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The Blinders of Dick Cheney’s Patriotism

Incredible. Absolutely freaking incredible.

Today: "In my long experience in Washington, few matters have inspired so much contrived indignation and phony moralizing as the interrogation methods applied to a few captured terrorists."

Taken at face value, this statement shows that Cheney believes that American senators and representatives are not truly offended at all that we as a country tortured people. He apparently believes that the outrage against torture is nothing more than political posturing.

Nothing, absolutely nothing could be further from the truth. To this particular retired Navy man, Cheney – like Rumsfeld, Limbaugh, and Bush (who served only in a 'boutique squadron' and never left the States during his entire tour of duty) is nothing more than another chickenhawk, someone who has never really served in the military but is absolutely sure that he knows what the military is all about and is all too eager to send them in harm's way.

A simple search on Google will find that the American government was not the first to coin the phrase 'Enhanced Interrogation Techniques'. No, that particular distinction belongs to the Nazis, as is made clear in articles from The Atlantic and Harper's. In fact, the article in The Atlantic makes clear that the Bush Administration's EIT program differed from the Nazi EIT program only in that the Nazis seemed to provide more oversight and used methods less outrageous than those of the Bush Administration.

Don't get me wrong – I'm only referring to the Enhanced Interrogation Technique programs of the Nazis and the Bush Administration, and I'm certainly not comparing the Bush administration to the Nazis. I'm only pointing out that this ONE program bears an uncomfortably close resemblance to that used by the Nazis, only ours was worse.

Not only that, but Cheney took it one step further. Interrogators' use of waterboarding, he insisted, was not only lawful but "skillful" and "entirely honorable." Y'know, we've seen a plethora of military officers up to and including generals who have decried the use of this torture, and we've seen FBI and CIA agents come out against it…but I've yet to see ANY military, FBI, or CIA agents come out FOR waterboarding. The only ones I've heard FOR waterboarding are chickenhawks who never served.

I figure I'm probably wrong about that, though – there's GOT to be someone from the military, FBI, or CIA somewhere who's got some experience with EIT who is willing to tell just how valuable they were to America's security. I haven't seen them yet. I'm sure the readers of this post will oblige and find some. Until then, as far as I'm concerned, Cheney's a wonderful example of Samuel Johnson's maxim that "patriotism is the last refuge of a scoundrel," for he must realize that his own statements have landed him afoul of international law and treaty, and such "patriotism" may well be his only way to avoid an appointment at The Hague.

About Glenn Contrarian

White. Male. Raised in the deepest of the Deep South. Retired Navy. Strong Christian. Proud Liberal. Thus, Contrarian!
  • roger nowosielski

    Exactly, Dan. Which only points to the error of using simplistic definitions as to what constitutes “such and such” on the basis of “objective facts” alone.

    I provided an analogy up the thread: A murder when shown to have been “done” in self-defense is not murder but homicide (even though the “objective facts” may be identical). Our language must make proper distinctions; and it’s a good thing that it does.

    And for that reason, I tend to believe that in no small measure we’re dealing here with a bogus argument.

    When you do have a chance, BTW, could you explicate your #293 in plain English (no offense intended). I can’t get myself to read the entire (two-hundred some pages of the) legal argument in the link you provided.

  • Cindy

    Good thinking Dan(Miller). You are on the ball! If I had a cat I might actually allow you to wash it. (Hopefully you have reached a similar conclusion about how to dry a cat.)

    p.s. I just wanted to make sure you found the picture of the rat…please continue to dawdle along at a snail’s pace (charming smile)

  • Cindy

    Oh btw Dan(Miller) both the message were the same. They concerned a rat I thought you would like. So, if you find one, no need to go searching through pages and pages to find the duplicate.

  • Cindy

    Well, about half the class seems to understand the concept as stated by Prof. Bliffle.

    Conclusion: The concept is perfectly understandable as is. Ipso facto.

  • Cindy

    The rest of you seem sort of anal retentive to borrow a favorite local expression.

  • Dan(Miller)

    Thanks, Cindy. I found the rat, and thank you for the dedication. I think I know exactly what you mean. However, let me suggest that it is one thing to “torture” an animal as part of a laboratory experiment in maze behavior, and quite another to “torture” a human when necessary or apparently necessary to prevent very serious harm to others.

