Wednesday, April 16, 2008

History Will Not Judge This Kindly

It might not be as newsworthy as a candidates bowling score, but it appears Bush and all of his national security higher-ups signed off on the use of torture.
"Well, we started to connect the dots, in order to protect the American people." Bush told ABC News White House correspondent Martha Raddatz. "And, yes, I'm aware our national security team met on this issue. And I approved."

As first reported by ABC News on Wednesday, the most senior Bush administration officials repeatedly discussed and approved specific details of exactly how high-value al Qaeda suspects would be interrogated by the Central Intelligence Agency.

The high-level discussions about these "enhanced interrogation techniques" were so detailed, these sources said, some of the interrogation sessions were almost choreographed -- down to the number of times CIA agents could use a specific tactic.

These top advisers signed off on how the CIA would interrogate top al Qaeda suspects -- whether they would be slapped, pushed, deprived of sleep or subjected to simulated drowning, called waterboarding, sources told ABC news.

The advisers were members of the National Security Council's Principals Committee, a select group of senior officials who met frequently to advise President Bush on issues of national security policy.

At the time, the Principals Committee included Vice President Cheney, former National Security Advisor Condoleezza Rice, Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld and Secretary of State Colin Powell, as well as CIA Director George Tenet and Attorney General John Ashcroft.

Read the whole post.
This is worse than the US use of torture in the Philippines at the beginning of this century. There, as here, we tortured. But here it has been signed off as policy by the highest members of our government.
This is even worse than the CIA torture experiments of the 60s and the teaching of by the agency throughout Central America.
Guantanamo, Abu Ghraib and Bagram have become the symbols of the our abuse of prisoners. But despite claims that those in Guantanamo are "the worst of the worst", those are really where low value captives go (likely it was the presence of the CIA and ghost detainees that led breakdown of discipline that cause the abuses at Abu Ghraib). Detainees of thought to be of true importance are sucked into an unseen gulag run not by the military but by the CIA. Most of these black sites are unknown, though we know one is located in a camp once used to house enemies of joseph Stalin. The symbolism is unmistakable. Some detainees are shipped to countries with even less inhibition on the use of torture than America. Places like Egypt and Syria, where the jailers are proficient in the art of pain.
Tony Judt has an excellent piece in the New York Review of Books that mentions this subject. I will quote.
Torture certainly "works." As the history of twentieth-century police states suggests, under extreme torture most people will say anything (including, sometimes, the truth). But to what end? Thanks to information extracted from terrorists under torture, the French army won the 1957 Battle of Algiers. Just over four years later the war was over, Algeria was independent, and the "terrorists" had won. But France still carries the stain and the memory of the crimes committed in its name. Torture really is no good, especially for republics. And as Aron noted many decades ago, "torture—and lies—[are] the accompaniment of war.... What needed to be done was end the war."

We are slipping down a slope. The sophistic distinctions we draw today in our war on terror—between the rule of law and "exceptional" circumstances, between citizens (who have rights and legal protections) and noncitizens to whom anything can be done, between normal people and "terrorists," between "us" and "them" —are not new. The twentieth century saw them all invoked. They are the selfsame distinctions that licensed the worst horrors of the recent past: internment camps, deportation, torture, and murder—those very crimes that prompt us to murmur "never again." So what exactly is it that we think we have learned from the past? Of what possible use is our self-righteous cult of memory and memorials if the United States can build its very own internment camp and torture people there?

(Posted by Ewan)

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