100 Days Presser: Flubbing Churchill

posted at 12:14 pm on April 30, 2009 by Ed Morrissey

Last night, Jake Tapper asked Barack Obama about enhanced interrogation techniques, and Obama firmly stated that he thinks waterboarding is torture — although he doesn’t apparently want to pursue the matter any further now after it blew up in his and Nancy Pelosi’s faces.  In support of that position, Obama quoted Winston Churchill to show that a national leader facing possible annihilation can take a strong stand against torture and prevail anyway:

Q: Thank you, Mr. President. You’ve said in the past that waterboarding, in your opinion, is torture. Torture is a violation of international law and the Geneva Conventions. Do you believe that the previous administration sanctioned torture?

OBAMA: What I’ve said — and I will repeat — is that waterboarding violates our ideals and our values. I do believe that it is torture. I don’t think that’s just my opinion; that’s the opinion of many who’ve examined the topic. And that’s why I put an end to these practices.

I am absolutely convinced it was the right thing to do, not because there might not have been information that was yielded by these various detainees who were subjected to this treatment, but because we could have gotten this information in other ways, in ways that were consistent with our values, in ways that were consistent with who we are.

I was struck by an article that I was reading the other day talking about the fact that the British during World War II, when London was being bombed to smithereens, had 200 or so detainees. And Churchill said, “We don’t torture,” when the entire British — all of the British people were being subjected to unimaginable risk and threat.

And then the reason was that Churchill understood — you start taking shortcuts, over time, that corrodes what’s — what’s best in a people. It corrodes the character of a country.

There are two things wrong with this anecdote.  First, Obama himself notoriously removed Churchill’s bust from the Oval Office, and it was widely reported that Obama resented Churchill for the treatment his grandfather received during the Mau-Mau uprising.  Specifically, he thinks Churchill ordered abusive treatment and torture of his grandfather and his cohorts, which is why I actually understood Obama’s rejection of the Churchill bust.  After all, I’d hardly keep a bust of Oliver Cromwell in my office, gift or not.

Suddenly, however, Churchill becomes the paragon of treatment of prisoners.  Except, of course, that he’s actually not.  Almost exactly three years ago, The Guardian got the government to release information about torture and murder in the British zone in Germany from 1945-1947, targeting primarily Communists:

The pictures show suspected communists who were tortured in an attempt to gather information about Soviet military intentions and intelligence methods at a time when some British officials were convinced that a third world war was only months away.

Others interrogated at the same prison, at Bad Nenndorf, near Hanover, included Nazis, prominent German industrialists of the Hitler era, and former members of the SS.

At least two men suspected of being communists were starved to death, at least one was beaten to death, others suffered serious illness or injuries, and many lost toes to frostbite.

The appalling treatment of the 372 men and 44 women who were interrogated at Bad Nenndorf between 1945 and 1947 are detailed in a report by a Scotland Yard detective, Inspector Tom Hayward. He had been called in by senior army officers to investigate the mistreatment of inmates, partly as a result of the evidence provided by these photographs.

Afterwards, the British took a remarkably relaxed attitude towards the people who ran Bad Nenndorf.  Only one got convicted of anything, a doctor whose punishment consisted entirely of a discharge from the Army.  The commander got reinstated and was given a transfer to MI-5 to work on national security.

Does anyone in the White House actually do research?

Update: Ben Smith has more, from earlier in the war.  What I find most amusing about this is that Churchill was a big proponent of reciprocity.  He bombed German population centers because Germans had no compunction about bombing Britain’s.  He also initially objected to the Nuremberg trials, preferring the traditional methods of drumhead courts-martial followed by first-class hangings.


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Did Obamaessiah use a teleprompter last night? I only saw clips and could not see TOTUS.

Susanboo on April 30, 2009 at 1:48 PM

But your claim that the English tortured under Churchill is highly dubious.
Learn some history yourself.

Tom_Shipley on April 30, 2009 at 12:43 PM

That’s gonna leave a mark.

