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To Americans, he struggles to keep his approval rating out of single digits. For historians, he’s hands-down the worst vice president since Spiro Agnew and Aaron Burr. But to the vacuous class of Beltway chatterboxes who dominate the op-ed columns and television talk shows, Dick Cheney is a subject of endless fascination and admiration. Witness Bill Kristol’s column in today’s New York Times which, in a typical exposition of Kristoline wit, opens with two hundred words on the virtues of certain canine breeds before suddenly turning to drop its load: Obama, says Kristol, should take Dick Cheney’s advice and not finalize any counterterrorism policies until he’s been fully briefed on what the Bush team has been doing. That’s perfectly reasonable—although it supposes that the transition team is not being candidly briefed, which is both alarming and quite credible. But then comes the Neocon spin: Obama should embrace the Bush policies on the war on terror that he opposed during his campaign.
An even more astonishing display of Cheney adulation comes in the current issue of Newsweek. Some of Newsweek‘s writers, notably Mike Isikoff, Mark Hosenball and Mike Hirsh, have done fine work in exposing the Bush Administration’s “path to torture.” In the early days of the controversy they did an excellent job putting together the connections from the policies baked up in secretive meetings in Washington to the abuses that occurred in the field in Bagram, Abu Ghraib, and Guantánamo. But this week, Newsweek’s cover story goes to torture apologists Stuart Taylor and Evan Thomas, who launch a full-frontal assault on Newsweek’s own exposés. Aside from being a bizarre act of self-immolation, it may be the single worst Newsweek cover story of all time, filled with demonstrably false characterizations of the record. Charles Kaiser at Columbia Journalism Review has the definitive critique:
Proceeding briskly from unconscionable ignorance to outrageous conclusion, Newsweek’s Taylor and Thomas praise Bush for vetoing the law that would have required the CIA to use “no investigative methods other than those permitted in the Army Filed Manual” because “these are extremely restrictive.” Indeed, they are restrictive: they are the rules that every previous administration has adhered to since World War II, because they prevent Americans from committing exactly the same kind of war crimes we prosecuted at Nuremberg.
For the record, this is the truth about the torture authorized at the very top of the Bush administration. There is no evidence that it ever produced any useful information, except for the uncorroborated boasts of Cheney and his henchmen. There are more than forty retired Admirals and Generals who have lobbied Congressmen and Senators continuously because they know that these methods are not only immoral and illegal but also completely counter-productive. And every experienced Army interrogator agrees that non-coercive methods produce more reliable information than the ones Cheney plucked from the “dark side” in a criminally misguided effort to protect America.
This is a week to skip picking up Newsweek at your local newsstand. CJR, however, remains indispensible. Read the whole piece.
More from Scott Horton:
Six Questions — October 18, 2014, 8:00 pm
Nathaniel Raymond on CIA interrogation techniques.
On a Friday evening in January, a thousand people at the annual California Native Plant Society conference in San Jose settled down to a banquet and a keynote speech delivered by an environmental historian named Jared Farmer. His chosen topic was the eucalyptus tree and its role in California’s ecology and history. The address did not go well. Eucalyptus is not a native plant but a Victorian import from Australia. In the eyes of those gathered at the San Jose DoubleTree, it qualified as “invasive,” “exotic,” “alien” — all dirty words to this crowd, who were therefore convinced that the tree was dangerously combustible, unfriendly to birds, and excessively greedy in competing for water with honest native species.
In his speech, Farmer dutifully highlighted these ugly attributes, but also quoted a few more positive remarks made by others over the years. This was a reckless move. A reference to the tree as “indigenously Californian” elicited an abusive roar, as did an observation that without the aromatic import, the state would be like a “home without its mother.” Thereafter, the mild-mannered speaker was continually interrupted by boos, groans, and exasperated gasps. Only when he mentioned the longhorn beetle, a species imported (illegally) from Australia during the 1990s with the specific aim of killing the eucalyptus, did he earn a resounding cheer.
Percentage of Britons who cannot name the city that provides the setting for the musical Chicago:
An Australian entrepreneur was selling oysters raised in tanks laced with Viagra.
A tourism company in Australia announced a service that will allow users to take the “world’s biggest selfies,” and a Texas man accidentally killed himself while trying to pose for a selfie with a handgun.
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“Shelby is waiting for something. He himself does not know what it is. When it comes he will either go back into the world from which he came, or sink out of sight in the morass of alcoholism or despair that has engulfed other vagrants.”