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Dear President Bush,
September 14, 2009 11:07 AM   Subscribe

Demanding that you alone be held accountable and no one else be scapegoated would itself be an act of honor. It would draw a line between the past and the future in the same way that Lincoln’s defense of his brief suspensions of habeas corpus conceded Congress’s sole right to remove this core constitutional provision, but defended his action as a necessary emergency measure because a mass rebellion “had subverted the whole of the laws.” You do not deserve to go down in history as the president who brought torture into the American system and refused to take responsibility for it..
An Open Letter to George W Bush
posted by empath (113 comments total) 2 users marked this as a favorite

 
I guess I should start by saying I supported your presidential campaign in 2000, as I did your father’s in 1988, and lauded your first efforts to wage war against jihadist terrorism in the wake of 9/11... Of course, like most advocates of the Iraq War, I grew dismayed at what I saw as the mistakes that followed...

Christ, what an asshole. Just shut up and go back to your cave overlooking Martha's Vineyard or whatever.
posted by KokuRyu at 11:10 AM on September 14, 2009 [10 favorites]


[Bush does] not deserve to go down in history as the president who brought torture into the American system and refused to take responsibility for it.

Yes, he does.
posted by Ratio at 11:14 AM on September 14, 2009 [56 favorites]


Never forgive, never forget, right? You're either with us or against us?
posted by empath at 11:14 AM on September 14, 2009


Surely this. . . .
posted by Danf at 11:14 AM on September 14, 2009


(referring to Sully not Bush--- Bush gets not forgiveness from me)
posted by empath at 11:15 AM on September 14, 2009


Mr. Sullivan's "dismay" at this point is a safely academic exercise. He should've been saying this stuff in 2002-2003, and not expending 8500 words to do it.
posted by blucevalo at 11:16 AM on September 14, 2009 [6 favorites]


Christ, who gives a shit what you think Andrew?
posted by R. Mutt at 11:16 AM on September 14, 2009 [6 favorites]


KokuRyu: "Just shut up and go back to your cave"

A strong criticism coming from a moderate or even conservative stance has a strong rhetorical position. As far as the Right is concerned the Left would be criticizing them and accusing them of war crimes no matter what they did. So a critique from the right has a good chance of actually getting heard. I think it is good for all of us to be reminded that even a Republican can be opposed to torture.
posted by idiopath at 11:16 AM on September 14, 2009 [26 favorites]


Meh. I absolutely unquestionably loathed the man as much as anyone else, but - We've gotten rid of him at long last. The Idiot Prince has gone, and we can move on.

I don't (and won't) forgive him for what he did the the US, but we need to focus our energy on rebuilding our reputation and our economy, not on revenge against a man who - at best - we might eventually see go down for some variation of "gross negligence/incompetence".

Although I could position myself on the moral high-ground for having hated him from the moment he stole the 2000 election, I won't... Because no matter how you look at it, we all let him destroy our country, every last one of us. At the risk of an auto-Godwinning, we collectively bear no less blame than every German citizen who looked the other way when the Schutzstaffel came for their neighbors (though I suppose we can take some consolation that we "only" racked up about a tenth of the body count as a result). If anything, we should keep Dubbya in the spotlight as a constant reminder to maintain our vigilance against internal threats to the American way of life.
posted by pla at 11:17 AM on September 14, 2009 [5 favorites]


Mr. Sullivan's "dismay" at this point is a safely academic exercise.

If you read Sullivan regularly, you'd know that he has been writing on this topic consistently and passionately for years now.
posted by LooseFilter at 11:18 AM on September 14, 2009 [2 favorites]


PS - Not a Democrat, either. In every aspect of my life, from programming to politics, I use the best tool for the job.
posted by pla at 11:18 AM on September 14, 2009 [1 favorite]


You do not deserve to go down in history as the president who brought torture into the American system and refused to take responsibility for it.

Maybe history will care, but Americans don't seem to care that Bush (officially) brought torture into the American system.

Also, I think open letters are silly.
posted by kirkaracha at 11:18 AM on September 14, 2009 [1 favorite]


From the first paragraph of the article:
Some of my praise of your leadership at the time actually makes me blush in retrospect, but your September 20, 2001, address to Congress really was one of the finest in modern times; your immediate grasp of the import of 9/11—a declaration of war—was correct;

Uh, doesn't pretty much everything he did after that show he was stunningly wrong?
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 11:18 AM on September 14, 2009 [3 favorites]


I'm not going to spend this entire thread defending Sullivan, but he apologized for 2002-2003 multiple times and admitted he was wrong. I don't know what else you want from the man. All he can do is be on the right side of history from the point he admitted he was wrong, and I think he's done his best since then.

I think instead of dredging up his past, it might be better to talk about what he is writing today. Remember, Josh Marshall supported the Iraq War, so did Matt Yglesias.
posted by empath at 11:19 AM on September 14, 2009 [2 favorites]


"Full POW rights—regular meals, exercise, and the rest—were not applicable to stateless terror suspects who themselves had no uniform or adherence to Geneva."

Um, why the fuck not? I mean, after a paragraph of saying that we've got to hold ourselves to a higher standard, he says we don't have to hold ourselves to a higher standard? WTF?!?
posted by notsnot at 11:23 AM on September 14, 2009 [5 favorites]


This would be a better thread if people stopped criticizing what they imagine Sullivan's views to be--as empath points out, he is as intellectually honest a writer as is to be found in the mainstream. He was wrong early on about Bush, has admitted it in the most thorough ways, and is moving forward with whatever wisdom he has gained from that. I enjoy his blog, and find it to be consistently good critical examination of every issue he tackles.

This open letter is a bold editorial move from The Atlantic, and is an impressive backing of one of their writers on an issue he believes is fundamentally important.
posted by LooseFilter at 11:24 AM on September 14, 2009 [6 favorites]


Andrew Sullivan busted for Weed. Not as funny as CNN's Richard Quest Getting busted for Meth last year though.
posted by Paris Hilton at 11:24 AM on September 14, 2009 [1 favorite]


If I'm not willing to slog though 4 pages of that I can God damned assure you George W. Bush won't.
posted by nanojath at 11:26 AM on September 14, 2009 [14 favorites]


WTF?!?

I think you're misreading that statement. He's stating the reality that existed, because he follows it with "You were right to see that as inappropriate, if not offensive."
posted by LooseFilter at 11:27 AM on September 14, 2009


I'm writing an open letter to Jefferson Davis.
posted by Mister_A at 11:28 AM on September 14, 2009 [4 favorites]


Christ, who gives a shit what you think Andrew?

Never trust anyone's who's job is having an opinion.
posted by The Whelk at 11:28 AM on September 14, 2009


Terrible idea - front man while he was president and fall guy now he's not and the entire history of the rotten machine behind him is waved away at a stroke?
posted by Abiezer at 11:30 AM on September 14, 2009 [8 favorites]


I have come to accept that it would be too damaging and polarizing to the American polity to launch legal prosecutions against you...

You can say "The United States does not torture people" until you are blue in the face, but if you don't prosecute the people who authorized this -- and that includes Bush and Cheney -- then the take home message for the rest of the world is "The United States condones torture when it serves our ends."
And I think it is important to weigh the cost of sending that message as compared to the anticipated damage to the American polity that might result from prosecution.
posted by Killick at 11:30 AM on September 14, 2009 [16 favorites]


I used to be a Sullivan fan, and stopped reading him during the election, as I found him increasingly unbearable. This piece was incredibly powerful. I'm glad I took the time to read it. It is long because it's complete, and I think that was my objection to the direction his blog was taking around a year and a half ago, that it was degenerating into "Yay Obama" and "OMG torture = so bad" political Perez Hiltonery instead of the thorough, deliberate cases that he is capable of making.
posted by alexwoods at 11:34 AM on September 14, 2009 [3 favorites]


Oh come on, can we at least hang Tony Blair as well?
posted by Artw at 11:34 AM on September 14, 2009 [1 favorite]


I'd rather read Kanye's open letter to George W. Bush, personally.
posted by kittens for breakfast at 11:34 AM on September 14, 2009


Yes, you may hang Mr. Blair.
posted by Mister_A at 11:37 AM on September 14, 2009 [1 favorite]


"Full POW rights—regular meals, exercise, and the rest—were not applicable to stateless terror suspects who themselves had no uniform or adherence to Geneva."

Um, why the fuck not?


It's arguable. POW's are not criminals and aren't treated the way that suspected criminals are.

If these people are suspected criminals and NOT prisoners of war, then that means they don't get POW rights, they should get treated the way that any suspected criminal in the US is treated -- that is, not subject to coercive interrogations, etc. The problem was never that they didn't treat Taliban/Al-queada's POW's, but that they essentially treated them as NON-PERSONS -- ie, they had no rights of any kind.

I suspect that the correct policy would have been to treat Taliban as POWs by default and put into military custody, and Al Queda as criminals and put them in FBI custody.
posted by empath at 11:38 AM on September 14, 2009 [9 favorites]


SLOE regarding contentious, repetitive arguments that have been beaten into dust do not make good posts.
posted by dios at 11:38 AM on September 14, 2009 [1 favorite]


Abiezer: front man while he was president and fall guy now he's not

But hasn't this always been W.'s role - to provide the grinning, folksy, non-threatening front behind which bastards like Cheney and Rove can quietly and evilly operate? Sullivan is a fool for not understanding this aspect of the last decade's politics, and so pretty much playing right into their game.
posted by aught at 11:40 AM on September 14, 2009 [1 favorite]


At least it's better to be angry at someone for something he did in the past than to be angry at someone for something you think he might do in the future. I'm looking at you Obama, because maybe your speech to the children will be an indocrination and maybe the public option will put privater insurers out of business and maybe the whole country will become socialist and I just can't stand the future anymore.
posted by twoleftfeet at 11:40 AM on September 14, 2009


Why has he let himself be distracted from the far more pressing issue of whose uterus Trig Palin came out of?

I actually like Andrew's writing, for the most part. But: what nanojath said. This is empty (and dull) posturing.
posted by Joe Beese at 11:42 AM on September 14, 2009 [1 favorite]


I'm torn between what could be a witch hunt every time an incumbent leaves office (and a comparatively smooth transition between elected officials is one of the things the US has going or it) and saying, "Hey, whatever you do, as long as you make it to the finish line, you're clear. You get the pension and the estate and the Secret Service guys to boss around. You get statues and libraries named after you."

The pardon of the Nixon seemed to set precedent for that — Nixon didn't precisely get what we wanted, but he didn't go to prison, either. And while I hold the attempted subversion of the democratic process to be a fairly sacred thing for an elected official, the sheer scope and magnitude of Bush's screwups have ensured that we'll be paying for it, both financially and politically, for a couple of generations.

There's not a shot in Hell that Bush would agree to this. He got what we wanted, his buddies got what they wanted, there's nothing in it for him and nobody will hold him to account. Pity. I think he ought to be hauled out of his smug estate and live out of the rest of his life in a pain amplifier, atop the Washington Monument, with a little plaque reading "THIS IS WHAT HAPPENS WHEN YOU FUCK A STRANGER IN THE ASS, LARRY" as some kind of object lesson to those who would seek power but not accountability.
posted by adipocere at 11:42 AM on September 14, 2009 [2 favorites]


I have come to accept that it would be too damaging and polarizing to the American polity to launch legal prosecutions against you...

I don't think he was saying Bush should never be prosecuted, but that pursuing that right now is counter-productive.

In the sentence immediately following:
President Obama’s decision thus far to avoid such prosecutions is a pragmatic and bipartisan one in a time of war...
he punts on the idea of whether prosecution should take place in the future.

IMO, Yes, I think he should be prosecuted. As far as justice is concerned, I think he should have been prosecuted long ago. However, immediate justice may not be the most relevant thing to deal with right now. I can understand the desire not to engage in such a polarizing act when you are trying hard to unify the country - behind Afghanistan, behind health care, whatever. It may be best to face only a few battles at a time. There will be plenty of time for blame and justice once we extricate ourselves from the mess we're in.
posted by scrutiny at 11:43 AM on September 14, 2009


Meh. I absolutely unquestionably loathed the man as much as anyone else, but - We've gotten rid of him at long last. The Idiot Prince has gone, and we can move on.

Really? Move on? And "he" is "rid of"?

