The Rosetta stone to Bush era torture
We’re getting close — so close you can almost smell the stench of the rottenness. To be honest, I had pretty much given up hope for any sort of real justice in response to Bush Administration torture. Sure, a lot of dust was being kicked up, a lot of wailing and gnashing of teeth: but actual substantive justice — a judge, a jury an accounting for the crimes committed? It just didn’t seem to be in the cards.
It didn’t seem to be in the cards that is until, just maybe, right now.
What’s changed? Perhaps everything. And, if so, that change has come in two parts.
Part one: The GOP screwed up. They pushed too hard, particularly in their attacks on Pelosi and other Democrats in Congress. Their calculation, of course, was that by accusing the Democratic congressional leadership of complicity in torture, they would scare off the Democrats. Who can blame them? When have the Democrats ever shown any backbone before? But this time it backfired. Instead of quaking in fear, Pelosi and other Democrats struck back — accusing the CIA and the Bush Administration of lying to them.
This left the Republicans in Congress in the soup. They have become so habituated to attack politics that they’re utterly incapable of remaining silent — even when silence is their only possible friend. So, instead, they’re striking back themselves, defending Bush and the CIA. But by doing so they are now unwittingly (or is it dimwittingly?) playing right into the hands of those of us demanding investigations. By jumping squarely into the scrap, accusing the Democrats of deceit, thus raising whole new issues that need to be investigated, they make it much more likely that congressional investigations into torture will actually occur and that they will be vigorously pursued.
And based upon what we’re learning now, the results of any such investigations are likely to be explosive to the degree of a supernova.
Part two: At the same time all this is happening, an already massive, but still evolving, body of evidence strongly suggests that we’re on the verge of uncovering the Rosetta stone to Bush era torture: the code to understanding everything that’s happened. The explanation, at long last, for why senior Bush Administration officials were so insistent on pursuing “enhanced interrogation techniques,” even in the face of the nearly unanimous opposition of intelligence professionals. The answer too to why they would push so hard for torture’s use when all of history had proven that any information extracted in that fashion would be inherently unreliable. And here also, finally, is an arguably rational, though monstrously evil, motive to explain why Cheney was so insistent on torturing even suspects who were already cooperating in interrogations.
What this growing body of evidence indicates — the Rosetta stone that finally makes everything make sense — is that producing reliable intelligence was never the actual goal of the torture anyway. The Bush Administration’s true goal was something else altogether — to produce coerced confessions “establishing” a false link between al-Qaeda and Iraq. Torture, this evidence suggests, was never about keeping America safe: it was all about providing the Bush Administration with a little political cover for leading this nation into one of the worst foreign policy blunders in its history.
And if that’s the goal, who cares whether the information is reliable? What does reliability have to do with its political usefulness?
So why is this such a big deal? Because, as Steve Benen explains at the Washington Monthly, if proven, from a political standpoint it will change everything:
Torture is wrong (and illegal, and counter to our national security interests) regardless of the Bush administration’s motivations. But many — in the media, on the Hill, etc. — seem inclined to think doing the wrong thing for the right reason is somehow tolerable. Bush/Cheney was wrong to torture, the argument goes, but they were only trying to protect Americans from another terrorist attack.
Which is precisely why these revelations, if accurate, have the potential to be devastating. There was no “ticking time bomb,” but there was a political agenda. Getting a detainee to offer evidence of a non-existent link wouldn’t have furthered our security interests or saved American lives, but it would have made the Bush White House’s sales pitch for an unnecessary war a lot easier.
Are the same torture apologists we’ve heard from lately willing to also accept “extracting false confessions” as a reasonable justification?
If investigations are conducted which truly prove, as now seems probable, that torture was primarily conducted in an effort to justify the Iraq War, it’s all over. The Bush gang from Bush and Cheney all the way down to their enablers in the Congress and the media will be assigned to the dustbin of history’s disgrace. And a few of them might just go to jail.
Yeah, we’re getting close — so close, in fact, that it may already be too late for anyone, even a Democratic president who’d prefer to avoid the distraction, to stop the truth from coming out.
