Saturday, November 3, 2007

Rudy, Mukasey and waterboarding...

Unhinged: Giuliani Buys Into His Own Testosterone-Fueled Myth

by Arianna Huffington

With each passing day — and each bellicose, over-the-top, spittle-enhanced pronouncement — Rudy Giuliani is revealing that he has the soul of a thug and the disposition of a tyrant. His behavior on the stump shows Jimmy Breslin nailed it when he described Giuliani as “a small man in search of a balcony.” (Don’t forget, Il Rudy cleaned up Times Square and made the subways run on time.)

Giuliani has apparently never met a belt he didn’t want to hit below. GOP presidential candidates are in a contest to see who can be the biggest Neanderthal — and this is caveman Rudy’s latest swing of the club: “Huckabee doesn’t believe in evolution? Well, I think Hillary wants to have champagne and dance the waltz with a holocaust-denying madman!”

Then there was his head-scratching defense of Mike Mukasey’s waffling on waterboarding, claiming that, like the attorney general designate, he wasn’t sure it was torture. “It depends on how it’s done,” explained Giuliani. “It depends on the circumstances. It depends on who does it.” So if you’re being waterboarded by a sexy girl in a room filled with candles, it’s all good? Does Rudy occasionally come home, dim the lights, open up a nice bottle of chilled Chablis, put on a little Barry White, and ask Judi to break out the waterboard? Since when is there so much wiggle room when it comes to obeying the Geneva Conventions?

It’s clear from his hyperbolic rhetoric that Giuliani has fully bought into his own phony myth — painting himself as a two-fisted tough guy, the mayor with the “S” on his chest and the dust from the fallen twin towers on his shoulders.

The surprising thing isn’t that Giuliani is channeling Rush Limbaugh, tossing red meat to the lunatic fringe that has taken over the GOP. It’s that the media are letting him get away with it.

If a Democratic presidential candidate - or even a mere Congressman like Pete Stark — had said that Bush was going to invite the nuke-happy Ahmadinejad to the White House for a celebration, the airwaves would be filled with demands for an apology and an emergency session of Congress would be called to pass a resolution condemning the unpatriotic insult. John McCain said that MoveOn “ought to be thrown out of” the country for calling General Petraeus “General Betray Us.” But the front-runner for the Republican nomination suggests that Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama would want to party with tyrants, and he gets a free pass from the traditional press. Why? Does a potential Hillary-Rudy match up offer too many good story lines to be derailed by increasing evidence of Giuliani’s readiness for a well-padded room?

Or maybe the media are just drinking the same Kool-Aid as the GOP faithful who seem surprisingly willing to look the other way when Giuliani treats telling the truth the same way he treats waterboarding: “It depends on how it’s done.”

Of course, if the media ever do get around to holding Giuliani’s feet to the fire, they need to do it accurately — not like the AP, which initially misreported Rudy’s crack about Clinton and Obama inviting Ahmadinejad and Assad to the White House. The AP reporter heard “Assad” as “Osama” and many in the media, including me, went with the erroneous AP story — in my case until I heard the sound byte myself.

Arianna Huffington is the editor of The Huffington Post and the author of many books, including her most recent, On ‘Becoming Fearless….in Love, Work and Life‘.

The Tortured Logic of the Torturers

by Tony Norman

The terrorists have won.

Despite its roots as a tool of interrogation during the Spanish Inquisition, the nominee for U.S. attorney general isn’t prepared to call waterboarding what it is — torture.

In a letter to skeptical Democrats on the Senate Judiciary Committee, Michael B. Mukasey claimed that though he found waterboarding personally “repugnant,” its usefulness had to be determined “solely on the actual facts, circumstances, and legal standards presented.”

With those weasel words, we’ve officially entered the medieval phase of American history. Mr. Mukasey, like his patron, the president of the United States, doesn’t mind moral confusion as long as it guarantees a measure of deniability down the road.

In Washington, it’s always about what’s legal — not what’s moral in the eyes of God or man. Besides, as the fever-soaked Ivan Karamazov pointed out in Dostoevsky’s brilliant tale of spiritual malaise, there’s always the possibility that God doesn’t exist, so everything is “legal” in the end anyway.

In recent weeks, a mantra that hasn’t been heard since the 15th century has begun echoing through the bloodless salons of the conservative punditry — “waterboarding isn’t torture.”

You can hear refined versions of the chant on any number of Fox News programs from O’Reilly on down. On the outer fringes of reality, radio talk show host Michael Savage bellowed his outrage at “liberals” for stigmatizing a technique that doesn’t do enough damage to terrorists as far as he’s concerned.

Closer to the mainstream, the long-suffering Mika Brezinski had to hold her tongue recently while Joe Scarborough lectured his Imus-starved audience about “all of the intelligence” allegedly gathered through simulated drowning of al-Qaida suspects.

“For those who don’t know, waterboarding is what we did to Khalid Sheikh Mohammed,” Mr. Scarborough said, rebuffing Ms. Brezinski’s attempt to inject sanity into MSNBC’s “Morning Joe” before it went completely off the rails.

