Tag Archives: torture

C’mon, Ms. Sadler, just say you’re sorry

Kelly Sadler works in a White House where the Big Man — the president — never apologizes for anything.

She need not follow Donald John Trump’s lead. All she has to do to make an idiotic story dissipate is to apologize publicly to the man she disparaged so cruelly.

The man is Republican U.S. Sen. John McCain. He is fighting a grievous illness, brain cancer. Sadler, a mid-level White House communications office staffer, was attending a private meeting when she blurted out an insult directed toward Sen. McCain.

McCain had spoken against CIA director nominee Gina Haspel. He doesn’t like her stance on torturing enemy combatants. He has urged his Senate colleagues to reject her nomination to lead the CIA.

Sadler said McCain’s objection “doesn’t matter because he’s dying anyway.”

The story won’t go away. It should go away. All the staffer has to do is to stand before the nation and say she is sorry for her disparaging remarks aimed at a genuine war hero. You see, Sen. McCain’s opposition to torture comes the hard way: He experienced more than five years of it while being held captive during the Vietnam War.

Sadler’s demeaning remark has no place coming out of the mouth of a White House official who, I hasten to add, works for the public. That’s you and me, dear reader.

The president is entitled to withhold any apology if he chooses. My hope is that he hasn’t instructed Kelly Sadler to follow him down the path of arrogance.

My fear, though, is that he has done precisely that very thing.


‘A little bit of a victim’? Give it up, man!

Matt Schlapp needs to be slapped bald-headed.

The conservative activist has taken up some form of defense for the White House communications aide who said that Sen. John McCain’s criticism of CIA nominee Gina Haspel “doesn’t matter, because he’s dying anyway.”

The aide’s name is Kelly Sadler. Schlapp has defended her saying she’s a “little bit of a victim.”

No she’s not! She’s a thoughtless mid-level clown who popped off in private with what has been described as a “bad joke.”

McCain doesn’t like Haspel’s view of torturing enemy combatants. He urged the Senate reject her confirmation. Yes, he’s battling a life-threatening disease. However, he is of sound mind and is entitled to speak his mind about an important policy matter. And there is no one in the U.S. Senate who is more qualified to speak about torture than McCain, a former Vietnam War prisoner who endured years of torture at the hands of his captors.

Sadler popped off thoughtlessly.

Schlapp said this, according to The Hill: “Kelly is my friend. I feel bad she is going through this. She immediately called to apologize. She’s also a little bit of a victim here,” Schlapp told CNN “New Day” co-anchor Chris Cuomo.

The story has gotten national attention. It has serious legs and is threatening to keep on running until Sadler owns up publicly to her idiotic comment.

Spare us the indignation, too, over the leaking of the comment to the media. Big deal. All of those in the room are answerable to the public in the first place and millions of us out here way beyond the Beltway are damn angry that a White House functionary would be so cruel — even in “private.”

Sen. McCain weighs in on CIA nominee: vote ‘no’

U.S. Sen. John McCain is a bystander in the drama unfolding in Washington regarding Donald Trump’s nominee to lead the Central Intelligence Agency.

The Arizona Republican, though, is no ordinary cheap-seat chump. He is battling brain cancer and likely won’t get to vote on Gina Haspel’s nomination to lead the CIA. He also knows more than your average American politician about torture.

Haspel declined this week to answer a question from Sen. Kamala Harris, who demanded a yes-or-no response: Do you believe torture is immoral. Haspel didn’t provide the answer that Harris wanted. Haspel took part in “enhanced interrogation” of enemy combatants while working as a deep-cover agent for the CIA.

McCain said Haspel’s non-response to Harris’s question is a deal-breaker and he has urged his Senate colleagues to vote “no” on her nomination.

I won’t join the senator in calling for the Senate to reject Haspel’s nomination. But I do understand his belief that torture is not in keeping with who we are as a nation. He knows of which he speaks.

McCain was a Navy aviator when he was shot down in 1967 over Hanoi, North Vietnam. He parachuted during the Vietnam War into a lake and was taken captive. He spent the next five-plus years as a prisoner of war. He was tortured, held in solitary confinement for years on end. He has never recovered fully from the injuries he suffered when he was shot down or from the injuries inflicted by his captors.

So, when Sen. McCain says torture is wrong, I listen carefully to what he says. I happen to agree with him and I disagree vehemently with what Donald J. Trump said while campaigning for the presidency, which is that waterboarding doesn’t go far enough in trying to extract actionable intelligence from our enemies.

I’m still pondering my own thoughts about Haspel’s nomination. I like the fact that she’s a career spook who knows the ins and outs of the agency she has been asked to lead. I am troubled by her inability or unwillingness to declare her view on the morality or immorality of torture as an interrogation technique.

If there is a moral authority on torture among today’s crop of U.S. politicians, it would be Sen. John McCain.

