On the same day that Bush made this speech [arguing for "an alternative set of procedures" for interrogation], Lt. Gen. John F. Kimmons, the Army's deputy chief of staff for intelligence, presented the Army's new field manual on interrogation, which pointedly encoded the Geneva Conventions. Kimmons went out of his way to say, "No good intelligence is going to come from abusive interrogation practices."
– Sidney Blumenthal, "Where Torture Got Him," Salon.com
You stand around with drinks in your hands long enough, and eventually you might talk about real life. He and I share an interest in golf. But this night we were eating artichoke dip and talking about torture.
Today, he is a top real estate/environmental law attorney, but once he served in the Navy, in the Judge Advocate General's office, during Vietnam. He and his peers dealt with atrocity cases involving U.S. troops. The My Lai massacre and the prosecution of Lt. Calley was the marquee case of the times, but he said the JAG lawyers handled many, many more cases.
But they were never made public. He did not say men went unpunished. He said their crimes were kept secret.
He is appalled by the Bush Administration's move toward subversion of the military code, because he believes it worked. He is not alone.
Service in Vietnam was coveted by lawyers who planned a military career, so the assignments were not easy to come by. Presumably, many of those who served there did move upward, and today, they would be in the top ranks of the military's legal corps. Senator Lindsey Graham (R-SC) is a former JAG and opponent of Bush’s moves to subvert the Geneva Conventions. The JAG, the FBI and former military leaders all the way to Colin Powell also reject, in Blumenthal's words, "unstated premise that the more sadism, the more intelligence" — and the more protection for higher ups who condone mistreatment of captives, the safer the country.
When retired generals and senior officers beyond the career-limiting reach of a bad fitness report speak out against the President's policies, the country should listen. So said the man who has worked the ugly cases and found some men lacking, but the military still honorable.
Another, shorter conversation. He is a true believer, a former Washington staffer who now raises money. I won't need to tell you for whom. We toss good-natured barbs across the divide.
Tonight, the subject is Keith Ellison, 5th Congressional District candidate and Republican boogeyman.
"Are you doing work for your man Ellison?" he asks. He is always doing work for his men.
"Not for his campaign, no. But I'm for him."
"He's a bad actor," he says and begins repeating some of the lowest of the low slime about Ellison. "He's not who he seems."
"Careful," I say. "We both know how one of your boys has a huge issue. It just hasn't landed him in court."
In fact, we've discussed it. But if that officeholder walked into the room right now, my friend would be right next to him. I get the sense if Ellison showed up, he would encircle his nice wife and sweet child and bundle them off to the safety of Wayzata.
But neither politician is here, only the fog that surrounds them. There's just two men trying to talk to each other about things we can't see and don't want to hear.