They Tell Us That Torture Works
By: Mark W Adams

We interrupt your lefty blog reading experience to bring you this important information about to be crammed down your throat by every Wingnuttistan outfit imaginable.

This issue is now all the rage.  Even the notoriously secretive Dick Cheney wants the "proof" that they got great info from torture unclassified.  So maybe there's something there even though our only sources are the most unpopular American politician with an axe to grind since Joe McCarthy, a right-wing propaganda outlet specializing in Swift-boating attacks using dead people as sources, and the recently released Office of Legal Council CYA actual memos (conveniently downloadable) responding to lies they were being fed by the CIA.

Mind you, the correct response to this news is "So?"
America isn't easy. America is advanced citizenship. You gotta want it bad...
~Aaron Sorkin, The American President
The meme that it was all worth it has already found its way to the New York Times:
Gen. Michael V. Hayden, the director of the Central Intelligence Agency under Mr. Bush, said on Fox News Sunday last weekend that “the use of these techniques against these terrorists made us safer. It really did work.” 
This argument that we were absolutely justified, or at least the toadies in the Bush Administration were acting properly when authorizing use of the waterboard and other nasty procedures in specifically limited ways (which didn't include doing it 183 times in one month) is as much a moral as a legal question which simply won't go away no matter how hard we want it to.

Except that, it wasn't justified when it was used to connect al Quaeda to Iraq to justify the impending invasion. Rumsfeld and Cheney's wild goose chase has been a bonanza for terrorist recruiters. 
"The Bush administration put relentless pressure on interrogators to use harsh methods on detainees in part to find evidence of cooperation between al Qaida and the late Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein's regime, according to a former senior U.S. intelligence official and a former Army psychiatrist," McClatchy Newspaper's Jonathan Landay writes.

"Such information would've provided a foundation for one of former President George W. Bush's main arguments for invading Iraq in 2003," he adds. "No evidence has ever been found of operational ties between Osama bin Laden's terrorist network and Saddam's regime."
But, but ... but... according to the Conservative** Cyber News Service quoting anonymous CIA sources:
"Waterboarding 9/11 Mastermind Led to Info that Aborted 9/11-Style Attack on Los Angeles."

[** "Conservative" News Service was the originally preferred name, a poster child for Wingnut Welfare owned by Media Research Center which also runs Fox News favorite NewsBusters and several other GOP lapdogs.]
If true, if under all the lies this one piece of information stands up to the light of day, does it change anything?  Are you persuaded it was worth it if a terrorist cell was captured from information obtained through smashing, bashing, nearly drowning and throwing a terrorist (and his kids) in a box with bugs -- with no assurance that the info could have been obtained another way?  This is the Jack Bauer Defense.

This "scoop" that unnamed CIA sources confirmed that the torture of the detainees foiled a "second wave" attack has been picked up by half of Right Wing Blogistan, uncritically sending it on in their uniquely viral way.  My reading of the Office of Legal Council memoranda, specifically those from Acting Asst. A.G. Stephen Bradbury responding to requests from CIA General Council John A. Rizzo (he's still there) for legal cover once the Abu Ghraib shitstorm hit, indicates that either Rizzo or those reporting to him deliberately minimized or misrepresented (okay, lied about) exactly how harsh the interrogation methods actually were. 

Also of note, in May 10, 2005 OLC memo (pdf), these techniques were only to be used against a
"High Value Detainee," [who] ... (2)"has knowledge of imminent terrorist threats against the USA, its military forces, its citizens and organizations, or its allies; or that has/had direct involvement in planning and preparing terrorist actions against the USA or its allies, or assisting the al-Qai'da leadership in planning and preparing such terrorist actions;
Fishing expeditions for nonexistent causus belli against a caged despot were not something the Justice Department was contemplating when writing these torture instruction manuals.

More interesting is reference in the OLC memos to information from CIA on the effectiveness of the procedures, some of which was redacted from the Bradley memos, and of some kind of an "effectiveness memo" that I believe has yet to be declassified. (Cheney's smoking gun?)  So, in a series of letters packed with lies to legalize the illegal, the "fact" that some unknown person with unstated motivations says that something good did indeed come from all of this makes it all Okie Dokie.  That's all we got so far folks.  But that's more than enough for the Bush apologists.

Except for this tidbit: Obama’s intelligence chief, Dennis Blair, wrote a memo saying torture had yielded some "high value information." He also stated the damage done to us by torture "far outweighed whatever benefit they gave us and they are not essential to our national security."

