The Watering Hole, Monday, February 8, 2016: Trump the Lawless

Over the weekend, Donald J. Trump, the billionaire racist real estate developer son of a millionaire racist real estate developer, told CNN’s Jake Tapper that he would bring back waterboarding (and “worse” techniques). When it was explained to the authoritarian favorite that waterboarding and many other forms of torture are illegal under both US and international law and treaty, Trump demonstrated his complete lack of comprehension of the law, how it works, how national security works, and why subjects are classified at all, by saying he would bring it back by “declassifying” it.

Sorry, Donald, but whether or not the use of waterboarding is classified has nothing whatsoever to do with its legality. In fact, classifying its use would violate several additional laws besides the ones barring its use in the first place. It is illegal to classify something just to keep it hidden from the public, or because it was illegal at the time. For those who never served or never learned the distinction, information is classified (or not) based on the damage its disclosure would do to national security. Nothing more. If it could cause some identifiable damage to national security (not national reputation), some minor information that could give a potential enemy information they could use to their advantage over ours, it would be given the level “Confidential.” The exact number of troops in a unit would be classified Confidential, since it could help an enemy to know the exact number of persons they’d be facing. Information whose disclosure could cause serious damage to our national security would be classified Secret. Mission logs in a communication unit that does presidential support missions would be classified Secret. (I’ve written some.) But information whose release could cause exceptionally grave damage to national security is classified Top Secret. Obvious things like nuclear launch codes would be classified Top Secret. And there are levels of Top Secret requiring even higher levels of clearance to obtain. Sometimes they fall into the category of Sensitive Compartmentalized Information (SCI). A good example would be safes that have two combination dials where nobody is allowed to know both combinations. (It’s called the Two Man Integrity System.) You could be cleared for that level of classified info, but it doesn’t mean they have to grant you access to it. I don’t think many in the civilian world understand that in order to have access to classified information, you require three things. First, you must have proper identification or be personally known to the person revealing you the information. Second, you must have the proper level of security clearance for that information. This can be waived by the Commander-in-Chief or a command level officer, but not by lower ranking personnel who might have to handle it as part of their everyday duties. The third and most important thing you must have is a need to know. I happened to have held a very high level security clearance, but that didn’t mean I had the authority to just open up the safes and read classified reports, even for things well below my clearance level. I didn’t have any need to know the classified information, so I would never have been given access to it. This is often overlooked in many lesser-quality TV shows or movies, and people are told things they shouldn’t know because they don’t need to know it. So nobody could say they sat and read a bunch of classified reports and learned stuff because they would have had to demonstrate a need to know the information they sought. When something is classified, it has to be because its unauthorized disclosure would damage national security. And despite the idea I personally believe some Bush Administration officials may have harbored, our national reputation is not part of our national security. You can’t classify something just because it would make America look bad. So if waterboarding were being used, that fact alone could not be considered classified. By Trump saying he would “declassify” its use, he shows he has no understanding of how and why information is classified.

“You can say what you want. I have no doubt that it does work in terms of information and other things — and maybe not always but nothing works always. But I have no doubt that it works,” he insisted.

Then there’s the matter of whether or not one believes “it works.” Whether or not one believes it, the fact is it does not “work.” It never has. (And, please, if you have to twist and manipulate the facts around one small piece of information which may or may not have been learned as a result of torture, it still wouldn’t prove it “works” or was justified.) It does not generate usable or reliable information because a person being tortured will say anything to get the torture to stop. Wouldn’t you? Wouldn’t you tell them anything you think they might want to hear, even if you made it up entirely, if you thought it would make the torture stop? Don’t lie. And waterboarding is torture, you can ask Sean Hannity. Oh, wait. He’s never fulfilled his promise to be waterboarded for charity, so he wouldn’t know. I’ve never been waterboarded, either, but I never offered to be. I believe the people who have undergone it and said it was torture, including conservatives. What you see happening on TV and in the movies, where torturing someone gains useful intelligence, is bullshit. Torture is done as a show of power and domination over a prisoner. I’m assuming it’s a prisoner that’s being tortured, because if it isn’t there are far more serious problems being neglected here. And once you start torturing someone, they’ll say whatever they think you want to hear, whether or not it’s the truth, as long as they think it will make you stop torturing him. This is reality, and to deny it and claim torture does “work” is to reveal a level of mental illness usually reserved to the people being chased by the FBI’s Behavioral Analysis Unit. These are sick people we’re dealing with here, and when you combine that with the overwhelmingly authoritarian streak Trump and his supporters have, waterboarding will be the least of your problems. Torture is illegal for a reason. And it makes no difference what handpicked lawyers in your administration say, it is still illegal. If you cannot wrap your already-wrapped-with-something head around that idea, you are completely and totally unfit to occupy the office of President of the United States. Or even Senior Domestic Policy Adviser.

