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Democrats Fear Hispanics & Torture Is Just Fine - Another Uplifting Day on Fox News Channel

Reported by Marie Therese - January 6, 2005

With the hearings of Alberto Gonzales so much in the forefront, Big Story's substitute host, Judge Andrew Napolitano, aired two segments last week in which torture was discussed. The first dealt with Gonzales and his "torture memo." The second was former CIA operative and interrogator, Wayne Simmons. This posting is quite long as it contains my transcript of Simmons' entire interview in which he vehemently defends the use of torture, only he calls it "coercive interrogation." I guess that's what helps him to sleep at night!

(N.B. This is a belated report for Big Story with John Gibson that aired last Thursday. It is being posted here to allow our readers to comment, then it will be back-dated to January 6, 2005.)

In the first segment Napolitano's guests were Linda Chavez, a FOX News Analyst, and Bob Edgar, former Congressman from Pennsylvania and minister in the Churches of Christ USA.

Chavez, you might remember, was forced to withdraw her name as Secretary of Labor because of an illegal nanny problem. She has spent years writing books that purport to document massive illegal contributions by labor unions to the Democratic Party, yet nothing has ever come of these "documented" exposes except a lot of airtime on reactionary media outlets like FOX, Sinclair and Clear Channel.

After Chavez gave Gonzales an A+ for his testimony before the Senate Judiciary Committee and Bob Edgar praised the questioning from both sides of the aisle, Napolitano got to the pith and marrow of the interview by asking Edgar: "Are the Democrats satisfied today that he [Gonzales] publicly and personally renounced torture and pledged his support to all the treaties and statutes that make torture illegal?"

Edgar said he could not answer, because he was "out of the loop" in Congress but he went on to note: "From my perspective as a religious leader, a United Methodist minister, who understands that, theologically, torture is not something that we want to see in the United States or around the world and that we need to model better behavior, and the kind of thing that happened at Abu Graib, that happened at Guantanamo, needs to stop. And I want to see Mr. Gonzales sign on the dotted line that, when he's Attorney General, that kind of thing is not gonna happen."

Napolitano then asked Linda Chavez if the Democrats believe that "Judge Gonzales is personally responsible for the excesses at Abu Graib and Guantanamo Bay," to which she replied: "Oh, I thought they absolutely were, and some of the interest groups that are opposing his nomination are certainly suggesting that."

She then enumerated the standard GOP talking points on this topic: The perpetrators of the prisoner abuse are being prosecuted and sentenced or facing trial; the Republicans are not in fact condoning abuses that took place there and, lastly, Alberto Gonzales is not responsible because he was only asking for clarification of a "murky statute." Very cleverly and subtly, Chavez focused on the method by which Gonzales obtained the information, i.e., he requested that it be produced. She made no reference to the memorandum itself or to the fact that Gonzales himself is the head honcho at the Office of Legal Defense and, therefore, is responsible for the memo's content.

BOB EDGAR: "Linda, what's wrong with the Geneva Convention? It has a definition of torture. Inside the Geneva Convention it lists all of the rules of engagement. My friend, Terry Waite, who was a hostage in Lebanon for over five years, came to the United States to object to the fact that we hold 600 prisoners in Guantanamo without access to lawyers, without access to due process and the evidence is coming out that we've actually tortured those prisoners. What kind of model are we setting for the people of the world? I believe it's important enough for us to raise this issue and make sure that the President of the United States abides by the law and that he ..."

Judge Napolitano cut him off quickly the minute he linked Bush to the torture and quickly asked Chavez "Why do the Democrats say that this is the Attorney General's fault?"

LINDA CHAVEZ: Well, first of all, because of the role he had in asking for this memo from the Office of Legal Counsel. But the idea that unlawful enemy combatants have to be treated as if they were soldiers of a state or members of a state or national liberation movement is simply wrong and in fact the President has said we are going to - even though we're not required to - we are going to abide by the Geneva Conventions, even with these unlawful combatants. I think that's fine. You know, this is very important, Judge Gonzales (catches her mistake) Judge Napolitano ....

NAPOLITANO (to Edgar): Wouldn't you vote to confirm him?

EDGAR: I would not vote to confirm him because he did more than just ask the question. He actually chaired the meetings that shaped the memos that came out condoning ...

NAPOLITANO (overtalks last 5 words, pressing his point): Isn't he qualified to be Attorney General and shouldn't the President be able to have virtually whoever he wants as long as the minimum qualifications are met?