So what's the plan to be rid of the functionaries who've now populated the various agencies and can move paper from one file to another - thus changing an outcome? The ones who can take data that has many different interperations and choose the one that is more "Bush-like"?

The plan is just to 'move on'?

Look on todays Blue - see the bit about the framing of the Russian Threat? How much of that 'reframe' was old functionaries pimp'n the agenda of the past boss who put 'em there?

Now, if there is an Internet and a Metafilter in 30 years, lets all come back and see how just 'moving on' worked out WRT keeping the various functionaries of Bush II. Just like its been 30 years for the Nixon washout - how many of the Bush II ppl were Nixonites and how did THAT work out?
posted by rough ashlar at 11:44 AM on September 14, 2009 [7 favorites]


I don't (and won't) forgive him for what he did the the US, but we need to focus our energy on rebuilding our reputation and our economy, not on revenge against a man who - at best - we might eventually see go down for some variation of "gross negligence/incompetence".

I disagree. To have accountability, there needs to be a precedent for accountability.
posted by crapmatic at 11:45 AM on September 14, 2009 [1 favorite]


If I never hear another goddamn word from Andrew Sullivan it will be too soon.
posted by Optimus Chyme at 11:46 AM on September 14, 2009 [1 favorite]


I thought it was quite a good read actually.
posted by ob at 11:47 AM on September 14, 2009 [2 favorites]


signed,
dick cheney
posted by darkpony at 11:48 AM on September 14, 2009 [5 favorites]


Like Bush is going to read even the first page.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 11:49 AM on September 14, 2009 [1 favorite]


Dude, if you really want Bush to read this, take it in and seriously consider it, you need to make it much shorter with less big words and a bigger font. And maybe some pictures.

Know your audience.
posted by chillmost at 11:50 AM on September 14, 2009 [1 favorite]


As far as justice is concerned, I think he should have been prosecuted long ago.

If you think a crime has been committed, write it down on a ham sandwich and get that grinder to your Grand Jury.
posted by rough ashlar at 11:52 AM on September 14, 2009


....I'm not sure I understand something here:

I've seen a lot of comments on the blue which have been addressed to conservative MeFites, to the effect that "if you don't want your party to be seen as comprised entirely of nut-jobs, then get the moderates to speak out about what's going wrong."

Well, Andrew Sullivan looks like a more moderate Conservative to me. And he's speaking out. And....we're telling him to shut up? What am I missing here?

(Mind, I disagree with the idea of Bush taking the fall because that leaves Cheney exempt. I'm referring strictly to the reaction I see in here.)
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 11:53 AM on September 14, 2009 [30 favorites]


adipocere: "... what could be a witch hunt every time an incumbent leaves office..."

This really is not complicated.

1. By our ratification of the Geneva Convention, it has the force of federal law.

2. The Geneva Convention requires the investigation and prosecution of torture. No exceptions for "would really like to pass health care reform".

3. By not prosecuting, Obama is breaking federal law. [And violating the Geneva Convention.]

Just like George.
posted by Joe Beese at 11:53 AM on September 14, 2009 [6 favorites]


I'd like to move on from this, but until those responsible for this are brought to justice, then what we are left with is injustice performed in our name and no punishment for it. It's not revenge I seek -- it's simple justice. This is a dark skeleton in our closet and it needs to be exhumed and studied so that we don't ever repeat these same mistakes and so that those who would even consider walking this road in the future know ahead of time that the road ends with them losing their freedom.

I discovered in 1983 that we aren't always the good guys. I was part of a psyops unit during the invasion of Grenada. Right next to our site was the Cuban POW site, staffed by 81st Airborne. There were maybe 150-200 Cubans imprisoned there, less than 100 feet from my tent. Our guys took some wall lockers from a Cuban barracks and when a Cuban prisoner would get unruly, they'd stick him in one of these wall lockers...for hours and, I think, sometimes days.

These lockers were far too small for anyone to sit down in, maybe 18" square at the floor -- a man's legs could not bend enough to allow sitting. So these prisoners would stand inside these lockers in the baking Caribbean sun, hour after hour after hour. At night I had problems sleeping because eventually these guys would break and just start screaming in agony, and that would go on all night long. I was so glad when they were released, just so I could sleep at night, but my sleep was still uneasy because I kept remembering those screams. It seemed like torture to me at the time, and in retrospect I still think that that constituted torture, or damn close.

This isn't the people we're supposed to be. We're supposed to be the good guys, period. The discovery that sometimes we're not, that hurt me deep down inside. Whatever laws or rules that need to be passed to make this kind of thing impossible in the future, we should pass those laws and regulations. And the higher-ups who authorized torture, we really do need to hold them responsible and bring justice back to life in our government. Not for revenge, but to reaffirm and strengthen our morals going forward.
posted by jamstigator at 11:57 AM on September 14, 2009 [32 favorites]


But really here, what's funniest is the thought that Bush would ever read an "open letter" addressed to him, or even a normal letter. Bush, above every other miserable, pathetic trait he had, was the least curious president we've ever seen as a country. This is a man who made Regan's breezy pre-Alzheimer condition seem like the reserved calculations of a chess player. He coasted through life on his father's (admittedly wretched but nonetheless) work, the worst possible man to hold a position that demands nothing if not insatiable interest.

I won't even bother with Sullivan -- he's a useful idiot who allowed a carefully constructed public persona designed to maximize reader attention with a mindless combination of sycophancy and completely illogical contrarianism to gradually take over his mind. People like him (and fucking Friedman) who still try to claim that the Iraq War was anything other than a illegal, horrible lie that cost the lives of (at the very, very least) tens of thousands of complete innocents are helplessly deluded.

You have to admire Sullivan's gall, though. An open letter to the rat bastard who made it okay to torture! That's like sending a fucking candygram to Dr. Doom.
posted by Damn That Television at 11:58 AM on September 14, 2009 [6 favorites]


contentious, repetitive arguments that have been beaten into dust do not make good posts.

But they make great comments!
posted by Combustible Edison Lighthouse at 12:03 PM on September 14, 2009


This is one of those weird covers the Atlantic likes to run from time to time like that what if Muslims shot up the Mall of America one that leaves me wondering if there's aren't a few too many cans of Dust-Off missing from the supply cabinet in their editorial department.
posted by The Straightener at 12:06 PM on September 14, 2009 [3 favorites]


This isn't the people we're supposed to be. We're supposed to be the good guys, period.

1) Welcome to PSYOPS - see how well it worked? You believed there was a moral high ground and the US occupied that space. *
2) Ever read Smedley Butler and his 'war is a racket'?
3) Pray to your God that no one decides you are an enemy of the State as the Cubans were in your past experience.
4) Have you met humanity? Plenty of sociopaths - 8% naturally with perhaps 12% more trainable behavior.

May you somehow get what you once believed in. And some rainbows and puppies.

* (The high ground has good lighting from heaven and a nice view. Fine land to have title to, yet note the idea of title - really its not yours its the States and the State is just letting you think you own it.)
posted by rough ashlar at 12:07 PM on September 14, 2009 [1 favorite]


I'm torn between what could be a witch hunt every time an incumbent leaves office (and a comparatively smooth transition between elected officials is one of the things the US has going or it) and saying, "Hey, whatever you do, as long as you make it to the finish line, you're clear. You get the pension and the estate and the Secret Service guys to boss around. You get statues and libraries named after you."

You only hunt witches when things have gone wrong. But following the notion of witch hunts, blaming parties who are generally dis-liked or at least outsiders for broader issues, is exactly what what this is. If you wish to avoid the heavy history, simply call it scapegoating.

Sure, he was The President while we broke the Geneva convention and he authorized and extended and defended “sleep deprivation” and “stress positions” and “temperature extremes.” He did not implement them, over-see them, record and report them. The chain of command did not go from President to Torturer/Interrogator, but through a number of people. And I doubt he was the one to come up with the idea and devise which techniques to use and how. Calling George W. to task and no one else is burning the sacrificial lamb, and calling the sins of many clean and gone. If we forgo the lamb and just make the gestures, what do we gain (or lose)?
posted by filthy light thief at 12:10 PM on September 14, 2009


If you read Sullivan regularly, you'd know that he has been writing on this topic consistently and passionately for years now.

Bull-fucking-shit. Andrew Sullivan is an opportunistic weasel, and just plainly dishonest, as evidenced by his long-time support for Betsy "Death Panels" McCaughey:

[McCaughey] had found the damning details that proved Clintoncare would mean the end of fee-for-service medical care in America and the mandatory enrollment of every citizen in managed care plans -- with criminal penalties for those who disobeyed. Her wild accusations were not only publicized by the New Republic (whose then-editor Andrew Sullivan still claimed to be proud of publishing her essay as recently as two years ago), and in the right-wing media, but quickly gained traction in the mainstream thanks to George Will and other conservative pundits.

I wouldn't recommend anyone bother taking anything written by Sullivan, a liar and apologist for criminal liars, seriously.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 12:18 PM on September 14, 2009 [10 favorites]



I think instead of dredging up his past, it might be better to talk about what he is writing today. Remember, Josh Marshall supported the Iraq War, so did Matt Yglesias.


But how big of a fucking mistake do you have to make in order to lose credibility?! At what point do we stop listening to these people?

There were thousands, upon thousands of people all around the world screaming that the Iraq war was a horrible mistake from the get-go. It was plain to see what a nightmare it was going to be. At least plain to see for anyone with half a brain. Yet these fools--I am sorry, political analysts--got it wrong. Horribly horribly horribly wrong. They trumpeted that war like hell--sorry, this war because, you know, it's still happening.

At this point, I would rather read a fucking an open letter written by the goddamn Dixie Chicks because they had more balls and sense then all of them combined.
posted by milarepa at 12:18 PM on September 14, 2009 [6 favorites]


We've gotten rid of him at long last. The Idiot Prince has gone, and we can move on.

Yes, let's move on, now that all his policies have been overturned.

Oh, wait. No.
posted by Sys Rq at 12:19 PM on September 14, 2009 [2 favorites]


I'm letting my subscription to the Atlantic Monthly lapse, and I'll tell you why. First, they ditched the Puzzler from their print mag, relegating it to online-only status. Then, this month, they announced they're dropping it entirely, leaving Emily Cox and Henry Rathvon to starve like dogs. Fuck that noise.

Oh, and also the magazine's gradual degradation in quality and its not-very-subtle slide to the Right over the years. That too. But mostly because they fucking killed the Puzzler.
posted by Skot at 12:21 PM on September 14, 2009 [2 favorites]


I found the whole article a thoughtful discussion of the issue at hand. I don't believe for a second it will do any good (as anyone who might be able to take action based on the appeal made is either already utterly corrupt or too tightly cocooned in their worldview, like an egg inside a Big Egg.) Yes, all it does is point out that torture is wrong (once more, with feeling.)

Still, if the past decade or so has taught us anything, it's that apparently you actually can't say "Torture is wrong" often enough because the moral compass of humanity in general seems to have all the staunch reliability of leprechaun gold and faerie farts.
posted by Scattercat at 12:30 PM on September 14, 2009 [2 favorites]


Who will read this letter to him?
posted by pianomover at 12:37 PM on September 14, 2009 [1 favorite]


EmpressCallipygos: "I've seen a lot of comments on the blue which have been addressed to conservative MeFites, to the effect that "if you don't want your party to be seen as comprised entirely of nut-jobs, then get the moderates to speak out about what's going wrong."

Well, Andrew Sullivan looks like a more moderate Conservative to me. And he's speaking out. And....we're telling him to shut up? What am I missing here?
"

This. There are plenty of reasons to hate Sullivan and many of his policy alignments, but if you distance yourself from reasonable points simply on that basis then you do not also get to complain about how Republicans are letting the nutjob wing speak for them.
posted by Riki tiki at 12:39 PM on September 14, 2009 [1 favorite]


But how big of a fucking mistake do you have to make in order to lose credibility?! At what point do we stop listening to these people?

Define 'listen to these people'? Do you mean, take everything they say as gospel? Only an idiot would do that. Carefully consider their arguments? I think one should always do that, even when you're absolutely convinced the person is probably wrong.

Only exposing yourself to people whose opinions you always agree with is a surefire way to intellectually stagnate.