“When they’re chopping off the heads of people — and innocent people in most cases — beyond waterboarding is fine with me.”

One more time for those who have trouble with polysyllabic (big) words: You can’t do it. It would break the law. You would go to jail and pay a yuge fine. Does that make it clear? We signed international treaties where we agreed that Torture was never, under any circumstances, justifiable. Never. It makes no difference whatsoever what criminals do, it does not justify stooping to their level. I understand why you think it would. You are an Authoritarian, as are most of your followers. You believe in the use of brutal tactics to have your way. You lack empathy. You lack ethics, too. You will say anything to get people to give you what you want, and you aren’t even being tortured! You think this makes you a good businessman. It might make you a rich businessman, but I would hardly say it makes you “good.” You wrongly believe that one of the qualifications that makes one a good president is the ability to negotiate a deal. But that wouldn’t be your job as president, either domestically or overseas. There are people who have been working for the government far longer than you whose job it is to negotiate labor contracts and international treaties. You aren’t the one who will be doing that, so stop going around telling everyone you will. It’s a lie. One among many you tell all the time. But just because you say it’s true doesn’t mean it is, and it doesn’t matter if people think it’s true, it still isn’t. Waterboarding is torture. Torture is never legal or justifiable. It doesn’t work and never has. It’s not going to save anyone’s life and does more long term harm than any short term good it arguably might do. And it is a really, really, sick, depraved thing to do. No decent human being would even think of using it, and you’ve proven to everyone you are anything but. And so are the people who adore you and believe in everything you say. I weep for this country.

This is our daily open thread. Feel free to discuss whatever you wish. I won;t torture you.

Hippocrates weeps..

From Hippocrates’ Oath:

Into whatever houses I enter, I will go into them for the benefit of the sick, and will abstain from every voluntary act of mischief and corruption; and, further from the seduction of females or males, of freemen and slaves.

The non-profit organization Physicians for Human Rights (PHR) has issued a report on the extent that medical professionals were involved in the torture programs at Abu Ghraib, Bagram and Guantanamo.

The version of the 2004 CIA Inspector General’s report released on August 24, 2009 provides greater detail on the central role that health professionals played in the CIA’s torture program and reveals a level of ethical misconduct that had not previously come to light.
The report confirms that the CIA inflicted torture on detainees interrogated while in US custody as part of the agency’s counterterrorism activities and exposes additional interrogation techniques that had not yet been reported. It also demonstrates that health professionals were involved at every stage in the development, implementation and legitimization of this torture program.
The doctors and psychologists who laid the foundation upon which attorneys rationalized an illegal program of torture also actively participated in abusive and illegal interrogations, thus betraying the ethical standards of their professions by contributing to physical and mental suffering and anguish. The very premise of health professional involvement in abusive interrogations — that they have a role in safeguarding detainees — is an unconscionable affront to the profession of medicine. (read full report)

So how will this fit into the ethics every doctor swears to uphold? PHR likens the involvement of doctors onto the torture program to illegal medical experimentation on humans as forbidden by the Nuremberg Code.

Torture is vile and inexcusable in any instance. The licence to practice medicine must be taken away from everybody who takes part in it.

HT: The Guardian

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Bruce Fein wants an expanded CIA probe

On yesterday’s Hardball, host Chris Matthews interviewed Bruce Fein, an Associate Deputy Attorney General to President Ronald Reagan, and Fein argued that the Justice Department should expand a probe into the CIA’s interrogation techniques — including the possibility of targeting former Vice President Dick Cheney.