‘Smart Person’ defers to ‘Mad Dog’ on torture

Donald “Smart Person” Trump is becoming the master of mixed signals as he settles into his new job as president of the United States.

He said in one breath that he intends to bring back waterboarding as a form of “enhanced interrogation” — which is a euphemism for “torture.”

In the next breath he said he’ll defer to Defense Secretary James “Mad Dog” Mattis on the matter. Mad Dog says waterboarding is torture and he won’t allow it.

So, which is it? Torture or no torture of enemy combatants who are captured on the battlefield in our nation’s ongoing war against international terrorism.

I’m thinking “Mad Dog’s” notion is more in line with American values. We don’t torture enemy combatants to extract information from them. Why? Such tactics don’t work.

None other than U.S. Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz. — who knows a thing or two about torture owing to his years as a Vietnam prisoner of war — calls waterboarding a form of torture. It doesn’t work. Those who are being subjected to such tactics will say anything to get their captors to stop the practice, McCain says.

Trump has told us that the bad guys are “cutting people’s heads off” and that it’s time we responded with our own torture tactics. What utter manure. We are better than our enemies and we stand firm behind the principle that we shall not resort to torture tactics.

Are there other forms of “enhanced interrogation” that do not rely on torture? Surely, yes. Let’s use them and avoid the tactic that Mad Dog Mattis said he won’t allow as long as he is calling the shots at the Pentagon.

Sanity emerges from among one of Trump’s picks

How about this, folks?

The man picked to be the next CIA director said today that he would “absolutely not” follow a direct order to torture enemy combatants in the search for information from them.

That includes waterboarding, according to Kansas U.S. Rep. Mike Pompeo, who is Donald Trump’s pick to be the nation’s head spook.


I’ve been hoping to be able to speak well of a Trump appointee. Rep. Pompeo has given me the opportunity.

Pompeo is known to be a combative fellow. He struck a reasonable and moderate tone today as he testified before a Senate committee that is considering his pick to lead the CIA.

He doesn’t envision the new president issuing an order to torture enemy prisoner, Pompeo said under questioning from Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif. I hope he is correct in his assumption about the new commander in chief.

Certain forms of torture have been referred to euphemistically as “enhanced interrogation techniques.” According to The Hill: Asked if he could commit to senators that the CIA is “out of the enhanced interrogation business,” Pompeo affirmed that, “You have my full commitment.”

The new CIA boss will need to held accountable to that pledge.

I’m glad he made it.

Listen to Sen. McCain; he knows torture when he sees it


I have leveled my share of criticism at U.S. Sen. John McCain over the years.

However, when it comes to an issue with which he has intimate knowledge, I defer to the Arizona Republican every time the issue comes up.

The man knows torture. He endured it during his more than five years as a captive of North Vietnam during the Vietnam War.

When this heroic American says that waterboarding is “torture” and that the United States need not torture captives taken in battle, well, he needs to be heard.

The president-elect once denigrated McCain’s service during the Vietnam War — which the next president managed to avoid through several deferments. Donald J. Trump once said famously that McCain was a “hero” only because he was “captured. I like people who aren’t captured, OK?”

McCain has made a stern vow: The United States will not waterboard prisoners. “I don’t give a damn what the president of the United States wants to do. We will not waterboard,” McCain told an audience at the annual Halifax International Security Forum. “We will not torture people … It doesn’t work”


I get that McCain lost badly to Barack Obama in the 2008 presidential campaign. I did not vote for him. However, I also honor this man’s service during the Vietnam War. He was subjected to unbelievable torture tactics after he was shot down over Hanoi in 1967.

When this war hero says waterboarding doesn’t work, I believe him.

The United States has plenty of “enhanced interrogation” techniques at its disposal to glean intelligence from captives that do not involve torture. Must we resort to tactics used by our enemies? No. We’re far better than that.

Torture returns to the political debate arena


It’s back. Torture has made its return as an issue being discussed by presidential candidates.

Donald J. Trump has dredged it from the has-been issue pile, saying something about how he would order the waterboarding of bad guys in order to get information from them.

Don’t do it, says someone who knows a thing or three about torture.

I prefer to stand with the expert on these things. That would be U.S. Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., who lost the presidency in the 2008 campaign to fellow Sen. Barack Obama.

What’s a bit ironic, of course, is that McCain and Trump would be at loggerheads over this issue. Why the irony? You’ll recall that one of Trump’s initial insults was tossed in McCain’s direction when he said that the senator is a war hero only because he got captured by the North Vietnamese during the Vietnam War and that he (Trump) preferred people “who weren’t captured, OK?”

Here they are again. McCain has long opposed the use of waterboarding as an “enhanced interrogation” technique. He calls it torture, which he believes breaks faith with American principles.

What does McCain now about torture? More than most Americans ever will know, and certainly far more than Donald Trump knows about it.

McCain’s five-plus years as a captive after being shot down during the Vietnam War included many years of torture: beatings, solitary confinement and the communists’ various versions of “enhanced interrogation.”

