Torture Prosecutions for Thee, But Not for Me

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi wants Bush Administration officials prosecuted for facilitating torture. Fair enough. But if they get prosecuted, she should get prosecuted, too. She knew of the torture and knowingly funded the very programs that engaged in it. She only objected to it after Bush’s poll ratings went down.

Andrew Sullivan, who detests the Bush Administration, observes that “The Speaker was briefed on waterboarding and other torture techniques used by the White House. She was part of the select group of congressmen and women told of the program. She did nothing to stop it.” Indeed, said the CIA’s Porter Goss, “Not only was there no objection, there was actually concern about whether the agency was doing enough” to extract confessions.

Similarly, lawyer John Hinderaker notes that Senator Diane Feinstein (D-Cal.), who wants to investigate the Bush Administration, “enthusiastically endorsed waterboarding and other ‘enhanced’ interrogation techniques back in the days” following 9/11.

Liberals like Pelosi can’t logically object to being held responsible for “aiding and abetting” torture by knowingly funding it, without engaging in hypocrisy. After all, they support punishment based on very broad theories of “aiding and abetting.” For example, liberals support the massive, and worthless, $400 billion Alien Tort Claims Act lawsuits against American companies that did business in South Africa, under the theory that merely by selling products in South Africa, the companies thereby “aided and abetted” South Africa’s apartheid regime — never mind that South Africa’s current, democratically-elected, black-majority government is utterly opposed to these lawsuits, and that the companies now being sued complied with a set of human-rights principles known as the “Sullivan Principles” while operating in South Africa.

Torture produced lots of false information that wasted the CIA’s time and money, and produced bogus orange alerts that inconvenienced travelers. But the creepy Dick Cheney is still defending torture, making claims that are as illogical as his ridiculous claim (now echoed by the Obama Administration, which is running up record deficits in violation of Obama’s disingenuous “net spending cut” pledge) that “deficits don’t matter.”

Obama has been vague about the possibility of torture prosecutions. He seemed open to them on Tuesday, but not on Thursday “when it became apparent that any investigation would . . . include Congressional Democrats who signed off on the interrogations.”

While Andrew Sullivan is to be commended for not deliberately overlooking liberal complicity in the Bush Administration’s torture (the way most bloggers advocating torture prosecutions have), he has been less consistent in his attempts to defend the policies of the Obama Administration, such as his attacks on the tea-party anti-tax protesters.

Sullivan erroneously attacked the tea parties as “opposition to the Obama administration’s spending plans, manned by people who made no serious objections to George W. Bush’s” — even though the protests focused on the bailouts as well as the $800 billion stimulus package, which the Congressional Budget Office says will actually shrink the economy in the long run.

But after it became clear that many of the protesters had opposed the costly bailouts over the past year, including the Wall Street and auto bailouts during the Bush Administration, Sullivan switched gears to defend that wasteful spending, which even many original supporters of the bailouts now regret (and which even Treasury Secretary Geithner, an architect of the bailouts, admits have had “mixed” results). Sullivan now attacks the tea party protesters because they OPPOSED the bank bailout last year pushed through by the Bush Administration.

To Sullivan, criticism of Obama’s wasteful spending seems suspect regardless of whether the critic supported or opposed Bush’s fiscal policies.

Sullivan, the self-described “fiscal conservative” and believer in “limited government,” now supports Obama’s massive $800 billion stimulus package, sneering at people who “think the recession demands no fiscal stimulus” — seemingly oblivious to the Congressional Budget Office’s finding that Obama’s pork-filled stimulus package will actually shrink the economy in the long run by exploding the national debt.

Andrew Sullivan, not the tea party protests, was once a cheerleader for one of the most costly items on George Bush’s agenda: the 2003 invasion of Iraq. Today, with the benefit of hindsight, Sullivan bashes Bush for invading Iraq. But Sullivan long advocated invading Iraq before Bush did so, at times even chiding Bush for his perceived slowness to act against Saddam Hussein. Ironically, he now trumpets the idea of prosecuting Bush Administration officials. He cites the Administration’s use of torture, which I have also repeatedly criticized; but one of those Sullivan wants prosecuted, Doug Feith, staunchly opposed the use of torture. Feith’s real sin was to espouse the same cause Sullivan once did with such zest: the perfectly lawful, although extremely costly, invasion of Iraq.

Sullivan may variously claim to be conservative or libertarian in an effort to lend weight to his endorsement of big-spending liberal politicians like John Kerry and Barack Obama, but it would be more accurate to describe him, as Forbes magazine did, as a liberal journalist.