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The Massive Expansion of America’s “Hard Left” May 13, 2009

Posted by rogerhollander in Criminal Justice, Torture.
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by Glenn Greenwald



Jesse Ventura was on CNN with Larry King last night and this exchange occurred, illustrating how simple, clear and definitively non-partisan is the case for investigations and prosecutions for those who ordered torture (video below):



VENTURA:  I don’t watch much TV. This year’s reading, I covered Bush’s life. I covered Guantanamo and a few other subjects.


And I’m very disturbed about it.


I’m bothered over Guantanamo because it seems we’ve created our own Hanoi Hilton. We can live with that?  I have a problem.


I will criticize President Obama on this level; it’s a good thing I’m not president because I would prosecute every person that was involved in that torture. I would prosecute the people that did it. I would prosecute the people that ordered it. Because torture is against the law.


KING: You were a Navy SEAL.


VENTURA: That’s right. I was water boarded, so I know — at SERE School, Survival Escape Resistance Evasion. It was a required school you had to go to prior to going into the combat zone, which in my era was Vietnam. All of us had to go there. We were all, in essence — every one of us was waterboarded. It is torture.


KING: What was it like?


VENTURA:  It’s drowning. It gives you the complete sensation that you are drowning. It is no good, because you — I’ll put it to you this way, you give me a waterboard, Dick Cheney and one hour, and I’ll have him confess to the Sharon Tate murders.


Let’s just repeat that:  “I would prosecute the people that ordered it. Because torture is against the law.”  That is the crux of the case for investigations and prosecutions.  That’s it.  Can anyone find a “liberal” or ideological argument anywhere in what Ventura said?  It’s about as far from a partisan or “leftist” idea as one can get.  Yet our establishment media has succeeded (as Digby recently argued) in converting this view into a “Hard Left,” “liberal” or “partisan” argument because that’s the only prism through which they can understand anything, and that’s their time-honored instrument for demonizing any idea that threatens their institutional prerogatives and orthodoxies (only the Hard Left favors this).


Ventura himself, like the argument he’s advocating, is also about as far from being a “leftist” or partisan as it gets.  He was elected Governor of Minnesota by running as the ultimate non-partisan, as a poorly-funded independent who defeated both the GOP and Democratic establishment candidates on a largely libertarian platform and on what he called “fiscal conservatism,” including large tax rebates.   Unlike the establishment-revering, prosecution-opposing pundits who are the true partisans — loyal spokespeople who fiercely defend Beltway culture and legal immunity for political elites above all else — Ventura is doing nothing more than expressing definitively independent and non-ideological political principles, ones that were quite obviously ingrained in him over the course of decades as an American and a veteran:  torture is wrong in all cases; it is illegal; and those who do it should therefore be prosecuted.


Former aide to Condoleezza Rice and former 9/11 Commission Executive Director Philip Zelikow yesterday became the latest to join Ventura by calling for investigations into torture, telling Laura Rozen:  “When there is this kind of collective failure, we need to learn from what happened.”  Gen. Barry McCaffrey two weeks ago pointed out that numerous detainees were “murdered” in U.S. custody — which is unquestionably true — and called for criminal investigations of the top-level political officials who sanctioned torture.  Gen. Antonio Taguba previously stated that “there is no longer any doubt as to whether the current administration has committed war crimes.  The only question that remains to be answered is whether those who ordered the use of torture will be held to account.”  Colin Powell’s former Chief of Staff, retired U.S. Army Col. Larry Wilkerson, this month endorsed both investigations and prosecutions for Bush officials who broke the law.  Bush 41 ambassador Thomas Pickering and Reagan-appointed FBI Director William Sessions wrote in The Washington Post that an independent investigation was a pre-requisite to moving beyond the torture era.  Ronald Reagan vehemently insisted that torture is inexcusable in all cases — no exceptions — and that those who do it must be prosecuted.