After all, I’d hardly keep a bust of Oliver Cromwell in my office, gift or not.

Sorry, Ed, but congratulations on your new bust of Oliver Cromwell.

Right_of_Attila on April 30, 2009 at 1:49 PM

Not sure about this one (I couldn’t stomach it to watch), but last time he had one huge monitor set up under the TV camera to give him his teleprompter notes. That’s why the teleprompter gets back at him occasionally like a couple of days ago.

Christian Conservative on April 30, 2009 at 1:53 PM

Like the first comment to the Politico article:

A “seriously contested” claim? Ben, tell the TRUTH. The entire world knows Obama lied – he got this line from a lefty blogger article that was a lie. and he repeated the lie, and now you are saying there is “debate” SYCHOPHANT!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Posted By: the Truth | April 30, 2009 at 01:52 PM

But isn’t this Obama’s and the Dems modus operandi?

Christian Conservative on April 30, 2009 at 1:59 PM

After all, I’d hardly keep a bust of Oliver Cromwell in my office, gift or not.

But Ed, wouldn’t you really like a fine Chia-head Obama bust?
It’s historical!

TexasJew on April 30, 2009 at 2:03 PM

I was wondering about this last night. To the best of my knowledge, when German spies were found in Britain they were either killed or told “work for us or we’ll kill you.” How does “turning” a spy by threatening to kill him sound to Obama?

Also, why does President Obama feel that terrorists have more rights than newborn children? He doesn’t approve of denying a terrorist nutrition or medical care even when it could save thousands of lives, but he approves of doing just that to save a mother the inconvenience of having a child.

He can be so darn moral at times……

29Victor on April 30, 2009 at 2:05 PM

Does anyone believe anything Obama and his press corps say? To say that “you can always tell when a Democrat is lying–their lips are moving” is not a joke any longer. It is the truth.

iconoclast on April 30, 2009 at 2:06 PM

You can’t use Churchill as your model and then not go the whole way. So fine, let’s use Churchill as our model and we’ll do to the terrorists exactly what Churchill and the British would do to terrorists and other non-uniformed combatants. Since non-uniformed combatants were in violation of the Geneva convention, many of them died very quickly of lead poisoning.

Second point: Ironically the good treatment that German pilots received was in response to the good treatment that Allied pilots received from Hermann Goering who believed that pilots were an aristocracy and worthy of respect.

Third point: Remember when Bambi makes the Churchill comparison it isn’t simply that he wants you consider what Churchill did or didn’t do, he wants to compare himself to Churchill.

PackerBronco on April 30, 2009 at 2:11 PM

And THIS is we are told, the smartest man on the planet!

I for one would like to see someone add up and cite all the historical boo-boos or distortions Mr. Floofy Pants has committed. Since he has been in political office, the man has to have at least 50 major historical gaffes. Who could ever forget the 57 state idiocy?

This should be a gigantic telling sign to all in regards to the extreme dislike the Democrats have to solid facts. They avoid facts, or the truth like it was the plague, and we NEVER call them on this. This whole deal is proof there is a major disconnect between The One and Western Civilization as a history. He also has absolutely no clue in the area of American History. Causes one to wonder when in Indonesia, what the heck was he being taught?

freeus on April 30, 2009 at 2:13 PM

Facts are stubborn things. –stlpatriot

Wrong!

Narratives are stubborn things. Facts change as we need them to.

At least that’s how the Dems see it.

Chaz on April 30, 2009 at 2:16 PM

I think, personally, that all this is silly. We’re not in WWII.

AnninCA on April 30, 2009 at 2:19 PM

We’re not in WWII.

Unfortunately, the Islamists believe otherwise. That is, they’re in a war.

And it doesn’t take two parties to have a war. One is enough.

More seriously, right after 9/11 the prevailing thinking from just about everybody was that we were going to get hit again. And again.

That was the environment – a war footing – that the Administration was working under.

Sure, there’s legitimate criticism of these policies. But it’s unfair to criticize those policies without considering the backrop or context and intent in which they were made.

SteveMG on April 30, 2009 at 2:31 PM

Don’t know much about history anything

Fixed

NoFanofLibs on April 30, 2009 at 2:31 PM

Don’t know much about history …

Don’t know much about history
Don’t know much biology
Don’t know much about a science book
Don’t know much about the constitutional law I took

But I do know that I would love imposing Marxism on you
And I know that if you would just love Lenin too
What a wonderful socialist country this would be

La ta ta ta ta ta ta
(History)
Ooh ooh ooh ooh ooh ooh
(Biology)
La ta ta ta ta ta ta
(Science book)
Ooh ooh ooh ooh ooh ooh
(Constitutional law I took)

But I do know that I would love imposing Marxism on you
And I know that if you would just love Lenin too
What a wonderful socialist country this would be

MB4 on April 30, 2009 at 2:31 PM

But, at the same time I’m not going say based on that article that Churchill ordered or endorsed torture. It certainly seems to have occurred under him, and most likely he knew about it.

Tom_Shipley on April 30, 2009 at 1:16 PM

Like I said….”Don’t hold your breath”.

right2bright on April 30, 2009 at 2:53 PM

Since The Precedent now has a love for Churchill, it’s time to bring out a part of (most) everyone’s favorite Churchill quote, as applies to today:

The fact that in Mohammedan law every woman must belong to some man as his absolute property, either as a child, a wife, or a concubine, must delay the final extinction of slavery until the faith of Islam has ceased to be a great power among men. Individual Moslems may show splendid qualities. Thousands become the brave and loyal soldiers of the Queen; all know how to die; but the influence of the religion paralyses the social development of those who follow it.

No stronger retrograde force exists in the world. Far from being moribund, Mohammedanism is a militant and proselytizing faith. It has already spread throughout Central Africa, raising fearless warriors at every step; and were it not that Christianity is sheltered in the strong arms of science, the science against which it had vainly struggled, the civilisation of modern Europe might fall, as fell the civilisation of ancient Rome.

I hope that one of these “crack” reporters has this handy for the next press dance. I’d like to hear people interrogating all Dems about this, now that The Precedent has taken to Winston Churchill.

progressoverpeace on April 30, 2009 at 2:56 PM

Does anyone in the White House actually do research?

Ed, assuming the White House didn’t know the questions ahead of time, Obama, the most intelligent President we have had certainly in 8 years, was on his own on this one! Obamagenius was relying on his own “magnificent intellect” and recall of historical facts ability.

Since Obama’s grasp of historic detail is so deficient, maybe there’s a really good reason his grades have been hidden in a lockbox somewhere.

It certainly appears that it’s a state secret, you know, that Obama flunked “English” history. It may well never be declassified.

marybel on April 30, 2009 at 2:58 PM

Nice try, but you might want to listen more carefully when the president is speaking.

Obama was talking about

Churchill

. None of the links you provided suggested that Churchill approved the torture.

orange on April 30, 2009 at 3:10 PM

orange on April 30, 2009 at 3:10 PM

Come on. Let’s not be retarded here, okay?

lorien1973 on April 30, 2009 at 3:21 PM

Crap! there is only one rule and that rule is WHAT EVER THEY DO IS LEGAL!!!!!!

i just do not understand that the people and press in the u.s have thier shorts in a bunch about the cia trying to get information of murderous thugs trying to kill ANY ONE WHO DOES NOT WANT TO BE MUSLIM . i AM SO DAMN SICK AND TIRED OF PEOPLE IN THE U.S. WHO say the people of the u.s. are evil and wish harm on the rest of the world.

I truly thought that I tom would never make an angry post.
people over the whole world are bending over to accomadate muslims. How in hell can western civalization even consider if it is ok to kill your daughter or wife or sister in law or any women because she does not meet some standard of morality set forth by a muslim law!!