In response to a clip of Dick Cheney saying (in his interview with Chris Wallace of Fox Noise) that even if they violated the rules (laws), don’t investigate, and don’t even think of indicting..:

“What I find most dangerous about Mr. Cheney’s statement is that he really suggests that the rule of law means nothing as long as you’re trying to go after terrorists. We have a way to do these things. Go to Congress and you have them amend the law—a ticking time-bomb exception or something like that. The executive branch doesn’t unilaterally declare the law no longer serves any purpose because we’re going after terrorists. That’s what despotic governments do. We are the United States of America. Rule of Law is our ultimate safety and guarding of our liberties.”

“I think there should be an investigation, and perhaps a pardon would be appropriate under the circumstance, but certainly a full-fledged investigation. If there are no mitigating circumstances a prosecution is appropriate. If there are, then that’s the pardon, and that’s the situation where the president would have to take full accountability like President Ford did with Mr. Nixon.”

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I agree. Let the investigation go where it must. This country needs to see accountability so we as a nation can regain our confidence that we really ARE a country based on the Rule of Law, that there really are lines that cannot be crossed, that those laws really work—for ALL of us (including our elected leaders and lawmakers).

Rachel Maddow: “Planet Cheney”

Rachel Maddow discusses Dick Cheney, and his recent attempts at defending the torture of terror suspects during the Bush administration, with Chris Hayes of The Nation.

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Read Chris Hayes’ article “The Secret Government“.
Also read Jeremy Scahill’s “Rebuking Cheney’s Torture Propaganda in 7 Easy Steps“.

“Torture Works” vs. “I Make Up Stories”

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Dick Cheney has been trying to tell us that torture works (okay, he still refuses to use the word “torture”, but in the interests of accuracy and clarity, I will substitute the word “torture” for any other euphemism they may utilize), that we gained valuable intelligence from its use, and that “it saved lives.” Did it, Dick? Did it really save lives? Or did it cost lives? American lives? Americans in uniform? Did your insistence on the use, and staunch defense, of a series of illegally-authorized interrogation techniques, which were based on methods known to elicit false confessions, actually end up getting one or more of our soldiers killed?

Thanks to the ACLU, we now know that Dick Cheney was lying through his gritting teeth when he said we received valuable intelligence through the use of torture, particularly in the case of Khalid Sheikh Muhammad (also, and more conveniently, known as “KSM”.) He claimed that intel “saved lives.” Given Dick’s well-documented history of spreading falsehoods, I have every reason in the world to believe that not only was this statement a lie, it was actually the opposite of the truth. I have reason to believe that people died because of the information we gained through torture. And the reason is a very simple one. KSM himself said, in his statement at his “Combatant Status Review Tribunal Hearing” (Pg 15):

I ah cannot remember now…I be under questioning so-many statement which been some them l make up stories just location UBL. Continue reading

Even If It Wasn’t Torture, It Was Still a Crime

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Article VI, Clause 2 of the US Constitution says:

This Constitution, and the Laws of the United States which shall be made in Pursuance thereof; and all Treaties made, or which shall be made, under the Authority of the United States, shall be the supreme Law of the Land; and the Judges in every State shall be bound thereby, any Thing in the Constitution or Laws of any State to the Contrary notwithstanding. 

Article VI, Clause 3 says:

The Senators and Representatives before mentioned, and the Members of the several State Legislatures, and all executive and judicial Officers, both of the United States and of the several States, shall be bound by Oath or Affirmation, to support this Constitution; but no religious Test shall ever be required as a Qualification to any Office or public Trust under the United States. 

There are those on the right who insist that the US should never be bound by International Treaty, but they would be wrong. When we sign a treaty and ratify it in our Senate, it becomes “the supreme Law of the Land.” To fail to follow it would be to fail to support and defend the Constitution of the United States.

The UN CONVENTION AGAINST TORTURE and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment makes it a crime to torture people or to treat prisoners cruelly or inhumanely. The United States signed this treaty on April 18, 1988. The United States finally got around to ratifying this treaty on October 21, 1994. This means that this treaty was the Law of the Land on January 20, 2001, when the Bush Administration came into office.

On August 6, 2002, Continue reading

Had Enough of This?

