Thursday, May 14, 2009

Phony attack on Speaker Pelosi should be confronted

There are times when attacks by the Republican attack machine have their basis in reality, when some Democrat did something (s)he should not have done and the attack dogs sense blood in the water and go after it like ravenous sharks. Well, I guess I can't complain too much when that happens because I've been urging Democrats for years to play hardball politics the same way, and lately we've been a lot better at it. When that happens then you can blame the attack dogs, but you also have to blame the idiot that got caught with his or her pants down (whether figuratively or literally).

But there are also times when the attacks have no basis in reality, and are contrived and patched together as an attempt to invent a scandal and go after someone just so they can paint something on that person no matter how phony the attack is.

And so it is today that I am posting in defense of Speaker Pelosi. I might add that I've known who Nancy Pelosi was and known the Speaker to be a defender of human rights for many years before others even heard of her. Many years ago I signed an online petition on behalf of a Chinese dissident. About a year or two after that I and about fifty or a hundred other people who did not know each other received a series of mysterious emails from someone named, 'runner' tied to the approaching tenth anniversary of Tianenmen Square. Pelosi was one of those, as her congressional email address stuck out like a sore thumb in the list of apparently unrelated emails. Someone finally figured out that what drew us together was that we had all signed the same petition. Needless to say since then I've known who Nancy Pelosi is and I'm proud to stand with her in support of human rights.

The right is jumping all over a story that says that the Speaker (then minority leader) was briefed on waterboarding in 2002 and again in 2003 and did not object to it.

That is false however.

To begin with, at the time of the 2002 briefing on interrogation tactics waterboarding had been used on one Al-Qaeda prisoner and Pelosi and others were told specifically that it HAD NOT AND WOULD NOT be used. That's not just Pelosi's recollection , as she pointed out in remarks made yesterday but also the recollection of former Florida Senator Bob Graham who was also at the meeting. As for the 2003 briefing Pelosi pointed out that she was not present to raise an objection when others were told that it had been used as a tactic. The record bears that out:

Despite Boehner's comments, CIA records show Pelosi attended only one briefing — the one in the fall of 2002 where she says she was told that waterboarding had not been used. A chart released by the CIA detailing its briefings for lawmakers is vague on what transpired at that session. It says Pelosi and the top Intelligence Committee Republican, then-Rep. Porter J. Goss of Florida, were given a "description of the particular (enhanced interrogation techniques) that had been employed," without further details.

Remember that she claims (as does at least one other person who was present at the briefing) that she was told that waterboarding was not used at all in 2002. If the Speaker can be faulted at all it might be for not attending every single briefing but the truth is that Congress is a very busy place (especially for its leaders) so missing a briefing is hardly unusual.

More to the point though is the implication that because the Speaker never raised an objection (even if she had been there to raise one) that means she supported or at least condoned the tactic. Nothing could be further from the truth. Nancy Pelosi has consistently demanded that our intelligence officers comply with universally accepted (and agreed to by treaty) standards on the treatment of prisoners. She has never, repeat never accepted, condoned or failed to speak out against waterboarding or any other form of torture when she was given an opportunity to do so.

The purpose of this attack on the Speaker is to try and create, after the fact, some kind of defense for the indefensible. Now that it is time to really find out who authorized what and who told who what and when, the guilty parties are trying to smear their guilt around and all over those who have always been outspoken against what they are doing. Bending and twisting the facts or creating new ones are a desperate play by the right and it is important for those of us who want to see Congress get to the bottom of this to stand up now and defend the Speaker against these scurrilous attacks.

As I said at the outset, there are the attacks that seed themselves, by someone leaving a door open for the wolves. And then there are the attacks that are purely manufactured and this is one of those.


sandyh said...

If Cheney contends that waterboarding isn't illegal, why is Pelosi guilty of anything? One can only take the current Republican stance as admission of wrongdoing on the part of the Bush White House.

You don't have to be Dr. Spock to follow the logic being laid out by the GOP. They haven't helped Cheney. They've convicted him.

Eli Blake said...


They aren't saying she is guilty of a crime, but rather of hypocrisy.

Which is in fact wrong, because she never did what they claim she did-- condoned or failed to challenge waterboarding as wrong and inconsistent with our own standards. Whether it is also a criminal matter is beside the point.

Eli Blake said...

Whoops, I have to make a minor edit in the original post. Will do so now.