President Obama

Ted Rall Goes Batshit

Ted really loves his "Obama = Bush" beat, because he's at it again.

And he's repeating far-right memes now. Mainly the one about how CIA Director Panetta said that he would be "reviewing" enhanced interrogation techniques despite the president's torture ban. Rall:

You saw the headline: "OBAMA BANS TORTURE." But it was a lie. Obama's CIA director told Congress that there's a "review process that's built into [Obama's] executive order" that allows torture to continue. Leon Panetta said the Obama Administration will keep using at least 19 torture techniques against detainees. In addition, Team Obama will "look at those kinds of enhanced techniques to determine how effective they were or weren't and whether any appropriate revisions need to be made as a result of that."



The "19 techniques" are, in fact, the Army Field Manual techniques which have never been at issue, at least not that I'm aware of. In fact, the main thrust behind the two congressional torture ban laws were to limit the techniques to the AFM techniques -- bills that we all supported. (One bill became law, but the other, regarding the CIA's use of torture, failed in early 2008. McCain famously voted 'no'. Now, with the president's executive order, the CIA is forbidden from using torture, too.)

According to TPM, Panetta was saying that he's going to be reviewing the AFM techniques to see if they're effective and whether they should even be used. And as far as I know, no one other than Rall considers the AFM techniques to be "torture." Rall makes it seem as though Panetta would be reviewing and authorizing 19 new ways of torturing people, and no mention of the AFM at all. But for the record, here's the gist of the AFM techniques:

"Emotional": taking advantage of a source's strong feelings;

"Fear-up": exploiting a source's fears, real or imagined;

"Pride and ego": flattering a source or attacking his pride, both to serve the purpose of putting him in a frame of mind to reveal information;

"Futility": using facts to prove to the source that his or her current situation is hopeless.

In other words, the AFM techniques are all about coercive interrogation -- nothing in the universe of waterboarding and nothing we would consider torture.

But the far-right, and Dick Cheney in particular, have taken Panetta's statement and twisted it to mean that President Obama, despite banning torture, is vindicating Bush's decisions regarding waterboarding and the like. Naturally, this isn't true at all.

Ted goes on to rip into President Obama's spending, when in fact, if you ask people like Paul Krugman, the president hasn't spent enough.

The only similarity between Bush and Obama is the job itself. Beyond that, would Bush have expanded SCHIP? Would Bush have authorized the use of federal funds for embryonic stem cell research? Would Bush have allowed today's redeployment in Iraq? Would Bush have banned torture? Would Bush have passed the recovery bill? Would Bush have signed credit card reform?

Chill out, Ted.