Rove on Waterboarding

Friday, March 12th, 2010

The memoirs of Karl Rove, George W. Bush’s supposed “Brain,” are now out. (Sigh . . . yes, I give you the link there to Amazon, even though they gravely miscategorized the work by not filing it under “fiction.”) The European reaction to this event is so far disappointing, in terms of any demonstrated willingness to call out pure hooey, bunk, baloney, poppycock for what it is, using any equivalent term in the local language.

We do have at least a start, with Marcus Ziener in the German business newspaper Handelsblatt of all places (The president’s eternal string-puller). He zeroes in (as does Rove in his book, apparently) on the Iraq War and Hurricane Katrina – two of the George W. Bush administration’s biggest blunders, but not to hear Rove tell it. No, they were just unfortunate misunderstandings. Bush’s “Heck of a job, Brownie!” was nothing more than a gesture of morale support to a staff-member under pressure. And as for Iraq, the President was certain Saddam had WMD – he certainly would not have invaded the country at all had he known that he didn’t.

Up in his piece’s lede, Ziener makes the rather obvious observation that, with this book and the new publicity tour designed to sell it, Bush’s former leading political strategist is out to rehabilitate not only the reputation of the president he served, but also his own. Actually, it probably goes rather beyond that: when it comes to waterboarding and other “enhanced interrogation techniques,” Rove (along with some other involved officials, especially former VP Dick Cheney) apparently feels the need to take some pre-emptive action to ward off a potential criminal indictment for conspiracy to torture – a crime against humanity all of us can recognize when we see it, and contrary both to the Geneva Conventions and US law. This lashing-out is what we see in his statement yesterday to the BBC in which he asserted he was even “proud we used techniques that broke the will of these terrorists.” (You can click the video on that BBC page to hear the words come out of “Turdblossom’s” very mouth; for me, hearing his voice this morning was all I needed to quickly switch to some other radio station.)

And again, reaction in the European press is disappointing so far. (Of course, less time has elapsed since Rove went on the BBC.) What there is, is generally just a straight transmission of his remarks, suitably translated. At least we do have Lidové noviny of the Czech Republic (Waterboarding is not torture, assets former Bush advisor). Yes, the report itself (from the Czech news agency CTK) just passes on what Rove has to say. But some on-line editorial assistant has also shrewdly inserted counterpoint in the form of a brief YouTube video about waterboarding from Amnesty International. (Check it out, if you want: it’s not so very shocking, even as it makes the point.)

UPDATE: Look, I don’t intend to touch Rove’s book with a ten-foot pole. But if you’re interested, I do have to admit that it’s still available from Amazon (at that link I gave you at the top of the post) for $16.50 with free shipping and mishandling (h/t to late-night comedian Jimmy Fallon).

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