    I have no personal knowledge whether anyone involuntarily subjected to waterboarding had critical information on the basis of which lives were, or could have been saved; whether that information could have been pried loose through more gentle means; or whether some of the folks who performed waterboarding enjoyed their activities. I have read opinion pieces taking various sides.

    I very seriously doubt that the attorneys who wrote memoranda outlining the legal limits of the waterboarding process did so to get sadistic thrills themselves, so that others could get such thrills, or that they acted criminally, unethically or otherwise in bad faith. It seems quite unlikely that they were asked for, or gratuitously offered, their personal feelings about whether “torture” is good or bad. The portions of the memoranda which have been made available suggest to me that they were asked to analyze carefully, and on that basis to explain in specific contexts, the statutory limits so that agents in the field could approach, but not cross over, those limits. I think they did a reasonable and workmanlike job. I also think that they did a far better job of explaining the meaning of “torture” under the law than I have seen in the other commentaries on the subject which I have read.


    PS: During her bath, our cat did not reveal any information whatever, other than that she wished she were elsewhere.

  • Dan(Miller)

    Roger, re my #293: In the first paragraph, I tried to summarize my understanding of the cases. The Supreme Court’s opinion was procedural rather than substantive and offers no guidance on whether, or on the circumstances under which, anyone can be held indefinitely without a trial on the merits.

    It is not the function of the courts to provide legal advice on matters not before them. Rather than opine on hypotheticals, they wait for specific facts and laws to come before them. Here, since the Acting Solicitor General had mooted the matters otherwise before the Supreme Court, there remained no specific case or controversy to be resolved. Perhaps some day the Court will have these issues squarely before it, and will rule.

    That, as I see it, is it.


  • Baronius

    I don’t know about anyone else, but I found Bliffle’s idea to be so flawed it didn’t merit a reply. But silence can imply consent, so I guess I’d better say something.

    There are dozens of ways to get information during an interrogation. You can harass, confuse, trip up, wear down, appeal to the subject’s vanity, bargain, persuade, intimidate, buddy up to the subject, and those are off the top of my head. If waterboarding isn’t torture, at a minimum it’s intimidating and draining. 183 of anything is going to wear you out, especially with the prospect of 183 more.

  • Cindy

    Dan(Miller)! Oh my…the rat had nothing at all to do with this conversation. The cute rat is a reply to the cute cat…I came across it on my computer, I was just going to post the picture, but it is a blog right? So, realized I could work that little story into it.

    I can’t really read your reply with the rat in mind. The rat must remain separate from the rest. The rat is cute and good and happy.

    I just thought you would like it! :-)

  • Dan(Miller)

    Here is a report on what Colin Powell had to say on the “torture” issue today.

    Based on the report, I agree with him.


  • Cindy


    My impression is that the vacating the other court’s opinion was by choice and not necessarily a given. Rather than merely dismiss the case and render the opinion moot, they vacated the opinion…and removed it from the books.

    I am pleased 1) that Obama didn’t proceed with Bush’s course of action, and 2) that the court chose to vacate the opinion.

    It makes a statement in and of itself.

    Re: Your opinions on torture, it’s proponents, and those who supported and committed it.

    I see they haven’t changed. I didn’t expect they would.

  • roger nowosielski


    #307 provides me with the framework for understanding the decision. Thank you.

  • Dan(Miller)

    Cindy, #311 — I understand the position; as noted, it is the one taken by the Criminal Defense lawyers’ association in a blog article about the decision. However, I find nothing in the Supreme Court decision to support that position, which perhaps rises to the giddy level of wishful speculation.

    The Court cited its 1950 decision in Munsingwear, 340 U.S. 36. That case involved the antitrust laws in two separate but related proceedings brought by the Government, one seeking an injunction and the other treble damages for price fixing. The damages case had been held in abeyance pending resolution of the injunction proceeding. The defendant won the first case, it being held that the defendant had not violated the law. Thereafter, the underlying law was changed to deregulate the commodity involved, thereby making any question of injunctive relief moot. The Government wanted to avoid application of the unfavorable ruling in the injunction proceeding to the companion damages proceeding. However, it had neglected to seek vacation, on the basis of mootness, of the decision that the defendant had not violated the law. The MunsingwearCourt said,

    As already indicated, it [vacation of a decision] is commonly utilized in precisely this situation to prevent a judgment, unreviewable because of mootness, from spawning any legal consequences.

