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Hullabaloo


Wednesday, February 06, 2013

 
"If it is reporting, it's bad reporting"

by digby

I was going to type up a blistering screed against this Will Saletan column in which he clearly implies that he was persuaded by torturers that torture isn't such a bad thing after all --- while also maintaining just enough distance to allow himself to weasel out of it if confronted. It's a typical trick of certain Villager types who are drawn to facile right wing solutions to problems but know they will be criticized for being immoral and cruel if they own up to it. I decided not to bother finishing my piece when I saw this one from Lindsay Beyerstein:

Saletan structures the column to give himself maximum cover. He starts out by saying that the AEI panel changed his mind, then he enumerates the panelists' arguments, and in the final section he mouths some platitudes about how we should all be willing to reexamine our moral positions.

If it is reporting, it's bad reporting. Saletan takes the claims of the most senior architects of torture at face value. These guys know more about the program than almost anyone, so we can't afford to reflexively discount what they say about it, if we want to understand it, but let's keep in mind that they are professional deceivers who, at best, skirted the law and at worst broke it. They see themselves as fighting an ongoing war and they know that what they say now will have implications for how that war goes. They have every reason to lie about what they did and how they did it.

Saletan blithely ignores basic critical questions like: If torture was so effective, why didn't we catch Bin Laden during the height of the torture era? Why did it take over a decade?

He comes across as utterly credulous, producing lines like: "So, for what it's worth, there were internal checks on the practice, at least because the CIA would be politically accountable for what its interrogators did." Right. That's why Jose Rodriguez deleted all those interrogation tapes.

That's just a taste. Please read the whole thing.

To my mind, torture apologists should be treated like Holocaust deniers. Torture is that bad and anyone who defends it should be subjected to the most extreme skepticism and frankly, derision. There are some things that are beyond the pale. Or should be.

Unlike Jonathan Alter, who also endorsed torture, Saletan doesn't have the excuse that he is still in the throes of 9/11 trauma. He just listened to some tough guy torturers and decided they had a point. But he was too cowardly to come out and admit it, so he wrote his piece in a way that gives him some this deniability.  Beyerstein takes his column apart, piece by piece.

But this is nothing new for Saletan. He's been trying to find the sweet spot between mendacious right wing immorality and mainstream liberalism for years. I'll just reprise my favorite Saletan quote from long ago:
If you want to see the tricks of the right exposed, read Somerby. If you want to hear the tricks of the left exposed, listen to Limbaugh. But if you don't want to get trapped inside either wing's echo chamber, read Slate.
Can you see what's wrong with that picture?  I knew that you could.

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