How in the hell can the american news media tell the whole damn world how evil the u.s. is for pouring water over some ones head AND NEVER SAY A WORD ABOUT THE HEADS OF PEOPLE CUT FROM THIER BODIES.

LEAST i RANT.

TomLawler on April 30, 2009 at 3:26 PM

No idea if that has been pointed out in the 2 pages but….Churchill wasn’t Prime Minister as of 5th July 1945 – he lost the general election.

He didn’t mess about at any other time either though so yeh the point still stands

VeniVidiVidic on April 30, 2009 at 3:36 PM

VVV @ 3:63,

Good try..but
Did you read Ed’s update? Maybe not, but here’s part of it, from the link

A reader points out, though, that that’s a seriously contested claim. The Guardian published an article in 2005 the alleged torture of German prisoners in the “London Cage” between 1940 and 1948.
The paper described the facility as a “torture centre” and quotes one detainee — an SS officer — alleging “that he was doused in cold water, pushed down stairs, and beaten with a cudgel. Later, he says, he was forced to stand beside a large gas stove with all its rings lit before being confined in a shower which sprayed extremely cold water from the sides as well as from above. Finally, the SS man says, he and another prisoner were taken into the gardens behind the mansions, where they were forced to run in circles while carrying heavy logs.”

marybel on April 30, 2009 at 3:53 PM

I think, personally, that all this is silly. We’re not in WWII.
AnninCA on April 30, 2009 at 2:19 PM

Obama is “the One” who brought it up, not us!

Susanboo on April 30, 2009 at 4:05 PM

MB4 on April 30, 2009 at 2:31 PM

LOL!!!

Susanboo on April 30, 2009 at 4:07 PM

Not again…

Tom_Shipley:

Ed, before you start accusing people of not doing research, you better make sure you have done you’re own.

Um, here’s a public service announcement for you, guvner:

AVOID Pot-Kettle-Black moments like the plague.

You say that the British did torture under Churchill.

And in that case he is DAMN right. Forget Bad Nenndorf, have you STUDIED what Churchill allowed in Gallipoli, Norway, Britain, Western Europe, and Kenya during WWI, the Russian Civil War, the Interbellum, WWII, and the Mau-Mau Uprising?

I don’t think you do.

But Bad Nenndorf opened in June ‘45. Churchill was defeated in July ‘45. Now, Ed, do you have evidence that show Churchill ordered or was aware that “torture” was carried out. Do you have evidence that torture was carried out under his watch?

I’m gonna guess no.

For argument’s sake, let’s say he doesn’t.

That doesn’t change his deliberate policies in his positions as Lord of the Admiralty and Prime Minister.

Now, do you have something that can refute decades of documentary evidence?

I’m gonna guess no.

Yet, you state as fact that torture occurred under Churchill.

Which is true.

The fact remains, Churchill did take a stand against torturing Nazi prisoners during the Blitz. Obama is correct on that.

Clarification: Churchill did take a stand against torturing German pilots captured during the Battle of Britain.

However, this was at the same time he was authorizing the torture of German personnel captured in Africa, the Balkans, and Western Europe.

Big difference.

But your claim that the English tortured under Churchill is highly dubious.

No, it is not. It is backed up by decades of evidence, only perhaps not Bad Nenndorf.

Learn some history yourself.

The IRONY is sickening.

What do I have to apologize for?

Um, by my count, slander, insults, and grevous use of Pot-Kettle-Black moments.

I asked Ed for evidence he did not provide. He accused Obama of not researching when he obviously didn’t research himself.

And that is Ed’s fault, for unless he can substantiate his rather poor example (which he needen’t have used), he bears the blame for it.

However, you have erred far more grievously than Ed, issues blanket condemnations and declarations when YOU obviously haven’t studied what you are lambasting Ed for.

If Ed is to be held responsible for his wrongs, you must be as well.

Now, I will say that SteveMG did provide that evidence. I will admit I was unaware of it.