I’ve had enough of the Republicans and their lapdog media yapping about  Nancy Pelosi and what and when she was told about torture in 2002.   These Republicans and media pals have memories shorter than a worm’s.  It was Dennis Hastert (R) that was Speaker of the House in 2002 and he led the actions or better yet, led the inactions of Congress during the Bush/Cheney years.  Nancy Pelosi was not in a position of power during the Republican dominated Congress.  There was little that she could do at that time.  It was the responsibility of Dennis Hastert to speak up against torture.  Instead, Hastert and the Republicans in Congress along with their friends in the media turned their backs on the Constitution and the American people and did nothing.

Ultimately, however, the greatest horror of Hastert’s House was not confirmed by its specific failures to serve the American people who most needed a Congress to counter the malignant neglect of the Bush-Cheney administration. Rather, it was defined by the remaking of an essential legislative chamber as nothing more than an extension of the executive branch of the government. The damage to the Congress has been severe, as has been the damage to the Republic.

All this talk about Nancy Pelosi is a diversionary tactic by Republicans that are guilty of negligence.

Hastert’s House was a crude and unworkable place, where members who sought to uphold their oaths to “defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign or domestic” were held up to ridicule and forced to hold hearings on issues involving the most extreme abuses of presidential authority — lying to the Congress and the American people about matters of war and peace — in basement rooms.

So what exactly did Dennis Hastert know about torture?  When did he know it and why didn’t he do something about it?  Nothing more than Republican lies.  I’ve had enough of it.

(cross posted at PennsylvaniaforChange)

It’s the Torture, Stupid

Who cares what Speaker Nancy Pelosi knew and when she knew it? That isn’t the point. The point is what it is that she is accused of knowing – That the Bush Administration, in violation of both US Law and International Treaty, tortured people. Continue reading

Torture Supporters Still Supporting Torture

On Friday, May 8, MSNBC’s “The Ed Show” was guest-hosted by MSNBC contributor Lawrence O’Donnell. His first segment was on Dick Cheney’s continuing “Torture Worked Tour,” and his guests were Torture Supporters Frank Gaffney and David Rivkin. I couldn’t help but notice that O’Donnell’s style could never be confused with Rachel Maddow’s. For neither guest did O’Donnell offer words of welcome and appreciation for coming on the show, nor did he give them any thanks for being there when he was done. In fact, he treated them both rather dismissively, and for good reason. Gaffney and Rivkin should be dismissed.

(The full segment can be found on MSNBC’s website. When I figure out how to embed it here, I will.)

The segment began with a recap of Dick Cheney’s recent interview Continue reading

Torture Apologist David Rivkin Gets Owned By Lawrence O’Donnell

Larry was fearless in this video.  He went after David Rivkin with a vengeance over his claim that the procedures that were used were not considered torture. My hero! He made Rivkin look like a sadist when he read from the memo the experiences one of the detainees suffered and he challenged Rivkin, “Have you ever lived like that and how many days have you spent like that?  Tell me.” Basically saying, how many days had Rivkin lived like an animal, been stripped, hosed down in the December air and couldn’t speak because he was suffering hypothermia. But, that isn’t torture under Rivkin’s definition.

Every time Rivkin tried to defend the methods used or say “that is not the point,” Larry thundered back at him stating, “Did you not hear that description of pain and suffering that was being described?”

Rivkin in this segment brought up the SERE program and that 40,000 Americans have gone through it. What he failed to mention is the fact that IT IS VOLUNTARY, no one is forced to go through the program. Correct me if I’m wrong, but you can quit at any time. A detainee can not say “well guys I’ve had enough today, time to go home.” BIG DIFFERENCE….You cannot compare the two situations and use that analogy as an argument. In the SERE program we never waterboarded one of our own men 183 times!!

I personally like Ed, but I think Larry O’Donnell is so much better.

Cafferty: Why is it that the more often Americans go to church, the more likely they are to support torture?

Here are some of the answers that were e-mailed to Cafferty’s Blog:

Alex from Florida writes:

Pastors need to teach their congregations that supporting a conservative ticket based on some values like marriage and/or abortion does not mean you have to support the parts of the platform that don’t jive with those values.

Jim from Chicago writes:

Jack, the Evangelicals support torture because by and large they have bought into the Bush-era malarkey that “enhanced interrogation” is not really torture. Through their lack of critical thinking and questioning of the validity of this premise, they somehow feel that these techniques are necessary and effective for our safety. How ironic that Jesus was only subjected to “enhanced interrogation” by Roman soldiers just before he was crucified.

