particular event gives us the chance to tell some story we already want to tell. If the story is that frat boys are incorrigible rapists, that’s how the story gets spun. What actually happened is of secondary importance. And that’s how we can get a student journalist–contra an earlier draft, I’m not sure she’s actually a journalism major–who can say without embarrassment that the facts of a story are not all that important. This is scary stuff. The only thing we have to offer as journalists–the only thing that’s worth a twopenny damn–is accurate, trustworthy information. If the facts in our stories can’t be relied upon, then those stories are worthless, regardless of what “noble cause” they’re designed to advance. To me it seems horrifying that it’s necessary to explain this.
It is the same story with this report that Feinstein, et. al, have decided must be published now. Old news, repackaged, biased to come to a particular conclusion and intended, apparently, to embarrass the US. Not to mention it is something which will further endanger our military in a time of war. And, of course, provide wonderful propaganda and recruiting material for our enemies (who, per some reports, are already using it). And then there are the useful idiots who will revel in this diminishing of the country’s image.
How this helps the US is beyond my comprehension I guess. It is something we’ve confronted and dealt with years ago. The country is divided over the use of certain “techniques”. And, we’ve seen a Democratic majority in government for 6 years who had the ability to ensure that whatever they believed about such use of these techniques was curtailed or eliminated. What was the utility of this report except, as a friend of mine said, a willful “eff you” by the outgoing Senate majority?
Just when you think this sort of politics can’t get any worse … it does.
UPDATE: Well, of course. Feinstein’s “mission accomplished”:
A United Nations human rights official is calling for individuals who carried out, planned or authorized abusive practices against al-Qaeda detainees in the aftermath of 9/11 to be put on trial, saying the U.S. was obliged under international law “to bring those responsible to justice.”
He also warned Tuesday that perpetrators could be prosecuted anywhere in the world, noting that “torture is a crime of universal jurisdiction.”
Meanwhile the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) said the Senate Intelligence Committee’s release of a declassified portion of a report on CIA interrogation and detention programs was insufficient, calling for the full 6,000 page report to be released, and for “accountability” for those who overstepped the mark.