Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Liberal "Hero" Jon Stewart Cozies Up to War Criminal Myers

As even a commenter at The Daily Show's website put it, Jon Stewart's interview tonight with former Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff under George W. Bush, General Richard Myers, was "one of the most fawning, sycophantic interviews I have ever seen Jon Stewart do."

There is no transcript or link to the interview yet. It's too fresh. From my memory, the interview began with Stewart lauding the sacrifice of U.S. troops, and it also ended the same way. A few days after electrifying much of the blogosphere with a critical interview with MSNBC CNBC financial host Jim Cramer, Stewart showed how he can cower when faced with someone with real power, and not a small-time media crony like Cramer.

General Myers was promoted to the chairmanship of the Joint Chiefs only two weeks before 9/11, after having served as vice chair under President Clinton. As a loyal military man under the evil Bush/Cheney regime, he helped organize the "shock and awe" invasion of Iraq that produced hundreds of thousands of deaths and a million or more refugees, all under the guise of a bogus search for supposed weapons of mass destruction.

But that's not all. As Mark Benjamin reported in Salon.com last summer, General Myers was singled out by witnesses for Senator Levin's Senate Armed Services Committee investigation of how torture occurred under Department of Defense sponsorship. Prior to this investigation, faced with Abu Ghraib and other torture scandals, Myers pleaded being out of touch, claiming he had failed to read the military report on the investigation into Abu Ghraib. Later, Myers hoodwinked author Phillipe Sands, who in his book Torture Team, told Myers' tale how he had been hoodwinked by a cabal within the Bush administration, who fooled him into thinking the torture by DoD was actually the application of techniques allowed by the Army Field Manual, and therefore consistent with Common Article 3 of the Geneva Conventions. (See this April 2008 article in the UK Guardian.)

But Myers' narrative broke down under the documentary evidence unearthed by the SASC and the testimony of key witnesses at a 2008 hearing of Levin's Armed Services committee. The "plans" under consideration in the quoted selection below concerns a set of "Counter-Resistance Strategy techniques", which were initially discussed at a meeting of military psychologists, high-level Guantanamo officials, and representatives of the CIA and Defense Intelligence Agency in October 2002, the minutes for which I reproduced at this site some weeks ago. The "techniques" included clear abusive and torture techniques, including hooding, nudity, light/auditory deprivation, "wet towel treatments" (waterboarding), isolation, stress positions, 20 hour interrogations, and other horrifying ways to break down an individual.

From Mark Benjamin's fascinating account at Salon.com (emphases added):
According to written correspondence that came to light during a Senate Armed Services Committee hearing June 17, various military leaders balked at the plans in a series of memos produced during the first week of November 2002. In addition to the criticisms raised by the Army, the Air Force leadership cited "serious concerns regarding the legality" of the list of proposed techniques. The Navy also called for further legal review, and the Marine Corps stated that the techniques "arguably violate federal law."

Because of these concerns, Myers' legal counsel, Rear Adm. Jane Dalton, began a fresh evaluation of the legality of the interrogation tactics. "My recollection is that all four of the [military services] suggested that there needed to be further legal and policy review," Dalton testified. The legal review, she told the committee, would have included further input from the military services and provided for a full airing of their concerns.

But such an analysis threatened to undermine Rumsfeld's agenda -- and that's when Myers stepped in. Dalton testified that Myers ordered her to stop that review because of a request from Pentagon general counsel William Haynes. Haynes was spearheading Rumsfeld's efforts to set up a harsh-interrogation program at the Pentagon. "The best of my recollection as to how this occurred is that the chairman called me aside and indicated to me that Mr. Haynes did not want this broad-based review to take place," Dalton testified. "When I learned that Mr. Haynes did not want that broad-based legal and policy review to take place, then I stood down from the plans."

Dalton said Myers was aware that the military services believed the interrogation techniques might be against the law. "It is my recollection that he was aware of these concerns and that I made him aware of those concerns," she said.
This is war crimes material, and along with Myer's command of the atrocity that was the invasion of Iraq, he shall have to stand in the dock of justice someday, if there is to be accountability for these crimes. Benjamin noted this in his article:
"He is rarely referenced as one of the usual suspects," noted Jonathan Turley, a professor at George Washington Law School who is following the continuing Senate investigation. "He did play a much more central role" than previously known, Turley said. "The minute the military lawyers expressed concern, they were shut down."
And what did these concerns look like?

On October 28, 2002, Mark Fallon, Deputy Commander at Criminal Investigation Task Force (CITF) sent a memo to a colleague. He was uneasy about what he had read in the Counter Resistance Strategy Meeting Minutes. He told his colleague the comments of Lieutenant Colonel Diane Beaver and others at the meeting "looks like the kinds of stuff Congressional hearings are made of." The techniques "seem to stretch beyond the bounds of legal propriety."
Quotes from LTC Beaver regarding things that are not being reported give the appearance of impropriety.... Talk of "wet towel treatments" which results in the lymphatic gland reacting as if you are suffocating, would in my opinion; shock the conscience of any legal body looking at using the results of the interrogations or possibly even the interrogators. Someone needs to be considering how history will look back at this.
To return for a moment from the serious to the somewhat mundane, maybe Jon Stewart, who wants to portray himself as some kind of conscience for America, will want to think about history will look back at his shameless performance of fawning obsequiance before a genuine war criminal.

Perhaps Stewart didn't know this history. If not, he should have. That's what he has a staff for. Instead, he promoted Myers book, asking shyly at one point if anyone had spoken up in any administration meetings pre-war with Iraq and said it was "a bad idea." Myers' assertion that the war in Iraq was turning out positive passed without comment by the supposedly assertive and combative, if respectful, Stewart.

I never liked listening to the accolades given Jon Stewart, whose comedy I enjoy, over the Cramer episode, because I had seen him too often cave in before the most reactionary figures. And sure enough, he couldn't wait but a few days before proving me right.

Shame on you, Jon Stewart. And shame on America, which allows war criminals to go on fancy book tours while the people whose lives they destroyed remain in exile, crippled, or for those whose torture Myers cavalierly overlooked, in dark prison cells awaiting some kind of justice.

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