When the senior senator from Arizona calls a particular act a form of torture, well, I am inclined to believe him.

I am doing so in this particular exchange.

He’s right as well to suggest that the information gleaned from waterboarding has been sketchy at best and has not provided nearly as much actionable intelligence as has been suggested.

Sen. McCain isn’t speaking as some soft-pedaling, squishy, politically correct liberal. He speaks as someone who’s been straight to hell and back.


It's Cheney who's 'full of crap'

Richard Bruce Cheney doesn’t believe, apparently, in the same America many millions of others do.

Oh sure. Many millions of other Americans support the former vice president’s world view. I respect that. I just happen to fundamentally disagree with Cheney. No surprise there, right?


It’s that report on torture that’s got Cheney all wadded up.

The report released by Senate Intelligence Committee Democrats asserts that the United States employed illegal interrogation techniques on alleged terrorists taken captive immediately after the 9/11 attacks. Cheney’s view — as if anyone expected otherwise — is to say the “enhanced interrogation techniques” produced “actionable intelligence” that protected Americans from further attacks.

The report says otherwise.

I also am going to climb aboard the same wagon as a bona fide American war hero, Republican U.S. Sen. John McCain, who speaks from personal experience in expressing his support for what the Intelligence Committee Democrats say about torture techniques. McCain’s view of those “EITs” is formed by his own experience as a prisoner of war in Vietnam. He said that captives will say anything to stop the pain and that the information they give to the enemy is more bogus than believable.

Cheney continues to defend tactics that are not in keeping with the values we hold dear in this country. Yes, we’re at war with some loathsome organizations that employ equally loathsome tactics on the people they capture. Does that mean we should sink to that level of barbarism? No.

It means we employ our own sophisticated interrogation techniques to glean information.

And no, no one is saying we should kiss the captives on the cheek, as some have suggested.

What the Senate panel is saying, as I understand it, is that the United States must be true to its claim of being better than the enemy we’re seeking to destroy.




A presidential pardon may be in order

The beans are spilled. The cat’s out of the bag. The CIA just might have broken some laws when it detained suspected terrorists and subjected them to torture techniques immediately after the 9/11 attacks.

The spy agency says otherwise, that it broke no laws.

U.S. Senate Democrats on the Intelligence Committee insist that the torture techniques were real and allege that they broke U.S. law.

The New York Times editorial board refers to the findings in the just-released Senate summary of the “enhanced interrogation” as a sign of “depravity” that defies comprehension.

The thought has occurred to me. Perhaps it’s not an original thought, but I’ll toss it out there anyway.

Given that there’s really no serious need to prosecute anyone for alleged criminal activity, perhaps a presidential pardon would be in order.

Go ahead and snicker. This is a serious suggestion, even absent any formal criminal charges being filed against the principals involved — namely President Bush, then-CIA director George Tenet, then-Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, national security adviser Condoleezza Rice and Vice President Dick Cheney.

Hey, President Ford pardoned his immediate predecessor in the White House, Richard Nixon, for crimes he may have committed while covering up the Watergate burglary. That was the right call in 1974. A similar pardon just might be the right call now.

Let’s have the debate over whether the suspected terrorists were tortured illegally. Both sides will vent. Both will have their say.

There well might be an inclination in some circles to prosecute those in charge at the time. Others will be declare that there’s no need now to punish those who might have committed a crime.

That’s where President Obama can step in.

He’s got the power to issue summary pardons. This well could be the time to act.


GOP fires back at torture report

To no one’s surprise, U.S. Senate Intelligence Committee Republicans have their own version of whether “enhanced interrogation techniques” made America safer in the wake of 9/11.

They say the tactics saved lives and protected the country against further harm.

The GOP senators say the tactics were necessary to gather intelligence that led eventually to the killing of Osama bin Laden.


Intelligence panel Democrats are standing by their assertion — correctly, in my view — that American intelligence officials and military leaders could have obtained all of that information and protected Americans without subjecting terror suspects to torture.

So there it is: yet another political schism has erupted on Capitol Hill.

As Politico reports: “The GOP report decried the (Senate Intelligence Committee Chairman Dianne) Feinstein study, arguing that it contained ‘faulty analysis, serious inaccuracies, and misrepresentations of fact’ to create a series of false conclusions about the counterterrorism program’s effectiveness and the CIA’s interactions with Congress and the White House.”

So, the other side has responded with what it contends is accurate analysis and objective examination of the facts. Is that what they’re saying?

I’ve noted already that this discussion is going to turn into a liar’s contest over time. One side is going to accuse the other of deceit. It’ll go back and forth.

I’ll just stick to my assertion that “enhanced interrogation” can — and should — include tactics that do not include the physical torturing of enemy captives. I’d even allow for sleep deprivation that would include round-the-clock badgering of detainees as a way to make ’em squeal.

Still, the debate rages on.