EDGAR: He has qualifications, but I think two years ago he should have used better judgment in giving advice to the President on the issue of torture.

NAPOLITANO (pushing his point even harder): Linda, we only have 30 seconds. What's the real politics here? They don't stand a chance of stopping this nomination, do they?

CHAVEZ: Well, I think there are a whole lot of Democrats who are very frightened at the idea that a very articulate, very well-qualified HISPANIC CONSERVATIVE REPUBLICAN [her emphasis] is gonna be Attorney General. I think that's got a lot of them scared.

The segment ended here, but it was very clear from the expression on Bob Edgar's face that he was really ticked off at not being allowed to respond to Chavez's blatantly false accusation of racism.

COMMENT

Bob Edgar was really terrific in this interview. He caught Chavez in her subtle use of the word "asked." he's a minister, his vocal tone quality came through on the FOX mics, his comments were measured and he didn't let himself get sidetracked. I'd suggest the Democrats use him more on reactionary right-wing shows like Big Story.

As for Linda Chavez, she's beneath contempt. Her last crack about the Democrats being scared of an educated, articulate Hispanic went way over the top.

There's an old truism in the performing arts: The audience best remembers the last thing they hear or see. Chavez clearly knew this. She waited until the end to land a blow beneath the belt. However, Napolitano, who should have acted as an impartial referee, did not contradict her or allow Bob Edgar to respond. The FOX fans can rattle on and on about the "automatic timer" and how impossible it is to override, but I've seen a lot of FOX hosts - especially O'Reilly - run over their time in order to get THEIR point across. Napolitano could have given Edgar a few seconds to respond to Chavez's accusation that the Democrats are "afraid" of Gonzales.

I only hope that the FOX viewers picked up on Reverend Edgar's facial expression and realized that he was quite angry.

Later in the show, Napolitano interviewed former CIA operative Wayne Simmons, who, true to form, tried to justify the used of "coercive interrogation" [which is defined by me and by most of the rest of the world as "torture") on detainees at Abu Graib and Guantanamo.

TRANSCRIPT OF INTERVIEW BETWEEN JUDGE ANDREW NAPOLITANO AND FORMER CIA OPERATIVE WAYNE SIMMONS, January 6, 2005, Big Story with John Gibson, FOX News Channel.

Video clip of ALBERTO GONZALES: "Contrary to reports, I consider the Geneva Conventions neither obsolete nor quaint." [End clip.]

JUDGE ANDREW NAPOLITANO: Judge Alberto Gonzales says he wouldn't support the idea of torturing terror subjects if he's confirmed as Attorney General, but is torture always a bad idea, if it can prevent an attack? Let's ask former CIA operative Wayne Simmons. He joins me now from Washington. Today's Big Question, Wayne. Should torture ever be used by American personnel to get information?

SIMMONS: Well, the answer, Judge - it's not a yes or no answer. I mean, torture - what I can tell you is, we're not going to slice someone's arm open and dump salt in the wound. I mean that's preposterous. We don't do that. If you mean am I going to make someone very, very uncomfortable, I'm absolutely gonna do that, especially if I know that the intelligence is time-sensitive. I mean that's what it comes down to. If we want to - if we can use them, these enemy combatants, over a period of time, to glean some intelligence, that's one thing. But, if I know that somebody's planted some bombs in Manhattan and we have 24 hours to find them, you can bet that 99.9% of Americans would tell me to do whatever I had to to find those bombs.

NAPOLITANO: I think you're right. I think most Americans do agree with you, Wayne, but why do we have these treaties? I counted a little while ago six of them and these statutes - I counted five of them - plus a clause of the Constitution plus an executive order that we believe is still extant that expressly prohibits torture. Are we putting on a false face?

SIMMONS: Well, I don't think so. Listen. Waterboarding is acceptable. [Waterboarding is a technique whereby the prisoner is strapped to a board, then thrust head down into water over and over again, for longer and longer periods of time, leading the captive to believe that he or she is going to eventually die. One could say it's a variation on Russian roulette.] Hooding is acceptable. Putting people in freezers, quite frankly, until they're very uncomfortable is acceptable. What I consider torture, Judge, is if we're lopping off heads, if we're cutting off digits, if we're using hammers on fingers like the enemy does to our people. But, no one seems to care about that.

NAPOLITANO: Does ..

SIMMONS: So, you know, I have a problem with those who are comin' out against us, trying to put us in jail for working against these barbarians against humanity.

NAPOLITANO: Does torture produce truthful, useful, helpful information or does the person you're making very uncomfortable just say whatever he thinks you want to hear so you'll stop?

