Meanwhile, in another part of the city, Vice President Dick Cheney was addressing the meat-eaters at the Conservative Political Action Conference. He told them that he was glad the administration had tortured people and that he’d do it again: “Would I support those same decisions again today? You’re damn right I would.”
I found it curious that Cheney would say he was “glad the administration had tortured people.” That doesn’t sound like something he’d say. And I don’t really trust Tim Rutten, since he has lied to me so many times in the past.
So I checked the transcript.
I first searched for the word “torture” and found that Cheney had used it only once in the speech:
The United States is a country that takes human rights seriously. We do not torture — it’s against our laws and against our values. We’re proud of our country and what it stands for.
That doesn’t quite sound like Cheney saying he was glad we tortured people.
So I decided to look up the context of the Cheney quote: “Would I support those same decisions again today? You’re damn right I would.” Here it is:
Our new strategy in Iraq has succeeded by careful planning, and by close attention to changing conditions on the battlefield. The same will be true of any drawdown of troops. On behalf of the President, I can assure you that the decision will be based on what is right for our security and best for the troops — without regard to polls, elite opinion, or flip-flops by politicians in Washington, D.C. (Applause.)
From the very morning our nation was attacked on 9/11, the President of the United States has had to make some immensely enormous decisions. Every day he faces responsibilities that others would pale before. I’ve been there with him. I’ve seen him make the tough calls, and then weather the criticism and take the hits. President Bush has been tough and courageous. He’s made the right decisions for the right reasons, and he always reflects the best values of the American people. I’ve been proud to stand by him and by the decisions he’s made. And I would support those same — and would I support those same decisions again today? You’re damn right I would. (Applause.)
The important thing to remember, six and a half years after 9/11, is that the war on terror is still real, that it won’t be won on the defensive, and that we have to proceed on many fronts at the same time. For those of us who work in offices and sit at desks in Washington, the sacrifices required are pretty small compared to those of Americans serving in the Iraqi desert, or in the mountains of Afghanistan, or the public servants who work day and night, with little margin for error, to detect a secret enemy before it’s too late.
That doesn’t sound like Cheney was supporting torture either.
I’m not great at mind-reading, but I’m going to guess that this is the passage Rutten was referring to:
Just as we’ve monitored the communications of enemies at large, we’ve also gotten information out of the ones that we have captured. The military has interrogated terrorists held at Guantanamo Bay. And in addition, a small number of terrorists, high-value targets, held overseas have gone through an interrogation program run by the CIA. It’s a tougher program, for tougher customers. (Applause.) These include Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, the mastermind of 9/11. He and others were questioned at a time when another attack on this country was believed to be imminent. It’s a good thing we had them in custody, and it’s a good thing we found out what they knew. (Applause.)
The procedures of the CIA program are designed to be safe, and they are in full compliance with the nation’s laws and treaty obligations. They’ve been carefully reviewed by the Department of Justice, and very carefully monitored. The program is run by highly trained professionals who understand their obligations under the law. And the program has uncovered a wealth of information that has foiled attacks against the United States; information that has saved thousands of lives. (Applause.)
The United States is a country that takes human rights seriously. We do not torture — it’s against our laws and against our values. We’re proud of our country and what it stands for. We expect all of those who serve America to conduct themselves with honor. And we enforce those rules. Some years ago, when abuses were committed at Abu Ghraib prison, a facility that had nothing to do with the CIA program, the abuses that came to light were, in fact, investigated, and those responsible were prosecuted.
I suppose Rutten would argue that Khalid Sheikh Mohammed was, in his view, tortured — and that Cheney, by praising his interrogation, is supporting torture. Fine; if Rutten wants to make that argument, let him make it.
But that’s not what Rutten said. He said Cheney told people he was “glad the administration had tortured people.” And Cheney didn’t tell people that. At all. Cheney said: “We do not torture — it’s against our laws and against our values.”
Rutten has told a lie. And he should be called on the carpet for it.
If you feel like beating your head against a wall, here’s the address: ReadersRep@latimes.com. Me, I’m not bothering. At the L.A. Times, if it’s an opinion column, anything goes — and the facts be damned.
That goes double for Tim Rutten.
But if you write them, copy me on the e-mail. If I like your letter enough, I’ll publish it.