Ellen Ratner is the White House correspondent and bureau chief for the Talk Radio News service. She is also Washington bureau chief and political editor for Talkers Magazine. In addition, Ratner is a news analyst at the Fox News Channel.More ↓Less ↑
I’ve been in radio a few months shy of 20 years. I have been on far-left shows, far-right shows and lots of in-between shows. Most of the time I am a newsperson. Both on radio and television, I find myself arguing with people whose viewpoints are on the other side of mine. Usually, both sides have profound respect for each other. Sometimes it gets a bit out of bounds, but most of the time it is respectful.
As I look at my 20 years in electronic media, there is one thing that I can’t deal with. It is out-and-out lying. I can deal with a difference of opinion. Many hosts and I disagree about taxes, the safety net and the war on drugs. We disagree about the role of government. That is fine.
Different people of good will can have basic, fundamental viewpoints about real issues. However, when those disagreements are so important to people that the other side winds up lying, then there is a question of ethics. Such as been the arguments during the last two weeks about “enhanced interrogation techniques,” also known as torture.
I have been all over various types of electronic media the last two weeks where the person on the other side has simply not told the truth. It took John McCain’s speech on the floor of the Senate this week to clear things up. This is the very same John McCain who was a prisoner of war during Vietnam and was the Republican Party nominee for president in the most recent election.
The lies have been in two basic areas, the international rules and regulations that the United States has signed on to and also what has been the result of our country’s use of torture.
On the International rules, Sen. McCain said that torture is a “violation of the Detainee Treatment Act of 2005, the Military Commissions Act of 2006 and Common Article Three of the Geneva Conventions, all of which forbid cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment of all captured combatants, whether they wear the uniform of a country or are essentially stateless.”
It is amazing that I have heard host after host say that the Genevas don’t apply to combatants that are stateless. The Genevas do, and the media folks who think they don’t are either ignorant or lying. Many tell me that they have read and studied the Genevas. They clearly have not.
The other main lie of the week is that these “enhanced interrogation techniques” produced the intelligence that led us directly to bin Laden. McCain used his floor speech to deflate this pro-torture crowd.
He went right after the Bushies, especially Michael Mukasey, the former attorney general who was claiming that that Khalid Sheikh Mohammed broke down under multiple waterboardings and reveled the name of the “trusted” courier of bin Laden. McCain said simply, “That is false.”
Being a senior senator, John McCain had direct access to the CIA and its director, Leon Panetta. During the last two weeks, I heard numerous hosts saying that Panetta said these techniques produced the information that led to bin Laden. McCain got to the truth.
Quoting Panetta, McCain said: “The trail to bin Laden did not begin with a disclosure from Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, who was waterboarded 183 times. We did not first learn from Khalid Sheikh Mohammed the real name of bin Laden’s courier, or his alias, Abu Ahmed al-Kuwaiti –the man who ultimately enabled us to find bin Laden. The first mention of the name Abu Ahmed al-Kuwaiti, as well as a description of him as an important member of al-Qaida, came from a detainee held in another country. The United States did not conduct this detainee’s interrogation, nor did we render him to that country for the purpose of interrogation. We did not learn Abu Ahmed’s real name or alias as a result of waterboarding or any “enhanced interrogation technique” used on a detainee in U.S. custody. None of the three detainees who were waterboarded provided Abu Ahmed’s real name, his whereabouts, or an accurate description of his role in al-Qaida.”
That just about does it. “Case closed,” as they say. It is amazing that few in the “mainstream media” gave much ink or airtime to McCain’s floor speech. Even the New York Times’ public editor in critiquing his newspaper said nothing about the McCain speech or its coverage. This is very same “liberal” press that the right wing carps about.
My complaints are not only with the lack of press about the truth but with the out-and-out disinformation and lying by those of the “let’s torture crowd.” It is immoral to torture and unethical to lie about it. Worse, it doesn’t work.