Thursday, April 23, 2009


During the Revolutionary War, the rightwingers were the Tories who stayed loyal to King George and fought on the side of the English, who used torture on their revolutionary captives.

When the revolutionary soldiers wanted to reciprocate with their English prisoners of war, Gorge Washington, their commander, made it a policy of the young country that we would be different from the old world and not use abusive methods on prisoners of war but in fact would treat them as we would want our soldiers to be treated.

And that became the policy of the USA, a country built on the idea that the law, and the human rights the law enshrined and protected—not any individual or group of people—would rule here.

Of course there was abuse of prisoners and slaves and indentured servants, but officially torture was forbidden. During wars that followed, abuses took place but were never a matter of policy and were always condemned when uncovered.

The technique known as “waterboarding” goes back at least as far as the Spanish Inquisition, representative of everything our young country stood against in the old world, and when it was taken up by the Japanese during World War Two, our government declared it to be a “war crime” and signed agreements, like the Geneva Accords, declaring that and swearing to never use it.

Other techniques that were not only condoned but promoted by the last administration, such as sleep deprivation and confinement in a box—where the prisoner can neither lie down nor stand but must remain in a constant crouch for hours and days and even weeks on end—were learned from the Chinese and North Korean Communists when used by them during the Korean conflict in the early 1950s.

That’s when our government started testing these techniques to learn if there was any way they could be resisted. During those tests it was discovered that information gleaned from these techniques was almost one hundred per cent of the time useless, so that for every one hundred leads ninety-nine, if not one hundred, would be false. A man would say anything in order to get out of suffering from them, or would be driven out of his mind and therefore incapable of giving any useful information.

As with the Inquistition, the tactic was used more to get the confession required than to get real factual information. Now it turns out that’s what the previous administration was attempting to do. When the CIA and FBI and military intelligence and other intelligence agencies declared that there were no weapons of mass destruction to justify the invasion of Iraq, the next best motive for Bush/Cheney and their cabal was a connection between Al Queda and Saddam Hussein, even though all these intelligence agencies insisted they could find none and that none existed.

But despite that evidence, the Bush/Cheney administration pushed the military and the CIA to use methods our country has resisted using since its inception—including in the face of the mightiest military machine the world had ever seen up to that time, Hitler’s, which was killing millions and millions of people, still we resisted the temptation to stoop to Hitler’s level and continued to fight from a position of believing legal and human rights trump vengeance and inhumanity.

The purpose now, was to force prisoners to reveal a connection between the “terrorists” who had caused the deaths of three thousand of our fellow citizens with Saddam, but even under the worst torture that didn’t happen. The FBI, the masters of interrogation methods that actually work (making a psychological connection, etc.) refused to take part in this and walked out. Many in the CIA and military and other intelligence agencies also spoke up or quit or wrote memos pointing out that these methods were against everything this country had always stood for, as well as illegal under our law and under international laws we had signed on to.

Now, when the facts are coming out about the use of torture being not only condoned but promoted by the Bush Junior White House and Cheney’s bunker, there’s an attempt to justify it by the “plots” that were foiled, even though the only arrests made in this country were of bungling amateurs who didn’t even have the weapons or other means to carry any of them out and had nothing to do with those who were tortured.

President Obama doesn’t want to dredge all this up but has been forced to by the reality that this is a land ruled by laws and the last administration broke the law, and in doing so not only tarnished the image of our country but encouraged more young Arab men to become “terrorists” to fight against a country that for a time (under Bush/Cheney) used the same tactics that the worst dictators in their countries have used against them.

[I read this article in today's NY Times after I wrote the above.]

{And then still later I read this related article and this one on Huffington Post.]


JIm said...

It takes a certain amount of mental gymnastics to condemn Bush Cheney for enhanced torture techniques that were approved by members of both parties. KSM was water boarded 183 times. When do you think he realized he would not die from it? Was it the second or third time or possibly the 100th if he is mentally slow. Imagine for a moment that your children or grandchildren were working or studying at the LA Public Library, which was the Al Qaeda target. Would you be thankful that George W. fulfilled his duty with the informed consent of the congress or would you still condemn?

JIm said...

The Huffington Post article was silly and infantile. The NYT article by the former CIA guy was interesting and credible. I suspect we will hear much more on this issue.

Butch in Waukegan said...

Another thoughtful post at Lally’s Alley. Though there things we don’t agree on, for me the Alley could be a place for fruitful, fact-based discussions. Sad to say, because of the squatter, I often feel I’m visiting Fantasy Island.

Greg Sargent:

Flashback: Bush’s FBI Director Said Torture Didn’t Foil Any Terror PlotsNow that Bush administration officials have launched a major campaign to persuade us that torture “worked,” perhaps it’s worth recalling that George W. Bush’s own FBI director said in an interview last year that he wasn’t aware of a single planned terror attack on America that had been foiled by information obtained through torture.

Robert Mueller, who was appointed by Bush in 2001 and remains FBI director under Obama, delivered that assessment at the end of this December 2008 article in Vanity Fair on torture:

I ask Mueller: So far as he is aware, have any attacks on America been disrupted thanks to intelligence obtained through what the administration still calls “enhanced techniques”?

“I’m really reluctant to answer that,” Mueller says. He pauses, looks at an aide, and then says quietly, declining to elaborate: “I don’t believe that has been the case.”

Butch in Waukegan said...

The Banal Evil Of Jay Bybee, Set To Music

JIm said...

Blair, Obama's man at the CIA said enhanced interrogation was helpful, Porter Goss former head of CIA said info on the procedures were passed to congressional leaders multiple times and I believe he said the procedures were also helpful. The NYT's cia guy disagrees. It seems we have a disagreement. I believe Cheney has it right, As long as Obama has already relesed sources and methods to the world, release the results. The American people can judge if we have the information.

JIm said...

Butch seems to be yet another example of liberals who are angry and hatefull in victory and defeat.
Maybe poor Butch needs a walk in the woods to appreciate the life he has been given by, God, his parents or the primordial slime. Life is grand and hate is not. Republicans suffered total defeat in the last election. Socialism and ever expanding govenment are on the march. Conservatives know from history that socialim and expanding government are destrutive to individual freedon, economic growth and creativity. Liberals are unburdened by that knowledge and or choose to ignore history.So cheer up, enjoy life. Conservative Republicans are powerless as they were before the Contract with America and the Gingrich Revolution. Or is the source of the Liberal disquiet that another political revolution could follow the excesses of Obama.

John M. Lally said...

Jim says torture is OK, because the Democrats authorized it too.

epaminondas said...

the bottom line is that the tortured will say anything, and admit to anything, to get you to stop torturing them.Bogus information is not going to save any lives.

JIm said...

We do not have the definitive bottom line because Obama has only released sources and methods and has not released results. Hopefully that will be corrected so Americans can judge for themselves.

John M. Lally said...

The republican torture timeline:
1. We do not torture.
2. OK, torture happened- but it was a few "bad apples" and they're safely in prison.
3. OK, there was some waterboarding, but that's not torture.
4. OK, some legal memoranda were prepared about some techniques, but that was just a silly exercise in the absurd, and we didn't really torture anybody.
5. OK, we tortured people a lot, but we did it pursuant to the aforementioned legal memoranda (which you should now take seriously)-- so legally it's not torture because our attorneys say it's not.
6. You can't criticize our legal memoranda because if you do, you are making the whole practice of law illegal.
7. OK, we may have tortured a little bit prior to our legal memoranda, but it got results!
8. Alright, maybe torturing wasn't worth the information we got, but the Democrats did it too!
9. The Democrats (who did it too!) are guilty of playing politics against the Republicans.