Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Torture Is Useful

A passage from the Time story that I linked to last night:

The final irony: the torture techniques around which the SERE training was devised were used by Chinese interrogators during the Korean War, not to gather actionable intelligence but to force false confessions from captured U.S. soldiers — confessions that could then be used in anti-American propaganda.

Well, not that ironic:

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.


A former senior U.S. intelligence official familiar with the interrogation issue said that Cheney and former Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld demanded that intelligence agencies and 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 Zubeida at least 83 times in August 2002 and Khalid Sheik Mohammed 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.

The article also includes this quote from Army psychiatrist Maj. Charles Bunney, taken from the Armed Services Committee report released last night:

"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."

Throughout history torture has been employed to coerce false confessions. Many times that has been it's exact purpose. The torturers frequently insist that what they have acquired from the torture victim is the truth, even if that truth happens to be what the torturers have wanted to hear all along. This was no different. Senior Bush administration officials wanted a link between Al Qaeda and Iraq because that would help to justify the invasion. They believed that the link existed, and they had detainees in our custody tortured to "prove" it. So, our elected and appointed officials employed torture illegally, to justify a war of aggression that had no basis in legitimate national security concerns. It is not possible to conclude that these are anything other than war crimes, and war crimes of an egregious nature; the sort that would result in a trial at the Hague and lengthy prison sentences were we talking about leaders of a smaller, less powerful nation than ours. Such is unlikely in this case because frankly, only the leaders of two-bit nations end up on trial at the Hague for war crimes. But if we fail to investigate torture fully, and prosecute those who authorized it's use, then a grave injustice will go unpunished and our nation will be the lesser for it.

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