Ed Rollins, in the midst of excusing torture, revives the Everything-Was-So-Confusing defense of the previous regime:
Things aren’t as simple as they were in the old days, when, for the most part, countries had conflicts with each other and they went to war wearing different-colored uniforms so you knew who your enemy was and where they might be found.
Ed Rollins, the poor fellow, seems to have confused history with Stratego. Otherwise, I’m not sure how to explain how he might offer such an amnesiated account of these so-called “old days.” Last I recall, for example, the belligerents in World War II spent a considerable amount of time in 1939-40 dumping bombs on rival civilians because this tack was regarded as somehow more expedient than mobilizing armies in different colored uniforms to exterminate each other along trench lines. Meantime, the United States was at least confused enough about the location of its enemies that it chose to round up 120,000 ordinary people living along the West Coast and deprive them of due process for several years. Somewhat later on, Truman, Eisenhower and their congressional peers were sufficiently baffled by the whereabouts of their cold war adversaries that they presided over civil service loyalty programs, hysterical House and Senate investigations, and administrative purges that continue to embarrass decent people who take the time to recall them. And that’s to say nothing of what was done beyond the borders of the US, where officials occasionally sought to resolve political ambiguities in Latin America, Africa, Southeast Asia and Africa by counseling, condoning and administering programs — all of which were intended to discover enemies who may or may not have actually existed — that were the filial ancestors of what Rollins describes as a policy of “making it up as we went along.”
None of this is fresh news, of course, even to someone like Rollins, who is evidently capable of making willfully silly arguments about the simplicity of the past. The point is that historically complex conditions often produce disastrous policies for which people need to be held accountable. Rollins would prefer that Bybee, Yoo, Cheney, Bush and the rest of them be excused from suffering legal and career troubles because they’re not “evil men” (a metaphysical argument that has nothing to do with whether they broke the law). But he’d also prefer, I think, that we not learn any more about the programs they designed and endorse — perhaps so that some future Ed Rollins can look back and declare with a straight face that Americans once lived in a “simple” era when Americans knew who the enemies were, and tortured the shit out of them.