Saturday, April 25, 2009

Torture Before the War

President George W. Bush and Vice President Dick Cheney used torture to sell the war in Iraq. Steve Weissman addresses this issue in his article How Torture Worked to Sell the Iraq War.
it is clear that he and Mr. Bush succeeded in using torture, not primarily to secure needed intelligence, but to create the propaganda they used to sell their invasion of Iraq.

The evidence comes from a variety of sources, including the report on the military's treatment of detainees, which Sen. Carl Levin's Armed Services Committee has just released. The report revealed that Pentagon officials began preparing to use torture - or "abusive interrogation techniques" - as early as December 2001. This was less than two months after the start of the war in Afghanistan and eight months before the Department of Justice gave legal authorization in two memos dated August 1, 2002, and signed by Jay Bybee, then-assistant attorney general for the Office of Legal Counsel. The first memo redefined physical and mental torture and suggested that the president, acting pursuant to his constitutional powers as commander-in-chief, could override the federal anti-torture statute. The second analyzed and approved specific interrogation tactics, including isolation, prolonged sleep deprivation, stress positions and waterboarding, which makes the victim feel that he is drowning.

If not the Justice Department lawyers, who gave the earlier go-ahead? The Senate report puts the onus directly on the decider-in-chief, President George W. Bush. He issued a written determination on February 7, 2002, "that Common Article 3 of the Geneva Conventions, which would have afforded minimum standards for humane treatment, did not apply to al-Qaeda or Taliban detainees."[...]

Why so much attention from the top? McClatchy news has provided the obvious answer. According to a former senior US intelligence official and a former Army psychiatrist, the Bush administration wanted "to find evidence of cooperation between al-Qaeda and the late Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein's regime."[...]

In part to get that smoking gun, the CIA waterboarded Khalid Sheikh Mohammed 183 times and Abu Zubaydah 83 times. But neither man told the interrogators what Bush and Cheney wanted to hear about Iraq and al-Qaeda. That came from Ibn al Sheikh al Libi, whom the Bush administration sent to Egypt for what CIA Director George Tenet called "further debriefing." As PBS Frontline reported back in November 2007, al Libi "confessed" - after being beaten repeatedly and locked in a small box for some 17 hours - that Saddam Hussein had trained al-Qaeda in chemical weapons. Al Libi later retracted his statement and the CIA later rejected it as reliable intelligence. But the torture of al Libi worked to sell the war in Iraq, providing the "evidence" that Secretary of State Colin Powell used when he spoke before the United Nations Security Council in February 2003.

"I can trace the story of a senior terrorist operative telling how Iraq provided training in these [chemical and biological] weapons to al-Qaeda," Powell asserted. "Fortunately, this operative is now detained, and he has told his story."

The results of torture...truth or propaganda. What was the Bush Administration really looking for?

No comments: