Peter King the Latest Republican to Endorse Medal for Torture
On Wednesday, New York Rep. Peter King became just the latest Republican to conclude there ought to be a prize for torture. Defending George W. Bush's admission this week that he authorized waterboarding of terror detainees, King insisted the former president "should get a medal." If that sounds familiar, it should. In 2007, Bush's failed Labor nominee and conservative columnist Linda Chavez said the same thing about the CIA's Jose Rodriguez, the man who ordered the destruction of 92 interrogation videos.
For his part, Congressman King was apparently concerned not that waterboarding is almost universally recognized as a war crime, but that the Nobel committee doesn't offer a prize for it. Bush "should get a medal" for green-lighting the waterboarding of Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, King declared, because:
"There was no harm done. In the big picture, to hold someone's head underwater, the chance of permanent damage is minimal and the rewards are great."
Sadly, torture enthusiast King has it exactly backwards. Enhanced interrogation techniques such as waterboarding almost certainly don't save lives, as the British government confirmed in rejecting Bush's claims this week. And the damage done by breaking U.S. law, violating international treaty agreements, shaming the United States worldwide and providing a powerful propaganda victory for Al Qaeda will be difficult if impossible to reverse.
Nevertheless, conservatives are determined to honor not only the Bush torture team, but those who helped cover up its crimes.
This week, federal prosecutor John Durham announced he will not pursue an indictment of Jose Rodriguez, Jr., the head of the CIA's clandestine service who authorized the November 2005 burning of detainee interrogation videotapes. (Other probes, including whether or not interrogators violated the law and whether CIA officials misled investigators, remain on-going.)
In any event, the mouthpiece of the right proclaim, Rodriguez, too, deserves a medal. In her December 21, 2007 column titled "Destroying CIA Tapes Deserves a Thank You," Chavez argued that the 2005 decision by Rodriguez should be lauded. Chavez expressed her gratitude that Rodriguez destroyed evidence of "enhanced interrogation techniques" such as waterboarding, acts which may have violated U.S. law and American treaty commitments:
In the next few months, his name will likely be dragged through the mud, and he will be vilified as a rogue official engaged in a massive cover-up. I think he deserves a medal...
Even though he is likely to become a scapegoat, what he did was right. He protected not just his men but all of us. I, for one, thank him.
Of course, Chavez is far from alone in wanting to reward those concealing the criminality of the Bush administration. Former Fox News host and right-wing radio mouthpiece John Gibson similarly wanted to bestow honors on those who exact revenge on Bush's opponents. In November 2007, Gibson cheered the White House operation to out covert CIA operative Valerie Plame as retribution for her husband Joe Wilson's July 2003 op-ed debunking President Bush's bogus claims about Iraq seeking uranium in Niger. Ending the classified career of CIA agent deeply involved in critical nuclear proliferation work and compromising her global network was essential, Gibson argued, because "this was about an anti-Bush cabal at the CIA" that needed to be "rooted out." Again, this right-wing water carrier declared, there ought to be a medal:
"I'm the guy who said a long, long time ago that whoever outed Valerie Plame should get a medal. And if it was Karl Rove, I'd pin it on him myself."
Of course, as Donald Rumsfeld, Paul Bremer, George Tenet and Tommy Franks would all attest, George W. Bush never needed anyone's help in pinning medals on the miscreants and bunglers of his administration. As for Bush himself, Peter King laments, there oughtta be a medal.