You don't need to waste your time listening to people who argue in bad faith like Michelle Malkin (or Sullivan, actually, in the lead up to the Iraq War), but people who at least attempt to make a rational argument are always worth your time, even when they're a political opponent, even when they're wrong.
posted by empath at 12:41 PM on September 14, 2009 [2 favorites]


Asking George W. Bush to accept responsibility for anything is like asking my cat to fetch. Sure, it's theoretically possible, but any such behavior would stem from motivations unrelated to the asker's purpose.
posted by BitterOldPunk at 12:58 PM on September 14, 2009 [6 favorites]


I don't know. He wants Bush to do what exactly? To hold a press conference? To say "look, I'm not gonna be prosecuted for it or nothin', but yeah I totally made us torture people," then shrug and go his merry way? who does that serve, if not the conservatives who need to take back some measure of popular support by distancing themselves from the same shit they applauded when the guy was in office?

if you don't want him prosecuted, and you don't want everyone else involved to take any of the blame, then you just want Bush to volunteer himself as a scapegoat and take the heat, right?

and the rest of us are supposed think that's fine and dandy?
posted by shmegegge at 12:59 PM on September 14, 2009 [2 favorites]


Riki tiki, in fairness, the Republican party has let the nutjob wing come to define it, regardless of what Sully does or how people react to it.
posted by Mister_A at 1:01 PM on September 14, 2009


...in fairness, the Republican party has let the nutjob wing come to define it, regardless of what Sully does or how people react to it.

Well, if we're scoffing at the people who try to prevent the nutjob wing from taking over, why are we surprised when they finally throw up their hands and say "fuck it"?
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 1:03 PM on September 14, 2009


I can imagine George Bush reading this and taking it to heart.

I have a good imagination.
posted by mazola at 1:04 PM on September 14, 2009 [1 favorite]


We've gotten rid of him at long last. The Idiot Prince has gone, and we can move on.

Yes thank god a Democrat is in The White House now. What a difference!
posted by Zambrano at 1:05 PM on September 14, 2009


THE SECRETS ABOUT U.S. TORTURE THEY DON'T WANT YOU TO KNOW!!

1. The CIA has always tortured people.
2. Some Democratic lawmakers knew Bush was doing it and said nothing.
3. Obama is still doing it.
4. Most Americans don't care.

posted by Joe Beese at 1:12 PM on September 14, 2009 [14 favorites]


Obama is still doing it.

The article you link to argues that the executive order in question leaves open some loopholes that means it's possible Obama might still be doing it. If that's true, it's not good, but that's a far cry from your declarative statement that he's torturing people. There's not a shred of proof that he is.

If such proof surfaces, I'll be out in the streets just like I was under Bush, and I think it's worth agitating to get those loopholes closed. But let's not throw around accusations without merit.
posted by EarBucket at 1:29 PM on September 14, 2009 [2 favorites]


I think instead of dredging up his past, it might be better to talk about what he is writing today. Remember, Josh Marshall supported the Iraq War, so did Matt Yglesias.
But how big of a fucking mistake do you have to make in order to lose credibility?! At what point do we stop listening to these people?


There's a huge difference between Yglesias and Marshall and someone like Andrew Sullivan. Yglesias was a college student at the time, although TPM as a one-person blog was up and running. But they were both in the "sensible centrist" camp who thought the war was probably a better idea then a worse one. Yglesias specifically mentions that he thought it was a good idea because so many democratic senators and leaders were for it, like Hillary Clinton. They thought war opponents were incorrect, but I don't think they thought they were bad.

Sullivan on the other hand not only supported the war, he was practically drowning in rightwing kool-aide. He was calling out war opponents and liberals as a 'fifth column' in America and all that nonsense.
posted by Paris Hilton at 1:29 PM on September 14, 2009


nanojath : If I'm not willing to slog though 4 pages of that I can God damned assure you George W. Bush won't.

Shorter Sullivan for Bush:

Hey George, I used to think you were the shit, and that was cool, but then you kinda dropped the ball and now it's totally fucked up for everyone. You might not have meant to fuck things up, but hey, shit happens, right? See Cheney ain't going to make this go away, and I know that you don't want your legacy to be all shitty and shit, so maybe you should man-up and say "Dudes, I fucked it all up. You know, Sorry 'bout that and all..."

And you know, you got that whole religious thing happening, so if you wanna keep your ass out of hell's frying pan, you might want to think about what I've said.

Cool?
AS
posted by quin at 1:38 PM on September 14, 2009 [1 favorite]


In 2004, Bush fell off his bike while riding near his ranch (where else?) in Crawford. According to White House spokesman Trent Duffy, "It's been raining a lot and the topsoil is loose."

At the time, several people pointed out that weather reports showed zero precipitation in the area for several days.

The man wouldn't take responsibility for taking a spill on his bike. You think he's going to own up for torture?
posted by Legomancer at 1:45 PM on September 14, 2009 [13 favorites]


I don't know. He wants Bush to do what exactly? To hold a press conference?

A truth commission has been floated before.
posted by rough ashlar at 1:47 PM on September 14, 2009


EmpressCallipygos, preaching about torture to the choir that is the Atlantic Monthly readership will do very little to help change the polarized, mud-slinging, fact-resistant, zero-sum game that is American politics at this moment. Sullivan and other more-or-less rational Republicans need to mount a counter-insurgency to restore some air of legitimacy to their party, because it is completely in the hands of the faux-populist broadcast hate-mongers right now.

I long for the emergence of the fabled "fiscal conservatives" in the Republican party, because I believe that a little creative friction in the chambers of Congress will contribute to better governance. What's going on now is not creative, there's no give-and-take, it's all just lies piled upon lies. If Republicans want to have a serious discussion, for instance about how to pay for meaningful healthcare reform, I'm all for it—that's the sort of thing that they're suppose to do—but those voices (and they are out there) are drowned out by the crazies that have been endorsed, and in some ways created, by the party bosses.

What's vitally important now, for the future of the Republican party, is the repudiation of the hatred and lies and attack politics that have poisoned the well of discourse. The Republican leadership must renounce these lies and those who spout them if they want to be taken seriously again. That party is in danger of becoming a regional party. They have alienated the black vote for another generation, but to top that, have also alienated the Latino vote. It will become near-impossible to gain a majority in either house, or to win the presidency, unless the Republicans change their tune from the top down.