I would never have thought it possible. But maybe, just maybe, some sort of justice actually will win out in the end.
May 15th, 2009 at 3:25 pm
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May 15th, 2009 at 6:58 pm
With G.W. Obama in charge I don’t think you should hold your breath. It appears he has the skill at dancing that his namesake didn’t.
May 15th, 2009 at 7:22 pm
So Bush Lite doesn’t want to release the torture photos for fear of creating animosity towards the U.S. and the many, many thousands of troops abroad. Most of the world hates us anyway so what will be lost? & as far as danger to the troops, get them the Hell out of there! Killing & making homless counless millions of people world wide certainly couldn’t get much worse, & the toll on the troops and their families is already so high that a few more because of the photos won’t even show up.
May 16th, 2009 at 2:59 am
Frankly, if Ms. Pelosi is caught in her own web, I feel it is richly deserved. Her behavior during the tyrannical reign of Bush has been disgusting and enabling.I have voiced dislike of the woman in the past, and I see no reason to change my opinion. Ditto, Harry Reid. Reid and Pelosi: The Pasta Pair.
If Obama thinks he can continue to sweep this issue of torture under the rug, he had best think again. It is gaining notoriety and momentum every day. Refusing to investigate and hold those who are responsible, legally accountable, is beginning to look more and more like excusing and protecting criminals. It is going to bite him in the butt, and should. He would do well to take a long, hard look at what is happening to Pelosi. She is going to look like a liar and a fraud, a weak, self-serving fraud. It is not going to be a feather in her cap, and plays into Republican hands. That can go either way.
Bush and Cheney wanted a war with Iraq because: 1) They desperately wanted a distraction from their total failure to prevent 9/11 2) They wanted to look like they were Macho Men, who could scare the bejesus out of all of Islam 3) They wanted oil and the profits 4) They wanted war-profiteering 5) Bushlite wanted to show up his dear, old Dad 6) Rummy and Cheney thought they could waltz in and waltz out and make Neoconservatism heroic and permanent. Now we are becoming embroiled ever deeper in Afghanistan. Pakistan is involved. Nobody has learned a damned thing!!! Killing civilians does not engender love and respect. It engenders hatred and a lust for revenge. We are busily making more enemies, spending money we dont have, and trying to let the thugs who got us in this mess, off the hook. I dont know about anyone else, but my post-election euphoria has definitely expired.
May 17th, 2009 at 10:42 am
Cheney was greasing the wheels for torture well in advance of having any prisoners precisely because torture was known to be a reliable way of producing what Cheney refers to as “actionable intelligence.”
Of course, “actionable intelligence” need not have been true or even remotely accurate as long as it was useful for Cheney’s purposes. Torture (especially repetitive torture) was uniquely suited to fabricating “actionable intelligence” as Cheney’s victims eventually learned to create whatever sort of details the Torturer in Chief sought (such as a link between 9/11 and Iraq).