Which further highlights the fact that you did not study the situation. Though I must complement your honesty.

But, at the same time I’m not going say based on that article that Churchill ordered or endorsed torture. It certainly seems to have occurred under him, and most likely he knew about it.

Just google the Mau-Mau Revolt, and you wll have irrefutable proof.

Now children, please hug and make up.

Turtler on April 30, 2009 at 4:10 PM

He knows the ignorant masses aren’t going to fact check. He knows the MSM won’t fact check. If called on it, they will ignore or blame it on Fox News and those evil right wing terrorists. It’s very simple.

behiker on April 30, 2009 at 1:27 PM

Bingo. How many of his starry-eyed minions are actually even paying attention?

We’re not in WWII.

AnninCA on April 30, 2009 at 2:19 PM

No we’re not. But we are at war, and how we prevailed in WW2 is how you win any war — you crush your enemy every way you can, until he has lost his will to fight.

infidel4life on April 30, 2009 at 4:14 PM

I am absolutely convinced it was the right thing to do, not because there might not have been information that was yielded by these various detainees who were subjected to this treatment, but because we could have gotten this information in other ways, in ways that were consistent with our values, in ways that were consistent with who we are.

This quote from President Obama makes it sound as if he’s only against torture because he thinks there were other ways to get the information.

It would be interesting do a thought experiment with him where it’s a given that the only way to get the information is to engage in torture. Would he be willing to do it to save people?

If not, is he saying that his values are more important than the lives of innocent people? This is a valid position to take, but, I question whether you are truly a moral person if you value your morals above innocent people. Still, that’s more of an ethical/philosophical argument and I don’t tend to enjoy those much.

If he is alright with it, he’s not actually against torture. He’s just against torture when there are alternative ways of getting the information which is a very different position to have.

JadeNYU on April 30, 2009 at 5:19 PM

I thought about this last night. WW2 and the cold war are receding in memory and more and more people {including Obama} really do not understand how brutal those times could be.

Terrye on April 30, 2009 at 5:25 PM

Tom:

Ed is right and what is more Obama does not care about waterboarding. He is just looking for an issue for people like you to bray about. It is ridiculous. We waterboarded 3 people, years ago with the over sight of Congress. It has been 6 years since we waterboarded anyone and the legislation passed in 06 still allows for exceptions. In fact Obama himself insisted on that.

Democrats need to feel self righteous and they feel relatively safe now so they decided to be hypocrites and pretend moral outrage. The next part of this of course will be the release of photos which might well cause more deaths. In fact I think Obama and his administration is already thinking of ways to exploit that situation for personal political gain.

It is not as if they really care about any of this.

Terrye on April 30, 2009 at 5:31 PM

And how does he know we could have gotten this information some other way, he was not there. It is interesting after all the screaming and yelling about Valerie Plame how these morons have no problem at all letting out classified information that effects CIA agents.

Terrye on April 30, 2009 at 5:33 PM

AND the Japanese that were executed supposedly for water boarding were in fact NOT. The lies and distortions by the left and the liars like Tom are just silly.

Jamson64 on April 30, 2009 at 5:55 PM

Did Obamaessiah use a teleprompter last night? I only saw clips and could not see TOTUS.

Susanboo on April 30, 2009 at 1:48 PM

HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA haha hhaha ahhaa ahaha haha ha ha heh whew.
I think you know the answer to that question.

Joe Caps on April 30, 2009 at 6:10 PM

Joe Caps, he used MOTUS last night.

As far as historical inaccuracies and The One, as long as he says it then whatever it is is the way it is!

His believers follow blindly, including his press corps.

FireBlogger on April 30, 2009 at 6:47 PM

Andrew Sullivan is a hack, and anyone using him as a source is a complete fool. He’s still insisting Palin’s baby isn’t her own.

AnninCA on April 30, 2009 at 1:23 PM

On this topic, the other day at The Corner K-Lo noted an MSNBC article (I didn’t follow her link) used language about Bristol Palin’s son as Sarah Palin’s “first acknowledged grandson”.

