Thursday, December 4, 2008

Democrats Suddenly Discovering That Waterboarding May Be Necessary

Democrats Suddenly Discovering That Waterboarding May Be Necessary

Glenn Greenwald, who is part of the hard left that helped get Obama elected, is shocked, shocked! to discover that Senators Feinstein (D-CA) and Wyden (D-OR) who were inflexible opponents of flexibility when it came to interrogation techniques for terrorists--are suddenly changing their tune, now that a Democrat is on the way to the White House:

But it's actually somewhat worse even than Scherer suggests. According to Mark Mazzetti and Scott Shane, who wrote the article, Feinstein and Wyden are just two of the "senior Democratic lawmakers" who have "seemed reluctant in recent interviews to commit the new administration to following the Army Field Manual in all cases" -- despite the fact that both Feinstein and Wyden said throughout the year that they emphatically favored such a measure and even co-sponsored legislation requiring it.

From the Times article: "in an interview on Tuesday, Mrs. Feinstein indicated that extreme cases might call for flexibility." And: "'I think that you have to use the noncoercive standard to the greatest extent possible,' she said, raising the possibility that an imminent terrorist threat might require special measures." Wyden's comments were even worse:

Senator Ron Wyden of Oregon, another top Democrat on the Intelligence Committee, said he would consult with the C.I.A. and approve interrogation techniques that went beyond the Army Field Manual as long as they were “legal, humane and noncoercive.” But Mr. Wyden declined to say whether C.I.A. techniques ought to be made public.

What makes this so notable is that, for the last year, Feinstein and Wyden were both insistent that the only way to end torture and restore America's standing in the world was to require CIA compliance with the Army Field Manual -- period. But as long as George Bush was President, it was cheap and easy for Feinstein and Wyden to argue that, because they knew there was no chance it would ever happen. As they well knew, they lacked the votes to override Bush's inevitable veto of any such legislation. So as long as Bush was President, it was all just posturing, strutting around demanding absolute anti-torture legislation they knew would never pass.

I'm not going to attack Feinstein and Wyden for what they are saying now. There are extraordinary circumstances that may call for extraordinary actions--ones that could only be justified by the potential loss of life that might come from the use of WMDs against civilians. I don't think that this sudden "flexibility" is because Feinstein is planning to send NRA's leadership to Gitmo for waterboarding. But the hypocrisy of taking one position when a Republican was in charge and another position when a Democrat takes over really shows how much of Democratic opposition to Bush's policies was simply partisan politics.

Thanks to Jonathan Adler at Volokh Conspiracy for pointing me to this one.

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