So I agree with many of the things Mr. Sullivan has said over the last few years, on the wars and on other issues, and I find it possible to politely disagree with him on others. Virtually speaking, of course; I've never met the man. But I'm not the guy that most needs convincing.
posted by Mister_A at 1:50 PM on September 14, 2009 [1 favorite]


People like him (and fucking Friedman) who still try to claim that the Iraq War was anything other than a illegal, horrible lie that cost the lives of (at the very, very least) tens of thousands of complete innocents are helplessly deluded.

At the risk of repeating myself, let me repeat myself: This would be a better thread if people stopped criticizing what they imagine Sullivan's views to be. If you haven't read him at all in the past four years, please don't assume his views are the same.
posted by LooseFilter at 1:52 PM on September 14, 2009 [1 favorite]


I don't know. He wants Bush to do what exactly? To hold a press conference? To say "look, I'm not gonna be prosecuted for it or nothin', but yeah I totally made us torture people," then shrug and go his merry way?

Well, he's not going to get prosecuted no matter what, so all we have is the verdict of history. Bush can man up and take responsibility for it and go down as the man who made a tragic mistake in the name of his country's security, or he can go down in history as a bumbler who couldn't control the criminals and incompetents in his own administration. But the point would be that he has to face up to the consequences of what he ordered and admit it, instead of letting a bunch of low level CIA agents take the fall.

What I'd like to see is something along the lines of: "After 9/11, I became very concerned about continued terror attacks vs American citizens, and regrettably, I signed executive orders that went too far in approving techniques that were against America's values, etc, and so forth, and may have even lead to the horrible abuses of Abu Graib, etc. Ultimately, as President, what happened was my responsibility, and I apologize to the American people, etc. I'd like to encourage a thorough investigation of blah, blah, blah..."

It's not the same as a prosecution, but it at least sets the historical record straight.
posted by empath at 1:54 PM on September 14, 2009


Also, it wrong-foots the apologists like Cheney who are still saying they did nothing wrong.
posted by empath at 1:56 PM on September 14, 2009


EarBucket: "The article you link to argues that the executive order in question leaves open some loopholes that means it's possible Obama might still be doing it. If that's true, it's not good, but that's a far cry from your declarative statement that he's torturing people. There's not a shred of proof that he is."

I assume that you're not going to argue that these torture-permitting loopholes ended up in the Executive Order by accident.

So what are you saying, really? Obama isn't torturing people now... he's just reserving the right to do so later?
posted by Joe Beese at 2:02 PM on September 14, 2009


Is it really taking responsibility if there's no consequences for ones actions? I think there's a difference between admitting ones's role and taking responsibility. One action sets the historical record straight and the other action prevents it from happening again.
posted by Staggering Jack at 2:04 PM on September 14, 2009


Admitting that it (torture) was a mistake of judgment, that it was wrong to do, carries with it significant consequences, Staggering Jack.
posted by Mister_A at 2:08 PM on September 14, 2009


After Sullivan's cheerleading for Iraq, he should be unemployable and living in a fucking box, not still one of America's most prominent pundits. I guess wingnut welfare is still in play.
posted by Pope Guilty at 2:10 PM on September 14, 2009


So what are you saying, really? Obama isn't torturing people now... he's just reserving the right to do so later?

I'm saying that because a blogger (an assistant professor of radiology, no less) argues that these are loopholes that allow sub rosa torture doesn't make it so. His argument hinges on the idea that Obama is differentiating between prisoners taken in armed conflict, and people detained in counterterrorism operations. I don't think he makes that case convincingly. He also takes issue with the fact that Obama only ordered the CIA to close its secret detention centers. Well, the CIA was the agency operating secret detention centers, so it's not too surprising that they're the agency ordered to close them. If the FDA was operating black sites, they'd have presumably been included in the order as well.

In short, I think the cited article started with a conclusion (Obama is torturing people!) and interpreted the evidence as much as it needed to get there.
posted by EarBucket at 2:11 PM on September 14, 2009 [1 favorite]


Jaaaaayzus. This is why I should just stop reading the comments here.
posted by Baby_Balrog at 2:15 PM on September 14, 2009


So what are you saying, really? Obama isn't torturing people now... he's just reserving the right to do so later?

If I remember correctly, the most cogent arguments about moving forward with impeachment of Bush 43 during 2008 were that he had claimed for the Executive Office many tools and toys which were, until then, not part of the powers relegated to that office. The point behind the (non)movement to impeach was that we weren't doing it to punish a man, we were doing it to pull those newly-assumed powers back out of the tool chest of the office, so that future presidents would have to fight to acquire them again rather than simply allowing them to sit as de facto parts of the office.

Obama may not be reserving the right to do so later, but if we don't separate the ability to order torture from the Presidency, it is likely that some president in the future will exercise that perogative. That will be to the continued detriment of us all.
posted by hippybear at 2:16 PM on September 14, 2009 [3 favorites]


Huh?
posted by Mister_A at 2:16 PM on September 14, 2009


That was supposed to come before your comment, not after it, hippybear.
posted by Mister_A at 2:25 PM on September 14, 2009


EarBucket: "I'm saying that because a blogger (an assistant professor of radiology, no less) argues that these are loopholes that allow sub rosa torture doesn't make it so."

Jeremy Scahill, award-winning investigative journalist and author of the bestseller Blackwater: The Rise of the World’s Most Powerful Mercenary Army:

... while much of the focus has been on the tactical use of torture at Guantanamo, almost no attention had been paid to a parallel force that was torturing prisoners in a variety of ways, including waterboarding them, and that is this riot squad of sorts that you referred to called the Immediate Reaction Force. ... And while Barack Obama, almost immediately upon taking office, issued an executive order saying he was going to close down Guantanamo within a year and that he was going to respect the Geneva Convention while his administration reviewed Guantanamo, this force has continued to operate and torture prisoners under the Obama administration.

Scott Horton, human rights attorney and journalist:

... even the pledge to end torture at Gitmo has its exceptions. Force-feeding operations which have continued at the detention centre during the course of the Obama administration fail to conform to the standards of the Malta declaration, and they are apparently administered with such violence and brutality that one prisoner who was being force-fed died under unexplained circumstances.