These are the people — Gen. McCaffrey, Gen. Taguba, Col. Wilkerson, Philip Zelikow, Jesse Ventura, Ambassador Pickering, Director Sessions — that our little David Ignatiuses deceitfully dismiss as “liberal score-settlers” and that our David Broders and Jon Barrys accuse of lying by masking their Hard Left thirst for partisan vengeance with false pretenses about a belief in the rule of law and contrived disgust at torture.   Our media stars have a script from which they mindlessly read — anyone who believes that political leaders should be held accountable for serious crimes must be a member of the “Hard Left” when the lawbreaking political leaders in question are Republicans — and they recite it over and over no much how evidence piles up in front of their noses proving how untrue it is.


Our media stars accuse everyone with any actual beliefs — and especially any beliefs that deviate from Beltway establishment orthodoxy — of being motivated by ugly “partisan” impulses because that’s the only way they are capable of seeing the world.  It’s the ultimate act of projection.  That’s how the most non-ideological and non-partisan principles (e.g.: government leaders who commit serious crimes should be held accountable; torture is wrong; Presidents shouldn’t eavesdrop on Americans without warrants where the law makes doing so a felony) are transformed into partisan, “ideological” views of the Hard Left, even when they are plainly nothing of the sort.  As commenter DCLaw1 wrote in explaining the media’s sudden obsession this week with whether Nancy Pelosi was briefed on the CIA’s interrogation program even though that issue has been known for years:



I want to point out that the main reason, if not the only reason, for this overwhelming media view is because the only lens through which they can see this issue – like every issue – is the Republican/Democrat or conservative/liberal lens. When one’s entire point of reference for even issues of egregious lawbreaking goes no further than fixating obsessively over the identity of the people and parties to the “controversy” and the issue’s putative effect on partisan politics, whether a leader of one party was informed of the crimes of the other takes on a meaning perversely greater than the evil of the underlying conduct itself.


Our establishment media simply cannot get beyond this stultifyingly narrow framework. It is pathological. Additionally, this staunch avoidance of anything approaching a substantive assessment of the actual illegal conduct, in favor of a petty fixation on the partisan “helps or harms” game, helps only the “side” that has committed the crimes and wrongdoing. No wonder our discourse is so unbelievably misshapen.


Few things better illustrate how warped our political discourse is than the media’s claim that advocating investigations and prosecutions for political lawbreakers who commit serious crimes, who torture, who illegally spy on Americans with no warrants, is the province of partisans on the “Hard Left,” even when people who are as far away from that as possible prominently advocate exactly that.


* * * * *


Beltway mavens are eager to declare that the torture controversy is ending, but these crimes are far too significant to sweep under the rug, no matter how unified the political and media establishments are in that effort.  In addition to the Ventura interview and the Zelikow call for investigations yesterday, here are some headlines just from the last 24 hours:


Interrogation Probe Should Include Congressional Leaders, Hoyer Says


US lawmakers to hear from Bush ‘torture’ dissenter


Top US Democrat under fire over ‘torture’ briefings


US lawmaker: Public needs all facts on alleged torture


Ire Over a Columnist, an Author of Torture Memos


Speaker Under Fire on Torture (“With a series of torture investigations already in the works . . . the issue simply isn’t going away“).


It’s difficult to avoid the conclusion that the President’s apparent contemplation of reversing himself on whether to release 60 new photographs showing brutal American abuse of detainees (outside of Abu Ghraib) is part of an effort to tamp down what is still, quite obviously, the growing political pressure not to simply “move beyond” the serious crimes that were committed.


* * * * *


The call for prosecutions from the newest member of America’s rapidly growing Hard Left:



 


 




Glenn Greenwald was previously a constitutional law and civil rights litigator in New York. He is the author of the New York Times Bestselling book “How Would a Patriot Act?,” a critique of the Bush administration’s use of executive power, released in May 2006. His second book, “A Tragic Legacy“, examines the Bush legacy.

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