May 18th, 2009 at 3:04 am
Have any of you seen the torture pictures that Obama does not want released? Buzzflash had a link to an Australian newspaper that had some of them. We have seen a few of them before. Others, I had never seen. They are appalling and dreadful. Only people who are at the same level as the Nazis would do such terrible things to other humans, no matter the reason. One picture show several soldiers involved. This was NOT the behavior of a few bad apples. It is so depraved and so vicious, that it had to be known throughout Abu Grahib; and have come from above. The people who ordered this, the people who carried it out, have a sickness of the mind and soul. To do such things destroys the human spirit; and it demeans and debases any person involved. One has to wonder how Obama can view these pictures; and continue to have his tedious,trite little phrase of :”We must go forward, we cant look backward” keep repeating itself over and over. Surely, if he has any compassion, any human decency, he must see that sweeping this horror under the rug can only cause more ugliness in the future. We can never restore our standing in the eyes of the world, if we allow this depravity to go unpunished. The Allies knew that after WWII. A supporating wound cannot heal, until it is cleansed and excised. I realize Obama has been playing politics. He thinks the public outcry will finally result in some kind of action, without him having to lift a hand. He wants the Republicans to sink in their own mire.But, he seems to forget he is a symbol. A President should be a symbol of justice, integrity, and truth. Of course, we didnt see any of that in the last 8 years. But, people thirsted for it, and voted for change. By refusing to deal directly with this issue of torture, Obama negates his message. He is playing politics, as usual, and demeaning himself and all of us, in the process. These pictures show actions so horrible that to ignore them, is to be complicit in them. The other issue may have to do with the new commander of the forces in Afghanistan. The last guy was booted, and this new one is an expert in special operations. BUT, and it is a very big BUT, he was in charge of the troops that were associated with Abu Grahib and signed off on using torture. (No, I will not sanitize it by using any other term!!!) He was queried about this in some kind of hearing, but passed. Evidently, he either misinformed or outright lied about his knowledge of what transpired. I cannot believe for one second, that this man didnt know what was going on. If he didnt know, he should NOT have had a command position. If he did know, he should be court-martialed. Instead, he is promoted and given another major command position!
Dwight Eisenhower wisely warned us against the military-industrial complex. No one seems to have listened. Obama is inexperienced in war. I think the military men got hold of him immediately, and being in awe of them, and coupled with his inexperience, they have been able to sell him a bill of goods. I also suspect Rahm Emmanuel is behind much of the refusal to investigate and prosecute those who ordered the torture. Politics is more important to him than justice. But, I do not excuse Barack Obama. There are moments in a life, moments in history, when a person does what is right and moral, not what is expedient. Those who chose the higher road become truly great. Those who choose the easy path are just one more body that turns to dust. I wonder if Obama wants his children to live in a world where torture, corruption and destruction of the human spirit are to be ignored and seen as excuseable? Those young men in those awful pictures were fighting for their country, that had been unjustly invaded. It was an invasion premised on lies and greed. Should that happen here, we would fight to the death. No matter what these men did, they should not have been treated with such brutality. The Geneva Conventions had a purpose. They were written to protect all combatants. These pictures will be seen throughout the Muslim World. We can NEVER reach peace with them, if we try to hide such criminal acts behind trite phrases. We MUST hold accountable those who are responsible and try them in a court of law. To do less is to enable evil.
May 18th, 2009 at 3:28 pm
The Gleiwitz incident, AKA Operation Canned Goods, was a staged attack on 31 August 1939 against the German radio station Sender Gleiwitz in Gleiwitz, Upper Silesia, Germany on the eve of World War II in Europe. The Germans staged the attack in order to justify their invasion of Poland and begin World War II. Falsifying facts in order to justify a war is a dark deed indeed.
May 20th, 2009 at 10:05 am
Torture does indeed appear to be the Rosetta Stone to understanding what went on during the Bush/Cheney years, but there’s more to it than just decoding their drive to war — or rather occupation, in Iraq.
The B/C administration, with the help of their supporters both in and outside of government, used torture for the purpose for which it was most suited: to obtain false information to further goals that they already had. Even before Bush was appointed president by his father’s Supreme Court justices, many of the principals in the administration had been parties to the PNAC. If you can believe that these people would torture people to achieve their ends, you should also believe that they would do other things to get there as well.
A lot of the discussion about this seems to ignore the possibility that the events of September 11, 2001 did not merely play into their hands, but that they had an active hand in making, or even allowing, those events to happen. The investigation into who was responsible for ordering torture in order to obtain false information, must also include the history leading up to those decisions, and what those involved had done to achieve their ends prior to those decisions.
History is not a closed book. We cannot stop examining what has already happened, if we wish to understand where we are today, and how we got here. The Rosetta stone was not used to understand what happened after it was carved, but rather to explore what happened before that. We were intentionally traumatized about the events of that day, and that trauma was then used repeatedly by these same people to continue to get what they wanted. It seems to me that the ultimate use for this excavation tool must be to remediate that trauma, and to to do that, we must first examine it and understand it.