UPDATE: A Correction: Stuart Taylor sends me angry emails stating that I was wrong to claim that he was recently an enthusiastic supporter of the Bushies in Guantanamo, with phrases like: "I was right about you. Distortion through selective quotation is your purpose.You appear to be as dishonest as the worst of the wingnuts on the right."
Stuart Taylor's complaint is correct: I was wrong to claim that he was until recently an enthusiastic supporter of the Bushies in Guantanamo.
I misread my files, and thought that some statements of Taylor from 2002 were in fact from 2004. For example, Taylor's accusations that those worrying about what was going on in Guantanamo were in an "overwrought tizzy" and were "anti-American hypocrites who habitually turn a blind eye to egregious human rights violations in the Arab world and in Castro's Cuba" did not come from 2004 but from February 4, 2002.
I apologize for the error.
For the record, Taylor last carried water for Bush administration actions in Guantanamo on March 1, 2004, where the beginning of his column is:
The perception* that the Bush administration has systematically denied due process to the more than 650 alleged "enemy combatants" at Guantanamo Bay has both shocked Americans who care about the rule of law, me included, and done America enormous damage in world opinion. But the system may be starting to work. Indeed, it may have been working for some time better than I had thought.... [T]he administration has made a plausible case that its process for deciding whether to send prisoners to Guantanamo -- where detainees from more than 40 countries have been held for as long as two years -- has far more rigorous safeguards than had previously been disclosed...
For the record, Taylor's last piece of open cheerleading for George W. Bush that I have been able to find comes on March 14, 2005:
As time passed, I came to fear that the invasion [of Iraq] had probably been a disastrous mistake.... I descended into dismay about Bush.... Bush's feckless failure to prevent North Korea from going nuclear... Guantanamo abuses... disdain for diplomacy... irresponsible approach to global warming... fiscal recklessness... shifting of tax burdens from the rich... swaggering refusal to ever admit error, the smirk, and more. Now, though, I am rooting for Bush to go down in history as a great president. That could happen.... How can we not root for Bush to win this campaign for Arab democracy, even if his chances still seem no better than even? And while celebrations are premature, shouldn't we sometime Bush-bashers -- and even the full-time Bush-haters -- be prepared to give great credit to him and his neocons, if and when it becomes clear that they have engineered a historic breakthrough?... [N]o matter how shallow, slippery, and smug Bush sometimes seems, if he ends up changing the world for the better, he will be entitled to a presumption of wisdom, even brilliance...
*Note Taylor's definition of the real problem at Guantanamo: the "perception" of the systematic denial of due process. Yyou can find similar "definitions" of the real problem elsewhere, for example December 17, 2005, where Taylor says that the real problem is that there is an "uproar over the use of coercive interrogation techniques" that "squeeze potentially life-saving information out of suspected terrorists." His column begins:
There is more than enough blame to go around for the disastrous damage done to our international standing and national security by the uproar over the use of coercive interrogation methods -- all of them "torture," in the parlance of many critics -- to squeeze potentially life-saving information out of suspected terrorists...
Voltaire said: "I may disagree with what you say, but I'll defend your right to say it." In the case of Stuart Taylor, Jr. of the National Journal, I want to turn this around:
I agree with what Taylor is now saying about how "many of us have suspected for years" that "countless assertions by administration officials... that all -- or the vast majority -- of the prisoners at Guantanamo Bay are... terrorists... captured on 'the battlefield'... have been false.... Many scores... innocent, wrongly seized noncombatants... handed over by reward-seeking Pakistanis and Afghan warlords... noncombatant teachers and humanitarian workers.... Bush administration... very little effort to corroborate... plausible claims of innocence..."
I agree with what he says. But I think he has no right to say it.
Back in 2004--less than two years ago--and before, you see, Stuart Taylor, Jr., was an enthusiastic endorser of the Bushies' deeds at Guantanamo [CORRECTION: Taylor points out that he has been a longtime critic of how Guantanamo was run] critic of those who were "unduly fastidious", with phrases like "It's easy to sit in judgment on those assigned to deal with the threat of catastrophic terrorism.... Telling a prisoner that he or his family will be killed unless he talks is not torture.... Torture may be justified.... [D]efine "torture" narrowly enough on a case-by-case basis to leave considerable leeway for tough, coercive interrogation.... [U]ndue fastidiousness in interrogating terrorists could lead to the preventable murders of thousands of people..."
Ah. Back in 2004 Stuart Taylor, Jr., was an enthusiastic endorser of the Bushies' deeds
at Guantanamo, [Taylor points out--correctly--that he was then a critic of how Guantanamo was run. But he was and remains eager that we not be unduly fastidious in interrogating terrorists] with phrases like "It's easy to sit in judgment on those assigned to deal with the threat of catastrophic terrorism.... Telling a prisoner that he or his family will be killed unless he talks is not torture.... Torture may be justified.... [D]efine "torture" narrowly enough on a case-by-case basis to leave considerable leeway for tough, coercive interrogation.... [U]ndue fastidiousness in interrogating terrorists could lead to the preventable murders of thousands of people..."
When, in mid 2004, Erin Waters of the National Journal wrote me to ask why I had not resubscribed, I wrote back saying that I would never pay another cent to the National Journal as long as it employed ethically-challenged lawyers like Stuart Taylor Jr. who took America's major edge--that we are the Good Guys--and threw it in the trash. I had examples:
Stuart Taylor: There is no evidence that the administration ever approved "torture" (which it has defined extremely narrowly) as a matter of policy. Justice did approve a number of highly coercive, still-classified interrogation methods, such as feigning suffocation and subjecting prisoners to sleep deprivation and "stress positions." Using such methods, the CIA squeezed valuable information out of Qaeda leaders...
Stuart Taylor: Some of the attacks on the recently leaked Bush administration legal memoranda about the use of torture and lesser forms of coercion to extract information are a bit facile. It's easy to sit in judgment on those assigned to deal with the threat of catastrophic terrorism. It's much harder to provide morally or legally satisfying answers.... Telling a prisoner that he or his family will be killed unless he talks is not torture, for example, unless the threat is of "imminent" death...
Stuart Taylor: Torture may be justified in rare [cases].... [W]hat about the Qaeda member caught by Philippine intelligence agents in 1995 in a Manila bomb factory? Defiant through 67 days of savage torture -- most of his ribs broken, cigarettes burned into his private parts -- he finally cracked when threatened (falsely) with being turned over to Israel's Mossad. And he revealed the so-called "Bojinka" plot to crash 11 U.S. airliners and 4,000 passengers into the Pacific...
Stuart Taylor: The best way to minimize the conflict between the need for aggressive interrogation and the prohibitions of human-rights law may be to define "torture" narrowly enough on a case-by-case basis to leave considerable leeway for tough, coercive interrogation short of excessive brutality.... Coercive interrogation of suspected terrorists is arguably legal.... This view... seems right.... [U]ndue fastidiousness in interrogating terrorists could lead to the preventable murders of thousands of people...
Stuart Taylor: [I]t's clear... there should be no Miranda warnings or lawyers for suspected Qaeda terrorists.... The same logic holds to some extent even if the suspect is a U.S. citizen, and even if he is seized on U.S. soil, as in the case of the Brooklyn-born Padilla...
http://nationaljournal.com/members/buzz/2004/openingargument/070604.htm http://nationaljournal.com/members/buzz/2004/openingargument/061404.htm http://nationaljournal.com/members/buzz/2004/openingargument/051004.htm http://nationaljournal.com/members/buzz/2004/openingargument/051004.htm
And, yes, now--many days late and many dollars short--Stuart Taylor, Jr. has changed his tune. Gary Farber points us to:
Stuart Taylor: Falsehoods About Guantanamo (02/06/2006): [C]ountless assertions by administration officials over the past four years that all -- or the vast majority -- of the prisoners at Guantanamo Bay are Qaeda terrorists or Taliban fighters captured on "the battlefield"... have been false.... [M]any of the 500-odd men now held at Guantanamo... were captured on Afghan battlefields or were terrorists... [but] many of us have suspected for years:
- A high percentage, perhaps the majority, of the 500-odd men now held at Guantanamo were not captured on any battlefield...
- Fewer than 20 percent of the Guantanamo detainees, the best available evidence suggests, have ever been Qaeda members.
- Many scores... were innocent, wrongly seized noncombatants with no intention of joining the Qaeda campaign to murder Americans.
- The majority were... handed over by reward-seeking Pakistanis and Afghan warlords and by villagers of highly doubtful reliability. These locals had strong incentives to tar as terrorists any and all Arabs they could get their hands on... including noncombatant teachers and humanitarian workers. And the Bush administration has apparently made very little effort to corroborate the plausible claims of innocence detailed by many of the men who were handed over....
The tribunal hearings, based largely on such guilt-by-association logic, have been travesties of unfairness. The detainees are presumed guilty unless they can prove their innocence -- without help from lawyers and without being permitted to know the details and sources of the evidence against them. This evidence is almost entirely hearsay from people without firsthand knowledge and statements from other detainees desperate to satisfy their brutally coercive interrogators. One file says, "Admitted to knowing Osama bin Laden," based on an interrogation in which the detainee -- while being pressed to "admit" this, despite his denials -- finally said in disgust, "OK, I knew him; whatever you want."... The administration's unspoken logic appears to be: Better to ruin the lives of 10 innocent men than to let one who might be a terrorist go free.
This logic would be understandable if the end of protecting American lives justified any and all means, including the wrecking of many more innocent non-American lives. So, too, would be the torture (or near-torture) in late 2002 of the above-mentioned al-Kahtani... interrogated for 18 to 20 hours a day for 48 of 54 days; he had water dripped on his head and was blasted with cold air-conditioning and loud music to keep him awake; his beard and head were shaved; he was forced to wear a bra and panties and to dance with a male jailer; he was hooded; he was menaced with a dog, told to bark like one and led around on a leash; he was pumped full of intravenous fluids and forced to urinate on himself; he was straddled by a female interrogator and stripped naked; and more -- all under a list of interrogation methods personally approved by Rumsfeld. Al-Kahtani may well have had valuable information. But it appears that many other detainees who had no information... have been put through "humiliating acts, solitary confinement, temperature extremes, use of forced positions" in a systematic effort to break their wills that is "tantamount to torture."...
Bush has... pledged that the Guantanamo detainees are treated "humanely." At the same time, he has stressed, "I know for certain... that these are bad people" -- all of them, he has implied.
If the president believes either of these assertions, he is a fool. If he does not, choose your own word for him.
Stuart Taylor Jr. Many days late. Many dollars short. And not a single sentence apologizing for his enthusiastic endorsements of the Bushies in the past.
Impeach George W. Bush. Impeach him now. Impeach Richard Cheney. Fire Stuart Taylor too.