Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Torture for political purposes (ginning up an illegal war) - updated with link

McClatchy reports that one of the reasons torture was pursued was to obtain "proof" that al-Qaeda had links to Iraq. Which it didn't. Intelligence officials did not believe there were such ties. But Cheney and Rumsfeld insisted there were and wanted justification to attack Iraq.
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.


"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.
I believe Hunter's comments (you may read them here) sum it up well.

They ordered torture; they approved the specific methods to be used, including "waterboarding", a long-recognized method of torture; they did it in an attempt to extract politically expedient information from prisoners; they did it in spite of knowing that the prisoners would almost certainly not be able to provide any such information.

I cannot come up with any rationale for why this would not be, unambiguously, a war crime.
I can't either.

While I am on the subject of torture tonight, I would like to direct your attention to an article by someone who graduated from the SERE program. (It is not a gross-out post, just very informative, in case you are nervous about my links on torture.)

Meanwhile, let us also not forget the role of Condiliar Rice in the whole torture operation. From the Washington Post:
Rice gave a key early green light, when, as President George W. Bush's national security adviser, she met on July 17, 2002, with the CIA's then-director, George J. Tenet, and "advised that the CIA could proceed with its proposed interrogation of Abu Zubaida," subject to approval by the Justice Department, according to the timeline. Abu Zubaida, the nom de guerre of Saudi-born Palestinian Zayn al-Abidin Muhammed Hussein, was captured in Pakistan in March 2002. He was the first high-value detainee in CIA custody, and the agency believed the al-Qaeda associate was "withholding imminent threat information," according to the timeline.

Rice and four other administration officials were first briefed in May 2002 on "alternative interrogation methods, including waterboarding," the timeline shows. Waterboarding is a technique that simulates drowning.

A year later, in July 2003, the CIA briefed Rice, Vice President Richard B. Cheney, Attorney General Ashcroft, White House counsel Alberto R. Gonzales and National Security Council legal adviser John B. Bellinger III on the use of waterboarding and other methods, it states. They "reaffirmed that the CIA program was lawful and reflected administration policy."
AP reports this (in Salon):
Last fall, Rice acknowledged to the Senate Armed Services Committee only that she had attended meetings where the CIA interrogation request was discussed. She said she did not recall details. Rice omitted her direct role in approving the program in her written statement to the committee.
Well, anyone could easily have forgotten her central role in this, right?

h/t to davidkc for the Rice information

--the BB

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