Los Angeles Times:

Under executive orders issued by Obama recently, the CIA still has authority to carry out what are known as renditions, secret abductions and transfers of prisoners to countries that cooperate with the United States. ... The rendition program became a source of embarrassment for the CIA, and a target of international scorn, as details emerged in recent years of botched captures, mistaken identities and allegations that prisoners were turned over to countries where they were tortured.
posted by Joe Beese at 2:40 PM on September 14, 2009 [2 favorites]


I love all of this moving on/all in the past/looking forward stuff. It's going to be very helpful at my upcoming performance review at work (or if I'm ever accused of a crime).

This isn't the people we're supposed to be. We're supposed to be the good guys, period.

The Bush Administration killed this in me, and it makes me depressed. I don't believe Americans are actually better than people from other countries, but we're supposed to embody the best in people. I'm ashamed for my country that we tortured people and don't care about punishing the people behind it.

He coasted through life on his father's (admittedly wretched but nonetheless) work

Compared to his son, George H.W. Bush is a giant.

The chain of command did not go from President to Torturer/Interrogator, but through a number of people.

Right, and every single link in that chain of command should he in prison.
posted by kirkaracha at 3:05 PM on September 14, 2009 [4 favorites]


I don't think that force-feedings can be put in the same category as waterboarding and beatings. I think they're still a mistake, and if they're being carried out with the same brutality they were under the Bush administration, that's a huge problem. I don't know that it rises to the same level, however.

As far as rendition goes, his January 22 executive order is quite clear about the transfer of prisoners to countries that torture. It also establishes that anyone held by any department or agency of the federal government is entitled to, at a minimum, Common Article 3 protections.
posted by EarBucket at 3:05 PM on September 14, 2009


SLOE regarding contentious, repetitive arguments that have been beaten into dust do not make good posts.
posted by dios at 11:38 AM on September 14 [1 favorite +] [!]


Especially if they make rah-rah-Bushies look bad.
posted by Mental Wimp at 3:13 PM on September 14, 2009 [2 favorites]


After my initial glib response then I felt bad and decided I better read the whole thing, which is good because otherwise I would have missed the last page punchline where he explains that what he's looking for is for Bush to display the kind of integrity Reagan did with Iran Contra. Aaaaand I'm done here.
posted by nanojath at 3:16 PM on September 14, 2009 [5 favorites]


The line that got me was

"I grew dismayed at what I saw as the mistakes that followed: the failure to capture Osama bin Laden at Tora Bora"

Like Osama is Dr Doom, and if you get him it will all stop because it's Bond and he's criminal mastermind. It's so blinkered, so deluded I don't even know where to start, and it coloured my reading of the rest of the article.
posted by ciderwoman at 3:19 PM on September 14, 2009 [1 favorite]


Well I guess now I finally understand what that tl;dr t-shirt is all about.
posted by spilon at 3:25 PM on September 14, 2009


That fucking turd wouldn't own up to a fart let alone the gigantic mess he created. Fuck him, he can burn in hell.
posted by zzazazz at 3:27 PM on September 14, 2009


I have never taken much to the odd positions so often shown by Andrew S., but this can be said:
1. he does not live in Martha's Vinyard but lives in P-Town, Cape Cod.
2. He did not have an awareness of the torture that took place a number of years ago. Nor did most people. This is stuff that has more recently come out and made available.
3. the simple name calling is about at the level of what I scorned in right wing sites and tea party gatherings. Argue the position and forgo the grade school name calling.
posted by Postroad at 3:30 PM on September 14, 2009


ah, then there is The Evil One himself!

http://www.propeace.net/blog/silent-lotus/top-former-generals-denounce-cheney-torture
posted by Postroad at 3:35 PM on September 14, 2009


Well I guess now I finally understand what that tl;dr t-shirt is all about.

Oh, it's Andrew Sullivan. We should perk up our ears and listen intently to everything the cultural elite has to spoon feed us, even if it means leading us blindly into war.
posted by KokuRyu at 4:06 PM on September 14, 2009 [1 favorite]


but he apologized for 2002-2003 multiple times and admitted he was wrong. I don't know what else you want from the man.

To just go away? Whatever his talents as a writer, his ability to discern the truth and shed light on it is obviously off by an order of magnitude to continue in his chosen career. He says it right in the beginning: "I voted for you and your father" so he's been an idiot for 15 years, why even give him another thought? I'm sure there's another single link youtube video that will provide as much political wisdom as Sullivan and might actually be funny or something.
posted by doctor_negative at 4:21 PM on September 14, 2009 [3 favorites]


I think that Sullivan and Charlie Sheen should form a fantasy politics club. The notion that W would take the bullet for those people whom he ultimately thinks of as his hirelings (except maybe for Cheney) is beyond laughable.
posted by Halloween Jack at 5:23 PM on September 14, 2009 [2 favorites]


If you've not yet seen Oliver Stones W., I reccommend you do. It's not Stone's best work, but it was pretty good anyway.
posted by Effigy2000 at 6:15 PM on September 14, 2009


I hope President Bush can find someone to read it to him.
posted by Flunkie at 6:33 PM on September 14, 2009


"This isn't the people we're supposed to be. We're supposed to be the good guys, period."

It's sad to me that ever generation gets to use the latest US fuckup as their wake up call to the fact that we're not the good guys. And we get outraged, and then somehow forget, leaving the next generation to be rudely awakened by some new atrocity we're visiting upon the world.

We have never been the "good guys".

If I was wearing Obama's wingtips right now I wouldn't want to look back either. Once you start looking back, where do you stop?

Getting the latest batch of bastards doesn't cleanse us of anything. It's bastards all the way back.
posted by billyfleetwood at 6:45 PM on September 14, 2009 [2 favorites]


I got to the byline and stopped.

Sullivan is just an opportunist who is recalibrating to the zeitgeist he perceives to be most conducive to his career goals. That guy is shit and I don't care to read his backpedaling.
posted by Brosef K at 7:10 PM on September 14, 2009


>> And we get outraged, and then somehow forget, leaving the next generation to be rudely awakened by some new atrocity we're visiting upon the world.

