The silly SERE argument

THE SILLY SERE ARGUMENT…. Dick Cheney isn’t the only Bush administration official trying to defend his legacy. Yesterday, it became a family affair as his daughter, former State Department official Liz Cheney, got in on the act.

Several alert readers let me know about Liz Cheney’s interview with MSNBC’s Norah O’Donnell, in which the two explored the now-infamous torture memos. Cheney threw around a lot of nonsense, but repeatedly emphasized the idea that waterboarding, all evidence and reality to the contrary, is not torture. Most notably, she argued, “Everything that was done in this program, as has been laid out and described before, are tactics that our own people go through in SERE training…. We did not torture our own people. These techniques are not torture.”

Since this seems to be popping up more and more in conservative circles, let’s note all of the many reasons the argument is completely wrong.

First, both Bush’s Justice Department and the CIA inspector general agree that SERE training and waterboarding detainees are “very different” situations. Second, Cheney’s argument itself indirectly helps prove the point critics are making. As Matt Yglesias explained, “[T]he larger issue here is that SERE stands for Survival, Evasion, Resistance and Escape. And by ‘resistance’ they mean resistance to torture. What we do when we train soldiers isn’t torture, because it’s training. But it’s training in torture resistance. When we look through the torture-resistance manual to find ways to do interrogations, we’re looking through the torture-resistance manual to find ways of torturing people.”

Or, as Jason Linkins put it, “[T]he training Liz Cheney describes is undertaken to prepare our fighting men and women for the sadistic acts that might be done to them if captured.”

Third, if we’re waterboarding Americans 183 times in SERE training, it’s probably time to reevaluate the program.

For what it’s worth, Cheney reportedly wouldn’t appear on MSNBC alongside Lawrence O’Donnell, but he came on after her segment to do some fact-checking. Not surprisingly, Liz Cheney got a whole lot wrong, from waterboarding to the Blair memo to the bogus argument about waterboarding preventing an attack on Los Angeles.

At this point, perhaps the loyal Bushies should just stop trying to defend the indefensible. The more they push back, the worse their arguments appear.

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