Torture: False Equivalencies (UPDATED)

Recently, CIA released memos indicating that Nancy Pelosi, now Speaker of the House, was briefed on “enhanced interrogation techniques” in 2002.

What those memos don’t indicate is which particular “enhanced interrogation techniques” Pelosi was told about, or whether waterboarding was among them. Those memos also don’t indicate whether those techniques were described as something that American forces were using/planning to use, or whether they were described to Pelosi and other members of Congress as purely hypothetical.

Right now, it’s a he-said she-said conflict between the CIA and Pelosi, and who you give more credibility to depends on where you fall politically.

Regardless, Republicans are pretending that, since Pelosi was briefed in some capacity about hypothetical “enhanced interrogation techniques” that neither she nor any other Democrat has any standing left to criticize the Bush administration or Republicans for the use of torture.

Even if you assume that members of Congress had some idea of what techniques were being implemented, this is still a false equivalence. Apples and oranges. Because there is a huge difference between people who justified and implemented torture and people who were simply told about it.

This is the standard GOP technique when they’re caught in some kind of scandal: claim the Democrats are also culpable in order to diffuse the eventual fallout.

Republicans want to shut down the torture debate because they know that it’s going to end poorly for them. A lot of politicos with vested interests in seeing the investigation end before it even begins are out there making these false equivalencies are trying to poison the well.

UPDATE: And here’s the right’s new talking point: they’re claiming that the government has documents proving definitively that torture works, but the Obama administration is refusing to declassify them in order to make the GOP look bad.

I don’t know whether such documents exist or not, but something tells me they don’t–or, at least, they don’t say what Cheney & co. are claiming they do.

Remember, the Bush administration were masters of the strategic leak, declassifying memos or leaking information at opportune moments in order to provide political cover. If they had smoking gun documents that proved torture worked, why didn’t they declassify them when they still had the power to? Even if they waited until Bush’s very last day in office, if those documents didn’t contain information that needed to be kept top secret, why didn’t they release them to the public and vindicate themselves once and for all?

And here’s the thing–even if those documents don’t exist, it doesn’t matter for Cheney and the Republicans; they can continue to claim they do in order to portray the Obama administration as acting in bad faith.  The administration can’t prove that nonexistent documents don’t exist,  so the Republicans can simply spin any claims that those documents aren’t there as attempts to keep those documents covered up.

I don’t think the GOP is hoping to prove that torture worked; I think they’re simply trying to taint whatever investigation may be launched. Their claims about secret smoking gun documents dovetail nicely with their allegations that Pelosi knew something and their calls for a “full investigation”; conservatives are trying to taint any investigation into torture as inherently politically-biased.