Monday, May 25, 2009

Pelosi and the CIA: Liar’s Poker

In her first press conference since she accused the CIA last week of lying to her about harsh interrogation techniques, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, California Democrat, said she stood by her statement but refused to answer additional questions about the fierce political fallout from her comments…Pelosi dodges CIA questions in briefing, Kara Rowland, Washington Times, 5/22/2009

One hopes that nobody was surprised. If, in an office, you go to a friendly manager and lie about a colleague for personal, or political, gain, would you, when someone exposed this, immediately say you were sorry? If you were willing to betray a colleague for personal gain, it’s not very likely that you would repent. Most likely, you’d raise the stakes by making your accusations public before the entire office. Lying, if carried out with real conviction, is a powerful tool, especially if it’s conducted in an atmosphere already torn by controversy.

In what has been described for a generation as the paranoid style in politics (Richard Hofstadter originated the phrase in an essay in the 1960s, a straw man is set up – enhanced interrogation techniques in this instance, rhetorically enhanced, emotionally presented – the humanity, oh! the humanity! Then, whoever was associated with a given practice is vilified to the considerable political advantage of the original storyteller.

Let’s be honest. The water torture developed by the CIA, compared to fictional TV representations of behavior in the interrogation room of an urban police precinct, is tame. Compared to the sexual torture, rape, mutilation, and murder granted to prisoners of Al Qaeda, the CIA’s enhanced interrogation technique is almost laughable. If anything, Leftist critics of the prior administration were most often appalled that the CIA wouldn’t go further to prevent another 9/11, or worse, a nuclear 9/11. We know that Speaker Pelosi was one of those. But, she’s told her Big Lie now. Her constituents, and they are legion, are shrieking their approval, and crying of her victimization. The hoax will develop a life of its own. At some point, as her career in the House begins to fall apart, someone will mention Joan of Arc.

It’s better TV than politics, however. Some day soon, we ought to start paying attention to the latter. TV is just an image. Lies in politics can last a long time.


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