Sunday, September 17, 2006

One thought about MTP Debate

I'm more interested in the Redskins game than the debate (I'm not sure why). But I did want to watch the two men answer the question about defining interrogation techniques.

Allen's answer wasn't nearly as "weasely" as Lowell claimed, but that was hardly a surprise, as Lowell can't be trusted to say anything other than what the people who pay him want him to say.

In fact, Allen gave the answer I wanted him to give -- that he had the same concerns Warner has, but that he wants to make sure we don't shut down interrogations. Allen was very careful not to "agree" that his position was like ANY body else's -- this is a typical Russert technique, and I'm glad Allen rejected it, because I'm certain his position is not exactly like Warner's, just as I'm certain he doesn't completely agree with Powell.

I note that just saying "yes" or "no" to Russert is a lot easier, but Allen actually expressed his OWN opinion, fully fleshed out, so Russert had no reason to ask if that happened to coincide with someone else's view.

Webb said his position was just like Warner's position, and he took a swipe at Allen for not being a military person. Still, Webb also said he wanted to continue interrogations, he simply didn't want to redefine the geneva convention.

But here is where Webb said something that was just wrong -- and I presume it's because he had some talking points he had to get to. Webb was talking about how torture can get you untrustworthy information -- and he said that's what happened that got us into the Iraq War.

I'm sorry, you can be upset about our bad intelligence, but it wasn't because we used torture to get information. The democrats have a remarkably poor grasp of the reality of time (for example, Lowell saying Allen in 1996 should have know that a group he posed with in a picture would be found in 1998 to be racist). One place this is clear is the democrats using evidence we have from Iraq now that we have free access to records to argue that we should have known before the war that our intelligence was faulty.

Webb's comment was designed to tie the current argument over interrogation techniques to bad intelligence before the war, and there is no tie.

UPDATE: Here's the transcript, and the relevant portions for this post:

MR. RUSSERT: All right. Then let me move on to a different issue. Senator Allen, this week you have to cast a vote. Senator John Warner, John McCain, Lindsey Graham, but your senior colleague in Virginia, John Warner, has a view about interrogating and prosecuting enemy combatants. It is different than George W. Bush. Will you vote for Senator Warner or for President Bush?

Note the binary choice. Allen chooses to tell Russert what he actually thinks, rather than simply tying himself to either person (there are negotiations now, so there likely will not be a vote on either of these two choices).

SEN. ALLEN: I’m going to make a determination once I get some more facts. There, there are three key differences in this, but there’s one that matters the most to me, and it’s not all the evidentiary aspects which I think we can do a better job than various proposals on that, and that has to do with the—some of the evidentiary aspects. The key—the two key points for people to understand as this debate goes forward, and whether we vote this week or next week, I will vote on it, you’ll know where I stand, but I want to let you know what I’m going to look at.
Number one, these interrogations have helped protect American lives and not just here at home but also in the battlefield. Secondly, the Geneva Convention is very important, and I don’t want to set a precedent that we change the Geneva Convention and then other countries will change theirs, and if one of our troops or one of our CIA agents is, is caught...
SEN. ALLEN: ...or captured—in Iran or Cuba or Venezuela...
MR. RUSSERT: Well, that’s Senator Warner’s view.
SEN. ALLEN: Right. Now, the key in all of this is I don’t want to stop these interrogations. I’m not for torture, I’m not for waterboarding, but some of these techniques have been very helpful to us, whether, whether they are sleep deprivation, or whether there’s loud music. And I need to be absolutely certain that what the interrogations—interrogators are doing now—which is completely fine as far as I’m concerned, protecting Americans—will not be harmed by the proposal.
MR. RUSSERT: You know, your critics say that you voted with George Bush 96 percent of the time your five years in the Senate. This time, would you vote for Senator Warner, or President Bush?
SEN. ALLEN: I’m going to vote for what’s in the best interests of protecting this country, and making sure that our people here at home, as well as our troops abroad and, and undercover agents for our country are protected. I believe it can be done. I think there can be changes. I actually look forward to taking action, to be a bridge—a bridge between these two proposals, which all have as the same purpose protecting America, and upholding our values. But they, but, but...
MR. RUSSERT: Colin Powell, Colin Powell, who’s a constituent of yours, said, “The world is beginning to doubt the moral basis of our fight against terrorism. To redefine Common Article 3” of the Geneva Convention “would add to those doubts. Furthermore, it would put our own troops at risk.” Do you agree with Secretary Powell that the world is beginning to doubt the moral basis of our fight against terrorism?
SEN. ALLEN: I, I don’t believe that the world is doubting our commitment and our resolve to fight these maniacal terrorists. I think...
MR. RUSSERT: No, the moral basis of our fight, is his quote.
SEN. ALLEN: The moral, the moral basis of our fight against terror, and these maniacal deviants...
MR. RUSSERT: So you disagree with Secretary Powell?
SEN. ALLEN: I’m not saying I disagree, I’d just use a different point of view. And our point of view is we, we need to win against these, these terrorist organizations.
MR. RUSSERT: Where do you come down on this? Are you with the Senator Warner-McCain version, or President Bush’s version of dealing with interrogating and prosecuting enemy combatants?

As I said, Russert keeps trying to make Allen agree or disagree with someone's position, when it's hard to know what that person's position really is.

And Webb's comment about coercive interrogation:

MR. WEBB: But you have to worry about one thing also here, that tainted evidence often comes from torture, and I think John McCain has made that point very well. If we’re coercing...
SEN. ALLEN: Well, we’re, we’re not for torture.
MR. WEBB: ...coercing information—not all—you don’t always have the right information. That’s how we ended up in Iraq.


zen said...

You make an assumption about intel used in the case for Iraq—that we didn't use torture to get it. This is actually a clever trick. The US may not have, but other countries did, then it was added to the mix to push the case for war. And in the end it was still unreliable and false.

Much of the Iraq intel–at least the portions pushed by Cheney still to this day–did in fact rely on information coerced through torture.

Charles said...

The information used prior to the war in Iraq was from informants, not captured terrorists.

Some had been totured, by Saddam, but not by those they were giving information to.

I'm not sure why you would think torture was used to get information. We were of course capturing terrorist after 9/11, but those terrorists were Al Qaeda in afghanistan, and wouldn't have had information about Iraq WMD.

The intel about Iraq was coming from Iraqi sources. And we of course were NOT "capturing" Iraqi officials in order to torture them and get information.

Charles said...

Another source says I'm being too dismissive of this argument.

It is true that the Al Qaeda detainee Al Libi, who was captured in 2001, was a source for one specific piece of intelligence information later found (in 2004) to be untrue -- the claim that Al Qaeda was receiving chemical weapons training in Iraq.

It is not known whether Al Libi was threatened with torture or not -- an MSNBC report suggested that Libi was told he would be turned over to his home country, which may be considered "coersion". Our government has flatly denied that they "tortured" or applied direct coersion methods such as would be effected by the geneva conventions (telling a prisoner they would be returned to their home is not against the convention).

But, it is cited by many as an example where coercion gave us bad intel.

And since this one story has gotten so much play, and was in fact part of the democrat talking points, it is possible this is what Webb was refering to.

Not an example of us torturing or coercing people into false testimony, at least not acknowledged, but still a story out there which fits the scenario.