Thursday, May 14, 2009

Torture Truths


Readers will already know that Colonel Lawrence Wilkerson was Colin Powell's chief of staff when the latter was Secretary of State. He still strongly identifies himself as a Republican. Pulling no punches, he has a guest editorial at The Washington Monthly which is worth a read. Or two. No fan of Dick Cheney or torture, he. And he reiterates something I said a while back: torture was used to try to force false confessions to justify invading Iraq.

So furious was this effort that on one particular detainee, even when the interrogation team had reported to Cheney's office that their detainee "was compliant" (meaning the team recommended no more torture), the VP's office ordered them to continue the enhanced methods. The detainee had not revealed any al-Qa'ida-Baghdad contacts yet. This ceased only after Ibn al-Shaykh al-Libi, under waterboarding in Egypt, "revealed" such contacts. Of course later we learned that al-Libi revealed these contacts only to get the torture to stop.

There in fact were no such contacts. (Incidentally, al-Libi just "committed suicide" in Libya. Interestingly, several U.S. lawyers working with tortured detainees were attempting to get the Libyan government to allow them to interview al-Libi....)
He makes (among many others) another interesting point as well:

My investigations have revealed to me--vividly and clearly--that once the Abu Ghraib photographs were made public in the Spring of 2004, the CIA, its contractors, and everyone else involved in administering "the Cheney methods of interrogation", simply shut down. Nada. Nothing. No torture or harsh techniques were employed by any U.S. interrogator. Period. People were too frightened by what might happen to them if they continued.

What I am saying is that no torture or harsh interrogation techniques were employed by any U.S. interrogator for the entire second term of Cheney-Bush, 2005-2009. So, if we are to believe the protestations of Dick Cheney, that Obama's having shut down the "Cheney interrogation methods" will endanger the nation, what are we to say to Dick Cheney for having endangered the nation for the last four years of his vice presidency?
To me, these things are obvious. And yet there remains in the Republican party, reflected in the utterances of the RWS™, the notion that torture is good and that claiming anything else is treasonous; that in eschewing these things Obama has made us "less safe." It's preposterous, and yet there it is. Everywhere. Amid silence from the rank and file (and few) remaining Republicans. Heck, even some people intelligent enough to read this blog defend Beck, and Hannity, and Limbaugh and the rest of the RWS™ as reasonable. It's an alternate reality, in which up is down, black is white, truth is peanut butter.

As is clear to anyone who visits here, it's hard for me to be optimistic about much of anything these days, when this sort of thinking is so prevalent. I guess it isn't "thinking" so much as disingenuous propagandizing to further a failing political agenda. In any case, there are still enough Republican senators (and a couple of occasional Democrats who buy in) effectively to prevent much of what President Obama is trying to do. Were it on the basis of even half-decent arguments, it wouldn't bother me nearly as much. But when they're led by Mitch McConnell, who says "The administration needs to tell the American people how it will keep the terrorists at Guantanamo out of our neighborhoods and off of the battlefield," I can't but think that we're too far gone to find our way back.

I found the suicide interesting, too.
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