Until we were shocked by 9/11, fearful of another attack in the middle of one war and gearing up for another, we never thought to question whether the United States, as a matter of official policy, could engage in acts we executed Japanese soldiers for and condemned without hestitation whenever encountered.  This stuff used to be a crime.

The acts universally condemned as torture, and no doubt unconstitutionally cruel and unusual, were heretofore considered as repulsive as child molestation. Everyone despised it, no argument.  Now, in a hyper-partisan atmosphere egged on by the right wing noise machine, torture is debatable -- on the level of abortion, left and right committed to an absolute moral certitude on whether it should be universally permissible or abolished, and screaming at each other.

The idea that these interrogation techniques didn't amount to torture is another matter, best left up to a jury in my opinion since the OLC was only arguing one side of the case -- and opposing views were flushed down the memory hole.  I think I could make a damn good case that it was indeed torture, even if the CIA and military interrogators followed the letter of the guidelines set up by the Justice Department.

The truth is they didn't. In fact it is clear they far exceeded what they were "allowed" to do. They also went beyond what they told the Office of Legal Council they were doing -- so they're in legal trouble regardless.  Not even the most Loyal Bushie would sign off on what they were actually up to -- and they knew it.

Who knew what, when, is something courts and Congressional Hearings were designed to discover.  It is one thing to say all this was understandable, reasonable under unreasonable circumstances, and Bonus! -- It got results.  Quite another to make the leap that these ends justified any and all means.

Moreover, the Jack Bauer scenario doesn't apply when you started this stuff to gin up an excuse for invading a country that didn't have a thing to do with terrorists attacks against us.  We have institutions to decide these things, whether a crime should go unpunished, no matter how noble the motivation NOR how notorious the act.
An honourable murderer, if you will,
For naught I did in hate, but all in honour.

Like Shakespeare's jealous Moor, they weren't trying to conceal their misdeeds, not to get away with murder, but to justify it.  Yet now, their crimes wilting their alleged honor as more and more light reveals not only the full depravity of their methods, but also the twisted machinations to conceal and legalize what all the world knows was torture.

Honor demands something more here.  Again, I refer you to The Bard.  When Othello stands to be taken to prison for the admitted murder of Desdemona, justifiable though it may be, he stops...
Soft you; a word or two before you go.
I have done the state some service, and they know't —
No more of that. 
Upon which he stabs himself and dies, honorably fulfilling his moral obligations.

In reaction, the last lines of the play are all too apt as the official gloss is spun by leaders who need not be as accountable as they are in our nation whose founding principles demand much more sunshine than they did in Venice some 400 years ago. (A free press is a bitch.) Even then, the villain (Iago) had to pay, ironically tortured, most likely to death.
To you, lord governor,
Remains the censure of this hellish villain;
The time, the place, the torture: O, enforce it!
Myself will straight aboard: and to the state
This heavy act with heavy heart relate.
Since we supposedly don't torture, at least as a form of punishment, and no one seems honorable enough to fall on their sword over our treatment of the fiends who allegedly plotted a west coast 9/11, we're going to have to do this the hard way.

As John Demjanjuk could attest, there's no statute of limitations for war crimes. Since George W. Bush was too much of a coward to take responsibility for this, it will be up to President Obama and his Justice Department to either prosecute or pardon those involved.  The easy ones will be the grunts who went beyond what the OLC said they could do.  Those with the "only following orders" defense will be much harder, but nobody said the Nuremberg trials were easy either. 

I think the hardest cases will be the ones against the lawyers like John Yoo, John Rizzo, Judge Bybee and Stephen Bradbury whose freedom has been left up to Attorney General Holder.  We might, should, get them disbarred for unethical practices, and maybe (I hope) get Bybee impeached; but short of a conspiracy charge that must also sweep up Bush's entire National Security team it will be a tall order indeed to bring about any closure on our outraged sense of justice here.

But then again, using torture in a conspiracy to commit ... war has got to be worthy of prosecution, or nothing is.

[If you can (and you should) support Marcy Wheeler! Her work on this has been exemplary and indispensable. She done us proud ... again.]

1 Comment:

Trakker said...

This train has left the station and there can be no stopping it now.

The moment the torture memos were released the Bush administration's legacy got flushed into the sewer. After bloggers like Marcy Wheeler and investigative reporters are done, we will know everything that went on behind the scenes and it will be so just much worse that what we know now that no sane person will be able to deny that Bush, Cheney, Rumsfeld, and the rest of the lot were guilty of egregious war crimes - and if the U.S. is too cowardly to pursue it (and I think Holder will pursue it), then the international community will.

George Bush has just been guaranteed a spot in historical hell.