Pick Wayne's Brain

May 17, 2009

It’s the Torture, Stupid

Filed under: Commentary — Tags: , , , , , , , — Wayne A. Schneider @ 9:24 AM

Who cares what Speaker Nancy Pelosi knew and when she knew it? That isn’t the point. The point is what it is that she is accused of knowing – That the Bush Administration, in violation of both US Law and International Treaty, tortured people. Republican House Minority Leader John Boehner is saying that Pelosi is trying to have it both ways. (Boehner admitted that he wasn’t present for any of those briefings himself.) Karl Rove actually said that Pelosi was an accomplice in the torture committed in our name. But neither of them are decrying the torture itself!

When the Bush Administration tortured the law to come up with something resembling a legal justification for the Enhanced Interrogation Techniques (the official name they gave their program of Torture), they essentially set a trap for their political opponents. They told the Democrats what they were doing, and then told them that it was classified information. They would not let the Dems take notes during the briefings though they themselves did. (It should be noted that Sen Bob Graham requested the dates that the CIA briefed him personally. After comparing the four dates that they gave with his own meticulous notes – the guy keeps track of every single thing he does, and that is no exaggeration – he found that the CIA’s information could not possibly be accurate. So there is sound reason to be doubtful of the CIA’s word on this matter.) So even if they learned of something illegal in those briefings, they were extremely limited in how they could go about doing anything about it because the whole thing was classified, even the legal justification for doing it (though that justification was neither “legal” nor did it “justify” the torture.)

The Republicans have now successfully framed this as a matter of complicity by certain Members of Congress instead of how it should really be framed – War Crimes were committed. This is an important part of their strategy. First of all, they know that they are on the wrong side of the law, and don’t let them make you think otherwise. By putting the program into a framework of who in Congress knew what and what they didn’t do about it, it begins a discussion of how many Members of Congress should be punished. People are no longer talking about how many years in prison George Bush, Dick Cheney, and Donald Rumsfeld should get. The discussion needs to be re-framed by the left as one of War Crimes and who ordered them? When you start talking about the Rule of law and how it applies to the War Crimes that the former vice president admitted committing in numerous public interviews, the focus can return to the people responsible for the program and away from the people who let it happen. (Don’t get me wrong. If Speaker Pelosi, or any other Democrat, committed a crime such as conspiracy, then they should be prosecuted just as you or I would be.)

From Rachel Maddow‘s reporting, we have an excellent summary of the evidence that people were tortured illegally even by the Bush Administration’s justification for doing it. The memo that spelled out the reasons why it would be okay to waterboard someone said that based on the premise that the prisoner had information vital to stopping an imminent attack, waterboarding him could be justified. But when they waterboarded an Iraqi military official shortly after the invasion of Iraq, they repeatedly asked him about ties between Iraq and al Qaeda. The only reason to ask him that would have been to find a justification for the invasion they already did the month before! It certainly would not have been to get information vital to stopping an imminent attack. This “ticking time bomb” scenario is a favorite of the right-wing torture apologists, and they always like to pull it up as a justification for torturing prisoners. There are several things wrong with this thinking, besides the obvious inhumanity of it. One, torture doesn’t work if you want reliable intelligence. And, two, it was never true that there was any “ticking time bomb” in the first place. They simply assumed that another attack was imminent, treated their assumption as fact, and used it to justify torturing someone to get information from him that didn’t exist. It doesn’t work like that. You have to have proof that an attack is imminent. An assumption isn’t good enough.

In his statement today announcing the resumption of the Military Commissions at GTMO, President Obama said, among the other changes to the Bush policy, this: “First, statements that have been obtained from detainees using cruel, inhuman and degrading interrogation methods will no longer be admitted as evidence at trial.” President Obama is all but admitting that some prisoners were tortured at GTMO. Even if the actions in questions do not rise to the level of torture, they would still be illegal under the UN Treaty we signed, which is called, “CONVENTION AGAINST TORTURE and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment.” There can be no debate any more – the United States tortured people, and the people responsible for it must be prosecuted.


1 Comment

  1. the pegan cia police dectived dimonads stars out of delware dc. and ark. they are threaten famlys not reed and there asscoactions.All these women have the cia star,these other women that stoled there lifes are threaten them and there famlys. they are getting paiding money to sue these famliys of the state.There jealous of the truth.These cia that i know there not real cia and there down granden the proffission of other cia, there blaming isant lifes for there own faults.please. could u help with some info

    Comment by amberhillman — June 3, 2009 @ 4:02 PM

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