Saturday, April 25, 2009

So much for the "Ticking Bomb" scenario...

The mantra I now hear daily on talk radio is that investigations into torture (excuse me, enhanced interrogation techniques) will only target the people who kept us [the ungrateful wimps who care about human rights] safe.

They argue that if it took 183 applications of water to Khalid Sheik Muhammed or 83 to Abu Zubayah in a single month to gather actionable intelligence that saved American lives, then even torture is justified...

Except that information is now coming to light that the harsh treatment of KSM and AZ may not have occurred in pursuit of actionable intelligence after all, but was instead ordered by the Bush administration to create a pretext for the invasion of Iraq.

From McClatchy:

WASHINGTON — The Bush administration applied 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.

Such information would've provided a foundation for one of former President George W. Bush's main arguments for invading Iraq in 2003. In fact, no evidence has ever been found of operational ties between Osama bin Laden's terrorist network and Saddam's regime.

The use of abusive interrogation — widely considered torture — as part of Bush's quest for a rationale to invade Iraq came to light as the Senate issued a major report tracing the origin of the abuses and President Barack Obama opened the door to prosecuting former U.S. officials for approving them....

A former senior U.S. intelligence official familiar with the interrogation issue said that Cheney and former Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld demanded that the interrogators find evidence of al Qaida-Iraq collaboration.

"There were two reasons why these interrogations were so persistent, and why extreme methods were used," the former senior intelligence official said on condition of anonymity because of the issue's sensitivity.

"The main one is that everyone was worried about some kind of follow-up attack (after 9/11). But for most of 2002 and into 2003, Cheney and Rumsfeld, especially, were also demanding proof of the links between al Qaida and Iraq that (former Iraqi exile leader Ahmed) Chalabi and others had told them were there."

It was during this period that CIA interrogators waterboarded two alleged top al Qaida detainees repeatedly — Abu Zubaydah at least 83 times in August 2002 and Khalid Sheik Muhammed 183 times in March 2003 — according to a newly released Justice Department document.

"There was constant pressure on the intelligence agencies and the interrogators to do whatever it took to get that information out of the detainees, especially the few high-value ones we had, and when people kept coming up empty, they were told by Cheney's and Rumsfeld's people to push harder," he continued.

"Cheney's and Rumsfeld's people were told repeatedly, by CIA . . . and by others, that there wasn't any reliable intelligence that pointed to operational ties between bin Laden and Saddam, and that no such ties were likely because the two were fundamentally enemies, not allies."

Senior administration officials, however, "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," he said.

A former U.S. Army psychiatrist, Maj. Charles Burney, told Army investigators in 2006 that interrogators at the Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, detention facility were under "pressure" to produce evidence of ties between al Qaida and Iraq.

"While we were there a large part of the time we were focused on trying to establish a link between al Qaida and Iraq and we were not successful in establishing a link between al Qaida and Iraq," Burney told staff of the Army Inspector General. "The more frustrated people got in not being able to establish that link . . . there was more and more pressure to resort to measures that might produce more immediate results."

Yes, the story does say that the original emphasis was on whether there would be another 9/11-style attack.

I am sure that there will be those who argue that it was legitimate to probe for a link between Al Qaeda and Iraq.

But that begs a very important point: the only justification for torture advanced by its advocates that is even worth arguing with is whether it was justified in safeguarding our country.

I am waiting for somebody to come forward to tell me that using torture to produce a pretext for invading Iraq was justifiable [a word I am using since I have given up on moral in this context].

The bitch is: I know people will step forward and tell me it was OK under those conditions.

What have we become, and how do we get back?

1 comment:

d.eris said...

The pro-torture argument states that the methods are justified by their consequences (lives are saved, etc.), but even this does not absolve officials and agents from being held accountable for actions in violation of the law. They must either be given retroactive immunity or prosecuted.