Alex Blaze

The Iraq-Torture Scandal

Filed By Alex Blaze | May 14, 2009 4:00 PM | comments

Filed in: Politics
Tags: Al Qaeda, Colin Powell, Dick Cheney, George W. Bush, iraq, Iraq War, lawrence wilkerson, torture

FYI, it's looking a lot like the reason the Bush Administration tortured was not to collect information about future terrorist attacks, but to force confessions out of people they captured pre-invasion to prove a connection between Saddam Hussein and al Qaida.

Lots of others have pointed out that the Bush administration was set on torturing people over the opinions of experts in the field who knew that torture produces, at most, unreliable information. They carefully wrote their memos justifying their actions to leave out the strong objections from the FBI, military, and even a CIA official who resigned in protest so that it would seem like they could get good information from torture.

We also know that back in the lead-up to the war in Iraq we were told repeatedly that there was a link between 9/11 and Iraq so that Americans would support that war. They really, really wanted that to be true, no matter how ridiculous the idea was that a secular and oppressive dictator would allow a para-governmental terror syndicate to operate within his borders. But wouldn't it have been a lot easier to justify the war if there was a connection?

The only thing torture's ever been good for is gathering false confessions. Just look at the Spanish Inquisition. Here's Col. Lawrence Wilkerson, Powell's former chief of staff, yesterday:

Likewise, what I have learned is that as the administration authorized harsh interrogation in April and May of 2002--well before the Justice Department had rendered any legal opinion--its principal priority for intelligence was not aimed at pre-empting another terrorist attack on the U.S. but discovering a smoking gun linking Iraq and al-Qa'ida.

So furious was this effort that on one particular detainee, even when the interrogation team had reported to Cheney's office that their detainee "was compliant" (meaning the team recommended no more torture), the VP's office ordered them to continue the enhanced methods. The detainee had not revealed any al-Qa'ida-Baghdad contacts yet. This ceased only after Ibn al-Shaykh al-Libi, under waterboarding in Egypt, "revealed" such contacts. Of course later we learned that al-Libi revealed these contacts only to get the torture to stop.

There in fact were no such contacts. (Incidentally, al-Libi just "committed suicide" in Libya. Interestingly, several U.S. lawyers working with tortured detainees were attempting to get the Libyan government to allow them to interview al-Libi....)

This isn't entirely new. McClatchy reported this a few weeks ago:

The Bush administration put 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. 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.

That same article goes on to quote a Major from 2006 who said that "measures that might produce more immediate results" were used when trying to "establish a link between al Qaida and Iraq":

A former U.S. Army psychiatrist, Maj. Charles Burney, told Army investigators in 2006 that interrogators at the Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, detention facility were under "pressure" to produce evidence of ties between al Qaida and Iraq.

"While we were there a large part of the time we were focused on trying to establish a link between al Qaida and Iraq and we were not successful in establishing a link between al Qaida and Iraq," Burney told staff of the Army Inspector General. "The more frustrated people got in not being able to establish that link . . . there was more and more pressure to resort to measures that might produce more immediate results."

Excerpts from Burney's interview appeared in a full, declassified report on a two-year investigation into detainee abuse released on Tuesday by the Senate Armed Services Committee.

Senate Armed Services Committee Chairman Carl Levin, D-Mich., called Burney's statement "very significant."

"I think it's obvious that the administration was scrambling then to try to find a connection, a link (between al Qaida and Iraq)," Levin said in a conference call with reporters. "They made out links where they didn't exist."

Inky99 also has some select quotes from the 9/11 commission's report about torture being used to garner confessions about a link between al Qaida and Iraq:

*Two U.S. intelligence officers confirm that Vice President Cheney's office suggested waterboarding an Iraqi prisoner, a former intelligence official for Saddam Hussein, who was suspected to have knowledge of a Saddam-al Qaeda connection.

*The former chief of the Iraq Survey Group, Charles Duelfer, in charge of interrogations, tells The Daily Beast that he considered the request reprehensible.

*Much of the information in the report of the 9/11 Commission was provided through more than 30 sessions of torture of detainees.

OK, fundies, if you're going to justify torture, please at least use the real reason it was done in your explanation. I want to know why torturing is OK if it's used to lie Americans into a war against a country that wasn't a threat.

No more ticking time bombs. No more dismantling al Qaida. The reason Bush tortured was so that he could get his war. It makes a lot more sense as an explanation than anything else and it's what everyone is coming out and saying.

And if there was ever a need for prosecution, it's this. Future administrations can't think that it's OK to torture people to get false confessions to use to propagandize Americans to agree to their monstrous policy goals. And the only way to send that message is to start prosecutions.

You gonna get on that, Obama?

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Ok we get it. Bush/Cheney = evil.

Why we don't get all talkative about torture:

Angie Zapata
Lawrence King
fill in the rest of the blanks...

why should we be up in arms about abuse that takes place so far away when nobody does anything about abuse that takes place so close?

I get that, and I usually assume that I'm blogging into a void whenever I talk about torture or health care on this site.

And I hold a similar attitude to gay activists who want us to criticize foreign governments that they deem too homophobic - why are we worried about that when human rights abuses performed by our own government are often worse?

Anyway, I think this issue ties into a lot of current LGBT issues, like:

1. Is violence and cruelty acceptable for those we don't like?
2. Can we uphold the rule of law against a group that's more powerful than we are?
3. Since most of these people subscribe to the Jack Bauer/Tarzan defense of torture, how much chest-pounding and overcompensation of masculinity can our culture take before we see its nasty effects?
4. Is authoritarian power and excessive violence (seen in torture, ex-gayism, putting men busted on public sex in prison, invading countries for no reason) the solution to all our problems?

Maia Szalavitz wrote more about how we love all this sort of tough-love in the US:

I think it's no surprise that most of the people who want to continue torture are the same ones who don't want to do anything about violence towards gays and trans people.

Also, there's the issue with everyone taking up the mentality of "That's not my issue, so why should I care?" We need straight people to start caring about anti-queer violence, at least for their support and votes. It only follows that we should care about other forms of violence carries out with our money in our name and then later used to deceive us.