[Re-posted from earlier today]
It’s somewhat interesting to see the layers and layers of denial begin to peel back a little at National Review. Jonah Goldberg endorses a reader’s view that
This is driving me crazy. Peter [Beinart] argues that aspects of the “War on Terror” are recruiting tool, and cites Abu Ghraib. NO CONSERVATIVE IS DEFENDING ABU GHRAIB so this is a strawman. It’s not merely fallacious, but slanderous in its implication that conservatives thought Abu Ghraib was fine.
Let us leave aside the simple fact that even at the time, many conservatives like Rush Limbaugh and James Inhofe refute this. Limbaugh called the techniques at Abu Ghraib a “brilliant maneuver.” Inhofe said he was more outraged at the outrage than the offenses. Are Limbaugh and Inhofe not conservatives in Goldberg’s view? Will National Review run a correction for this untruth? Or would that be too much cognitive dissonance even for them? But we don’t have to go back in time. On the same page in the same week that Jonah publishes this, Marc Thiessen is aggressively defending the exact techniques used at Abu Ghraib as things we should be proud of! Is it possible to be against Abu Ghaib and in favor of almost all the techniques revealed at Abu Ghraib? Sure. In fact, that’s been the “conservative” position for six years now. Let’s run down the Abu Ghraib techniques that we saw in those photos, shall we? Stress positions? Supported by NRO. Forced hooding and stripping? Backed by NRO. Mock executions? Backed by NRO. Forced nudity? Backed by NRO. Multiple beatings? Backed by NRO. Use of dogs to terrify? Backed by NRO. Sexual abuse? In some respects – such as smearing fake menstrual blood on the faces of naked, shackled prisoners – NRO found nothing wrong with that either. Now remember what other “enhanced interrogation techniques” National Review also now supports that did not actually occur at Abu Ghraib: freezing prisoners to near death with ice, water and naked exposure to very low temperatures; repeated near-drowning of human beings tied to a board; sleep deprivation up to 960 hours; slamming a human being repeatedly with a neck collar against a plywood wall; forcing human beings into upright coffins for long periods of time and tormenting them with phobias, like the rats in Orwell’s 1984. Any conservative who says he or she supports these “enhanced interrogation techniques” pioneered by Cheney therefore logically supports almost every atrocity at Abu Ghraib. So man up, Jonah. Quit the lies and own this or disown it. And no “well I haven’t thought about this that much” or ‘there’s no evidence linking Abu Ghraib to Cheney – when the Senate’s own bipartisan report directly and unanimously linked the techniques at Abu Ghraib to the Bush White House. In fact, in its support for “enhanced interrogation techniques,” NRO doesn’t merely support what happened at Abu Ghraib but believes that prisoners there were treated better than they should have been. On the same Corner blog, one NRO contributor last week actually proposed grouping prisoners in one ethnic group and murdering them in one go with a missile, even though many were admittedly innocent. And Jonah wants to say that conservatives at National Review oppose the techniques at Abu Ghraib!
The only conceivable way for conservatives to oppose Abu Ghraib but support the use of the techniques revealed is that they wanted prisoners tortured by real professionals, not Lynndie England.
This was Krauthammer’s original position – the creation of a elite cadre for torturing prisoners (something even the Nazis didn’t do). These conservatives are fine with Rumsfeld’s approval of stripping a human being and tying a leash around his neck and parading him around as a dog as part of an ongoing attempt to destroy that individual’s sense of self and reality. But if someone down the line of command obeys the Rumsfeld order and it gets out, they oppose it. In fact, they will pretend to be shocked by it. They will also ensure that the person at the bottom of the line is punished and that those who ordered them get away with impunity. The only thing wrong with Abu Ghraib for National Review is that it was photographed and we found out about it. And that’s also why they opposed dissemination of other photos that showed the same exact techniques at other locations in the war on terror.
For Cheney, the only thing wrong with Abu Ghraib was that it was exposed. Since America is America, torture becomes not-torture when Americans do it. Since the US president has no legal or constitutional limits to his use of violence in wartime and since captured prisoners are no different than active combatants, war was unleashed on men already shackled and isolated in torture cells across the globe.
This was one of the darkest moments in American history. And National Review aided, abetted and endorsed every bit of it. And wants to bring it back.