Pelosi The Enabler

Nancy Pelosi is no Dick Cheney, nor a
George W. Bush. She was neither the author of a systematic policy of
torture nor has she been, like Cheney and most top Republicans in
Congress, an enduring apologist for its practice. It is a nonsensical
distraction to place her failure to speak out courageously as a critic
of the Bush policies on the same level as those who engineered one of
the most shameful debacles in U.S. history.

But what she, and anyone else who went
along with this evil, as lackadaisically as she now claims, should be
confronted with are the serious implications of their passive
acquiescence. Why did she not speak up, or if it were a matter of a
lack of reliable information, demand an accounting from the executive
branch, as befits a leader of the loyal opposition in Congress?

If the ranking Democrat on the House
Intelligence Committee, and later House Democratic leader, lacked the
authority to publicly question a policy of torture, then how can we
condemn, indeed imprison, ordinary soldiers who thought it their duty
to follow orders?

Even though Abu Zubaydah had been
waterboarded 83 times before the September 2002 briefing of Pelosi, she
now claims she was told only that the practice might be used and that
it had been approved by the Bush Justice Department as legal. Wasn't
that approval in itself sufficiently alarming to justify a strong and
public dissent? Certainly that would have been the appropriate response
when Pelosi aide Michael Sheehy, along with Rep. Jane Harman, D-Calif.,
were informed by the CIA in no uncertain terms five months later that
Zubaydah had been subjected to specific "enhanced" methods including
waterboarding. Pelosi admits to possessing that information, but
according to one of her aides quoted in Politico, after Harman's letter
questioning the practice received "no response" from the CIA, "there
was nothing more that could be done."

Why not? Does the CIA or the White House
that directs its activities stand above the law without any
congressional restraint, as mandated by the U. S. Constitution that
Pelosi has sworn to uphold?

Should the members of the 9/11
Presidential Commission not have been informed that two of the "key
witnesses" upon whom their report was based had provided the
information critical to the report's conclusions only after being
waterboarded a total of 266 times? On Page 146 of that report, there
appears a boxed disclaimer that even the commissioners, possessed of
high security clearances, were not allowed to meet, let alone
cross-examine, the witnesses or even talk with those who did the

As the presidential commissioners conceded
in their report, "We submitted questions for use in the interrogations,
but had no control over whether, when or how questions of particular
interest would be asked. Nor were we allowed to talk to the
interrogators so that we could better judge the credibility of the
detainees and clarify ambiguities in the reporting."

In short, the basic narrative of the
origins and conduct of the 9/11 attack that so fundamentally perverted
American politics relied on cherry-picked information that the White
House and its operative in the field chose to release to the
commission. As a result, we the public still know nothing of certainty
about the financing of the terrorist organization emanating from Saudi
Arabia and the UAE or the logistical support supplied to the Taliban
and al-Qaida by agencies of the government of Pakistan.

What the public was offered was not an
unvarnished look at the available evidence concerning the attack but
rather a fear campaign justifying an undifferentiated and illogically
constructed international war on terror. As Steve Elmendorf, chief of
staff to Rep. Dick Gephardt, D-Mo., the Democratic leader following
9/11, put it: "You have to remember, in the 2002 period, the whole
atmospherics, it was all about scaring people every day."

That fear-mongering drove a majority of
Democrats to support the president in his invasion of Iraq, the one
Arab nation where al-Qaida had been most brutally oppressed by its
sworn enemy, Saddam Hussein, who had nothing to do with the 9/11
attack. The "key witnesses" affirmed that reality even after being
subjected to torture, which would have proven deeply embarrassing to
the Bush administration were it revealed in open court proceedings.

By acquiescing to the cover-up of
unpleasant truths in the treatment of prisoners, Pelosi contributed to
the betrayal of the ideal of public accountability that is the bedrock
of our system of governance, which Congress is charged with protecting.

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