Thursday, November 08, 2007

Mukasey comes up for air

On Tuesday, November 6, the US Senate Judiciary Committee voted 11-8 to recommend confirmation of Michael Mukasey (Pres. Bush's nominee for Attorney General). skdadl (POGGE) and I have been following this process very closely on the BnR message board. I've finally managed to compile our notes from Tuesday's session and 'enhance' them with several links to relevant documents and testimony at my not-so-live blogging site: Foul Deeds Will Rise

While Majority leader Sen. Harry Reid and Majority Whip, Sen. Dick Durbin are both vehemently opposed to his confirmation, there is only the slimmest of chances that he will be filibustered. Mukasey will almost certainly become the next Attorney General of the US. This, despite his unwillingness to characterize waterboarding as torture.

And yet, there is no question: waterboarding was designed to torture, as sure as any mock execution technique. The military knows this: In a bizarre feat of reverse-engineering, Former Navy SEAL Malcolm Nance was tasked with studying such time tested torture techniques for his "Survival, Evasion, Resistance, Escape" (SERE) training program:
Once at SERE and tasked to rewrite the Navy SERE program for the first time since the Vietnam War, we incorporated interrogation and torture techniques from the Middle East, Latin America and South Asia into the curriculum. In the process, I studied hundreds of classified written reports, dozens of personal memoirs of American captives from the French-Indian Wars and the American Revolution to the Argentinean ‘Dirty War’ and Bosnia. There were endless hours of videotaped debriefings from World War Two, Korea, Vietnam and Gulf War POWs and interrogators.
Waterboarding is a torture technique. Period. There is no way to gloss over it or sugarcoat it. It has no justification outside of its limited role as a training demonstrator. Our service members have to learn that the will to survive requires them accept and understand that they may be subjected to torture, but that America is better than its enemies and it is one’s duty to trust in your nation and God, endure the hardships and return home with honor.
The full details of the hearing can be found over here, but I wanted to leave you with some important statements from the new conscience of the Senate Judiciary Committee, Sheldon Whitehouse, the freshman Democratic Senator from Rhode Island (You gotta leave on an up note---even when the post is about f'g torture!):
America for centuries has been called a “shining city on a hill.” We are a lamp to other nations. A great Senator said “America is not a land, it’s a promise.”

Torture breaks that promise; extinguishes that lamp; darkens that city.

[...] There are practical concerns over whether torture actually works, whether it is sound, professional interrogation practice. I am not an expert, but experts seem to say it is not.

But the more important question is the one I asked earlier – whence cometh our strength as a nation?

Our strength comes from the fact that we stand for something.

Our strength comes from the aspirations of millions around the globe who want to be like us, who want their country to be like ours.

Our strength comes when we embody the hopes and dreams of mankind.

[...] What path will we follow? Will we continue America’s constant steady path toward the light?

Will we trust in our ideals? Will we recognize the strength that comes when men and women rise in villages and hamlets and barrios around the world and say, that is what I want my country to be like; that is the world I choose, and turn their faces toward our light.

Or, if I may borrow from Churchill, will we head down “the stairway which leads to a dark gulf. It is a fine broad stairway at the beginning, but after a bit the carpet ends. A little farther on there are only flagstones, and a little farther on still these break beneath your feet”? Will we join that gloomy historical line leading from the Inquisition, through the prisons of tyrant regimes, through gulags and dark cells, and through Saddam Hussein’s torture chambers? Will that be the path we choose?
Photo: Poster of a 1556 woodcut, "The Water Torture." The woodcut depicts "a prostrate man having his nose pinched and water poured down his throat (during the Spanish Inquisition)." The poster was displayed during a Nov. 1st Washington D.C. seminar hosted by human rights organizations called "Waterboarding and Other Forms of Torture." Credit: Melina Mara, Washington Post.


Anonymous skdadl said...

Thanks for linking to Whitehouse's site and those full written remarks, Kitty -- powerful indeed. That is somewhat longer than he was able to do in the executive meeting, yes? His spoken remarks were very affecting at the time, partly because, as you observed, his own deep feelings were so evident, but this text is great to have.

11/08/2007 7:22 AM  
Blogger Alison said...

gloxsjThank you, Kitty.
Whitehouse was the most rousing, no? Moving because he was moved.
Hope there will be a YouTube people can link to, as they once did to Senator Byrd's "Outrageous" speech. This kind of passion for justice needs to be seen.

11/08/2007 8:41 AM  
Blogger Prole said...

Hi GDKiddy, just wanted to point your attention to the awesome New Yorkers protesting outside Schumer's office:

I'm so tired of being ashamed and scared of my home country.

11/10/2007 11:27 PM  
Blogger Godammitkitty said...

Thanks for the dKos link, Prole! That's very heartening. Chuck needs some "in yer face" treatment :(

And skdadl & Alison: the full text and video of the remarks are linked-to on the Foul Deeds post, but the video's just 'Real Player' right now. Not sure how long it'll be on Whitehouse's main page. Just to clarify, the video/remarks are from his floor speech, not his remarks at the business meeting & vote.

No "Youtube" vid yet, but I'll keep checking.

thanks all, for dropping by!

11/11/2007 12:06 AM  

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