Choosing the argument

Who cares how the Pelosi argument comes out. In th meantime, the right wing has what it wants: a distraction from Wilkerson’s explosive charge that Cheney ordered torture as part of his plan to lie us into an unnecessary war.

In politics, winning the argument is less important than getting to decide what the argument is about. It doesn’t matter whether, in the end, people believe that Nancy Pelosi was, or was not, accurately briefed about waterboarding by the CIA in 2002. (I might not believe Pelosi, there’s not a stronger corroborating witness than Bob Graham, a compulsive note-taker with a reputation as a truth-teller.)

What matters is that as long as we’re arguing about Pelosi we’re not discussing that fact that Lawrence Wilkerson, a career Army colonel of no particular partisan coloration who was chief of staff to Colin Powell at the State Department, says that the purpose of the torture regime was to provide false information to help sell the war in Iraq.

Note that the argument against putting Cheney (and his assistants, including Bush) on trial is that they ordered torture &#8212 a felony under U.S. law, and a capital crime if the victim dies, as some apparently did &#8212 in order to protect the country. But Wilkerson says they tortured people to score political points. That’s a different matter entirely. So Cheney & Co. need to make enough noise to drown Wilkerson out. That’s what they’re doing. Rebutting their charges about Pelosi is just playing their game.

Author: Mark Kleiman

Professor of Public Policy at the NYU Marron Institute for Urban Management and editor of the Journal of Drug Policy Analysis. Teaches about the methods of policy analysis about drug abuse control and crime control policy, working out the implications of two principles: that swift and certain sanctions don't have to be severe to be effective, and that well-designed threats usually don't have to be carried out. Books: Drugs and Drug Policy: What Everyone Needs to Know (with Jonathan Caulkins and Angela Hawken) When Brute Force Fails: How to Have Less Crime and Less Punishment (Princeton, 2009; named one of the "books of the year" by The Economist Against Excess: Drug Policy for Results (Basic, 1993) Marijuana: Costs of Abuse, Costs of Control (Greenwood, 1989) UCLA Homepage Curriculum Vitae Contact: