Wednesday, January 18, 2006

# Posted 8:03 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

CHRIS MATTHEWS GETS PERSONAL: Here's Matthews last Friday:
Richard Haass was the State Department advisor, in fact, under President Bush, and is currently the president of the Council on Foreign Relations. Richard, thanks for coming on tonight.

I know I‘m a bit scarred by too many guests coming on this show in the days just after we invaded Iraq saying—and many of them are neoconservatives as they‘re called, very hard line people in the Middle East saying they can‘t wait to move on to Iran or Syria.

Maybe I‘m thinking Michael Ledeen and people like that, and Gaffney and that whole crowd. And I‘m sure I got some of them wrong here, but the main point of the very hawkish people is let‘s get them all now. Is there still a mentality in the foreign affairs community that we can go in and actually take over Iran the way we did Iraq?
No chip on his shoulder, eh? Now here's Matthews on Monday night, talking to Tony Lagouranis, a former army interrogator, about the abuse of Iraqi prisoners:
MATTHEWS: And when we bring them in, they just start rubber hosing them or start assuming their guilty? Or what‘s the approach we take to prisoners?...

LAGOURANIS: If they‘re judged guilty then they‘ll either get sent to the Iraqi police and sent through an Iraqi judicial process or they‘ll stay in Abu Ghraib for further questioning.

MATTHEWS: Well, what‘s the punishment though?

LAGOURANIS: I don‘t know what happens to them once they get to the Iraqi judicial process.

MATTHEWS: Well, do they disappear? Did you ever hear from them later, people that you thought were innocent?

LAGOURANIS: I never heard from them later.

MATTHEWS: Are we executing people over there? Are we putting them in prison camps beyond contact with everyone else? Are we banishing them to some outer place in Iraq?

LAGOURANIS: I can‘t really say.

MATTHEWS: You really don‘t know what happened to all those people?

LAGOURANIS: I have no idea.
It's sort of interesting how Matthews' guest talks about prisoners being "sent through an Iraqi judicial process" but Matthews doesn't ask a single question about that process, instead jumping to questions about disapperances and executions.

Now, we know that Iraqi security forces have committed some very serious atrocities. But those atrocities co-exist with a nascent judicial system, so it would be nice if Matthews actually tried to get some information about what that system is like instead of presuming that it is a front for murder.

On a related note, some of you may remember that Lagouranis already has some experience on the talk show circuit discussing prisoner abuse. In October, he went on PBS to air his allegations, provoking blogger and ex-SEAL Matthew Heidt (of Froggy Ruminations), to challenge Lagouranis' character and credibility.

Surprisingly, Lagouranis responded in great detail in the comments section on Heidt's blog, provoking a rather nasty but still informative debate. In contrast, Matthews didn't even think to question the basic facts of Lagouranis' story. In fact, he didn't even bother pinning down the details of Lagouranis' allegations.

The issue here isn't that serious abuse occurred at Abu Ghraib and elsewhere. It certainly did. But journalists -- up to and including talk-show hosts with pretensions of playing hardball -- should still invest a little more effort in verifying such damaging allegations.
(3) opinions -- Add your opinion


You're amazing. First, Abu Ghraib is an "embarassment" in which you completely ignore the Bush administration's attempts to make an end run around laws prohibiting torture and now "atrocities co-exist with a nascent judicial system?" Talk about defining deviancy down!

Glad that my older borther got his PhD at Cambridge ;-)
Randy, I'm glad you're here to hold my feet to the fire, but I think you're being a little unfair.

I have been relentless in condemning what happened at Abu Ghraib and elsewhere, so I don't think that my referring once to Abu Ghraib as an "embarassment" (as opposed to an "atrocity" or an "abomination") is grounds for much criticism. Nor has this blog avoided addressing the issue of torture head on.

As for "defining deviancy down", that's a pretty glib dismissal of a fair point about the complexity of the in/justice system in a transitional state. If you think that my language is making excuses for such behavior, than you are reading into my post what isn't there.
Well, David, if you're making the case that this war took place for democracy promotion and if you believe vigorously in this aspect of the Bush foreign policy, then I believe that you should be outraged that the president has sought to promote the likes of Alberto Gonzales to be AG and the fact that he has retained Donald Rumsfeld and that all they have really gone after in Abu Ghraib is the low-hanging fruit like graner and England.

If you believe that Abu Ghraib is an aberration, then I think you're being disingenous. The administration wanted to have a little torture and ended up getting a lot. Responsibility for this comes from the top. It's also not much of stretch to believe that Abu Ghraib led to the atrocities committed by the Iraqis.

A good friend of mine fled East Germany successfully after three attempts. He was caught the first two times and was tortured. His ultimate goal was to come to the US knowing the respect for human rights that there at least used to be here. He's devastated.

So are these people. And the president still feels compelled to add on the signing statement to the McCain Bill.

Nothing personal, David, and I apologize if I seemed a bit over the top, but somehow the notion of "democracy promotion" does not mix well with crimes against humanity like torture.
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