More on torture

Yesterday, I said that it wasn’t actually Obama’s decision whether or not to prosecute former Bush officials or CIA interrogators for torture. The Justice Department is supposed to make those decisions free from political influence. Obama now agrees that it’s the DoJs decision.

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A commenter at Andrew Sullivan’s blog has the right questions for Dick Cheney and other torture defenders who claim that it was necessary and effective:

Let’s assume that these methods are (1) useful (2) safe when performed under the OLC guidelines (3) necessary to keep as options for the future

If so, how could tapes of successful interrogations (or even some which were not successful) not be the single most valuable training tool available to future generations of interrogators? How could they not have any “intelligence value” as a training tool?

But we all know the tapes had to be destroyed because what was on them was shocking and repugnant

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More from Sullivan’s blog on what torture does to its victims:

Last December, documents obtained by the A.C.L.U. also cited an F.B.I. agent at Guantánamo Bay who observed that ”on a couple of occasions, I entered interview rooms to find a detainee chained hand and foot in a fetal position to the floor, with no chair, food or water. Most times they had urinated or defecated on themselves, and had been left there for 18 to 24 hours or more.” In one case, he added, ”the detainee was almost unconscious on the floor, with a pile of hair next to him. He had apparently been literally pulling his own hair out throughout the night.”

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“I was told by members of the brig staff that Mr. Padilla’s temperament was so docile and inactive that his behavior was like that of ‘a piece of furniture.’  …

“It is my opinion that as the result of his experiences during his detention and interrogation, Mr. Padilla does not appreciate the nature and consequences of the proceedings against him, is unable to render assistance to counsel, and has impairments in reasoning as the result of a mental illness, i.e., post-traumatic stress disorder, complicated by the neuropsychiatric effects of prolonged isolation,” Dr. Hegarty said in an affidavit for the defense.

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Again, what was done to these detainees wasn’t done in the wake of 9/11 or in some sort of crazy ticking time bomb scenario. The torture was systematic and choreographed at the highest levels of our government. More from Phil Zelikow a counselor at Bush’s Department of State:

1. The focus on water-boarding misses the main point of the program.

Which is that it was a program. Unlike the image of using intense physical coercion as a quick, desperate expedient, the program developed “interrogation plans” to disorient, abuse, dehumanize, and torment individuals over time.

The plan employed the combined, cumulative use of many techniques of medically-monitored physical coercion. Before getting to water-boarding, the captive had already been stripped naked, shackled to ceiling chains keeping him standing so he cannot fall asleep for extended periods, hosed periodically with cold water, slapped around, jammed into boxes, etc. etc. Sleep deprivation is most important.

2. Measuring the value of such methods should be done professionally and morally before turning to lawyers.

A professional analysis would not simply ask: Did they tell us important information? Congress is apparently now preparing to parse the various claims on this score — and that would be quite valuable.

But the argument that they gave us vital information, which readers can see deployed in the memos just as they were deployed to reassure an uneasy president, is based on a fallacy. The real question is: What is the unique value of these methods?

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If you missed my (lengthy) post yesterday, please check it out.

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Update

11 Comments

  1. Ian

    Ah but will you get Dick Cheney? Will you get Bush? Will you get the guys actually responsible? No. You will get another Scooter Libby. If it helps you sleep at night…

  2. Chris

    Did they think they’d get Nixon in 73? Did they think they get Clinton impeached 98?

  3. Ian

    They didn’t “get” Nixon. Nixon got himself. He resigned. They didn’t “get” Clinton either. Clinton only became more powerful and more supported. His impeachment hurt the GOP for pursuing it. Bush and Cheney are out of office, they can’t torture anyone else. Even if you can punish them, it would be too little too late for those who were tortured.

  4. Chris

    Nixon resigned because it was clear he was guilty. Clinton was at least fully investigated and found to have committed a crime. You suggest we shouldn’t even go that far this time?

    Even if you can punish them, it would be too little too late for those who were tortured.

    That’s how justice works breh. We can’t very well punish people before they commit a crime. Nor do we very often get to punish people while they are committing a crime.

  5. Ian

    “Nixon resigned because it was clear he was guilty.”

    Clinton was beyond a doubt guilty. It didn’t do anything to go after him except try to embarrass him, and I don’t know that that even succeeded. I mean, he and Hillary made a lot of money off their books where they talked about it. Hillary almost got to be President, and is now Secretary of State and Bill goes on speaking tours and is making millions as a highly respected former world leader. How did this really hurt Clinton at all?

    “That’s how justice works breh. We can’t very well punish people before they commit a crime. Nor do we very often get to punish people while they are committing a crime.”

    No, it just illustrates the futility of it all. Maybe you get a fall guy in all of this and maybe you send him to jail. That’s not really a victory, and its not what the torture victims deserve. Look at the soliders in Abu Gharib and their whole torture scandal. Who got punished? The ones responsible? No. The scapegoats.

    You want to claim that going after Bush and Cheney will make future President’s fear the law. If that were even remotely true, Nixon would’ve been all the example any President would need. Hell, Clinton’s impeachment should’ve made them think it was possible they could get caught. What Bush and Cheney did was far worse than what Nixon got caught on. Nixon was doing some underhanded political maneuvers, Bush and Cheney are responsible for starting a war on false pretenses which led to the deaths of hundreds of thousands and the complete leveling of a nation’s infrastructure.

    I’ve said before, there are two justice systems in this country. One for the rich and powerful, and one for everyone else. The system itself is broken. You can pick up your pitchfork and torch and march with the angry mob who want Bush and Cheney, but you won’t get them, and you won’t change anything.

  6. Chris

    You want to claim that going after Bush and Cheney will make future President’s fear the law.

    I think if their butts are in a jail cell, or at least dragged through a humiliating trial and conviction (it would not surprise me if Obama pardoned one or both of them in the end), it will be a deterrent. Nixon and Clinton didn’t go through any of that, but like you said, their crimes pale in comparison.

    I’ve said before, there are two justice systems in this country. One for the rich and powerful, and one for everyone else. The system itself is broken. You can pick up your pitchfork and torch and march with the angry mob who want Bush and Cheney, but you won’t get them, and you won’t change anything.

    Saying the system is broken before the door is shut on investigations and prosecutions is just defeatist talk. If high level Bush officials are brought to justice, it will show the system at least has some life in it.

  7. Ian

    No really, the system is broken. What kind of prison would they go to if they even saw prison? Isn’t that proof enough?

  8. Chris

    Ian,
    Read the last item about Peru’s former president in my newest post.

  9. Ian

    Yeah, too bad we don’t LIVE IN PERU, huh?

  10. Chris

    You might be saying that for real in a few years.

  11. Ian

    Oh noes! Teh sky is falling!