Saturday, May 16, 2009

It’s beginning to look a lot like suspects were tortured not to prevent an attack on the U.S., but to provide the Bush administration with a rationale

I’ve wanted to write a post about the daily revelations coming out about our use of torture for a few days now, but I just couldn’t really find the enthusiasm. This is just too disheartening. It’s getting worse and worse each day, and I thought we were at a point where it couldn’t get much worse about six months ago. And I keep hearing promises that there is more to come. More pictures, more briefings, more paper trails. It seems very apparent right now, although this is still not being reported in the mainstream media yet, that we were torturing people not to “prevent attacks” on the U.S., but to find a rationale for the Iraq War. We were torturing people who were already giving us good information with other, non “enhanced” means. But they weren’t giving us what we wanted to hear, which was that there was a direct link between Iraq and Al-Queda. We needed a reason, besides the phony WMD issue, to give the neocons the war they wanted. Even after waterboarding KSM 183 times in a single month, we didn’t get the information the interrogators wanted to hear.

Doesn’t this PROVE that the information gained by torturing someone is unreliable, at best? If they haven’t given it to you after being waterboarded six times a day for a month, then it isn’t likely they are not going to give it to you? And if they do give you something, what does it mean? This sounds so much like the “confessions” elicited by clerics back in the 1600’s, where they would keep piling rocks on you until you agreed you were a witch, or were in league with Satan, or whatever they wanted to hear. When you confessed, they killed you. If you died before you confessed, that meant you were actually innocent. Of course, you were dead, but hey, you weren’t in league with Satan.

This is, of course, ignoring the fact that torturing people is morally wrong and illegal, regardless of whether of not the information you gained was correct or not. But what’s the big controversy of the day? Whether Nancy Pelosi knew about this or not. I don’t give a rat’s ass whether she knew or not. If she was complicit in the whole thing, then let her take the fall along with all the other perpetrators of this evil done in the name of the United States of America. However, I will say that guilty people don’t usually go around calling for release of documents and a truth commission.

I am just so disheartened about all this. Check out this story at Washington Monthly for more info.

THAT'S NOT A TICKING TIME BOMB.... About a month ago, McClatchy reported that the Bush administration abused detainees in part because officials were desperate for non-existent evidence linking al Qaeda to Saddam Hussein's regime. The piece talked to a senior former U.S. intelligence official who said Cheney and Rumsfeld were "demanding proof of the links" in 2002 and 2003. When the imaginary evidence wasn't produced, the administration "blew that off and kept insisting that we'd overlooked something, that the interrogators weren't pushing hard enough, that there had to be something more we could do to get that information."

Yesterday, this became a subject of renewed interest.

Lawrence Wilkerson, Colin Powell's former chief of staff in Bush's State Department, raised a few eyebrows with this item:

What I have learned is that as the administration authorized harsh interrogation in April and May of 2002 -- well before the Justice Department had rendered any legal opinion -- its principal priority for intelligence was not aimed at pre-empting another terrorist attack on the U.S. but discovering a smoking gun linking Iraq and al-Qa'ida.

It wasn't just Wilkerson.

Writing on The Daily Beast, former NBC producer Robert Windrem reports that in April 2003, Dick Cheney's office suggested that interrogators waterboard an Iraqi detainee who was suspected of having knowledge of a link between Saddam and al Qaeda.

Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse was questioned on the issue today in two TV interviews. Speaking to CNN, Whitehouse allowed: "I have heard that to be true." To MSNBC, he noted that there was additional evidence of this in the Senate Armed Services committee report, and from Lawrence Wilkerson, former chief of staff to Colin Powell. "This thing is just getting deeper and deeper," said Whitehouse, noting that if it were true, it would significantly bolster the case for prosecutions.

And MSNBC's Chris Matthews also picked up on the issue this evening, as did Ed Schultz of the same network.

Torture is wrong (and illegal, and counter to our national security interests) regardless of the Bush administration's motivations. But many -- in the media, on the Hill, etc. -- seem inclined to think doing the wrong thing for the right reason is somehow tolerable. Bush/Cheney was wrong to torture, the argument goes, but they were only trying to protect Americans from another terrorist attack.

Which is precisely why these revelations, if accurate, have the potential to be devastating. There was no "ticking time bomb," but there was a political agenda. Getting a detainee to offer evidence of a non-existent link wouldn't have furthered our security interests or saved American lives, but it would have made the Bush White House's sales pitch for an unnecessary war a lot easier.

Are the same torture apologists we've heard from lately willing to also accept "extracting false confessions" as a reasonable justification?

UPDATE: Even Maureen Dowd in getting into the act. Maybe the logjam is really starting to break apart, regardless of what the Obama administration does or does not want.

More and more the timeline is raising the question of why, if the torture was to prevent terrorist attacks, it seemed to happen mainly during the period when the Bush crowd was looking for what was essentially political information to justify the invasion of Iraq.

I used to agree with President Obama, that it was better to keep moving and focus on our myriad problems than wallow in the darkness of the past. But now I want a full accounting. I want to know every awful act committed in the name of self-defense and patriotism. Even if it only makes one ambitious congresswoman pay more attention in some future briefing about some future secret technique that is “uniquely” designed to protect us, it will be worth it.

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