    The case is therefore one where the United States, having slept on its rights, now asks us to do what by orderly procedure it could have done for itself. The case illustrates not the hardship of res judicata but the need for it in providing terminal points for litigation.(emphasis added)

    The Ali-Marri Court did not give even a hint that it agreed, or disagreed, with the 4th Circuit decision — either that indefinite confinement may be acceptable under some circumstances, or that the petitioner had not been afforded the required due process. The Court vacated the judgment as moot and remanded to the 4th Circuit with instructions to vacate the appeal as moot, citing Munsingwear


  • Clavos

    (Miller) for SCOTUS!!*

    *The above has been sent to President Obama for his consideration as a fitting successor to Mr. Justice Souter.

  • Cindy

    Okay, thank you very much Dan(Miller). I understand your point and I will withdraw my enthusiasm for the court’s decision as having any meaning beyond standard practice. I will remain as unenthusiastic as ever about the court and the law.

  • M a rk


  • roger nowosielski

    Except for one thing, Mark. We’ve got to get Dan to explicate his legal wisdom on BC in plain English. One feels one has to go through two years of law school to even get a gist of what he is saying.

  • Cindy

    Now, I must try to muster the courage to read Dave’s Gitmo article which will likely test my ability to give up my inner warrior.

  • roger nowosielski

    Well, let’s pose another question, then, Dan. There must be some legal basis upon which a Federal judge would authorize holding the detainees indefinitely and without trial. Because this and nothing else is at stake (at this point). So what would that be?

  • Cindy

    The law is not conducive to being expressed in human terms Roger. Dan(Miller) could hardly be expected to help it.

    But, in regular language, the legal basis was that Bush decided as a president he could do that, Obama did not pursue Bush’s course of action. So, it remains for some future president to try and see if s/he can get away with indefinite detention of citizens.

  • roger nowosielski

    Then I don’t trust it.
    As to the second paragraph, I believe a decision was rendered to the effect that the powers of Executive privilege don’t extent to indefinite detention. I’m awaiting Dan’s confirmation whether it’s so.
    Dan Miller than must be able to put on another hat in addition to the one he’s wearing. The law evolved from human terms; it therefore must be translatable into terms of ordinary language.

  • Dan(Miller)

    Roger, as I understand the 4th Circuit decision (link provided in Comment #293), (a) a detainee may be held indefinitely without a trial on the merits, but (b) this detainee had not been afforded the requisite due process in determining whether he qualified for such detention. Please do keep in mind that there were few things upon which five members of the nine member panel actually agreed, and that in the multiple and lengthy opinions concurring in part / dissenting in part, the various judges devote a lot of ink to rephrasing and disputing the opinions of the other judges. Sifting through the two hundred and twenty page (single spaced) thing is rather like trying to restore the materials found in a rat’s nest to their status quo ante.

    In one of the concurring/dissenting opinions, Judge Gregory observed — and I agree — that

    The majority of my colleagues agree that a person of al-Marri’s status is entitled to more due process than that which he received, but unfortunately, there is no concrete guidance as to what further process
    is due. Little doubt exists that this judgment will leave the district court with more questions than answers.

    I could probably devote the next week to attempting to derive more guidance from the shifting sets of five judges who formed a plurality, and get no further than did Judge Gregory. I have no intention of doing so, because it would be a wasted effort. Or, I could try to improve upon Judge Gregory’s opinion as to the sort of guidance his brethren should have provided, but did not, to the district court on remand. That would also be a wasted effort.

    President Obama has stated (see another link in one of my previous comments on this thread) that he will

    move to “construct a legitimate legal framework” to justify the detention of dangerous terrorism suspects who could not be tried or released, a proposal that is creating unease among human rights advocates.

    It therefore seems likely that the Supreme Court will eventually decide what is required. Whether that will happen during my lifetime, or that of the last surviving detainee, I offer no opinion.


  • Dan(Miller)

    Leaving aside my opinion on “torture” as a legal matter, I have never been tortured nor have I ever (knowingly) “tortured” anyone. I have never been detained, nor have I ever detained anyone, as an enemy combatant. Here, however, is an article about a man who was tortured by experts in Vietnam between between his capture 1967 and his release in 1973. He

    was tortured by the North Vietnamese for 18 straight days and periodically thereafter until his release in 1973.

    The article relates his perceptions on the subject. Despite my gross lack of personal experience, I find myself in agreement with his observations.


  • roger nowosielski

    Well, it is an account of experience, Dan, that’s all. But not shedding any light on how we ought to regard the concept in these “limited” applications. One thinks here, perhaps, of James Bond’s “Casino Royale,” where he was subjected to enormous pain to make him reveal the password to a Swiss bank account.