While absurdly maintaining that he didn’t “approve” of torture, Mr. Scarborough insisted that Khalid Sheikh Mohammed became a terrorist snitch because of waterboarding. This is the identical rationale Vice President Dick Cheney trotted out last year when he said waterboarding “is a no-brainer for me” before deadpanning, “We don’t torture.”

Isn’t it interesting that folks who can calculate when life begins down to the mysterious movement of the zygote in utero aren’t able to say with assurance what torture is even when someone is choking in front of them?

It is especially fascinating to note that in this ostensibly “Christian” nation, personal security has become such an idol that 90 percent of us would approve the waterboarding of suspects to avert another 9/11, according to Mr. Scarborough.

Never mind that waterboarding was the preferred method of torture used by agents of the Dutch East India Company during the 1600s. Never mind that both the Gestapo and Japanese officers used it during the darkest days of World War II to humiliate their victims and flout international law.

When I visited the Torture Museum in Amsterdam a few years ago, I was struck by the ingenuity of the instruments that broke so many spirits and took so many lives over the centuries.

Torture was a function of governments and ecclesiastical bodies — and rarely criminal sadists.

Folks who claimed to distrust their government’s ability to tax them fairly somehow found it easy to defer to its wisdom when it came to torture.

Those who prostrated themselves before a tortured Savior every Sunday rarely thought about the broken bodies and spirits of their “enemies.”

As long as the hearts of the torturers were pure and their actions sanctioned by God and country, the torture of others was an acceptable price to pay for security. Despite our technological advances, very little has changed since the “heresy” trials of old Europe. We’re still lying to ourselves about torture.

Maybe we aren’t really re-entering a medieval period. Maybe we never truly left our brutal superstitions behind. Given our tolerance for torture, maybe we’re more like the terrorists than we’d like to admit.

Tony Norman can be reached at

Giuliani Follows Hard-Liners’ Script

by Helen Thomas

What planet is Rudy Giuliani living on?

The Republican presidential aspirant wants to widen the Mideast war by bombing Iran. The Iraqi debacle obviously has taught him nothing.

It’s not enough that we destroyed Iraq and killed thousands of Iraqis. Now, the former New York City mayor wants the U.S. to expand President Bush’s disastrous policies in the region — and also to continue the war against Iraq.

He is being guided by a bunch of discredited conservative hawks who once advised Bush to attack Iraq in a “preventive war.”

For a while they ran for cover but now they are back and are egging Bush on to bomb Iran’s military sites. Norman Podhoretz — the leader of the Giuliani team — wants to bomb Iran “as soon as it is logistically possible.”

It’s a mark of Giuliani’s ignorance of history and gullibility if he thinks he can sell another pointless war to Americans who are finally getting fed up with the mindless killing in Iraq.

Asked if he could be an even-handed broker when it came to the Israeli-Palestinian dispute, Giuliani replied: “America shouldn’t be even-handed in dealing with the difference between an elected democracy that’s a government ruled by law and a group of terrorists.”

Giuliani is following the hard-liners’ script. Like most of his advisers, he did not have to serve in the Vietnam War because he lucked out with deferments.

Podhoretz said in an interview with the New York Observer that he had met with Giuliani to discuss his new book in which he advocates bombing Iran as part of a larger struggle against “Islamofascism” — a term Bush had used in speeches until recently.

“There is very little difference in how he (Giuliani) sees the war and I see it,” said Podhoretz.

Giuliani also has indicated he considers spreading democracy in the Middle East to be overly optimistic and premature. He noted that the radical Hamas party won a sweeping victory in Palestinian elections in Gaza.

Giuliani wrote in an article in the Foreign Affairs policy journal: “Aspiring dictators sometimes win elections and elected leaders sometimes govern badly and threaten their neighbors.”

The former mayor of New York was saying that sometimes democratic elections do not necessarily produce leaders and outcomes that we like — as was the case of the Palestinian election in Gaza.

Giuliani wants the U.S. to project great military strength to keep it safe. “Weakness,” he said, “invites attack.”

He would add 10 Army combat brigades to support his muscular foreign policy agenda. He kisses off the United Nations, except for a humanitarian role and some peacekeeping missions. He wants to expand NATO and invite Israel to join. And he makes it very clear he would be wary of negotiations with any adversary “bent on our destruction or those who cannot deliver on their agreements.”

In a recent speech to the Jewish Coalition he accused the Democrats of putting too much stock in diplomacy.

On the use of waterboarding in interrogation of prisoners, Giuliani said: “It depends on how it’s done. It depends on the circumstances. It depends on who does it.”

Giuliani blamed the “liberal media” for describing waterboarding as torture — and he expressed doubts that it is being described accurately. He also said labeling sleep deprivation as torture is “plain silly.”

Giuliani sounds like he has been understudying the role of Godzilla. Or is he simply tearing a page out of Bush’s playbook?

One thing you can say about him, he doesn’t equivocate.

Helen Thomas is a columnist for Hearst Newspapers. E-mail:

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