KittyLowrey on April 30, 2009 at 7:10 PM

We will not be safe until this junta is removed from power and tried for its many, many crimes.
progressoverpeace on April 30, 2009 at 12:29 PM

.
It may be less fun, but some conditional pardons may be better for the country.

darktood on April 30, 2009 at 7:34 PM

Reinforced at Punahou

Missy

Punahou?

Which family is he a blood descendent from?

Alexander
Baldwin
Castle
Dole
Hitchcock?

DSchoen on April 30, 2009 at 7:51 PM

Oh I don’t know. I suppose the complete and utter carpet bombing of Dresden, etc could be construed as torture…
mjk

mjk
Your getting hung up on things like reality and common sense.

I’ll try to make it simple.

MOCK Execution is TORTURE.
REAL Execution is NOT TORTURE.

This is the “Mind set/ Logic” on Torture.
That is the black/white thinking on this.

When you apply “Dresden” to the torture scenario it doesn’t work the way you think.

All the people killed in Dresden were NOT Tortured, they were killed.

The Soviet Army that witnesses our bombing of Dresden WERE tortured.

The horrific sight of that bombing was meant to burn an image in the Soviets minds what WE are willing to do to WIN!
And THAT IS TORTURE

DSchoen on April 30, 2009 at 9:52 PM

“He mentioned 200 German prisoners held during the blitz on London. How were they treated?”

So Obama’s claim is Churchill DID NOT tortured POWs in London DURING the London blitz?

Uhm, wouldn’t most people be in bomb shelters at the time the bombs WERE falling on London?

That’s kinda vague claim to make. What about before the bombs were falling or after the bombs were falling.

That’s a narrow time line for Obama to hang his hat on.

DSchoen on April 30, 2009 at 10:09 PM

Not much of a thinking man. Really just an idiot.

apco on April 30, 2009 at 11:12 PM

The people who elected Oslime-a don’t care how ignorant he is of history because they are just as oblivious.

csdeven on May 1, 2009 at 12:23 AM

Obama was absent the day they taught History at Harvard?!

TN Mom on April 30, 2009 at 1:28 PM

Not exactly, it’s more like he was merely present.

soundingboard on May 1, 2009 at 2:14 AM

Did Obamaessiah use a teleprompter last night? I only saw clips and could not see TOTUS.
`
Susanboo on April 30, 2009 at 1:48 PM

`
`
He uses the teleprompter for prepared remarks. His opening statement was short enough to commit to memory. For debates, he rehearsed the probable questions until he had his answers down pat – usually involving, in the case of difficult issues, enough meaningless verbiage to “run out the clock” on his answer.
`
With the docile and subservient press asking questions, he needs little of either at his “press conferences.” What was the NYT reporter’s question? “Just how awesome are you?” or something similar in effect. Only Tapper (of those with a snowball’s chance in hell of being called upon) would ask anything tough, and Obama just had to wing it with prepared BS through that.
`
This isn’t journalism in the public interest as it has been understood for the last half-century or so, it’s mindless theatre. TOTUS can take the night off to cruise for hot single Blackberry chicks, or whatever.
`

Adjoran on May 1, 2009 at 2:55 AM

Churchill was the man. He gave ousted Nazi spies two choices: Be hanged or work for us. This is partly what made operation overlord a success, Hilter thought we were invading northwest Europe elsewhere. I’d like to see how the spin machine is going to treat this gaffe. I almost forgot the media doesn’t do their job anymore…won’t hear anything else about this subject. More questions about enchantment. Bah!

nazo311 on May 1, 2009 at 3:58 AM

To announce that there must be no criticism of the president… is morally treasonable to the American public. T.R.

Col.John Wm. Reed on May 1, 2009 at 8:02 AM

Ahh! Our President…the great student of history! BWAAAAAA!

sabbott on May 1, 2009 at 8:35 AM

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