For many years, I used to wonder how people could either forget or not know. Then I realized... it's HARD WORK not knowing. It's hard work forgetting. Americans know and they remember, but they work hard at family, friends, church, career, and sports to distract them.

Americans know. Oh, they know.
posted by Brosef K at 7:19 PM on September 14, 2009 [2 favorites]


"We have never been the "good guys"."

Y'know what kills me is this 'broke my cherry' nonsense. We've 'lost our innocence' how many times now?
Suddenly, GRRR, we're just hard-ass cynics who understand the 'real America.'

I'm from Chicago. I know what happened in Grant Park when Obama was elected. I've seen and worked with people who saved lives with just their bare hands and their training. I know we work towards liberty and freedom and justice every day, because I see people from different cultures, backgrounds, ethos, working and playing and communicating.
Men and women who were 100 years ago slaves. Who 50 years ago were marginalized.
And I know troops were called out to protect their rights, despite the domestic forces arrayed against them.
We've always been fighting yes. But we've never been NOT the "good guys."
Because it's not something you achieve or reach. It's nothing you can lay claim to or have like money in your pocket.
It's something to be earned every day. Every year. Every century.
And you can lose it at the drop of a hat. And we have lost it. A number of times. And we'll fall and fail again. Every act, every move towards an ideal carries with it a practical cost and perhaps a concession to an opponent or an enemy to avoid harm elsewhere. From Jefferson avoiding a pyrrhic victory with Hamilton and the Federalists to Al Gore letting the election go to avoid maybe a domestic armed conflict.

What differentiates us from most other folks is that we set the standard at all. We're not a nation predicated on ethnic bonds but ideas. And that we try to reach something that is, by definition, unreachable.
Every gain we make sets the bar that much higher. Not lynching blacks anymore? Great. Howabout giving them the vote? They got the vote? Hey, good. Howzabout they don't have to ride in the back of the bus? Got that? Swell. Howabout you vote a black man for president?
Good deal. Now about the homosexuals...
And on and on and on.
It's not necessary to succeed or to be - only to try. And you can kill or torture or ignore the liberator, but you can't kill liberation.
It's not enough to say Bush was wrong, no. It's not enough that someone from 'the right' admit that. It's not enough that it's even printed and distributed in a national forum.
But it's a start.
And tomorrow we get up, brush our teeth, and we try and move it a little further.

I know, indeed, that some honest men fear that a republican government can not be strong, that this Government is not strong enough; but would the honest patriot, in the full tide of successful experiment, abandon a government which has so far kept us free and firm on the theoretic and visionary fear that this Government, the world's best hope, may by possibility want energy to preserve itself? I trust not. I believe this, on the contrary, the strongest Government on earth. I believe it the only one where every man, at the call of the law, would fly to the standard of the law, and would meet invasions of the public order as his own personal concern. Sometimes it is said that man can not be trusted with the government of himself. Can he, then, be trusted with the government of others? Or have we found angels in the forms of kings to govern him? Let history answer this question.
posted by Smedleyman at 7:40 PM on September 14, 2009 [4 favorites]


Too little too late from Andrew. But his bloated sense of self-importance is precious as always.

And for those who think he gets conservative cred for once being a Republican, the right-wing punditry consider him to be worse than your Krugmans and your Greenwalds since he is, in their eyes, a traitor. Not to mention gay (although that's not the word they'd use).
posted by bardic at 9:00 PM on September 14, 2009


"Asking George W. Bush to accept responsibility for anything is like asking my cat to fetch. Sure, it's theoretically possible, but any such behavior would stem from motivations unrelated to the asker's purpose."

My Cat, Spencer, Loves to play fetch. Thinks it's the bees knees and plays until I get bored and hide the toy, he'll run away after it, bring it close but not to me and make me get up and retrieve it. Which is exactly like getting a Bush to admit they are wrong, sure, they will admit they don't know the first thing about Scanning Bar Codes at stores or running a profitable company, but when it comes to brass tacks, they will leave you hunting down the object of the game and when cornered alternatively hiss at you, scratch you or piss on your bed clothes.

That was a terrible night in Texas; which I and Ted Nugent will not soon forget.
posted by NiteMayr at 9:45 PM on September 14, 2009 [1 favorite]


In the picture, why does the tree have feet?
posted by vitia at 9:52 PM on September 14, 2009


Did I miss something and it's ironic?

(I do that a lot.)
posted by vitia at 9:53 PM on September 14, 2009


Upon reflection: never mind. Yeah, it's clearly intentional. Sorry -- did an initial moron read.
posted by vitia at 9:56 PM on September 14, 2009


Dear God, I'm an idiot.
posted by vitia at 9:59 PM on September 14, 2009


"What differentiates us from most other folks is that we set the standard at all"

Seriously, wtf? Have you read the history of any other countries or civilizations at all?
posted by ciderwoman at 3:08 AM on September 15, 2009


Skot, forget the Puzzler: they took away Barbara Wallrath's "Word Fugutive" from the last page and swapped in that beyond-lame "advice" column: ugh. And they let Langewiesche get away. But at least they still have James Fallows, who reponds to reader email directly.
posted by wenestvedt at 6:19 AM on September 15, 2009


I was going to comment but was so blinded by rage I had to make a comment about how I was feeling. When I hear people talking about simply moving on from the Dubya Years I am appalled, stunned, I want to vomit, and vomit hard.

Aren't Americans obsessed with making things right? The people of Iraq, for starters, might like a great big apology.

America seems to continue to be inward-looking, wondering how it would make itself feel if it faced up to itself. I am crying actual tears of blood just thinking that the same country that's been so gung-ho about destruction worldwide is so fucking sensitive about some possible hurt nationalism feelings at home.

America has almost zero credibility left. Even most of the large number of Americans I love don't begin to grasp the Epicness of the American Fail.

Sorry about that, but y'know, what the fuck.
posted by Gamien Boffenburg at 6:17 PM on September 15, 2009 [2 favorites]


The Case of the Missing Torture Documents: Did ten classified Bush-era documents go missing from a super-secure government facility?
posted by homunculus at 1:25 PM on September 28, 2009


Did ten classified Bush-era documents go missing from a super-secure government facility?

I find this interrogative subhead highly questionable.
posted by Sys Rq at 2:46 PM on September 28, 2009


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