SIMMONS: Well, I think it's both. In fact, I'm certain that it's both. Ya' hafta, ya' hafta vet the intel. Listen, you hafta vet the person. You have to process that individual. Every, every counterintelligence interrogation is different. But, I will tell you again, if it's time-sensitive, we can prove what they're telling us right away is accurate or not, so ...

NAPOLITANO: By following up on the information they've given you?

SIMMONS: Absolutely, absolutely and, listen, there are many, many, many ways to vet intel, but that old argument that I hear all the time that they don't give us accurate information, well, I guarantee you, if they give me bad intel, and I go find out it's bad intel, I'm comin' back and it's gonna be his worse nightmare.

NAPOLITANO: Can you think of anything more un-American than torture?

SIMMONS: I think torture is reprehensible in any manner, way, shape or form. I think using interrogation tactics that are acceptable to what, I believe, would be the American people, to get intelligence to protect us, anything goes. And I might add, Judge, once these, these barbarians against humanity have decided to become terrorists, their lives, as they know it [sic], are over. All bets are off against these guys.

NAPOLITANO: Does the argument that, if we torture them, they'll torture our troops, make any sense or will they harm our troops no matter how well we treat their guys when we capture them?

SIMMONS: That's exactly right, Judge. We're treating these guys with kid gloves over here. They're living in great conditions, better than they lived in in their countries. And, what are they doin' to our guys? We're watching ‘em on live, on video, chopping off the heads of innocents, so that's preposterous. That argument does not fly. It never has flown. Ask anyone who was in the Jap internment camps or the German internment camps.

NAPOLITANO: Wayne Simmons, former CIA operative. Well, I want you in my trench hole! Wayne, thanks for joining us tonight.

SIMMONS: Likewise.

COMMENT

Where do I start? This guy sounds like a bad script. In fact, I think he lifted his 24 hour New York terrorist scenario from "Die Hard with a Vengeance"!

Simmons is a neanderthal. How does he get away with using words like "Jap" in this time when Japa, one of our strongest allies, is single-handedly supporting the value of the American dollar?

Since Simmons says techniques like "waterboarding" are not torture, there are some old Eurpoean techniques he might like to try the next time he's getting unsatisfactory results by beating someone's head against a wall or sticking his/her head underwater.

How about the forced consumption of water? This was a technique wherein a funnel was shoved into person's mouth and water was forcibly poured down the throat in larger and larger doses. If they were stupid enough to resist, his/her stomach would eventually explode.

There is another old form of interrogation called "pressing" that certainly fits Wayne Simmons' criteria for an effective "coercive interrogation" tactic. "Pressing" was used in cases where a defendant would not enter a plea in a legal case. It involved putting heavier and heavier rocks on the chest of the prisoner, who was stretched on the ground., As each rock was added, the poor soul was asked to enter a plea. If they refused, another rock was added - and another and another. During the Salem Witch Trials in colonial Massachusetts, Giles Corey was pressed to death rather than enter a plea. By doing so, he saved his property for his descendants.

It would seem that both forced consumption of water and "pressing" fit Wayne Simmons' definition of "coercive interrogation" in that both methods gradually increase the discomfort level of the prisoner to the point of death yet always allow him or her an "out," i.e., to confess or to do the bidding of the interrogator.

However, history calls both techniques torture So why a would "waterboarding" or "freezer incarceration" be any different? How long do you think you'd last if you were locked in a freezer for hours on end, to the point of death, then revived, then stuck back in the same freezer to the point of death, then revived? I wonder how long Judge Napolitano or John Gibson or Bill O'Reilly or Sean Hannity would last under similar conditions?

And then there's the human fallibility factor. Mr. Simmons neglects to mention that only the Supreme Being knows the exact moment when someone's heart will give out or their lungs will collapse or an allergic reaction will take place or a pre-existing medical condition will cause their demise. No human being - no matter how skilled as a torturer - oops! interrogator - can know the precise moment of death. Currently, the military is investigating 40 deaths of prisoners of war.

As for his ridiculous statements about time-sensitivity, virtually all experts agree that, after 48 hours, that argument is bogus. There is a very small window of opportunity to get needed information.

FOX News Channel has got to live with this decision. In a week when CNN's world-wide corps of journalists was reporting story after story about the immense relief effort underway in South Asia , FOX spent a lot of time defending torture.

Ironic, isn't it?

Oh, and, by the way, who's trying to put Wayne Simmons in jail?


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