    I suggest that an incisive analysis is needed, along the lines suggested earlier. What we’re dealing here is a conceptual difficulty, and for good reasons, naturally, because under all but unusual circumstances, “torture” has no reason for being and ought to be abhorred.

  • Dan(Miller)

    One thinks here, perhaps, of James Bond’s “Casino Royale,” where he was subjected to enormous pain to make him reveal the password to a Swiss bank account.

    Perhaps one does, if one experiences insuperable difficulty in distinguishing fact from fiction. Fortunately or unfortunately, life is not a screen play; there is no James Bond to safeguard anyone from real and final death, or even from transitory destruction. Like it or not, we are stuck with real, live humans — some of whom are intent upon imposing real death and real destruction, and some of whom are intent upon preventing that sort of thing as best they can.

    The contest will doubtless continue indefinitely, and those who would like to see terrorist activities eliminated will simply have to get accustomed to the reality that humans, and the laws which we write, are imperfect.

    It seems quite unlikely, to me, that while we ponder ways to make the world a nicer, more pleasant, place for all people, others with rather different objectives will sit around peacefully and allow all the time we need for such a reconciliation.


  • Bliffle

    Thanks for the citation, Dan. Here’s my take on it:

    ” John [McCain] thinks waterboarding is torture; Bud [Day] and I [Thorsness] believe it is harsh treatment, but not torture. Other POWs would have varying opinions. I don’t claim to be right; we just disagree.”

    So it’s just a ‘belief’, a sort of guess, on Thorsness’ part. He doesn’t illuminate what separates torture from harsh treatment, in his view.

    Then he provides this interesting theory:

    ” But as someone who has been severely tortured over an extended time, my first hand view on torture is this:

    Torture, when used by an expert, can produce useful, truthful information. I base that on my experience. I believe that during torture, there is a narrow “window of truth” as pain (often multiple kinds) is increased. Beyond that point, if torture increases, the person breaks, or dies if he continues to resist. ”

    Now two public figures who were sceptical (about waterboarding being torture), Christopher Hitchens and that DJ “mancow” both declared that waterboarding WAS torture upon being (briefly) waterboarded.

    That seems to define waterboarding as torture, indeed, because the consequent follows from the Thorsness supplied antecedent that “Torture, when used by an expert, can produce useful, truthful information. ”

    And this coheres with my earlier assertion that “it is a contradiction to say that WB is NOT torture and then expect to extract information from a prisoner by applying WB”, the corollary of which is that one applies WB because they believe it to be an efficacious torture for eliciting information.

    So, IMO, while Thorsness consciously regards WB as NOT torture, his underlying theory defines WB as torture.

    Now I’ll advance the type of common slander that is so beloved on BC, so it should be welcomed with enthiusiasm: Thorsness’ article is published on Powerline which a well-known rightwing outfit that advances ultra-conservative ideas with vigor. That may explain why they chose a statement by Thorsness, or it may signify that Thorsness is an advocate of the same political views.

    I wonder if John McCain, Bud Day or Thorsness were ever waterboarded themselves?

  • Clavos

    Published on Powerline though it is, I believe every word of Thorsness’ account.

    When I was in Vietnam, (1965 and 1966), we were already beginning to hear stories like the one Thorsness tell. All of us expected that, were we ever to be captured, we would be tortured.

  • Clavos

    BTW, Thanks, Dan(Miller), for the link.

  • Cindy

    Jesse Ventura: You Give Me a Water Board, Dick Cheney and One Hour, and I’ll Have Him Confess to the Sharon Tate Murders

    The link is to a Video interview on Larry King.

    Ventura, an ex-Navy SEAL was ‘waterboarded’ as part of SERE training. “Ventura makes no bones about it. Waterboarding is torture.”

  • Dan(Miller)


    First, the perceptions of Mr. Thorsness appear to be based on his personal experiences as one tortured* over a period of years; in that respect, his perceptions may well be better grounded than mine or those of anyone else around here.

    Second, as I understand your analysis, an interrogation technique which is successful in obtaining valid and useful information from someone reluctant to provide it is, ipso facto, torture. I must therefore suppose that obtaining such information from an informant by paying him money is torture. As a corollary, the more money the more dastardly the torture.

    I hereby volunteer to be tortured in that fashion; I am very strong willed and very reticent, so it will cost quite a lot.

