marc thiessen a court stenographer for war criminals, burned blue skies wallpaper, day we took to the skies in jets

Former Bush speech writer and torture affectionado Marc Thiessen has been issued a challenge by someone that knows what they’re talking about. “I Challenge Marc Thiessen”–Six Questions for Malcolm Nance

5. You previously served as a master instructor in the SERE program, in which pilots were prepared, among other things, to endure waterboarding. The SERE training program, we later learned, was reverse engineered to produce “enhanced interrogation techniques” for the CIA. Recently a White House speechwriter named Marc Thiessen has played a vocal role in the campaign that the Cheneys have launched to justify the use of waterboarding. He insists that it absolutely is not torture, and he insists that it’s different from the technique used by the Khmer Rouge. Does Thiessen know what he’s talking about?
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I spent twenty years in intelligence and four years in the SERE program waterboarding people before I ever opened my mouth on the subject. Marc Thiessen is a fool of the highest magnitude if he thinks he knows anything about waterboarding. His claims are based not on first-hand experience but on a classified briefing from people with an agenda of justifying what was done. That makes Thiessen into a court stenographer for war criminals rather than a person with any real claim of expertise. As for his claim about the relationship between Pol Pot–era waterboarding and what we have done derived from the SERE program, he’s wrong. Before I arrived at SERE, I went to S21 prison in Cambodia. Right next to the Wall of Skulls sits the exact waterboard platform that the SERE program copied for our own use in the training program. Remember, our goal was to prepare pilots for the techniques they might face if they fell into the hands of our enemies. I was waterboarded on arrival at SERE, and then as a senior staffer, I performed the technique or supervised it through hundreds of evolutions.

Thiessen’s central purpose is apparently to glorify the most extreme practices used by the CIA in the Bush era and to argue that each of these practices, including waterboarding, is vitally necessary to our national security–even though no president used them before, and it seems that President Bush himself halted many of these practices over Cheney’s objection. We have prosecuted and convicted men for using these techniques in the past, and we were right to do so.

This suggests to me that, while he may cite Thomas Aquinas, Thiessen has no sense of honor and no moral compass. I give him credit for his loyalty to the Cheneys, but he’s blind to their errors in judgment. The use of waterboarding and other torture techniques was a powerful recruitment tool for Al Qaeda; it spawned thousands of would-be suicide bombers. Thiessen claims that we gained “intelligence” by using these torture techniques. But this shows that he knows nothing about the intelligence process or how our enemy grows and sustains itself.

Thousands of American POWs died and suffered resisting torture practices that we have always called the tools of the enemy. The SERE program was designed to help them grapple with this inhumanity and retain their dignity in the face of it. Now Thiessen and his boss want us to embrace the tactics we used in that program–taken from the Russians, the Communist Chinese, the North Koreans, the North Vietnamese, the Khmer Rouge–as our own. He claims that these techniques are unpleasant but have no long-term physical or mental impact. Really? I challenge him to put up or shut up. I offer to put him through just one hour of the CIA enhanced interrogation techniques that were authorized in the Bush Administration’s OLC memos–including the CIA-approved variant of waterboarding. If at the end he still believes this is not torture, I’ll respect his viewpoint. But not until then. By the way, I can assure you that, within that hour, I’ll secure Thiessen’s written admission that waterboarding is torture and that his book is a pack of falsehoods. He’ll give me any statement I want in order to end the torture.

The argument itself is so cynical that it is difficult not to sound cynical while explaining it. All the arguments for torture – the fact based and moral ones – have been made. The last refuge of the torture advocate: torture is not meant to produce reliable intel. It is intended to  scare the enemy. The facts are clear. Torture is illegal. The U.S. and our allies have prosecuted practitioners of torture since WW II. It has not scared al-Qaeda. On the contrary, torture has made its victims martyrs for terror recruiters.

Those that feel they are walking in on the middle of a conversation about torture and are asking who the hell is  Marc Thiessen might find this and this link useful.

burned blue skies wallpaper

On This Day: First Commercial Jet Flight Takes Off

On May 2, 1952, British Overseas Airways Corporation launched commercial air travel by jet, sending 36 passengers from London to Johannesburg on the de Havilland Comet, a four-engine aircraft.

Eons in internet time but anyone born in 1952 would still be under 60 and remember the growth of commercial jet aviation. Commercial flights took place before 1952. They were manly by flying boats in the 1930s. Airports that were long enough to support landings were rare. Pan American made its first experimental commercial transatlantic flight with an air boat on 26 March 1939.

BP warned of rig fault ten years ago

In June 2000, the oil giant issued a “notice of default” to Transocean, the operator of the rig that blew up last month. The dispute was over problems with a blowout preventer, a set of iron slabs that should close out-of-control wells. It failed on the Gulf of Mexico rig, triggering the explosion and oil spill.

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