Kathy writes:

All I can figure out is that church goers do not apparently read the Bible and know little about the actual teachings of Christ. They seem to be real big believers in the Old Testament and “an eye for an eye”. How they claim to be “Born Again” when they don’t follow Jesus message of peace and forgiveness I cannot understand. No way would Christ have ever been a Republican, too selfish and unforgiving.

Keith Cameron writes:

If evangelicals want to continue their act of being better-than-thou, it’s about time they showed some views that actually qualified them as being “good” people. Harsh, I know, but seriously, if you’re going to claim to take a stand on morals, the most basic morals on the planet are “love others, even your enemies” and “be the bigger person.” Both apply to this situation.

Continue reading

GOP Hoekstra: Not Concerned That Interrogation Program Was Based On Chinese Communist Torture Methods

Hoekstra goes even further, stating that Democrats should have reported their concerns about the Interrogation Program to their designated Majority Leader. Also, they would not have been leaking classified information.

It’s interesting that the Republicans like to call Obama a communist, but they are the ones who approved using Communist Torture Techniques.   It’s also disturbing that Hoekstra’s committee reviewed the program, did what they believed in, and he feels that the Interrogation Program met U.S. law.  WOW and double wow.  It makes me wonder how they can sleep at night.

DailyKos: CA Dems Pass Resolution to Impeach Judge Bybee

Several weeks of hard work have paid off, and the California Democratic Party, the largest Democratic Party in the country, is poised to provide a major tool in the fight for justice and accountability for the Bush torture regime. The Resolutions Committee included on their consent calendar the resolution to begin a Congressional inquiry into Judge Jay Bybee and other lawyers who wrote opinions justifying and providing the fig leaf of a rationale for torture, with all punishments allowable under the law, including impeachment.

UPDATE: It passed moments ago. Yes!!!!

Without the release of the OLC memo from August 1, 2002, showing Bybee admitting that waterboarding gives the impression of imminent death and allowing it anyway, showing Bybee allowing the CIA to put detainees in a small box with bugs in a Room 101-style exploitation of phobias, I’m not sure this resolution would have passed. A few weeks back, John Heaner, a party activist in the San Fernando Valley, offered the resolution, prior to the release of the memos.

Continue reading

A Brief History of Torture

Barack Obama vows to look forward regarding the torture memos, but he just may have peeked over his shoulder…

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And, while we are on the subject of torture – and it IS torture – it’s Take Your Child to Work Day!

Samantha Bee describes brutal interrogation techniques in front of her son, Track.

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Sean Hannity consents to be waterboarded for charity!!

Sean Hannity is another of Fox News personalities that won’t call waterboarding torture.  Instead, he answers in this video “I am for enhanced interrogation.”  When asked if he was ever waterboarded by Grodin, his response was, “No, but Ollie North has.”  I’m lost, what in the hell does North’s being waterboarded have to do with Hannity being waterboarded???  Talking to someone about their experiences being tortured is a whole different animal than being waterboarded yourself.  Grodin asked Hannity if he would consent to be waterboarded, Hannity’s response, “I’ll do it for charity. I’ll let you do it. I’ll do it for the troops’ families.”

Having Grodin in this video made it bearable to watch.  In the end, he calls Hannity a fascist.  You will see Hannity cuts him off and talks over him.  Hats off to Grodin for having the moral fortitude to tolerate Hannity at all.

We Lock Up Governors, Why Not Presidents?

“…he shall take Care that the Laws be faithfully executed,”

The United States Constitution, Article II, Section 3

I’ll be perfectly honest with you. I don’t know what to say. I was watching Countdown with Keith Olbermann, and I remember growing numb as I listened to what I was hearing. I’m still kind of numb, even as Rachel Maddow interviews Rep Adam Schiff about what we learned today, and I don’t know how to admit it, but I can’t quite remember exactly what it was that they say our former president, George W. Bush, the man who stood before the American people and said, “We do not torture!”, authorized be done in my name, in your name, in all our names, to the people we captured after September 11. I remember this: It was torture. And we did it.

