Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Torture Troops à la Bush

Only GW Bush and VEEP Cheney are clumsy enough to fail even at torture. Can you imagine any serious high-ranking world leader requiring a legal memorandum to authorize putting an insect into a captive's cell to force him to talk? Well, that is just what our former leaders did. As the GW Bush's torture regime unfolds before the world, despite its hideous trajectory, its amateur absurdity alone makes it surreal.

Bush's torture menu was drawn up for him by quack lawyers who included an array of choices. On this list the pièce de résistance, of course, was water boarding used through the centuries by tyrants to force confessions from religious heretics or to find where a victim buried his loot or pot of gold. In all fairness, there was a limit to this Bush depravity – no electrodes attached to soft tissues, no power drills to the skulls and no blow torches to toast body parts. But rendition was used and what happened in those foreign countries where it occurred is unknown.

Still, two prisoners were water boarded for a total of over two hundred times. This frenzy of inflected pain goes well beyond any pretense of interrogation – it is a form of sadism or revenge. We have psychos receiving federal paychecks.

What makes this physical torture more confounding as a tool of interrogation is that information received is notoriously unreliable and very seldom timely. Top military, CIA and FBI officials are on record confirming this; in some cases they have refused to involve their organizations in the process. So why was this moronic course of action embraced by Bush?

Best guess is that torture as a tool stemmed from desperation. Bush and his neocons needed to justify the invasion of Iraq. With no weapons of mass destruction discovered, the administration figured that a link between Saddam and al Qaeda would serve as sufficient reason for the war. Its panic was such that Bush concluded that the spurious and unreliable information gleaned by torture would be better than nothing. At minimum such data, as corrupt as it was, would be used to blunt criticism of the war.

This backfired. The US has been branded for torturing with little proof that the its efforts made the US safer. Military operations in Afghanistan turned sour; Pakistan is now in turmoil and bin Laden still plays CATCH ME IF YOU CAN. Meanwhile the torture policy enraged even moderate Muslims and complicated US policy. Good will toward the US generated by 9/11 just dissipated as the US tortured.

After the denial that US tortured proved to be false, Bush fell back to the line that torture protected the US from attack. So far, he has not made his case. It is just more cynical spin. This defense sardonically overlooks the facts that torture was immoral and illegal.

President Obama has decided he does not wish to legally pursue the Bush torture troopers; he figures the process would shift his administration's energy to the past rather than the present – he wants to turn the page. He is prepared to give a free pass for what possibly amounts to war crimes.

My view is that Obama has the obligation to clean up the Bush mess. CIA operators who were just following orders should be dismissed at a minimum; quack lawyers who provided legal justification should be disbarred. Policy makers who devised the torture regimes should be investigated and tried if legal violations are confirmed.

Afterwards Obama could exercise his pardon powers if he chooses. The torture issue must be addressed head on or it will continue to fester and undermine Obama's credibility.

Historically, the interrogator extraordinaire was a German Army soldier on the Russian front during WWII. He knew only three words in Russian: bymaga (paper), karandash (pencil) and pesat (write). A captured Soviet soldier would be brought before him in the field. By this time the Russian was half-frozen, half-starved and stuck by a bayonets a few times. The Russian was seated at a camp table and told in Russian: PAPER, PENCIL, WRITE.

The Soviet soldier was so over indoctrinated by his unit political commissars of what not to divulge that he knew exactly what to write. He compulsively provided Soviet order of battle information without prompting or beating. Now that was an interrogation. Colonel Robert E Bartos USA Ret


Anonymous WLindsayWheeler said...

If he or the Democratic congress goes after the torturers, the CIA will assassinate him aka John F. Kennedy. They will make it look like some "right-wing extremist KKK nut" did it, and all hell will break lose in America.

The CIA will not allow their own to be sacrificed to the Left. I don't believe it. The CIA is the Praetorian Guard. They will take him out.


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