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January 19, 2005

Senator Dodd Is a Senator

Via contrapositive:

contrapositive: SEN. DODD: Is it your view, as a human matter, that water-boarding and the use, as we saw, in prisons in Iraq of nudity--is that torture in your personal view, as a nominee here for the--

MS. RICE: Senator, I'm not going to speak to any specific interrogation techniques...The determination of whether interrogation techniques are consistent with our international obligations and American law are made by the Justice Department. I don't want to comment on any specific interrogation techniques. I don't think that would be appropriate, and I think it would not be very good for American security....

SEN. DODD: Well, let's leave it, if that's your answer, there. It's a disappointing answer, I must say. The face of U.S. foreign policy is in the person of the secretary of State, and it's important at moments like this to be able to express yourself aside from the legalities of things, how you as a human being react to these kinds of activities. And with the world watching, when a simple question is raised about techniques that I think most people would conclude in this country are torture, it's important at a moment like that that you can speak clearly and directly without getting involved in the legalisms questions. I understand these involve some legal determinations, but as a human being how you feel about this, about to assume the position and be responsible for pursuing the human rights issues that this nation has been deeply committed to for decades, is a very important moment....

SEN. DODD: Do me a favor. At the end of all of these hearings, I'd like you to spend about 15 minutes with John McCain and talk to him about this stuff. I think you'll get some good advice when it comes to the subject matter, someone who has been through this, about what the dangers are when we have sort of waffling answers about these questions and then Americans can be apprehended and what happens to them....

Posted by DeLong at January 19, 2005 08:43 AM

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» Rice, Alberto Gonzalez hearings from Hobson's Choice
Condoleeza Rice is our new Secretary of State (NYT; 13 senators, all Democrats, voted not to confirm Ms Rice). Contrapositive (hattip Brad DeLong) comes an exchange between Nominee Rice and Sen. Christopher Dodd (D-CT). The gist of it is that... [Read More]

Tracked on January 27, 2005 03:05 PM


It is interesting that Bushists are neither reserved nor concerned about legalities when they criticize judicial decisions that promote civil rights or separation of church and state...

Posted by: enfant terrible at January 19, 2005 08:58 AM

Only Kerry and Boxer voted against her, however.

Posted by: Charles Kinbote at January 19, 2005 09:06 AM

Senator Boxer was much better than Senator Feinstein during the Rice confirmation hearings IMHO.

Posted by: pgl at January 19, 2005 09:06 AM

What Charles Kinbote Said. What good are rhetorical flourishes when you don't believe in them? Dodd might as well be W.

Posted by: Ken Houghton at January 19, 2005 09:50 AM

There wouldn't have been much point in trying to stop Rice's confirmation. It was pretty unlikely that she wouldn't be confirmed, no matter what the dems did, and I think it's unprecedented anyway to stand in the way of the nomination of a Secretary of State. If by some miracle Rice's nomination had been blocked, Bush would have just found some other yahoo to take her place, so it just wasn't worth the effort.

The hearings were, however, a good opportunity to state for the record that Bush's policy has sucked and will continue to suck, and that's exactly what Dodd and Boxer did.

Posted by: Chris Lovell at January 19, 2005 11:13 AM

The really ironic part of Rice's confirmation was when she demanded that Boxer "not impugn my integrity." Technically, the good Doctor's right, I guess - if she has no integrity, it's illogical for Boxer to impugn it.

Posted by: Uncle Jeffy at January 19, 2005 11:20 AM

"There wouldn't have been much point in trying to stop Rice's confirmation."

I don't agree. Rice was one of the people who carried on a concerted campaign of lies to take the U.S. to war. If, like George W. Bush, you think the accountability moment is over, you vote to confirm her. Otherwise, you don't let some idea of smarmy civility lead you to vote for the perpetrators of a brutal war.

Posted by: nihil obstet at January 19, 2005 11:29 AM

what "effort" is required to vote your conscience and vote no on a clearly incompetent secretary of anything? Making Bush go back or over or around to another tier of candidates would have been reason enough. Dissing Bush's choice would have been reasoning enough. Didn't kerik teach the dems anything? These people have skeletons in their closets and its *always* worth attacking them. You know the republicans would have--and will--do the same to any democratic nominee in the future. Let the republicans sue for peace when they are back in the minority, don't roll over and play dead for them now.

Kate Gilbert

Posted by: Kate Gilbert at January 19, 2005 11:30 AM

I get the feeling the Dems haven't yet figured out they are the minority party. It may take them a generation to realize this. For now, they seem content to pay the opposition role in much the way they wished the Republicans had. To sit on the sidelines and mot make too many waves.

Will it take a complete turnover of the Dems in Congress to resolve this?

I for one am proud that my senator (Boxer) stood up and called Rice on her pathetic performance. Every Dem should have voted against her. Until the Dems figure out they are supposed to opposed the insanity of the Bush administration, the voting public will correctly view them as light-weight yes-men.

Posted by: section321 at January 19, 2005 12:19 PM

Remember the vote to authorize the use of force in Iraq? The fact that the Democratic politicians generally voted to authorize was later used to mean 'supported the war'.

Condi's confirmation by so many Democratic Senators will be used in her support.

Posted by: Barry at January 19, 2005 12:24 PM

I'm left wondering about what it would take to get these Senators to just stand up and say, "This is bullshit and I just ain't going to put up with it anymore!"? Perhaps every Dem in Congress should have their genitalia wired up for a little bit of behavior modification Alberto and Condi style so they could learn to respond to anything anyone in the administration says with, "They're Lying". Not only effective, but always an accurate response. Of course, the problem is I think a lot of these guys are neutered already. I mean, what does it take for somebody to stand up and say "I'm not going to vote for her because she's not only a liar, she's incompetent!" Fer Chrissakes, she said, "Now is the time for diplomacy." Yo, how about 3 years ago before we killed and maimed tens or hundreds of thousands of people and ruined our standing in the world? Are these Senators so used to being the Rethugs bitches that they have no sense of outrage?

Posted by: Dick(no, not that one) at January 19, 2005 04:10 PM

Discussions on what constitutes "torture" should be framed in a simple, straightforward way. We should treat prisoners as we would wish to have captured U.S. soldiers to be treated. The issue is how would you want your son or daughter, if in the military, to be treated if captured. If you don't mind having your child waterboarded or wired up, fine. If that does bother you, it's torture.

Posted by: Brad at January 19, 2005 04:39 PM

Impugn? Is Oh Condi Condi a virgin?

Posted by: ken melvin at January 19, 2005 05:51 PM

Answers: yes, it's torture. No, she doesn't care. No, she won't admit it, because that would be bad publicity. Yes, she did have a soul. No, she does not remember what she did with it. No, she's not especially interested in finding it. Yes, as for Imelda Marcos, her collection of fashionable shoes is more important.

Posted by: CD318 at January 19, 2005 05:53 PM

For some reason I found it sickening to watch Condi Rice being embraced by Joe Biden at the end of the hearings. Just another Democrat whose "moral values" are worth less than his haircut.

Posted by: Steve at January 19, 2005 09:36 PM

Sure, give all those guys who've spent a lifetime in the neo con men world of think tanks a vote of no confidence. Don't approve Gonsales-vote against him. Those senators shouldn't be effete yes men.

We have to wait at least ten years to decide the worth of this Iraq adventure.

Soon we'll have the Iranian adventure to take our minds off the Iraquagmire. We'll bomb the Iranians, and when they shoot back that'll demostrate that they're bad guys. The next front is already in the cards.

Posted by: chris at January 19, 2005 09:53 PM

“We should treat prisoners as we would wish to have captured U.S. soldiers to be treated.”

That’s a good common sense golden rule for human behavior. Unfortunately it hasn’t done much for the US soldier. The Germans were the last adversaries to at least approximately treat American POWs the way they are supposed to be treated. The Japanese tortured, starved and killed American prisoners. Ditto for the Chinese, Koreans and Vietnamese. We saw the same thing in Gulf War I. According to the Geneva Convention, prisoners do not enjoy protection when their government refuses to conform. The purpose of the rules is to promote protection of civilians and captives. But it doesn’t work when one side refuses to play by the rules. Instead it seems a one-sided adherence on the part of the US might actually make life worse for out solders because the adversaries interpret it as a sign of weakness. Would you get in the boxing ring and obey Marquis of Queensbury rules when you knew your opponent would not? When he would think you a damn fool, and take every advantage? I think not. This is the dilemma we face.

Posted by: A Zarkov at January 20, 2005 12:52 AM

It's not a "dilemma", Zarkov. We don't "torture, starve and kill" our prisoners because 1) we are decent human beings, and 2) it is not to anyone's advantage, including our own, for us to do so.

Posted by: No Preference at January 20, 2005 04:49 AM

This entire confirmation charade reminds me in the scene from Manhattan where Woody Allen's character attempts to get a group of partygoers at the MOMA to join him to confront Nazis in New Jersey.

"There is this devastating satirical piece on that on the Op Ed page of the Times, it is devastating," says one of the guests.

"Well, a satirical piece in the Times is one thing, but bricks and baseball bats really gets right to the point," Woody replies.

Posted by: Charles Kinbote at January 20, 2005 05:08 AM

“It's not a "dilemma", Zarkov.”

The dilemma has to do with the degree we conform to the Geneva rules for the treatment of prisoners. A strict application requires no interrogation at all. Given an adversary that feels free to do anything to our prisoners, what should our response be? What if coercive interrogation to the point that some would judge to be torture would yield valuable information that saves the lives of civilians and solders? A common response is torture never works or only produces false information. You can believe that nice politically correct statement if you like, but others are skeptical. I’m afraid the real world does not present us with easy choices.

Posted by: A. Zarkov at January 20, 2005 07:45 AM

It's tragically hilarious:

Dodd: So, what do you think about torture?

Rice: You'll have to talk to Gonzales about that.

Leahy: So, Gonzales, does torture violate U.S. law?

Gonzales: That involves a lot of complex law that I don't know.

Posted by: Julian Elson at January 20, 2005 08:15 AM

Didn't Dodd also vote to confirm John Ashcroft? He is all bark and no bite.

Posted by: Kosh at January 20, 2005 08:17 AM

A. Zarkov wrote, "A common response is torture never works or only produces false information. You can believe that nice politically correct statement if you like, but others are skeptical."

Where's your evidence that torture is frequently superior to subtler techniques of interrogation?

Posted by: liberal at January 20, 2005 10:32 AM

Rice: 'not impugn my integrity'

Boxer (should have said): It is not me that impugns your credibilty, but rather your statements and actions that impugn your own credibility.

Seems pretty simple to me. If your own statements contradict yourself, then your either are a flip flopper, or a lier.

Posted by: philip at January 20, 2005 01:53 PM

“Where's your evidence that torture is frequently superior to subtler techniques of interrogation?”
Where is the evidence to the contrary? Why do I have the burden of proof?
Then there is timing. Suppose a bomb is to go off in 8 hours, and you do not have time for subtler techniques? Suppose someone has been kidnapped and will suffocate in a short time. What do you do then? Of course I’m not in favor of torture as a general principle, but I do recognize the possibility of extreme circumstances. As for Iraq, I agree that the methods recently employed there were illegal and immoral unless extreme circumstances were in effect. Gonzales gave an evasive answer as far as I’m concerned. He needs to study the law a little.

Posted by: A. Zarkov at January 20, 2005 01:58 PM

"Suppose a bomb is to go off in 8 hours, and you do not have time for subtler techniques?"

Zarkov - 24's biggest fan.

Quick - call Jack Bauer there's a bomb about to go off in 8 hours.

Will his torture techniques out the bad guys?
Will the bomb go off and kill everyone?
Will the fear mongering ever end?

Tune into Fox every monday at 9pm to see if Jack Bauer will save to world and justify the Bush/Gonzales/Rummy doctrine of torture.

Posted by: philip at January 20, 2005 04:01 PM

Jesus, the-bomb-is-going-to-go-off-in-eight-hours crapola again. This is the biggest non-starter of an arguement ever. Let's give you your little hypothetical setup: bad guy, you've caught him, he knows where the bomb is and won't tell you. I'll even grant you an additional free fantasy-land bonus point: if you torture him, he will tell you where it is and how to disarm it.

Now, would you go ahead and torture him, saving thousands of lives, even though torture is illegal and you may well wind up in jail? I bet you would. Very few would hesitate to break the law under those circumstances. But this is a situation you only find on TV, and it deserves to be taken as seriously as those herbal supplement ads that are also on the TV.

There are a whole bunch of failure modes that apply to torture in the real world, however. What if he can hold out for more than eight hours? Boom. What if he gives you bad information? Boom. What if you have the wrong guy? You can torture innocent people until you're ankle-deep in teeth and fingernails and the only thing you'll learn is how big an asshole you are.

And how's this for a reason for not engaging in torture: we're Americans, goddammit. If we're not willing to die for human dignity, then we're not so willing to be free after all, are we? Maybe we should take that line about the home of the brave out of the national anthem.

The people who want to legalize torture have been successfully terrorized, and they want the legal shield to terrorize others. They want the action-hero reality, please, and not the boring and tedious task of real intelligence and security. God knows it's an easy sell to the American public.

And here's the other great big reason we don't want to start torturing people: it won't be limited to suspected terrorists for very long. It'll be suspected drug dealers next, and then computer hacking or something, and after a while people who belong to the wrong politcal party just sort of disappear. That's the way it works--read some history if you don't belive me. Torture is an effective tool. It's just not an effective tool against stateless international terrorism. It's an effective tool for supressing internal dissent, and the fact that our administration wants to use it while mouthing platitudes about freedom should make the hair on the back of your neck stand up.

Posted by: alex at January 20, 2005 04:18 PM


Imagine there is some weapon of mass destruction planted by terrorists in the heart of a city, ready to go off - a "ticking bomb," if you will. Would it be wrong to torture a terrorist to find the location of such a device and save the millions of lives at risk? Hardly. Now, what if instead of torturing a terrorist, interrogators had to torture a confederate of that terrorist - some associate who would know where the terrorist was so they could locate that ticking bomb? Is that dirtying of our hands such a high price to ask in the goal to protect millions? I think not. Now, what if instead of a terrorist's comrade, interrogators have a terrorist's relative or neighbor? Is it still justified to go as far to save innocent lives? I should hope so! And what if that terrorist has a lot of relatives and neighbors - hundreds, even? Would it be wrong to grant blanket authority to torture hundreds of prisoners knowing full well that any of them could have the crucial information required to save a city? Certainly not! And what if the threat we're faced with is not a bomb at all but an even more pernicious threat - a rogue nation with the potential capability to someday construct that bomb? Would it not be America's right - no, her duty - to invade that country, occupy it, and set up a system of torture-like interrogations to rid that country of terrorists and weapons of mass destruction once and for all? Absolutely!

Posted by: Julian Elson at January 20, 2005 04:25 PM

I hope that we remember that Rice and Gonzales are being vague on what they consider to be torture. Let us first agree that what we believe to be unacceptable in the treatment of U.S. troops is the defining line for the definition of torture. We can then debate the circumstances under which torture is justified. What I object to is the refusal to accept the idea that our use of waterboarding and wiring is torture as much as when our adversaries do the same.

Posted by: Brad at January 21, 2005 12:21 AM

OK, here's the answer: we keep the current rules as written, which includes penalties up to death for torture. We take them seriously and enforce them without redefining torture out of existance.

In the hypothetical cases like "Suppose a bomb is to go off in 8 hours, and you do not have time for subtler techniques? Suppose someone has been kidnapped and will suffocate in a short time" the answer is simple, unless you are a coward: you die for your cause, unless the judge or jury decide to be lenient, which isn't all that unlikely if you really are doing the right thing.

I can see hypothetical situations (extremely unlikely outside of fiction) where it might be right to torture someone. If the cause is right enough to torture someone over, it is right enough to die for.

Posted by: nax at January 21, 2005 09:27 AM

“If the cause is right enough to torture someone over, it is right enough to die for.”

If the cause is right, then there should be no punishment all. I don’t understand how you could possibly reach such an extreme conclusion. If a set of extreme circumstances should arise that might require torture (however you went to define it), then you would be required to petition a legal authority such as a judge to review and grant permission. If such circumstances are so rare is to virtually never happen, as some people believe (the ticking bomb), then there is no problem as the judge either never is asked, or always refuses.

Posted by: A. Zarkov at January 21, 2005 11:26 AM

If a set of extreme circumstances should arise that might require torture (however you went to define it), then you would be required to petition a legal authority such as a judge to review and grant permission.

Oh, but the bomb is going to go off RIGHT THIS SECOND, and if we don't strip the prisoner naked and shove jalapeno peppers into his anus then WE'LL ALL DIE!!!

If you've got time to go and petition a judge, then you've got time to find out the information through some way other than torture.

Posted by: Linnet at January 21, 2005 03:51 PM

"If a set of extreme circumstances should arise that might require torture (however you went to define it), then you would be required to petition a legal authority such as a judge to review and grant permission."

That part was supposed to be in quotes in the last post. My bad.

Posted by: Linnet at January 21, 2005 04:09 PM

[comment spam]

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