I’m not going to tell you that I stood by our president the whole time and said, “Well, if he says we aren’t torturing anybody, then I take him at his word.” I’m not stupid. I’m not insane (by certain definitions). I’m not naive. At the time he stood before us and said those words, those four words far more nefarious than the sixteen words, I knew what kind of person was telling me that. A pathological liar. A sadistic man-boy. A spoiled child who was given everything he had in life, including his millions of dollars, and never once understood the concept of responsibility. A man who didn’t know how to admit a mistake, even when it was obvious to people less intelligent than he. A man who could not make the mental connection between the the things that he did and the events that resulted from them. Or between cause and effect in general. His mind simply does not operate from a factual basis. He makes decisions based on things that he believes, not necessarily things that are actually, provably, demonstrably, inconclusively true. He knows that torture is not legal. But he was told that what we were doing was not considered torture. And he believed that. So it was, as far as he was concerned, if he had any concern at all about the subject, true. And so he told us, “We do not torture.” Except that it was. And it was done in our name. It was torture. And we did it.

No, I knew immediately that when George W. Bush uttered the words, “We do not torture,” that we were, possibly at that very minute for all we knew, torturing people. Continue reading

Tortured Thoughts

While watching Countdown tonight, something struck me.   Absorbing all of the new information regarding the torture memos;  reading the unambiguous objections of several JAGs against the torture techniques; hearing Richard Wolffe’s eloquent words – all against the background of the lies, lies, and more lies from the Bush Administration now being contradicted by the flood of information which has come out over the last few days – I finally was hit by the full and terrible realization that our country, my country, which I love for so many reasons, had died.

As I began to weep, varied images and thoughts jostled in my mind Continue reading

TYT: Cenk blasts Chuck Todd on shoddy journalism!

Cenk is angry that “Chuck Todd reiterated three Republican talking points, while pretending to be neutral.”  “It is a Republican talking point to say we have different legal opinions here, what are you going to do prosecute people for having difference of opinion on the law?”    “Not hey it is a clear violation of the law, we have the War Crimes Act and torturing and waterboarding are clearly illegal.”  “We ignore that.”

Cenk takes issue with Chuck Todd’s assertion that “this is all politics it is not a matter of law or that a crime was committed here.  No this is a hard left verses hard right.”  “Did Chuck Todd check any of his facts before he came on and said that?”  “No he just came on said it.”

“Here is an interesting number, 44% of Republicans say, there should either be a criminal investigation of the possible torture by the Bush Administration or an investigation that involves independent counsel.”

TYT – Cenk link.

To bad the MSM doesn’t hire Cenk to replace say Morning Joe or Wolf Blitzer! That would be an improvement 🙂

Republican Voter Calls Limbaugh: “You’re a Brainwashed Nazi”

Media Matters

LIMBAUGH: We’re going to go to Chicago. This is Charles. Charles, thank you for waiting and for calling. Great to have you here. Hello.

CALLER: Thanks, Rush. Rush, listen, I voted Republican, and I didn’t — really didn’t want to see Obama get in office. But, you know, Rush, you’re one reason to blame for this election, for the Republicans losing.

First of all, you kept harping about voting for Hillary. The second big issue is the — was the torture issue. I’m a veteran. We’re not supposed to be torturing these people. This is not Nazi Germany, Red China, or North Korea. There’s other ways of interrogating people, and you kept harping about it — “It’s OK,” or “It’s not really torture.” And it was just more than waterboarding. Some of these prisoners were killed under torture.

And it just — it was crazy for you to keep going on and on like Levin and Hannity and Hewitt. It’s like you’re all brainwashed.

And my last comment is, no matter what Obama does, you will still criticize him because I believe you’re brainwashed. You’re just — and I hate to say it — but I think you’re a brainwashed Nazi. Anyone who could believe in torture just has got to be – there’s got to be something wrong with them.

It’s not surprising that “Limbaugh: I don’t know of anybody who died from torture,” made that comment.  His willful ignorance to published facts demonstrates, that all he will ever be is a person who regurgitates the “party-line” or talking points without an original thought or facts to back up any of his outlandish statements.  When in fact, there are more than eight hits on Google, I stopped counting, as to the death toll of U.S. detainees in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Since Rush was losing in this conversation, he fell back to his old standby saying, “You’re no Republican at all based on what the hell you’ve said here.” Which is Rush’s code for, I determine who is a true Republican.

To Charles the caller, where ever you are, thank you for saying that the U.S. is not Nazi Germany, Red China or North Korea and that we don’t torture people.  That it is wrong.