    Alas, I very much doubt that I have any information for which you or anyone else would be willing to pay me even an insultingly small amount.


    *Please note that I did not enclose in quotation marks the word torture in this context.

  • Cindy

    I could be mistaken, but I’m pretty sure that wasn’t called into question by anyone. And I’ve no reason to doubt Thorsness’ account of his own torture.

    However, I suspect Thorsness’ might consider ‘waterboarding’ torture if it was done to US military members. Just as everyone else like him did when the US executed Japanese war criminals for ‘waterboarding’ US POWs.

    Correction: U.S. actually did execute Japanese soldiers for waterboarding

    “We — our country executed Japanese soldiers who water- boarded American POWs. We executed them for the same crime that we are now committing ourselves. How do you defend that?” –Paul Begala

  • Cindy

    Dan(Miller) is clearly being amusing. As I could never believe, not in a million years, that he can’t differentiate that there are various methods used to interrogate people and that only the ones involving the creation of agony or pain are intended to be discussed in a conversation about torture.

    The very question (for some of you) in fact, is whether or not the agony was great enough to warrant calling it torture. Prof. Bliffle logically asks…well if you didn’t think it would cause agony so great as to get a result, then why would you even do it?

    That this is so in no way suggests there are not other interrogation techniques that do not involve torture or that every interrogation technique is torture. But Dan(miller) knows that. That fails as one of your funnier routines Dan(Miller); it suffers from lack of believability.

  • Clavos

    The question as to whether or not waterboarding is torture is a red herring.

    The real question is “Are there ever any circumstances under which the use of torture is justified.”

    My answer: Yes.

  • Cindy

    #331 was semi-directed to Clav. (The first paragraph anyway.)

  • Bliffle

    Dan says:

    “Second, as I understand your analysis…”

    IMO you understand my analysis, but then you draw an unwarranted conclusion. You probably don’t like my conclusion, IMO.

  • Bliffle

    Let’s take a look at Dans comment, which he no doubt thinks is quite witty:

    “#330 – Dan(Miller)
    May 25, 2009 at 6:19 pm


    First, the perceptions of Mr. Thorsness appear to be based on his personal experiences as one tortured* over a period of years; in that respect, his perceptions may well be better grounded than mine or those of anyone else around here.

    So my question remains: was Thorsness waterboarded so that we may get the benefit of his perceptions?

    Second, as I understand your analysis, an interrogation technique which is successful in obtaining valid and useful information from someone reluctant to provide it is, ipso facto, torture.

    Nonsense. This is a transparent distortion. The remainder of your comment is invalid and silly.

  • roger nowosielski

    Dan (Miller)/Bliffle:

    #325: James Bond movie wasn’t the point of the remark, so I don’t see why you found it necessary to go off on a tangent to speak of the complexities in real life. Point well taken, though.

    # 326:

    “Second, as I understand your analysis, an interrogation technique which is successful in obtaining valid and useful information from someone reluctant to provide it is, ipso facto, torture.” (Dan Miller)

    “Nonsense. This is a transparent distortion. The remainder of your comment is invalid and silly.” (bliffle)

    Far from nonsense! That was the “apparent” import/intent of numerous remarks and/or rhetorical questions paused by the author. (Don’t make me pull them out, especially since you know they’re there.)

    What is “transparent” about this whole thing is a clumsy attempt on the author’s part to set a trap. At last, it becomes TRULY apparent that since the ploy didn’t work, the author finally disavows himself from the intended meaning and claims innocence in that he had been intentionally
    misunderstood, whereas the intention to mislead and to trip people has all along been none other than the author’s.

    My question, bliffle, is? Did you really believe that some minds on BC were going to fall for this ploy rather than call you on your bluff? If you did, that’s rather naive of you. And if you didn’t, the question remain: Why bother play these silly, childish game rather than getting to the chase.

    So finally, since the cat is out of the bag, so to speak, would you care to elaborate on the implications of your new and improved proposition – and I’m referring here specifically your objection that Dan’s interpretation of your position was, to say the least, inaccurate,

    In particular, since you now tend to agree that not only torture is useful in eliciting needed information but other techniques as well, then what follows from there? What is your position, exactly, and what are its implications? There is only so far one can go with rhetorical questions. A proposition of some sort stands in dire need to be articulated.

    The inquiring minds want to know.

  • roger nowosielski

    Reference in #337 should be to #336.