Anti-War Movement Was Right But Unpersuasive to Some

A formerly pro-war libertarian, Neal Zupancic, who has since seen the error of his ways, looks at the liberal anti-war movement and asks why it was so unpersuasive to people like him. For instance:

It always shocked me how shallow the anti-war protesters seemed to be. My question to them was always, “you have protested the war, now what?” The protests didn’t work, of course, because Bush is the type to “stay the course.” And yet the protesters, who were willing to take to the streets to express their views, did not seem willing to act or investigate further the roots of the war. They did not seem willing to blame anyone but Bush… They went back to their daily lives, perhaps slightly more bitter, but convinced that their man would win in and everything would be alright. I was told repeatedly that millions of Americans marched in protest against the war. Where does the money for the war come from? It comes from taxes. If millions of Americans stopped paying their taxes I’m sure the federal government would notice. Yet the protesters continued to fund the very war they were protesting! I could not help but feel that the protesters were less concerned about reform and more concerned about stoking their own egos. Protesting was, in my opinion, not about opposing the war, but about convincing themselves that they had done something. Protesting, after all, is a valid, State-approved activity, and it’s supposed to be healthy for democracy. But what is democracy healthy for? War, apparently.

The Drudge Report is trying to spin today’s news as if it deflects the blame for the Dubya Squad’s torture policy from Attorney General nominee Alberto Gonzales. “Paper: Gonzales drafts ghost-written by Cheney lawyer,” says Drudge. Nice try, but the news actually ties Gonzales closer to the torture memos than before:

[The CIA] asked for a legal review — the first ever by the government — of how much pain and suffering a U.S. intelligence officer could inflict on a prisoner without violating a law that imposes severe penalties, including life imprisonment and execution, on convicted torturers. The Justice Department’s Office of Legal Counsel took up the task, and at least twice during the drafting, top administration officials were briefed on the results.

White House counsel Alberto R. Gonzales chaired the meetings on this issue, which included detailed descriptions of interrogation techniques such as “waterboarding,” a tactic intended to make detainees feel as if they are drowning. He raised no objections and, without consulting military and State Department experts in the laws of torture and war, approved an memo that gave CIA interrogators the legal blessings they sought.

…it goes on…

Gonzales approved in  — after limited consultation — an Office of Legal Counsel memo suggesting various stratagems that officials could use to defend themselves against criminal prosecution for torture.

Drafted at the request of the CIA, which sought legal blessing for aggressive interrogation methods for Abu Zubaida and other al Qaeda detainees, the memo contended that only physically punishing acts “of an extreme nature” would be prosecutable. It also said that those committing torture with express presidential authority or without the intent to commit harm were probably immune from prosecution.

The memo was signed by Jay S. Bybee, then an assistant attorney general and now a federal appellate judge, but written with significant input from [John] Yoo, whom Gonzales had tried to hire at the White House and later endorsed to head Justice’s legal counsel office. During the drafting of the memo, Yoo briefed Gonzales several times on its contents. He also briefed Ashcroft, Bellinger, Addington, Haynes and the CIA’s acting general counsel, John A. Rizzo, several officials said.

At least one of the meetings during this period included a detailed description of the interrogation methods the CIA wanted to use, such as open-handed slapping, the threat of live burial and “waterboarding” — a procedure that involves strapping a detainee to a board, raising the feet above the head, wrapping the face and nose in a wet towel, and dripping water onto the head. Tested repeatedly on U.S. military personnel as part of interrogation resistance training, the technique proved to produce an unbearable sensation of drowning.

State Department officials and military lawyers were intentionally excluded from these deliberations, officials said. Gonzales and his staff had no reservations about the legal draft or the proposed interrogation methods and did not suggest major changes during the editing of Yoo’s memo, two officials involved in the deliberations said.

The memo defined torture in extreme terms, said the president had inherent powers to allow it and gave the CIA permission to do what it wished. , its conclusions were cited approvingly in a Defense Department memo that spelled out the Pentagon’s policy for “exceptional interrogations” of detainees at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.

Here are links to the New York Times and Washington Post versions of the Gonzales story.